4th August 2010 Brisbane to Roma, Queensland

I stayed overnight in Brisbane as I was awaiting a A3 folder on bullying issues to be sent to me from Melbourne. It arrived early.

I heard a loud sound that morning which awoke me early turns out it was an explosion. I remember seeing a flash, felt like a flash light. It confused me given my room is at the side of the house. I found out later that the transformer out the back of the block of flats that blew up. I wondered about the EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that would have been emitted. I was glad electrical workers were there.

Anyway I had a bit of a sleep in as I had a headache from too much sun. Yes this is Queensland, winter yet it feels like spring every day. Very beautiful where I have lived overlooking the city. Some friends commented on why I would leave such a place, I told them I have been all over the world and seen many such places. Life is to be enjoyed and experienced, I have no hesitation moving on. As I was leaving Mark came out to say goodbye. We have become friends and I felt him sad at my going. Just by chance, Steve turned up, he is the former SWAT team policeman who I befriended downstairs. He had moved out, he just came back to see a friend. He and I had a chat and we talked about the state of the world and the credit that western countries had allowed to get out of control to finance a lifestyle that we cannot afford. So people can buy bigger cars, houses etc. However, the reality is that we cannot afford these luxuries, it is the greed of the present moment financed by the future, it has to collapse. Certainly there have been credit crunches in the 1970’s and also inflationary situations during the OPEC oil crises in the 1970s and the very high prices we see today. The society is going to start paying for the illusion of this opulent lifestyle that is out of step with the planet. I told Steve my trip is about connecting to the planet, it is an inner peace journey I have no idea where it ends up.

I did feel trepidation embarking on this trip, as really I am winging it more than my world trip. I have to find places to camp which is new to me. I haven’t even unpacked the tent yet and I know it is no drama, but heading into the unknown always makes you wonder. I don’t have lots of schools knocking on my door which always surprises me given I am a peace clown and teaching sustainability. I honestly would expect myself to be in high demand, particularly given I have traveled to Russia with Patch, have good testimonials from schools, clowned around the world etc. Yet the school community has other priorities and dynamics. However, my feeling is to just go for it and see what happens. The experience does not have to be limited to schools, I can use my imagination and create something.

I headed off around 12pm consciously saying goodbye to Brisbane for the last time. I felt no nostalgia.

The car is packed but it has been a miracle. When I moved into the place I was in it took two car loads, well I managed to shed a carload and still have space for visibility looking out windows. I’ve had a lot of experience driving large distances, I know how important visibility is. I do have some water, no way I can fit 15 litres in the car, so narrow bottles of 1.5 litres will do. I have plenty of food and provisions. If the car breaks down I will just have to come to that bridge.

I headed west out of Brisbane to Toowoomba. It is around 124km’s from Brisbane. My mother called me and I could tell she is slightly trepidus. I told her I may be in and out of mobile/broadband range. We will just have to see. I can always phone from a phone box or snail mail. In Toowoomba I reset my speedometer and filled the tank so I can monitor how fuel efficient this car is. Fuel in Brisbane was $1.48 per litre. In Toowoomba I got $1.30 per litre. So will see how long it takes me to empty the tank. This will determine how far I choose to travel on limited funds. I have noticed a slight sound in the accelerator cable, but the engine is sounding good, so I may wait till I get to Charleville. If I have mechanical repairs it may mean I have to stay put until money comes in.

In Toowoomba I stopped at the information centre. I had a nice conversation with the lady there. She also shared my thoughts that the world was changing and she agreed it may collapse. I have found this sentiment in many places. I was working out which way I would go. There is a nice national park to the north west called the Bunya Mountains, however it is 68km from Dalby. Dalby is further west of Toowoomba, around 68kms. My thought was to head to Dalby then maybe to this national park. I have to think about petrol (120km round trip back to Dalby). I am on a fixed but very low income. So I can’t indulge on this trip. I have to think about where I can get free camp grounds. At the information centre I looked through a few brochures and found out about the flying doctor service. I could contact them to see if they want a clown. They are operating out of Charleville. There is also school of the air, I can talk to kids that way. So alternatives are presenting themselves if the schools can’t connect with the importance of peace education.

