Truck Stops and State Lines

It’s funny to think what time can do. Take you places you never thought you would be or do things you never thought you would. Through the randomness of chance, opportunity and courage we can find ourselves in places or situations which can both challenge and invigorate us. Since I was young, even up until the point of leaving for this trip, I’d always wanted and imagined myself working an amazing job in Australia, it’s been a dream of mine for years. Goals like that however don’t just come overnight.

Arriving in Australia I found myself desperately searching for work to fuel the next part of my trip. As I have already written I began working at a backpacker travel specialist shop on Brisbane. It was a great job, booking fellow travelers trips to Fraser Island, the Whitsundays and all around Australia. I since had a great opportunity to come out out to the outback and work at a rural roadhouse for three months. The position was far too good to pass up. The pay was amazing, all food and accommodation paid for, it would count as my rural work so my second year visa would be granted and I would be back with Soph who had already started there three weeks beforehand. And so I find myself in Camooweal, Northwest Queensland.

Drive 195ks west of Mt Isa and you will find nothing but desert until you reach the small settlement of Camooweal along yur Barkly Highway. Its the last township you pass before entering the Northern Territory and the first you you find as you enter Queensland. The sign you pass as you enter reads “population 310”, slightly optimistic as it seems permenant residents seem to be fewer than 100 and that includes the solitary police officer! The settlement is mainly based just on one small street with a few red dust roads coming off of it. It takes less than.2 minutes to drive througj the town, passing the post office, pub, a coups other derelict looking buildings and lastly the BP Camooweal Roadhouse, my home and work for next three months.

I’ve been here now for a little over a month and have just about got the work down and have settled in to the slow pace of outback life. The roadhouse is the largest and most popular establishment in town. It serves as a well needed rest stop for travelers and truckies hauling enormous loads on massive 80 metre long roadtrains with upwards of 60 wheels who rest just 12ks short of the NT state line. The roadhouse is a petrol station, camp site, motel and cafe and I have somehow found myself working in the kitchen of all places. Given my month or so working experience in a kitchen in London when I was 18, being in charge of making peoples food was the obvious place for me to be! I am the breakfast cook, this means I start work at 5:45am 7 days a week and feed the huge appetites of tourists and truck drivers until 2pm. Despite Camooweal being the quietest place I have ever been the kitchen has got really busy, at times involving me cooking 10 meals at once, a mere walk in the park for a process chef but for a less than amateur have-a-go cook like me, it has at times been quiet a challange.

Being here for only a short time so far I can already feel the sense community, the keeper of the post office already knows me as the new breakfast cook in town, the policeman and pub owner always say when you meet and regular truckies always stop and chat about their mammoth journeys on the road through hundredsbof miles of desert. Its the kind of place where everyone knows everyone, you cant release gas without the whole town knowing about it a few hours later and the kind of place where justice is probably severed with a strong fist rather than a court appearance!

After my shift finishes the opportunity to do anything else is very limited. There is nothing here, as far as you can see around you is hundreds of miles of flat desert land. If that doesn’t defer you then the constant plus 40 degree heat will do. It is insanely hot. So hot in fact parts of the road actually melted a few days ago. We are now entering summer here which means it gets even hotter, is been in the 50’s regularly here. Summer also means storm season. This try arid area actually gets some rain believe it or not and the dusty plains actually become quite green. We already have had the firsts of the rains a couple days ago which was an amazing change and refreshmente it really cleaned the air and got rid of the dusty dry heat. There is a lake just a little further down the Barkly which serves as a sight for sore eyes over the otherwise water starved land.

Being in a place like this really reminds you of just how enormous this country is. It is vast, dynamic and drematic. It took me 2 hours to fly to Mt Isa from Brisbane, a flight in which back home I could fly to southern Spain. From Isa it was a further two hours drive. When Sophie came here it took her 27 hours on a Greyhound coach!

This part of the trip wasnt in the dream, wasn’t even in the plan. Months ago I never saw myself working somewhere like this and if I’m honest its more a case of just getting through it and thinking of all the opportunities and places this job is going to enable me to go and do, for that I am completely thankful and greatful for it. A slight deviation from the dream rather than an end to. I believe its things like this that can remind you that not everything is plain sailing and clear skies. Not all plans and dreams will work out how you envision them. Sometimes its about paddling through the shore break before you can stand on waves. Every door will have cracks in. I just think that’s how the light gets in.

BSD Oct 12


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