Sunday, August 17, 2008

on the road again

Casterton Aug 6

We got to the caravan park so late that I think we are going to get a freebie, the downside being we don’t really get what the $18 gets you, i.e. access to the shower/toilet block, which taunts us from across the small central park space.

Mia is up at 7, a most unusual occurrence, and already filled with the promise of the future: ‘I wonder if we’ll see some good op shops today.’ (NB it is easy to see them, but gaining access to them is another matter)

Last night we wandered the main street at midnight (causing attention from local policeman: ‘It’s a bit late to be out walking’ he said from the comfort of his 90s 4WD; we had already observed him prowling through the sports ground). At the end of the main street there are some amazing lights on the hill in a shape I perceive to be that of a bird. (The next day I realised it was the shape of the town's coat of arms-cum-logo). (Hi to anyone who came across this posting searching for 'coat', 'arms', 'policeman' and 'cum'.) Mia was agitating to go back and get her camera to get a picture of this phenomenon and then suddenly it disappeared – they turn it off at midnight.

Mia’s already joking: ‘Dear diary, day one of my ordeal’. We are going to the Casterton bakery which I know from experience is a fab place. I think it is called Herbert’s, you know, on the Melbourne (or would you rather say Hamilton) side of the town hall.

Eucla Aug 8

We spent the night of the 6th in Walleroo, a town in the northern Yorke Peninsula and in very nice accommodation (yes, we caved after only one night in the campervan and went to a hotel the next night). Then we went briefly through Port Pirie stopping only long enough for me to buy a fabulous jumper with the name ‘Teakle’ sewn into it. Our ambition was to head for Ceduna and we achieved this with some stress.

Ceduna was something of a let down, all told. I sort of imagined that somehow the Sand Pebbles record would all make sense and it would be some kind of retro paradise. But I think I am going to have to go back and listen to that record again, frankly.

On the SA-WA border we were stuck behind a station wagon where four teutonic teenagers in bad clothes (and one of them a really ugly guy to boot, and the other a girl with one of those tattoos above her arse that looked like the top part of a lacy g-string, making me want to get a tattoo across my eyelids saying ‘pull your fucking pants up’) launched into the eating of as much soon-to-be-illicit fruit as they possibly could before they were allowed across the border. Plebs. And as Mia pointed out they had so much stuff packed into the back of their wagon the driver wouldn’t be able to see out the back window.

An hour before that we spent an hour and a half at a lookout point just off the Eyre Highway where Mia painted a picture of the cliffs and I fed a bullant some cheese (it was just hanging out at the base of the rubbish bin, so I plonked this big bit of cheese in front of it; it fondled it and kneaded it a bit, then it turned around and had to wipe cheese off its feelers and then, it being a bit windy generally, it blew a few body lengths along the base of the rubbish bin. I thought perhaps the bit of cheese was too big for it, so while it was away from it I broke it (the cheese, you fool, I'm not a sadist) in half. When I came back a short time later half the cheese was gone and no bullant.) I also enjoyed spending a bit of time putting crumbs and crusts on top of the rubbish bin, which were gone as soon as I turned my back but I wasn’t sure what was taking them, I was hoping it was the sweet little sparrowesque birds that hung around in the carpark there, blending in with the greeny-grey gravel.

Eucla is the first town you come to in WA, 12 ks inside the border. We actually had decided we would stay at Border Village, but we must have both blinked at the same time because we missed it. Anyway Eucla seems alright. We won’t know, because we’ll be off before the sun comes up, heading for Norseman.

In Ceduna we went to two good op shops, I bought pants in each, Mia got a red bag, I bought a jumper in one too. We had breakfast at the Cactus Café which I would recommend when you are next in Ceduna. It has an interesting range of foods including Mexican, bacon and eggs, and focaccia. Also the menu outside advertises ‘FRIED RICE!!’ The night before we went to Billy’s pizza and pasta (the lady in the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel, which had stopped serving dinner just before 9, recommended it because ‘they’ve got all kinds of food there’). I probably had high expectations of Ceduna and shouldn’t have.

What I liked better was Kimba, which is half way across Australia and where we spent a bit of time particularly at the museum. The museum is funded by the community hotel (at least, a plaque in the archives section seems to suggest as such) and comprises a collection of mainly corrugated iron sheds and some weatherboard/wooden buildings which are either reconstitutions or approximations of buildings that used to exist in Kimba.

