“This virus is a way that Mother Earth is feeling. Her lungs are burning and ailing. Her body is on fire with fever and heat.”Navajo Elder
As the WA Government lifts regional travel restrictions, people are dusting off their caravans and stocking up their car fridges. The Kimberley though remains closed for now. When my husband first mentioned his lifelong dream to purchase a caravan, I was apprehensive. I did not see myself sitting in a camp chair, drinking alcohol or fishing all day.
Plan A – Hire a van and give it a try
After a couple of weeks down south I was not convinced. My immediate concerns were “Where will I lay out my yoga mat?” The inside of a caravan is limited for space and I did not fancy laying it on the concrete slab. Nor did I enjoy being in such close confinement to the other occupants in a caravan park.
Plan B – Hire a 5-Seat Winnebago
The belief was that if there was plenty of room, I would have little reason to complain. We had flown over to Cairns to pick it up and the lovely places we visited in Queensland were starting to melt my heart. In the end I said, “If you really want to tempt me into the world of camping, take me back to the Kimberley. Having visited there briefly, I longed to see more.
Plan C – Try out our new van
A short trip to view the spectacular wildflowers around Dalwallinu gave us an opportunity to see how everything worked. The freezing cold and endless rain gave us a chance to try out our central heating. We also made a list of all the things we would need to bring on our much longer trip to the Kimberley.
There are two phenomena often discussed by campers. The first is “Sundowners”. When I asked my husband about this, he pointed out the window. Huddled under an open barbecue shelter oblivious to the wind and rain, was a crowd of people hugging their drinks. When he asked if I wanted to join then, I said, “You have to be joking”. By the time we had driven half-way around Australia I longed for a sundowner or two. In fact, some days I did not wait until 5pm.
The Gibb River Road
When seasoned caravanners refer to the second phenomenon, they do so reverently as one would treat a Rite of Passage. It seems that nobody treats you with respect until you have “done the Gibb River Rd”. I wondered why people would rave about a road. Having discovered it for myself I can now understand why. There are incredible things to see and do all along the Gibb River Road.
For the uninitiated, there are amazing walking trails to climb. At the top you are rewarded with a swim in an icy pool fed from spectacular waterfalls. There are also hot springs to bathe in, surrounded by ancient palms. You can wade through Tunnel Creek in the dark to see limestone formations. Crossing the Pentecost River is probably an initiation of its own as you gaze up at the vast, awe-inspiring ranges in every hue of purple and gold. Amazing gorges abundant with birdlife and greenery are resplendent with unique sounds, colours and light. The Kimberley is a spreading landscape of red dust, turquoise water and blue skies that light up at night with brilliant constellations.
Aboriginal people knew where to find the sacred sites. If you are travelling throughout the Kimberley, you will find them too if you keep your eyes focused and your heart open. You may never get the red dust out of your van but the iconic images will remain etched in your heart forever.
In Chasing Marigolds, I wrote about the Hindu stages of life. Stage three Vanaprastha, is the retiree phase for those between 50 and 75 where one hands over the household responsibilities to the next generation. The emphasis shifts from wealth and security to one of seeking spiritual pursuits. In Australia it is the grey nomads who leave their jobs and grandchildren to hit the road and discover the mysterious journey that awaits.
If you find a special spiritual place somewhere, you tend to stay. Camping in the bush allows you to feel close to nature in a peaceful environment away from the noise of the city. But it is the journey that is important, not just the destinations.
Because of the corona virus, our border with the Kimberley will remain closed for the moment. While I can sympathise with those accustomed to following the sun in a north-westerly direction, they will have to wait for now. Let’s allow all that amazing wildlife and the people of the Kimberley to rest. By respecting our national parks, they will be around for future generations to revere and enjoy.
As always, I’d love to read your comments about this blog.