In the next village us novice nomadsare once again watched as we reverse the van 5 times and sit in fold out chairs with the bubble wrap still attached. Not that we sit in them much. We laze by a lagoon one day but our minds are slow to stop racing.
We rise early, leave the van and drive another hundred ks to Monkey Mia to see dolphins get fed. On the way we talk about the environment and how we’ve become disconnected. Mid sentence we hit an emu.
It’s not dead yet. It makes it to the side of the road and kicks at crows that know its time will come soon.
We watch a while then jump on our phones, calling rangers and wildlife rescue services hundreds of ks away who can’t help. We are told to call the Shire, but “you might not want to wait around to see what they do to it, love…”
I’ve lived through Alice Springs mouse plagues and killed a kangaroo with my car in the Pilbara but Chris herds spiders outside. He wishes he had a shovel or an axe or knife or anything but a rock. We wait some more.
We watch that big bird lie still then kick and try to get up, then lie down again. We wait until the Shire man comes. He takes care of the situation with a crow bar. We drive on in silence.
On a dolphin chasing boat that afternoon we are still. We share small talk and chips with some nice Canadians. Chris stands scouring the horizon. I sit cross-legged in an attempt to meditate but fall to napping pretty quick.
We drive and talk and talk and drive and stop to eat and piss then drive and talk some more and laugh and sometimes sing. We do not cook a single meal and cruise around each night looking for ambient lighting and vegetables on the menu. He bounces on most of the bouncy pillows we find in place of trampolines and whenever we stop he walks or swims or finds a sand dune to run down. We talk, tease, discover and disagree and he sees me at my worst but somehow we get along.
We’re old friends.
We’re on holidays.
We’re on the road.
There are several times I secretly wish I could freeze time and just stop everything and stay, so I say out loud ‘Well if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’
Chris asleep at the delightfully calm Jurien Bay, where 4 out of 5 people on the jetty will say g’day
In one week we have snorkelled with Manta Rays, met dolphins, lost a wallet, sung, said too much, opened up, thrown a tantrum, stargazed and giggled, traded advice for play fight pinches, driven 2129 kilometres, found a wallet and killed an emu.
Old mate Chris flew in from Canberra right into the heart of the mining boom, emerging wide eyed from the sea of high vis at Karratha airport. I’d forgotten to tell him that his holiday was gunna be a part of this big museum thing and that we (mostly he) would be towing 750 kgs worth of vintage caravan behind us the whole way to Perth…
After a screening, the next morning we (mostly I) packed the van and farted around. Once on the road we quickly slipped into roles. Roebourne way, the men bring the guns and chop the wood out bush, the women prepare the food. In our car, the man holds the keys and doesn’t stop until Nanutarra Roadhouse/Geraldton/whatever destination is at least 100 ks away. The woman loses the keys and wants to stop for toilets or food or photographs.
On that first day we drove over 600 kilometres to Coral Bay. Chris tallied responses to the mate wave – the old two fingers off the steering wheel that can excuse the slowest of drivers.
We talk about Roebourne, about who we are, progress, family, capitalism, faith in art and karma and Lennon.
We listen to Paul Kelly, Crowded House, America, Dylan and Springsteen but driving through the darkness it was singing stuff like this at the top of our lungs that really got us there:
That first morning the caravan park was in full swing by the time I got back from my morning jog along the beach. The village awoke with the sun. Gaggles of kids rode bikes, made plans, jumped on bouncy pillows, kicked footies and toddled too far from their tall humans. A couple my age walked passed with skinny jeans and takeaway coffees. I guess hipsters holiday too, it’s not all grey nomads and families.
“There’s a lot of neighbours here,” a small child said.
We lie in the sun for a while, then splash out on a snorkeling tour and hang out with some majestic Manta Rays, marveling at that whole other world that exists down there – landscapes and fish where there’s so much unknown.
That night a couple of kids cuddle under blankets at another screening. I don’t bother shouting over the freezing wind about the project, just let the films bewilder and enchant on their own.
Kids in Coral Bay watch short films about kids from Roebourne, like this guy, who launched an interactive comic in South Korea… See the full film here: https://vimeo.com/52725073
The wind makes me uneasy and kids unsettled.
We’re always driving or doing, ticking things off the ‘stuff to see’ list- after all, we could die tomorrow.
We knock off another couple of hundred ks to Hamelin Station.
It’s still windy but at least we are almost alone.
That night we looked at stars and opened hearts and the universe expanded and contracted but basically stayed the same.
If you ever find yourself at the Overlander Roadhouse south of Shark Bay on the North West Coastal Highway, just keep driving. There’ll be nothing there that wasn’t drenched in grease and 5 minutes down the road you’ll find the Billabong Roadhouse, next to the hotel.
The people are lovely. The food is unbelievable. Gluten free options, fresh fruit smoothies, mango and macadamia chicken filo wraps and a wall of tattoos – it’s not a billabong, it’s a bloody oasis.
At night time, several hours and several hundred kilometers later, I can’t find my wallet. This is nothing new. I loose it several times a day but this is some kind of last straw that breaks this camels back. I tell Chris I don’t want to eat at the fish and chip place, or anywhere in public, because I’m about to cry like a child. I storm out of the car, find a beach to sob on then call a girlfriend. Afterwards I wander back to find Chris at a bar, talking to a bona fide sailor. This guy has a long white beard, a red face and the proper sailor hat – he’s the real deal. I can’t remember his story but Chris reckons it was a good one.
