I would blame the Sussmans for this more random introspective post, having just read their last post from Mozambique, but in truth been mulling this for some time.
Firstly this trip has been made special by James finally engineering a way to be reunited with his only love Steph in Perth, only love I mean apart from Sparky, Polly etc. He will be a doctor in 3.5 years – a doctor in horrible things that leach out of mine tailings in mainly water run off, I think! So don’t start to store any medical questions for him. Wishing James, always with an academic bent, much enjoyment. It really is fun to be poor, really it is…
Second special, totally different, would have to be the people we have met en route. The nut camel driver who chucked up apparently everything in Alice Springs to drive 5 camels down to the Menindee Lakes – for what gain? Yet more exotic or introduced animals spread around Australia. 5 camels is now 24 camels and he gets calls from the highway police to come and get his camels off the road, they have bells around their necks and graze in the ephemeral lakes – unbelievably bizarre. I mistakenly asked him if they shouldn’t be shot as exotic invaders – he looked at me for a long time and then told us above history.
Then there were the administrators of a most useful camping and caravan site, parking alongside them enabled us to become instant members as we both stood with our devices poised to send and receive requests. We can even put a sticker on our windscreen if we want to, proper sticker bearing members of a large and diverse community. We have asked the forum questions as diverse and general as to ideas as to how to insulate our mattress from cold rising up from ground level to specific camp site queries, and always the responses are quick and sometimes quirky, but useful. Around the same BBQ we met, the termite expert, who would have known how many different types of termites there are and how interesting and vital a link they are in the food chain; also Joel and Kathy, Joel from Mauritius and Kathy from county Cork- his story was he used to be 6 fooot 2 and white – then he met Kathy! And it went downhill from there. So many different meetings with people from every walk of life, all ages, with one thing in common – will there be enough time to see it all!
Mutawinje and the new dreamtime story we learnt are best described with photos. This national park is so beautiful, the name means green and waterholes, and we were lucky enough to see it after good rains when it indeed lived up to its Aboriginal name. It is a place steeped in ancient human history with palpebral deep cultural resonance. The reflections from the red red rock changed as one was watching as the light changed to late afternoon. I think I was primed for Aboriginal culture having just finished The Secret River, a fictional historical account of earliest European settlement of Australia as a penal colony, but no one could fail to be moved by the awesome, majestic and secret waterholes, the hand stencils – some of them merely the markers of children growing up, as we marked our children’s heights on door frames (and then moved!), aboriginal children made their handprints higher and higher as they got older and reached milestones in their lives and became more important in the clan.
Kinchega, an old sheep station that is now a park on the Darling River has a really good bush walk with interesting information signs posted along it that relate to the local trees as well as European and traditional owner occupations – spotted a few good campsites along the river for next time. The biodiversity of native Australian flora is extraordinary, so many eucalyptus, so hard to distinguish, so many salt bushes, blue bushes and acacias, beautiful flowers that are ususally very small and require close inspection to really appreciate their detail and beauty. Sadly so much damage to a very fragile landscape by European settlement, buts that’s a different topic.
The bikes have been a perfect way to get around, I dont want to walk anywhere anymore – far to slow. We averaged 16km a day on bikes and about 7km of walking. Should be way thinner but unfortunately I am permanently thinking of food and eat my head off. Telling myself it is only good food …. too much is too much.
So Mildura, Wentworth, Broken Hill, Silverton, Mungo and Mutawinje, the Mundi Mundi plains that bend to the infinite horizonand the places along the way – to the fellow grey nomads acknowledged by the laconic finger lift, until our next trip…