PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1974 - DECEMBER
1 December, Denpassar
HOT DAY TOURIST TOUR OF BALI - ART CENTRES
I go to Ubud for the morning market, then pack and leave. I give Tjanderi a 1,000 for food and bed. I take a binno to Tilem's wood carving shop - OK but very expensive - some excellent carving and lots of Americans - an ace toilet. I go back the shop where the guy offered me a 75% discount - it's full of Americans too, and very ordinary carvings. I go next to Batuan where there are three or four very touristy shops with women weaving - lots of Bali scroll paintings of dancers and Garudis - fans, batik and wood too. I have some good chats and reach some good prices but I still don't buy anything, I hitch another scooter and then walk a long way to Celuk - scandalous prices. I hitch back to Adi Yasa's where I shower and sit around all afternoon drinking sweet tea. I write some letters and eat in the market later.
2 December, Denpassar
UNSUCCESSFUL TROUSERS & HAIRCUT - SUNSET FROM KUTA
I eat an Adi Yasar super omelette for breakfast. This Monday morning I go early to the bank to change $10, and to post office where I get one more letter, from Johnnie. She tells me her father died and she has a lot of business to tidy up. I take tiny binno and walk for half an hour along the east road looking for a tailor - I do find him, just when I am giving up hope - but the trousers are horrible - it's a sticky situation and I worry about the image he has of travellers. I cross the road and think about it - when I go back I say he can buy them for 500 but he doesn't understand and offers me 1,000 - I don't try and push him up any more - I only lose 275 rp even though I thought I was going to lose a lot more. I drift back along the road and try to get my hair cut but the barber doesn't understand I want it thinned out. I eat an early campur. Early in the afternoon I whizz down to Kuta - there are a few tourist shops and bars, and a few young tourists. It's a very nice uncrowded beach with crashing waves. I try for a while to get a lift out to Ullowatu but decide to leave that trip for tomorrow and watch the sun fall for about two hours. I talk briefl with an American on holiday from work on an oil rig in Java. I don't see Wayne and company but I do chance on the last minute Padang-Djakarta travellers. After sun down I walk a while and take a short swim, but I'm too afraid for my bag (there are the occasional motorbike freaks on the beach) to leave it for long. I eat a 50 rp campur - excellent value. I talk to some Australians who are flying to Kupang tomorrow.
3 December, Denpassar
ROARING SEA & CLIFFS - PRESENT FOR DAD AND THE RICH AT SANUR
The sun is bright this morning. I take a binno to the airport turn-off, and then get rides with an assortment of trucks and one tourist on a motorbike to Ullowato. There's a large outcrop of rock connected to the mainland by a flat area - beautiful cliffs, coral, sharks and turtles below the Temple of Importance at the tip of the peninsual. I must wear sash to enter the temple - it's 300ft or so above the sea and gives ace views - I climb down the cliff. There is a tremendous roar of surf pounding on the rocks carving away the lower areas - hundreds of black crabs scurry around on the rocks, partly camouflaged. Apparently, there is some of the best surf in the world here. I eat a water melon to the roaring sounds. Up at the temple, lorries crammed with people arrive to pray - one is full of schoolkids on a day's outing (to the airport, arts centre, Sanur etc.). I ride with them to the airport and talk to an exuberant teacher. The kids sing and laugh loudly at my jokes - but they aren't overbearing like some of the village kids
Back in the capital it is still very hot. I decide to change $10 more and buy Dad a wood carving. I eat an omelette for lunch. The owner of a souvenir shop gives me a lift, but he sells stuff. I take a binno to Mas, and check out the first shop yet again. The boss isn't there and there isn't a bargain to be had. I walk around a couple more shops and, after much looking and bargaining, I buy a $55 carving for $10 - it's very finely carved so I reckon it's a fair price. I hitch to Batuar, and walk around the industrial handicrafts centre. I find myself at the turn-off to Sanur, so decide to hitch there with the idea of watching the sunset from the top of the Bali Beach Hotel. I get lifts on motorbikes and make it with time to spare, but the beach is ugly and there's no surf. A small gamelen orchestra plays at the entrance to the hotel which is full expensive bars and restaurants. Sanur is full of expensive restaurants - it's not a pleasant area. In the evening, back at Denpassar, I eat two 50 rp campurs at the markets, and drink a whole beer myself.
