23 October 2020

If you’re in Rockhampton tomorrow morning at around 2AM and a 58-year-old man in a Smart car rips around the corner on his way to his aeroplane refuelling job, pray that his precious cargo is safely restrained in the passenger seat.

Outside of Australia’s beaches and its stereotypical good-looking surfing young men, there’s another stereotype that the Australian man can fit to. The man with a larger than life character is well and truly alive in country and outback Australia.

“It’s cum, basically”

We were looking out over one of Bowen’s North-facing beaches, and that’s the answer I got when I asked what all the brown goo in the water was. Apparently at certain times of year the coral lets out some spawning discharge so it can reproduce. There’s a problem when it washes up onto the sand and the sun hits it.

“It fucken smells like shit.”

What was I meant to say to that? “But we wouldn’t be here without it!” I said.

I’m not sure whether I was referring to the coral, reproductive fluid, or just all natural life. He agreed so maybe it doesn’t matter.

We started talking when I had my hiking stove out on a picnic table cooking pasta and lentils together in 1 pot. Dave asked me what I was cooking. Dave didn’t actually tell me his name at first but I guessed right; that’s what is printed on his license plates of both his cars: a V8 Holden Ute and a Smart ForTwo he uses for zipping around Rockhampton. He’s up in Bowen for a few nights, but tomorrow he needs to start work at 3AM. At 7PM tonight he’ll go to sleep, then drive back down with Ruby and Doug, his 2 chihuahas, drop them off at home and head straight to the Rockhampton airport. It might be 16 hours of refuelling aeroplanes before he can go home again.

As Dave runs around with his chihuahas on the beach, it’s hard to imagine him on searing hot tarmac pumping kerosene into Boeing 737s. Beyond the actual pumping Dave tells me about the tangled web of fuel comapanies. Chevron bought Caltex, but they’re selling it and rebranding to Ampol. Again? Someone also bought Puma. Someone has 3 years to make it all happen and someone is still paying somebody $250K per year to use the name. I definitely didn’t get that right.

Dave is happy to see that the table we’re sitting on is made from recycled material. He’s sad to think of how many people he used to work for lose their jobs from the travel lockdowns due to covid19. Nothing seems to faze him. He picked up his chihuahas and gave them both a kiss before offering me a place to stay when I was passing through Rockhampton.

“Well, I probably won’t be there, I’ll probably be out camping or something!”