I had one of those “where the fuck am I?” moments this morning.
I was woken up sometime while it was still dark by a car driving past the tent. The night before I crashed – and I do mean crashed – about 10pm.
Earlier that night we’d been fishing, where Doc caught a barra. Finally! And it was legal – about 65cm long. Of course, he was feeling very pleased with himself, so we called into the local pub (the best pub in the outback according to their own marketing), to celebrate. It was only two drinks, then back to the campsite where I cooked dinner (fish of course).
We’d just finished eating and were cleaning up when I got that “I have to go to sleep – now” feeling. So I did. I left Doc with the rest of the cleaning, climbed into the tent and was asleep even before my head hit the pillow.
And it was a deep sleep. I don’t remember even dreaming.
So when I was woken up in the wee, small hours it took a panicked few seconds before I remembered – I was in Burketown, Barra capital of the world!
How could I possibly forget that one?
Because we’re not grey nomads and so are constrained by time and the need to get back to work, Doc and I do hit and run camping. That’s where we get to a place, stay one night, and move on to the next place. Sometimes we might stay two nights, very occasionally, if it’s a really special place (like some on the Cape) we’ll stay three.
For us, travel really is all about the journey, not just the destination.
But it’s not just constant driving through endless of kilometres. We’ll do anything from 25km (on the Old Telegraph Track) up to 500km in a day.
Being the road gives you an insight into the vastness, sheer beauty and diversity of this country, which is constantly changing. Dense rainforests, bushland full of gum trees, floodplains, scrubby grasslands and tracts of red dust, there’s always something interesting to see. And we like to drive with the windows open so we can hear smell the countryside, it helps you to feel more like you’re part of it.
Yesterday we were driving through scrub country. That is, landscape full of Spinifex and scrubby trees, and across the grass we could see a line of taller trees in the distance. We knew there was a river there somewhere, so guessed that was probably it. As the trees got closer to the road we noticed lots of palms, which is unusual out here, so we found a track and took a detour, to a beautiful, clear green billabong, like an oasis in the desert. So we walked along the creek for a while and sat with a cup of tea, just soaking up the beauty of the countryside. That’s the sort of thing you’d miss if you were just driving between towns.
Then, there’s the native wildlife. Emus, kangaroos, brolgas, parrots of all colours, lizards basking in the sunshine on the road.
And the not so native animals – feral pigs, wild horses, cattle & sheep, even camels if you go far enough.
And there’s other travellers who usually give a cheery wave when driving past or offer a conversation at a lunch or dinner stop. And, of course, road trains. No matter how many you see, they’re still an amazing sight. Huge trucks trailing clouds of red dust.
You can feel the tremors in the road as you pull over to watch and let them pass. They get closer and closer, until your windscreen is almost completely taken up by the front cab. As they pass, your car shakes, then the red dust envelopes you until you’re locked in your own little world inside your car. Then, after what seems like minutes, you see the sunlight playing on the red dust, and it gets lighter and lighter, until the dust dissipates and you can continue your journey.
So it’s not surprising sometimes I forget where we are.