Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Drought Ravaged Land

The sun was low on the horizon when we pulled into the campground at Mungo National Park.  We were not surprised to be greeted by a Total Fire Ban sign. After all, the temperatures had soared towards 40˚C as we drove across the south western part of New South Wales. But we were surprised to find other campers in the park.  As we did a quick drive about my surprise turned to shock as I noted that more than one of the campsite had a Coleman Stove in use.  Was it ignorance or defiance?  It seemed terribly irresponsible to have an open flame in such volatile conditions. What ever the case, it was not an activity that we would be partaking in that evening.  
We found an isolated camping spot, and as we exited the car we were greeted with temperatures so extreme that it felt as though we were suffocating.  To add to the discomfort of the oppressive heat, we were immediately surrounded by a large swarm of flies. I wanted to retreat to the cab of the Prado to escape the irritating discomforts, but I knew that we needed to setup camp before the sun dropped below the horizon.  Fortunately, the pitching of the tent was relatively effortless, since due to the heat we decided to keep the outer cover of the tent off.  We knew there was no need to worry about rain.  The only complication was the constant need to swat at the flies.
Just as we slid into our plastic Ikea chairs around the card table, daylight turned to dusk.  We felt a sense of relief, not because the long day of driving was behind us or because our bedrolls were prepared or even because slightly lower temperatures were on the horizon, but because the transition from day to night meant that the flies would quickly disappear.
After a couple of icy beers to help cool us down, we eagerly ate our cold picnic meal.  Cold bar-b-que chicken and potato salad had never tasted so good, perhaps because we knew that by morning our ice would be gone and any future meals would come from cans and jars.  
The curtain of night brought with it an extreme silence.  The drone of the flies and the screeches of the birds had disappeared with nightfall.  The only sound I could hear was a low buzz inside my own head, the never ending thought process in constant motion.  The silence of the outback was further emphasized as I walked to our tent, each step bringing an amplified crunch of the sunburned earth and dehydrated weeds below my feet.
Silence was once again broken as I unzipped the fly screen on the tent.  I dropped to my knees to find that the heat of the earth had warmed not just the floor, but also our air mats and sleeping bags.  The emanating heat was surprisingly gentle, and as I laid on my back observing the millions of stars above me I felt comforted.  Mother Nature's warm caresses were accompanied by her harmonious song--the crackles and pops of the cooling earth that lasted well into the night.  I fell into sleep wishing there was something I could do for this drought ravaged land. 


  1. How pleasant it must have been to be lulled to sleep by the sweet sounds of Mother Nature. An rare opportunity to return symbolically to the very source of life.

  2. gonzalee, I must say we slept well that night.