The road trip has begun. We have left HC. Dave is flying in a helicopter over the bungle bungles and I have been talking to motorcyclists. The car is heavily laden with the detritus of my life. She is carrying her burden bravely. Tyre pressures @ 40 & 42. Onward Japanese Juggernaut!
Tomorrow I finally get to see lake Argyle by boat and on Thursday the long drive begins with no firm itinerary.
Technically I am on annual leave until 8 May, my final day of employment at the Shire of Halls Creek. But I have already handed in my credit card and completed my last return. I have performed my last duties. I will not be returning to work. In real terms I am a retired person. When I awake in the mornings my only obligations are to matters I have decided to attend to. I am still adjusting to this concept. The freedom of being on holiday always had a time limit until now. A future that depends entirely on what I choose to do is difficult to contemplate. It also has some uncertainties. Where will I live? How will I manage my health and mobility issues? What unexpected snags and costs might affect my plans, when I get around to making them?
So far I have mapped out my next steps in the most general terms; take a week or two to show Dave around my part of the Kimberley, triage my stuff and pack what I can take with me, and head for Kate’s place in Queensland. From there the plans are still flexible. But they include visiting 91 year old Mary in NZ as soon as possible, shipping my car and contents over, finding a place to live. I may be returning to Oz to do that after a quick visit home, in which case a Queensland vacation may be in order.
I must sort out my future medical and medication needs.
I also have to access my superannuation and get myself onto the old age pension, or whatever pc term is used to describe it these days.
And I must keep my fingers crossed that I will not need another job in order to eke out a living. The things I want to get on with do not involve paid employment.
One way I know I have made a sensible decision in choosing to retire is that my sleep has improved enormously. Peaceful unbroken rest and no more anxious dreams.
An unexpected and delightful surprise is that my best and oldest friend of 53 years offered to fly over from NZ and join me on the last leg of my circumnavigation of Australia. I accepted with alacrity. I believe David is the only person I have never argued with except as an intellectual exercise. We never had a falling out.
I shall pick him up from Kununurra airport on Anzac Day.
In the following week or so, I shall show David around the Kimberley. All the places I have come to know and love. Secret spring, Sawpit Gorge, Lake Stretch, the back road to Mulan, Wolfe Creek Crater, Komaterpillar. Then when we head off at last I think we might go via the Duncan road. I have not been on it past Marella Gorge. That will complete my Kimberley experience.
Then we shall be on a road trip all the way to the home of another old friend in Queensland. Though this next trip won’t be on bikes as my back and legs are no longer bike-friendly, it may just be even better. We can converse and share the driving.
Technically, at least, at the end of this road trip I will have (almost) travelled all the way round Australia. I have travelled before between Sydney and Newcastle, and driven between Ballina and Kate’s home where we are heading on this trip. The only gap not covered is the 600 km stretch between Ballina and Newcastle, but I have flown into Coffs Harbour, which is pretty much in the middle between them. I count that as close enough. I have visited all the state capitals bar one. I have not yet set foot in Tasmania, a deficiency I do plan to rectify some time.
Doing the last leg in my Toyota Land Cruiser with David is just the best ending I can think of.
My cruiser, Taistealaí , is going in for her 290,000 km service on Monday. She still goes like a dream. She looks a little used and at present is certainly dirty but she has been well looked after by her three owners. I am the third. She proved herself worthy when we did the Gibson expedition to Kiwirrkurra.
Roaming free as the breeze
What’s to stop me and why?
I can live as I please
Open road, servo pie…
My history has made me train wild animals but I’m more famed Because I’ve really trained myself to be as spry as any elf The circus life taught me a lot, now the circus is finished – but I’m not. For I’m not afraid to potter round the dark I’ll breakfast on tomorrow’s question mark Adventure is in my blood why any lion could smell it well But I always hold the whip and I’ll never let it slip Whatever comes I’ll take the good and send the rest to hell
Roaming free as the breeze What’s to stop me and why? I can live as I please Open road, open sky!
My lion taming acting was enough to create quite a buzz From Timbuctu to Samarkand I wowed them in the hinterland I was king of the king of the beasts on the stage Why, the public wouldn’t let me out of my cage They loved it when the lions licked my paws And I got the lion’s share of their applause I follow with the bold and the brave when the bold are gone Whatever I wish I’ll be when the wish appeals to me For there’s a thing worth more than gold My creed! I must go!
English words by Anne Ronell (1939)
The music for “Open Road Open Sky” was originally composed by Johann Strauss for his 1885 light opera “Der Zigeunerbaron“. The English version of this song became popular in 1939 after Ann Ronell adapted Strauss’s music and wrote new lyrics.
Today I gave notice to my employers. In just a few weeks I shall continue East and complete my circuit of Australia. I would have liked to do it on a bike but frankly I think I will enjoy it more in my Landcruiser.
I shall head for Queensland to visit an old friend. After that, to New Zealand. The good news is that I have a lot of accumulated leave, and I have just earned 70% of three months long service leave in addition, having completed seven years service in local government in Western Australia. With my accumulated leave That is worth almost a half year’s pay. Plus I have my super. I came here with nothing and in the last seven years I have put away a reasonable nest egg; far better than I could have achieved in New Zealand. Far better in fact than I had managed in the fifteen years prior. But I was paying a mortgage then and raising youngsters. In any case I sincerely hope it is sufficient, and with the pension, I hope I never need to work again. I have really had enough.
Looking forward to what comes next.
Apropos of nothing at all here is the wonderful Jacques Brel singing his song that Edith Piaf so famously covered. A powerful moving performance.