I have written this Blog with the intention in mind that the reader will connect with the Australian bush and especially with my story “Who snatched Nanna’s Soap”?
My personal story includes an adventure through the Australian Bush in the Northern Territory and a delightful time at shady camp.
Once upon a time, my partner Rene and I ventured out on the Arnhem Highway between Darwin and Jabiru. We had our Toyota Land Cruiser stocked up with plenty of food, petrol and water; enough to last up to four months in the remote Australian bush. We had no fridge, no power and of course no mobile phones in those days.
Our intention was to take a turnoff from the highway and find our own way up north to the sea and escape our everyday life to explore new horizons.
After driving a few kilometres east on the Arnhem Highway we spotted a narrow wheel track leading into the bush.We turned onto this track and followed the path with no idea where it would take us. Rene and I were soon introduced to one of the most rugged parts of Australia.
Gumtrees on our left; gumtrees on our right; gumtrees in front of us … and looking backwards, gumtrees everywhere. They all looked the same to us. Branches scraped the sides and top of our vehicle. We soon realised that navigating through unfamiliar bush was quite a challenge.
After a while Rene offered to take over the navigation as he had the feeling that we were on the right track. To be on the safe side we decided to mark our way up north. I searched through the car for the red wool I knew was hidden somewhere. Surprisingly I found it all tangled up between our tool box and the tucker we had packed for the trip. I untangled the wool bit by bit as I thought to myself that this wool would never be transformed into a pair of smelly socks!
It was easy and not at all dangerous for me to jump out of the slow-moving car onto the track, as it was only travelling at walking pace. With my teeth, I ripped the wool into small pieces with the hope that I had packed some dental floss! Every so often I decorated a gumtree with a piece of wool. The red colour was a lovely contrast to the region’s abundance of green gumtrees. Suddenly a brown bird appeared near us attracted by the gumtree mystery. Oh no, a childhood story flicked into my mind: “Hansel and Gretel’s trail was eaten!”
About mid-afternoon the dense bush opened up and we found ourselves on a wide dry mud plain! No more wheel tracks just a dry mud plain! We looked at each other saying: “It doesn’t really look like the sea, does it?” We decided to set up camp for the night.
We collected wood and built a fire. The smell of burning Ironbark and being sheltered by the “Milky Way” was breathtakingly beautiful. We felt at home and at ease in this remote place we did not know. When we made ourselves comfortable for the night in the back of the truck, we counted shooting stars and listened to the eerie sounds of nocturnal birds until we dosed off.
The kookaburras’ laugh woke us up early in the morning. “Are we going to cross this plain?” Rene asked, his eyes still shut. “Yes of course! Let’s see if we can find a track on the other side of this plain. I have still got plenty of wool left!” I replied. We just followed our instincts; both convinced that we would eventually end up by the sea. Rene and I were great buddies combining our different talents to survive this trip to find this hidden paradise.
An hour later, there was a track on the other side of the plain. We followed it until we suddenly saw a creature behind a gumtree. It looked odd – I counted four legs. There was a bit of a tail that looked like someone had knotted it up into a bun. It wasn’t a roo, nor was it a dingo. No, It was a goat! Two goats. And then many more goats. Wild goats in the Australian bush? “What a mystery” we thought.
Suddenly the smell of the bush changed. It was the smell and feel of a warm sea breeze. ‘We made it, we made it! Wow what a fantastic view.” And there was the sound of the crashing waves. We felt such joy!!
But there wasn’t just the sea in front of us – no there was an open shed as well. And in that shed we could see some movements. Soon two old men and an Aboriginal woman followed by an emu and some more goats came strolling towards us. They introduced themselves as old Fred, Bob and Agi.
“G’day mate! What the heck brought you up here and how did you find this spot?” They were asking. We shared our story with old Fred, Bob and Agi. They just smiled and invited us to camp nearby at Shady Camp. “ You can fill up your water tank from our fresh water bore,” old Fred was saying.
We camped up there on and off for two years. Often at night, old Fred shared his stories of being a crocodile hunter in the early days. We also learned firsthand from Agi about the rich and complex Aboriginal culture and their intimate knowledge of the environment. One of our most significant learnings was “No more wool’s needed to find our way through the Australian bush.”
And just there with old Fred, Bob, Agi and the emu at “Shady Camp” the funniest story came about which Rene and I experienced in the Australian bush.
“Who snatched Nanna’s soap”?