The Bruce Highway is probably our least favourite stretch of road so far in this journey. There are infrequent overtaking lanes, and impatient drivers who risk it all to pass one vehicle in the face of oncoming traffic. Add Queensland school holidays into the mix, and it’s a recipe for stress and anxiety. We were tuned into the UHF, and heard the frustrations of truck drivers who had near-misses (a total misnomer by the way – near miss = hit!), with vehicles, some towing caravans. Kirstine was a stressed co-driver, and Paul was the ultimate “defensive driver”, keeping us all safe. As a result he was exhausted when we got to Caboolture, where the Caboolture River Caravan Park had offered us a powered site for two nights. We were also trying to get in ahead of predicted storm weather, so it wasn’t a surprise when Tina welcomed us, and simultaneously told us of the severe thunderstorm warning issued for the area.
We got to our site, right next to the camp kitchen, and waited out a few giant rain drops falling in succession as we pondered placement of camper and tents. A break in the precipitation sent us out at full speed to set up the camper and awning. We have the camper down to a fine art, and we even had most of the awning set up before the rain started again in earnest. We weren’t bothered, Tina was looking forward to the rain, and we know first hand how dry the country is in Queensland. Propping up the awning with the poles, the rain pelted against the canvas, rinsing out the dust from weeks of travel.
The involuntary physical response to a close-proximity lightning strike, seems amusing in retrospect. Lightning struck a light pole fixed to the top of the camp kitchen, less than 5m from us, while Paul had hold of one of the awning poles. He ducked and covered, and nearly hyperventilated from the shock. One of the kids also felt a tingle in their palm at the time, so close was the strike. We decided to wait for a break in the weather to finalise the awning. No-one wanted to be out from undercover at that point, as the storm continued to brew above us.
We grabbed the walls for the awning and put them into place, pegging them in in record time. A second lightning strike to the SAME pole on the camp kitchen, put an end to our set up, and we decided that the kids were going to be sleeping in the camper with us. No way were we going to put up the two two-man tents in those crazy conditions.
Trying to communicate in heavy rain is frustratingly hilarious – yelling to make yourself heard one meter away is just crazy. The kids chowed down on a late lunch, and Paul & Kirstine sat under the awning and watched the rain pour down in torrential quantities, causing us to lift our feet onto tubs to stop them getting soaked as the stream ran through the space under the awning. It was fantastic, crazy and the epitome of elemental power. By far the best entertainment! Paul was still coming to terms with his brush with lightning, becoming introspective as we focussed on the rainfall.
That night, nearly asleep, a thump outside Kirstine’s window woke us. The rain had pooled in a corner of the awning, and caused two poles to collapse. Shoving a huge canvas pocket of water outwards was rather fun, but with the Velcro of the main pole already wet, we ended up having to do this again before the storm abated.
Hailstones pelted the camper and Legend, and Paul ducked outside to try and protect the windscreen from errant balls of ice. The canvas roof of the camper showed the dents from multiple hailstones, and we crossed everything that there would be no lasting damage.
Crossed fingers did the trick in our case – we emerged into the sunshine of the next day, unscathed. It was a wild and crazy ride, and made for great storytelling as we picked up our eldest son from the airport the next morning, as he joins us for the next week of our journey. The water dragons sunbathing have already made an impression, and his eyes nearly bugged from their sockets as he surveyed the river near our campsite, and digested the fact that there are bull sharks lazing in there. Oh the stories we have to share with him!