I got out at Tolga, thinking it was more likely to get a lift to Tinaroo from there, and soon I was next to a young bloke from the AFDA returning from PNG and visiting his folks. He'd never heard of Tharwa. I walked from Tinaroo Falls down to the bridge under the spiliway, and waited, thumb poised... It was getting dark, the road was deserted - I considered walking back up for a hot shower and finding somewhere to sleep until the lift in the morning. But no, I still could get a lift.., it wasn't that far to walk anyway (was it?). ..besides I wanted to see Libby, even if it meant wandering in at midnight.
I started walking. Night fell and I walked faster. A couple of hours later I passed Downfall creek campsite and could see across the moonlit water to Fongon - less than a kilometre away. If I didn't have my camera with me I would have swim for it! Seriously, I was sick of walking, and knowing I was only about half way, with a good 15 km ahead of me around the long way.
It was midnight when I finally walked out onto the point, cooeeing frantically. Where were they? I had never been here before, but everything fitted Libby's descriptions - but there was definitely no basecamp! I was dog tired and extremely pissed off as I trudged back across to my gear. Had they been delayed (this long?) Well, they hadn't arrived, maybe they had to use a different site for a basecamp. Had the season been cancelled? (known to happen before). As I lay there falling asleep, the terrible thought struck me.. .Libby had been very tired when I last saw her about to embark on a long drive back to Abe~gowrie. if anything had happened there was no way I could be informed. The thought grew and haunted me all night. By morning it seemed real. What silly games our imaginations can play. As I sat there writing Sunday's entry I was planning to hitch/walk out to a phone to discovor the truth! Always the optimist, yet getting carried away by the "worst case scenario". (It was at this moment that I heard the vehicle approaching, and there was Libby...!)
Watching a kitsch American program on space exploration "it is in the nature of man to start with a romance and build it into reality". Well. I haven't been able to transform my full dream. I'm kicking myself for not doing my homework concernipg the drought before I set out... it'd be sheer stupidity to attempt this in wnat has turned out to be the driest year this century. So I made a quick decision when Libby told me the truck would be only half full when heading back south. The only other alternative for continuing would be to follow coastal roads and the highway, relying on populated areas for water.
On the last day of the final course, we finished packing the truck and loaded the horses without too much trouble. Glen and I left mid-afternoon, leaving Libby and Ali to finish packing basecamp and ropes course, planning to meet them in Townsville later. Stopping for fuel in Innisfail, I was concerned to see sweat literally dripping off Nugget, but they didn't seem too jumpy or stressed, despite the occasional kicks that rocked the truck as we drove along.
Eventually we got into Townsville, went straight to Stacey's (Glen's new girlfriend) house, where she led us out to a dam on the outskirts of town. I wasn't very impressed - there were patches of long grass, but it too was dry. We unloaded Nugget, but Sarah didn't want to come down. My fence was very tangled - butterflying it, I learnt, wasn't a good substitute for a reel. It would have been midnight by the time Nugget was in the small (still partly tangled) fence and Sarah was wandering to find some real grass. I slept under the truck. At dawn, I led Nugget and Sarah over to the toilet block for another drink, and took them down to some better grass underneath the dam wall. I brought the truck down too - only to bog the back wheels in a very marshy patch. HELL!
I set up the fence and saw to Nugget and Sarah before finding a little shovel and started digging. Eventually a bloke from the water board came past and lent me a bigger shovel, along with a warning about not being able to camp in water catchment areas such as this. Glen came out later with some food for me, then I went shopping nearby and bought a little beige and white female rat - I named her Marion after another rat I know.