My relaxed sleep at the truck pullout was sound, but short. Before the sun had even had a chance to send some rays over the hilltops, I could start to hear a slight hiss, and began rummaging around the camper looking for a gas or air leak. Now I was becoming frustrated, now fully awake, trying to find the noise that was get louder and louder. It wasn’t until I broke out through the rear doors that I realized it was emanating from the jungle wall that I was parked up against. As the sun rushed up into the sky, the buzzing sound coming from the forest had grew to the point that it was nearly deafening. Sleep was no longer an option, time to make my way north.
I’m to be in Brisbane by the 28th to drop off the rental 4WD Camper at the airport, however, I’m told by the team leader, Mark, who is already there, that my chances are slim in arriving on time, as torrential summer rains have cut off the North from the South completely. I spark up the Landcruiser, and decide to take my chances anyways.
Slipping off the main highway, I make my way up the coastal road, and it’s not long before the clouds begin to darken, and the rain to begin. Winding my way through the coastal hills, I’m greeted with some spectacular ocean views, storm driven waves crashing on the rocky shores. The rains turn from steady, too hard, to driving, to “holly crap the roads going to wash away.” Windshield wipers at maximum, I only get split second glimpses of the road before another wave of water crashes against the windshield. My pace is slow, and good thing, as my first glimpse of a Kangaroo is short before it disappears out of vision under my hood. Not to worry, I only got his tail, and he didn’t look worse for wear as he bounded off into the forest, however, if my senses weren’t heightened enough before, they were maxed out now.
However, it didn’t seem to matter. With the rain letting up for a few short minutes, I was driving along an easy straight, when SMACK, something small and feathery bounced off my windshield right in front of my face. If the poor bird that darted into my path didn’t die on impact, it certainly did on the windshield of the poor sucker riding my ass behind, witnessing the kill shot in the rear view mirror. “Bloody hell where did that come from?” SMACK…. AGAIN! This time it was one shot one kill as yet another bird shot from the forest directly into the metal bumper. Ok, this is getting ridiculous now, just as I pass a “Caution, Koala’s crossing next 22km.” I’m thinking to myself, “my animal loving, soon to be sister in-law is going to kill me, as I slowly kill every cute little animal I come across. My first glimpse of a Koala better not be by pealing one off my front differential.”
Simply following road side signs north along the old Pacific highway, I’d stop in at information booths to for a quick map of the area, and word of the roads ahead. After yet one more bird killing, I stopped in Urunga, for some coffee and word of the road ahead. Other travelers coming from the north said that the road was flooded over in three different spots; however, the State Emergency Services were still going to allow single lane traffic for the next hour. If I wanted to get through I needed to be north of Coffs Harbour in the next hour. I jumped in the truck and shot north yet again, cursing the torrents of rain falling from the sky. I wanted to make sure I made it to Brisbane in time to drop of the camper, so not to incur any overdrawn fees or expenses.
Blasting through Coffs Harbour, my stomach aching from 12-hours without food, the rain was relentless. Pushing up the highway to the town of Woolgoolga, my fears came true. Traffic came to a stop, and no one was moving. One kind motorist was telling the rest of the line the issue. “The roads flooded over, they may have it open around 6pm.” For some reason, this wasn’t good enough for me. I swung around, pulled over and studied some maps for alternate routes. A couple side roads pushed through to Orah Way, another smaller highway that could detour me through to Grafton. Slipping up one of the connecting roads, I’m not alone in my quest for Grafton, however, to all our misery, the came to a quick end, with a mountain or water rolling over it. Quick detour, and a shot up the next road, this one is covered as well, but not as violent. There is already someone out in the middle wading up to his waist in the murky flood water. So another adventurous soul with a 4WD and I try our luck.
With the Nissan Patrol ahead of me making it through, I follow a short minute later. With the transfer case set in 4WD, I ease into the water and get a good wave going off the front bumper. As the depth increases, I hold a good steady speed behind my bow wave, following it up to the opposite shore. A short bit of uncovered roadway leads to another flooded out section, and in I go again. However, this time the current is much stronger, the depths much deeper, and the truck is starting to drift off to the right around three quarters of the way through. A little counter steering and a slight increase of throttle had me straighten out and climb out onto another shore. Back in 2WD, and I’m feeling pretty good about myself, that is until I see the Nissan Patrol that was in front of me, coming head on. Damn, yet another valley blocked.
Back across the two crossing I had just forded, I pushed back to Woolgoolga for some much needed food. After some map studying, and listening to the weather reports, it seems as though all attempts would be fruitless tonight, there is just no getting north. So I head back to the traffic stop, were the services crew told me maybe around 2AM they might allow 4WD’s to ford up the highway. So, I head back, found a lovely beech to pull over at, and fell sound to sleep, finally getting the hypnotic sound of crashing waves that I had wanted the night before. My alarm was set for 2 AM, to attempt another strike northward.