Longreach Part 2


We decided to stop for lunch and of course the gas did not switch over and instead of a nice lunch in a lovely location we had “swearing at peanut butter sandwiches event,” washed down with god awful tasting water because no, the water filter from home did not actually take out that plastic taste like I said it wouldn’t. There are times when being right does not provide the adrenaline rush, it just makes you really sad. You see, one of the other things “I” had forgotten, was to take the list I had written out and given to Derek to go shopping with, out of his pocket when he got home. I should have realized, retrieved it and gone back and shopped myself to pick up the items he “forgot.”  There is no need to forget these things when your wife kindly writes you out a list to take with you but oh, ya, you would have to read it in order for it to be helpful, right?  Derek refuses to read it because he is adamant he is not losing his memory at all with old age and the only way to win that battle is to deny you have a problem, carry on as if all is well, and fail because you are not wearing glasses or using a hearing aid, or needing to write lists like the other weaker seniors are, but you just keep acting like you are a winner. The fact you are blind, deaf and wandering around the streets in your underwear late at night wondering where your pony “Spot” has gone . . .cannot deter your steel trap mind of determination Oh young buff warrior of childhood, “Eagle Bambi Man.”

So we had no drinking water.

Despite his insistence, this was not true. According to him, we had water, and one could drink it. We would not die from lack of thirst and I was just a big baby for complaining about the taste of the water. I should just drink my water and suck it up.  He handed me a plastic bag to throw up into.

We couldn’t stay long because we had to keep the fridge cold which meant if the gas was not working we had to be driving the truck because camping, real camping, is about driving to keep your vegetables crisp.  I cannot even imagine what would happen if we rocked up to the next caravan park with uncrisp vegetables.

I suggested we call the place where we bought the van, the one’s whose whole advertising plug on everything is about how they provide service anytime anywhere, just a phone call away. Derek did not want to bother them with a phone call because evidently when they plastered that everywhere and said it over and over again, they weren’t sincere enough to convince him they actually meant we could phone them anytime about anything, and CERTAINLY not about the freaking big ass caravan we had bought from them, that was not working.  Nope, we were just going to sit by the side of the road with wilted vegetables, wearing our “incredibly polite and never bothered anyone with anything, or ever asked for help” badges of Australia, and probably die.

I don’t think he understood how bothered I really was becoming. The more I tried to help, the crankier he became. I chose silence. He accepted my offering.

In addition to the issues with the fridge, was that we could not find anything. Getting the peanut butter for our sandwiches involved opening every cupboard and drawer and taking things out and searching . It was the same for every other item we needed. It was like a bad game of memory when you just lose it and have to open every box to find each match. I would find the headphones in with tea towels. The bananas were in a drawer with the flashlight and the binoculars. I was going to have to have a conversation with Derek about his approach to packing the van.

I started talking about things we could do to make sure we got the optimum resale value for Fluffy. The feeling grew as we drove on past look out points and places of interest because we could not see that there was any room to be able to turn the caravan around. It grew some more as the most amazing picture opportunities came and went because pulling over in the caravan to grab a picture involved driving until we found a safe stretch of road to do so, one with enough room to pull off to the side, and then one of us needed to be able to race back 18 km to take the picture and then hope they could make it back to the trailer before nightfall.

We were driving further and further away from civilization until we turned onto one road and the highway was worse than a roller coaster. We were up and down and all over the road into ruts molded into the bitumen by the big truck trains. It was not long, with all the bumping and rolling, before my worst fear came to fruition as the nagging feeling I might be getting a UTI changed into the sure fired knowledge I was going to die. I just wanted to stop and curl up on the bed with a hot water bottle and take my meds.


By the time we found our first FREE place to camp for the night there were already some 30 other people camping there. We had a couple of choices where to park, none of which were very level. I climbed in the trailer and laid on the bed. He opened the door to announce he wanted to drive down a bit a see if we could find a more level spot. I tried to crawl off the end of the bed, but after an hour, when I only managed to get one leg halfway down the side of the bed, he told me it was only a few meters I should just stay there and he would drive slowly.

