STRANDED, RESCUED AND GOANNAS
And so we set off back across the Nullarbor Plain. It’s the only way home! It was still flat, and it was still hot, and it was still treeless, and the road trains were still there, but we discovered things that we didn’t see the first time.
The isolation of the few souls who man the road houses straddled two hundred miles apart.
Emus. What do they eat?
The silent beauty of the night when we stopped to sleep and eat, and marvel at the infinity of the stars. The interesting early morning walks before the heat of the day with the magnificent eagles with their proud, regal heads scouting above us for breakfast in the form of a hapless mouse.
And the fortitude of those who journeyed this vast terrain before us, when there was no bitumen and no road houses and no car air conditioning – and, before that, only horses or camels – or human feet as the only means of transport!
Civilisation welcomed us in the guise of Ceduna and a couple of days of food shopping and hot showers, but we are now homeward bound so we set out for our next stop at Elliston.
It was hot. Very hot. The gauge on the dash told us that it was 42C. “Thank goodness we have an air conditioned car” I said in the words that were to jinx us. A minute later we ground to a halt on a flat treeless plain – it was midday and there was no shade at all. Nothing grew higher than a couple of feet.
Hmm. No phone signal. And no cars on the horizon.
Flies. Millions of flies. Searingly hot. Hmmm…
Okay, let’s find some positives. The fly nets! We scrabbled for them, and donned our hats. Better. Water. We have water! All good. Let’s check the phone again. A dot! As quickly as possible we call Roadside Assistance and tell the operator our problem and approximate location
Someone is coming.
In ‘about an hour’.
So we get the chairs out of the car, and our books, and sit in the dirt with our hats and our fly nets looking like idiots in the blazing noon sun. Tristan tries to lie under the caravan, and I would crawl under there with him if I could. It is the only skerrick of shade. We drink and drink and drink. My lips are so dry I feel that they are falling off my face.
One and a half blistering hours later the cavalry arrives and hoists poor Hugo (the car) on to the tow truck and attaches Gogh (the van) to the towbar and back we go to Ceduna. Sadly, our rescue vehicle has no working air conditioner…..
Two cold showers later I am still sweating, and the three litres of water inside me is still there.
My head is still pounding, but I am recovering.
Tristan is very distressed and cannot drink. I saturate a towel with cold water and lay it over him, and he eventually raises his head and laps a little water
When he is looking like he might recover we take him down to the sea and he really cools off properly.
It has been an interesting day, and I am so thankful that we had water and fly nets and were able to get help.
I can now understand how people in broken-down cars die in the desert.
The reward at the end of the day was watching a magnificent sunset as three little boys frolicked in the ocean
The following day Hugo had a new alternator (flown in from Adelaide) and after a pleasant stop at lovely Elliston with its windy beach we spent two delightful days at Cape Hardy where we took long walks on the stunning, secluded beach and enjoyed the solitude. We treated Hugo to a much-needed wash and he was most appreciative.
Eyre Penninsula doesn’t seem to have very many trees and the landscape is less vibrant, but the yellow wheat fields stretch for hundreds of kilometres and I am fascinated by the long, long trains that we see bearing iron ore. Some must be around 4km long, with three or four engines, and are an amazing sight as they trundle past the flat-topped mesa that is Iron Knob shimmering in the distance with its multi-layered colours.
Burra, a charming old town with a rich history of copper mining, was our next stop, and we enjoyed exploring the old cemetery, the gravestones of which told stories of mining accidents, entire families wiped out by influenza, and deaths of mothers and babies during childbirth. The huge, wise old trees had been silent witnesses to many sombre occasions, and a century and a half later remained mutely guarding those pioneers, who must have led incredibly difficult lives.
As we journeyed further east, the land became greener and more lush and then the mighty Murray River materialised as a wide brown coolness snaking its way around the stately stringy bark gums and the tall straight ghost gums reaching their gnarled arms heaven-wards.
It was with some wisdom that we made the decision to stay in the Caravan Park at Mildura because we knew that a heatwave was approaching. How delightful to bask in air conditioning as the 39C sun beat down outside, accompanied by a hot wind that dried our washing beautifully but had no other useful purpose as far as I was concerned. The River Murray was once a very useful waterway for transporting goods, but is now mainly used by pleasure craft, often rented houseboats or paddle steamers taking people to visit wineries on the banks.
But the mornings were glorious, and we walked 5km through the trees along the river before breakfast and marvelled at the reflections in the oily water. The water is oily because the eucalyptus like to dip their feet in and spread their juices.
I keep talking about trees because I find them mesmerising. They are such BIG plants, and start from tiny seeds and reach ever upwards – and when there are periods of drought their arms become gnarled and torturous and some of their silhouettes are like screams of desperation for water.
And right now, we are camped a metre from the water’s edge surrounded by these beauties and the cackle of kookaburras and the mournful cry of the mopoke as the sun sinks. A little while ago I saw a very large goanna scamper up a tree and disappear in camouflage against the trunk. He was as big as a small crocodile, and I was happy that several metres separated us.
The view from our potty is to die for, and the bright full moon provided all the illumination needed to find it in the middle of the night.
There is a little breeze, my tummy is full, and I feel very happy.