Longreach, The Big Finale.

11

The morning we were about to leave Longreach, we packed up and Derek went out to hook up the vehicle, only to find that the water from the run off of the caravan had made a nice mud out of the yard and the caravan had sunk deep down and was now a prisoner of the cement dirt.

Who says that learning to make mud pies as a child is not a viable life skill??

What I love most about men faced with a problem is the standing and posing with hand on chin. The hat gets taken off, hair is swiped, and they move around the problem, pose, move, pose again … and make grunting noises.   Eventually, the leave the problem and make their way to the tools.   They get this kind of glazed over look in their eyes and you have lost them completely.  Don’t try to make any intelligent kind of contact . . . they are on the drug called “tools.” They open their garage or their toolbox and run their hands over their collection. There are grunts of approval as their hands communicate with the steel.  Neither dirt nor grease can interfere with this magic vibration.  One tool, maybe two are chosen.  The men stride confidently back to the problem with their tools, duct tape stuffed in a pocket, just in case.

They knew they needed this tool. They fought hard to convince the wife it was necessary. The 23 years it hung on the wall unused fades into the fog of things never to be talked about again.  See. he told you. THIS was why he needed it.  He waved it at the heavens, turning a slow circle to be sure all could see.  Was it just a mere conincidence that this was all happening near where dinosaurs had been discovered?  Was it possible that man once stood here in this very spot, in the beginning of time . . . and discoverd … fire???

(Only because he had tools, of course)

They undid things, attached things, and used the tools.  They freed the caravan.  They barely broke a sweat.  After success the men’s eyes gleam. They know that the tool gods are close by, hidden only by a thin veil. Their names will be etched in the walls of tool heaven after this great effort, and they are very pleased. They look off into the sun, united by a spiritual moment of male bonding that transcends time.

When they were finished they stand in the sun.  They know that the tool gods are close by, hidden only by a thin veil.  They know that their names will be etched in the walls of tool heaven forever and ever.   They look off into the sun, united by a spiritual moment of male bonding that transcends time. And the wind grabs a handful of dust and blows it across the yard.

I honk the horn.  What’s taking so long??  We don’t have time for the two of them to stand their suntanning.

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We spent a couple of nights on the road before we got home. We were gaining confidence. We now knew how to make coffee every morning.  We could flush the toilet.  We could make porridge.

We were eating and sleeping. We could manage when we had full ammenities and when we did not.  No-one was going to die while we caravanned. Fluffy was earning her keep.  We let her know, even though she was adopted, we considered her family.

It was pleasant driving when you knew you could just stop if you wanted to and that there was no place you had to be.  We had learned that most caravanners try to find a place by about 3.  It gives them time to set up for the evening meal and time to unwind and enjoy where they are.  It also means that they are pretty much assured a spot.   So we did what any intelligent person new to something does . . . we copied everyone else and tried to blend in.  It;s amazing how much easier that is when you are not jerking and bouncing all over the place because the brakes are not set right, and you can actually park the thing, and you know where you are supposed to park it.  Oh, and undoing it from the vehicle also helps.  The shiny new green paint was slowly rubbing off of us.

The first night we found a nice spot, despite the closeness of the road. I was grateful we were taking the back roads because it meant the traffic was sparse, especially at night. The number of kangaroos meant only the big trucks would choose to travel beyond and before complete daylight and the evidence of that were the littered and piled remains of the kangaroos along the roadside. At least they allowed us to see some of the most majestic eagles up close and personal, that is, when the crows were not completely darkening the sky.

 

We were joined by quite a few other people.  I liked the cute little lady wandering the park with her hands in her pockets.  I followed her for awhile until she shouted something about stalking and her husband joined her and I think he had a gun.  I was just going to ask her for coffee but clearly, I need to work on my technique.  I still thought she was way cute and that the two of us could have been great friends.

Of course, there were people with 97 dogs travelling with them.  Those are just 4 in the picture, the other 93 are in the caravan.

I tried to get lots of pictures of birds but did you know that while you are wandering around, looking up at the sky and the trees in order to see birds, you can unknowingly wander into some embarrassing situations?  I had no idea that people get naked outside under their canopies.  I owed an apology to the man who joined my cute “hand in pockets lady.”  He was not carrying a gun.

Also, she was not nearly as cute without the hats, her bra, or her jeans with the pockets.

Derek pulled out a chair and sat reading and just relaxing.  I loved seeing him finally just sit and do nothing for a moment.  Truthfully, he always seems to be running with something needing to be done.

5

It was a beautiful night with a gorgeous moon and we sat out in the dark. It felt like you could just reach up and touch the stars. There are so many more than what we see in North America. It was probably one of my most favourite moments so far.

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We drove on the next morning and I was sleeping when I heard Derek’s window go down and felt the wind and him jerking around in his seat. I woke to see him flicking his hands out the window.

“What was it?”

“A wasp, but I think I got it out.” He knew I was allergic to bees and wasps so he wanted to be reassuring.

“How did that get in?”

“Don’t know, but it is gone now.”

I went back to sleep and was woken to a repeat performance.

“I got it now, it must have been injured before and was down in between the doors.”

“Are you sure it was the same one because if it got stuck in here, it most likely started to build a nest or something.”

“Nah, it was just a one of, we are all good.”

When we stopped to book into a park that night, I was sitting in the van and heard a buzzing behind me. There was a wasp on the back window. I got out and opened that door and used my sweater to flick it off the window. He didn’t get it after all.

A few minutes later I looked over and there was a wasp on the window on the opposite side of the back seat. I got out and opened that door. I stood outside waiting for Derek to return. I told him what had happened and I was pretty sure there were more wasps in the car and that they had started nesting. He said he would  pull everything out of the back when we got set up and make sure there weren’t anymore. We could not understand where and how they could have got in.

We parked and Derek set up. I got in the trailer and he unpacked the truck. He came in a few minutes later and reported that the barbeque we brought from home, that sat out on the patio, had a full nest under it. He had picked it up and carried it to the truck when we were ready to leave home and his hand must have been almost touching it. He packed it. During the trip, we shoved it around and out of the way as we pulled other things out. We brought it to test weight and practicality.  We wanted to cook a meal on it and see how it went and if we needed anything else. We were meant to use it at Longreach but at the last moment we decided to go out instead.

So, we had travelled all that way, over bumpy roads in the middle of nowhere without seeing a single wasp. What if they had swarmed when we were on that god forsaken track to the dinosaurs? What if they swarmed when a truck was coming towards us on those single laned dirt tracks? We could have been in real trouble AND where would we have gone to get some spray to get rid of them? Yup, we had taken the wasps on a holiday with us. We were dumbfounded at our good luck that nothing worse happened.

Derek went to town and bought some spray and took care of the nest. End of the road for the Gympie wasps and their holiday to see the dinosaurs.  I would like to cry for them but I don’t do insects.  I would like to tell you I am a better person but I am not.  They died and I ate my supper.

Driving home I took on the role of “waver.”  This is a very important caravanning role and it took some time, with hours of practice and correction from my tutor, “Madam Derek”  It was my job to wave madly at every caravan we met. Derek insisted I wave at the trucks too because he said we needed to make sure we were friendly so that if we ever got stuck and needed help, people would stop. I thought we were just being annoying but when I realized there was a serious purpose, I stopped flashing them and pulled my top back down. It’s an important job people, and I do it really well. Some people even wave back.

Some give me the finger.

We won’t stop and help them if they break down.

It is the rules of the road and though it is tough, we are caravanners and we live it. It is in our blood now. Both of us have band-aids on.

 

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