As I mentioned before on this blog, my family used to travel across Australia from West to East and back again quite regularly when I was a child. (Read about another of those trips here.) Eventually, we shifted permanently and the long trips became less frequent. Now, the eight of us only made the trip for important family events. Such as weddings.
We were on our way back East from one such wedding. My youngest brother was a baby (all six of us children have travelled across the Nullabor before we were a year old) which would make me around twelve years old. My family has always been on the poor side and I can only remember sleeping in a motel room a handful of times in my whole childhood. When I was younger, Daddy would just drive straight through the night, taking a short nap or swapping with Mum when he was too tired. Us kids would lay down on the seats or on the floor in front of the seats and have perfectly good sleeps as we journeyed. Now, I was twelve and with six of us kids in the back, there were no spare seats to lay down on. So, for sleeping arrangements on this trip, we packed sleeping bags, a few thin mattresses and a tarp. It was summer, so the nights were warm, even in the desert.
The first night, we camped on the sand dunes at the Old Telegraph Station just outside of Eucla. It was quiet and semi comfortable on the sand. In the morning, by the glowing light of a desert sunrise, we played on the ruins while Mum got breakfast and Dad packed the car ready to hit the road again.
After driving all day, by nightfall or well after nightfall really, we were somewhere in the “sheep country” of SA, a bit over an hour short of Broken Hill. There was nothing ‘comfy’ like sand here. In between the scarce, withered gum trees, there was nothing but gravel due to the drought that gripped the state. But, we needed to sleep. So, Dad turned down a random road in the darkness of the night. It seemed like we drove forever but in my sleepiness I felt the car stop and heard Daddy get out and start laying down the tarp and any mattresses and blankets we had. Then he pulled us kids out of the car one by one and laid us all down together, Mum & the baby last. Then he locked the car, set his alarm and lay down beside us. All was quiet and, out of sheer exhaustion, we slept on that rocky sheep paddock.
In the morning, fright jerked me awake. I could hear strange noises in the dim light and I had no recollection of where I was. As my eyes adjusted, I could see the cause of the disturbance: the flock of sheep who had shared their home with us for the night had come around to see who was using their floor. They stood at a safe distance, snorting and swishing flies away with a toss of their heads. I was first awake and terrified that the farmer on who’s property I guess we were trespassing would come and find us. So I lay quietly, anxiously until Mum and Dad stirred and everyone started to wake up.
Finally we were on the road again and I knew that by that evening, we would be home again. Back to real beds where the only sheep in the room were stuffed toys. But, no regrets. Sleeping in a sheep paddock with your whole family pressed close together is something that I’ll never forget and makes a great story to tell my kids. And write on a blog.
Travelling is not just about seeing beautiful places, finding yourself or being free. It’s about making memories that will last a lifetime. Take the difficult road sometimes. Do crazy things. Life is meant to be awesome!
We no longer have to camp in random sheep paddocks thanks to an awesome product that we discovered a few years ago. The authors, Phillip & Kathryn, travel over 50,000km per year discovering and researching camping spots, caravan parks, public toilets, dumping points and rest stops. The seek out the most special places to camp in Australia and share them with thousands of travellers and adventurers. We never go on a road trip without our CAMPS AUSTRALIA WIDE book!
For your copy, visit http://www.campsaustraliawide.com
(P.S I was not paid to write this post!)