We get takeaway and watch episodes of Community in the van and say we’ll look for the wallet in the morning. We don’t find it.
Chris gets on the blower to all the roadhouses we stopped at and it’s the lovely Jacque at the bloody lovely Billabong Roadhouse who comes through with the goods. What a good sort! He hands the phone over to a bloke called Mark who is running a tour group down to Perth the following morning and is more than happy to bring my wallet with him. What a champion!
A few hours later I get a call from Mark, who apologetically explains that something complicated has happened to his bus. He tried to fix it himself and did something even more complicated to it. He’s stuck in Kalbarri until the mechanic comes the next morning. ‘I’m so sorry love,’ he says repeatedly, ‘It’s me own stupid fault.’ What a gentleman! We decide to hang around in Geraldton until he gets there the next morning.
A few hours later I get another call from the even more apologetic Mark, who explains that his mechanic has to go to a funeral in the morning, so he’s going to fix the bloody bus himself. I ask him what he drinks so I can buy him something to say thanks, but he says ‘You don’t need to get me anything love, that’s just the Australian spirit for ya isn’t it?’ What a man! He’ll be a few hours late so we decide to have a lazy breakfast in Geraldton and meet him at the Greenough Wildlife Park 20 ks out of town.
As we drive into the Wildlife Park it’s like preparing for a blind date. What do I say? Am I dressed OK? How will I know what he looks like? Chris is concerned that we don’t have a gift for Mark and grills me to show genuine gratitude. No sooner had we jumped out of the car than I get a call from Mark and see him waving from the park.
We trade yarns. He tells me he always brings busses to this park because it’s run by two volunteer ladies who rescue injured animals. Chris wanders off to feed some kangaroos. I bump into Mark again and tell him our emu story. With his finger he demonstrates where to cut the neck of an emu to kill it quickest and dares me to put some bird feed in between my teeth for the emu at the park to peck out!
I give him a Museum of the Long Weekend postcard and tell him his face’ll be on the internet in a few days.
Here’s Mark and me with my wallet, carefully transported in a plastic bag for 377 kilometres! What a holiday hero! Mark, if you read this, you’re a legend! Hope your bus got fixed up alright and wishing you many more happy trips up and down the WA coast!
About an hour past Karratha I realized had left Roebourne.
The community I’d worked with for the past two years and maybe only just started to feel a part of. I’d just driven outta there with a 1966 Viscount Ambassador in tow. On the way out I bumped into Allery and Marlene at the BP, who suggested that we call the van ‘Jinna buunu,’ which means ‘walkaround too much’ in Yindjibarndi. Is over 5,000 ks in 3 weeks too much?
About 100 ks down the road I realized that this is my life for the next three weeks. Driving from one chapter of my life to the next.
View from Mt Welcome, Roebourne/Ieramugadu, WA
The night before leaving we had our first short film screening at Harding River Caravan Park on the banks of the Ngurin. The sun was low. I smashed a fire hydrant. It dinted the van and made a big noise. Everyone came out to have a gander, a jest and to offer help. I’ve since learnt that you can’t even badly reverse park a van in a caravan park without everyone knowing about it, let alone completely removing a fire hydrant. In these little nomadic villages, everything is a public event to be watched and probably discussed again later.
A family with teenage daughters, some miners and a few kids came down to watch films projected onto the side of the van. Images of Roebourne kids dance across the van – dressed in teeth costumes riding quad bikes, or teaching Photoshop to Koreans or emerging from the Ngurin River:
All week I’d been packing and ticking things off lists of things to do now, later or never. I didn’t run one last dance workshop or take a car full of kids to the beach, telling myself I’d go to the disco on Friday night and see all the kids at once. They’d all be there. We could dance. Maybe play musical bobs or make a circle dance or do the bloody heel n toe for the billionth time.
I packed up the screening stuff into the van and rocked up to the 50c Hall around 8pm. The fluro lights were on. My heart sank. The kids were gone. I knew where they’d be. I didn’t want to see them now. Not disparate on the streets at night where the mood changes within seconds and the anticipation and tension is thick.
Over here where the desert meets the sea we’ve been busy covering the walls of our caravan with beautiful portraits and collecting stories on film. Our yet-to-be-named caravan sets off Saturday on an epic journey of over 5,000 kilometres, screening films and sharing stories in caravan parks along the way!
We’ll be at the Harding River Caravan Park this Friday at 6pm, then at Bayview Coral Bay Caravan Park on Sunday 29th.
Before we head off, here’s some photos of what we’ve been doing so far:
We pulled up on the main street in Roebourne, between the shop and the Ngarluma and Yindjibarndi Foundation…
… and invited people like Gary from Ngarda Radio to come and share their holiday stories. That’s Tyson from Weerianna Street Media filming and Cav on sound poking his head through.
Tracy told us about NEARLY catching a goanna while on a road trip
Then we went decided to have a long weekend on a Wednesday, and went out bush for a cook up with Allery and her family.
Alec arrived at dusk to share stories and Johnny Cakes.
Aileen showed me and Maxie how to chop the roots for good firewood out at East Harding River.
The Roebourne caravan is a collaboration between Weerianna Street Media and the Yijala Yala Project. For more photos and videos check out icampfire.tv and yijalayala.bighart.org