Carrying the love

Sometimes my mother irons my tour shirts for me. She first started offering last year, when my at home time between tours was all about caring for my brother and I was almost incapable of much more than the bare functions required to get through.

Since then, she’s offered a couple of times and I’ve taken her up on it. I hate ironing so much, although once upon a time I was a Stepford Wife  and even ironed my husband’s boxer shorts. But I suck it up for a professional work look and I iron my uniform.

When she offers, I always say yes. It isn’t about perfectly ironed shirts for professionalism. It’s because every time I put on an ironed shirt that she has done for me, I feel the love.

I will always want her to iron my shirts as a tangible reminder of our loving relationship when I’m not there in person.

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Of course I remember you from [previous tour]! 

I haven’t a clue who you are from the crowd. Frankly, you all dress the same and you all have the same hairstyle: sorry if I’ve accidentally called you ‘mum’. 

To be totally honest, unless you’ve done something spectacularly bad or good, I’m not going to remember you between trips.


I remember the guy that put his hand on my backside.

And the guy who wanted me to wash his shorts.

And the lady who pissed her pants and her mattress.

I also remember the lady who put on expensive perfume every night after her shower: I use very expensive soap on camping trips so we bonded. It makes you feel wonderful to go to bed smelling so good and being clean after the dirt ridden day.

I remember the gorgeous family of six who loved my tour so much that they’ve been in contact every since. I call them friends now and we recently caught up in Broome for dinner. Very special people.

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Based on what I’ve previously posted, and as an ongoing series, I’ve decided to tell how things really are on the road. We talk a LOT and the passengers aren’t aware of how things really are. In bold are the things we say and in italics are what they really mean.

Just going to check the tyres.

When your tour guide/driver announces the stoppage that way, he/she is pissing behind the trailer, out of the view of the dashboard cam and the passenger windows. Because you don’t get the chance to go to the toilet much at stops; hordes of incontinent people are already queuing for the two available long drops.


Completing the formalities.

In that vein, if everybody has already boarded to a specified morning departure time and the crew then don’t turn up for ten more minutes, it’s because we are changing our dirty pack-up clothes for fresh ones and using the bathroom without a queue.

Sometimes we are actually completing necessary paperwork as well (driver log books, defect sheets, vehicle checks etc) but that bathroom visit happens as well.

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Moving on

I  cant seem to do it.

I am working and I am functional and  I can put on the necessary facade when required. But I  am so aware that my grief is compartmentalized and that I need to keep on seeing my psychologist when I can, to deal with it.


The thing is,  I dont want to talk about it because it doesn’t really help. I sometimes talk about it to my husband and rarely to my work partner, but nobody else.


I was at a low point the other night: physically and mentally exhausted because the trip was so hard. About 12 I finally got to go to bed and I had a horrible nightmare about my brother. My partner heard me crying and got up but I didn’t want to talk it out with him and I think he was upset by that.

It isn’t personal but other people offering platitudes don’t help.

I know, logically and from heart breaking experience , that my grief will get easier to deal with.. it just doesn’t seem possible right now.

I dont want to talk about my brother’s death because it brings up all the memories of our incredibly close childhood and it makes me think about him. He and I shared experiences in a way that keeps me clinging to his memory.

I will change the subject hard if anybody mentions him.and I cringe when anybody  even just suggests that I should be over it already. The whole of June was bad.

I had a negative interaction with some of my brother’s friends. I asked if they could  tone down all the celebratory social media posts that came about as part of them visiting dying members of the group and getting together afterwards. Yes,they care a lot about each other but it is really hard for my SIL to see all these posts where they are obviously enjoying life to the full without my brother. I asked if they could maybe share them on a private facebook group and was shot down immediately.

Seriously, what makes people so disregarding of other people’s feeling these days? Isn’t there some common level of respect for each other? Sure, my SIL is sensitive about things, as am I, but I’d like to think that the friends my brother had would be generous hearted enough to consider what upsets my SIL and not do it. Or at least take it to a private group. It distresses her so much.

