It was late in the afternoon and I still had a fair way to go after crossing the South Aus boarder until my next planned campsite. I was looking forward to stopping into the larger city of Mount Isa for a quick stock up as I tried to beat the sunset. Unfortunately google maps in an effort to try and cut time off of my long leg, took me around Mount Isa to by-pass it completely… I did take a left to re-route and complete my original plan. Drizzly and cold I knew I was really running out of time to see any recommended scenes of Mount Isa so a quick pass through it was.
As I travelled down the highway to Cockatoo Lake, I had the most beautiful sunset in view. My headlights came on as google maps lead me down a single lane 10km dirt road to the free camp site I was in search for. A little concerned and feeling in the middle of no-where I arrived at a latched gate that very much looked like someone’s driveway and not a campsite at all…
It was getting late so, I continued to have faith in google maps and closed the gate behind me. I cooked up dinner in the dark, boiled my billy with the remnants of the sunset glowing orange and pink on the horizon.
In the early hours of the morning, I could hear the bhaas of sheep very close to the van. There must be a farm extremely close. An early wake to get going for another large leg ahead I completed my dinacharya (morning routine) in the dark with the early morning cold fingertip ache I was beginning to get used to. Back into the van, gloves, and beanie on I set my pranayama and meditation timer. As I slid open the door for the second time that morning, still having not seen where I was, I was gifted the thickest blanket of fog. So very mystical however, still no sight of any Lake as I could barely see 15m ahead of me.
I began packing up the van as l listened to the sound of sheep close by. The light increasing by the sun I am sure was rising somewhere, began to reveal the hundreds of sheep surrounding me and Daisy van. It turns out the farm was so close by that I was in fact a part of the farm. The “Please close the gate” sign made sense.
Determined to see the lake before I left, I made an early morning brew to warm my fingers as I walked towards where I imagined the lake to be. It was sooooo beautiful wandering through the misty morning in what I believed to be the very dry lake. With the finger ache returning from taking photos with gloves off, I decided Cockatoo lake was currently nothing but a lake of sheep shit as I scraped it thick from my hiking boots and set off to Adelaide.
As I drove into Adelaide City, familiar memories of it returned from a trip I did with my family across the Nullarbor when I was a teen. I had my directions set on another selected wholefoods and fresh organic produce store whilst I had the opportunity to stock up on goodness being in the big smoke. I browsed the beautiful selection of displayed herbs, spices and produce then got myself quick out of the hustle and bustle. I realised how far my confidence had come with Daisy van after not feeling nervous about driving through Adelaide and I was very proud of the fact I only received one beep!
I made it to my next camp spot 50 minutes out of Adelaide and on the coast at Purnham. Excited to be back on the coast and even more excited to see a hot water tap in the showers, considering the site was free, I grabbed my mat and practised on the beach. Another incredible South Aus sunset I watched. Feeling pretty exhausted from two large days of driving I decided I’d hang about for two nights and create a solid path to Yulara. By this stage I was getting pretty hopeless with the days and dates and was shocked when I realised, I kinda did need to get a wiggle on!
With nowhere to be that day I gave myself permission to snooze in bed until the sun was up and avoid another icy morning. Feeling slightly foggy headed from a large snooze I was also suspicious that my period wouldn’t be far off greeting me… exactly what I was hoping not to have to deal with in the desert…
With the hot shower fuelling the spring in my step I finally sprung out of bed…
Are you ready for shower diaries part two..?
I grabbed coins thinking it was just too good to be true that these showers were hot and FREE in an already free campsite! I entered the cubicle and was delighted to see my coins were not needed. Hand on the hot water tap I turned it. It did not follow my grip. I tried the cold water tap, and the icy cold water flowed perfectly from the shower head…
No no no no hot water tap, please turn, please turn, pleeeease turn. With a big twist the whole hot water tap came out of the wall. The perfectly cold water flowing from the shower head was now flowing out of the hole in the wall where the hot water tap, now in my hand, was supposed to live.
Shit shit shit! Cold and naked I fought with the gushing icy water from the wall as I did my best to plug the tap back in with concern, I had ruined the shower for the whole campsite.
With the hot water tap back in place and the cold water flowing from the correct hole, I accepted the fact the hot water shower I was longing for was not going to happen today… At least the sun was shining and I was able to thaw out on my picnic rug as I created a plan for the next week.
I got chatting to a fellow camper and he shared a little of his story with me. A positive bloke who was “As busy as a lizard drinking” and who sadly had cancer. He laid out his health issues in a short space, but long enough to smoke two ciggies…
That night I got to witness one very verbal feud from this fella with another camper over practically nothing at all. I was happy for the paddy wagon to arrive and silence the dispute as I giggled to myself reflecting on the evening’s entertainment.
THE RED CENTRE **Content warning, this title is very fitting…”
Happy to be leaving the site that did serve me well for a much needed re-group, I headed to the well established camp and accommodation place of Wilpena Pound, in the Flinders Ranges. After a quick stop into Port Augusta I began another long but breath-taking drive to the Ranges. Wilpena, recommended by a friend, did not disappoint. Nestled at the base of the magnificent mountain ranges I explored before a gentle wiggle on my mat. And it was here, on the door of one of the shower cubicles I saw the greatest sign I’d seen so far.
“Cold water tap broken, Hot water only”. HALLELUJAH.