Throughout Bali there are small rivers that have cut maybe 100 ft down through the soft rock. The women have to walk down to these to fetch water, which they carry in large cylindrical cans on their towel-wrapped heads. It's a shame the traditional arts are dying out here - the young men want to make money and they don't care about religion or traditions. And yet, oddly for it's one of the most touristy places I've ever been, Bali is also a place where traditions are very evident around the island and in every day life.
4 December, Bali airport
CULTURE CENTRES - MEET THE HEARTS TRIO AGAIN - KUTA RESTAURANT
I am up bright and early again. I post letters to Howard, Clare, Johnnie, Chris and Gwenda. I visit both the arts centre and museum by 10. The former is a modern pleasing building with an exhibition of paintings and wood carvings; the latter is more interesting with detailed descriptions of utensils from every day and religious life. Bali really is quite a place - very, very rich. At the Merpati office, where I go to reconfirm my flight, I find Wayne sitting around hoping to snap up a cancellation. He and the others left Djakarta the day after me came straight here - they've been living at Kuta for two weeks - they've also been trying to hassle for flights.
Back at the hotel, I shower, pack, and sit in a cafe opposite the Kuta bus stop, watching travellers whizz by on bikes, peddle by on cycles, and stroll around the shops - hustlers come to sell postcards, wood and silver. I wile away some hours by teasing a young boy seller. After Thomas (an English guy going on the same plane as me) turns up, I go looking for the place where Gus and Paul and Wayne are hanging out. Wayne sounds really hopeful of getting on my flight. Thomas comes with me to a Losmen where we dump our stuff. We stroll down to the beach for a short swim - the surf is very strong. Wayne and Gus show off an A$80 chess set of deer horn they've just bought, then Paul and Wayne go off to buy some bangles. Wayne and Paul seem to be getting on really well, and I think Gus feels a bit left out. We sit in a restaurant all evening eating fried fish and salad and chips, and banana porridge. I talk to some guys who have to South America - they say Guatemala is best in Central America and that hitching is OK but it's best to avoid the cities
Thomas and I walk half way to the airport. We stop for a game of nine men's morris board, then we both, packs and all, get a lift on a motorbike to the airport. We wandere various lounges, turn on the fans, scrounge some ice tea. It's quiet, I can hear the surf. The international terminus is a little more busy. Tom gets accused of stealing an ashtray and a key to the VIP lounge where he was trying to sleep. We end up sleeping outside.
5 December, Bali airport
HASSLING FOR FOOD - BEACH AFTERNOON
I'm up super early for coffee and banana fritters, which leaves me 140 rp. I try for a while to hitch into Kuta to buy some more tobacco but I give up when I see people already arriving to check in. It's an internal flight to Kupang first and there where we will have to through international formalities. Our baggage is weighed and we are given boarding pass. First, however, I have a cholera jab. My cholera certificate ran out a few weeks ago, and the guy at the gas pump told me we I should get it predated by six days or else Australian immigration will have a fit. The doctor isn't around so another guy stabs us and sign his cross and charges us a dollar or 400 rp. I'm lucky I have that other 400 rp. We sit around joking until we see a lot of people examining the wheel of our plane - then our baggage is unloaded and the rumours start. Eventually, we learn the plane has a broken leg and the flight is delayed for 24 hours. We hang around waiting for information that no-one can gives until, finally, we are told there is no need to check out, we must just come back tomorrow at the same time. Most people drift away, but there are a few of us without any money, and some whose visa runs out today. We get given a lunch box (beef and cheese sandwiches, chicken and cake and coffee), which is OK.
