Day 486 | Windy Mungeranie: howl, oh howl, you beast

rest day

There’s some early memories of this expedition at Mungeranie when I halt my southerly progress for a day, not much positive would be achieved battling into the current windstorm.

I find myself out of the wind, ie, in the pub, staring at the numerous hats nailed to the walls and right in front is one cap from fellow cyclist Ina, she of the three speed bike: stop, go and stop, who passed through on 7 January 2009, the absolute height of summer. (I had met her 3 months later as I was heading north in Quorn, then a week later for a couple of days at Iga Warta.) The nuttiness of January travel in these parts is beyond dispute, I don’t have the exact temperatures for 2009 but in 2012 the coolest day for January was over 35ºC, the hottest over 47ºC, and 16 days were over 40ºC, ie, 104ºF, not good cycling or tenting weather.

There’s a second blast from the past, I spot Thijs Heslenfeld’s book Hot on the bar, I was one of the discards from that 2 month long photographic essay on the Australian Outback, may be he could tell I wasn’t yet authentic as I biked towards Arkaroola, despite my salt encrusted yellow shirt exciting him at the time, I’m sure authentic now, a grizzled bike smalltime adventurer. The evocative, terrific book is here, sent by Thijs, because Phil who owns the pub is captured, his impressive beard still as lion-like, and I note a few other familiar faces: Lynnie from the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta and Martha, the Canadian backpacker who had whistled up my first extraordinarily over the top Outback burger with the lot, at the time me thinking that kind of exuberance was specially for me, not just standard issue out here.

Thijs has some words in Hot that talk about his own love of the Outback, initially quoting Thoreau:

“Generally speaking a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveller that does the howling.”

Then he goes on with his own thoughts:

“Life is pure … a world without borders, mobiles don’t work, no internet, radio or television, no nine o’clock news, nobody … The Outback lacks all things that dictate our daily lives in what we refer to as civilisation …”

“Simplicity and responsibility for your own survival, feeling I’m part of the Earth and it is part of me. I’ve experienced so overwhelmingly that this planet is where I belong …”

I share his love for the Outback but I’m different in a major respect: I have no illusions that I am part of it here at all, I’m just traversing it, I marvel at it, and endure it, revel at times in it, and love it but my home is somewhere else.

And I’m not as overly romantic, I love this whacky journey but don’t have the same perception as that dedication from Thoreau.

To me the austerity and solitude of the Outback has allowed me to peal back day to day routines of modern existence to see the world with piercing clarity, given me insight into how to live the remainder of my life, ie, stripped of the superfluous, concentrating on the creation of meaning, and at some point, love.