Kimba was created in 1915 but wheat was first grown there in 1908, so it’s having a centenary of sorts. We were shown a number of intriguing artefacts, including old tractors, stationery engines, harvesters and other machines related to the process of harvest. Additionally, they have two former schools, a general store building and an old settler’s cottage. Restoration of the various implements, etc seem to have been undertaken by school students and/or the elderly gentleman who showed us around. He was at a certain point joined by another man of roughly the same generation who appeared to be almost on the verge of subverting our host’s tour. This was quite funny in a way but also strange (our host did not directly acknowledge this person at all).

At the Kimba 'roadhouse' the woman behind the counter really did have a picture of Kimba the white lion on her, well, breast.

I am not sure why I avoided the charms of SA for so long (five years ago I wouldn't have touched it with yours mate). I am now quite a convert. And of course the Yorke Peninsula is like a homecoming for me, with my German and Cornish ancestry; they’re all Ger-Corns there. But the towns along the Eyre Highway all have their quirks and charm.

Along the way we have been reading of the Motley Crue book which Shane kindly lent us for the journey. So the landscape is somewhat imprinted with the various absurd and awful doings of Mick, Nikki, Vince and Tommy. I wish we would find a Motley Crue cassette somewhere along the way so we could listen to it in the car, although I have always been fairly resistant to their dubious charms aside from ‘Kickstart my heart’. But all I have found is a Prince tape, not that that’s anything to be sneezed at. (Later: we discovered the tape player in the campervan doesn't work anyway, and we had 11 hours of a Robert Drewe novel to listen to and all).

Mia just reminded me there is a ruin in Eucla – the telegraph station. I hope we get to see that; it’ll depend on when the sun comes up and whether we’re still here. (We weren't.)

9 August

This morning at one of the petrol stops a guy and Mia had a discussion about the thing we had just started noticing – drivers waving to each other. ‘It only happens in WA’, Mia said. He agreed. ‘The same people won’t do it once they're in SA,’ he said.

Still reading of The Dirt, I went through every CD in one truck stop collection to find every band mentioned in The Dirt except Motley Crue, who were the ones I wanted to hear (again). Not that I necessarily think I will suddenly love their work after reading their book (in fact, I might hate it more). But it’s INTERESTING.

Later: I have now completely read Judith Lucy’s book about her family which I would highly recommend to you if you like Judith Lucy or just stories about terrible dysfunctional families and the people they churn out. I read most of this while Mia was doing a painting of the red dried-up bed of a lake somewhere about 100 km east of Norseman, where we are now. We are staying in the Railway Hotel, a curious establishment which the proprietor, Ron, has been maintaining in a special way for six years now. It is quite an extraordinary decoesque (but I can’t really put my finger on what I’d call it, architecturally) building; it actually looks more like a hospital than a hotel, though I’m pretty sure it was always a hotel. There is a courtyard with rows of small rooms looking into it and rows of verandahs on three sides looking out. There is something established as an art gallery upstairs (we haven’t been up there) and in the main bar, where we had dinner, they showed the film Speed, always a pleasure.

We are in one of the ‘ensuite rooms’ which has an adjoining wall to the next room so thin I am on very intimate terms with the occupant; though I haven’t met him as such, I have heard him clear his throat on a number of occasions, fart rather wimpishly, bang what sounds like pots and pans and watch what sounds like a television show based on police radio. Mia thought she heard him masturbate too ('at first I thought it was the dripping of a tap, then after checking the tap I realised it was a kind of slapping sound').

10 August

We are now in Merridan, in yet another hotel that has the feel of a murder having taken place the previous week and another due to happen tomorrow. More annoyingly, there is also a feel that the proprietors are saying 'you dickheads, you have no choice'. Today was mainly driving and discovering - no surprises here, surely - that rural WA doesn't get up to even unlock its public toilets on a Sunday morning, much less provide the weary traveller with, for instance, breakfast and coffee. We managed though, and Southern Cross did actually ultimately cater to our requirements - mine was a massive coffee and a salad sandwich cut into quarters in the way hypothetical mother used to do it.

We are 3 hours from Perth but decided not to have a mad rush into town, instead we will go slow tomorrow taking pics and visiting oppies and get there in our own sweet time. And it will probably be sweet, I'm guessing.

15 August - in Perth

Probably the most delightful city you could be in in August. Of course one gets a little cranky with the subtly different elements and you can't use a $20 note in a ticket machine at the station etc etc but why gripe. I spent a very pleasant evening last night reading a 1981 memoir of Dave Warner's early years. Bliss.

I may say more about Perth anon.


Anonymous said...

I have a friend who grew up in Casterton. I think she told me that the image on the hill is something to do with Scouts.

David said...

It's definitely the shape of their coat of arms, nonetheless.