The problem we have been having with the trail in Queensland is reading the guidebooks backward. The BNT books for NSW have been updated in recent years but the Queensland books are still written for those travelling North to South. It is harder than it sounds to decipher them travelling the other way!
However, we weren’t too phased by this in this section, as it was mostly road work along quiet back lanes. Rosie and Steve, who took us under their wing in Kilkivan, drove us out for a little ‘reccy’ the day before to check track accessibility before we headed off, and I decided to camp on the roadside for the first night out of Kilkivan.
This is because it was only 8km from Steve’s place (where we had been staying) to the BNT camp on Wide Bay Creek- which admittedly, is absolutely beautiful We even saw a pelican nesting on the river bank when we drove past. But in my books, it’s not really worth saddling up for 8 kilometres! On the other hand, the following camp was a bit far away, so we planned to set up in between.
Upon arrival at our designated road verge, we went up to the homestead at the neighbouring property to notify them that we would be camping on the verge outside, and not to worry if they heard voices or torch lights that night- that it would only be us ‘horse hobos’ passing through. As is often the case, the lovely couple said to forget about THAT idea, and to just come in and use the horse yards and water trough and to help ourselves to whatever we needed. Much better than setting up the electric fence on the side of the Highway!
So that night, after a lovely last visit from Steve, Rosie and her father, and a very civilised glass or two of red wine, we snuggled into our warm tent, the bubs safe and secure in a well-fenced yard. The laneway that ran along the side of the yard had been cordoned off from the station horses to prevent them picking a fight with our guys, and the bubs had plenty of green pick to keep them satisfied and content for the night.
All of these factors added up to the delightful promise of a good night’s sleep- no need to keep half an ear out, as is often the case when they are hobbled or in a ‘difficult’ camp. Alas, little did I suspect the drama that would soon ensue…
Late that night, I heard a bit of a metal banging noise, but in my hiking-induced comatose state, I rolled over and went back to sleep, ignoring a nagging gut feeling that I should go and have a quick check outside. Ooops. BNT Lesson Number 1: ALWAYS go with your instincts. But the bubs were in a flat well-fenced wooden yard, with plenty of feed and water- what could possibly go wrong?
BNT Lesson Number 2: Things usually go wrong when you least expect them to. And so they did…
They next morning, Z was the first out of the tent, and when she yelled, ‘Quick, I need your help!’, it didn’t me long to rouse myself. ‘Basil’s stuck in the gate!’, she called worriedly, and indeed, what a predicament he had got himself into. He was flat on the ground with the bar of the metal gate across his ribs, looking most embarrassed to be found in such a state, but otherwise conscious and seemingly uninjured. Assuming that he had somehow got himself stuck under the lowest bar of the pipe gate when he had been rolling, I tried to lift the gate up to free him. only to realise that he had got him stuck BETWEEN the metal bars.
His head, neck, front legs and front half of his body were wedged through the lower two bars of the gate, and there was no way I could lift it off him without cutting through the bottom bar. I tried to push him out, but there was no way I was strong enough and he began to get distressed. I decided to go up to the homestead to ask for help, my concern for Basil’s welfare overriding all sheepishness at confessing that my donkey was stuck in the gate and could I possibly please have some assistance in extracting him.
Unfortunately, the man of the land was away driving trucks, so his lovely wife rolled up her sleeves and got stuck into the job. Between her, myself and Z, we held Basil’s head down and pulled and pushed until his chunky frame was free of the gate, with poor Basil failing miserably to retain any sense of dignity.
I expected the worst- after all, he had probably been lying on the cold ground half the night, bruising himself in the process of struggling to get out. But no, donkeys never fail to amaze me with their utter indestructibility. He picked himself up, got straight to munching away on some grass, and showed no signs of lameness or injury.
A Happy Ending!
So luckily, all was well, and we began to shake our heads and see the hilariously ridiculous side of it. In our panic, the last thing we thought of was taking a photo, but what a sight it was. Zaydee has attempted to recreate the scene with a photo of a similar gate and some editing.
Basil had probably been rolling and caught his legs in it, and wriggled the wrong way to get out. He has actually displayed quite some talent at this little feat recently, once even coming close to getting stuck under a car (!?) during a rolling session. It just goes to show that no matter how careful you are on the BNT, the oddest, the most unlikely incidents still arise to challenge us. Especially when donkeys are involved!