We hitch into town to the Merpati office where the officials are friendly and co-operative. They explained that they can't give us food or accommodation but that visas can be extended. So we wait around - Gus (who's not on this flight) is in the office hanging around trying to get a cancellation. I hitch back to the airport with a French girl, Monique, where we wangle another lunch box and a half coffee and tea - so much for all the others who were complaining. I play chess with an Indonesian, write, and talk to Monique and Thomas. We walk along the nearby beach where there's a lot of ugly coral lying around, and a very rich-looking government/Pertamina rest house. I lecture a while to some Indonesians on the evils of tourism while digging a hole in the sand. I scrounge sweet banana tea and a meal off the taxi-drivers by telling them I've no money. Later, three of us scrounge jam and cheese sandwiches and coffee from the kitchen. It's horrible sleeping on plastic.
6 December, Darwin
FLIGHT MERPATI 262 TO AUSTRALIA
We leave Bali with some fine views of the islands all ringed with yellow, but then we fly up above thick cloud. It's cool and comfortable on the plane, and we are given a good meal with beer. I'm quite tired and apprehensive of Australia. The plane travels through some air pockets which is quite scary. The stop in Kupang is uncomfortably hot - some Dutch Australians are moaning. Not long after 6:00 we land in Darwin airport (there is a three hour time difference. A guy sprays the whole of the plane before we get off. I've given a permit to stay for 12 months - the customs are quick and efficient - our shoes are sprayed and the wood carvings checked. There are white men in shorts everywhere. I wait for Wayne and Thomas. A guy called Peter the Dutchman is doing the Asian trick of hustling people at the people to come and stay at his house. It's $2.40 a night all inclusive. I don't think it sounds so good but he has a van and we all decided to go with him. It's pretty fucking hot. Wayne tries another address but without result. I begin to think Peter's place is OK. There are great showers. and there's a crowd of people for dinner. Later we go for a drink at the Fanny Bay hotel.
7 December, Darwin
DARWIN TOWN - WOOLWORTHS - PARTY - DISAPPEARING ASIA
Peter's house is three miles out of town but it's standard practice to hitch in and out of town. I head first to the tourist office, where I find lots of colourful brochures. I suss out Woolworths and their milkshakes - everything closes at 12. The central area, which sits on a peninsula with sea on three sides, is very small, only four or six blocks - compact and pleasant, shady trees for park benches. Office types wear smart shorts, white socks, shoes and open-necked shirts - workers wear shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops or boots. We hitch back to the house - it's very hot and wet - we shower four or five times a day. We meet a Hungarian while hitching who tells us he could get us jobs if we meet up with him at Crazy Joe's Warehouse. We doss around all afternoon, it's too hot to do ought. Harry cooks chicken for tea, with baked potatoes. Harry and a few others then prepare for a party by drinking a bottle of tequila - flaming even - Peter takes us to the party - it's quiet at first but, later on, it builds up and people are even screwing in the pool - I find it all unreal and leave early.
8 December, Darwin
LAZING AROUND - HOUSE OCCUPANTS - FOLK CLUB
I get into the breakfast thing, bacon butties or fried egg on toast, toast jam and tea. There's little doing on Sunday in Darwin - I just lay around all day, it's too hot to do anything. Thomas goes to woo Monique. Who are the residents of this eight-bedroomed house? There is Peter, who can be obnoxious at times and very irritating - but he's got it together to keep this house going and runs it like a youth hostel. English Harry is 27 but acts 21 - he's having a lot of fun, a regular drinker and party goer - currently going out with Mary Lee who is a typical American bore. Alan is sober and sensible with a catch phrase 'it's cool man'. There's a NZ couple - quiet bloke and feminine chatty girl Susie. A regular, Anne, who's a tallish Aussie and good for a laugh disappears. Two others who only smoke and drink and tend not to be noticed. Pete and I go to the folk club - cool scene in an old gun turret - mediocre music.
