It was an emergency that stopped me exploring our camp spot by light. Everything got thrown into the car; pots and unwashed coffee cups shoved into ill suited gaps, L-man’s backseat den more cramped than cosy.
We drove in silence, mostly, and I gripped the door molding and D-man’s hand in the moments building up to near pass out. Tears flooded my eyes, painkillers and clove oil stopped working.
Onwards to Mackay, then. Destination: dentist.
I’m dramatising, somewhat. It wasn’t a true emergency, I wasn’t about to die (even if I felt like I was about to die from the pain). And more importantly, I was on a road trip, a break: shut up, stop the whingeing and damn well have a good time!
During the drive away from Byfield State Forest I set up an appointment with my cousin’s friend’s dentist, dosed up on whatever would numb the headsplit and opened my eyes to the start of the mid-tropics, to swampy flatlands, fields and farmsteads, to sugarcane plantations, to grasses and reeds and hills covered in the start of a jungle. Everything felt moist yet it all looked faded, a light green soup lacking in chlorophyll.
Half way – a teaser of a turquoise ocean some way off a flat, watered beach at Clairview – took a while to reach. The roadworks kept coming. Queensland, it would seem, was on some serious resurfacing mission; great for future road trippers, not so good for the three of us squished inside an overheating, retro car.
Roadside billboards declared
We caned, we sowed, we conquered
Watch out for slow vehicles hauling cane
Still further north we passed through Sarina. A harvester chomped on tall cane stalks and spat out a cloud of flaky dust, white birds following closely and diving into newly exposed earth. Another roadsign caught my eye, a big, full colour sign displaying
Good, safe, family friendly mining jobs
A two child family smiled out, a bundle of cuddles. An attempt to gloss the three weeks away story, or challenge the high spending, heavy drinking hedonist and the unfulfilled wife stereotypes?
We arrived into Mackay after nearly six hours of stop start. We’d just made time. Mackay seemed leafier than Rockhampton but rather than sightsee it was straight into the sterility of Caneland Dental. I was absolutely ready to meet my savior of the moment.
‘Just rip it out, if you have to’, I said.
‘We might have to’.
‘It’s an option’, said the dentist, a man who I guessed was in his late 30s and didn’t smile. At all.
It was going to be bad news. I knew it. Every living cell in my body knew it. The boys knew it. Hell, even Nerrell, the car, knew it. $1,000, he told me, to do a root canal. My chest tightened.
‘And about another $1,000 to put a crown on it.’
‘Another $1,000?’ I felt sick. ‘Really? Do I need it?’
‘I’d recommend it.’
Shit. When did dentists get so expensive? No wonder many Australian’s head to Thailand for their dental work.
‘Could we do a temporary fix?’ I asked, and with that out came the needle and in went a load of anesthetic.
‘Can you feel that?’ he asked.
‘Yep. Yeah, definitely.’
Another syringe full.
‘Now?’ He prodded a latex covered finger in my mouth, massaged my gums.
Once more. And finally: muted pain. Happiness.
I floated out of there $220 lighter and even the numb fat didn’t dampen my spirits as I splashed around in the pool just across the road. Bluewater Lagoon. Free to the public. Jellyfish-free.
And so L-man, D-man and me were once again clean, healthy and ready for the road.
Except we weren’t really. We had tasted holiday mode in the water park. We wanted a beach and an early set-up. We didn’t want to drive and drive and stop start anymore, not today.
One last push, then.
A little further north of Mackay, a rough, car breaking track led us to Smalleys, to a spacious forest enclosure with its own access to a slither of sand and a sparkling, forbidden sea.
And not a sunset in sight.
- Road Trip! Heading up through Queensland, Australia (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 1: The issue of not being on time (travelola.org)
- Two dogs and a snake stick (travelola.org)
- Queensland Roadtrip Day 2: Fluid definitions of friendliness (travelola.org)
- Cape Hillsborough National Park (nprsr.qld.gov.au)
- Marine Stingers (marinestingers.com.au)
- Marine Stingers (Jellyfish) (qld.gov.au)
- Dangerous Marine Stingers (qldbeaches.com)
- Sugarcane (wikipedia.org)
- About the Australian sugarcane industry (canegrowers.com.au)
- Sugarcane growers see future unsweet (abc.net.au)