Since arriving in Mullumbimby I had been very busy, the weeks taken up with study, farm work, social encounters or just general back and forth on the roads. Every day was a drive somewhere and a meeting with someone – I felt like I had no control over my life and was riding the wave – holding on with white knuckles to the front of my own runaway rail cart. It was difficult to realise how deep in busyness I was – what seemed to compound the pressure was that I had yet to find a longer term place to call home, somewhere I could park the van for more than just a few days, this behaviour created a continual sense of being uprooted. I looked upon those with a house or even a tin shed with a slight feeling of envy as I struggled to find quiet space to anchor for the night, every night, for weeks and weeks.
The Easter school holidays had begun and that meant a break from study and other responsibilities, I took the opportunity to detach from all other things keeping me in the area, retreat to nature, solitude and solid focus on number one. I looked at maps for a camp and found something north of Tenterfield, NSW – three hours drive should get me far enough away.
Putting the phone on airplane mode at the beginning of the journey gave me that familiar, delicious feeling of being lost and anonymous in the world, a secession of responsibility, a total freedom. I turned from the well travelled asphalt road onto dirt leading further into the bush, wheels retreating into their arches at each pothole like a turtle’s head shying from threat. Windows down in disregard of dust, elbow resting, exposed, smile on face, silent hope of new found space in luxury away from civilisation.
Some time along this Australian scene of a dusty dry eucalypt forest track I careered downhill to a water nestled valley, it was the Clarence River, I traversed the wooden slat bridge with a thunderous rattle and halted the van on the other side. I reviewed the locale and explored for a secluded place to pitch my vehicular tent. The river was fast flowing and I saw clear signs of where it had been – standing on the bridge the evidence of the past few weeks of flood was well above my head, well above another’s head if they were to stand atop my shoulders.
I pulled myself back into the driver’s seat like a well-practiced gymnast and wheeled onward for another spot upstream, tyre tracks turned from road and cut through the soft green grass, I took them and ever slowly trundled over steep slopes and fields of river rocks to what I would award one of the nicest camps I have come across for some time.
The van came to a stop upon a plateau not twenty paces from the water’s edge, I slowly paced the area, soft green blades brushed my ankles inviting me down for a roll and a frolic in the verdant luxury. A large ring of rocks bore host to past campfires with leftover wood awaiting the flames I may soon produce. The grass gave way to a sandy path leading me toward the river, I walked under a large bottle brush tree to appreciate a sandy beach and vast water hole – I felt very fortunate to have this all to myself, stripped off and waded into the tinted depths.
I sat on a rock, chest deep in water and gazed around, to my right the river was white and fast flowing, to my left the slower, more expansive waterway turned a corner, ahead and up the bank towered above in steep sheared rock, the foundation of sporadic eucalypt trees clawed deep into the crag. The sun – now low in the sky behind me – painted the rocks and foliage in yellow light as I craned my neck to view its peak.
Having immersed myself in the invigorating stream I slid back to shore and made way to set up camp. My processes, my mind and emotions were all slowing down as I consciously performed each action, walking, observing, setting up, collecting firewood – I took the time otherwise taken from me in busy schedule and found peace, stillness, sweet relief from the ridiculous notion of necessary activity.
Sometimes I caught myself doing and reminded myself to be – ah but I went easy on me, this journey has only just started.
A clear and moonlit night, I walked and took photos and watched the black blue sky.