On To Burketown.

General Store Gregory

We headed out bright and early, took care of dumping the dunny, and headed out back across the dirt/gravel road that had brought us into Adele’s Grove those few days before. We really wanted to turn and go up to Hell’s Gate and Booroloola which is one of the tougher roads but unfortunately, we were hearing so many different stories about the conditions, we were not sure.

The road back to Gregory did not seem as bad as it had on the way in. Once we got back out on the bitumen, Derek decided to stop and see how the caravan had fared. BIG MISTAKE. I should have told you that on that last day at Adele’s, I spent the day totally cleaning the caravan. I pulled everything out of the cupboards and used bucket loads of water and soap to get everything back to normal. It felt so good to have it clean again, despite the fact I was exhausted. Without electricity, the caravan was hot as all get out and unless I wanted a fresh layer of dirt everywhere, I had to keep the windows closed. It was not a fun afternoon sweating to get it all clean. So, when Derek opened the door and I looked in, I was devastated. There was only one door handle on the floor but the dirt. OMG the dirt. And then, I noticed a trail of liquid through the dirt, mixing with it, making it into a paste that would never be wiped up. The worst part was going to be trying to figure out where it was coming from. 900 bottles/jars packed all over the caravan to prevent them from breaking and we were going to have to pull everything apart. As we started opening cupboards, it was more depressing and then we opened the ones under the seats, the ones over the wheel wells that were the hardest to get to and realized we had to pull everything out. Every single thing was covered with dirt and dripping with the liquid and still we could not find the source. We are too old and no longer flexible enough to handle what it takes to deal with these things. It required that one of us contort our body to get it around the table and then to be able to fold ourselves up in ways not meant for human joints while trying to hyperextend one arm holding a cloth in its hand to try and reach the area that needed to be wiped out. This coincided with the exact moment we also discovered the hand vac we bought literally could only pick up a single piece of styrofoam IF you held it in your hand and used your fingers to force it up into the tube. Dust was just way too heavy or too difficult for it to identify – I forget which and did not really care at that point. We had dusty, sticky crap everywhere and everything had to be cleaned NOW because leaving anything with any sugar in it anywhere means the ants move in and your life is over.

I was choking with the dust, I could only imagine the dust on the curtains and in everything. Every surface felt dirty no matter how often we wiped it. I remember hearing my voice, like really far away, down a dark tunnel saying something about dirt and not doing dirt and I was not an Australian girl and did not want to be an Australian girl anymore. I don’t do dirt. I am a Canadian girl. I do snow. Snow is nice. It is cold but it melts and it is water and water is clean. Somehow I must have made it back to the truck and climbed down under the seat where I curled up in a fetal position.

Dirty “Fluffy”  Our Poor Little Caravan.

Derek tried to cheer me up by saying it was just dirt and could be wiped up in no time “easy-peasy,” which only brought louder howls from me. I told him “that dust is NEVER coming off,” followed by “OMG, we killed Fluffy,” “I am so sorry Fluffy, you were so pretty and clean and new and we just … killed you with dirt.” Derek offered that he would do it all and Fluffy would be fine and I screamed at him that everything was stained terra cotta reddish pink and how was he ever going to get it out of the grout and the glue? And then, I sobbed some more.

When we did stop, Derek suggested I “rest” in the truck while he “tidied” up a bit. I refused. I watched him wiping things down and when he smiled and said “See, I have only done about 10 minutes and look, this entire side is done,” my OCD roared up inside and I could only see all the corners and cracks filled with dust, and the stained corners. I wiped the bottles for him to put back in place and knowing all the while we were just doing a patch job for a big clean that was going to have to be done when we got home but by then, months down the road, it would be baked on with the heat and the humidity and we would not stand a chance ….

Derek insisted that we were not going on anymore dirt roads and that we were NOT going the way we intended and I got angry and told him I did not want that and I promised to be good. He threatened that if there was one more whimper he was driving straight to Mount Isa and it would be bitumen all the way.

Later, as we sat in the dark breathing, I told Derek I needed to speak to him. I said that he needed to pay close attention because he was not likely to ever hear these words from me again. I told him I needed to apologize, that I MAY have had a slight break down that afternoon. I detected a slight eye rolling motion.
“What?? I have never had a breakdown before, have I?”
He nodded – a way to big, definite kind of nod.
“OK, well those would have been teeny, hardly at all type of ones, this one was epic. I admit that.” More nodding.
“I admit that I did everything bad that every man was ever complained that women do, and I rolled it all into one big drama moment over the dirt.” Then I suggested that perhaps my period was due, it had been 33 some years since my last one so it probably was past due and maybe was going to be epically big which accounted for the over-reaction. Then I admitted that he proved that the dirt could be quickly cleaned. I looked him straight in the eyes when we had done and said we should never speak of it again.

Derek said we were going to spend 3 days in Burketown. He was booking us into a caravan park with grass and electricity, water and internet for 3 whole days. I asked him why we were staying so long and he told me it was a “CTFD” stop, just for me. I asked him what “CTFD” meant and he told me, “Calm the F**k Down.”

I am not sure why he felt I needed 3 whole days.

Out of the bland dessert like scrub we came to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Great fishing, right on the coast with the smaller Torres Strait Islands visible from the shores. Such an ideal location, I wondered why there were not more settlements and big cities built. Derek pointed out how remote and isolated it was and explained how high the tidal flow is which can make it difficult for boats to get in. Also, the salt water crocs. They are everywhere. Anyway, so it remains just a few small towns, mainly populated by Aborigines.

The town itself was sparse but very neat and tidy. It was a mixed community with a large indigenous presence who seemed very incorporated into and part of the day to day workings of the town. Their community areas like the schools and Council Office and parks were neat and modern with great facilities. It was a real contrast to the other little towns that all seemed faded and old, neglected and dirty, with little green anywhere. I watched some of the kids walking down the street, happy kids, quite willing to talk with you and I wondered about their lives there, so isolated, in such a small town. Then I looked around me at the size and realized this was the town I had grown up in, in rural Alberta Canada. The town, just down the road from the farm my grandparents owned, was not any bigger and had none of the modern, cheery additions of this town. I wondered how many people came to visit us over the years and thought the same of me.

The caravan park was incredibly tight and very busy with people coming in and out to fish. It provided for some interesting observations like the people putting up this boat. The funny thing was that a man was holding the tinny up and he called over his wife to hold it for a “minute.” Once she had it, he got in his truck and drove off and left her there holding it. She stood and stood and then started screaming for him to come back. More and more people came. They all were in charge. They hoisted and lifted, dropped it, picked it back up and finally managed to get it on top of the vehicle. I just had one question … how were they going to get it off once they were out at the gulf or the river??

The Great Boat Winching.  Read Captions following the numbers for the whole story.