My son has wilderness in his heart and for the last few years he and K have been looking for land that will satisfy the wilderness longing, sometimes on the south coast where they grew up, and sometimes closer to Mt Tamborine. This week we visited the latest prospective heart-place, 580 acres in steep country a four hour drive from home, complete with rocky bluffs and two kilometres of river frontage.
There are three or four main routes to Drake. We went via Casino to pick up the key for the gate, along Lions Road, built by the Lions Club. A large red donation box marks the end of the locally-funded stretch. I'm not used to travelling in a large car, and its dash and GPS feature in most of my road photos.
The road into the block is definitely 4WD, very steep, down 400 metres in about twenty minutes of careful driving. Photos can't capture this. On our right was the chunky rocky bluff, also on this block and also impossible to capture. In spots the road was churned up by log trucks as the neighbour logs his land, making it impassable in rain. A major negative is the fact that the road is partly on someone else's land. Aboriginal land adjoins it on one side, and this too gives my son pause, making him very conscious that the land has been stolen from indigenous Australians.
At the bottom is a cleared patch, with a caravan, a makeshift outside kitchen and a short-drop dunny. Leave the grassy area, and you head towards Rocky River, hill-embraced, winding and sandy, as it meanders along the block. We take the other direction, across rocks to the waterhole, where A dithers over a plunge, and T finally beats him to it. They shiack for a while, chucking sticks for Jenga, and doing a bit of water shrieking-and-barking.
We return to the car through lantana, my son stick-bashing a path. After lunch, the mob decide to walk, and I decide to stay put, to avoid the perpetual “Are you OK, Nanny Meg? Do you need a hand?” It's not only photography that slows me down, unfortunately. I stay in the clearing, poking around and collecting photos of rusty corrugated iron and the architectonic harmony of cow pats. The next day A hangs around as I sort my photos, mystified: “Why would you take a photo of that?“
The winter sun is dropping below the hills, when the explorers return, having found a charming creek with accessible land on its banks. A quick check of the caravan reveals a table that wasn't there last week when K and S reconnoitred. When we pull our way back up the road we discover that in the last week someone has sawed through the log to release the chain that locks the gate.
It's dark by the time we get back to Casino, where we stock up on chocolate and chips. S drives confidently, through bits of his past, as we head towards Byron Bay. Once we hit the expressway, A entertains himself shooting out the headlights of approaching cars with a rhythmic three syllable chant which he maintains for a good half-hour.
Once home, I grab a bowl of ice cream (it's the day of healthy eating) and retreat to my caravan and the deep sleep that always comes after a day in the sun, or eight hours driving, or both.
There has been desultory conversation about the block. T and A both love it, and so do their parents, but there is still no answer to the big question. To buy? Or not to buy?