15 – 27 May 2016
Road trip across Australia.
Hay Plains. Cotton bales, rounded up in yellow plastic, stretched away off in lines to the flat horizon.
Emus, black shouldered kite.
The Mallee. Multi-stemmed mini eucalypts in woodland forests, small stature and scale invited exploration. Twin tyre tracks twisting off into red dirt from the highway tried to beckon us from the main journey ahead.
Morning light on the stubble fields between lakes of mist.
Foothills of the Flinders Ranges. Port Pirie heavy industry smoked beside Spencer Gulf. Then Iron Knob, a massive hole in a huge hill and mountains of black and brown and orange ore.
Vast country. Miles float by.
Flat plains. Saltbush.
A big shared adventure.
At Ceduna we jogged out along the whole length of the jetty into the bay in a frenzy of movement borne of 2 days couped up in the vehicles.
Next day the Great Australian Bight.
Then The Nullarbor. Just flat. Saltbush. 360 degrees.
Another isolated roadhouse. Fresh food, diesel.
Finally into the scrub. Limestoney, two wheeled tyre tracks.
Red kangaroos flew across the landscape. A camel in the distance.
Dirt road, complex navigation, dry dust. The weather forecast seemed ok.
Cave. Underground. A big day. Stunning white lake. Coffee and cream section and into a breathtaking area of salt formations.
A perfect camp. Still, stars, fire. Sunset, moonlight, sunrise.
Out to the main road. Homestead. Water and access onto the property. The remote outback lifestyle had been in their family for generations.
Another perfect camp in open scrub.
Abseiled down through a blowhole into the cave system. Crawled over rubble, down a tube past fossil walls, up past a rock pile then into the main chamber. Immaculate gypsum formations.
Sunrise. We settled into a daily rhythm of breaking and setting camp, travelling slowly, caving, cooking and eating. Spending time together. Safe. In our own little adventure world. Far from social media, pressures of home and work. Time to think. And be in the landscape. And to share.
Dust masks were necessary to enter the next cave in this arid environment. Formations were everywhere. Amazing diversity. Crystalline hair – fragile as perfect snowflakes – grew in cracks and covered the ceiling in the furthest reaches of the cave where the air never moves. We trod carefully and made our way slowly to limit disturbance of the air.
Then north where stunted trees gave way to low saltbush on the flat Plain to an old abandoned homestead. Wind picked up and blasted so we sheltered in the cavers hut and pitched our tents behind the vehicles and trailers. We then had shade, water and a break from the wind in this extreme flat land.
Underground more ropework. Very complex navigation, Boxwork and eggshells and fossils and crystal hair. We followed the tunnel for kilometers. Above ground a group of camels passed close by.
For two weeks we sung out together, laughed continuously, assisted each other, slept under the stars, were genuinely affected by nature’s beauty and fragility, watched camels, lizards and dingoes. Our companion the constant dust. Seven days without a proper wash. Everyone had a job and every job was important.
Our biggest cave chamber inspired awe, felt tiny in the immense double chamber.
In the last cave we snorkeled in immaculate clear cold water with a sense of vertigo looking down into the depths and enticing darkness the preserve of cave divers.
Fire, dust storm, showers overnight.
We made it out next morning back onto the main road towards home.
Big trips take us out of our day to day environment and give us time in beautiful natural world landscapes. Into exercise, self reliance, real teamwork. The best expeditions give us opportunities to make real contributions to our group, to synergise. To have leadership responsibilities and develop our skills in collaboration and communication. To have time out. To reflect on the big picture of our lives.