In the car the mood was sombre. Virgin Blue 727s clipped the tops of the trees above, shaving Currumbin Hill on their approach to Cooloongatta Airport. Like hugh birds of prey they led us down the highway towards the border. As they touched down we took off up and over the border hills before tipping us into the glorious Tweed Valley.
The Tweed. How could a state border create such a distinction between the crass flickering neons of the Gold Coast and the sweet smelling lushness of the Northern Rivers. It seemed like two worlds separated by this great flat river bordered by fertile plains.
I could sense Dad settling into his back seat as he breathed the air of home. This was his country. Mile after mile of sugar cane fields. The refinery belching sweet gases into the atmosphere creating a vaporous version of jagged Mt Warning in the background.
We took the old highway, not just for the memories and the chance to follow the river for as long as possible, but to snub the super highway which cut ten minutes from the one hundred kilometre drive and lost its soul in the doing. A gash in the landscape designed by an engineer not an artist.
Dad in the backseat whispered advice as the Peugeot sped through the Moonbi Hills and climbed the range before dropping into Brunswick Heads:
“Watch this corner”
“Change down before this bend”
“Careful of the narrow approach to this bridge”
He reminded me that these hills, now covered in a forest of camphor laurels, were once his playground. “They’re a weed” he’d tell me each time we passed this way.
"Some weed" I’d think every time.