The aggression I got after my request made me feel so awful. I just wasn’t prepared for that level of hostility, given my non-confronting tone. It definitely made my time at home less enjoyable. Added to that, an extremely stressful situation with my stepmother (I am now administering the family trust that supports her and she can’t or won’t understand that my brother’s death has changed everything and that there are costly legal procedures that have to be gone through) and I didn’t enjoy my down time at all.

My mother is quite observant and this time home she said she could see me change – for the first 24 hours I was happy and back to my old self; then I went downhill.

She’s right. I keep coming back to a place where he isn’t anymore and I feel lost.


I am still so sad. I want to scream out at the top of my lungs “i just don’t get it!”. I don’t. How can he not be here when all my memories place him so? How can he, his life, just stop? It doesn’t make sense at all.


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Back from another trip

I wrote the bolded text below for the company newsletter. But the reality is in the unbolded italic text.

Life on the road with Kitty.

 Every tour I’ve ever done has specific timings and itineraries. We try very hard to meet these and cover everything listed and we pretty much nail it. But we also like to see if we can fit in extra things: attractions and sights that we think our passengers might be interested in or that we are interested in. These can be preplanned or entirely spontaneous and they often give us some of the best moments of the trip.

Mostly we do extra stuff because we want to do it and selling it as an added extra means we can justify going out of our way/adding time to the day. Spontaneous often means ‘Shit, there is a vehicle problem; what’s nearby that might distract them?!’

 Such was the case on this current trip along the Savannah Way.

One of the first planned ‘extras’ was a train trip in the famous Gulflander train, from Normanton to Black Bull siding. This train has been running since the 1890s Croydon gold rush and our passengers were as eager as we were to experience this bit of living history. It didn’t disappoint.

Barry, my work partner, is a train buff and he really wanted to ride the Gulflander and it would involve juggling around our schedule and campsites a LOT. So we sent out emails to all the passengers before the tour asking who wanted to do it and giving the costs. 23 out of 28 – I think that justified it to the office.

They all caught the train at the historic Normanton siding and I drove the bus back along 150 kms of already travelled road to pick them up. I laid out morning tea at Black Butt siding and happily recorded the train choofing in and all the passengers waving at me through the windows. Barry was happy and I got to drive, so I was happy too, and the passengers were happy because there is so little to do in Normanton and it was a free day.

 Then, due to logistical issues, we ended up taking a slightly different route through the Northern Territory and so it was a given that we would try to fit in a quick soak at Mataranka Hot Springs. Pristine clear blue waters, at a temperature of 34 degrees Celsius, the waters are supposed to have mineral properties that soothe aches and pains: after some of the outback roads we travelled, most of us were keen to try! A warm soak, a cold beer or ice-cream (or both!) afterwards and this unexpected spa visit improved everybody’s day.

Logistical issues meant that one of our passengers, who shouldn’t have been on the tour in the first place, had a fall and we diverted outback roads to try and fly her out from one of the towns. Two planes a week and both full so it didn’t happen but the Mataranka Hot Springs were en route so we decided to stop an hour for a dip.

The bus passenger air conditioner blew up as soon as we pulled up. No amount of warm springs would improve our day after that and it got worse when we discovered that it couldn’t be fixed for another 11 days.

 We were going to be travelling past the Lost City, a national park with amazing rock formations so we decided to build in a time buffer that day so we could spend some time there. A wonderful walk through the rocks for some and bird watching on a waterlily filled billabong for others; it gave people a chance to be off the bus and refresh themselves in a beautiful surrounding.

The air-conditioner was totally not working and it was a sealed bus so the temp in the passenger module was well over 30 degrees. We’d bought everybody their own personal washcloth and I’d issued plastic ziplock bags and instructed everybody to write their names on both. 

The idea was that they would dip their cloths into the eskies full of ice and water that we’d placed on the bus and thereby stave off heat exhaustion. The hot wind pouring in down the emergency hatch and two little roof vents at least gave the impression of cooler and the moisture evaporating helped. 

