Tenterfield Bowls Club.
In out of the rain. Hard and heavy. Coming straight down. Thick white lines out of a sky engulfed in an electrified, brooding morass. Wild eyed old coot, wonky handlebar mustache, white-knuckle grip on his walker, came straight at me.
-Hat off mate. They’ll shoot you in here.
It was bushranger territory after all.
Overnighted by way of the salubrious Commercial Hotel in Dalby we’d set forth through the Darling Downs: Cecil Plains, Milmerran, Inglewood. Country was looking as good as they’d said it was. Grain crops and cotton standing proud for mile after mile. It seemed fair to say that the man on the land had something to smile about for a change.
Beyond Texas we crossed into New South Wales and made Tenterfield by four – or five supposedly. In summer they do funny things with their clocks south of the border.
At the club we settled down for some well earned grub. An American at the next table talked business with his Australian hosts. The place was chock full with the overweight and elderly or both, devouring meals fit for kings. Steaks the size of mud flaps, lasagnes and chips, cheesecakes and pavlovas, beer and rum and cokes. Lightning crackled across the sky, illuminating the bowling green beyond the diners and plate glass windows. We ate, drank and were merry; the Kid, the Old Man, the Missus and I.
– I’ll get fat here, I mused. In the fattest nation on Earth. Cream donuts, meat pies, beer, ice cream, kabana, beer, cheese kabana, beer, salads drowned in oil, fried kabana and beer. My summer diet for the month I flee the miserable grey hues of a Kyoto winter. Flabby flesh spills out of tiny summer outfits. Flabby folds of tattooed flesh. Tattoos. Every bloody man and his dog’s got to have a fucking tattoo. I swear there’s more ink than arse crack in Australia these days.
Tenterfield was a turning point. Next day, beneath blue skies, we recrossed the border at Wallangarra and made for Girraween. A national park straddling the border. There, granite outcrops rise out of the bush, long stripped of their green cloaks they bare their sheer faces to the sun. The Old Man and the Kid hung back while the Missus and I made for the Pyramids, a pair of bald rocks towering over granite strewn vistas.
I was lame. The trudge across the Bunya Mountains a couple of days before wasn’t the best way to walk in a new pair of boots. Blisters were going the grind against rough socks, oblivious to the band-aids plastered between them as I scrambled up the sheer rock face of the first Pyramid. Grumbling and cursing as I went spotted skinks warily eyed me from narrow refuges in the rocks. The Missus was long gone. Up ahead relishing the climb in the warm sunshine.
A Dad and his young kid, probably five or six, slowly, methodically eased their way down the rock. The elder issuing instructions to the wide eyed youngster staring the treetops some couple of hundred near vertical feet below him fair in the face.
Up top I hobbled around amongst the truck sized boulders crowning the peak, the flatter terrain underfoot allowing my heels some respite. Directly behind the first Pyramid rose the second, an imposing granite dome whose flanks from our vantage point at least, seemed insurmountable. To the north we spied Mt Norman, the highest point in the park. A peak that would have to wait for another time to feel the tread of our footsteps. Beneath a tame midsummer sun we sprawled out like lizards on a rock, the place to ourselves, and watched the high cloud swirl in the heavens overhead.