Thursday, April 07, 2011

Back in the swing?

Sitting around in the luxury of a house with all of it's space and creature comforts is certainly something that is easy to get used to. Interspersed with my quick trip back to Melbourne, it felt like ages since we'd lived in the van, even though it was only 11 days. Perhaps the number of dinners and lunches with friends and family in Perth melded in to the equation also. Whatever the cause, it took a little readjusting to be once again living in a van. I figured that the best way to get back in to the swing was to go straight from the comforts of a house to camping in a national park with no facilities whatsoever other than a smelly toilet. What better way to test out the new batteries and repaired inverter than to be relying on them completely for our power. It probably would have been a good idea to have checked that the water tanks were filled before we left Greg and Jo's, and made sure that the toilet in the van was empty and operational, but in the state I was in after the night of Greg's birthday, that sort of skipped my mind. And so we set up camp in the Lesueur National Park on Jurien Bay. The beautiful sandy beach was a 50m walk away over the dunes. At night the stars radiated bright colours as they can only when there is no nearby town dimming them down with its own light. Yet for all of our location's splendour, I felt uneasy being back in the van. Thrust together once more at close proximity with three other people, each with their own idiosyncratic behaviour and one of whom was growing yet another person inside her. It all seemed too much. No real escape. Everything was bugging me. Having to try and get some work done with noisy people milling around. Even Finn coming to give me a hug while I was working felt like an intrusion. And it made me feel worse that I was rejecting my son's affection. I just felt that I wanted to be alone for a while. And I felt insecure again about the journey. What if one of the kids gets bitten by a snake. Surely there are sharks in these waters. And where are we going to head next on this potentially misbegotten journey. It really felt like starting over from scratch. I know myself well enough to know that these low swings in my mood will pass and usually after not too much time. Nevertheless they totally consume me when I am in them. And every now and then, they surprise me by lingering longer than I expect.

One of the reasons that we had chosen this location to stay was its proximity to the Pinnacles. Essentially this is a desert landscape containing a large number of tall mostly conical limestone rocks, right alongside the Indian Ocean. It is a bizarre place. One that conjures up images of a scene from an American western rather than anything I felt likely to see in Australia. Though instead of rogue gunslingers out to get us, the ambush came from a million flies. Within seconds of stepping out from the cool air conditioned car into the searing heat, flies were all over you. Having had a similar fly adventure up in Burracoppin, this time we were readily armed with our mesh fly nets that conveniently slip over the top of a hat. And so resembling members of some strange muslim sect in mourning, we made our way around these incredible rock formations. Jazzy and Finn were awestruck by the sight of these rocks for perhaps 30 seconds before the heat and  the flies won out. They preferred to stay in the car, heads buried down in books, rather than come exploring the rocks with me. The signs indicating that climbing of the rocks was forbidden probably puts a damper on it being much of a place for kids. Essentially they could care less about gazing at geological wonders. Jazzy's words of some time back still resonate with me. "We like doing stuff Dad, not just looking at it". And so as we drove along the road surrounded by this most amazing landscape, they had adventures in their minds courtesy of JK Rowling. In fact that's how it has been for a lot of the trip. I can't complain, because my kids are actually reading now. And I do recall how boring long car rides used to be with my parents. So I have to balance my desire for them to be seeing and experiencing the incredible places we are going, with the fact that they are occupied and are peacefully enjoying themselves, albeit in a way that they could have without leaving Warrandyte. I suppose in 30 seconds they felt that they had seen some rocks in a desert and all of the others were more or less the same. Seen one conical rock in a desert and you've seen them all. I could have spent the whole afternoon in the place. Maybe as you get older it just takes longer to sink in.

Even the Pinnacles couldn't shake me completely out of my mood. I had work to do back at the van while everybody else went down to the beach. And so while I now had the solitude I'd been craving, I would have rather been lying back in the cool salty water than thinking about some corporation's computer security over a hot laptop. I decided to try and get the satellite internet up and running and so spent some frustrating time trying fruitlessly to locate a satellite beaming a weak signal from thousands of miles away, point a big metal dish at it and miraculously create my own wireless internet hotspot. So far on this journey, the Telstra wireless internet coverage has been superb and I haven't needed the satellite. I've had reception almost everywhere, including in the national parks. At Lesueur I had to dangle the modem from high up around the roof of the van, and I had to climb a sand dune to get mobile reception so that I could make a call, but the telecommunications aspect of the journey has been no problem at all to this point. I know that will change as we head further north. I will then need to rely on the large satellite dish and combination of electronic boxes and wires I've been hauling around to get access. Eventually as the light faded, I decided to jack in my failed attempts with technology. It wasn't until packing up the van the next morning that my mood was lifted by an unexpected random source. A bloke named Steve came wandering over to talk to us about our van. "How's your Bushtracker going? Got a Phoenix myself, but I looked at those vans. Too heavy for me with my car. Over engineered without any consideration for weight". He was a very likeable guy. 64 years old, not yet retired, but he and his wife have spent the last two and a half years living in their van, thanks partly to a dodgy back that prevented him from continuing work. And so they travel all round the country, bouncing back occasionally to their "home" in Maroochydore to have all the oscopies and dental check ups done and then back out on the road. "I wouldn't know what to do if I were at home", pondered Steve. "This life is much more interesting. If you get bored somewhere, you just move on". I started grilling him about places to go and where to stay, particularly up around Ningaloo. He was a well of information and after half an hour, I had our route upwards to Broome completely worked out. Places to camp, must see spots to visit, the directions to go and some useful technical information such as speeds to drive at and tyre pressures to use on some of the dodgier roads. Having been out of the travel mindset for so long, Steve had brought me back in. When we arrived in Geraldton, where we will be based for our last major pitstop before heading north, everything seemed to have fallen back into place. My mind was well back into a productive space for work. The car and van are booked in to have tyres replaced. I had time to head down to the beach at sunset with Finn and Jaz for a body surf in the glorious swell, just as the sun disappeared into the Indian Ocean before our eyes. And most importantly, I was once again welcoming the embraces of my children. 


DavidMollet11 said...

Hey Greg, after reading your previous post RE the 7am party, I think I can see a connection between the mysterious bad mood and the extremely late fun filled alcoholic night. I've noticed it myself lately, if I have a massive energy release, eg good old fashioned partying like I was 20 something again, I hit a big flat spot over the following days. It use to be just the next day - way back then - but nowdays a night of no sleep and alcoholic excess seems to make me pay more.
But at the time it's still great fun...

Greg Swedosh said...

Yeah fair point Dave. I still like to think of myself as having the same recovery ability even though I know it's far from the truth.