I decided the best route was to follow the highway into Mareeba, then down to Tolga (where I meet Libby briefly tomorrow night). And I questioned the sanity of following the trail when Mt Molloy is only one day's ride along the highway, while it's taken me a week. But I soon discovered why... riding along the highway was, at best, extremely boring with never-ending horizons being chewed up by speeding 4x4s - a myriad of faces gawping from windows, very few smiling.
The rest on the time was spent steering Nugget and Sarah away from the countless broken bottles and other litter strewn along the highway. I can understand (although not sympathise with) the mentality of tourists dropping rubbish - a problem they don't have to deal with; yet the majority of this was obviously from local sources - a 15 km stretch covered with VB stubbies in individual newspaper coolers, or a few kilometres of "Brandon" cigarette packets, then another brand, etc.
I had to laugh at the sign welcoming you to Mareeba - winner of Queensland's tidy town '88 -'93!! Just past the cemetery, I spotted a nice piece of grass on vacant land, asking neighbours they said it was council land, so I asked a council worker at the tip, who said I could stay. No worries. Tied up the horses, unsaddled them...where's the fence? OH NO! I couldn't believe my stupidity. The fence was still hanging in trees some 35 kms away... in my rush this morning I changed my routine slightly - and forgot to take down the fence, which was a short distance away from my camp, and where I eventually saddled the horses. I was in a real pickle - the horses were very hungry and tired after a long day, but I couldn't let them out on hobbles here. I needed the fence sooner or later anyway. So with 2 hours of daylight left, I grabbed my wallet and left everything else between Nugget and Sarah, still tied to trees.
I stood beside the road, thumb out, smiling at all the grim, friendless faces that whizzed past me. This was extremely frustrating. Sunday afternoon - there was only one every few minutes now. I kicked viciously at an anthill and cursed. But I knew I could count on locals, and the next hour and a half was spent hopping in and out of the back of utes, with assorted dogs, toolboxes, motorbikes, wood, rubbish, more dogs and toolboxes - in between each, screaming in frustration at the empty stretches of road or at shiny cars with empty seats. I do tend to get myself worked up sometimes!
Anyway , I made it there, retrieved the fence and quickly got a lift back about halfway (in the back of another ute) - but it was getting dark now, cars all had their lights on and I knew my chances were now very slim. So I started limping (Nugget had stepped on my foot earlier) the 10 or 15 kilometres remaining. After a few kilometres a friendly bloke from Mossman brought me the rest of the way back to two very hungry little ponies! At least all my gear was there.
Limping into town, I bought myself a hamburger and chips after calling Libby and Mum. Totally exhausted, I stopped on the bridge and considered jumping into the river - not suicidally, but so that I'd crawl out of the mud feeling even worse! I didn't of course, but the thought made me smile anyway.
I did a load of washing at the laundromat this morning, so we're only about 5 km out of town, and have stopped for a few hours - Sarah in particular is very tired and it is quite a hot day. Hopefully we'll make it to water tonight, for I have none left. Since sitting down to write this, I have demolished a whole packet of dried apricots (sent by Mum) and a 500g date and nut cake I bought for Libby. It's a terrible habit of eating until I couldn't possibly stuff any more in, although as long as this lifestyle continues, I can't see it getting any better!
Wednesday night, 13th July
Township, that is, as opposed to the falls themselves. Camped on a grassy hill overlooking the
lake, I'm in my sleeping bag already and about to catch up on some sleep. Dinner tonight has just been a packet of scorched almonds (present from Libby) since I'm in a no camping area and don't want to push my luck with a fire!