No, not a diary or biographical entry, it's a vintage.
We have pulled up stumps just short of our destination for today, at a surprise lookout that turns out to be the site of a massive inland version of the Nullarbor cliffs. The firewood is abundant, and some earlier campers had thoughtfully built a little rock fireplace right where we thought our tent would look good. And it did.
The evening did not actually start well, as the dirt roads have made some of our bottles a bit carsick, and the balsamic in particular has taken violently ill, spewing all over the mattress and the various boxes underneath it
. Lesson for today - do not take sticky, yuppy balsamic vinegar into the desert, there are no fresh lettuce leaves here, anyway! So, in a very traditional allocation of roles, Paddy has jumped the kangaroo fence and is off hunting for BIG logs to keep us warm while yours truly is using her knowledge of some of Martha Gardiner’s best tips for getting icky brown slime out of the bed you want to sleep in that night. I haven't decided whether spilling half a litre of dishwashing liquid in the same place 24 hours earlier is a bonus or an added complication, but there are certainly plenty of suds!
However, domestic chores out of the way, we are now sitting back in our crappy camping chairs like Lord and Lady Muck, warming our bare tootsies by a roaring fire, sipping on a cabernet/shiraz from the McLaren Vale, one of six special treats Paddy smuggled into the trailer before we left Melbourne. It has a lovely blackberry note, which is not out of place here in this wild place with the velvet black sky and the millions of stars. Did I mention the warm feet?
It’s been another of those lazy outback days – a slow start and a lengthy chat with some of our fellow campers in Leonora Caravan Park kicked things off. Noone cares if you observe the 10am checkout, as noone is coming in till about 3pm
. Our neighbours were a great source of information about all the ins and outs of the gold-prospecting community. Apparently, there’s even a prospecting "season"! The things you learn! We, of course, have stumbled into the middle of the season by the look of it, so people are feverishly swapping notes and/or hiding their finds from their fellow campers. The lucky ones (and there are not too many of them) are trying not to look smug, whilst the unlucky ones just try to look like they are deliberately taking their time. The honest ones, like our new friends, are doing more research and contemplating an upgrade from their prospectors’ licence to an exploration licence, then heading into the real bush, where they have a better chance of finding something that hasn’t been picked over a million times.
We spent the rest of the morning wandering around in the early years of last century, in a place called Gwalia, where the locals have lovingly preserved and restored the last remaining ghost town in this area. All the others, whilst they exist on the maps, are now just signposts and parking spots along the road – take your pick, dirt or bitumen, either way there’s nothing to see!
We braved the detour into Leinster late in the afternoon, even though everyone we have spoken to labelled it a “shithole”
. In terms of facilities, they might have a point, as the “shopping centre” consists of a post office and a supermarket, full stop. Oh, and there’s a service station. However, when we looked a little closer, we found a redeeming feature that warrants the use of a slightly friendlier label overall. There’s a lovely little school with lots of shady trees, so we decided to turn one spontaneous gesture into a trend – we stopped at the deserted school for lunch. We did this back in Kambalda over the Easter weekend, too. That was even funnier, actually. They have a newly-built Lions Club sporting complex, and we could only find the exit, not the entrance. Given that we were the only people in Kambalda that day, we didn’t think anyone would mind if we went in the “out” driveway in search of the advertised “picnic ground”, which turned out to be still very much in the planning stages. At that point, the only way out was to off-road a little bit through the bush towards the High School. When we got nearer, the green grass and the lovely picnic tables were too enticing to resist, so we stopped and made our lunch there. Now we have enjoyed our second school visit for this trip, I am starting to think the trip might end up being tax-deductible … I could say I am conducting a survey of the facilities, which is not actually a lie, as I am always on the lookout for good facilities out here, I kid you not! I had forgotten how difficult it is to pee like a lady when the ground is rock hard
! Suffice to say, I have not been above wasting some of our precious water on occasion.
It will be an early night tonight, as we have accidentally let all our lights run down in the battery department. We were a bit smug last night – camped at a powered site, but didn’t hook anything other than the fridge up to the power. I ran the big light flat, reading in bed and eavesdropping on two old codgers discussing all the ins, outs and loopholes of prospecting on other people’s leases. So, once our lovely fire dies down, it will be into bed with us till dawn. I hope the wedge-tailed eagles don’t notice us lying so still, they have been very vigilant along the highway today, but there wasn’t a lot of fresh meat lying around – it’s all skeletons here, for some reason.
Fox Creek, 1997.