I am writing this at the end of the third day of the drive from Sydney, across Australia, to our ‘starting’ point at Exmouth (Ningaloo). The trip meter is now reading in excess of 3,000km. I am at Balladonia Roadhouse, on the western edge of the Nullarbor, which I crossed in one hit today.
Kim has told the Kombucha story at the quarantine stops (one on the Vic – SA border, the other on the SA – WA crossing), so I don’t need to say too much more. I will add that, at the latter stop, the inspector responsible for vehicle searches, upon discovery of the sizeable cache of Kim’s over-priced yuppy drink, felt compelled to interrogate me somewhat more than I was expecting. Our exchange went something along the following lines:
Inspector: What’s all this?
Me: Kombucha. It’s a fancy fizzy drink. Non-alcoholic.
Inspector (puzzled look): Why have you got so much of it?
Me: My wife doesn’t drink beer.
Inspector (puzzled look seems to shift to genuine curiosity): Oh. What do you do for work?
Me (after briefly considering whether to invoke my right to silence): I am a barrister.
Inspector (puzzled look is really set in now): What’s that?
Me: It’s a type of lawyer who goes to court and dresses up in a funny outfit with a wig.
Inspector: Oh… Ok… You can go now.
Quarantine road stops invariably act as a strong reminder of my pre-becoming-a-dad Baja wanderings that were spent madly chasing fish up and down Mexico’s pinky-finger peninsula. Kim has told a story from our time in Mexico so I guess I should follow suit.
The thousand-mile drive south on Mex 1 from Tijuana to the lower Sea of Cortez region is interrupted by half a dozen or so roadblocks manned 24/7 by military personnel with fully automatic weapons (many of whom seem to have barely escaped their teen-years). Like Mr. Kombucha (and with the added confusion of a language barrier created by my Spanglish speaking skills), these infantrymen always seemed somewhat perplexed about how far I was willing to drive just to go fishing from my kayak.
The most ill fated of these expeditions was the one where I set up camp in a dry-river bed in a tiny fishing village, which was then washed away overnight (along with Kim’s VW Jetta) as a full-scale hurricane hit. After several days stranded with no phone or other communication to the outside world, the road into the village having been almost washed away, we eventually managed to hitch a ride out with a local fisherman who had a jacked-up 4WD, and crawled our way to the nearest town with a public phone. When I made the call back to Kim, my carefully planned opening salve was: ‘Hi honey. I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that I’m ok. The bad news is that the car is well, um, it got washed out to sea…’.
Now that I think about it, perhaps this is one of my (many) past (mis)adventures that has so fortified Kim in her insistence that we embark on our current journey armed with satellite phone, EPIRB, 2-way radios, and a total switch to the Telstra network for our mobiles.
Back to the drive, what can I say about it? It would not be huge overstatement to say that I have enjoyed every minute. I’ve also grown in my already high-level of admiration for a well-narrated audiobook.
Other highlights are more intangible and harder to convey. Like the sharp edge of the outback air in the moments after a passing shower clears, and the golden light of late afternoon making an all too brief appearance.
So on we roll. Hour after hour. Diesel bowser after diesel bowser. With still more than 2,000 kms to go. I have awoken at 5am the last couple of mornings with the vaguest sense of guilt that I have again enjoyed a night of unbroken sleep whilst Kim wrangles the girls back home and rushes to get those final errands run.
Some of the places that we have passed through carry great spiritual significance to me from my lap around Australia in 2001. Perhaps some more on that in a later post… I am left with a mix of sobriety and overwhelming gratitude in reflecting on how fleetingly those seventeen years of walking in faith have passed. Yet I can barely begin to catalogue how full of blessing they have been.
The point, I am learning, is that true journeys take time.