I headed for Dalby. On the road I am already sussing out the prices of camp sites, can you believe $16 for one person to camp. I think that is very expensive for a piece of grass. This is an unpowered site. In another caravan park they are charging $20. To my amazement the showground in Dalby was $25 per night. I told the lady it was too much and she then at the last moment said to camp at the Weir for free. I did drive down there took a wrong turn and ended up down a dirt track. Talked to a couple of moving equipment operators and they told me I was close but this wasn’t the weir. I went there saw a solitary car, but my feeling was not tonight, first night camping. A it was getting dark, B don’t know who the car is and felt I really need to unload all the camp gear in daylight. So I headed for a caravan park. It was full, I told them I was very tired and where to go. They weren’t too sympathetic. I apparently didn’t shut the door and the lady made a nasty comment. I thought about her insensitivity to me. I did have a little cry mostly tiredness I felt. However, I was wondering how I was going to afford this trip, I seriously was thinking, may this is not a good idea. If the prices are like this all the way I may not be able to afford it. Twenty years ago it was different, I had a partner with me and we split everything, this time it is me and people seem to charge me as if I am a couple. My feeling was let’s just see. I was told the reason accommodation was scarce was due to the mining industry booking out everything.

I was noticing the coal mines and grain silos as I was traveling. I also noticed the flat land and it was interesting to see 10’s of kilometers of acreage that was fallow. It had been ploughed up. I thought about the monocultures and looking at this through older eyes. I also considered the commodities industry which is what enables Australia to borrow money to finance the lifestyle we cannot afford. So I am thinking deeply about the coal industry. All the prices of accommodation and food along this few hundred km strip from Toowoomba to Roma is funded for employees of the coal industry. They accommodate them and it inflates all the prices. The greed is very evident, city prices. I would like to add in here that I was watching LateLine on the ABC television and they talked about CCS – carbon capture sequestration. Apparently the Federal Government has indicated 1.68 billion for CCS projects and only 172 million has been allocated. I understood that 3,000 CCS projects must occur by 2020, as there is an expectation of increasing CO2 emissions from India. Apparently not one plant has CCS. The coal industry has promised $1 billion but it was in the order of millions allocated. So i am thinking aboiut climate change. I wondered how greenies would go here in this region given the jobs and security created by coal mining and the reality of global warming or climate change they call it now. The latter attracts less controversy and allows for uncertainty.

The Darling Downs area is renowned as a rich agricultural region growing crops such as cotton, sorghum, wheat, barley, sunflowers, chickpeas, mung beans and corn. The landscape is also well suited to livestock production (sheep, cattle and pigs) with the Downs area renowned as the largest producer of pork and grain fed beef in Australia. The Darling Downs is a farming region on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range in southern Queensland, Australia. The downs are to the west of South East Queensland and are one of eleven major regions of Queensland. The Darling Downs includes Dalby, Toowoomba, Kingaroy, Roma, Mundubbera and Goondiwindi. Dalby is one of Queensland’s largest regional country towns with a population of approximately 12 000 people. Dalby has a warm, dry climate reaching an average temperature between 30 – 35 degrees during summer and enjoying some cold mornings during the cooler months. The annual rainfall for Dalby is approximately 640mm. http://www.agriculturalcollege.qld.edu.au/campus/dalby/region.htm
I drove from Dalby to Chinchilla which is 98km’s on, again hoping to find a place. No luck. I drove further to a little place called Miles. I luckily stopped at a hotel and the manager jumped on the internet and looked into accommodation in Roma. He enjoyed helping people and said he believed if he does good for others when he needs help he will get it. I said just imagine if everyone thinks this way. I was very appreciative. He said do you mind driving another 150km. I said no problem. He said what about $90 per night, I said no way. In my mind I thought $50 and he said I can get you a room for $49. I said done. I still felt it was way too much. This guy was interesting to talk to, he said there are Emu’s in the area and they are very curious. They can end up sticking their heads in your tent. He said they will take the tent. I just laughed, how do I get around that. He said they are also very silent when they move so you can be putting up your tent and they will quietly stand behind you. Can you imagine the shock of a emu face in your tent. I just smiled. He then told me that the boys race the emu’s in their cars. I was so surprised, he says they get up to 200km per hour. I couldn’t believe that. I jokingly said why do we ride horses, we should ride emu’s. I thought about their prehistoric features and three toes. The horses that were the forebears to the traditional horse had 3 toes. So these are ancient animals. Can you imagine trying to out drive a emu. I just google searched the emu land speed timings, according to wikipedia it is 50km, average speed 45km, so I think he was pulling my leg or maybe drank a bit too much when racing or the cars are very slow here. I have to smile. He also spoke of kangaroos and not to put on the high beam as they attract to it. I do know this about light. I saw so many killed around Canberra where I am from. I’ve had a few near misses. Anyway, the manager gave me a nice coffee for free and then I was ready for the next leg. I had no idea I would drive 476km. It doesn’t daunt me but I was going to try and take it easy.

