Monday, February 06, 2012

Another Nullabor Dash

Rare Pitstop at Cocklebiddy

 Just back from another lightning dash across the Nullabor with my daughter and the little girls. It turned out that her hubby had to fly back early leaving her to tow the caravan back to Perth by herself.  Some years ago when she and her brothers were much the same age as the little girls, my husband and I had not one but two melted tyres while travelling the 3027 Km (1880 miles) North -South road between Darwin and Adelaide at this time of year, so I wasn't reaIly keen on her driving alone with three little kids including a babe in arms.  Ferry schedules being what they are, we ended up with just four days to make this journey of 3020 Km (1877 miles), before the girls were due back at school, hence the indecent haste. On the other hand, an airconditioned car was probably the best place to be on days when the temperatures hovered around 46oC.


My concerns were justfied. About halfway through we blew a tyre. While I have supreme confidence in my daughter's ability to change one and could even do it myself if I had to, I won't say I wasn't  eternally grateful to the elderly couple who stopped to help as it really speeded things up. It's a long wait for roadside assistance when it's 400 -500 km between service stations and I was glad i had come along, if only to hold the baby and stop the little girls from running amok while the repairs were being done. Another couple further down the road  were not so lucky. They had blown a head gasket and had to wait three and a half hours in the heat before they could expect any help.

Luckily too, I'd also seen most of the points of interest - the old telegraph station at Eucla and the other four or five roadhouses, but the highlight this time was the Belladonia Museum which I passed in the dark last time. It boasts bits of Skylab and tells the history of the road. It's interesting to see the contrast between the way things were done in the old days (until 1917 when the railway replaced the camel trains) and the comparative ease with which we travel this road today. The progeny of these camels still roam the 106,000 (100,000 sq. miles) of the Nullabor Plain, but despite the signs, no one seems to have seen any near the road in recent years. There are apparently some interesting caves in the area too, but we only stopped long enough for them to cook our hamburgers and then it was off again down that long and rarely winding road.

I suppose it's good to leave a few things for next time. Who knows when I/we have to do it again. Nomadism is an ancient tradition in Australia. It must be in the grain. The aborigines followed the seasons and the game. The rest of us have to go where the work is as has been the way since the start of white settlement, with the possible exception of the landed gentry and the squatters who were able to secure large acreages and became Mary Durack's "Kings in Grass Castles." These days they are Kings or is it Queens in Iron Mountains.
The rest of us can't afford to have too much attachment to people or place.With those enormous distances just staying in touch with immediate family takes enormous effort and expense. It would be rather nice to have a tribe though.

Into the long Western Sunset
Arrived in Perth just in time to buy the new school shoes, socks and matching hair ribbons.Rang my son to tell him we made it (my phone died permanently on the way over in case you've been wondering why I haven't been in touch).
"I'm surprised, " he said. "I thought you two would have killed each other by now."  I will admit that there were a couple of times when we both considered it. Have you ever been trapped in a moving vehicle for 3,000 Km with three children  under 5? Also celebrated daughter's birthday with a purple alien cake which the little girls helped me make. It looked pretty weird but was quite well received and somewhere in the middle of all that my daughter decided to buy a house.

Then it was back on the night flight followed by that familar seedy Melbourne Airport early -in - the -morning feeling you get after trips to EU or points west and then it was home again, home again, lickety split. Right now I feel as if  I have been run over by a road train. It's only 25oC here but with big black clouds overhead it feels oppressive and sweaty. On the plus side, my two  gift tomato seedlings have grown into healthy plants in the short time I have been away. Benign neglect works fabulously for me.

Surprise at Baggage Claim.  It turned out to be a rather clever ad. There was certainly a captive audience!


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