Okay, I know that we are people of leisure and aren’t really bound by constrictions of time and commitments but I tell you what this has been a busy month! A thousand kilometres of driving from Halls Creek to Alice, another thousand return to Uluru and then another sixteen hundred up to Darwin. Plus July seems to have been the month for multiple camping annoyances. We had avoided any inconvenient mishaps thus far but clearly they were all being saved up for this month just to keep us on our toes! We’ve had a cracked windscreen, split water tank, broken water tank hose screw thing (that’s the technical term, I’m sure of it), prickles getting into everywhere at one campsite and prickling the hell out of me, canvas being covered in tree sap and bat poo at another, and then big ants all over the canvas at our current camp, attracted to the sap. Anyway, all of these problems have been rectified in between seeing the sights and driving– although I still get jabbed by an odd hidden prickle every now and then.
We have also finally found a solution to our ongoing “overnight camping set up” saga. We sold the swag back in Broome as it was too bulky and too uncomfortable to sleep on, and replaced it with a three man tent and the queen sized inflatable mattress that we already had (for friends to sleep on when they visited, which has never eventuated, AHEM!!). This is not working either, as the mattress inflates so high that it barely fits in the tent and there is no room for Jason to stretch out his legs fully. So we bit the bullet and finally decided to get a car awning, one that comes with attachable tent walls, so we have a roomy, comfortable, easy to set up overnight option, with the added bonus of almost instant shade whenever we don’t put our trailer awning up, like right now!
After all this gallivanting around and getting odd jobs done we were much relieved earlier this week to take a detour off the well trodden number one highway out to the Daly river, a place famous for barramundi fishing and that’s about it. Perfect for us, as we don’t have a boat to fish for any said barra, so we had a couple of days of enjoying the caravan park pool area and not being constantly surrounded by people.
This wasn’t such a random diversion however, as a group of staff and students from the school I used to work at were actually at the Daly River participating in an Indigenous cultural immersion program and one of my former colleagues had suggested we come up if we were in the area. As we had a few extra days up our sleeve we decided we would do just that and apart from the sap and bat poo it was a great idea. Jason was bailed up with a cold (that he’d caught from me, of course!) so he rested up for the day and I went into the Nauiyu community with the group to meet some of the community members and get a bit of a tour, which was another enlightening experience of Indigenous Australia that I thoroughly valued. Jason and I have been talking about buying a piece of Indigenous art on our journey, but it’s an expensive investment and we wanted to buy a piece that we connected with in some way. We had been really impressed with the Wandjina art work at the Mowanjum Art Centre in Derby and were thinking of getting something from there but all the pieces were well out of our budget so we decided to put that on hold. However at the Merrepen Arts Centre in Nauiyu there were some beautiful smaller unframed etchings that were a few hundred dollars (as compared to a few thousand!) and could be placed between cardboard so it doesn’t get damaged. I took Jason the next day to see if we could decide on something. We came across one called “Night Sky” and immediately we both knew that was the one that we should get, as the night sky has been our entertainment for so many evenings this year. Buying from an artist from a community that I had actually visited made the decision even more of a no brainer. I heard a few weeks back that people overseas create Indigenous art and then sell it back into Australia, WTF? Makes it so important to know where you are buying from and to have a certificate of authenticity. We were both really excited and I can’t wait to frame it and, you know, have a home to put it up in to remind us of our time in the Top End.
Today we switched off Mable’s battery for two weeks. The first time in over six months. We are sitting in an air conditioned hotel room, watching the footy and enjoying the luxury of 240 volts. It’s a strange feeling, once you name something (and start talking to it like it’s a human) it takes on a life of its own and there is some sadness in turning her off. This morning I was commenting that Mable’s value is depreciating by the day with all the crap that it keeps getting coated in and I was admonished by Jason for dare suggesting in Mable’s presence that we sell her! Maybe we have just been in our own company for way too long and we’re taking this short break from our journey in the nick of time before we go completely mad.
So our fridge has been emptied and cleaned out (with minimal wastage, it was tough drinking up all those beers, but we got the job done!) The canvas has gotten as good a clean as it’s going to get for now – at least the bat poo and sap stains are gone. I was reading up on canvas maintenance today and it is recommended you hose it down once every couple of months. Caravan parks don’t take too kindly to cleaning your rig on their premises so we’ll just keep waiting for that huge downpour of rain, in October or maybe September if we’re really lucky. We have not seen a drop of rain since mid April, but I guess it’s not called the dry season for nothing.
In a huge feat of minimalisation our bag, yes, one bag is packed and covers the very basics for both Koh Samui’s warm weather and Wollongong’s milder temperatures, where we will be spending a few days on our return to Australia before returning to the NT to pick up where we left off. We have both been to the hairdresser so we can tidy ourselves up a bit and not look like we’ve crawled out from under a rock for the wedding extravaganza that is taking place next week. Jason even had to buy new clothes as they are either too big or covered in dust, haha! I’m sure we’ll realise at some point that we’ve forgotten something important for overseas travel (actually, just writing that has reminded me to buy a wedding card, phew!), but we have the most important things – wedding outfits, tropical strength insect repellent, diarrhoea tablets, hydralyte and passports. It’s going to be strange sleeping in a real bed and having our own shower, as well being a part of a large social gathering, and I’m looking forward to talking to someone under the age of sixty for the first time in a while. We definitely won’t be taking it for granted, but I think we will both be missing Mable and Nina and looking forward to reuniting with them on our return! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, as they say.