A Nasty Surprise

Wollongong Travel Blog

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Thursday, 28th June, 2007
This was going to be a journal about the Curry’s trip to the North of Australia - Darwin, Kakadu, Lichfield National Park, the dinosaur footprints at Lark’s Quarry, the Undarra Lava Tubes in North Queensland.  Instead we are despondently sitting in the Mitchell Caravan Park in Bourke with no car.  Last night Jan picked us up to go to the Bowling Club for dinner where we had country Chinese with John (her brother) and Margaret (another teacher at Bourke High School).  It was cold and windy when we got back and we were soon snuggled down in our sleeping bags.  I woke up feeling refreshed at 7.00am, ready to cross the border to Queensland and begin our great adventure.  John went outside to get the bucket from the car and pulled up short in dismay. 

“The bloody car’s gone!” he announced.  Shortly after notifying police we discovered it had been found in a vacant allotment, burnt beyond recognition.  We began listing what was missing ďż˝" the Tom Tom (poor Jane), the new dark blue fibreglass esky with the Toohey’s Draft label on the top, a box of groceries, a bag of shoes, including my joggers, a box of cds, books, including two belonging to friends and my Weight Watcher’s cookbooks, John’s red Gortex and my blue spray jacket, the bathroom scales, a new air compressor, a tyre pump and tow rope, a picnic blanket, a shovel, a toolkit, two tarps and a shifter, two phone chargers, the two caravan annexes, our old card table, the e-tag.  The fact that we had four brand new tyres on the car made it even worse.

The mobiles have been ringing all day.  Our phone bills will be enormous.  The latest news is that the van will be picked up tomorrow morning and transported by truck to Wollongong.  Jan is picking us up about 1.30pm to go to Dubbo where we will stay in a motel.  The next day we will pick up a hire car and drive back to Wollongong.  The insurance will not cover everything so we will have to have a quiet winter at home as we won’t be able to afford to go anywhere.  At least we will have the “fun” of looking for a new car, even if we can’t afford it.

I am sitting in a caravan in a NSW western town examining my feelings after losing my car to thieves, who stripped it of its contents and then set fire to it.  I couldn’t accompany my husband to view the burnt out shell.  I wanted to stay with the van, to protect our remaining belongings.  This was to be an exciting trip to the Australian outback.  The first night was spent in Dubbo and then last night we called in to this town in which we now sit stranded like a beached whale.  We had friends here, who taught in the local high school.  They were looking forward to the school holidays which start in two days time.  We went to the local club with them and ate country Chinese food.  They dropped us back at the caravan park and we went to bed early, looking forward to crossing the Queensland border the next day.

We had a varied itinerary planned.  First we would view the Boeings at the Qantas Museum in Longreach.  Then from Winton we planned to diverge to Lark’s Quarry and examine the ninety three million year old dinosaur footprints preserved in stone.  Heading into the Territory we would visit Lichfield National Park, spend a week in Darwin and return via Kakadu.  Then we would head East, visiting the Gulf Country, the Undarra Lava Tubes and finally Cairns, with a leisurely trip back down the coast.

Now we are stuck in a country town where even the TV reception is limited to three fuzzy channels.  The local museum has lost its attraction and even the Darling full of muddy water appears menacing.  We know the police station well.  Calm and efficient but lacking emotion (they’ve seen it all before), the mainly young, female staff write down details of our loss.  They are mainly material things which can be replaced.  Even our car was just a mixture of metal, plastic and rubber, but we have treasured it for eight years.  To me it was the “holiday” car.  It towed our boat and our van to many wonderful places.  We “salary sacrificed” to pay for it.  We had just had its brakes renewed and four brand new tyres added to make sure it would stand us in good stead for the big trip we had planned.

I keep saying to myself that material things can be replaced.  We are both well and will survive this ordeal.  Tomorrow we will drive to Dubbo with the teachers from the high school, who are full of compassion and concern.  The next day we will take a hire car back to our home town.  The van will be loaded onto a truck and be delivered to our door.  We will leave behind this country town to which we will never return.  The locals are apologetic.  They say they could leave their doors and their cars unlocked a few years ago with no problems.  One of the people responsible for our dilemma was released from gaol a few days ago.  The worry is that he is teaching other young people his questionable skills.

We will go back to our comfortable lives in the city.  Meanwhile the local doctor leaves because his car windows are smashed outside his house, the forty three police at the local station struggle to control the crime wave and tourists like us vow never to return. 

Friday, June 29,2007
We are now in a motel room in Dubbo.  The Aberdeen motel is comfortable, although a little dated, with brick feature wall and green bathroom featuring a spa bath we can’t use because we didn’t pay for it and we wanted a ground floor so we could put all our belongings in without walking up stairs.  The day went quite well, with the van about to head off to Wollongong as we left for Dubbo.  Jan and Margaret left their cars at the van park for us to load whatever we needed.  We had not slept much during the night and John had been up a couple of times. He did not have breakfast but ate a little lunch at 12.00 o’clock.  The truck arrived to pick up the van with no way of getting it onto the tray.  The park owner offered his truck to tow the van to the loading ramp so it could be easily put on the large truck.

We drove both cars around to the school and in a few minutes Margaret and Jan appeared.  We drove around to Jan’s flat where we picked up John S.  He drove Margaret’s car and John C drove Jan’s car.  We stopped at Nyngan for coffee.  I videoed the group and the railway station which is a museum.  I think the train still runs as far as Nyngan but it doesn’t go to Bourke.  We drove into the first decent looking motel and unloaded both cars.  Jan and Margaret set off while we showered and prepared to go out for dinner.  After walking up the main street we decided on Hog’s Breath where we ordered a “lite” steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes, vegies and a bottle of red wine (total cost $78.70).  We have ordered breakfast, although we have cereal, juice and fruit of our own.

Saturday, 30th June, 2007

We are back home again.  This morning we were woken at 7.00 am for our breakfast although we spent most of the night awake.  At 8.30 we were at the Hertz rental car office and picked up a Mitsubishi 380 which according to John is a very nice car.  It had fancy displays and climate control and was automatic.  We drove the long way home through Parkes (stopped for coffee),  Cowra (lunch at Subway), Booroowa, Yass, Goulburn (stopped for coffee and muffin at Goulburn bakery with roaring log fire).  We counted the bends on Macquarie Pass to take our mind off things (89 bends).  I drove from Albion Park because I think I should do some driving each day.

John downloaded the photos.  I saw the charred remains of the Prado and shed a few tears.  When I checked the messages there was one from Sue.  She had returned from her holiday to Darwin and had also gone to Maroochidore.  The cancer had come back so she is having chemotherapy which I think has cheered her up because at least she is doing something.  She says it will not cure it but might keep it at bay for a while.  It makes losing a car seem pretty unimportant.

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photo by: monkeymia79