Parting is such sweet sorrow, as John Lennon once said, and so it was with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to the del Sol after our tow truck ride from Dirranbandi to St George. The local mechanic was kind enough to lend me a grubby Toyota Avalon for a few days – which is a bit like rooting Rebel Wilson while your supermodel girlfriend is on her rag – and we set out to explore the place.
St George might be 500km from the coast, but that doesn’t mean it lacks beautiful water views. The town rambles along the Balonne River, with all sorts of parks and walking tracks dotted along the water. It’s really nice and peaceful, providing a lovely impression of this very unique town, but can also be a wild and dangerous place. When floods come through – and they do with frightening regularity – the river becomes a violent serpent that swallows the entire town. In January this year, the river swelled to an incredible 12 metres, which is still a long way from the record of 14 metres recorded in 2012. Remember your floaties!
The Big Murray Cod sits by the bank of the Balonne River, and is a happy fellow made from old horseshoes and bits of farm equipment. People come from around the world to bask in his glory, but that might be because they mistakenly think it’s the Bill Murray Cod. I had a look around for the Big Hot Chips that must’ve been served with it, but they were nowhere to be found. Maybe the Big Seagull pinched them.
A half-hour stroll from town (and a four-hour stagger back to town) is the Riversands Winery, which is Queensland’s westernmost vineyard. A dusty outback town isn’t the ideal place to grow grapes, and I doubt vintners will be flocking to St George from Bordeaux and Tuscany, but they make a pretty good drop. I sipped on their shiraz, noting the sweet cherry aromas and smooth, savoury finish, then moved onto the Merlot, with its berry and stone fruit flavours, all whilst enjoying sprightly conversation with fellow wine connoisseurs. Actually, that’s bullshit – I knocked back a few glasses of Riversands’ finest then fucked off to the bottle-o for a five-litre box of Coolabah, mixed in with some Fanta to make a tropical punch.
As I was popping the liver-ruining crud into the Avalon’s boot, one of the local larrikins poked his head out of his car as he drove by and screamed, “Getdafuckouttahereyafuckendickhead!” I’m not an expert on the local lexicon, but I assumed he wasn’t asking me out for dinner. What the hell was going on?
The name St George is synonymous with rubbish football teams who play in antiquated shitholes, so I wasn’t expecting much when I rocked up to the town’s main footy ground. Turns out Rowden Park is a classic old footy ground next to the river, with a delightful grand stand. Just like when I visited Narrabri, Orange and Wee Waa, I would’ve loved to see a game – too bad a bunch of pervy Chinamen had to shove pangolins up their arses and wreck the world. At least there was some weird graffiti on a toilet wall that showed me what the game day experience is like.
Few people consider Western Queensland to be a hotbed of art and culture, but that’s because they haven’t visited Eggland. Located (or should that be yolk-ated?) in the main street, Eggland is home to dozens of egg-squisite decorative eggs, and arty types come from around the world to check them out. Yes, it’s all it’s cracked up to be, and visiting it really laid my day!
I was admiring an egg with Pauline Hanson’s face carved into it when the hard-boiled owner tapped me on the shoulder and said, “That your car outside?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied, distracted by an egg decorated with an erotic image of Steve Irwin fooling around with Greg Inglis.
“Get out,” the owner barked, jabbing at me with a broom as I ducked away.
“Shit mate,” I scowled, “I’m treading on eggshells around here!”
Being situated on the edge of the outback, St George boasts a bucketload of pubs where you can get your head punched in. There’s the Australian, the Cobb & Co, and probably a bunch of others I can’t remember because I got pretty hammered on the cheap beer. With half a kebab stashed in my pocket, I passed out in the back of the Avalon, only to be woken up at dawn by a frantic pounding on the scum-encrusted windows. When I peered out into the gloomy morning, I was met by the terrifying sight of dozens of locals with pitchforks, torches and, worst of all, cartons of XXXX Gold.
“Get outta there, Gary, ya kiddy fiddler!” came one demonic voice, as a stone shattered the windscreen.
“Yeah, Gaz, come out so we can smash ya,” screeched another ghoul, and the car started rocking. Shit, would I really die in St George of all bloody places?
A fat bloke climbed onto the roof of the Avalon, his massive girth pushing the tin closer to me as I squirmed into the foetal position. What was happening? The rear window blew out, then the tyres exploded as if they’d been stabbed with a knife. The creatures outside were trying to open the doors, and still they kept yelling about Gary. I knew that if I stayed in the car I’d be crushed or blown up, so I unlocked the door and escaped into the brisk morning, ready to fight for my life. One of the pitchforks raced towards my face, and my whole life flashed before my eyes. I spent a lot of time wanking.
But the impact never came. When I opened up my eyes, the locals were putting their implements of violence away and cracking tinnies instead.
“That’s not Gary,” one of them said.
“Yeah, he’s got both his hands and no face tatts,” added another.
“About 60kg lighter and a foot taller,” chuckled someone else.
“Not wearing a dress,” observed a chap in a hat.
“No wheelchair,” came a voice from the back.
“No discernible smell of shit,” barked a woman.
“His arse is better than Gary’s, though,” grinned an older fella who was doing little to hide his erection.
One of the locals handed me a can of Gold, and as I downed it I was wishing I’d died in the car instead.
“Sorry ’bout all this,” he warbled, doffing his cap and then elbow bumping me. “There was a sex pest around here for a while, Gary, who drove that fuckin’ car you’ve got.” He took another look at what was left of the Avalon. “Well, that car you had. Sorry about that.” I shrugged.
“When we saw it driving around, we assumed he was back in town. But I guess the mechanic took the car after Gary, you know… Don’t know why we though that dirty prick was back, though, because we took him out to -“
“Oi, Baz!” shouted another local. “Ease up on the bloody details! He could be a cop!”
As the sun rose over the outback, my new mates and I sunk shit beer by the warmth of the burning Avalon. When nobody was looking, I snuck out, raced over to the mechanic’s jumped in the Sol and got the fuck out of there.
St George, hey? Bloody nice town, as long as you’re not inadvertently driving around in a rape wagon…