Desert Mind

In Matt's Musings, Travel

Kissing the sky

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I feel rushed. Which is the exact opposite of what I am writing about. We are in the Katherine public library – Mel out shopping and the girls sprawled reading and shoeless on couches as if they are in their own home. Nice to think that they are in the travelling groove.

You think of Katherine Gorge and endless NT red dirt but this town aint that pretty really. So we will get in and get out to Kakadu. Hit the road again. Get to the quiet places, in the scrub, where the stars are the brightest thing you see at night and the only sounds are those muffled tent and caravan noises of others going about their business of living. And the occasional late night session of fire, beer and Credence Clearwater Revival drifting through the darkness. We haven’t come across many late night hoon campers at all really. The rowdiest thing we have seen was a bunch of Grey Nomads pushing the party button late at night around a campfire, laughing loud and all singing along to “Who shot Liberty Valance?”. A strange mix of grey nomad and bogan. A Grey Bomad.

But the DESERT!!!! Mel and I have already run out of superlatives. The girls are getting bored of me just yelling “WOW!!!! LOOK AT THIS!!!!!” as I drive along. They look up and say “What?” and I say “THIS!!!” pointing to 100km of absolutely nothing but endless skies and red dirt. Maybe later they will get it – or somewhere in their little minds is the seed of a memory that will draw them back to this place in their own time. Like the pull on my soul that I feel as I stand in a dusty, red earth town with one pub and hear a crow calling in the distance.

So Carnarvon onwards we went. Tom Waits blaring about “going out West” and me slapping the steering wheel again. So strange how the energy in the car changes. Starting the day all calm, then someone spins tunes and it all shifts. We get the “I’m bored” phase then the “I’m hungry” phase then the windows come down, tunes go up and we are all shouting and yelling and laughing again.

But as a driver it is almost meditative. As you edge the old girl (that’s the 2000 Honda CRV, not Mel) up to 130kmh (the NT speed limit…) there is not much else to do but think and watch for the odd stray roo or cow.

You mull things over – you think about life, people, the girls, life, the girls again, being a father, a husband, the girls again and then maybe “what the hell are we really doing out here?” Why do we travel? Why leave what we know?

I am sure I will understand it all when I have returned and it is all over but right now I am just letting it run its course. The insights come slow and deep out here and the biggest so far is the whole concept of presence. Being present, right here, right now. This is not an escape, running from something or to something. You catch yourself looking forward to “where to next” and realise you have missed the “right here now”. You hustle the girls through an evening of dinner and pyjamas and teeth cleaning and then realise that another 20 minutes of sitting in front of a fire wouldn’t have really hurt at all.

You also realise that even on a crazy 18 month adventure you never really leave the day to day stuff of living. You all disagree, argue and get frustrated just as you always have. And burnt into my brain is one of my most cherished little mantras:

“Where ever you go….there you are.”

I don’t know who said it. Not Ghandi, probably the Dalai Lama – at any rate I am sure it wasn’t one of those stupid signs you buy in “Bed Bath n Table” shops that tell you how to live your life by laughing and dancing naked in the rain etc etc etc (insert any generic life advice here).

But that one rings deep because it just cuts through all the myth of leaving, travelling and seeking something else. Because as any traveller knows – when you get there, you are still you. Maybe changed a little, dustier, muddier, stronger….but still a whole lot of what you left with is still there.

Anyway. Better go, I have to round the girls up, pack the car, sort the food, look out for camp, hit the road, get them all moving again. You know the drill.


  1. You know I recon that” where ever you go, there you are” might be winnie the pooh or maybe wol as its quite wise

  2. Hear hear! Not liking the city rush either. Bring back the bush!
    Are you going to kakadu now? We are heading there tomorrow, Saturday! Will we see you?? 😀

  3. Lauren, Miss 8 yrs, says when looking at the photo of your campsite, “Are they crazy???? There could be snakes out there!!”. (Kiwi kids are soft when it comes to reptiles).

  4. A CAMINO saying ” it’s the journeying not the destination” never rang truer. What spectacular photos. We love u all

  5. Gorgeous pics – beautiful light! Oh and the space. Happy travels, happy musings. Miss you guys. x

  6. PS. A great read. Really enjoying clocking on the the Shanahan experience periodically.

  7. I’m enjoying the trip Mat! Thanks for the opportunity to travel with you. I’d like to hear about a little bit of Mozart as you traipse around the world.

  8. Lovely, lovely country. We will be doing Darwin to Cairns next year and have just done a quick Google journey, to get a taste. But it’s not real until you’re in it. Thanks for sharing pics of the girls and lovely Mel’s profile.

  9. I am enjoying the ride Matt. Thanks for giving me the opportunity. It would be good to include some Mozart. Bebo

  10. “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”
    Love it. Go Team!

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