Atop this van now lay two thin panels, their solar income creating the push that drives the gadgets, the light and the refrigeration within. Previously I had a rather cumbersome fold out panel with aluminium frame, stored between the ceiling and several wooden planks, not only did it add considerable weight to the van – noticed by the tyre hugging rear wheel arches – but for use I had to unpack it, plug everything in and move it around as the day went by. The two on top are able to supply all needed power even when in the shade.
One panel was installed professionally, the other by me, nervousness on using an intensely strong adhesive gave way to joy seeing a working finished product, I thank the Laurieton Men’s Shed for providing tools and a ladder for the duration.
That afternoon I drove to Ellenborough, slowly as to lessen any risk of wind catching under the panels before the glue dried, the cars behind me having no knowledge of reason for this snail’s pace. Following the advice of Google I pulled down a rural town street, and my mind threw wonder as to what sort of camp would await, an expanse of grass sans humans for whatever desirous reason. It was quite the opposite, bus homes, caravans, tents, four wheel drives – all ranging in size and shape from Taj Mahal to tin shed. None took advantage of a spot facing the trees on a slight incline, I nudged my way in and set up, every so often observing the voltage display with a little pride and satisfaction.
Past the camping area was a day use reserve, its green grass spotted by sheltered picnic tables, the grass led down a slope where strategically placed benches sat taking in the beautiful valley view. The smooth stone river wound among tall rounded hills lined with eucalypts – the water, flowing inexorably onward around the needle leafed casuarina trees and over smooth colourful river rocks. Standing on the bank I could see to the bottom wherever I looked, I cupped my hands and scooped the crystal clear liquid for a drink, the droplets sparkling like diamonds in the sun – a total treat for the senses.
Mum gave me her inflatable kayak as a gift for the journey, a perfect addition as it collapsed to the size of a backpack and fit snugly to the passenger footwell. I took it out for a paddle marvelling at the feeling of levitation over the transparent water pools – if I was quiet enough I would see schools of fish dancing in symphony with such effortless speed and precision. After furiously navigating sections of shallow rocky rapids I embraced the stillness of the wider parts, laying back upon the kayak, the oars resting on my chest as I floated without a sound slowly downstream – a yin yang balance of river cruising.
Although the camp was full of people in social circles, telling tales of travels and sipping wine I felt toward solitude, other than a few short conversations I reserved myself to the van and nature. An exception was the young brother and sister duo Lucy and Taj. Lucy, three years old and Taj, 6 adopted me and we walked around the camp taking photos and drawing with thick Posca pens. From the wild lemon tree near the van we made lemonade but did not enjoy the powerfully sour taste. Eventually their folks came to collect them and I retired to a good book.
I moved on and am now east of Grafton, somewhere near a water reservoir, completely secluded, found by accident and totally lovely. The sliding door faces toward the rising sun and granted me an incredibly colourful morning sky, impacted by heart shaking crashes of thunder as a storm rolled in. As I write this last paragraph it is all quiet once more, garnished by melodic bird calls and the punctuating click of the keyboard.