A 6000km journey to reach a destination where the homestead you’re staying at is the only one in within a 200km radius. That’s the thing about work trips – you end up in places you would never imagine visiting. I can’t go into too much detail on what we were doing on our trip – work confidentiality and all but I hold this trip so dear to me because it’s one I know only a handful would ever get to experience, and it taught me a lot about myself.
On route to our destination, I had to take a flight to Melbourne from Newcastle. The next flight was from Melbourne to Perth, where I spent a day. Perth is an immaculately planned city with no rubbish to be seen, fit people jogging around and Kings Park which looks like a golf resort. I was a fan.
From Perth, I caught a flight to Kalgoorlie, which has many attractions like it’s many brothels, skimpy bars and the super pit – the largest operating gold mine in the southern hemisphere. Just to clarify, I only went to the latter.
The rest of the journey was in a ute which allowed our work group to make many stops along the way. We stopped in the shire of Menzies – with a population of 140 people – which housed Lake Ballard. A once upon a time lake which now was a layer of dried salt. An artist who had profiled the people of Menzies had made statues that were scattered all around the lake.
It was a tough trip and there’s no sugar coating it. It was physically challenging and mentally draining, but it’s the toughest experiences that make you grow. I think if I had gone in thinking it would be a walk in the park, I would have cracked on the first day. It was working 12 hour days in the dry heat with temperatures crossing well over 30 degrees. You would come back to the homestead covered in a fine layer of red dust and a nose bleed. It didn’t help that I didn’t have my usual necessities of internet, TV, phone reception, privacy, and good healthy food. I had to eat the food cooked for us which was always soaked in grease and although it tasted good, I just knew it wasn’t nourishing. It was the combination of the aforementioned things coupled with spending time with the exact same people every day doing monotonous tasks, that was slowly making me mad. It’s like living in a box with a bunch of colleagues that you don’t know too well and you turn out to be very different people.
I know that I haven’t painted this trip in the brightest of lights but it was these circumstances which taught me a great deal about myself and about others. I stayed true to myself and that was the most memorable part for me. I was the only female in our group, I didn’t drink on the trip, I wasn’t physically capable of many tasks that we were doing, I ate different to others (cans and cans of coconut water, natural greek yoghurt, vegetable juice, and tubs of chia pudding were consumed. I lead a different lifestyle – sleeping at 9pm because I was exhausted, I had a different taste in music (I’m a mainstream girl who hasn’t even glanced at any other genre) and the best part of it all is I didn’t change myself even a bit. In the past, I would have succumb to peer pressure and stayed up all night and chatted and probably had a beer even if that wasn’t what I was feeling like. However, I was completely comfortable with acknowledging that my body was tired so I would go into my room, read for a bit and sleep. I didn’t need the approval of others and whether that’s something that has come with age or with my life experiences I’m not sure. I was also very accepting of the very basic necessities that were provided to us. We were off the grid, we had shared bathrooms, no AC, a single bed in a small room and if you had to go to the toilet during the day – you had to do it in the bushes, quite literally. I’m very grateful that I have reached this point in my life where I’m not acting like a princess.
Besides the trip being a personal milestone, I experienced the outback life. Away from the city smog and pollution, you could look up at the clear night sky and actually see the stars twinkling. I always thought the poem was lying! I distinctly remember one night sitting down for a good fifteen minutes and admiring the starry sky. I was so in touch with nature, away from the artificial lands – don’t get me wrong I appreciate civilization – that man had created. We were surrounded by wildlife – geckos, goannas, emu, kangaroos, hedgehogs, wallabies, snakes, flies (after a while you don’t notice them when there were 40 on you at a time), eagles, crows, cows, chickens, roosters. I would say I encountered more wildlife in a day than I did people.
On our very first day driving, I saw my very first emu! I was excited until two seconds later, when it was running across the road and we couldn’t stop in time and ran over it. On our second day we stumbled upon a group of scientists from Australia that were driving all over the world looking for a specific species of a plant for their research. They had a flat – the tyre was smashed to smithereens – and the boys helped to change it over. It was odd to see others in the middle of no where!
The last night saw our homestead accommodating an aborigines group. They had just caught a goanna by clubbing it to death, cleaned it and cooked it the traditional way. The rest of the evening consisted of them cutting up the goanna and letting us taste it! Now that’s a dining experience you won’t find in any guided tours. The yellow part in the photo are the fat pouches – which are considered a delicacy.
A week in the outback was an experience I will never forget! Especially, since the goanna lizard did not sit too well in my stomach for the next few days and the toilet was my best friend. But, in all seriousness, it was an adventure and although I would not repeat it again, I’m very glad that I took the opportunity to experience it.