Gregory is just a stop along the way to Boodjamulla National Park. Another one-horse, or rather, one pub town. It’s not far from Mt Isa, but there is a lot of dirt road – actually it is rock road so not pleasant driving. We see only a few cars the whole way – about 100 kms.
About 50kms from Gregory, John “felt” the tyre go and he was right – a flat, but luckily not a shredded tyre as we found out was so common up here. It was 6pm with about an hour of light left. No problem. We had bought a fancy new jack from Super Cheap Auto (our favourite new shop). John got the jack out and started lifting the car. My job was to get the spare tyre off the back. All I could hear was swearing from the front of the car (John as you know is so good at this kind of stuff).
“Where’s the key to get the tyre off the support?” I call.
“I don’t know,” said John. “I didn’t know we needed a key. We weren’t given any other keys except the one to start the car”.
“I don’t have anything else either. I’ll check inside the car. How’s the jack going?” There is no upward movement so I know very well how the jack is going. More swearing. It is not holding. I look for the jack that comes with the car. John says there isn’t one. This I can’t believe. “You mean to tell me, you didn’t check if we had everything we need to change a fucking tyre. You must be kidding me.” I say in a high pitched, exasperated, married for 27 years voice. It’s getting dark. We are getting nowhere – we can’t lift the car or get the spare unhooked. We have no idea what we are doing. We are so stupid. Time to give up. John is appropriately ashamed and embarrassed….my anger has subsided.
We set up for the night. Empty the back of the car, roll out the mattress and pillows, set up the 2 chairs (the ones John said at the beginning of the trip we wouldn’t need), make some sandwiches for dinner, settle in for the night. There is nothing else we can do. If the wine had been chilled, we would’ve had a glass or two. The stars are wonderous. It will be OK in the morning.
I can’t help thinking about the stories Marie (from the underground hospital) had told us that morning – the ones about the murders of old couples in the bush. I am being stupid I know. John is reassuring. Time passes, it’s quiet, not too dark as the moon is almost full.
A noise – we turn together looking down the road. A light. It’s 9pm. Who’s on this road at 9pm? The light approaches. It’s big, it’s bright, it’s moving quickly towards us….it’s only a single light – a motorbike?? No, it’s a big 4WD Ute with roo shooting lights across the top. Great. We flag it down. All I see is the male driver and it’s not until I see his female passenger do I relax. I obviously watch too many British murder series. There are 3 kids in the back.
“What’s the problem?” the young man asks.
“You can’t change it?” he asks, incredulous. His wife looks at me and says “It’s OK. Chris can fix anything.” And he does. He looks for the hole in the tyre, can’t find a leak and gets his compressor out. (Knew we should’ve bought one of those – not). He pumps up the tyre. He thinks we popped the bead and should now be fine. They help us pack the car, (really!), say follow us. I reach in the back of the car and pull out a bottle of wine. I offer it to Chris who readily accepts it until he sees it’s red wine. “You don’t have a white do you?” Of course we do. They are not going into Gregory but stopping about 20kms short to go camping. We follow them until they are turning off. He has the compressor back out, checks the pressure and says we’re fine to get to Gregory. It took Chris about 10 minutes to fix. Amazing when you know what you are doing and have the right equipment.
We rolled into Gregory about 10pm. The publican was behind the bar having a glass of red wine.
“You look like you need a drink. I’ve been wondering where you were.”
John sits beside me with a beer in hand and says, “let me show you where the key to unlock the tyre is.” He gets out the car key and pushes a small button on the side and out slides the key. We would never have found it. Chris showed John while I was packing the car and the 35 year old advised the 66 year old to maybe not tell me until we had arrived at the pub. Smart man. Now it was funny.
I can’t believe I didn’t take any photos. Just goes to show how much anger can stop you seeing everything else around you.