But there was no way it wasn’t ever going to be as horrible as hell and every chance we could, we stopped. The beautiful surroundings here distracted some people.

 Some of the unplanned things were just little ones, like finding outback ice-creams at Perth ice-cream prices. We liked our ice-creams on this tour, oh yes, we did.

They (passengers) whinged so much when they were expensive. It’s the outback! It costs a great deal of money to just ship them here, let alone keep them so they don’t melt. All the costs out here are so much higher because the cost of basic services is so much higher.

 Or a totally unplanned game of breakfast cricket – lucky it was a soft ball but I was the meany ‘mum’ who stopped it after it bounced off the muesli for the third time! I can’t say any of us were great cricketers but there was a lot of enthusiasm, particularly in the commentary from the spectators.

Hand/eye co-ordination amongst the elderly is severely lacking. I got tired of playing outfield when I was trying to lay out breakfast.

 Nobody would think that an unplanned stay in an unknown unpowered caravan park could lead to such enthusiasm but there turned out to be so much space and the ground was really soft for tent pegs. And the amenities actually had people spending hours in them, due to clever shower design with stools and lots of electrical points for charging. A gold class standard, by which all other campsite facilities should be judged and found wanting.

We had to stay somewhere in Katherine and this was the only place with group space. Normally, we are cheek-by-jowl with each other, and other campers, but this time we could spread out so we did. I got to sleep half an acre away from everybody else! The ground was soft enough so that pegs went in without a pre-drill.

The shower stalls had little fold down seats and an interior and exterior door, plus loads of hanging hooks. The main bathroom area had enough toilets and showers and there were electrical outlets everywhere so people could charge their devices. it was white and clean and shiny and we all loved it. Some people even took pictures of it and one lady read her book in there for hours!

 A lavish cooked breakfast on the beach at Broome. That was a late planned extra from Barry and myself but what was unexpected was the fog. It was thick and damp and not warm at all. But for our group, a cool change was delightful after the sweltering days before and the fog lifted enough for us to see the beach and the ocean and the horses being exercised in it.

God, we tried so hard to end the tour on a positive note. There were at least 14 passengers (half the group) that were too infirm to camp properly – couldn’t do it physically or mentally. One lady came off the plane in a wheelchair, for God’s sake. Strong words were had with the office and hopefully things will improve from now on but the able bodied really resented the feebler members, due to having to do twice as much work, and the feebs resented being resented. It wasn’t a happy tour.

We thought that a full cooked breakfast on the beach at low tide would work really well. We’d eat bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, pancakes, berries and cream, fruit platters in a beautiful place. some people could paddle, others could walk. We could play beach cricket.

When we woke up, the fog was so thick and drippy that the passengers thought it was raining. Everything was sodden. Driving to the beach was a hazard because we could only see fifty metres ahead, even with lights. It was dismal on the beach and we couldn’t even see the ocean.

 No plan will ever survive contact with the enemy. Plans will always change and sometimes the end result is better than expected!

Summary of the tour: It was such hard work and had few redeeming features. I averaged a sixteen hour working day, as did my partner, and was fairly constantly supporting people who never should have been there.

I did get tipped, though.

Interestingly enough, one of the ‘good’ passengers posted a shoulders down pic of the crippled lady on the company facebook page, with a long comment on how people like that should never be on a camping tour. I laughed and laughed: it will be yanked down fast but I screenshotted it!

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I don’t blog much these days, due to being on the road a lot. It’s very rare that I have both the ability to (way out in the remotelands) and the time. If I have the time, then I am putting it towards an online university course. Also, most tours are just repeats of experiences and boring for others, no matter how interesting I find them.

But certain things are memorable, which is why I am writing today.


Currently I am in Cairns, enjoying a few days break after an exhausting start to the year. The company flew my husband in, rather than me go home, and I am relishing the downtime with him on holiday. Next trip starts in four days: two weeks up to Cape York.


The last trip I completed was a sixteen day desert trip, entitled ‘The longest shortcut’; from Perth to Cairns, through the red centre. It was an almost full vehicle, with 25 passengers on board, including two parent/adult child couples. One was a lovely older gentleman with his daughter and the other a mother with her daughter, from the UK. Daughter in this situation means in their forties in both cases.


