Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers.

Night of the 17th

I told Anthony we should probably head to the biggest camper van, and indeed this machine was huge. Really, it was a house on wheels. It was not too hard to put on our best pathetic faces, and we knocked on the door with our bikes and empty-handed, but not wanting to give off the idea that we expected anything. Kay opened the door, looked us up and down, and pretty much knew what we needed before we asked.

"Is there any chance we could have some water? We have run out."

It was kind of embarrassing after so many km on the Eyre highway with plenty of water to have finally run out, but the Nullarbor National Park had no shade, no water, and we had doubled our consumption. I followed Anthony’s plea with the justification that, "We haven’t had a problem until now. Usually what we have is plenty."

She was kind and gave us two water bottles to drink while we fetched our water bladders that held six liters each and would get us the next 50 km to Nullarbor Roadhouse. She filled, and we thanked her.

We walked briefly to stretch off the bike, re-hydrating and coming down off a hot and miserable day. We sat gingerly on the stone table provided by the national park and put our heads down trying to build up motivation to start dinner.

Kay approached us from behind and in a modest, but most generous fashion, and invited us to dinner. "There’ll be too much for the four of us, and we can’t let it go to waste." Kay is married to Trevor, and they traveled with Diane and Keith. I think Diane and Trevor are brother an sister; either way, both couples took us in with open arms, offered us water, and grouper that had been speared by Keith only days before and was kept quite fresh in the trailer’s refrigerator. It was excellent – white, flaky and breaded; never would I have imagined this treat in the middle of this barren plain.

"It’s a cruel stretch of road," said Keith. He spoke with authority; it was clear he had made the drive many times. Now with their caravan setup, they could live quite nicely on the Nullarbor for some time.

We finished the night with ice cream and apple crumble and talked of shooting kangaroos and Emu. Australia is probably the only country where they have to fight the national symbols in order to not be overrun by them. Both are hearty animals in absolutely no danger of extinction.
We thanked our hosts profusely, offered to help clean, but they would have none of it. This is what Australian hospitality is.

We slept that night using the short salt brush as a windbreak. It was a good four hours of sleep.

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