The show is on the road. It’s a shade over two weeks now since I left Perth and started my trip to visit my daughter in Brisbane. That is the main purpose of the journey, and a very worthwhile purpose, but there are sub-plots, too.
Driving from Perth to Brisbane over the top end is a long drive. I don’t know how many thousands of kilometers, and I don’t have access to the internet right now, so we’ll have to simply accept it’s a long way. Getting up towards the 5,000 km mark if you drove without detour. I’m writing my first blog from the Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park, a couple of hundred kilometers north of Port Hedland, the massive iron ore port in the Pilbara. It’s the 26th of August, 2021, and I want to be in Darwin by September 5th.
I was hoping to go hiking in Koolpin Gorge in Kakadu with a friend from northern New South Wales. She can’t make it anymore as they are in lock down, of course, but I can still use the hiking permit my friend has organised…and that segues nicely into another sub-plot; life, love and travel in the time of covid.
We, the universal “we”, meaning “all of us”, “everybody”, “the-whole-damn-planet”; we are in the midst of a pandemic. The covid virus is at large globally and has been for some18 months. The impact on me has been very small. Until starting this journey I was living in Perth, the capital of Western Australia, where the control measures have been very effective in keeping covid at bay. Perth is an extremely isolated city in the massive and largely unpopulated state that is about one third of Australia.
There have been very few community cases since the early days of the pandemic. Western Australia has been impacted in a multitude of ways from the decreased economic activity, and the travel restrictions, both for individuals and businesses, but there have been few restrictions in day-to-day activities since the first lock down was lifted. The lock downs have still caused great hardship for many people, but being semi-retired and no longer dependent on the daily grind for my day-to-day existence, I was mostly exempt from the pain. I have friends and relatives who have suffered much greater hardships than I, in Australia and overseas, but covid has largely bypassed me, so far. I hope it stays that way.
September 5th, 2021
I’ve made it to Darwin and I am currently parked up at the Lee Point Caravan Park
Despite the lack of disruption and inconvenience to my own privileged life-style, these are unusual times. I’m not sure if there ever have been, or are, usual times, but that is another discussion. Covid has set the world afire in a way other disease outbreaks have not; it is a pandemic and has affected every country across the globe. It has also further outlined divisions and cracks between the different members of society; the haves and have-nots, the over-privileged and the and the under-privileged, those with wealth and those without. The buffer for poorer people is a lot thinner than for the wealthy. Privilege offers access to more and better services. Wealth can afford to pay for them.
And so in these times of uncertainty; these unprecedented times as the media has liked to say, and it seems that phrase has now entered into the modern lexicon, I have driven from Perth to Darwin. I am not alone on the road. The northern regions of Australia have just enjoyed or endured, depending on your point of view, the busiest dry season they could have envisaged. Every retiree, holiday maker, and internationalist who normally travels overseas for some part of the year has remained in Australia due to covid imposed travel restrictions, and consequently, is exploring this great country. What is the collective noun for a group of wealthy baby boomer caravanners? An armada? A phalanx? It should be a more mellow word, but there is something militaristic about the shiny steel skins of the FJ series Land Cruisers, and the precisely laid out grids of caravans in the parks, with the awnings all lined up in a row.