I am not exactly sure where we stopped because it was dark.
Our first day was a driving day. I wasn’t working so I packed up the car (daughter helped me), made some road food and waited for my husband to get home from work. We had in mind to just throw ourselves in and drive until we got exhausted.
He got home at about 2.30 (He had asked if he could leave work a little early and luckily the job he was working on had understanding managers who told him to go whenever he felt like it; he said he felt like it at 9 am but felt he should stay to at least after lunch!), had a quick shower and we hit the road.
We like driving together because it gives us a lot of opportunity to talk and also listen to audiobooks. This time around we had chosen five from the local library and I had also downloaded 23 podcasts of the Vinyl Café onto my ipod. The Vinyl Café is a Canadian radio show which I had heard before I even met Wayne and immediately loved: each one of the podcasts was around an hour or less and consisted of talks and music and a fictional story. They were very entertaining and, as it turned out, we only listened to the podcasts as they lasted us the entire trip over the long driving days.
I’d packed soda water, fresh made ham and salad rolls and also put in a packet of Fruit Chews from the Natural Confectionary Company.
I love these lollies for a treat on drives because they are not as evil as other sugar based confectionary and also because each piece is individually wrapped; the wrapper has questions on them that you can ask each other. Things like: “What did you want to be when you grew up?”, “What would a movie based on your life be called?” and “What is one word you would use to describe yourself?”. We made a game out of it by having the person unwrapping the lollies and giving them to the driver asking the question – only upon the answer was the recipient allowed to munch! It was interesting for filling in details about each other’s lives and also reversing the questions (how would you describe me, then?) gave us an insight into how we saw each other.
We had a late-ish dinner at a roadhouse in Meekathara (roadhouse food is disgustingly fried to me but the husband loves it and I indulge him on holiday) and then we drove on.
I was driving by this stage and he was napping, having worked a reasonable day. I started to get nervous about kangaroos, even though we hadn’t seen any yet. It is said that they are worse in the time immediately before and after dawn and dusk and I had taken precautions by sticking a pair of Roo Shoos onto the car bonnet. These are tiny little wind tunnels that funnel the air flow over the front of the car to produce a high pitch sound that will (supposedly) keep livestock away from the road. I’ve always used them and I’ve never had a problem with hitting kangaroos in the past so I routinely stick them on when driving up North or in heavily populated roo areas.
Trouble was, I started to get nervous when I saw kangaroo carcasses on the side of the road. Then I started to see the roos on the verge and I got even more nervous that they would hope across so I slowed right down. The only lighting was my headlights and the lights of oncoming road trains (big trucks with three or four trailers, thundering down in the opposite direction). When one kangaroo hopped across an oncoming truck and in front of me, I squeaked loudly, which woke my husband up and I asked him to take over driving or suggested that we stop.
He was keen to keep going (we still had a long way to go) so we swapped positions. Almost immediately the kangas started getting thicker and one of them hopped across the road in front of us. He slowed down again and kept going, with the assurance that if it happened again we would pull over for the rest of the night. All good for half an hour and then a big red hopped out in front of us, paused and then dashed further out. Wayne slowed without swerving (never swerve for them as it caused more damage) as much as possible and it darted in front and to the side of us. I thought we had missed it but then heard a thump to the rear of the car. Shaken, we kept driving and it had apparently hopped off. They are tremendously tough and the next morning, in daylight, when we checked the car we found absolutely no sign of any damage so think it must have just flicked up its muscular tail and hit the corner of the car.
Ok, that was us for the night. We drove (very slowly!) to the next roadside pull in bay and dragged the double swag out of the car. For those non-Aussies reading here, a swag is a foam mattress encased in thick canvas and zipped up on three sides – you put your bedding and pillows on it and the whole thing rolls up into a thick sausage that is tightened with straps. Because it was very cold (semi-desert country) we kept our clothes on and kept the canvas cover zipped up. A double swag is a fairly close fit for two people when zipped up but luckily we are good friends!
That first night, lying in my husband’s arms, the crisp air on my face but warm and snug inside, I gazed up at the amazing array of stars and felt incredibly happy. With no light pollution, the Milky Way was splashed across the sky just like somebody had poured a glass of white fluid out and we could see satellites and shooting stars. It was magical and I drifted off to sleep feeling incredibly content.