I lay in the bed considering what I would say when the police arrived any minute and charged us for having me in the caravan while it was moving.  I was already up to the point where the children would fly in from overseas to see me in jail and we were all crying when Derek stopped driving.  I got out, we had a conversation, he said he just needed to back up a little bit more. As he was getting something out of the back seat, I told him I was going back to the trailer and to give me time to get there before he backed up. I stepped up into the caravan and my sandal fell off by the tire. I reached for it and then the van started to move.

I learned that no matter what, we would never do that again and I was never riding in the caravan. Thank heavens I have lightning fast reflexes because I am an awesome athlete … that, and the fact Derek was going .0023 kph. And of course I did not scream out.  We were in a public place and I am a Canadian.  I did not want to get Derek into any kind of trouble for running over and killing his wife, and I certainly did not want to disturb any of the other campers.

After I finished painting Derek the whole, I could have gone to jail and then I could have died, we got in the caravan for the night.  I did not care what worked and what didn’t.  I was in so much pain.  There was more rummaging for things. Derek pointed to the mixer blades in his toiletry bag and asked if this was the kind of thing I was talking about earlier about him putting things in the most bizarre places? I looked in and nodded. I informed him that I was taking over the inside of the caravan and as soon as we had time and I could move, I was setting it up properly.

He now offered silence which I accepted.

We had supper, me none, I was too sick and went to bed. During the night I could hear several people walking around and waited to hear if someone tried the door to caravan. I was trying to figure out how I could leverage Derek and throw him at the person coming to kill us being as there would be no waking him. Unless the guy tried to kill him first there was no hope for him waking up to save me. If I was first, he probably wouldn’t even hear me screaming right next to him. It wouldn’t matter if the whole forest fell and Derek was there to hear it. He wouldn’t.

And then I heard the very elderly man who was in the caravan next to us. He looked like a seasoned bushy, fairly grubby clothes, unkempt, unwashed hair, hardened brown body. His caravan was fairly new and modern but he definitely seemed a loner. I saw him several times before we went to bed and he was always alone. I was surprised he was up so late at night, apparently working on something. I wondered what he was building, and then it dawned on me. It was a completely different kind of rhythmic “thump, thump, thump.” No-one could be that noisy by himself, except where did the partner come from? Suddenly all the walking about I heard earlier made sense . . . the 37%ers!!! They were wandering around trading and swapping.  Where was National Geographic?  The late night ritualistic dance of the human being, where partners are swapped in the dark.  How strange and kind of beautiful in a disturbingly dark way.

The old guy had seemed so alone before and now he was not.  Good for him. I was happy for him, initially, and after about 8 minutes, not quite as much. Around the 20 minute mark I can say the thrilled part was really waning and by the 30 minute mark – completely gone. I eventually was annoyed, and then impressed, amazed, and finally shocked. Finally, after about an hour there was some yelling. First, his voice in a victorious, out of breath whelps, and a few seconds later, a woman joined the chorus that consisted of howling and affirmations. I reached for my phone in the dark and clicked on my to do list and typed, “have Derek talk to the guy in the caravan about how to last an hour.” I flagged it as the key task for the morning. Then I set my alarm to make sure there was not a chance he would be gone before we woke.

Early morning we discovered the gas had gone out and we no longer had any electricity, or any anything. We had to get in the caravan and drive. Another stellar day relaxing in the magnificent freedom of caravanning – oh lucky lucky seniors that we were. I was becoming an expert in swear words and whenever Derek lapsed into a few minutes of silence, I prompted him with some he might have forgotten.

How could the gas run out in just a few hours?

And the worst part of all of it?

We had to leave without even getting a chance to speak to the old guy in the next caravan.