Sunday, January 09, 2005

Saturday December 18 1971. 

There comes a time in every journey when your head has already arrived at the destination, but your body is still trudging along. (Or in my case, sitting in the back seat of a Valiant Regal Safari station wagon - white - hauling a Wayfarer caravan - white with a dark brown side flash. White is good, reflects the heat.)

We had travelled over two thousand kilometres, my aunt had rolled and smoked several hundred small, thin cigarettes, my uncle was as patient and good-humoured at the wheel as always, my cousin has slept even more than I had and Perth was getting closer.

And closer.

My head was already there. I mean, come on, I’m a teenager. You really think I enjoyed all that desert shit? All that dust? All that flatness and boredom and danger and the car going out of control and me wondering if I’d ever see my brother again? And salt water showers?

Of course you didn’t. You thought I was just being polite and telling you my story.

Well, OK. I did enjoy it. (But I did worry about not seeing my bro again as well.) But I was looking forward to seeing the Indian Ocean. I’d only ever seen one ocean before; and, like different States, I thought other oceans would look kind of different. Pea-green instead of sea blue. Whatever.

Plus the car wouldn’t start. It first happened yesterday morning, took thirty seconds of cranking before it grumbled to life with a hiccup or two. Uncle thought it was dust in the fuel line.


After Kalgoorlie, there is a massive concrete water pipeline that goes all the way to Perth. The pipeline stretches like a long white snake across the red landscape, following the road. For 550 kilometres you are accompanied by this massive concrete snake. It seems to lead you on as if mesmerising you. Like a yellow brick road, but not yellow and not a road. Too many similes in one paragraph.

The pipeline was built a hundred years ago to supply water to the goldfields at a time when gold miners were dying in their thousands of thirst, dysentery and disease. It rises 390 metres from its source, near Perth, to Kalgoorlie - necessitating a series of pumping stations all along the way to get the water uphill over such a long distance. Amazing what mankind can do when there’s gold at stake.


Today, after we stopped late in the afternoon at Southern Cross, the car failed to start again. Crank, crank, crank. Nothing. It wouldn’t turn over. So we unhitched the caravan, roll-started the car, backed it up to the 'van again, reconnected it and away we went. Thank God for manual transmissions.

We arrived at Merredin late afternoon. A sweet little town – in striking distance of Perth.

Uncle backed the 'van in, unhitched it without switching off the engine and drove straight off to find a mechanic. Danny and I took a walk around the town. Aunt had a smoke and got dinner ready. She's such a dear.

And tomorrow, we see the Indian Ocean! No more dust!

Today’s weirdest-named town: Widgiemooltha.


On my cousin's cassette player:

in a castle dark or a fortress strong
with chains upon my feet
the story always ends
and if you read between the lines
you´ll know that I´m just trying to understand
the feeling that you left

is it time for a nap yet? i think so

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