Bob and Ann and Taffy
October 5. Salmon Gums, West Australia. Road family. It is easy to imagine that we are lonely out here sometimes. Not really, not for long. We have an ever changing family out here. Bob and Ann, the couple who offered us tea and took our picture as we left the Plenty Highway, months ago. We camped with them twice at roadside rests recently and developed a relationship. Part of their family was a corgi named Taffy who had been with them for 16 years. She was feeling poorly and they were concerned her time was short. They stopped us on the road the other day to share their bad news; Taffy had gone missing at a beach camp the night before. “Bob’s takin’ it hard, she said in her Scottish accent, through her own tears. We felt so honored that they had gone to the trouble to find us and share their loss. They were to meet us further down the track, but we missed them two days later. Another caravaner stopped us just to tell us they had gone back to look for Taffy again. They had bothered to let us know of their change of plans through the caravaner network. When they stopped us again a day later, they said they did not find Taffy, but felt better that they had spent a couple of days getting to know the place where she died. They intend to come back to the spot regularly to visit and remember their old friend. How special to be included in someone’s grief.
There have been others who have come into our lives, crossed our paths more than once. Also special are the families and individuals we meet and know we will never see them again. And yet we have things to share and memories to make of short connections: The same day Bob and Ann told us about Taffy, a family of four, walking the roadside, waved us over to ask questions about our travels. They were out picking quandongs (bush tucker similar to our hawthorns in the north America) just for something to do together as a family. They would later make chutney. We had a few quandongs to eat and a long conversation about our travels and the why behind them. They were agriculturalists (farmers) with deep roots in the land, and yet they wanted to expose their children to people who have chosen to have few roots in the traditional sense. Their children are very lucky, and we are lucky to have shared a special time with them. Several kilometers down the road we found their entire harvest of quandongs almost off the shoulder in the bush. We didn’t relish riding back against the wind, but wanted to make sure they found the fruits of their day. They had been driving their trayback (pickup) slowly along the shoulder to the next section of road and they had fallen off. We rode back to them to let them know exactly where they could find the bag. It was nice to do something for someone else for a change, since so many are a help to us. Our legs and hearts were lightened at the end of a long day for the connection, the sense of family, we had shared.
October 6. Norseman. The beginning of the Nullarbor, Australia’s most famous, or infamous, stretch of road. We have heard it said that every Australian should cross the Nullarbor at least once. It is sort of like a rite of passage for understanding the size of their country. There are many myths about the Nullarbor, and we are about to find out which of them have the most grains of truth. One of the attributes of Australians that we find charming, if sometimes a bit frustrating, is their penchant for exaggeration. “That snake will come at you, and he can crawl at 35 miles an hour!” and others equally humorous given some thought. We are interested to find out if the long distances are as tough as advertised. Stay tuned.
We have left the mallee scrub, not so lovely after the tall trees of the Southwest of WA, and entered a multi-storied bush; a low sage brush looking bush, a soft blue in color, mid-level sweet smelling white blooming bushes and ten metre wollybutts and salmongums. Very beautiful. First night out on the Nullarbor we had a fine bush camp with Australia All Over on the radio next morning. We were in an open grove of spidery eucalypts and the aforementioned white blooming bush. A billy fire is still easy to start and wood is plentiful.