You’ll never find anywhere quite like the Crossroads at Moonie. We were stuck there for two days, flooded in. Goondiwindi was blocked unless we want to drive 4 hours out of way with the odds of “maybe” getting through. On site, at Moonie Crossroads, there is a petrol station, rooms and most importantly, a pub. Moonie comically boasts being the home of a fictional illness called Moonie Madness, as well as having Australia’s largest feral pig ‘collection’. The walls of the pub are decorated with artwork, some of which are mounted boar’s heads. The beer is cold, the pool table needs improvement but they have one, they have hot meals, snacks and water. We left Hervey Bay Thursday, headed for Melbourne to help out family. As we drove, trenchial rain fell, roads flooded and were closed behind us. Even if we wanted to go back home to Hervey Bay, we couldn’t, Gympie and everywhere in between we’re being inundated with water.
At the Crossroads, there are locals, mostly who work there, commentating what’s going on. Out on the front deck is a good place to sit with a beer and people watch. We watched them drive each of the four ways the Crossroads offer, only to come back, learning for themselves that there isn’t anywhere else they can safely get to. They too were stuck, which bought a variety of people, who were trying to get to a variety of places, unexpectedly together.
A stocky Moari truck driver, Phil, is stuck here too. There’s an outback trucker called Lex, who’s trying to get his Kenny and it’s load to Perth. If I had to liken his looks to someone, maybe a slightly younger Slim Dusty. He’s been driving trucks for longer than I’ve been alive. Other truckies, families and couples have come and gone, and come back again, trying to escape this dead end place called Moonie. People like Lex, Phil and couples like us, who are well travelled and have seen places similar make the most of places that ooze this kind of country character.
We had two nights there at $140 per night for a room they call “executive” with an ancient television, a double, a single, a fridge and a small ensuite. We appreciated it though, we had more there than a lot of people who have lucked out in these floods.
Here’s the thing about drinking in country pubs. It’s a culture that is just ingrained so deeply in some Aussie’s that it goes right to their bones and never comes back out. You must drink or you are not one of them. People who don’t drink are considered stange, except if your a millennial, of course. Millennial’s are taught to accept all types, which may not be a bad lesson, though, one some of us will never learn. Youngen’s local to here and places like it, are different to those you’d find in a city. They’ve grown up on the land with parents who bought them up to work hard because they know no other way. Their local pub is no stranger to them. It is where they had their first tap beer and where they see all the people they’ve known since they were small.
In country pubs, people have stories they are happy to share, some of them great and all of them supposedly true. There are the people who stand out and the people who blend in to the woodwork. You have to respect the locals in any outback pub, for they are as close as you might get to royalty in that town. If you are going to drink with them, you have to relax and take the place for what it is. Some of the stranded visitors can’t seem to do this. Mandy said she’d worked at the Crossroads on and off for 23 years. It’s easy to tell she is the heart of the place. She keeps it clean, she makes the food taste the way it does and she keeps the Moonie spirit rolling.
If you are too loud, or you try too hard the locals will huff at you and look the other way. If you have no time for them, they don’t care and they have no time for you. If you sit, if you drink where they drink, if you laugh with them and listen and learn from them, they accept you and appreciate your presence. Moonie Madness indeed, everybody gets it, everybody interprets it differently.
Sunday morning we woke, as much as we’d appreciated the Moonie Crossroads and their hospitality, we HAD to get out of there. We had to get to Goondiwindi because it was our path to Melbourne. The day before we’d taken a drive down the Liechardt, we had to see for ourselves whether we could get through. Plus, we had to get more solid report than the bush telegraph (the gossip) going on at the Crossroads.
Flood water crossings of 300 and 400mm didn’t stop us. When we saw two cars sunken off the side of the road, we held our breath. We then came to a long crossing, the flood stick measuring at least 600mm, not disappearing within our sight, we decided to go back to Moonie. Pushing on posed a danger that we weren’t prepared to take. Through talking to the locals Sunday night, we learnt that there was a chance of taking a back road in the morning, that drains of water faster than any of the other roads. They were right, at 5am, when it was just light enough to see, Ben drove the Prado around some road blocks, through some shallow crossings and a patch of damaged road but we made it out unscathed. We wouldn’t forget Moonie or the story it left us with and one day we’ll probably even go back but, for now, we are celebrating escaping and continuing our mission in Melbourne.