I fly in to Alice. A short drive from the airport and we’re on the Tanami Road, heading into the remote desert north of Alice Springs. Suddenly I’m in another world. Am I ready? My mind is still in Pennyroyal with our farm, the cows, dogs, chooks, geese. Even the wellbeing of the bees in our hives gets a fleeting thought.
We camp the night at Tilmouth Well. It’s winter in the red centre and oh, so cold. Mint and rosemary lamb chops sizzle on the campfire grill. The hot meal and layer upon layer of clothing are our attempt to ward off the cold.
It’s Territory Day. The only day of the year it’s legal to set off fireworks without a permit. What a shame we don’t have any. After dinner we leave the warmth of the fire to explore a dry sandy creek bed running alongside the campsite. A secretive Howard runs ahead, on a mission. What is he up to? The dark night explodes with a spinning sputtering wheel of light and we cheer! Fireworks! Vive le Territory!
Our cosy camper feels more like an icebox when we retire to bed. I’m under the doona fully clothed, wearing the hood up on my fleecy hoodie against the chill. But sleep comes quickly and soon the icy cold night breaks into a clear bright day. Lying in bed I pull out Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, my choice of reading for this trip. In the first chapter I read how aboriginal myths describe the creation of the world. They believe their dreamtime ancestors walked through the country singing the land and all that lived in it into being. I love this idea. Life from song.
Humming Nessun Dorma I quietly sing this day into life. I climb out of the camper and line up my wash bag contents on the rickety little camp table. The sun shines through the gum trees. Its weak rays carry the promise of warmer weather. I splash icy water onto my face and shock my system awake to start the day. Time to head north.