The English one had never done a camping trip before, although her mother had, and she had to be introduced to a lot of new things, including flies, heat and dirt. Oh, and the art of bush peeing, without access to toilets or paper. Several ladies, including myself, gave her graphic dry run demonstrations and it was very amusing.


This woman was a typical English rose, both in appearance and comfort level, and I admired her determination to enjoy herself in spite of being way out of her familiar zone. We got on really well and I liked her a lot.


She also got on well with my male driver partner, B. Too well, in my opinion. I could see she had developed a massive crush on him and I wasn’t surprised. This happens a lot on tour. The males in this industry are very, very competent and their mechanical skills added to the leadership role, gives them a position of authority, which is really attractive to females. Added to that, the different lifestyle that being on vacation means and regular standards seem to go out of the window. Mostly, they can pick and choose who they want to share their bed with absolutely no further effort at all.


In 25 years of touring, I’ve only known three guys who remain faithful to at home partners, including B. (For some reason it doesn’t happen that female leaders get the same hero worship so not really an issue for us.)


I warned B. I told him at the start that she was majorly crushing on him and he dismissed it. He likes women and he relates well to them on a teasing level but he doesn’t ever consider long term ramifications. He didn’t believe me until the second last night, when we were in Cairns. A few of the group, including myself, were sipping wine around the pool and gradually peeled off to bed. She patiently outlasted everybody else until she was alone with him and then told him how she’d fallen for him and wanted to be with him.


(He told me all this the next morning)


I asked what he’d said to her, knowing that clueless him would have been blindsided in spite of my warnings. I thought it very funny right up until he told me that in rejecting her, he’d used the excuse that I would be jealous and that it wouldn’t be fair to sleep with her when it really should be me, if he was that type of person. Fucking what?!


Basically, he left her with the impression that the only thing barring her love being fulfilled was me!

A) it’s not true (we have a great working relationship but that is all; we are both married and faithful types and I have no unfulfilled hankerings for him)


B) I am not the jealous type, even if that was the case.


So for the next two days I had to deal with this woman shooting barbed glances at me and being extremely rude. I didn’t make an issue out of it because it would have stirred up more drama but it was very uncomfortable. All due to an obtuse male.

I’ve told him that I’m making up a flow chart for future situations! And/or flash cards!

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I like to think that I am a good employee

I put my utmost into my job and hope that it is a two sided deal, which it mostly is. I value them and they value me. But sometimes the employers behave badly and whilst I might accept that and move on at the time,  I don’t ever forget.

I once worked for a local company during my first marriage. When that marriage horribly and spectacularly disintegrated, I wasn’t capable of working at all. Instead of being understanding about it, they just went on to try and sabotage every other touring job I applied for and even went so far as to tell a rival company how I would ruin their business if they employed me.

I went on and worked for the other company anyway, for six years. When I eventually left them I was called up by the original employer and asked if I would do some last minute tours for him. I told him that I hadn’t forgotten how he behaved and that I would never work for him again.

The second company was a good fit right up until it wasn’t. I’d asked for three weeks off over Christmas, as my husband was compelled to take those weeks off for holidays. I asked in October and was told no because others had asked earlier.I had worked every other Christmas prior and was the Senior Driver there at the time, paid the same wage as everybody else.

So I put in my notice and made it three months so I could train up any newcomers over the upcoming season; I valued my job enough and the company enough to want to do as much as I could to keep on  making it a successful business. The next day I was told that I could finish up and they divided all of my hours amongst the other drivers. It’s a casual business: I could have worked right up until the day before and still legally been within my rights to quit.

So, yeah, a few lean months right around the time when you need more money, just because I tried to do the right thing by my employer.

I didn’t forget.

In the previous post I mentioned being asked for alternative drivers when I can’t tour. So far I’ve turned three of my former colleagues to other companies, simply from my recommendations. I hope for more.


I don’t forget.





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