‘You two need to go away for a few days’ we were told. We didn’t take it personally even though it would be easy to do so. After all, their profile says that we are all under a 2 week trial period and 2 people had already been shown the door. This probationary period would have been useful, if executed, for both parties. When we were asked which vehicle we wanted to take, it did seem a bit more conciliatory and with Karen stating that she wanted to sponsor our non-existent immigration application, we did feel that perhaps our contribution is valued. We were happy to go exploring and at a time that suited as well, in whichever vehicle was convenient, so we ended up with the Saab convertible, although we can’t take the roof down as we wont be able to put it up again!
We could go north or south but there seemed to be a few more attractions south so headed that way after lunch. Our first destination was Alligator Gorge in the Remarkable Mountain National Park. Time was getting on and we arrived around 3pm to be met with signs about a park fee with on line payment only! We had no wifi here and too little time to go back to the nearest town and back again before the sun started going down and we would still need to find somewhere to sleep before dark. Despite the $1000 on the spot fines we decided to risk it and play tourist dumb if need be. These parks are obviously not designed for those who may not have access to or use the internet, not that we had a problem paying, it was just that the method of payment was extremely inconvenient.
As a result we had a very brief visit in and out of the park from its northerly end and set off to find a place to lay our swag. We were now in a much more intensively agriculturally worked area with most road side areas being ploughed and planted, which left fewer areas to pull off and camp. We approached Melrose and were not impressed with their camp-site and charges and completely underwhelmed by the camping ‘facilities’ in the show ground. We opted to return to a significant lay-by we’d spotted earlier, but thought we’d find somewhere better, but no. On our return, the deserted parking was now occupied by 2 cars with trailers which, on some level, was quite reassuring so we parked up and laid out the swag on a nice piece of soft greenery, away from the ‘widow maker’. These are the gum tree primary branches which, as they die from the inside out, are deceptively unsafe due to their propensity to drop off and crush anything underneath at the most inopportune moments.
We managed to forage for some wood to light a fire, all of it being fairly fresh eucalyptus which gave off a sinus clearing aroma when lit. We sat in the peace of the evening with only the occasional car passing on the road not too far away but less than intrusive, which is more than can be said for the seriously noisy frogs! The clouds cleared and we were treated to yet another glorious sunset before the full moon began to rise. We were running out of wood for the fire so this seemed like a good time to go to bed in our basic double swag compared to the super-duper trailers of our neighbours, 100yds away. We had packed a waterproof tarpaulin as well; the swags are waterproof but it is not only the rain which can be problematical (swag would be wet when packed away in the morning) but dew, or previously frost, can have the same impact. The only weather condition which counteracts this is wind, but this is far from helpful in any other respect, lighting fires, keeping them alight, packing up, folding up etc!
We were content to experience a lovely evening, watching the moon rise in the eastern skies after the sun set spectacularly in the west; the fire didn’t threaten the swag at all. At 2.20am I was awakened by a roaring sound. We could hear the wind rolling in towards us, through the gummy canopy of the creek, as we changed from a beautiful still night to a tarpaulin rattling furore in a matter of seconds! How we managed to get back to sleep is still quite a puzzle but by morning it was reasonably still but over cast.
The poorer weather meant that we were in no hurry to stop off anywhere so continued on the road south, the surroundings becoming more and more rural and ‘civilised’ with each mile. At times we could even imagine that we could have been in the UK. Apparently this is the greenest the state has been in many years due to a consistent and persistent rainfall, since we arrived! We drove in to Port Broughton just after lunch. Karen had recommended this place and after our previous night’s experience we felt we could indulge ourselves with a basic cabin on a caravan site, if it was not too expensive. What swung it was that we were able to check in straight away to a cabin on the water front with a spa bath! What luxury! These aspects are so much more appreciated, the further they become from our reality. Once we got settled the weather seemed to deteriorate more, the wind increased and the rain sprayed itself against our glass fronted view but we were warm and dry inside. Despite our resilience we were so grateful not to be outside in a swag in a lay-by unable to light a fire and being deafened by the rattling of a tarp which we would be unsure would still be there in the morning. We are not completely without softness!
We went back to the Seafood Outlet we spotted on the way in to town and bought some fresh whiting, prawns and scallops for an evening meal which would mean that we wouldn’t have to go out again. On return we could enjoy some room temperature red wine and chilled white wine which was quite a difference from the recent cold red wine from the back of the wagon, stored at sub-zero night temperatures and warm(ish) white wine from inside the caravan which feels cold enough when we go to bed but isn’t really low enough for white wine cooling!
We revelled in the spa bath, although the surface of the water became less than desirable pretty quickly. Intermittent showers do not make one as clean as regular showers (see previous comment about septic tank!) or occasional baths. We pity the poor unit cleaner tomorrow despite Roger’s best efforts to eradicate the scum line (he was last out the bath) The air conditioning even has a heating option so we are both clean and warm at the same time, probably for the first time since arrived and, if we need the loo in the night, we wont have to put on coat and boots for the first time in 52 days, not that we are counting! so I don’t have to dehydrate myself before going to bed, yehah!