last Tuesday i packed 'back country' into the back of the ute [that's a pick-up if you're American] and headed out via the World's End Highway, the Goyder Highway and then the Barrier Highway up to Broken Hill and across New South Wales to deliver and install the work at the Tamworth Regional Gallery. [that's a little over 3000km there and back again]
and then yesterday i got up before sunrise, climbed into the [now much emptier] ute and pointed it in a westerly direction. Augustus [that's the ute's name] could smell his home paddock and was eager to go.
i was also eager to see the Geminid meteor shower that's lighting up the night skies at present, so as the sun got lower i began to look for a suitable campsite. it's been years since i last slept under the sky in the outback. when the children were small we simply camped in a paddock at home and in recent years much of my travel has been to destinations overseas where camping isn't a practical response to the challenge of finding a bed [and where there are ticks, which give me the heebie jeebies]
about 120km east of Broken Hill i found a small red dirt road labelled Wirreanda. it looked suitably infrequently used so i turned up it and drove until i could see just the lights of the trucks on the highway but not hear them [thinking that i wanted to be within walking distance in case Augustus didn't want to start in the morning]. i also took a screen shot of the compass on my iPhone and messaged it to the folks back home so that they would have the coordinates in case that was the last time they heard from me and had to search for a body.
then i unrolled my swag in the tray of the ute [there's just enough room for me to sleep diagonally] and hung a mosquito net over the top. perfect.
in the past i have always had a dog along when sleeping out but the pawprints left by Kip when she passed on July 19th, 2010 still haven't been filled so the precaution above [given the lack of canine company] was a simply sensible thing to do. you never know.
it turned out to be a splendid night, initially enlivened by lightning displays around the horizon and then beautifully clear with a myriad shooting stars, including one that seemed almost a Min Min light, bright green and travelling horizontally about 10 degrees above the northern horizon.
and then a couple of hours before dawn the moon rose in the east, cunningly disguised as a big slice of candied orange. at one point a tiny passing bat grazed my cheek with its wing as it flipped by, casually disposing of a mosquito
i had brought a book to read and also a set of solar powered twinkle lights [they'd been charging up on the dash all day] to read by but i never so much as turned a page and after testing the lights, turned them off as well.
it was such a luxury to have the time to watch the sun go down, see the stars appear and truly appreciate the slow transition from day into night, listening to the birds organising themselves for sleep, the brief concerto of singing insects and then the rich velvety silence of a desert night, so quiet that it seemed i could hear the passing stars
i'm pretty sure the shades of the seven lovely Dogs who have blessed my life were there as well
in the morning, after a bit of yoga [that 33 year old swag doubles nicely as a yoga mat] i packed up and discovered i had not been alone after all
there were also "tail-drag" marks from a kangaroo who had visited in the night, maybe to ask me to stop snoring. i hadn't heard it at all.
i headed off again, stopping for a musical interlude under a bridge just outside Broken Hill while it was still cool and before the flies got busy. i like the acoustics that big bridges offer.
i found that others had been there before me
oh yeah? well i had sax under the bridge.
far less messy and i'm guessing it probably sounded better too.