I woke up the next morning not feeling great. My period was definitely due, but long story short, my cycle was still in the process of finding itself after coming off contraception many years ago. I was up early to hike to the highest peak of the Flinders Rangers. As I contemplated listening to my body and resting, I decided to go ahead since today was my only opportunity to explore and I always felt when my period was due, but it never always showed.
I was ecstatic and in awe as I walked with the sunrise. The lighting washing over the incredible rockface of the ranges surrounded me with vibrant red and orange. Looking even dreamier against the greenery around me.
Approximately 4kms into the 15km return hike my period, of course, arrived. I was in complete denial that it wouldn’t, as it always showed on time when my body was well rested. In those many years of not having a period I told myself I would never take it for granted again. And I truly haven’t. I was pleased and grateful my body was signalling I was in balance and functioning. And also pleased that I had packed prepared if this situation was to arise. I again contemplated turning back and taking rest as all women should during this time of their cycle.
I had made it to the base of the steep incline to the peak and decided I’d just take it easy and not plan to get there by a certain time. After another 2kms of moments of hands and knees scrambling I finally listened to my body that was truly starting to signal it was time to stop. Accepting I would not reach the top of Ngarri Mudlanaha (St Mary’s Peak), I knew I would return again one day.
I found a rock to perch on and take in the 180-degree view of the ranges with Ngarri Mudlanah overlooking my left shoulder. The energy of this range was extremely intense. After a snack I sat in meditation observing the sounds and power in the breeze. I started to feel extremely overwhelmed. Backpack back on, I began the decent back to camp.
I’m not one to suffer from much discomfort when menstruating. But here my body was aching and with every step I felt I had to hold my uterus in place… with deep breaths and slow movements I urged myself to just keep walking. At the same time pondering if this was how the early stages of going into labour felt… not enticing.
Oh no… period poos. I ignored the urge, just get back to camp, get back to camp… until I simply couldn’t. The inconvenient thing about the landscape here is the bushland is no-where near as dense as what I am used to!
I scrambled as far as I could until I just simply had to… squat.
There was something more going on. I know this time of the month for us is so much more than a physical release, I felt as though my body was purging all that needed to be released as I entered this next stage of my path.
Relieved the loo situation was over, I felt confident that I would be able to continue with a little more grace for the rest of the walk.
Standing up to head back on track I was riddled with dizziness. And still experiencing an incredible ache. One. Step. At. A. Time.
With every 10 steps I couldn't stand the pain and confusing overcoming of dizzy flushes. I never felt a concern of truly going to faint as I did in these moments. Squatting down seemed to help. Desperate to make it back to camp I continue in this pattern. Walk about 20m. Squat down. After about 15 minutes and very slow progress the dizziness and ache began to lift and I was finally able to make progress as I counted down the distance with the post markers.
Thrilled to be back at the starting point of the walk I noticed a sign I did not see when I set off that told the story of this sacred site.
“NGARRI MUDLANHA Meaning: Dizzy thoughts or confusion. A group of people who gathered in Wilpena Pound for a ceremony saw some large stars rising in the sky and took this as a sign to commence. The stars were in fact the eyes of two big Akurra (Dreaming serpents) looking down on them. St Mary’s Peak is the head of one of the Akurra that forms Wilpena Pound.”
Linking back to my reading with Faye from Your Hearts Path, the Dreaming Serpent had been brought up in my reading. Acknowledging a bigger power at play through what I was experiencing, I finally listened to my body, returned to my little home and nurtured it through the experience with an afternoon cocooned in my sleeping bag, hot water bottle relieving the returned aches and I began writing my first blog.
I took it slow and steady for the next few days as I nursed my aching body and what felt like a large pressure in my head as I made my way to Coober Pedy. Spoiled with an underground room, I did not feel any guilt caving myself in there for the duration of my stay. I gave myself all the love to rejuvenate after the most intense cycle of my life. A long yin practice, plenty of hot showers, Abhyanga Massage, took advantage of an oven and roasted my vegetables and managed a deep sleep.
Leaving Coober Pedy, I was still feeling a little out of it. Daisy van had begun making an unpleasant steering wheel noise so I visited the mechanic just to be sure it was nothing major to worry about. I was not exactly greeted by a man at the front desk, doing what looked like not much at all. He stood up and I asked if it would be possible if he could have a quick listen to the wheel, understanding nothing could be fixed today but just to ease my mind. He stood a little longer, looked into space with a long “Uuuuuuuum”. And completed his only sentence with “No sorry”.
Deciding myself it was nothing to worry about, I got out of the quirky, dusty town of Coober Pedy and continued North to Marla. I have two 2kg gas bottles for my cooker. Before leaving Port Augusta I found out that Marla seemed to be the only random place between Adelaide and the red centre that was able to refill my empty. On a quick mission to stop and have it filled as previously promised over the phone in Marla. My continuation onto Kalgera Road house mission was put to a halt…
“Sorry, he’s not here today. He’ll be back in tomorrow”. Marla for the night it was!
A blessing in disguise it was my stay here. I soaked up an afternoon of reading and incredibly hot and clean free showers… The shower diaries were definitely looking up.
With a full gas bottle by 9am I hit the Stuart Highway once again. Within roughly two hours I made it to the SA/NT boarder.
Crossing into the Northern Territory tears over came me. Full of stoke, gratitude, proudness, and surrealness I happy sobbed. I think mostly it was a great sense of relief. I was completing the leg I had feared and been told to fear most and I was having an absolute ball in the process.