So head to Roma estimated time of arrival 9.15pm. I kept the low beam on. I have GPS so I can get a sense of the contour of the road. Typically it is straight. I sit on around 100km for petrol optimum consumption. It is nice to know I am going to have a bed at the other end. It is very stressful when you don’t know where you will stay, however, there is also a part of myself that is seasoned at uncertainty and I soon trusted that all is good. I got to Roma and pulled into the Commonwealth hotel, a country drinking hole. I did notice the cattleyards nearby and the coal industry around this area. I had a nice chat with an Irish woman at the pub, told her about my ordeal getting there. I asked her about work in the country, she said it is easier than the cities. Being a foreigner she found rural was much better. I am contemplating doing some work as I go, so if anything happens to the car I am covered. So will check it out. She was very lovely and ended up dropping my room price from $50 to $25. That was a relief and a miracle for me. She said she had been in Roma two years, had a partner there. She said she had to stay another year to get residency. Then she wants to go to the coast. She is originally from Dublin. She says she is hanging out to go home, but she does love Australia. Many people want to leave. The other British girl behind the bar confirmed the same thing. She didn’t like Britain and wanted to stay here.

I then thought I’ll have a wine. So sat at the bar. This guy came up and started to chat. Said he doesn’t usually talk to people. We had a chat about his parents. Turns out they separated 20 years ago and he hasn’t go over it. I said to him my parents broke up and yes I also loved it the few times they had to be together to catch up with me. However, they remarried and I accept the situation. My mother is much happier my father is not. Making the right choice is so important. Anyway, I tried to help him and he said are you into psychology, I said no I have just lived a lot. He said he had been everywhere in Australia except for two cities. He was working at the cattleyards, he confessed his love of animals. He finds people much harder. I explained people have more fear. He said women are better than men, he said men compartmentalize. He seemed unhappy at being a man. I told him about Steve Biddulph and his book ‘Raising Boys’, he hadn’t heard of it but I told him only 10% of men have good relationships with their fathers. I could see a sadness in his eyes. We talked further about these issues. He offered to buy me a drink. I could see he was intrigued by our conversation but I was very tired. I had to get to sleep. I said thanks but no.

I found my room, the walls were paper thin. They had tv, little mini fridge and wardrobe, two single beds and wash basin. Not too bad for $25. Good to know a shower is there. So I did a bit of computer and had some noodles in a cup. I then put in the ear plugs. I am very sensitive to sound. It was a challenge overseas, but I have to get good at it now. The floor boards are really squeaky, a old hotel, over 100 years old. So eventually I went to sleep. Awoke really early and again nodded off.

I went outside to see the magnificent Boab trees. They are very fat, like they are pregnant and so typical of this part of the country. I so love them. I am now at a coffee shop and will start to think about where to next. I am only 244 km from Charleville. It is Friday and I am not due there until Monday. The school will give me free accommodation until Thursday, so I am happy about that. So I may just take it easy and try and learn about the area I am in.

So will sign off. My first day on the road. Talk about big. I wonder what lies ahead…. hmmm

Mohandas Gandhi

“Nonviolence is a weapon of the strong”