9 December, Darwin
The employment exchange tells me to go to immigration which tells me to have a chest x-ray. I have to wait a few hours for that. We are preparing to go to find Crazy Joe's Warehouse when all of a sudden the Hungarian appears and tells us to meet him tomorrow at 10. He's still sure he can get us jobs. The x-rays are negative. Wayne goes to get his stamp from immigration and I check out an exhibition on new housing estates. I sit around all afternoon sweating. In the evening we go for a few beers.
10 December, Darwin
Gus and Paul arrive from Bali - Peter goes to meet every plane these days.
11 December, Darwin
I write cards to home, Rog, Phil, Dave, Tudor, Allison, Grandma, Grandma, Colin, and a letter to Maja.
12 December, Darwin
I start work at the Power House - it's fucking hard work - removing great long tubes from a boiler house - uninspiring place and people - I get an hour lunch and two smokos of 15 minutes.
14 December, Darwin
I work 6 to 6 - long hours - but good money.
15 December, Darwin
I work six hours today. We start polishing the ends of brass tubes for the condenser - 700 of them have to be cut out and new ones put in. The tubes are half inch wide. We begin by using arrow guides to put back the new tubes, but they start coming off so I have to crawl through the condenser on my back or chest (which grinds grime into the boiler suit) - it's really uncomfortable - Allan, my new boss is a super pseudo - there are a lot of lazy assholes here. A Dutch guy complains he can't work with me because I'm just doing it for the money.
17 December, Darwin
I work 10 hours today. Life goes on steadily. Wayne works on a building site. Gus and Paul are out at the 11 mile post where Wayne and I tried for a job. In the house we have a cool giggle at the expense of Peter over those privileged few who are allowed to use the record player. 'In Search of a Lost Chord', some Fairport Convention but only a few other goodies here, nevertheless, it's nice to have music. We go down the pub, have a good time - Gerry is generous with his grass and we have a few smokes most nights. At the weekend we normally go to a party or two.
21 December, Darwin
Pay day - I get $207 clear for six days work - not bad!. I start playing 500 at lunch time, it takes a while to get into, but I just manage to hold my own and learn a while. What a skive - it takes a real effort not to be working - there's a choice of two sets of bogs where the lads spend half an hour at a time reading Playboy, or you can chat for a short time down the power house, and, once or twice, Allan has simply gone home when there's nothing to do. I just have to dodge out of the way of the bosses. There are some new faces in the house - Kiki, a pretty Swedish chick - Gerry another Canadian, he's been a schoolteacher in Arnhem for six months - Go, a Japanese fellow I first saw in Trim hotel in Yogya, a friend of the American who passed by a few days ago - also Joel, the top Hearts player, who I first met in Penang.
22 December, Darwin
There's been a dope feud. Alan, Harry, Sue, John, Terry, Lew, Pauline have moved out to a house of their own - Peter told Terry and Lew to move because he couldn't keep the house cool with other dope dealers. Jo flies home to Holland on Sunday - Paul has moved in with Susie - all the males here are after Kiki. We have some wild cynical arguments about vegetarianism, Susie and Kiki stick up for it quite seriously. I cook a couple of good meals for the masses (spaghetti with Wayne, and cauliflower cheese and bacon with Gus).
23 December, Darwin
I receive a Christmas card from Johnnie. A spaced out chick arrives at the house. I am in form, and she seems to make a play for me. She's alive and sexy but hung up on dope and too crazy. We go to a party and I talk to her for hours - she gives cool marijuana answers, and confesses to living on the dole and off people - Wayne and I decide she is easy but it's Wayne who takes her home - I go alone. After a while I go for a swim (last night Wayne and I found the back entrance to the Parap swimming pool) - it's gorgeous swimming at night in the nude - it's a beautiful pool with swings - fun and laughter. Terry and Lew and Alan and Harry and his girl are here - and Wayne is here with the spacy chick, scoring in the junior pool without too much trouble. I am a bit troubled - torn again between thinking that sex of such temporary nature is emotionally disturbing and the knowledge that I have yet to know what I'm talking about. Wayne thinks I'm a crank for passing up the opportunity.
