OPINION: Apologies for my absence from these pages over the past fortnight. Last week it was my utter incompetence in filing via the internet from a tourist cafe in far north Queensland and the week before an unavoidable failure to deliver caused by the impending school holidays and a virulent attack of the flu.
But as many of you are all too well aware, the hols wait for no parent, flu-stricken or not, so with a head full of concrete and a body temperature that would put a blast furnace to shame I dragged my sorry behind on to a flight to Cairns two weeks ago.
"Are you sure you are OK to travel, Dad?" asked my 12-year-old son.
"Sure, mate, I'll be fine," I replied as rivulets of sweat ran down my back.
But we made it to Cairns airport and on to a shuttle bus north to Port Douglas.
Now my boy is a pretty good traveller, not one to ask endless inane questions, and smart enough to recognise when his father is suffering from industrial-strength man flu and needs to be left to crawl into a ball in the back of the bus and sleep.
Unfortunately the 4 and 7-year-old brothers in the row in front of us were not and I was doubly blessed that they had parents who insisted on providing their offspring with a non-stop travelogue for the duration of the trip.
"Look there, boys ... it's a cow," then added commentary: "What sounds do cows make, boys?" No reply forthcoming."Moooo, yes, boys, mooooo. Oh look, boys, it's a truck ... What noise does a truck make, boys?"
And so this insightful commentary on road signs, sugar cane, clouds, shops, railway lines and trees continued.
I wanted to mix it up a bit. "Oh boys, what is that behind Mummy and Daddy ... Ohh, it is a sweaty man from New Zealand with a plastic bag he's going to suffocate them with. What noise would Mummy and Daddy make then, boys?"
No noise at all, which I'm sure would have provided everyone on the bus (their kids included) with some relief.
Port Douglas was the rendezvous point with my brother and his three kids. The plan: A couple of days sightseeing then a campervan odyssey north to Cape Tribulation.
My brother has two speeds, full on and asleep, and his empathy for illness ... well, he proudly claims not to have had a day of work sick since 1990 (true).
His consultation style: "So I've booked this trip to snorkel on the Great Barrier today and we are swimming in the Mossman River tomorrow ... What do you think?"
After two days of non-stop activity I finally managed to escape for an hour and visit a doctor in Port Douglas. He told me I had developed bronchitis, was still running a good old temperature, and needed several days' bed rest. I was still laughing as he wrote me an antibiotic prescription, charged A$180 to my credit card and showed me out the door.
While I was at the doctor's my brother was picking up the six-berth campervan which has been our home for the past couple of nights. In driving, as in life, dear brother has but two speeds and a pre-contractual condition of the holiday was that I would do all the driving.
Alas, as I was at the quack's the seven-metre-long, 3m-high behemoth that is our home away from home could be driven only by him.
Luckily, he decided to get full "crash into a nuclear power plant and cause a thermonuclear disaster" cover.
Open road wise it was actually pretty good but when things slow down my older sibling's problems with spatial perception are exacerbated. In simply looking for a suitable campsite on the first night he managed to take off half the roof rack, snap the satellite TV dish and take out one of the under-chassis cargo compartments.
The next night we were going quite slowly when he ran into the awning over the campsite office and minimal damage was done. Our next day was crash-free but on our final night we again ran into trouble in the form of a tree at our final camping stop in Cairns.
Needless to say, the campervan was looking rather secondhand by the time we dropped it off but, to look on the bright side, I think my flu has run its course and, most important of all, the kids had a great time.
- The Dominion Post