MONICA ZWOLSMAN packs up her troubles and hits the high road in the Australian Outback
While others freeze their wobbly bits off, my sons and I wake up to dazzling blue skies in Australia’s red territory. We have been travelling in our trusty campervan for two months. Where are we going? Who knows?
It started when my marriage (Number Three) changed from being pleasantly disengaged to unpleasantly acrimonious and I was forced to sell my pole home in the forest. The boys and I were on a day’s outing when we saw a sign that said: Darwin – 3100kms.
“Hey Mum,” one son suggested, “Let’s go there.”
Why not? I bought a campervan, shoved my stuff in storage, and headed north with my boys.
Life became a fuzzy blur of grain silos, oceans of blonde grass swaying in the breeze, gum trees with white bark, psychedelic greens and purples, dead kangaroos, birds of prey, roadhouses and glorious red-orange sunsets.
We passed through Longreach, centre of adventure and bush poetry, down the Matilda Highway and onto Winton, home of the Dinosaur, where the horizon blended into the foggy distance. We found a Pink Panther roadhouse with a free zoo. We stopped, looked, and listened. Trees got shorter, termite hills taller, soil turned red, life become more languid.
In the van we play eye-spy, count road kill, sing, write poetry and read it to each other. While the boys sleep, I drive and think spacious thoughts.
The Outback is Australia at her most awe-inspiring – vast, rugged and unspoilt, with rocky outcrops, gnarled terrain and rich, earthy colours.
We see other young travellers in campervans, trains and road kill. Signs welcome us to the Never-Never Land. We listen to TAB radio (horse-racing), country and music, or the ABC’s Country Hour featuring farming dilemmas.
As I drive, my mind drifts. I have no idea where I am going. I will end up where ever I am meant to be. Yes, it’s a dusty road but not long enough. We reach Darwin after 10 days of blissful meandering, visiting ghost mining towns and waterfalls.
Think men with long hair and beards, smooth bike paths, wave pools, magnificent museums, quirky galleries, vibrant cafe society, glorious Asian restaurants, the fabulous Mindil Markets, and perfect sunsets – balmy funkiliciousness at every turn
The people are mega-friendly, the panoramic view is flat, green and blue and the sense of space and freedom is unparalleled. Only the threat of the upcoming wet season – when it fills up with flies and mozzies – makes me think of leaving. I saw an enormous cockroach in a shop and locals thought it quite normal. I looked out at a swimming beach wondering why nobody was swimming. Suddenly, amid frantic slashing a croc jumped up and grabbed a bird, which had just grabbed a fish. We watched as the croc cruised around a bit, took a deep breath, dipped under the water, and that was that – no idea where he pottered off to then. The water looked less attractive after that.
We camp in the bush near the Mataranka Hot Springs. My boys eat carrots. I need to get them into bed even though their feet and faces are caked in dirt. Call me Slummy Mummy … kids running feral, filthy, eating only raw food, as I can’t be bothered to cook.
My bumper sticker now reads: Mad Before, Nomad now. Perhaps this is a perfect moment – a gift. Yes, it will end – sometime – but the road north is a good place to be right now.