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.