Our final week in Numbulwar
Stuff. We used to have a Leunig Cartoon in our toilet about too much stuff in the world today when we lived in Croydon. Maybe all those years in YWAM in my youth gave me an underlying aversion to too much stuff. Monday and Tuesday was spent cleaning out the house and sorting through our pile of stuff, “this goes to Gove, this goes with us on holidays, this goes to Gapuwiyak, this gets chucked”. It was beginning to become all too much, and today when I saw all our possessions in one big pile sitting in the old hangar in Gove, I had the urge to set a light to it all and start over (although I’m not sure what that would achieve).*
Wednesday one of the bosses and an Engineer from Gove came down to help move furniture into the container that will be barged up to Gove shortly, but more importantly to decide what to ship and what to leave behind. And so began the mad rush against time to get most of the furniture out of two houses, one little flat and an office plus various things from the airport into a container between 9am and 4pm. Needless to say we were all spent, then Rachel had to fly the boss, Kim and Samuel up to Gove after all that. I didn’t envy her. I had a splitting headache from either heat exhaustion or dehydration, I’m not sure which. My highlight for this day was almost waking directly into the path of an excited Buffalo bull while carrying a trolley over from the school. The only thing that stopped me from doing so was a bunch of people some way off yelling “buffalo, buffalo”, at which point I looked around and saw it standing in front of our garage only about 30ft away. It saw me so I hid behind a bush until it trotted away. Later Rob told me that they often charge straight through bushes like the one I hid behind.
Thursday started earlyish with bacon and eggs (finishing off food in our fridge) with Rob, the Engineer. Bad nights sleep (thinking about the upcoming day). I had a big list of things to do before we drive out for the last time. So the morning was spent rushing around like the proverbial headless chook which included driving out to the airport in our fully packed car to unlock the gate for the tractor driver to take the AVGAS tanks from the airport to the barge landing. People who saw me driving out started waving and yelling “weol” (goodbye in the local vernacular), thinking that that was the last they would see of me. So I sheepishly waved back knowing that I’d be back in a few minutes to get the rest of the stuff. We had a 6 hour drive ahead of us to Katherine, about 230kms on gravel road, so I was keen to get on the road ASAP. So a few goodbyes, a drop off of furniture to some locals, one last stop at the tip and without a lunch break, we headed off about midday. Rob had the MAF car with the trailer and a working aircon. I had our car with no trailer and no aircon. It would be 37 degrees in Katherine that day, and they tell me that the best way to keep the dust out of the car was to keep all the windows shut and the fan on fresh air. After two or three exciting excursions in bulldust which saw the dust start coming in through the vents as well as all around me, I decided to try this theory. As hot and uncomfortable as it was, I found that it worked, but it made me look forward all the more to that bitumen so I could wind down the window.
Just past Ngukurr was a lovely river that was low enough to not even worry about crocs, so I jumped in and waited for Rob. Cleaned all the dust off of myself and carried on. On the bitumen progress was slowed by a convoy of 5 or 6 road trains, but fortunately they were obliging in indicating when it was safe to pass. But as the road was only narrow enough for one vehicle, it was up to us to go bush to overtake, even on the outside of the white post on one truck. Luckily I had a four wheel drive or I’d be stuck in the gravel.
We met up with a fellow MAF pilot and his family in Katherine who were heading up to Gove from Adelaide and were going to do “The Track” the next day. Great, that made three of us. They had kids, so they were leaving early, I was thinking about doing some repairs to the car before heading out, but we both agreed that since Rob wanted to buy gun powder in Katherine and towing a drum of AVGAS in the trailer, he could follow me… by a considerable margin. This trip is 730kms. The first 110kms and last 25kms is bitumen. The rest consists of sharp rocks, bull dust, corrugations, nice bits that’s almost better than freeway driving, and just lots and lots of dust – especially this time of year. Oh, and a whole lot of trees, forming uninteresting, inhospitable land, that makes you wonder why God created so much of it. But then you come to a river crossing that makes you appreciate the real meaning of the word oasis. It’s the contrast between the boring, arid, hot, waterless and the lush, green, fertile, refreshment that enables you to appreciate how good the good bits are. If the whole way was like the river crossings, I probably wouldn’t appreciate them, probably wouldn’t even take any photos either. There might be a spiritual application here…?
Anyway, this was the third time I’ve driven this road, but the first without Kim and Samuel. There was no one to laugh at my jokes or talk to. So I did a good deal of singing. The drive was quite uneventful. The car purred along without a hitch and handled great, it loves a full load (gotta love the 80 series Landcruiser). With all the dust, it’s hard to overtake someone because they don’t know you’re behind them because they can’t see you, and you can’t just over take them because you can’t see anything ahead. I was following a troopy in this fashion for a while until I realised that they couldn’t see me, so I slowed down to be free of their dust. Then had the fortune to overtake them because they saw someone heading the opposite way that they knew and stopped to chat. A while later I caught up with the Purdeys (the MAF family from Adelaide) who were stopped by the side of the road. So with about 50kms to go I stopped to see if they were in need of assistance. About a minute later the same troopy drives past, obviously they had been following my cloud of dust. I arrived home exhausted (where is home now? Sam says we don’t have a home) about 6pm and was fortunate enough to text Kim my ETA in time for her to not put gnocci in the pasta sauce. She misses out on her treat food yet again.
* After reading through this, Kim asserts that it’s really not that much stuff, that it’s all relative and that maybe we should go take a photo of it to prove it. Also, that I might have this view because to move our stuff, it involves packing it into 8 44gallon drums, moving them to the airport, weighing them, onto the plane, then off the plane and into the hangar at Gove. Then what is left is packed into two Landcruisers and moved the equivalent distance from Melbourne to Port Macquarie on mostly dirt road. Then we have to do it all again in January when we move to Gapuwiyak.