Day 01 – A Moment of the Absurd

I pulled up the GPS map and tried looking for a good place to camp for the night. I was surprised to see that I’d traveled quite a bit further than I had thought. I noticed that I wasn’t far from an area I had been intrigued by when I first started thinking about this trip and was scouring Google Earth. In fact the previous few months saw me suffering from an unhealthy addiction to Google Earth, checking out every area and looking up things that would be interesting to see.

The Honeysuckles MapFrom the maps perspective, the area ahead seemed quite odd. It appeared to be a thin sliver of land between the coast on one side and what looked like a wet, sandy pit on the other. I figured there would have to be some nice areas to camp around there and it was only a fifteen minute drive away. I set off.

As I approached the beginning of the area, just past the small town called The Honeysuckles, I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of view. The road was lined with thick scrub, just high enough to block the view and the light was just at that point of twilight, between light and dark where you can see nothing.

I kept on driving, keeping an eye out for a place to camp that was off the road. As I ventured down the dark road, I was pleased to see that there were plenty of little inlets and camping areas off to the sides. I decided to continue on toward the town of Golden Beach at the other end of this thin strip of land. I hoped I could get some dinner as I was starting to feel tired and really couldn’t be bothered setting up the cooking stuff and making my own. Lazy I know and probably not in the true spirit of camping and adventure but I didn’t care... Who would know? Besides, all I’d packed was tinned beans and other uninspiring packet food. Good for emergencies I figure.

I got into town just before seven and realised just how small it was. Thankfully there was a general store that was still open that also acted as the local take-away. I parked the car, walked in and looked up at the menu on the wall. The owner appeared from out the back and told me that they were just about to close and the deep fryer was turned off. The only cooked thing he could muster up was a burger. I really didn’t want it considering that’s what I’d had for lunch but with no choice, that’s what I ordered.

As I stood in the tiny store waiting for the food to cook, fatigue set in and began to overwhelm me. It felt like I could almost fall asleep right where I was standing. Thankfully the owner snapped me out of my standing coma before I could fall down and he handed me the burger. I grabbed a giant bottle of Orange juice (the only size they had) and a few other supplies and headed off.

I made my way back along the road toward the camping grounds with the fresh burger at my side. I was surprised to find that the first few areas I came to already had people in them. The first thing that went through my mind was “what kind of crazy people come out camping to areas like this in cold, wet weather like this?”

Eventually I found an empty spot and was pleased that it was quite a distance from the main road. I parked the car and got out. I could hear the ocean crashing but wasn’t going to risk twisting an ankle to get to it through the thick scrub in the dark. I opened up the back of the car and pulled out one of the fold-up chairs. Then I attempted to set up the gas lamp. Something I wish I’d at least tried at some point before. It was really fiddly in the dark but after about ten minutes I finally got it working and was amazed at just how bright it was.

Finally I had reached the end of my first day. I sat back in the chair and enjoyed the burger, unaware of the juices that were leaking down the front of my jacket. Once finished I figured I’d better pull out the laptop and do some writing. I really didn’t want to but I had to force myself to get in the habit of writing every day. I got myself nice and comfy and started the days recollection.

Shit! It began to rain...

I quickly threw the computer into the car (not literally to anyone at Apple who may be involved with any future warranty claims) and packed up the gas lamp and chair. I jumped in the car and thankfully hadn’t gotten too wet. I pulled up the computer and continued writing.

By the time I’d finished the rain had stopped again. As I sat in quiet contemplation, I got a subtle whiff of what I thought was gas. Uh oh, the first thing to go through my mind was that the gas bottle was leaking. I stepped out of the car and opened the back up to check. I pulled the bottle out and checked the tap. It was fully closed. I had a sniff all around but couldn’t smell anything. The bottle definitely didn’t appear to be leaking. I must have imagined it... I hope!

I put the bottle away and shut the back up again. Above me the sky had totally cleared up, revealing the most amazing night sky. I took out the chair, wrapped myself up in one of the doonas and got comfy. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, the sky got even brighter. It was truly a spectacular sight and one I wished I could photograph. I guess this moment was just for me and not to be shared.

