12 – 9 - 17 - Camper’s delight
The wonderful thing about camping is that you meet lots of people, different people too. If you want to that is. You have to be open and communicative though. Like my friend says: ‘Can’t take her on a hiking trip, she talks to every rock on the way.’ Yes, I do, when I feel like it. So far I have always been happy to talk to people. Sometimes I strike up a conversation, at other times, people address me. Take the bloke last night, for example. I had pulled into a campsite but didn’t really want to put up camp there because it was still relatively early in the day. It was only about 3pm and I could have driven some more kilometers towards Katherine, NT. I just wanted to go down to the boat ramp at the Victoria River to see if I could spot one of those dangerous saltwater crocodiles. So I parked my car close to the ramp and walked down the last meters. There was a man in his late 50s, maybe early 60s, who was looking at the water and then he dipped his hat into it and poured the water over is head. I just thought that was pretty reckless after all the stories I had heard about those crocs. They just approach the banks and water edges noiselessly and jump out to viciously grab the human being and drag it into the water. Mind you, I didn’t go closer than three meters or so.
Then the man came towards me and said: “Be warned about the crocs, they have a particular liking for Americans or Germans.” “Ooh, I’m in a mire then,” I replied and grinned. We talked a bit and it turned out he’s married to a German lawyer. He himself was a lawyer, too, down in Tasmania. I asked him how he met his wife. He said he was always looking for lawyer trainees who were willing to stay in Tasmania, but every single trainee he trained left for the mainland of Australia. He gave up and started a new idea. He put out ads to train lawyers and these ads were international ones. As a consequence he had quite a few lawyers from Germany coming over for three or four months. One of them was to be his future wife. “I’m Michael, by the way,” he introduced himself. “Nice to meet you, Michael. I’m Valentina,” I said. “Why don’t you come over to our campsite and you can meet my wife. We can have dinner together too, if you like.” I gladly accepted his invitation and so I did set up my camp. I paid my fee of $3.30 which I put in an enveloped designed for that purpose at the entrance of the campground, grabbed a camping chair and walked over to meet Michael’s wife, Gudrun. They were accompanied by a friend of theirs, Tom, and the four of us sat down together and chatted for a while. They introduced me to a new drink I’d never had before: ginger wine with cold coca cola. Deliciously refreshing I must say.
Every now and then Gudrun and I were left alone and we switched to German just because we could and when any of the two guys rejoined us we switched back to English. Michael is a verry funny and witty person and we laughed a lot. He told travelling stories, we talked politics, law, compared Germany and Australia, prepared dinner – actually they prepared dinner and I helped Tom set up his swag – and then we ate dinner together. I had a fresh salad for the first time in weeks again and enjoyed it very much. Another thing I had for the first time in my life was damper bread. It was a bread Tom baked freshly in the campfire. He had prepared the dough before and then put it in a cast iron pot onto the burning ambers. There it sat for maybe half an hour and baked. It was very good.
After dinner we put more wood onto the fire and just relaxed again and chatted some more. We talked about the monsters in the rivers in the Northern Territory. Michael said we have so much to learn from the crocodiles. They are true natural wonders. They can stay under water for two hours, they grind their teeth to keep their heart going, they have some kind of self-healing properties or bacteria and there is something in their blood that stops them from bleeding for a longer time. “We still haven’t figured all of that out. Just imagine we find this blood-stopping thing whatever it is. Or the anti-bacterial thing. What a discovery that might be for medicine.” “That reminds me of the owner of the zebra rock mine I talked to this morning,” I said. “His name is Bruce Livett. He was a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Melbourne University before he retired and moved up here to buy the mine and the café with it. He heard the story of a mother whose son had died of a venomous cone snail. When the mother was interviewed she said at least her son wasn’t in pain when he died. This made Livett wonder about the properties of the venom. It must also have some kind of painkiller in it. So together with his team at the university they did some extensive research and found the substance. They are going through a test phase now but what it really takes is a financial grant of about 220 million dollars to get the trial seen through. I thought it was a shame that there apparently is nobody there willing to give that kind of money. I mean there are plenty of multi millionaires and billionaires out there. If I had that money I would gladly give it. Just think about the opioid problem they have in the US now.” “Yes,” Michael said, “it’s all about the money. If there is no money to make with such things, nobody is willing to spend that much money.”
We chatted about other things too and watched the stars. I saw Scorpio in the night sky and the Southern Cross. The sky was very beautiful once again. It is really nice to be away from all the light pollution of the city. Most campers don’t stay up late (unless maybe you have a more luxurious camper that is equipped with a satellite dish and TV like our neighbours – noisy bunch) and we soon called it a day too. Soon after it gets dark people go to bed because as soon as the sun comes up they rise too. Now with Northern Territory time, which is 1.5hrs ahead of Western Australian time, we went to bed at 8.30 and got up at 7am. That was exactly our rhythm. I had slept almost naked with my trunk open because it was so hot and only in the last three hours or so of my night I took the sleeping bag to cover me up a bit. I went to the typical bush toilets which are basically a big dump barrel that stinks like what it is: a shit hole. Cleaning myself up a bit with water from my water canister I brushed my teeth and made coffee. I love my little camping gas stove and my enamel water kettle. I made a whole pot of coffee with my French press, or as they call it here, the plunger, and walked over to my camping friends. We toasted slices of the damper bread over a newly made fire now and it was again very delicious. I hadn’t made my mind up yet what I wanted to do that day or how far I wanted to drive. At that moment, though, it didn’t matter at all. Just sitting there in our little round again, enjoying fresh coffee and good toast was enough. Gudrun looked at the boab trees around us and said there were none on the east coast. Michael then told us that the boab tree had originally come from Africa, most likely from Madagascar to be precise. Gudrun was surprised that they were imported. “No, no,” Michael replied, “ they swam over to Australia about 160million years ago.” Gudrun was very surprised that the boab tree nuts or seeds managed to swim such a distance. “How come we don’t have any in Queensland then? she asked. “Too long to walk,” Tom chirped in. We laughed. Finally we got up and packed up our things. Before I said goodbye Michael and Gudrun invited me to stay with them when I come to Brisbane which I gladly accepted. It’s good to have friends all over. It makes travelling easier and adds hugely up to the fun. Now I know two parties in Brisbane I can stay with and one near Melbourne. Travelling is just such enrichment. Life is good!