Soon I will write my blog about our 6 months in Scotland but events have overtaken plans, so I will deal with the Now first.
On Saturday Roddy drove me to Perth airport for me to start my solo adventure to retrieve the motorhome from Adelaide. Roddy’s daughter has been unwell for some time so we decided that the roadtrip can be kicked into the long grass once more so that we can support Alex. We do need somewhere to live though and the flat is still rented out, so we decided that Roddy should stay with Alex and I drive the van back to Perth.
After a night in a hotel and the horrific discovery of a human turd in my shower (I discovered this as I was showering – I had previously thought it was a piece of brown grouting, a bad tiling job – however, it dissolved while I was lathering up,…), I was ready for my adventure.
Adelaide is a relatively small city with a relaxed vibe, especially on a Sunday morning. I woke up to brilliant sunshine so I checked out, went for a brekkie of avo smash and flat white and walked into town to catch the bus to Aldgate near Mylor where the van had spent the last 6 months at the house of one of Roddy’s friends while we were in Scotland.
As much as I love travelling with friends, and with Roddy especially, there is such a feeling of freedom when you travel alone, it’s quite exhilarating. If you have never done it, then do it! Being able to walk at your own pace, to stop when you want to and take photos or chat with a stranger, or just to watch a bunch of rainbow parakeets engaging in gang warfare, is liberating. I had been a bit nervous about driving the van back through the Nullarbor Plain but we had done it before together the other way round, so I knew what to expect. My only worry was that the van would not work after 6 months’ idleness in the baking sun. The trip is about 2700km long and will take me 8 days to drive. As a rule we don’t drive faster than 90km/h in the motorhome. Quite a few people said I was brave to do it but I love it. If the van breaks down I’m not much use but I’m sure I would find a solution. There is 4G almost all along the journey so I wouldn’t be isolated. I also believe that most people are decent so I am sure I would find a willing helper. One man I spoke with the other day said that he broke down on the Nullarbor once and a bus of 20 Aboriginals stopped. He thought he was a dead man but they all helped him back on his way. Now, he wanted to make me feel at ease but his implied racism managed to do the opposite.
I love driving and someone told me the whales and their babies are at the Head of the Bight! It’s the season we missed when we crossed the last time!
So after picking up the van from John’s place, I drove to Mount Barker. It’s not far from John’s house in the Adelaide Hills but it gave me the opportunity to test-drive the Gecko, to do some food shopping and check out the van in peace. Roddy had given me a precise list of the fluids I had to check: oil, brake fluid and power steering, plus coolant and wishy washy, as well as where the refills are stored. The instructions included photos of everything, which was useful. Normally I leave these things to him because I can and he loves it. He also wrote down the setting up and packing up procedure because he does that too. However, how hard can it be?! I was under strict instructions to test all fluids with the van parked on level ground before I even turned the key, in case the van … exploded? To my horror, John and his friends did their man thing and turned on the engine to demonstrate that the battery was good to go! The fluids hadn’t been checked! I needn’t have worried though, as the van did not explode and the men did all the checking for me and declared the van fit to drive. My interjection that the van was actually not parked on level ground was dismissed as, “It’ll be fine, probably.” As luck would have it, it was and I only had to top up the powersteering a tad later on.
When I parked the van in the campsite and set up, the neighbours clogged that I was a lone female and immediately offered help, which I declined. I overheard them refer to me several times as the “poor lady” but I took that on the chin. Do people refer to lone men as “poor men” too? Are women actually more scared of doing things on their own? Is it conditioning? Or maybe it’s seen as being unladylike. During my formative years I went to France with my German school friends Kiki and Pfisterer. Friends of Kiki’s parents had a house in the Provence and allowed us to stay there for a few weeks. When we arrived we overlapped one night with 3 young, male dentists, also houseguests. They were older than us and we got talking about what attracts men to women the most. The dentists all agreed that it was “Liebreiz” – this translates as something like grace and charm, a certain sweetness. Liebe is love and Reiz has various meanings, such as: charm, fascination, attraction, temptation, lure, stimulus, however, also irritation. So it’s the attraction of the feminine sweetness. I remember thinking at the time that I would never stand a chance with men like that and I was also irritated by that as it seemed to me that they were looking for a sweet wee submissive girl that would allow them to play the male hero. I am proud though that I instinctively always thought that I was fine the way I was and that if a guy doesn’t like me the way I am then I’d rather be on my own.
After shopping I cooked enough for three days because sometimes after a long drive that’s the last thing you want to do. I took a shower and went to bed on my sheepskin cloud.
This morning I was going to be up and away by 8am. My plan was to get the tyre pressure checked at a garage first thing – cold tyres, see? The packing up did take me a sluggish long time, though, as I don’t yet have a routine but I was on the road, post garage, at 10.30am.
Mount Barker is up in the Hills and the descent into Adelaide is steep! However, the Gecko behaved himself and it didn’t take that long for the suburbs to thin out and the sign for Port Augusta and The Outback to appear. Excited!!
My soundtrack was John Denver’s Greatest Hits, which was the first CD that fell out of the pack, followed by Carol King’s Tapestry and REM’s Around the Sun. “Country Rooooads, take me hoooome to the plaaaace I beloooong…” seemed appropriate and I was driving with a fat smile on my face, singing my bursting heart out.
I loved seeing the first Peregrine Falcon on this trip and it reminded me of the fact that I have always loved birds. If I was an animal I would love to be an eagle. A bird does represent how I feel about life. I have always had a very strong sense of self-belief, of knowing that I will cope and will fly. Sometimes hard things happen and it feels like the wings get wet and heavy, struggling to keep me in the air, the flight becomes sluggish and difficult. There is a danger that I come down and crash, but then the wings dry and I take off again. Sometimes I come down to rest. It’s nice to stay on the ground and be rooted but eventually I want to take off again, keep soaring through this beautiful adventure of life.
I stopped for lunch in a lay-by, made coffee and chatted with Roddy. All very peaceful and happy.
For a while I was the odd one out in a military convoy, all armoured vehicles, mysterious trailers and sharply coiffed, chiselled and camouflaged young men. I bet they were heading for Woomera, that strange little town on the Alice Springs Road (see previous blog). I saw them twice as we must have taken breaks at different times so they overtook me twice. As they passed, in each vehicle a man turned to me and saluted me! I wonder if they recognised my genius husband’s Q-Mac army roof rack antenna? Maybe they checked out his HF call sign on the back of the van and realised that it was Mr Q-Mac himself?
I saw many pink salt lakes and then the Flinders Ranges emerged. The Flinders Ranges are a mountain range along the south coast of South Australia. Roddy and I were going to explore these further but it can wait.
Finally in Port Augusta, I checked into the campsite, had a beer, dinner and a shower. Tomorrow is a long one – 470km – so I need to get going early as the sun sets at 5.30 and then the kangaroos start roaming the roads.