It was lockdown and lockout. The WA government had told me I couldn’t visit my parents in South Australia because the borders were remaining shut for the foreseeable future. I would normally head to their place in the Flinders Ranges for a break. (Mum at nearly 77 still cooks the best schnitzel and makes the best salads, which she always does when I turn up… Plus ice-cream and milo for sweets. It’s like being a kid again. All responsibility goes out the window because I’m back under Mum’s care).
Still, there was no SA break for me in 2020 or 2021. (I’m not upset with Mark McGowan’s policy at all, I just missed my family.)
I was watching friend after friend head to the north of WA. Drooling over their photos and the countryside; Karijini National Park, the Kennedy Ranges, Shark Bay. I was longing, no, wishing it was me. My family had camped heaps when I was a kid and I LOVE camping, but I didn’t have anyone to go with. What if I got bogged, or a flat tyre I couldn’t change, or something went horribly wrong, like snapping an axel?
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m reasonably capable. I can fence, do anything to do with animal husbandry, work in a shearing shed, drive a tractor and a header and cook for the masses during seeding and harvest.
I can check the oil and water, jump start the ute, change a tyre and at a pinch change the oil and air filter. But that’s about it.
And then I thought ‘stuff it!’ I’m just going to have a go. I bought a camper and traded in my ute for a new one. Fitted out the camper with solar panels and an invertor (240 volt charger) in The Office (my camper trailer), so I could charge my laptop wherever I was, bought a compact printer and a few other bits and pieces, so I could still work and set off.
If you don’t push yourself, you never grow.
This trip pushed me. It had been a long time since I’d towed anything. I was worried I’d get a flat tyre on the camper and I wouldn’t feel it, keep driving and bugger the rim.
I suddenly found myself in places that didn’t have mobile range. (Stupidly, I KNEW there wasn’t mobile range there, but it threw me.) These places that didn’t have mobile range left me feeling vulnerable as a single woman travelling by herself. Things I took for granted like being able to speak to my kids every day couldn’t happen. They couldn’t call me if they had a problem.
Having to admit to myself I was frightened, took a bit, but I was. (I never like admitting weakness.)
In the end I took a breath and told myself (rather sternly) that this was what I wanted. Now was the time to enjoy the trip and get on.
I emersed myself in the settings; I felt, smelled, touched the areas. I walked along the edge of Cattle Pool and watched the shadows of white trunked trees dance over the water and thought how it looked like there was something reaching from below the surface. I could see a body there. (This is called research).
The wildflowers took my breath away and the red dirt made me feel as if I was home. People on the road were lovely. I met so many people; ones who I ate with, ones who had read my books and ones who were happy to help if I needed (usually when I had to back my ute into the camper, because the hitch was a pain to get lined up).
The majesty of Mount Augustus at dawn and dusk made me question how small we are in nature and I realised there was nothing better than sitting on the bank of a creek, gentle rain falling from leaden skies and then the next morning have coffee watching the sunrise over the same creek, highlighting the white trunked gums to a glow.
So much of my travels are in my latest book, Rising Dust; wild cats fighting, murky brown rivers, stone walls with glass at the top, like the Old Onslow jail.
I could imagine Detective Dave out cooking a camp oven, so I did the same (love camp oven cooking!)
And every night, I sat by the campfire and put Dave into what I had seen that day. And thus, Rising Dust is now here. And I’m planning my next trip away, and I’ll be heading towards the Flinders and Northern Territory!