Monday, October 10, 2011

Hot hot heat


While people back in the hometown of Melbourne have been struggling through a bitter and wet winter, we’ve been following the sun. When it was starting to get cooler in the southern parts of Western Australia, we just moved further north. And kept going north until we arrived pretty much at the top of the country. But now the seasons have all swung around up here and the glorious blue sky days of around 32 degrees have made way for hot and humid days of 38 or 39. And just as humid nights.  And still 30 degrees around midnight. So while the Melbourne folk have had cold days and freezing nights and have been huddled inside dreaming of the warmer weather, we have been similarly huddled inside with the air conditioner on full because it’s been too hot to be outside for more than a few minutes in daylight hours. Unless there’s a swim involved.  And the air conditioner is on through the night because otherwise it’s impossible to sleep. Which means that we haven’t been able to bush camp at all since we left Kununurra as we’ve needed the electricity for the AC.  Caravan parks rather than national parks. The weather has become almost unbearable. Certainly for the kids who just seem to wilt in this heat. And Tori is not too far behind. But to somebody who has been sitting inside for months in Melbourne town, driving through the rain with the heater roaring so that their feet don’t freeze to the pedals, racing out of the car to get through the icy rain and into the heated house or pub or gig or restaurant, if they could even be bothered braving the elements at all to go out in the first place, I’m sure the heat sounds like a case of “bring it on”. But here it’s now a case of actually trying to keep everyone alive during the day while at the same time getting to see some of this part of the country. While in Katherine, we went to the famed Katherine Gorge in Nitmilik National Park. Normally I expect we would have hired canoes and gone paddling up the gorge, but it just isn’t feasible to have the kids out in this heat for that long. When we went to Edith Falls, the kids looked so despondent at the beginning of a relatively short walk to the falls and swimming hole that I just bailed out on it and we drove home to the van. We are still in an amazingly beautiful part of the world so I certainly am not expecting sympathy or any such thing. But we are past the point where it is truly possible for us to explore properly the beautiful places we are located. We drove the 520km straight from Kununurra to Katherine, bypassing the very well named Gregory National Park without even getting out of the car for a look. We abandoned the idea of going further north to Darwin altogether and along with it removed Kakadu National Park as a destination. It had been one of the key places on the itinerary before we embarked on this journey. And Litchfield. But it just didn’t seem worth it without actually being able to walk anywhere.

As for my working days, I’ve been mostly bundled up in the van in airconditioned relative comfort. Working outside in this heat is unthinkable now. I seem to have hit a particularly busy work period, so to some degree I could almost have been anywhere really during the days. When you are staring at a laptop for hours on end, it doesn’t really make that much difference if you are just down the road from a place of incredible natural beauty or not. I did manage to take a morning off so we could cruise in a boat up Katherine Gorge, which is obviously a truly great thing to be able to do, but then worked until around midnight when I got back. I guess last week involved a 55 to 60 hour working week. Something I don’t really like to make a habit of. But when it needs to be done, it needs to be done I guess. I hardly saw Tori or the kids at all in Katherine really, which is quite odd when you all live together in a caravan. They went off to museums and the movies and other varied excursions, while I stayed back and worked. At night, I sat outside being munched by the mozzies and continued my work while they played games on the inside. I’d come in for dinner and then head back out to my laptop afterwards. When I’d finish up for the night, they’d all be in bed asleep. It’s been a demanding couple of weeks but a small price to pay for the ability to do what we’re doing. And I love what we are doing. The kids have had periods of homesickness. As has Tori to some extent. Mostly in regards to people they miss, but also for elements of comfort and familiar things. I still haven’t felt homesick at all through this voyage. I do miss some people, but mostly that has been sated by a phone call, or an email or some Facebook banter.  Not totally. I do wish I could beam some particular people in from time to time. But the things I love to do in Melbourne, of which there are many, have been totally superseded for the time being at least with what we are doing now.

When we left England in 2003 to return to Australia, Tori and I discussed where we would live. I had managed to convince British Telecom to keep me employed as a contractor on the project I’d been involved in for the previous few years. Even though I was moving thousands of miles away. Being that far away from work anyway, the only thing I required of a residence was fast internet access and proximity to an international airport, so that I could fly back to England several times a year. We looked at the various possibilities and seriously discussed for a time that we would go and live in far north Queensland in the picturesque rainforest surrounded village of Kuranda. It was an exciting time. But as our return to Australia got closer, I began to feel less excited about the thought of Kuranda and started to feel disappointed that I wouldn’t be returning to Melbourne. There was such a strong pull from inside for me to return to the place where I’d grown up and to a city that I truly love. The live music scene. The footy. Cricket at the MCG. St.Kilda. Brunswick Street. Lygon Street.  So many places with such great food. So many cool bars. And the amazing evolution of the city centre into a residential area that had given Melbourne a whole new dimension. But I don’t feel that at all now. I’m not sure how it will be when we return. If it were only up to me and I didn’t have to consider the rest of the crew, I’d keep on going. We’re nine months into our trip now, with only three to go. The end seems all too soon. I’ve loved being in the small towns of Australia and being able to move on when the whim has taken us. The thought of being set down in a big city fills me with no desire at all right now. Especially one that does get as cold and rainy as Melbourne. I’m not sure how I’m going to cope when we return. I’ve always had a strong dose of wanderlust and it hasn’t been sated at all by this trip. If anything, it has been fueled more. With kids schooling and a new baby and all that, it’s going to be tricky, but somehow I have to manoeuver my life so that it will incorporate plenty more travel for all of us. In Australia or overseas. Hopefully both. I must find a way.

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