I’m on the way. First foot on the bus to Sydney. That’s when it begins. Stuff my carry-on into the overhead rack.
The travelling mind is a mind in free-fall. Noticing things idly. Sheep running across the line of the hill in the shadow of eucalypts. Alpacas twisting their serpentine necks. A view down on dams and creeks I usually only see obliquely at eye level from my modest Yaris. High tide making sun dapples amongst the mangroves.
Half an hour, hardly enough time to get started, and then that morning tea stop in Batemans Bay. A brisk walk along the foreshore. Pelicans and seagulls crouched protectively against the brisk wind.
Changes. A house I remember raw, now lost in trees. Foreshore planted out with trees and wooden seats, many just a plank embedded in a rock. Olive trees a decent height.
Now I can really let my mind go.
And I do.
I collect signs: White caps Dental with a view over the choppy ocean. “Jesus is a friend to sceptics” on a church noticeboard. “Rest and be thankful” carved into a street bench near a church. Chooksy’s takeaway. Albion Park Poultry: the local egg. Nan Tien Temple use Five Islands Road exit. Synergy dry cleaning and laundry service. Institute of Obesity Surgery. On a T-shirt “Don’t bro me if you don’t know me.” Outside St Therese’s Catholic Church, “Yulunga”, welcome in language. “Have a goat day” on a butcher’s. And bad advice: “Need to drink it through?”
A small dog wandering dangerously close to the highway. Trees with their crown-shadows on stalks. Sun falling blindingly on new metal roofs in a subdivision. A vast sheer walled quarry. New stretch of road wiping out tight curls near Foxground.
I ponder deep questions. How would I describe a eucalyptus and how is it different from Northern hemisphere trees? At what point do I decide to interrupt a casual acquaintance’s racism? What draws me to a person?
Deserted Sunday streets. In Ulladulla, a plaza inhabited only by four palm trees and their shadows. Shops all closed. A fisherman among the mangroves, long rod wavering. Gleaming flanks of a brown horse, casually flicking his tail. Dramatic skyline: Pigeonhouse and the Castle. An incongruous portaloo by the side of a road off the highway.
The rattle of a brown paper bag next to me and the smell of a sandwich and I’m both on the bus again and back in primary school eating lunch under the tees.
Interspersed memories. Here a car crash and a long delay on the way to work. Here my son picking peaches. Here a giant Moreton Bay fig – no memory card in the camera for our daughter’s wedding.
A church. Three rough crosses in the yard. Old women with handbags held on crooked arm, one even wearing a hat.
Neat multi-coloured bags tied at the top with a neatly lettered label: chicken poo.
Lanes leading off the highway annotating history of white settlement: Devitts, Morschells, Boxells, Turners, Tyndalls. Others naming trees no longer there: woolly butt, rosewood, blackbutt, myrtle. Green grass bent low by the wind.
A jogger in a sweaty thin yellow Tshirt; an elderly man in dazzling white and red sports gear and pristine white shoes; a young woman carrying a text about the treatment of dementia and reading a trashy magazine; a man playing patience on his iPhone and sporting a gold chain.
And then it’s lunchtime. Sunday Nowra not much busier than Ulladulla, in spite of the fact that it’s school holidays. Usual salad bar closed. Settle for a cheese and bacon roll, first food of the day.
Here, once, stopped in an Easter traffic jam, my now 44 year old sucking on a bottle while we waited it out. Here, once, opened mail on the way home from a hysterectomy. Here, later, stopped for a picnic with tiny twins. Here, once, at midnight, J on foot pursued over the bridge when he tried to take refuge in a cave. J, hitching, outside the brickworks.
The sky holds me now. An attempt – many attempts – to describe clouds. No photos – they’d challenge my descriptions. A stately dancing whirling delicate sky. Tulle – or is it voile? – wisps. Pale ruffled wisp of a cloud, pin tucked. A mackerel sky with the odd fluff of cloud. A great billowing of whitish smoke with a brown centre, ominous evidence of a bushfire.
Here, on the way home from my father’s funeral, I saw him striding across the sky, sharp and clear as if in reality.
Six hours in! Idle enough to take a selfie. And suddenly astonished. Me? On my way to Poland? Faint memories of Behind the Iron Curtain and persecuting communists from my childhood church days. No memory of the Holocaust.
An hour and a half from the airport and still travelling through bushland, but not for much longer. Dolphins and sulphuric-crested cockatoos, bas relief, on the noise baffles as we head into suburbia.
Here, age 50, rolling down a grassy hill, showing off to a new lover. Him thinking “What’s this I’ve let myself in for?”
Paranoid scrutinising of all luggage liberated from the bus, after losing a bag (briefly) last time. Ready to leap up and yell “That’s mine!” No need.
Checkin at the YHA by 5. Early dinner – Thai beef salad and Good Hope wine. Great plans aborted by fatigue.
This post is linked to wanderessence, the journey itself, with due acknowledgement of inspiration. Without her prompting this post would have read differently.