24-30 December, Darwin
And suddenly it is Christmas Eve. Work isn't really work (yesterday it was quite interesting - we had to take the complete two ton end of the cylinder off - I was a little afraid the hoist wasn't going to hold). I finish work at 12:00 and then at 2:00 there's a nice little work social at the Rugby Union club - beer as free as the air and a constant flow of steaks. I talk to a range of people including the foreman - I am really pissed. He invites me round to lunch tomorrow - I am beginning to get blotto - the beer is running out but he keeps giving me cans - at one point he informs me about the cyclone heading straight for Darwin. I've no idea how I get home. Later, Gus tells me I shouted 'the cyclone's really coming' and passed out, and that all attempts to wake me for dinner were in vain.
I wake early in the evening and go upstairs with a splitting headache. I sleep some more until I wake up absolutely soaking - the rain is howling in through the window and the floor is flooded. I join the others downstairs - it's pretty bad here too. For some reason we all go to Peter's room or the room behind it, at least it's dry there. The wind is getting pretty heavy - Wayne is fairly drunk and jolly - doors are banging - the wind continues to get stronger. We make expeditions outside - first one, just after midnight, is to see why a car has stopped - it is virtually impossible to walk, the wind is so strong. Inside again, I go to fetch my diary and clutch onto to it - things are getting a little serious - I suggest going to the hospital or somewhere safe, but there are no takers. I fetched my 'mustn't lose' things such as money, passport etc and put them in a plastic bag with the diary. I sleep a while along with Pete and Go and Gus - Wayne falls asleep in the cupboard - Paul and Susie are asleep in the other dry room. When the eye comes, sometime between 2 and 3, it is a chance to sleep undisturbed
When the eye has passed, the wind comes back with a vengeance in the other direction blowing against the windows of the room I'm in - the gusts reach a tremendous force from virtually nothing at all in a matter of minutes - Gus is still half asleep, I wake him and he jumps in the cupboard with Wayne - Go and I have drawers over our heads and we crouch down behind the bed - we can't get out of the room, the door won't open - the whole wall is going to go - Jesus - I reach up with my hand over the bed for my plastic bag and pulled it down to me - and the house explodes.
I remember shouting and swearing and somersaulting through the air and landing on a load of rubbish - I may have been unconscious for a while. The next thing I know is that thousands of pieces of glass are hitting in my back - I lie down and grope with my hand for some cover - I feel so lucky because I find a board just big enough to cover me - I hold onto it with my life to stop the wind blowing it away. I am lying on my side on glass and wood - I dare not move my left leg because I think it's slit open or broken - I can't see much - I think I'm facing away from the house but I'm afraid to move and look round. Rocks hit my board, and sometimes I nearly lose it (the board) - I think through what I'll do if the board does fly, and I decide to make a run for it. It is cold too - I find a plastic mac by me and wrap myself in it but the wind keeps blowing it off - I am shivering - I can't decide if I'm going to live - when I think I see lights I shout several times but my voice can't rise up above the roar of the storm - I am sure all the others are dead - I can't see how they can be alive - I am feeling so lucky that I'm not in pain and that I'd found the board to protect me.
