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Still Miles to Go - Night 8

Miles, Australia

During the night a warm wind howled and by morning it was noticeably cooler and there were even clouds in the sky. I hadn’t seen a cloud since the day I landed. The flies had blown in as well. Though they had been bothersome during the first part of the week, they were poised to reach epic levels of annoyance today. Luckily by 9 am we had progressed our cat’s claw cutting up to the junction of the two creeks, our decided upon goal. Back to the ranch for our morning tea break (in which I never partake) and then packing for the trip back.

Due to the incredibly long drive ahead of us,

John booked us into a caravan park in Miles, a small town about half way home. We bid adieu to Reedy Creek Ranch around 10am and hit the highway, or rather the dirt track and headed south. A quick lunch of leftovers in Taroom, and we coasted into Miles around the 2 o’clock hour. Our caravan park had very nice, nearly new trailers that slept 4-5 people each. Complete with a toilet, shower, fridge and microwave, this was luxury, especially to a group of tired, thirsty volunteers who had spent the last week sleeping on a rotting wooden veranda.

It was only 2:30, but since it was 5 o’clock somewhere (in Fiji, we decided) it was time to head to the pub. I tried to explain to them that it was past noon and the time travel alcohol accounting measures were not needed, but Aussies are nothing if not stubborn. Our choice of pubs was limited to the Hotel Aussie or the Australian VFW Club. As we filed into the Hotel Aussie, the population of the joint tripled. A few solitary patrons came and went during the course of the day, but we had the run of the place. Much like small town America, small town Australia is breathing its death knell. The Hotel Aussie appeared to have once been the crown jewel of a thriving cattle town on Queensland tablelands. Now it is merely a refuge for stop-offs on the road from Darwin to Brisbane. A place for road train drivers needing a beer to hold them over until they reach the coast. A large dining room in the rear of the joint had probably seen its last use sometime during the Reagan administration (not knowing any Australian political history, I need to reference our own for such temporal comparisons).

An interesting fellow named Jimmy Rawlins decided to join us. To put it lightly, Jimmy was drunker than shit, and by the looks of it had been for some years. Fifty-two to be exact. Or so he told us. He introduced himself to each of us and tried to spark up conversation. I wouldn’t say it was English he was speaking, no, it was more of a pidgin dialect, a cross between Creole, Eurasian sign language and Morse Code. Our attempts to ignore him proved surprisingly successful and he soon stumbled to the other end of the horseshoe shaped bar to blabber at and spit on a foreign looking couple who had just order a round of drinks.

I was drinking Carlton Mid, a step up from the piss Victoria Bitter we had swindled from the owner of the Ranch. The others were swilling XXXX Gold, the Bud Light of Queensland. Out of kindness to our wallets, we grabbed a few sixers of Gold to go and headed back to the caravan park. Although Australia has a certain stigma as a land of drinkers, it is awful difficult to procure alcohol in this place. Only certain stores and bars are allowed to sell carryout beer and you would never find it at a super market or convenience store. What a bloody shame.

After playing a few rounds of cards back in our trailer, we loaded up the troupee and drove the three blocks to the Australian VFW for dinner. This place was an exact replica of the Fox Ballroom in Cecil, WI. A small bar as you enter leading you to the dining room in the rear. You ordered your meat and then had full access to a small salad bar. The customers all seemed to know each other, and likely had been coming here and sitting in the same spot for years. In order to get a beer in this joint, visitors like ourselves had to sign in and give our place of residence. I had the grilled barramundi, which tasted a bit like underseasoned cod, the salad bar, however, was ample. On our way out the door, who was standing there but Jimmy Rawlins….I guess the man gets around (to all two pubs).

As the pubs closed up at 9, we returned again to the trailers for some cards. By 11 all were in bed.

What I Relearned Today: Alcohol is an amazing social lubricant. Though we had all gotten along very well up until this point, after our first night out together everyone became quite a bit better friends. Group dynamics just seems to flow better after a night of drinking.

permalink written by  exumenius on October 18, 2007 from Miles, Australia
from the travel blog: Kiwis and Kangaroos
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