The Northern Territory in Australia is also known as The Top End and is well into sub-tropical zones where the weather is topsy-turvy – it rains all “Summer” despite being sweat-soaking hot and gives glorious sunny and cloud-free days all “Winter” despite the cooler (not much) conditions – and because that makes a mockery of what seasons are supposed to be like, the four seasons are tossed out, and three (not four) new ones sit firmly in their place. These new seasons are the Wet, the Dry and the Build-up. It’s a place of cyclones, of torrential rains, high humidity, mold and prickly heat. It’s where you get crocodiles – big ones.
On our wilderness block, in our dug out room with the tin tent over it, on top of the second largest hill on our land, flooding was not considered a potential problem. It was not considered at all. So why was it that one morning, in the early hours, I rolled over in bed, and my hand flopped over the side and splashed into water already up to the top of the bed and at height of the mattress? It was confusing, to say the least, but there was no time to ponder on it.
It had been raining all night. The land, largely clay and shale, had soaked up what water is could. The water was coming down from the higher hill and some of that was finding its way into our little room at a great rate of speed. It wasn’t pouring in through the doorway or over the edge generally, it was pouring in though the walls of the pit itself. Trouble was, it wasn’t running out again. Nature was going to fill our hole up to the brim – about two feet over the bed – and we had to act fast.
It was three a.m. It was still raining, but Greg got the pump we used to fill our water tanks running and we put up a fight to drain the pit faster than it was filling. I was bailing using a tin bucket. There was actually not much point to the exercise, as everything was wet now anyway, including us, but at that hour when you’re awake to an emergency, you don’t much reason, you just deal with what is happening.
I remember feeling the ridiculousness of the situation and the two of us ended up just standing there, laughing. We were on a hill, for goodness sake. A HILL. Ever heard the expression “high and dry”?
Seriously, some truly remarkable things happen in the real world away from the safety of houses and towns. It’s easy to have a glorified view of “camping out” and “living with nature” as though it’s some kind of a Disneyland concept. The truth is very different. There’s real awkwardness, real danger, real pitfalls, real animals that bite and scratch and kill and maim. Nature the world over is the territory of hunter and hunted, there are no manners out there, no forgiveness, no gentleness. If you can love it for all of that (with your eyes open, in other words), you’re onto something. If you can’t see beyond “pretty”, you’re in for one heck of a shock if you ever venture further than a Sunday picnic.
Okay, I said yesterday there was only one more, being today’s story, but I forgot one and it’s a goodie… (well, I think so), so tomorrow will be the last of my country-wilderness tales, at least for the time being. Tomorrow, then, it’s back to snakes. Poisonous ones eye-to-eye.
Have a great day/evening everyone. Cheers!