I lie here in two inches of water thinking, working out plans, looking but never moving more than my hand, which keeps searching around for more protection. Occasionally a light glimmers from across the way - I can't work out which direction it is or what a bridge-like structure is (it has cars underneath). Later, as visibility improves, I see lights and a house nearby - I am shouting more often now as the dense mistiness lifts
More than two hours later, and dawn is approaching and the wind is abating to nothing more than a strong gale, I look around a little more and discover that my board has only remained where it is because it's wedged down by the bed that I'd been hiding behind. Then I hear voices behind me - there are people alive - I pull myself together to turn over - it is the first time I've moved properly in two and a half hours, There is a light and I can see Peter and the van. There is no cut artery in my leg, or anything seriously wrong with it, but I still have to hobble when I walk. I go to the van where I find Gerry. Willem joins us shortly. Paul and Susie are safe in a cupboard. Only Wayne and Gus are missing - Peter and Joel are searching for them frantically but there is no sign. We are really worried that they are under the pile of debris where Peter's house once stood.
Long after it is light and the wind has fallen still more, we hear that they are next door. I am crying with joy. Incredible. We all have little wounds but nobody is seriously hurt - Gus, Wayne, Paul, Joel and Peter start a frantic search of neighbouring houses, and then they take a couple of cars and start taking people down to the hospital. I really want to be part of this operation - I even try to join them at one point but my knee is really crook. The whole town is completely devastated - steel telegraph poles are bent to the ground - palm trees completely uprooted - roofs lying around everywhere except on the tops of houses. All that is left of Peter's house is the bathroom on stilts and one of the long walls at a 45 degree angle, not a thing else upstairs. The dining room and kitchen below are wrecked. Everything, absolutely everything, is 100% wet - there is glass, wood, mosquito netting, nails, doors, clothes, books everywhere. I take a ride down to the hospital - it is fenced in (the wire around the entrance had been put up before to stop hoards of people). I talk to someone within 15 minutes but they aren't interested in my problems and I'm not surprised - many people are bleeding or crying or nursing wounded children - all around is tragedy, tragedy tragedy.
I hitch back to the others - there's not a building left in tact - corrugated iron, power lines, cars, caravans, trees are strewn everywhere - some of the road is under 6-8 in of water - destruction is everywhere you look.
When I get back, Peter and Wayne are hanging about the house, while most of the others have gone to the first aid centre. I chuck a few of my things in the van - Paul and I drive to the centre with some food and wine - we find the others from the house who are huddled in warm blankets - I join them and we swap stories. Gus has some bad cuts by the ear, Paul and Susie are virtually, Joel cut his foot running around helping people afterwards. Peter and Gerry had sheltered in the van from soon after the house exploded - Wayne had lain on the grass in the middle of the road, he'd lost his way following Gus who ran to the other house - Gus, Gerry and I are the worst injured. After a couple of hours a doctor comes, but again he's not interested in me again - Gus and Gerry get some stitches. Willem is OK even though he had been trapped and needed rescuing by Joel and Peter - Go is OK but for some cut knuckles. It's Christmas Day.
Paul ferries us all to Darwin High School in little groups with blankets as our only clothes. I have real trouble bending my leg and it takes time to get in and out of the purloined Volkswagen. We are among the first to arrive at the school. Everywhere is under water but there's not too much damage. We annex a dryish room for ourselves but we can't get the water out because the corridor is under water too. Peter is alternating between fits of crying and fits of trying to organise everybody and boss them around. Paul goes back to pick up all the obvious things lying about round the house pile, and then he gives the car back and gets Peter's wagon going
I have a little cry at the thought of Julian and Melanie waking Mum and Dad, then sitting down excitedly for breakfast and turning on the radio and hearing about Darwin. We all manage to send a telegram off home for free, and, a day later, we get a free telephone call. I am emotionally distraught hearing all their voices after so long.
The Aussie prime minister Whitlam flies back from his European tour and spends an afternoon here; Cains stays a little longer. The head of a newly formed disaster squad is working 25 hours a day, and, apparently, nearly breaking down sometimes.
People begin to pour into the school and it becomes a main centre where all goods (food, clothes, cigarettes) are brought before distribution. There is a small team of dedicated cooks - so we have good food. My knee doubles in size. I am so incapacitated that I really can't walk, it is as much as I can do to go to the toilet. Willem, Gerry and Gus do nothing either.
