Saturday, April 16, 2011

What a week!

I sort of thought that leaving the complex life of the city and heading off in a van around Australia would free up my life and make things simpler. I guess it was slightly naive on my part given that I was taking my work with me, as well as a pregnant wife and some small people with large personalities who had completely different views to me on what constituted a good time. While at the same time driving thousands of kilometres across barren land to get to the next destination. The last week has seen all of these forces come together in overwhelming proportions, interspersed with some amazing moments, but making me feel that my life was busier than it had been back home in Warrandyte.

The week began when we arrived in Kalbarri. Like most places we've been, a number of people had said "don't miss it" and others had said "don't bother". It certainly was consistent with the rest of our stay in WA in that the weather was stiflingly hot. "It's several degrees hotter up at the gorge" said the lady at the information centre as we picked up maps of the region and continued on our way to that very destination, the near midday sun already beating down opressively. When we got out at the first lookout, a spectacular view that takes in a good length of Kalbarri Gorge, the others were already struggling. Flies were swarming all over everybody and the heat created an instant dehydration of every pore. I was finding it slightly off putting that the family had all packed it in so early but wasn't prepared to let that deter me. We'd come to the gorge and we were bloody well going to look at the gorge. So we drove on down to the start of the path that heads to Nature's Window. This is a gentle 400m walk that leads to a rocky outcrop high above the gorge with a frame like formation that gives it it's name. At this point, mutiny struck. About 50 metres down the path, following the steep staircase, Jaz was asking for a drink of water. Both her and Finn for some reason had decided to leave their packs containing water bottles up in the car. Tough decision time. Go back and get the packs for my sweet little angels? No. Dole out the water bottle I had which was not enough water to get all of us comfortably there and back in this heat? No. Send the little mutineers back in the sweltering heat to retrieve their packs from the car? Aye aye skipper. Off ya go littl'uns and don't ye be forgetting those packs again. "I'm not thirsty any more", exclaimed Jaz defiantly. But I was having none of that. So off they trudged, back up the long steep staircase in the sweltering heat to get their packs from the car. They reappeared with their packs not too much later, but surprisingly enough, their moods hadn't been lifted by their stroll. On finally arriving at Nature's Window, sweating and covered by more flies than Guy Pearce in The Proposition, there was not a smile to be seen. Any possible enjoyment of the gorge had been completely zapped. "Right. Now let's have a lovely family photo together in front of Nature's Window", I suggested. When Finn is down, there's no changing his mood around in a hurry. Especially for a photo. Jazzy was out on strike. And the pregnant Tori, being a couple of degrees hotter than everybody else was totally frazzled. I sprayed them all down with the water mister that I'd brought with me, but there was nothing that could bring them back. I figured it was time to cut the gorge short and head back to town. We went to the pub and watched St.Kilda get smashed by Essendon in the footy while I simultaneously got smashed by beer. The hopelessness of my team fueling my need for more drinks. From one semi disastrous outing to another.
Having swapped a large amount of my cash for new tyres for the van and the car back in Geraldton, I would have expected the car to be travelling along much better than it was. Even without the van on the back, the car was handling noticeably worse than it had been with the old tyres. How long does it take to wear them in? After 200km or so, it seemed that they should be better than this.  I reduced the pressure in the car tyres to see if that would make a difference. The clown at the tyre fitting joint had gone with 50psi in the back of the car and 40psi in the front. No wonder it felt as stable as riding a clown on a tiny unicycle. But what is the perfect pressure? With a few adjustments, I made it better but still not perfect. There seems to be more sway in the van now also, the whole rig being a lot less stable than prior to the tyre change. That wasn't what was meant to happen. And how much weight was I carrying at the front of the van? The slope of the van towards the front... is that really meant to be like that? The tow bar is rated for 350kg ball weight, but I have no idea what mine is. When we reached the end of our 400km drive and pulled into Monkey Mia, I was happy to see another Bushtracker van, providing me with the ability to ply the owner full of questions.

I'd heard a lot about Monkey Mia. It's world famous for the dolphins that come visiting every day. It's not as good as it used to be because you can no longer swim with the dolphins but can only go knee deep into the water and wait for them to swim around you. Rather than being able to take your own bucket of fish and feed them endlessly, the feeding is coreographed into an organised procession that is attended by hundreds of people, all lining the beach trying to be one of the rare few selected to hold a fish for a few seconds before it is taken by one of the dolphins. Despite all of the above being true to varying degrees, the experience was still well worth it. The dolphins swim right in close to check out the people just as much as the people are checking them out. And it's not just for the fish. Most of the dolphins who come in don't even bother with the fish being handed out excitedly by the eager tourists. They just swim around in the bay while the procession is going on and then nick off alongside the dolphins who've had a feed. Out of the dozen or so dolphins who came in whilst we were there, only four of them were interested in taking the human's offering. Both Jaz and Finn were lucky enough to be amongst the chosen. A middle aged woman with a thick European accent seemed to enjoy the benevolent power bestowed upon her and was selecting up to four children at once, each to hold a corner of the tail of the same fish to feed to a dolphin. This seemed somewhat bizarre really. In these days of giving every kid who turns up to play junior sport a trophy at the end of the season just for being there, I guess it's all about everybody participating. But it seems to me, that four partially fulfilled kids doesn't equal one completely stoked kid who got to be selected to feed a dolphin a fish on their own. Finn and Jaz were sort of happy to have been selected, though their joy did seem slightly muted. Jaz was lucky enough to be selected again at the next feeding time, by the same woman, this time to be one of two kids feeding a dolphin the same fish. Her satisfaction definitely seemed twice as much as the earlier feeding, so perhaps there's a home schooling maths project that can be built around this dolphin feeding equation. Our time at Monkey Mia was much too short. It really is a beautiful place and it would have been great to have been able to explore some of the neighbouring coves around Shark Bay, perhaps with a fishing rod in hand. But it was not to be, the campground was booked out and so it was time to hit the road again for another 400km drive northward.

Apart from our short stays in Kalbarri and Monkey Mia, the week had been full of driving and work. We'd covered around 800km and my days spent in beautiful locations were being filled with work rather than enjoying this great opportunity with my family. They would be off for a swim and I would be stuck at a laptop looking at financial projections for discussions to be held that night. My mood was once again heading in a downward direction. Perhaps it would be better to just get a job as a dolphin feed bucket holder. You get to feel important while choosing grateful people out of a crowd. Not much pay but surely good job satisfaction in a beautiful place. Basically I think I was just drained. Constantly concerned for pregnant Tori's well being, not knowing where we were going to stay at the next destination, dealing with the maintenance to the van and car and the associated cost, working longer hours than I would have hoped, and driving and driving and driving across this enormous country. And some level of sexual frustration. Living in a caravan alongside a 9 and 10 year old who are always around, with a pregnant wife who, with continued spells of nausea, is not at the top of her physical game , does not seem to equate to a completely fulfilling sex life. Down down down I spiralled. Until a moment arrived when the children were gone. And Tori and I were here. And she was feeling fine. It's amazing how sexual release can put such a different complexion on the world. The job woes seemed to fade into insignificance. A new plan as to where we should stay and how we should approach the journey arrived. Optimism had returned to the world. Haleleujah! Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Now if only I could just bottle it.


DavidMollet11 said...

Concerned about the van, have you figured out what the issue was?

Greg Swedosh said...

No not really Dave. Still playing with tyre pressures. Hopefully will work it out on the drive tomorrow.