A (very sharp) boning knife protruding backwards from hip pocket, mad scramble through thorn bush hunting jittery goats and a forearm inadvertently connecting with aforementioned knife had us do a quick (one hour) run to the hospital at Peterborough (that’s not a real wound – gotta love those country nurses) through Oodla Wirra. A name that rattles out of your mouth and falls to the ground in a clatter. The sensation is so pleasing you have to try it again. And again. It makes you laugh.
Oodla Wirra is marked by one of the few checkpoints on our highways you will ever come across. Not to check your credentials but a quarantine checkpoint to ensure you have gorged yourself on all your beautiful fruit rather than carry it into fruit fly clear areas. The Barrier Highway has more foxes on it at 9pm than it does vehicles. So pulling into the checkpoint is something notable for the bored quarantine officer. His ambling walk and laconic ‘gdayowyergoing?’ vanished behind a wide -eyed ‘no worries’ when we asked him to ring ahead for us, making sure staff were hanging around the hospital.
We return at 11pm and the officer has gone home. he tried hard but the nurses said his message was excited garble and they were not too sure what to expect. But his replacement promised he would log our thanks. In all the excitement we had missed dinner. So you can image our surprise when we saw the gas station was open. We pulled under the cover. A woman was sitting in the hot evening air watching us.
‘Be better if we were fed.’
“‘You were through here a week ago weren’t you?’
‘Ah, no, this is our first stop. But hang on, might have been my brother.’ (It was).
So started a one hour conversation with the new owners who had opened a week earlier and had food aplenty but no petrol. Something had gone pear shaped with the fuel supply contract and they had switched companies and were hoping bowsers and fuel and bunting would arrive post haste. They didn’t seem in a hurry though. Sitting outside watching one vehicle an hour pass through, chatting with a burlie, shaved, heavily tattooed truckie who had stopped to buy a packet of chips (“drive safely love”, the rejoinder being an embarrassed ‘yeah, yeah” as he returned to his rig), and dreaming about all that might be in this oh-so-remote place. Until they arrived there was a quarantine checkpoint, a run down gas station, an old stone pub and a telephone booth. Oh, and a few stone ruins half hidden in the bush. But they seemed very content with their lot, were very happy to chat – and to dish us up our midnight meal: ginger beer and a chocolate bar.
Oodla Wirra. It’s an exotic place. You just have to stop there! Whether you like it or not. But its worth making the effort to like it – a lengthy chat with a local will help ensure you do.