This is the time of year when Australians go away for their summer break. I have been away, but not quite as I planned.
In the lull between Christmas and New Year, I drove up to Byron Bay.
Originally this was conceived of as a summer road trip with D, who was due to return from China on Boxing Day. For various reasons he has prolonged his stay, so I made a solitary trip. That meant less conversation (well, none really) and more radio and CD listening. Also, probably more of a loss, less chance to take in the scenery – which I am usually able to do as D prefers to drive rather than be driven by me.
I took the back route, picturesquely named “Thunderbolt’s Way” between Gloucester and Uralla, to Armidale, where I broke my trip, and then through Tenterfield, Casino and Lismore. Much of the country was new to me. “Thunderbolt’s Way” is a combination of a number of roads. I suppose the road from Nowendoc to Uralla across the southern part of the New England Tablelands has long been there. The “missing link” of the route is the road over the mountains from Gloucester to Nowendoc. It is probably really the site of an eco-crime as it was built by a Gloucester timber getter between the 30s and 40s.
The picture above is the view I did not see (owing to the weather) from the lookout named after him.
I stayed with E, my good friend and high-school music teacher, now retired and living in Byron Bay and her husband, R. Their children also live nearby. They are all old friends and I soon felt myself relaxing into the subtropical groove.
My father called from Canberra: my stepmother had been admitted to hospital. Two phone calls later she had died. Before that she had rejected surgery which, if successful, would have left her in hospital for some months – the last thing which she would have wanted. Her last words to me (other than briefly by phone at Christmas) had been “Don’t get old.” Debilitation had sorely tried her and were it not for my father I think she would have been content to go already. Her car bore a “My life my choice” sticker.
Early on New Year’s day, before revellers stirred themselves from the night before, I hit the Pacific Highway and drove home in one gulp. I picked up my suit and regrouped before driving the day after to Canberra.
That’s a road I shall be taking quite a lot more often in the immediate future.