We were going to Lambina to pick up Jake who’d been up there fencing an Aboriginal sacred site. He’d taken a big truck back so would need a lift to return from his parents’ so it was an excuse for us to visit another outback station. Firstly the name, pronounced Lamb-ina although the locals tend to call it Lam-bina. This is the next door-but-1 neighbour, the other side of the cattle rustler, and took us over 2 hours to reach. The last 40 miles was their ‘driveway’, rough track all the way in an almost straight line. The orange band was visible into the horizon over the distant rises.
Whilst travelling the initial 60km stretch of the Stuart Highway we were flagged down by a young female driver coming in the opposite direction. This turned out to be Shaunee, one of Jake’s sisters, who recognised his truck and wanted to say hello. We were quite smug to be driving an authentic vehicle, a white Toyota Landcruiser with the tell-tale orange hue of land worked (and not washed, but why would you?)
Whilst we were at Lambina we were able to observe 10 year old Alan junior, Jake’s nephew, participating in his Japanese lesson via School on the Air. This is the only real means of education for the children on these isolated outback stations. It has been running in this format for several generation now. Jake’s Mother used to use the radio for her lessons but says that the children with the best radios managed to get the most of the teachers’ attention. Now, Alan uses a dedicated internet connection with both verbal contact via the microphone and written, using the keyboard for participation without interruption. He and his younger brother Stevie, have a separate classroom with all the posters, books and equipment one might expect in a school room. In summer they have to use the kitchen table as the cabin doesn’t have air conditioning. His class get together one week a term for physical assessment and social integration which is the main absent skill. He will go off to boarding school in a few years time.
We left the station mid afternoon and drove part of the way out on the driveway. The weather was improving by the hour and by this time the sun was shining in a clear blue sky so we pulled up and sat in the back of the truck reading our books. We were hopeful that a kangaroo or two would boing past whilst we were quiet but it didn’t happen. We continued on our way and came across a roo with a couple of friends grazing about 100yds in from the track. As we watched them, other heads, sporting huge ears, popped up all over the place. There were over 20 in the end, we lost count as they moved around, not overly concerned by our presence.
We eventually pulled in to the Marla roadhouse. Basically a service station with extra facilities. We planned to have an evening meal there and a drink! My first wine since we arrived so I was looking forward to enjoying some native tipple. Unfortunately it wasn’t great and quite expensive despite having landed on happy hour. The bar was almost empty, one other table was becoming occupied as we arrived. By the time our food was delivered there was hardly a spare seat and the people at the bar were 2 deep. Strangely the place reminded us of both rural Canada and America, is it something about Western world farming communities or has American influence permeated even the remotest parts of the so called ‘first world’?
We dragged ourselves out of bed today and Roger was a big help to Frankie whilst she had to complete her equivalent of a VAT return and was able to modify her spreadsheet to make it easier in future. I was obviously redundant at this point so after finishing cleaning the pantry shelves I pottered around clearing up and cleaning bits and pieces. My next allocated task was to make some biscuits, which I was more than happy to do. Frankie had bought me some gf bread mix which I had been going to use with the same recipe but had been surprised by the doughiness of the texture when I’d made pancakes a couple of days before, so opted to make a cake with it instead. It worked really well, even though it is still quite bread-like, but the added tin of pineapple was an inspired theft of Frankie’s cake recipe.
Whilst the other 2 continued with the tax return in the afternoon I was reluctant to be inside as the weather was glorious after an exciting 5.5mm of torrential rain overnight. We now have a complete volte-face about this precipitation. In the UK it can be a relief for there to be no rain (particularly at present I understand) but here the rain is welcomed with much relief and, as already mentioned, precise measurement. I started pulling out the weeds from the lawn which had been problematical since the first decent rains prior to our arrival. Nearly a wheelbarrow-full later Frankie joined me and we tackled the next section of the lawn. Roger was still indoors on the computer so I suggested he come outside for the last hour of sunshine, helping with the weeding. The dogs, meanwhile, had other ideas and from the moment he knelt down Banjo considered his position a license for attack, Julio then had to attack Banjo and Cowgirl just attacked anything she could reach! Fortunately Banjo is incredibly gentle as he is very strong and seemed to be pleased to have someone to wrestle with who he couldn’t swallow in one mouthful! Tomorrow 2 other people arrive and Jake will return so there will be a houseful and a change in dynamics as they are Frankie’s friends from home, here for 3 months.