So we’re REALLY on the road now. I know I’ve been saying that for ages but this time is for real. We have left our last crutch of friendship, floor space and something that resembles a home and struck out West. The longer distances settle you into road trip mode and slowly the girls seem to adjust. After 10 days in Byron Bay and 3 days in Brisbane they had started to complain when we had to drive more than 45 minutes. Not exactly helpful when you have this far to go…..
I just love the feeling you get when you stretch away from the city. Four lanes turns to 2, Apex and Rotary Club signs tell you what goes on in the town, you get surprised when you see a traffic light and the prices in the op shops change to real op shop prices. 50c for a book, $1 for a driving cap emblazoned with “Enterprise St Exhausts & Mufflers” and the shop assistants always throw in a free book for the girls. A far cry from Melbourne.
So we crept away from the last friend on the Sunshine Coast and wound our way West. The girls taking turns to DJ – Limo! – and Ellie even cranked up some old Tom Waits (though it may have been a mistake). The road trip games arise. There is the constant Spotto & Limo (for those who haven’t been in a car with anyone under 8 for a while that is where you just yell Spotto for a yellow car and Limo for a lime green car). I love it – Tully will be in mid sentence and cry out “Spotto!!” and then in the same breath just continue her story.
And of course the time in the saddle forces you to confront your parenting stance on electronic baby-sitting devices. Just how far should we go playing eye spy before they can use their tablets. Just how long should they stare out the windows before they watch a movie. Nothing sharpens the generational divide like the in-car-screen debate. I can’t stand the thought of the three girls glued to their own screen – locked out of each other’s world as the real world flies by. But if the technology is there should we ignore it? I don’t know how we did it as kids without some sort of a screen or device. But we did.
I have these hazy romantic notions that I was always in the back of the car on road trips writing poetry or doing landscape pastel drawings….then I remember that we also had devices. Maybe not in the car as much but I can still recall playing my “Octopus” Game & Watch on the toilet and not being able to move because I was about to hit my highest score (leaving me with a red ring around my bum). And I am sure our parents had the same tussle with us. But if they had tried to make us put down the Game & Watch and play with a stick and a hoop we would have cried foul.
Anyway – we have struck a middle ground. Defined times on the devices and when they want a movie they all watch the same one. Zoe holding the tablet in the middle seat, their little heads crowded together and beautiful running commentary about characters, and plots and what happens next and what they would do or not do if THEY were in the movie.
“I just want to smash Hans in the FACE because he is such a liar!!” (Ellie)
Then if all else fails they girls just starting singing songs from Frozen (“let it go…let it go..!!!!)
We have been spending too much time in op shops and the planned travel days are stretching out not quite as ‘planned’ as we hoped. A night in a deserted State Forest camp site for Mel’s birthday (complete with camp fire oven baked cake), then one itinerant stay in the Roma Showground (the WHOLE town booked out by the mining boom) with ear plugs in all night to drown out the road trains rumbling by not 25m from our heads. Then we made it to this place.
We swung down into the huge sweeping valley that leads out from Carnarvon Gorge. It is a pre historic, African looking place with dry grasslands rimmed by escarpments. And that’s not even the best of it. This is.
Merely 3km up meandering tracks and you creep into these gorges that just make you cry out with amazement before your conscious mind even registers that you have uttered a sound. Like some primal response to natural beauty. We scampered, slipped, fell, got wet feet and bleeding elbows but my God we emerged with this buzz of renewal. The cold earth smell of sandstone cliffs that never see the direct sunlight as an impossibly blue sky peeks in the slit of light above your head.
As we crept into the gorge the girls all cried “I LOVE this smell!!”
As we emerged and wound our way back to camp in the car Mel just smiled and said quietly “I’m in my happy place…..”