There was no house on our 250 acres of wilderness. There was no connected electricity, no running water, no sewage system and no phone. We had no refrigeration, no washing machine. It was going to be an interesting five years.
We were off the main road. To reach our block, we had to travel ten kilometres of dirt, some of it very loose and very steep (seriously scary on a motorbike). We landed there about 3:00 in the afternoon. Greg unhooked the trailer of gear and parked it on the roadside – we didn’t have a driveway as yet – and then he disappeared back down the road to go and fetch the second hand caravan we would use as our home until we could build one.
That left me sitting on the side of a hill as watchdog for our things, guarding two cats in cat carriers and filling in time plotting plots because I had nothing else to do except swat the march flies that tried to bite me.
By 7:00 I was still there alone. Not a single car had come by and it was getting dark. Something was happening, though. I had moved some of our things up the slope where there was some shade in the subtropical climate and a view down the road. Something was coming.
I’ll be honest, what I saw down the road and heading my way scared me. It was a pack of dingoes. Dingoes can be dangerous and these ones had clearly interbred, mixing with German Shepherd most noticeably. Big dogs. Smart dogs.
I had no retreat, of course. There was no car to hop into – Greg had it. I was just trying to work out what to do with the cats and if I could get them and me up a tree in time, when they sensed me. The silent pack moved off the road away from me. They continued their journey around the hills and I didn’t see them again. That was good. That meant they’d had experience with humans and didn’t trust them.
So I sat there as the sun went down and it got dark. I’m thinking of dingoes, and snakes too, and I tell you, it’s not nice being out in the bush when you have no lighting and no way to make fire and there are potentially dangerous creatures around you. I didn’t know Greg was going to be gone so long or I’d have planned ahead. I didn’t even have a torch. It turned out Greg had taken a wrong turning with the caravan and it was giving him trouble getting it turned around again on a different narrow dirt track.
It was a further hour or so before those very welcome lights turned the corner and Greg arrived with our home on wheels.
We were both fresh from the city. We certainly didn’t know the country the way we were going to get to know the country. Greg would continue to commute into Darwin every day to go to work. For him, coming home was like going on a camping trip. From my perspective, though, my life would never be the same. It wasn’t a camping holiday for me, it was being dropped into the deep end of pioneering, albeit in the modern way.
I was the one who kept things going. I had to collect water every day, I had to wash clothes by hand, I had to bury sewage (we very quickly ditched the chemical toilet as a waste of space). We started off with a small generator which ran my computer, and soon upgraded to a bigger generator and batteries to store power. I looked after that side of things, making sure we had power enough to run through the evening. We got water tanks, and I looked after pumping them full from the stream, running hoses half a kilometre from stream to tanks on the hill, and making sure those tanks were full to the brim when the Dry Season came and the streams dried up for six months of the year. Eventually, I dug a trench from the tanks to our campsite, using a mattock, and put in pipes so we had water on tap. Bliss! People take such things for granted, we got to learn appreciation for them.
Greg did his share, too, of course. He made a hot water system out of an old oil drum. Basically it was a burner we’d light an hour ahead of time to get good and hot, then run water through it. He erected our tin and wooden pole home, which we referred to as the tin tent, because that’s what it was. It gave us a bedroom (the caravan became my office) and a bed that the pythons and sometimes bats would hide under.
Mostly, my days were hot and dusty. It was hard work. To some extent it was dangerous for the simple fact of being alone every day from before sun up to after sun down. Meeting a buffalo almost nose-to-nose is dangerous. Fortunately he ran one way and I ran the other, so that was okay. Meeting snakes can be dangerous. A lot of Australian snakes are seriously deadly. Pythons were okay, although often large, and because of the streams, we had a lot of pythons. They actually kept the other snake numbers down, but we did have an assortment of poisonous snakes, too. When you’re in thick bushland, you’re going to meet them, simple as that.
My way of dealing with snakes – surprise, surprise – was to read up on them and understand their ways. I have never been frightened of snakes since. I have great respect for snakes. We left them alone and, for the most part, lived in harmony with them.
The biggest danger was wild boar because they do attack. We had a gun for them, but I never carried it.
We also had bushfires go through. We learnt to live with all of these things.
Probably the most dangerous time for me personally was when a bunch of hoons turned up and from the roadside let rip with semi-automatic gunfire. They weren’t actually aiming at me, but I was certainly within range. They were after roo (kangaroos), but didn’t get any. Point is, they were watching for movement and I figured if they saw any from me, they’d take me for a roo and make me their target.
I hit the deck when the shooting started. What that means is, I hunkered down behind a the 20 litre fuel can I’d been carrying because I’d been about to start the generator. The can was full of course. I thought, How smart is this? But there was nowhere else to go and I waited it out.
When those b**tards were done, they drove on up the road – saw our van at the top of the hill, realized there were likely to be people present, performed the fastest u-turn I’ve ever seen and took off as though I might be after them with my own gun.
I was just glad they missed me. Sheesh!
“Hi Love, what sort of day did you have?” You know? You just don’t get the same answers as you do in the city.
Cheers, all! 🙂