Around us, the authorities (concerned largely about health and disease because the water supply broke down) have acted efficiently. People were already being evacuated on Boxing Day, and by the third day they had got 6,000 people out by plane. The radio station was working again quite quickly, which helped everyone know what was going on, and what to do.
Some of our group keep going back to the house looking for their stuff and especially for Peter's money which was supposed to be in an attache case. Poor Peter, having lost his house, never found his money, and one day he just left, in his combie van, for Sydney. By the end I had really begun to dislike him - he was just so egotistical. Everyone was bringing food and giving to the community but Peter would just stand in the middle of a room, hold a bag of sugar high up, and shout 'who wants a bag of sugar?' Nobody was sorry to see him go. Only Willem seemed a little concerned.
Paul, Joel and Wayne work consistently - Susie and I do a little work in the kitchen - I prefer to wash dishes for two hours and get my meal immediately then queue for half an hour. There are almost 800 people here, I think, and the queues are unbelievable. The evacuation programme continues and is going better than expected.
On 29th December the radio informs us that single men can now be evacuated.
Susie is going to Sydney. Willem is unsure how he is going to make it back to the island where he was working. Kiki is living and working at the Travel Lodge and is happy to stay here.
Originally I planned to fly to Townsville and hitch down the coast (wanting to see something of Australia) but they are only flying to state capitals. As I feel Brisbane is already too far down the coast I decide to go with Gerry to Sydney. There is a lot of messing about before we are finally taken to the airport (in a beaut air-conditioned bus). There we find that the officials aren't expecting another coach load, and there are queues and queues waiting to get on the one plane standing. We, and a lot of others already there, don't make it - we sleep in the destroyed airport buildings. We spend the next day in the airport watching coach loads of women and children being evacuated; we are given food and drink all day long by the Salvation Army. There are newspapers lying around with long stories about Darwin. I talk for a while to one of the people from the school - he adores Joni Mitchell, but didn't enjoy his overland trip.
Early evening the starlifter we'd been promised arrived. It is going to take us all away from this devastated disaster area - we all fetch our bags and rush to the buses. I am horrified at the way the Americans are squeezing every last person in. We have to sit cross-legged in about 1 sq ft - from front to back nobody is going to be able to move. I still can't bend my legs properly and so decide to get off - I'm not that desperate. I think the American was going for some sort of people record - he left all the baggage behind. Early this morning, on the first flight, they were trying hard to find people to go to Townsville - I should have gone, as I'd planned, but I was loathe to leave friends after so long travelling. It was sad any way to leave Paul, Wayne and Gus - I had some good times with them
The following morning I take the first plane - a Hercules to Brisbane. We sit on seats and are allowed in the cockpit to have a smoke - it's a beautiful serene sight, floating above the clouds. The journey takes five hours and we land in late afternoon - we are shuttled across a boring-looking town to an evacuation centre - an empty bus garage with clothes, social services, Sally Army, airline officials. We register, are given $62, and then booked onto a flight to Sydney. We eat, and then I put on some new underpants.
31 December, Sydney
A TAA flight at 6:30 to Sydney - comfort, less than an hour. Gees, Sydney is a big place - suburbs sprawling for minutes of flying time. After landing we are met by an official (I was worried no-one would meet us) - we are taken to an empty hangar only full of Red Cross, Salvation Army, Social Security, Police - lots of people just to help us. We are given a meal, registered, and then handed some more money from the Red Cross. I try to find out where Gerald is, but the police don't know. Eventually the accommodation people find his address - he's moved out of the hostel to a friend's but, when I ring, there's no-one there. So I am sent to the Quarantine Station where Gerald had been - it's a long ride over Sydney Harbour Bridge to North Head. There's a fine view of the harbour, lights everywhere. I'm given a salad meal and shown to a hut-type room. I find a telly room and inside is Gerald!
Paul K Lyons
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