Friday 11th September

We knew that the day was going to be a long driving day. Young Wendy likes to drive and seems very equable about these prolonged spells at the wheel. My offer of assistance was acknowledged graciously but not taken up. For me it is a real treat to be driven.

We packed up all our goods and chattels and by just after 9.00 were on our way. Our destination was Peter King’s house at Glenn Innes. A good 7 hours drive away.

After about an hour’s driving we stopped for coffee at Muswellbrook for those of that persuasion and then it was back in the car until our lunch stop, except for a quick pit stop in Tamworth. En route we saw a swarm of flying foxes. Helen had told us about these. They huge bats that eat fruit rather than insects and hang like large black pears from any trees they see as their hosts. They then proceed to denude the tree of all foliage. Like bats in the UK, no matter how much of a problem they are or damage they cause, they are a protected specie and anyone moving a hand against them is committing a crime. The town we came across had been overtaken on its village green……

We had lunch at a university and cathedral ‘city’ town called Armidale. It is the nearest town to Peter’s, Glen Innes being merely a cross roads with a few houses. It was just before 2.00 and we just happened across a coffee shop where we could purchase a bowl of salad very reasonably. A find. We also found a Woolworth’s supermarket and a Dan Murphy’s, the infamous cheap alcohol shop we had heard so much about. Although Peter does not drink, despite our day of wine tasting it was felt that an additional few bottles were required. Food enough for a small army was purchased and thus equipped we travelled on.

We drove off the road and up the dirt track to Peter’s place just after 5.00 pm. It was probably a couple of kilometres up the track before we came to the house and the sun was beginning to go down. Our entrance to his property was heralded by a number of kangaroos and wallabies leaping across our path and then we were through the two stones that marked the entrance to the front of the house, a single story brick building overlooking rolling hills showing blue grey on the horizon.

It was almost an emotional reunion. We all unravelled ourselves from the car and there he was on the front lawn to meet us – looking just as he did when we left him a few months short of a year ago. It was lovely to see him.

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We quickly stowed away our bags and all joined him on the veranda for a drink as we watched the light drain out of the day. The breeze rustled the trees and the chatter moved and danced around the assembled gathering. Peter talked about the fire that had come up to within fifty yards of the front of his house and how the fire fighters had fought it with him successfully. It must have been terrifying but he had a lot of experience of fires in his life as a ranger fighting fires all over the national parks where he worked. I cannot imagine flames higher than the trees towering over me. A fact of life for the Australian bushman.

Peter had cooked two massive lasagnes one for the meat eaters and one for the vegetarians and we had a great supper. At 9.00 we were all off to bed with the thought of a forest walk on the horizon for the morrow.

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