Do you recall Newton’s Cradle, those tiny steel spheres that pinged each time they made contact and gathered momentum? I like using that as an analogy when working with a particular colleague.
As a team, my colleague and I work to this energy, and this post is a recount of our latest journey into the outback …
Buckle up, it is a long post with pictures and my first attempt at posting a video.
The plane to Carnarvon is a small 34 seater and luggage allowance is strictly adhered to. I needed to take more equipment on this trip, so I was preoccupied with packing as having my luggage off loaded was not an option. With all the packing and unpacking, I forgot to complete my online check in and to my dismay at the airport, found I was seated over the wing. The worst possible seat when I’m flying over the beautiful seascape of Shark Bay! Onboard the crew was someone I’ve known for some years; I toyed with the idea of asking her if I could change my seat then decided against it. Some seats were empty and no doubt weight distribution was factored in where folks were allocated. I settled in and slept for an hour of the two hour flight.
On a previous trip to Carnarvon everywhere I went, the locals would say it was too bad I couldn’t stay another day because the river was due to arrive. I did not really understand what they meant and assumed it was a euphemism for rain, this being an agricultural town, the State’s ‘salad bowl’. This trip I was in Carnarvon for the event the town anticipates so much, despite having no recent rain.
As we approached Carnarvon I glimpsed a trickle of water in the otherwise dry bed of the mighty Gascoyne River. It shimmered like burnished copper. But, nothing could have prepared me for the force of it.The talk of the day among locals was how high the river had risen every time they checked their phone either in the office or cafe. A colleague suggested driving out to Nine Mile Bridge where there was a small lookout over the River, so I went with someone familiar with the area at the end of the day. Their excitement was contagious, but we looked on in awe for different reasons. My excitement was embedded in the fact this water was the rains that came from a cyclone further north. Muddy red, it carried the heart of the Pilbara mining region, a link that generated a visceral response. With the Gascoyne River being the longest river in Western Australia (nearly 900 kms or 500 plus miles) from Ranges to the sea, it is a spectacular sight to see in motion, the power of it made me step back and away from it.The night before we drove out to a cattle station I could not sleep with excitement, and like an unsettled infant, woke every two hours. The instructions we were given were literally the proverbial ‘mud map’. There was no phone coverage either for the last part of our journey. My colleague brought her esky and we filled it with sandwiches, fruit and lots of water. We wore casual clothing and sturdy shoes. We grinned at the road ahead and left town early morning all set for an adventure on roads neither of us had travelled before. Just as well we took food, the station was expecting floods and everything was placed on higher ground. The road we turned off from the major highway was signposted. The ink ran dry from there on. We saw some petrol tins on wooden stakes, no doubt, meaningful to someone but for us it left more questions than answers. Every few kms we hoped we were on the right track, and track it was, unsealed and deeply corrugated as rain had come through the area but not yet reached Carnarvon. The last 20 kms was an especially bone-crunching drive as we bounced in the cabin, our voices becoming high pitched or subdued, every time a jolt took us by surprise. The family was expecting us and told us if we did not show up at the homestead within the designated time frame they would come out to look for us. I wasn’t sure if I felt reassured by this! We were, in Australian vernacular, beyond the black stump. We did see some cattle along the way. It is mustering season so we were somewhat reassured, although we could not see anyone or hear any mustering choppers, there were people around some where in this vast landscape. No landmarks to guide us but the straight track, we reasoned, it had to lead to the cattle station and it did. Eventually.The homestead was a lovely period building, brick, fibro and tin but being a private home, I did not take photographs. The high ceilings kept the temperature cool indoors and the rooms were dark. We could not see what we were doing so we sat on the verandah under a tin roof for several hours. It was hot and beads of perspiration slid down the length of my spine. I could not help noticing there were several shovels scattered around the verandah. With no garden in sight, the owner confirmed, they were kept handy and within reach, for killing snakes! If nothing else convinced us, this did. We were in the outback.
Concentrating on work for hours made us hungry as we headed back to Carnarvon. We were told there was a picnic spot en route, closer to town, and we decided to have our lunch there. Beautiful it was, but in the heat and no shade, we sat in the 4WD on the banks of Rocky Pool and watched the Gascoyne River flow. We ate our lunch in silence, and took it all in. I feel lucky to travel to these parts with a colleague who appreciates this in silence, like I do.
It is difficult to put into words what the outback feels like. It is harsh and unforgiving country. Yet it is brimming with life of what one can see and it feels like one can experience the unseen. There is a spiritual ambience to it. It floats among twisted trees, swirling waters and skims sandy banks, with a softness that is tangible. This is ancient country. It envelopes one if you let it. It is not a landscape one sees. It is a landscape, a country, one experiences. It is now part of me as I am of it.Later that evening, back in Carnarvon, we walked to the local pub so we could have a drink or two with our meal to celebrate our adventure. Sunset looked promising.We walked back to the hotel along the Fascine after dark, where the sunset a couple of hours earlier had been beautiful. I slept fitfully from exhaustion and excitement.
I’ve had an amazing trip despite the discomfort of heat and persistent flies and we worked non-stop. I’m even more convinced now than ever before, I’m no city worker. An office space does not cut it for me anymore. Give me dust especially the red dust of the north, the stuff that is powder fine and gets into everything. Wearing white is never an option in these parts. Wildly patterned clothing hides a multitude of sins. I know this because I sat on the sofa in the dark and on a plate of cold watermelon!
I woke each morning while I was away convinced I made the right choice years ago to forge my own path. It is definitely a road less travelled, and now, I’ve left my footprint on it.
This is by no means the last trip. Yes Newton’s Cradle comes to mind, again.
Until next time
a dawn bird
In response to FOWC with Fandango – Momentum