Back in June 2017 we were excitedly contemplating a life on the road without a time frame when I wrote “A trip has a beginning & it has an end. Half way through a trip you are always on the ‘home run’ which has an effect upon your perception of all you see & do. This time it will of course have a beginning, a middle , & an end but the significant difference is that we wont know when the middle is, only when it was, once we finally identify the end. It’s an essential element to our dream.”
The dream, my dream supported by MrsTea, was the notion of recreating a feeling of ‘timelessness’ I had experienced on a few occasions as an adolescent adventurer. From the age of 16 I spent several years hitch hiking around firstly the UK & then western Europe. Jobs were easy to come by, so working & saving for a few months enabled me to then travel for a while. There was never a time limit to the travel, only a financial limit which allowed me to roam ‘until the money ran out’. Mostly without destination, just wherever lifts took me. It was an exciting & carefree time.
When MrsTea & I spent 18 months travelling around Australia (link) in our converted bus back in ’08/09 we left home feeling like we had ‘forever’, but of course the time passed all to soon. A significant feature affecting this time were two self imposed commitments, 12 months apart. Places we wanted to be at particular times. Both were all we had hoped for, & more & if we could turn back time we wouldn’t change them………. BUT it was really quite incredible how much just two commitments impacted upon the entire trip. It seemed like so many decisions during the whole time away revolved around this need to be in two places at certain times, so much so that I recall growing rather resentful of the restriction I perceived it placed upon my ‘timelessness aspirations’ at times.
This time around we have no return/end date to adhere to which in itself creates a very different feel, but has surprisingly, to us, raised something we had not expected! When we made the commitment to looking after Goombaragin for the wet season it wasn’t just a cause for excitement because it ticked an item on the ‘bucket list’ it was also if truth be told a bit of a relief. It provided us with a destination – a goal. Neverthless as part of the bigger picture the desired sense of timelessness remained, despite the commitment.
Life for us at Goombaragin, as regular readers will know, is not unlike the classic desert island experience. David – a friend & reader, brought this home to me in an email when he commented that he was more than a little envious of our ‘Robinson Crusoe experience’. A great description I thought & one which encapsulates many aspects of our experience, including that of timelessness.
In what almost feels like a contradiction MrsTea & I, during one of our many lazy ‘hot part of the day’ conversations that we have whilst lounging in the shade under the breeze of our best friend, the ceiling fan, discussed just how lucky we were to have the opportunity to pull up for a long enough stint, in relative comfort (compared to when on the move) to experience this beautiful & remote place as it changes with the season, even in the absence (as yet) of any monsoonal activity. We determined that we would like to repeat the experience elsewhere. Property/house/pet sitting or caretaking but unlike many who travel, regularly undertaking house/pet sitting for a few days to a few weeks then moving on to the next, we determined that if we can, we think one ‘sit’ per year with a duration of several months would be ideal. We can envisage a time when the direction we travel in may be dictated by a ‘sit’ that we fancy, but for now feel that our travel plans come first & finding a ‘sit’ to suit is the name of the game.
And so we are keeping a lookout for any possibility for a sit on Queensland’s Tablelands – approximately 4000kms due east of here as the crow flies. We’ll travel a lot further to get there, with some of Australia’s best country between here & there to explore, but hope that perhaps we can arrange for somewhere to look after for the 2019/20 wet season, before heading north to explore the Cape Yorke wilderness in 2020. But the odd thing is that once again I am feeling that arranging a commitment in advance is attractive. And yet it is so different to the impact of those two commitments back in ’08/’09. I can only conclude that it is not commitments/fixed dates which are obstacles to the sense of timelessness I desired, but rather a fixed end date. Probably obvious to many, but in my mind I always associated freedom & timelessness with a total absence of a fixed itinerary, & now find that a degree of structure in the absence of an ‘end’, to be quite a comforting thing. Who’d’ve thought? 🙂
And so, our Robinson Crusoe experience at Goombaragin continues. Time has passed remarkably quickly, we have been here over 4.5 months now, & on the Peninsula for over 6. We expect to be here until the end of April, almost another 2 months, by which time, climate change allowing, we should be into the beginning of the dry season & able to access a variety of tracks throughout the Kimberley generally closed during the Wet.
