Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

10.1.12

Thursday, 16 December 1971

There comes a stage in every journey when you just want to get there and to hell with the scenery.

The salt shower was the turning point. I had slept the night in the top bunk feeling grimy in the intense heat, and all I wanted was to plunge into the Indian Ocean at the end of the road. OK, that’s salt water too. But different.

My cousin and I had been patient. We’d crawled a thousand miles in a westerly direction and it was progress. But then, at Norseman, we ran smack into the world’s biggest detour. Perth is directly west, but to get there you have to drive 150 miles north to Kalgoorlie or 200 miles south to Esperance. How do you decide? Toss a coin? It’s desert whatever way you choose. I wondered how many motorists had felt inclined to just crash the road barrier and plough straight through the dust.

At 8 a.m. the car sat at the intersection with its right indicator ticking patiently while several northbound road trains thundered past. Then we turned and followed them.

Now it was a mind game, if game is the right word. golden miles before me/black tracks of my shoes behind me It didn’t feel like a game. It felt like a dream. It felt like we were marking time. I was breathing air with no oxygen. The landscape was still straggly trees and red dust from horizon to horizon and the sky a blue dome and the heat all around, and I fell in and out of sleep and the music kept running through my semi-comatose mind. a season goes so quickly/you don’t know where you are

Consciousness returned. Two small semi-spoked wheels turned in front of my eyes. I walked away like a movie star The wheels froze. The music stopped. My cousin pushed a button and pulled out the cassette and dropped another one in. He’d recorded several before the trip, to keep him sane.

The music insinuated itself into my half-awake, half-asleep dream; just as at school the droning of my teacher would often become the distant soundtrack to so many nodding afternoons. Now I dreamt I was at school and my teacher was murmuring about mathematics, or having to bring two dollars for tomorrow’s excursion, or how no-one pays attention to him any more, or what next week’s history essay would be about. till Stoneman's cavalry came and tore up the tracks again Then I snapped awake and I was back in the car in the desert, and the pain of inertia suddenly disappeared; and that’s how I came to finally understand the idea of freedom, despite being a prisoner stuck in the scorching back seat of a 1967 Valiant that was taking forever to arrive at its destination.

Late in the day a scattering of prehistoric rusted machinery grew out of the distance and cut the boiling horizon to ribbons; the shafts and wheels of Kalgoorlie’s nineteenth century goldfields. They died here for gold until the water came. Before the water came, there was only the insane lust for gold, and death by thirst, and typhoid, and madness. I should complain about a saltwater shower. 

see the curtain hanging in the window/in the evening on a friday night

2 comments:

Melbourne Girl said...

KH I really am enjoying this story...it's brought back a lot of memories of road trips we went on in the 70's in the old Ford Falcon station wagon with the "auto tent".
While we didn't head as far west as WA, we did go to Canberra and South Australia and it felt like we stopped at every place in between.

kitchen hand said...

We may have passed each other.