Monday, December 06, 2004

Saturday December 11, 1971. 

At precisely 7.45 on a sunny Saturday morning in early summer, a Valiant station wagon hauling a caravan pulled up outside my house. In the car were my Uncle Noel, Aunty Frances and cousin Danny.

They were on their way to Perth, Western Australia. That’s a long way to tow a 'van. Perth is 2136.2 miles from Melbourne.

And I was going with them.

We loaded up my gear. I travelled light, just a bag of clothes and an instamatic camera, an early Christmas present. I kissed my family goodbye and climbed in the back seat beside my cousin, who at 15, was one year my senior.

Soon the Valiant and the caravan rolled out of Deakin Street. My father drove his Holden ahead of us some ten miles out of town to show my uncle the correct turn-off to Adelaide, the first day’s destination. Then he waved us on, turned his car around and disappeared.

My diary, which was not much more than a timetable with a few scrawled observations, tells me our first stop was for lunch in Horsham, a medium-sized town basking in the sun in the middle of the flat, golden Wimmera wheat belt.

We slipped out of my home State – Victoria - into South Australia around five o'clock. Never having been out of Victoria, I had always imagined it would feel different being in another State, as if the air were a different colour or something. No transcendental experience occurred as we crossed the border but we did go back in time. South Australia is half an hour behind Victoria.

We chased the sun until it went down. It was dark when we climbed the Adelaide hills east of the city. Over the top the Valiant groaned, automatic gearbox chattering up and down, caravan purring along behind, and then we triumphantly descended into the Adelaide lights, just like an aeroplane landing at night in slow motion.

It was too late to search for a caravan park or a camping ground. We drew to a stop in some suburban supermarket car park around ten o'clock and stayed the night right there, simply jacking up the caravan and leaving it connected to the car.

You could do that in those days.


On my cousin’s cassette recorder:

now I've been happy lately
thinking about the good things to come
and I believe it could be
something good has begun

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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