The streets of small towns

With campervan packed and bikes loaded on the back, we went travelling old roads with new eyes. This is the fourth story from my recent road trip in South East Queensland. 

It was a Monday morning and we rode inland along Bargara Road. Week days bring out the life of a town. You see its workings more clearly – who does what and when, how things get done. Of course, it’s only a glimpse but sometimes that small insight lends itself to something bigger, a broader character supported by the town.

Turning right at Bargara State School, I saw a long straight of bitumen stretching to Qunaba Sugar Mill in the distance. Winter’s cool wind was on our tail. The sun yet to peek over the paperbarks trees and spill onto the sugar cane fields. We rode briskly.

Up ahead I saw a flashing yellow light. The type you get on garbage collection trucks which would’ve made sense because we were nearing the local garbage dump (or waste disposal centre as they’re now known). But this yellow light was flashing beside the sugar cane.

It belonged to a small left hand drive buggy driven by a bulky man wearing a full faced motorbike helmet. He was motoring slowly along the edge of the cane field. We exchanged waves and I wondered what he was doing. He didn’t look like a farmer.

The end of the road brought an t-intersection and some extremely tall cane catching the sunlight. We pulled over to take some photos. Before long, Buggy Man motored in and we got chatting. He works for the council and each day drives his buggy around the dump’s perimeter collecting stray rubbish – papers and plastics – blown out of the compound. I look around and notice the litter flung by the wind into the wire fence. The cold weather was making his job more difficult than usual because his windscreen was awash with morning dew and the buggy has no windscreen wipers.

He’s curious about us too. Two women standing on the side of a sugar cane paddock on a cold winter morning taking photos of bicycles, sugar cane and sunshine. So we chat some more, then ride on to Mon Repos, through the Barolin Nature Reserve and onto Neilsen Park.

I hear drumming. Djembe drumming. My heart lifts a beat. I follow it like a siren.

Tucked around the front of the surf club, beside a tall pandanus, a circle of eleven, sit in the sunshine, drumming. I look from a distance. I don’t want to disturb them. I want to enjoy their rhythm.

They’re rugged up in fleeces, a few wear beanies, many grey hair.

Dosed up on rhythm we ride along the esplanade with its border of round basalt rocks and pull up at the turtle playground. ‘Do you want any bush lemons?’

Three women sit on a small brick wall with a white bucket. They’ve been walking. They’re the heart foundation ladies who meet each morning to walk. One of the ladies, she’s left now, brought the bucket full of lemons from her backyard tree. There’s four there. Have them all. And so we did.

Interesting people dot the streets of small towns. It’s not their celebrity status that makes them interesting or how many ‘likes’ they have on Facebook. Their choices make them interesting. Their choices about the work they do, the talents they explore, the generous spirit they share.

If you’d like to read more from this series of road trip stories, follow these links. The first story is about my first experience of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. In the second story, I write about riding the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail unsupported – you just never know who you’ll meet. The third story takes us to Bundaberg and some sugar cane cycles

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Sugar cane cyclist

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Long stretch of bitumen heading to Qunaba Mill

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Djembe drummers nestled in front of the surf club

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Riding the esplanade at Bargara

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Basalt rocks border Bargara’s esplanade.


17 Comments on “The streets of small towns

  1. I liked your point about people in small towns. From reading travel blogs, I get the impression that some of the most loveably eccentric people also seem to live in such places. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. how I wish we had weather like yours. it looks like the summers we have even in your winter. I love meeting people and finding out about what goes on locally in an area. Thank you for writing

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s true Brenda – our winter in south-east Queensland is very mild and much like your summers. While I’m rugged up with a pink beanie and layers of wool, it’d be shorts and t-shirt weather for you I imagine 🙂


  3. Thank you Gail for sharing your account of heart warming moments and special insights into life in a small town. Sends me to work (in this larger town of Brisbane) with a smile.


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Gail. Yes, the most unexpected things can happen when there is no strict focus to your travelling day. I was delighted by your account of events in and around Bagara.
    As for responding to the siren call of the drumming, I find the sound of bagpipes has a similar effect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so true Margaret. When there’s space to explore (as opposed to having a strict timeframe or commitments) experiences float in that can be quite unexpected. The serendipity is very enjoyable. It’s fascinating how sounds call us in…
      Thanks for reading 🙂


  5. I love what I’ve read so far, Gail. You have a real gift for writing. I look forward to reading your blog from the beginning. I did see you are doing a big ride in November. The great ocean road! How exciting! A very beautiful part of Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Lynn. It’s so lovely to know you’re enjoying my stories. It makes me feel very energised. Yes, the Great Vic ride will be the longest ride I’ve ever done. As you can gather from my blog, extreme isn’t really my thing but beautiful landscape and interesting people are. So I’m very excited to be planning for November, training for it, and enjoying it along the way.


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