SEPTEMBER 22ND - SEPTEMBER 28TH
THE HEYSEN TRAIL & THE BAROSSA VALLEY
IN-VAN, YES. ON-TRAIL, NOT SO MUCH
After being dropped off at the Mt. Crawford trailhead for the Heysen, Jorge and I began to hike. Step by step we went into the woods and down service roads in search of the illusive peace that nature holds. We made a few mistakes, which is to be expected, and we learned a thing or two. Aside from failing to bring a map, missing an important turn, and carrying a sleeping bag that was in no way properly rated for the season, we also failed to bring sufficient food. I was in charge of planning, which of course meant I pointed at the map and said ‘we go here now’ with my usual waif-like arrogance. I took our normal eating patterns whilst in-van into consideration and given that we had precious little time to properly prep, I made a dumb decision for the trail. I decided it would be best for us to carry fully cooked meals in the form of quinoa with kale and chorizo along with tuna salad and wraps. And that was it. For four days. Not only is carrying pre-made meals an unnecessary weight for which our bodies would pay, but it was also intensely scary to look at how little we had left halfway through day two. Granted, our walk led us straight through a town where supplies could easily be attained, and I can absolutely pretend that doing so was always part of the plan…but I won’t do that. It would be dishonest. I genuinely felt that we had enough to get us through the trek. In the same earnest way that I did not fathom that cooking and then packaging kale would result in any undesirable sulphuric odors. We survived, obviously, but on the third day -- having found out that G & J had finished early and our newly mossed Delphine was ready for pick up at our discretion -- we ate the last of our food and trudged towards Tanunda with less on our backs and very little in our bellies. We returned to her with relief and excitement after indulging in a very large breakfast at a local cafe.
IN PURSUIT OF THE RED FLOWER
It doesn’t take long for certain truths to dawn on you. In Australia we drive on the left, petrol is gas and gas is LPG, and if you live in a van you should know how to build a fire. This is actually a pretty solid skill for anyone to have, but for those who tramp it is crucial. As cozy as the van interior is, no one wants to be cooped up inside all day and night. The longer you are inside the worse it gets. The space seems to shrink and whatever mess already exists becomes all-encompassing. There is also the ever present possibility of stale air and lingering scents that you really wish wouldn’t linger. Convincing yourself to leave the relative safety of the van to go in search of firewood is its own difficulty. Then you have to build it. Fire building is an art and when we made our first attempt we felt like toddlers handed crayons and told to paint a masterpiece. It was a particularly wet winter so part of the issue happened to be the kindling itself, but a larger portion of it came from a lack of experience. So we practiced. We took turns. We learned. Likely as not we are still somewhat inept. How to start a fire sans match or lighter, I could not say. Jorge’s bush knife works as a flint and the sparks given off are impressive. But on our first night outdoors, the elements conspired to smother the sparks' chance at fiery growth. As it is, we are well equipped with the comforts of a modern world and have lighters aplenty to beckon forth the flame and we do as often as we can. On the second night, we find ourselves in a hut. Sheltered, we spend a few hours feeding the flames and staring into their depths. There is something about a campfire that makes you wonder about eras long past, of times when flames weren’t a convenience but a necessity.
SOUNDS OF THE VOYAGE
One of my favorite things about having nowhere to be and all the time to get there is filling the empty air with new sounds. I say new, what I mean is music that was once unfamiliar to me. There are names of singers and musicians that I know but cannot connect back to the music they made. Some lyrics that wander through my mind unclaimed though I know they belong to a song from a past period of my life. Jorge, on the other hand, is a keeper of albums. As pilot, he has almost free reign over our sound waves and under his tutelage I have discovered and rediscovered so many artists. He introduced me fully and properly to Simon & Garfunkel one day while we were doing a van clean. Hours and hours of wonderfully melodious poetry. A few bars of Sparrow now has the power to melt my heart. We binge on Fleetwood Mac and then Fleetfoxes. Alt-J and Run the Jewels. We delve into the sea of Bowie and come up for air amid the verses of Kendrick. We wander through green hills and rocky outcroppings populated by sheep all the while listening to the eerie synth sounds of the Stranger Things score. Music has become ever present in our lives. Jorge raises his voice in song almost daily and it is a sound I wouldn’t trade for anything. There are moments of silence too. A few hundred kilometers with nothing but the sound of tires on asphalt. Often we transition to stories with long hours spent wandering through a world of someone else’s imagining as one audiobook or another plays. We are lenient with our audio and we allow it to be influenced by the feeling of a moment.
When we first saw Delphine, I thought she was absolutely stunning. Sure, her blue was a little too bright and her curtains a little too loud, but that was all manageable. It turned out that neither of those things would do for me. The curtains in their endearing print screamed at me from the edges. They filled my eyes with a background noise I could not ignore. I convinced Jorge that it was the vibrancy of the colors not the pattern that was the issue and that it would be an absolutely amazing and entirely do-able thing to alter them ever-so-slightly. I hoped that using a dark grey dye would subdue the virulent color scheme and make it more manageable. We both looked at the curtains and, rightly, assumed that they may have issues going through a dye bath. The hooks were connected to the fabric by an iron on runner and all the seams were ironed in as well. Despite those reservations, I went full tilt and gave it a go. I was right. The grey subdued the garish hues and made them manageable. In addition all the seams had come unglued and the runner was a tangled mess from hell. In a moment of absolute wastefulness I folded all but one curtain, piled them on a chair, and put up a sign informing the reader that the fabric was entirely free. We were now curtain-less and exposed to the world, but that damnable pattern was finally out of my sight and in its place was empty possibility.