So my phone tells me that today is July 8th , 2017, and I can scarcely believe it.
July 8th? Are you sure, phone?
Golly. Where have the last six months gone? They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but it my case, it flies when you’re doing a whole lotta nothing.
A year ago today, the five of us were well into the Queensland leg of our BNT adventure, probably freezing our butts off somewhere near, well, Blackbutt.
Several weeks prior, Zaydee and I had woken on a frosty morning near Tenterfield NSW, horrified to find our bubs’ bucket of drinking water had frozen over. Morbidly fascinated, we lifted out the shiny sheet of ice and peered through it in the first rays of the morning sun. It didn’t take long for Zaydee to spot the little icicles adorning Jasmine’s naturally mohawked mane, transforming her into a little donkey snow queen, bejewelled with frost. We knew it was a sign we needed to pick up the pace.
So we blazed through northern NSW (and being in the company of a small girl and two even smaller donkeys, I use the term ‘blazed’ very loosely), in the hope of ‘making it to sunny Queensland’ by winter, only to find ourselves colder than we’d ever been before once we got over the border. It seems I had forgotten the simplest of high school geography lesson: Inland places get cold at night. REALLY cold.
Beanies and gloves were subsequently purchased in the Killarney Foodworks and during a quick resupply jaunt to Stanthorpe, a rack at the information centre revealed an array of postcards: a Stanthorpian Hills Hoist dripping with icicles, a snow-covered paddock complete with contented bovines, looking as though they had just cheerfully stepped from a hill in the Hebrides.
“It snows in Queensland!?,”
both humans exclaimed with equal does of incredulity and alarm.
The helpful attendant smiled sweetly, “It’s just magnificent here in the winter”.
Stanthorpe’s snow evidently did it’s locals proud, but we would be having none of that, thankyou. I placed the foreboding post card back on its rack, determined that our first sighting of snow would not be on the BNT- what with with our limited number of warm layers and our thus far unrugged and unprepared donkeys.
After a trio of -2 degree (thankfully snow-free) nights, I finally caved and treated humans to a room at the Blackbutt pub for a night- the first night in weeks we had slept without beanies, down jackets and every pair of socks we owned (all two of them, that is).
There was instant coffee on tap. And real towels. Down at the showgrounds, we plied the bubs with with energy-rich copra and lucerne hay. With the Southern Tablelands and the Victorian High Country still ahead of us, it wasn’t the last time Jack Frost would work his magic on our donkey’s manes.
And all that sunshine that Queensland was until recently famous for (whadya know- WA has just claimed the title of Australia’s sun-shiniest state) did eventually come, but not for a while…
FAST FORWARD A YEAR…
And now, a whole year later, I found myself at a place where coffee and towels can be taken for granted- the former left carelessly to cool on the table whilst pursuing some other idle distraction, the latter perhaps flung flippantly across the bathroom floor (which reminds me- I need to put the washing on).
Along with assuring me that it is indeed July 8 2017, my phone also informs me that today’s temperature is one degree in little old Blackbutt. This makes our recent cold snap seem positively balmy, which I regularly remind myself of as the doom and gloom of our wet South West winter sets in.
In fact, “It wasn’t THAT cold today. Remember Blackbutt?”, seems to have become mine and Zaydee’s official Winter 2017 mantra.
And while last winter may well have been punctuated with chilblains and impossible layers of thermals, South-East Queensland’s frostiness was in stark juxtaposition with the warmth and hospitality of its locals.
Honestly, what is it that makes Southern Queenslanders such a happy bunch?
Its not the warm nights, I can you that much.
Despite being a stranger in those parts, I had never felt so deliciously loved up. From the border up to Blackbutt, we had the pleasure of meeting many a lovely acquaintance. Zaydee was given a surprise birthday party by a family we had met for the first time earlier that morning, we were offered beds and campsites all over the shop, and one kind lady even went to the trouble of presenting us with little morning tea snack bags as we packed up one morning, complete with apple slices, Jatz crackers, and that nice cartoon cow cheese I remember from primary school. I was incredibly touched- in a world where we are constantly bombarded with stories of people doing nasty things to each other, these folks all along the BNT were turning all my ‘degradation of society’ ideas well and truly on on their head.
So despite being frozen half to death each night, we were thawed and warmed to the bone by day by the generosity of spirit we so often encountered in this special little part of Australia, and indeed all along the BNT. Luckily, I am engulfed in the rather pleasant task of reliving these adventures, as I am now officially ‘up to Queensland’ in the Donkey Dreaming book…
Ah, yes the book…
So, having had a few backers and supporters on our Kickstarter book campaign, I feel like I owe people an explanation, or at least an update.
Funnily enough, I feel a little like the way my students must have felt when confronted with my question,
“Have you done your homework yet?”.
Fleeting look of panic darts across face. Squirm. Half nod. Getting there. Not really.
No, really. I am.
You see, by the time we crossed the BNT finish line at Healesville, I felt truly changed- I decided I would go home and channel all that strength, resilience and willpower I felt I had gained into the writing of the book. But…. I think I must’ve left it all behind at the Donnelley Weir trailhead, because I came home, put on 8 kilograms, got subsequently distracted by the beach, and rapidly acquired a sizeable collection of bills. Maybe thats just what happens when you live in a house and have unrestricted access to fluffy towels and instant coffee. Unlike on the BNT, one can afford to procrastinate and be a little slack.
But as I say, in bookland, we are now well over halfway into our journey. Most of the near-death experiences are out of the way, the donkeys now cross rivers reasonably reliably, and Holly the tandem bike is about to make her way into our lives.
So, once again thanks to those trusting folk who supported us and invested your money in an as-yet non-existent book. Chances are that it may get to you a little later than expected, but it WILL get there, and hopefully even be a little informative and entertaining in the bargain.