Love Chunks, Sapphire and I are heading out into the great Aussie outback for an adventure this school holidays. Granted, we'll be forgoing the hellish week-long drive along the dull and dusty plains and instead be flying on the big silver bird into Alice Springs, but then we're saddling up for a 4-wheel-drive camping trip sleeping out under the stars in swags.
Cool, hey? We want Sapph to see the awesome magnificence of Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Olgas and King's Canyon and to visit an Aboriginal community and get a feel for central Australia. Plus, unbeknownst to her we've booked a hot air balloon ride on the last morning, which will hopefully be rather memorable (at least, until LC said, "Isn't this where that balloon crashed ages ago, killing and mangling all those poor people?" Er, yes).
I'm going for all of those reasons (except the balloon disaster situation) as well, but and also for a personal one of my own - to silently apologise for my behaviour of some time ago. Way, waaaay back in the deep, dim mists of time to 1985.
I wasn't exactly a 'handful' as a teenager because as a teacher's daughter and all-round academic goody-goody in a big bad high school of 1500 students, I was too timid for anything approaching rebellion. The closest I got to being a Wild One was skinny dipping in the Murray River during a girl's camping weekend when I was sixteen, but luckily it was poor Marie who was caught doing a bold starfish leap into the water when a speedboat full of yobbos zoomed past and I was mercifully in the poo-brown water right up to my chin, and at least the smoke from the campfire disguised the three Alpines that I wheezily attempted to inhale instead of 'bum suck'.
Anyhow, by 1985 I was sixteen-and-a-half, deeply into my final year of school and - more importantly for me at the time - experiencing my first real taste of love. Reciprocated love.
Therefore, to be unceremoniously dragged away from our netball grand final - which we won and I was captain of the team!! - and to be reduced to reaching out of the car window and scrabbling to catch the premiership medal as it was thrown to me by the presenter as Dad pulled out of the carpark in our packed-to-the-gills 4WD was distinctly not needed in my hormonally indignant teenaged opinion.
I'm the one with the shocker perm, top right - Dad just leaned out of the car, took a quick photo and said, "Good onyer, now GET IN, we're going!"
Neither was the four day drive up to Alice Springs where a can of warm coke was all that gave us any respite from the choking red dust, David's sniffles (a combination of asthma and suffering from a broken collarbone after running back for a mark and donging into the points post) and the toyota's cassette stereo that played every tape a few beats slower than normal so that Mum and Dad's collection of Nana Mouskouri, Roger Whittaker and The Kingston Trio sounded even drearier, if that's actually possible.....
The only highlight I recall was seeing a sign - literally in the middle of nowhere and not even against a wreck of a building or fence post - that said, 'Lesbians Are Everywhere.' I proudly posed for that photo, wondering just why Dad insisted that it be me and not Mum who did it.
The rest of the trip saw me sulking in every single photo. My reasons for this were immense and numerous at the time:
- Not being able to spend two weeks hanging around the heaving metropolis of Murray Bridge (pop 10,000) with my boyfriend
- Having to set the bloody tent up every night because David had his arm in a sling
- Running out of batteries for my walkman
- Getting a very bad cold that saw me nearly heave up a lung when I finally reached the top of Ayers Rock and have an old guy hobble over and ask, "Are you all right, dearie?"
- ..... only to see an empty coke can and cigarette butt at the summit
- My folks befriending some large - and overtly Christian - family at the Uluru camping grounds with my only refuge being to hide inside the tent at the card table doing my biology assignment by gaslight and having it corrected later by Dad in red biro
- Knowing my new perm was going disastrously wrong when the hair mousse wasn't packed and electric dryers weren't able to be plugged in
- Being forced to eat meusli with powdered milk for breakfast ("But Mum, the bark chips by the toilet block would taste better than this"); and
- Seeing the walls of the tent dangerously collapse in and out in time with Dad's leaf-blower-like snores every night.
Wish me luck. Or should that be, wish Love Chunks and Sapphire luck?