We have had some rain, just not a lot, & all from fast moving tropical storm cells rather than a monsoonal trough reaching far enough southward. Chalk & cheese when compared to last year’s Wet. But……. there are current weather predictions, with more than one model agreeing, that a cyclone & monsoonal rain may make a late season appearance toward the end of next week (mid March). We are not holding our breath, but have nevertheless decided it would be wise to go into Broome a couple of weeks earlier than planned to get supplies, just in case it gets wet enough to cut us off for a while. The road to Broome has only been closed once this season, & then just for a few days, but it would only take one cyclone to change that!
The rain that we have had has been more than enough to transform the country. We wonder if some plants have an inbuilt ability, once triggered into growth by rainfall, to ‘see it through’ to maturity/seeding regardless of any follow up rain. An example is the Spear Grass. Their low clumps appeared after earlier rain, but they have never stopped growing, putting out main shoots up to 1.5 metres tall with seedheads which seem designed to clog our car’s radiator. We drive with a plastic tarp draped across the front of the car to keep most out, but need to watch coolant temperature. We intially tried shade cloth that we had brought to keep out spinifex seed, doubled over, but the speargrass seed got through that in reasonable quantity, & the time taken cleaning out both the radiator & shadecloth was painfully long.
The green ‘jungle’ around us is quite a contrast to the dry, straw coloured vegetation, we found when we arrived & it changed so quickly. Hard to imagine what monsoonal quantities of rainfall could trigger off. Fingers crossed we may yet get to find out!
There have been a few changes to our birdlife. No more do wake to the sound of “Nyarrrr F*ck Off from the ‘F*ck Off birds (Little Friar Birds) all around us.
Previously they were everywhere, but now we only see the odd one here & there & they seem far more quiet & polite without all their mates around. Red winged parrots continue to pass by, but rarely stop, & when they do it is inevitably when I don’t have my camera, or they land too far away. Likewise I have failed to get a good pic of the camera shy bright red chested Mistletoe bird & havent seen one for almost 3 weeks now. We did manage to solve a mystery bird call but similarly have been unable to photograph it’s owner. For weeks we had heard an echo-ey pigeon or dove like repetitive call, our bird app on the ipad has recorded sounds, but no pigeon or dove matched. Early one morning MrsTea excitedly called me saying there was a very large bird in a tree very close by. Turned out to be a Pheasant Coucal, moving around in it’s rather ungainly way. It was the only time we have seen one up close ……. & then right in front of us it made the mystery sound. No pic, but mystery solved.
The number of ‘Gordons’ (Sand/Gould’s Goannas) has increased dramatically, they are everywhere. Most are a little smaller than Gordon was so we refer to them collectively as BeeGees (Baby Gordons – geddit?). It has become commonplace to have a startled meeting with a BeeGee anytime we are walking. Somehow they are virtually unnoticeable until just a few feet remain between us. Whether they or we are the most startled it’s hard to say, but inevitably after the first moment of fright has passed both they & we are happy to go about our business in each other’s proximity. One other Gordon sized Goanna has become a twice dail visitor to the water bath we leave out for the birds. Occasionally other BeeGees visit it too, but only for a walkthrough & belly drag. LT (recognisable from his Lumpy Tail – presumably from past injury) luxuriates in the water, loving to push his head under & just lounging. Birds waiting for a drink or a bath themselves are often unimpressed with his presence filling the entire bath.
There has been a single visit from another goanna, significantly smaller than the BeeGees, but we are uncertain if it’s a much younger one or a different species. It’s tail is black, not yellow & unlike others it vocalised quite loudly, standing on our veranda making quite a loud raspy grunting noise – imagine a dog with a sore throat!
