Solo with a Subi through the West Macdonnell Ranges (Part 1)
Feb 2 Fri
Independence is a skill I've had to learn. Calling my man one last time before heading off out of mobile range, I was so sad knowing that I couldn't even talk to him for five whole days. Pathetic, I know! My natural inclination is towards codependancy. It's one of the reasons I've committed to myself that I need to get away on my own on a regular basis, at least once per year, and preferably camping. It forces me out of my introvert comfort zones and teaches me to "woman up" and solve problems on my own.
I spent the first night in Alice catching up with Stephen, one of my yoga students from Geelong who relocated to the NT at about the same time I did. He kindly let me park my subaru next to his camper at his workplace, so I wouldn't have to sleep somewhere too dodgy.
This was my first experience sleeping in my car. Not what you'd expect to hear from such a travel junkie, I know. But I'm a bit precious about my sleep, and it was cramped to say the least. I had managed to pack lighter than any other trip I'd done before, but I am 5'5 and I juuuuuust fit lengthwise in the Subi. And with very little wiggle room to boot (pun intended). I decided to pick up a camping mattress from k-mart because the two too thick yoga mats I'd slept on, which are totally inappropriate for yoga, were unsurprisingly also inappropriate for sleeping on. $19 for a bit of comfort. I might be cramped, but at least I'll be cushy.
If I left the windows open, the mozzies got in and so did the rain that wasn't forecast. If I closed the windows, it was stifling. All in all, not the worst night's sleep I've ever had, but I'm not gonna plan to do this too often.
After gathering supplies the next day and having lunch with Stephen, who kindly let me borrow his EPIRB (satellite emergency responder thingy, rest easy now Ma, if I get bitten by a snake, Canberra will be alerted within 20 seconds!), I finally set off on my solo camping adventure.
I actually can't remember the last time I was alone, truly alone, particularly in nature for more than a day. The only other time I've been camping alone was after my first big heartbreak, over 12 years ago. I am well overdue for this!
Once I hit the 100km zone I heard a big “cracrackalack!” on the roof and saw something fall in the rearview from the top...what on earth? Seed pods from one of the trees I passed? But it was soooo loud? Whaaaaaa??? Why is there never a witness when I experience this weird shit!?
I called my mom before heading out of mobile range. “You're so much braver than I am!”, she said. I guess I'm pretty good at not showing my fear, or maybe I just don't feel it in the precourse. Because when I went down the gravel and sand road heading for my first destination, I put the subaru in AWD and felt, not excitement, but severe apprehension. I've never driven off road by myself or really tested the Subaru's ability. I don't know much about cars, just the basics, and now I'm out here alone, "something is gonna go wrong, for sure", I thought.
My anxious thoughts went something like, “Am I supposed to let air out of the tires for off road? Or just for sand? How much should I let out? What if I do the wrong thing and get bogged? I've only been in this park for an hour and I'm already going to get stuck, what a nightmare. At least I have an EPIRB, but can you imagine? Get stuck on my first day, no, my first hour, and stay here for five nights hoping someone comes along because it's too damn embarrassing to just call emergency services right now. Then I'll have wasted my whole trip being stuck and feeling stupid”. So when I hit a patch of road that was really soft and deep looking sand, and I really just didn't know if the Subi could handle it, I turned around. Just not worth the risk of being stuck here in this not so great spot in the middle of the hot sunny day.... defeat =(
Next, on to a more well trodden path, not even off the bitumen, Ellory Creek. As I neared the turnoff the sky became darker and greyer. A flash of lightening, a few drops. By the time I pulled up to the campsite it was pouring down. This is what happens to people from Vancouver. It doesn't matter that I'm actually an Australian now, I get rained on absolutely everywhere I go. Including the central Australian desert, literally one of the driest places on Earth. Rain was not in forecast. This is why I travelled south, instead of heading up Darwin way where it is definitely raining!
C'est la vie, as my Canadian friends say. I set up my bed in back and waited it out. Tired from the drive and the lack of sleep the previous night, I was happy to take a rest and enjoy the sound of the rain bouncing off of the car. Alas, unlike Vancouver, the rain had cleared up in about half an hour. 4:30pm, still plenty of daylight to have a look around. I put on my hikers and set out. The water hole at Ellory Creek is only a five minute walk from the campground.
It. Is. SPECTACULAR. I can instantly see why it is one of the major attractions to the park. It was sprinkling again, but it's summer and still very warm. I had a rain poncho, but it would have been too hot to wear anyways so I just popped it on the ground and sat down and enjoyed the view for a bit. Eventually I laid down and just let the sky sprinkle it's cool rain on me. Definitely not something I would do in Vancouver! It was such a treat, I actually fell asleep. Not to mention, I was the ONLY person there. Feeling very spoiled I headed back to the car to prepare dinner. When I opened the side door to get to the esky, I found an egg carton on the roof....ohhhhhhhh.... That was the cacrackalaaaack! What. A. Dumbass. I must have put them on the roof when I was organising the esky. I am seriously disappointed that I won't be enjoying hard boiled eggs for breakfast tomorrow... But at least they were cooked eggs! What a mess that would have been.
As I'm writing this, the sun has gone down and I'm being draped in darkness. It's so quiet and peaceful, only the sound of the crickets and light breeze russtling the tree branches. Even though I'm a grown up independent woman of 33, I can't help but feel very alone out here, and just a little scared as I turn out the light and hope for sleep. I'm not sure what I'm scared of exactly. There's no bears out here, not like in Canada. There's no people around to cause trouble... scared of my own shadow perhaps. I've grown quite comfortable with her in the daylight. But darkness and aloneness is a whole other ballpark.