Sally's Travel Diary

Sally's 2022 Across the Top End

Sally has left her brother’s place and is now traveling through Queensland towards the northern Territory. Above are some examples of the places she’s been so far along the way.

Trip 2022-Across the Top End

Entry 1

It’s been a couple of weeks on the road now, and in the hope that I would settle into a more relaxed mode, I realise that that might take longer than I thought. I struggle to sit still and not fidget whilst removing red dust from the van, but to recline and see the sunset with a glass of red, swatting mosquitoes is something to aspire to. To be part of the grander process….

The first few days on the road were a desperate attempt to run from all responsibilities.. a futile prospect as my day to day living involves me. Exhausted, I packed and unpacked and packed a small van. All the necessities of survival in this modern hooked in world. Solar panels, storage backup power packs for iPad, iPhone, laptop, digital camera, usb mozzie blue light ( definitely one to have) milkcrates of various cables and gas cylinders for the small stove. Foldout chair to bed and another camp chair that I grabbed from the farm shed. Now I realise it is broken, and was broken on the last trip some 20 years ago. But I persist with using it, with fingers crossed it doesn’t collapse.

So I drove, I walked the Canarvon Gorge, drove some more, and then some. And finally I am at the cross roads of my trip. The border of NT & WA..
I knew two days ago, as I had a relapse into a memory of life that no longer existed.. that I must do this trip for me and me alone, not look to relive a past.

Everyday I have thanked the universe for the day, the small joys of nature and the blissful visuals. But always on my birthday, always a day of great expectations and general disappointment, I am not given the daily gift of visuals but always a closer look at things more challenging in this incredible life I have been given. This is the birthday gift…

I started the long laborious drive north from Tenant creek to Katherine, and found myself in a trail of caravans and 4x4s. Grey headed people in a swim of groups heading one direction or the other. A depiction of the times and the great need for discovery, or just to fill in the fading days.

I decided to visit Daly Waters, a place I remember as quaint and one horse town.. but now after 20 years it had turned into tourist Mecca. An unrecognisable town of Australiana and placards of information relating to a town that never existed. The once roadhouse is now a swim of bra tops, business cards and footy trophies. The outside dunk pool now 2 modern pools and all signs of the past extinguished.

The vast caravan of searchers will never experience what was, but can only dip their cameras into a fictitious made up past.
For now these voyagers will be filled with memories of todays adventures, another view from a different angle.

I again realised that the world of memories is an area of personal files. Fortunate for those of us who hold them in there, and a wake up to the world that is in existence now.
My life, filled with electronica, is in a constant change. It’s charged with a rush of conversations and organising parts of my day to day that I no longer have to be present to orchestrate. Things move quickly, conversations need not be finished because we know the ending. Youth with more knowledge than ourselves, and in-site into life that has taken most of my generation their whole life to acquire.
But at the end of the day, when the sun goes down. Mossies take a final bite and the stillness of the changing of the guard takes place.
The resting takes place. A calm breeze picks up again as the temperature drops and birds and beasties settle into the dusk.
I noticed today at noon the wind picked up and blew across the plains.
And in the camping area of tonight I have listened to a Frenchman incessant talking, his wife sits quietly. I have not heard her utter one word. I have not heard her voice, just his endless chatter..I’m glad I don’t understand him, just his Frenchness pattering along. Chattering through the changing of the guard, when we should be in witness…

The birthday gift this year was the understanding of times.
My world that I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore. The same as the world of the Indigenous people. Their world ended when we arrived here. The artworks of land and rhythms are the same but the way we navigate through them have shifted. As I watch the winds gather during the pace of the day, the sun rotate to change guard with the moon, the bird song at dawn and their nesting at night. These rhythms are the backbone of life. Humans have a changing rhythm, a generational one that is at the moment fast paced and spiralling to the next transition, what ever that will be.
To be of an age when one has travelled through a few changes in progression is a challenge to self. Maintaining a sense of mental balance and of spirit to remain in play is the quest.
The lost indigenous souls that mill at the local white man’s corner watering hole is a sad note. The same as the lost grey nomads that drive in circles hoping for the same result. There is a new adventure, different to what I knew before. It is neither better or worse, just different. Allowing the change to wash in, that is the progress.

I am now at a resting point some 300 kilometre from the WA border. Visiting my sister in law, who has a posting in this rather beautiful landscape, although it remains hot even in the middle of Australian winter.
The last leg was an arduous 370 k with no outposts. I have now realised that the vessel that I travel in is inadequate. I’m not sure how far to travel in it, and whether, as I do have to return, at what point do I do that.

Leaving the sanctity of a safe space and on starting the vessel, it grinds with and aggressive grind. Ominous, and perhaps a warning.
But now fuelled up and on the road, I feel the journey has just begun. Landscape has changed into stepped flat topped ancient rock formations. The power of the land formidable and grand.

