September 1st - September 7th
SOUTH AUSTRALIA: ROBE TO RAPID BAY
TO FREE-CAMP OR NOT TO FREE-CAMP, HOW IS THAT A QUESTION?
Thanks to an app called Wikicamps, the Bear and I have been able to explore camping options that don’t involve the sky-high prices of most caravan parks. Some of the free-camps aren’t magical, to say the least. Often as not we find ourselves walking around with garbage bags to collect tissue paper and filth that previous campers have left behind. This is most prevalent in the more touristy areas where backpackers and the young nomadic youth descend like a plague of locusts. Why some refuse to dig holes or bin their rubbish I will never understand. Thankfully, a great many campsites are further off the beaten path and therefore escape the destructive hoard. If you are willing to spend a few nights without power or running water you can find yourself in some breathtaking locations. Mornings spent watching the sun rise across an ever-churning ocean, great waves taking a crack at stone pillars down below. Nights under the sky and all its stars, staring off into the universe and trying to learn each constellation. You can swing in a hammock rocked to and fro by the breeze and listen to the night sounds of animals nearby, all the while pretending you don’t actually think it’s a crocodile. Sleeping out-bush really does have its charms. Not every campsite holds promise though and you occasionally have to contend with the sound of other raucous campers or the rattle of cars whizzing past. And sometimes you simply couldn’t give a flip about the natural wonders because all you want is a hot shower and a readily available toilet. Most of the time though, a bear will choose to shit in the woods and so would I.
A WOMBAT AND IT'S TAIL.
At the urging of Maris from Robetown Brewery we went in search of what was supposed to be an incredible campsite. A secluded bay with nothing but trees and breeze for miles around that he had informed us was just this side of spectacular. At this point we still hadn’t realized that when Australians say something is 2WD accessible you shouldn’t take their word for it. Especially not at the end of a particularly stormy winter when normally questionable dirt-roads turn into corrugated lanes of hell. After about forty-five minutes of rattling about and terrifying multiple cattle herds we eventually turned down a narrow track that would supposedly lead us to a tiny slice of heaven. Before too long, however, the massive mud puddles and deep gouges created by one bogged down vehicle or another stopped our progress. We were forced to turn back the way we came as the sun went down. Dazzled as we were by the sweeping colors of failing day we couldn’t regret the detour. We rode with windows down listening to Alt-J and felt at peace with the world. Our plan was foiled and we were unsure of where we would stop for the night but we were always certain of where our heads would lay. Deep in contemplation we almost didn’t see the adorable waddling creatures a few hundred meters in front of us. I am not embarrassed to say that each time I encounter a creature in the wild I react with child-like glee. Humans aren’t known for their stealth and most animals like to give us a wide berth so to see a wild animal within a hundred or so feet fills me with awe. Even more so in Australia where the local fauna is so unique. Wombats are larger than I expected. I will say that. The Bear and I must have scared the small troupe half to death with our cacophonous entrance. They ran off the road as quickly as a waddle would allow leaving quaking flora in their wake. We have seen none since. Had it not been for those sweet creatures that road might have faded into the recesses of memory, but now the image of one fat little wombat bottom wiggling furiously in its attempts to plow through an obstinate bush and the way the Bear roared with delight as we passed it will forever be a cherished moment.
A KANGA BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A ROO.
I never imagined that one day the sight of kangaroos would become relatively commonplace. I did not realize just how thoroughly they occupy the Australian countryside. I did not know that when grazing they like to spread out and can take up an entire field or that when traveling they prefer a straight line and will hop over a two meter fence without a pause. They seem relatively non-plussed by the creations of humanity and do not seem to have learned to avoid bitumen. One after another they jump, heedless of any and all obstructions. They are most active at dawn and dusk which is an incredibly inconvenient behavioral pattern for humans. The sun here takes a while to go down and it will gladly blind you in the process. You can barely see the road let alone the bouncing forms of a kangaroo mob. I have seen far too many of their deteriorating forms along roadsides to be shocked any longer, but they do seem to die in surprisingly high numbers. Perhaps it is because where you see one another surely must follow and if you have avoided the first you may not so do with the second or the third. I do not know, what I do know is that if you spend any amount of time in rural Australia you are sure to become relatively familiar with the not so elusive kangaroo. I also now know that unlike many other animals the different genders of the species are quite easily identified. A female kangaroo is delicate and alluring. She looks into your soul with sweet eyes and the twitching of her ears is beyond enchanting. She seems approachable and you can almost imagine reaching a hand out to stroke her soft fur. A male roo on the other hand looks like he just left his Team Massive Joes brethren at the gym. If he spots you while amidst his mob you will have to control your urge to flee. They are much larger than their female counter-parts. When at their full height are more than a little intimidating. And that’s before you remember how powerful their legs are and that each foot has long claws that can gut a full grown man in one swipe. Even then you are staring at a creature that looks like it might be able to body slam Harambe, rest his soul, and thinking nah, it’s a kanga. Then you remember a story that a local farmer told you that dispels the idea of ultimate kangaroo passivity. Kangaroos are known to kill dogs. They will drown them if the option is available, or choke them. I imagine they do this when they feel they or their mob is threatened but the fact remains that it happens. They are known to use their spindly little paws to hold another animal under water in pursuit of its demise. That is a terrifying creature wrapped in a demure little bow. We still get excited when we see them though.
IT IS, IN FACT, POSSIBLE TO HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING.
The Bear and I are adults, I assure you. That is to say we are fully formed humans. When faced with acquiring the necessities of life we are quite adequate to the task, though sometimes we can be overzealous. This zeal can be applied to areas of our particular interest, one of those interests being bacon. Both of us have a deep fondness for bacon. The smell of it calls to mind breakfast and home and contentment. It is no wonder that it became a staple in our early vanlife. We would buy a kilo of bacon and pat ourselves on the back for saving a few extra dollars. (For those who don’t know one kilo is approximately 2.2 pounds which is a notably egregious amount of any non-shelf-stable food item.) Once purchased bacon would be the corner stone of our meals for about a week, if we remembered to use it. There are, of course, downsides to cooking something like that in the van. The kitchen stove is perfectly located to spew smoke and odor into the van’s interior and without a proper airing-out period you are stuck with the smells of a meal long past. I think we would have happily continued to deal with that particular issue if we hadn’t had the incident at Eagle Dell. -This is an absolutely phenomenal free-camp in the heart of SA with a few acres of well-maintained land and basic bush-camp facilities.- When we arrived we had a number of items creeping closer to expiry and we happily availed ourselves of the provided outdoor kitchen to help them meet a better end. Realizing we had one full kilo of bacon in want of cooking we unanimously decided that the best idea would be to cook it all at once. Aside from the marathon aspects of the endeavor it did not occur to us that any issue other than general boredom might occur from the process. Bacon slice after bacon slice went into the pan only to be replaced by another and another. The grease started to pop louder and louder. We were about two-thirds of the way finished when the accumulated grease in the pan reached the perfect temperature and exploded into flames. This is and was the only logical conclusion. As the Bear slowly backed away from the heat source with his pan of flaming fury I sprinted towards the van to get the one thing we probably already should have had with us. A story my parents told me growing up brought its lesson swinging home and I grabbed the lid to smother the flames. I returned to find the pan still ablaze but now in the dirt a safe distance from all flammable structures. Once the fire was contained we collapsed into some chairs. We had officially lost our bacon privileges.