Living in a Marsupial World
 
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From Mount Isa we began the somewhat daunting task of driving the long, dry expanse of nothingness that is the Northern Territory up towards Darwin. Since the only people we had met that had made this journey so far were road train drivers, we had no idea what to expect, but our Camps 5 book did show a few roadside camping areas where we could stay overnight. Just before the border, one camping area had some dirt tracks that extended back into the bush and we took this opportunity to become a bit more isolated out in the wilderness. The sunset that night was beautiful; the bugs however, were out in force. 


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The next day we found ourselves crossing over from Queensland into the Northern Territory! A friendly biker dude kindly took our picture to document this occasion. We camped that night at another rest stop along the Barkly Highway, which our book recommended as a good site. We were disappointed to discover, however, that this site consisted of rocky ground, nasty black flies, a rusty broken windmill, no bathrooms, and no potable drinking water. As there was really nowhere else to go, we made do.

 


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That night while cooking mini pizzas over a wood fire, we met Terry and Trish from Gladstone who had camped out right next to the only fire pit and picnic table in the whole area. Terry was the gruff, rough n’ tumble type - a retired truck driver originally from Victoria - and Trish, from Queensland, was a bit loud and screechy. The evening began with small talk and recommendations for the NT and WA, and progressed into a crazy night of stories and politics we never could’ve anticipated. To give some samples:

Terry began his storytelling with tales from his youth on a farm, where he was continually experimenting with devices to aid in chicken killing and plucking. Terry was also missing a few toes on his left foot. One day, his niece asked him how he lost his toes. He explained that the cat had eaten them. Immediately, his niece walked across the room and proceeded to “kick the shit out of the cat, yelling, ‘Give Uncle Terry his toes back!’”

Another time, Trish took him into Brisbane to a fancy casino. As the valet jumped into his car to park it, Terry grabbed the poor guy, dragging him out by his neck screaming, “Why the hell are you stealing my car?” After Trish explained what a valet was, Terry then ran after the bellhop for stealing his luggage. These stories and the manner in which he told them had us all in stitches. As he put it, you can tell a real Aussie by his ability to “spin a good yarn.” Trish, from the sidelines, kept yelling, “People shouldn’t know you Terry.” 

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Devin and his double pot oven invention... and Trish's boobs, and drink.
After what seemed like only a few drinks, we realized Trish was suddenly and inexplicably hammered - so inebriated that she needed to hold onto the canopy pole for balance. As an afterthought, Devin put a small branch of spinifex, a nasty, dry, spiky weed, into the fire, which immediately exploded and blew smoke and sparks right into Trish’s face. This should not have been much of an issue, had she been consciously able to let go of the pole and move out of the smoke’s path. We tried our best not to burst out laughing when she started blindly yelling at Devin, “A bloke should be shot for doing something like that!” and “Punch him Terry, Terry punch him!”


As friendly as these two were toward us (so much so that they wanted to exchange facebook info to keep in touch), the earlier part of the evening unfortunately included some sensitive political conversations that revealed very blunt racism on the part of Trish and Terry towards Aboriginals. Sparked by the topic of former PM Kevin Rudd’s powerful (and long overdue) public apology to the Stolen Generations, they very strongly voiced their opposition to that action, saying, “Why do we have to apologize?” When the word ‘genocide’ was mentioned regarding Australia’s dark and violent past towards Aboriginals, a string of angry self-righteous comments about respecting their land and taxes and property rights ensued. Uncomfortable, we tried to change topics and the evening eventually progressed as outlined above. This is not the first time we’ve experienced these opinions with otherwise charming Aussies and we guess it won’t be the last. It’s shocking to us, not because racism is less in the states (which is tragic), but because here in Australia it is so openly and self-righteously defended and seems among some to be the standard base of opinion. We shall see if this changes as we make our way further into parts of the country with more concentrated indigenous populations and tribal properties.


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