Shoal Water Bay
4th November to 24th November 2001
So by now we have all settled in Bedok Camp. We had routines everyday. We still could not clear our leave and off. So was it getting boring? So what was the best way to knock the routine off the track for awhile? Oooh... what else? Let's go travelling! And where is a better place than the huge playground called Shoal Water Bay Australia! Where the desert meets the forest. Where grass meets dust. Where you can see the horizon and open spaces as far as the eye can see. Where you see wild koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. Australia. Here I come to see. Oh how excited I can be.
Nah, I was lying. You'll know by now, I hate travelling and I was dreading as the day comes near for us to head to Australia.
But, it was my first time going to a “Negeri Orang Putih” (Caucasian country). So that was the only draw I had for this trip. I wanted to see how the place looks like, the houses, the people, etc.
So after a 6 hours overnight flight, we arrived at Rockhampton.
It was cool to alight from the plane and go down to the tarmac and then walk towards the airport. It felt like an old school movie. (As I type this, I am reminded of landing in Thailand in another army trip. That was much cooler but will share it in a future post.)
My first impression of Rockhampton airport was..... It looked like the old Tampines Stadium. Just a one story brick building and a huge brick wall to separate the airport from the public area. It looked really very much like the old Tampines Stadium then. The stadium is now gone, so... maybe the airport looks different now too.
We took a bus and headed to the city. Though it was called a city, it was pretty quiet. The radio on the bus was playing songs from a local radio station and every now and then there would be a jingle that says “We love this city!” following the tune of Starship's “We Built This City”.
It looked very much like a peaceful countryside. The houses were made of wood and planks like clean and well arranged kampung houses. I was expecting concrete bungalows but they actually did look like kampung houses only that the residents were Caucasians. I love the tranquility though. They also have wide green spaces behind the houses and I saw men riding horses like cowboys.
It was so sparse, so quiet, so peaceful, so bright and so pretty.
At a population of only 58000 people then, the whole city of Rockhampton could fit into the old Kallang Stadium.
As I typed this, I paid a visit to Rockhampton via Google Earth. It still look pretty much the same. Still bright and pretty.
We then reached a local school and had a meal at the canteen. Bread, sausages and scrambled eggs. Normal breakfast. And after that we board the bus again to head towards the place that we were going to stay for the next 18 days. (Or so we thought.) About 4 hours drive away to Shoal Water Bay training area.
SAMUEL HILL CAMP
We reached a place called Samuel Hill Camp. Ok. It looked decent. It has concrete buildings that looked like a proper administrative building. With a cook house, proper toilets and shower. We couldn't see the bunks though.
There was a hill overlooking the camp area. I assume that was Samuel Hill. It looked like Pengkang Hill overlooking Pasir Laba but with less vegetation. Looked more like Currahee Mountain overlooking Camp Toccoa in Georgia USA if you watch the “Band of Brothers” series.
We had a look around but we still couldn't see the bunks that we were supposed to sleep in. We then had lunch. After that our duffel bags arrived. We were then told to collect our duffel bags and get back in line.
Apparently Samuel Hill camp was just a stopover to get our duffel bags, had lunch and receive whatever equipment that was flight there. We then had to travel to our permanent camp about an hour away.
OLD CAMP GROWL
During that travel, I looked at the terrain and the vegetation. The trees are quite sparse. It was really like a desert meeting a tropical forest which is expected as Shoal Water Bay was near the Tropic of Capricorn.
And then in the middle of nowhere, we stopped and told to alight.
We were here. Old Camp Growl. It is not even a “new” Camp Growl. Apparently there was a newer Camp Growl somewhere which was being developed to replace this “Old” Camp Growl. So we were actually left in an abandoned place.
There was really nothing there. It wasn't a camp. It was a camp “site”. An empty plot of land with tracks and some granite trails. As we alight, we saw our camp being “set up”. They were putting up tents for our sleeping arrangements. They were setting up the HQ tent, and the canteen. They were literally tents. We also saw them setting up portable toilets and showers. Damn I hate those portable plastic toilets. Am I the only person who think that they are disgusting? We also saw them setting up a huge water tank in the middle of the site. Apparently that tank will have water for us to use for anything for the next 18 days.
I'm not a spoilt city brat. Other than the portable toilets, I really didn't mind the arrangements. It was an army camp. It felt like going camping. The weather was nice. Bright and sunny but not humid. So it wasn't uncomfortable. There was also a consistent dry cool wind blowing.
They gave us a sleeping bag and a safari bed to each of us. We settled in our tents.
I can live with this. Now I am dreading the mission exercises which would follow after this.
NEXT WEEK : EXERCISE WALLABY 2001 (PART 2)
Categories : The Army Series
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