I have booked into the Keep River National park and with 18 kilometre entry on dirt road. We shall decide on arrival.

Trip 2022-Across the Top End

Entry 2

Finally I have stopped driving for the day. A retrace of the Barkley Tablelands on the Highway. A boring some 600 kilometres except for the occasional bustard and tremendous colour combinations of red dirt / light corn ochre grass with a bright green heart, scattering of grey green short trees and matched with the gold yellow road signs. A definite winner. That or I have certainly lost it here at the wheel.

I guess that is why I am here on this insane jump in the van and drive off. The leaving of responsibility has followed me the whole way. A reminder that everything is attached until released.
I definitely have settled , and yesterday morning delighted in a swim in the hot waters of Katherine. Although nearly in the town itself, and with more kids than the usual isolated pond that I have found, it was delightful and soothing.. I almost relaxed for a blink..

I questioned the retreat process as I didn’t make the destination of Broome. But all the signs told me to turn around. As one does travelling alone, talking to yourself and the universe is mandatory. First sign was a massive snake that crossed my path as I was walking to a stand of rocks just short of the Bungle bungles..The weather had cooled and I wondered what was in stall. The next was the road I wanted to take, which was a red dirt one, disaster if wet. The red dirt turns to a thick mud that bandages the tires and causes sliding and ditch entry,

And the third was a flock of red cockatoo, numbering twenty plus. So called it , and turned.

The last days have been wet, windy and cold.
Anyway, I am about to cross back into Queensland. I’ll head east to Gladstone and hopefully coast down the seaside.
After a few days of harrowing weather I am stationary.
Driving across the wide flat plains girted by grey clouds and rain has been a serious event. Every roadtruck has its own storm cloud. In the pelting rain and rivers of roads the roadtrucks are the same speed, same frightening looming of pending doom. Flat roads marked for flood levels now just rivers of water on an endless mirage of reflection, now water ways with road trucks spraying waterfalls and wind gusts. The instinct to clam eyes closed as they pass must be avoided and maintaining eye visuals with the white side line imperative for survival.
For a moment I thought I saw a land deviation but it was only a mound of road base. Two towns were closed for possible floodwater and would not allow travellers like myself to stay in the rest spots, so the pursuant of death by road mandatory..
I have come to a halt. Positioned myself at friendly Hughenden park and plan to sit and wait the rain out, or until my fridge runs out of battery storage. Could be a day or so. Driving in the mud road instantly sets alarm bells , as I am in my little 2WD van.. again inappropriate vehicle for this trip.

I navigate the small town, find the only coffee shop open and although rejected it on first sight went in. I knew I would receive the brown coffee, devoid of taste and with some slight froth on its top. The shop window was a reveal, hosting the handmade clothes hanger and crochet topped kitchen towels. The lady finally came from the back area of the shop. Older than me perhaps and aproned with hair in bun. Smiled her country smile and I handed over $5 in coin for the brown brew. No eftpos, no banks in sight, a world removed from mine.

So here I sit in RV park, with others and their massive rigs, waiting out the rain. Sitting in our metal boxes, boiling tea water. There seems to be two types of road travellers out here.
The big rig, full home on wheels , parked in parks for days, meeting similar folk and then the road stop people. Parked in free zones, some with big set ups but more the 4×4 vehicles with roof top tents, the vans, the others. A different friendly, and in some spots, just lock the doors and drive off in the morning.

One spot the neighbour decided I need company, asked me over to the picnic table to drink our various beverages. Hers some alcoholic brew, mine a tea, as I had just arrived.
Within minutes of returning to my van and sorting out the various combos of folding and navigating bed placement, she was there at my tinted dark window to give me honey. Such intrusion with gifts. Such a different world , with different social boundaries. I’m not sure if she was just intrigued in my van set up and limited space, or a genuine need for company as travelling can be a weird self effacing experience.

I have learnt more about myself on this trip. Or relearnt things. My need to fill my stress levels to breaking point over one pending move forward, trying to blind the possible win or fail with another minor stress related event. A parallel, a dual stress load, where one is more dire than the other, but blinded with the minor stress load.

So obvious when driving for endless kilometres on an endless road. I don’t listen to music, after a while my inner voice talks. The dialog amusing and entertaining. Always making comedy on the moments. Always filling in visuals of beauty and grateful for the day.

My best self is in my head..
It is the self that I am happy with, the self that brushes off trauma, wipes away grief, faces adversity with a laugh..always in love with the world regardless of changes and circumstances.
Such a happy positive self, hidden deep inside my head.. always there with words if I give it a chance and space to speak. It is the self that is not attached to events. A separate identity, pure and resolved.