One of the most impressive lizards to watch are Frill Necked Lizards. We believe they are found here but have not yet seen one – or have we (I). I was walking past some bushes when a largish lizard of some sort jumped down off a shoulder height branch just a couple of feet away. It hit the ground running at quite a pace, upright on two feet.It was out the corner of my eye & all over in seconds. I hope it was one & that get a better sighting before we leave.
Snakes – saw none bar one Stimpsons Python for weeks, & then MrsTea almost stood on what we believe to have been a Narrow Headed Whipsnake, (not dangerous, mildly venomous) 400mm to 600mm with a bright yellow underbody, but had gone by the time I responded to her call of “Snake, Snake” . Not so a few nights ago, when MrsTea’s snake discovery attributes once again came to the fore. It was dark. She had gone to turn off the gas bottle just outside the kitchen, when I again heard the unmistakeable “Snake Snake”. Sure enough this was a big & fast moving snake & the light from our torches seemed to agitate it sending it back & forth, up & down, searching for a hiding spot. It was a King Brown, aka a Mulga Snake. Highly venomous & dangerous, not a snake to get close to, nor to upset. We backed off, peered into the dark & listened hoping to hear it leave, but we left ourselves without any certainty. Next morning careful & thorough searching found nothing. When I mentioned this visit to John, one of Goombaragin’s owners, his comment was “Hope it’s the only one you see whilst your there”. Couldn’t agree more John!
A walk along the beach one morning took us further than we usually go, including up into the gibber covered dunes & gullies where a small group of trees & bushes stood out, all alone on what is a barren looking landscape. Upon examination we discovered several of the trees were Gubinge trees, the only ones we’ve come across here. Their fruit (also known as ‘Kakadu Plums) are special, containing more vitamin C than any other fruit in the world, 100 times higher than oranges weight for weight! An old and established tree & 2 or three younger ones were dripping in fruit, huge amounts of it that felt soft & ripe. We determined too return with something to carry fruit in. A few days later we stood under the tree gobsmacked. All the fruit was gone! No evidence of people, no undergrowth trodden down, no remnants of fruit or their stones on the ground. We should have taken a few in our pockets whilst we had the chance. We think it must have been a flock of birds which stripped the trees, but what sort we have no idea, but I guess they wont be suffering from scurvy anytime soon. We did actually find 4 or 5 undersize & unripe pieces of fruit still on the main tree, but they didn’t really ripen after we took them, & had a very bitter taste, so taste was all we did.
At the beginning of March a powerful rain free storm suddenly hit us. Ferocious winds broke branches & knocked down trees. It sounded like a freight train. We cleared up the compound the following morning, cut the two tree trunks which had fallen & hit our bedroom with a loud thump in the dark, but it was several days before we got out onto the tracks to check them. Hours of work to clear tracks on the property & for a distance outside. Trees large & small lay across the track. Finally we finished & headed back, only to find more had fallen blocking where we had cleared earlier, it was a long hot day. Next morning we had our first rain in weeks, not heavy but good soaking rain for around an hour, & remaining cloud cover for the rest of the morning. Waking temperature that morning was a mere 26.8deg.C & humidity was low enough for us to have dry skin. It was heaven!
I utilised the cooler conditions to get on with a job I had put off for a while. We left home with repacked bearings & adjusted brakes on the Tvan, with the plan to replace the complete brakes & bearings whilst up here. Complete new back plates with new shoes magnets etc, new bearings & new drums. Sitting out in the open on the sand made the task somewhat more challenging than in the workshop at home but it was completed successfully, albeit with a back injury which is still coming good. Mental note to self – next time do work at home in relative luxury rather than trying to get the most out of the old first!
For anyone interested in our weather predictions here are shots of a couple of the models showing the predictions for around the 14th to 16th March & a link to an article & video on ‘MoJO’ – the phenomena often assosciated with triggering monsoonal weather in these parts – it’s been hanging around near Africa for a while but is expected back here to coincide with those predictions. Could get exciting if it pans out.
Can we get our MoJO back? (Link)
Note that the meagre rainfall mentioned in that article that Broome has received this year is probably 2 or 3 times what we have had 180kms further north at Pender Bay.
A few more bird pics.