Suddenly something caught my attention. A bright light moving across the sky. I hoped it was a satellite flying over. Unlike the faint, barely visible satellites I’ve seen in the past, this was the brightest object in the sky. Of course my mind wandered to aliens and UFO’s which then turned my attention the the wildlife sounds rustling in the darkness of the suddenly menacing trees.

I figured it was time to try and get some sleep... In the car... With the windows shut and the doors locked...

Regardless of whatever was “out there”, this was the moment I’d been avoiding. Could I actually sleep in the car or am I going to be heading home tomorrow? I had tried several weeks before, only to give up an hour later and return to the comfort of my bed. That, clearly, was not a choice this time. I moved everything off the passenger seat and laid the back down. I set up the bedding, one doona on the bottom and one on top.

It’s funny the things that go through the mind. As I stood brushing my teeth, I started wondering where I should spit. I’d never brushed my teeth outside before and never given it much thought. Is toothpaste harmful to the environment? Will I be damaging some ecosystem by spitting on the grass? Then it began to rain again and the grass copped it.

Mountain with Griff Rhys Jones

I clambered into the car between the doonas and snuggled up nice and warm. After all the movement of getting ready and the cold of getting rained on, I was awake again which was somewhat annoying. Some people take books along with them when they’re on holiday. Me? I brought a portable DVD player and the entire series of Stargate SG1. Yes, all ten seasons and two movies... Whatever you’re thinking, I don’t want to hear it, I’m sure I’ve already heard it from myself... I figured I’d watch an episode to tire myself out again.

I opened it up and began playing the disc. The first thing I’ll point out is that there just isn’t any position to get comfortable while trying to watch a DVD in the car. The second thing is “What the hell am I doing?”

I’m in the middle of nowhere surrounded by nature, with one of the most spectacular night skies I’d ever seen and I’m sitting in the car watching Stargate. As much as I love Stargate, the absurdity of the moment hit me and I realised how stupid I was being. I packed up the DVD player and put it away.

The rain was starting to come down a little harder and the rhythmic pattering as it hit the car was starting to weave its magic. I lay back and soon drifted off into the oblivion of sleep, dreaming of what tomorrow may bring.

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  • Melissa Stanford

    James, you tell stories with vigor and humor. I can imagine you standing there worrying about your toothpaste as the rain comes down – would have been no problem for me. And your disclaimer to Apple – awesome. Priceless even. I would like to add, that I too am a Google Earth addict. I'm even worse with Street View. But these tools are invaluable in planning, and are far more useful then a paper map that takes up space, and you can't read a map while you drive anyway. At least with Google's tools you have an idea of what you're looking at when you get there. Can't wait to see what you write next!

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  • Marion

    Well, as far as I know toothpaste is not harmful at all for the environment. It would have been lovely had you photos of hat incredible sky, as I am very curious now. But I have had my fair share of incredible skies too, thank god!! I know the feeling of infinity it brings along when being sunk in that view.I couldn't help but smile when you told you watch Stargate in the cocoon of a car, in total darkness and with all kind of sounds gong on outside. I would be mortified!!Nice one again James!! Can't wait for the next episode!!Cheers, Marion

  • James Cole

    Thanks Marion,It's good to know that the toothpaste didn't kill the last remaining Golden Beach, three eyed, grass mollusk. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself.I need to practice taking shots of the night sky, I've never been able to get one I was happy with. The exposures are always so long that the stars are blurred. Sometimes this is a good effect but never captures the true wonder of the clear, night sky.

  • James Cole

    Thanks MelissaYup, Google Earth + Street View = Days of my life slowly disappearing…I've always loved looking at maps, even when I was a kid. I'd spend hours just going through atlases and street maps just to see where everywhere went. And, although I wouldn't recommend it, I mastered the art of reading street maps while driving before the days of GPS navigation. Damn I'm sounding old… “You youngsters don't know how good you've got it. Back in the day, when I was a boy……”

  • Cindy

    sounds absolutely wonderful. would have loved to see that night sky! mmm, I am with you there regarding the ‘sounds of the night’…. and Stargate!!! seriously…hahaha. just kidding, I loved stargate and never missed an episode. yours stories are great James, keep writing.