TITLE: Back To Where It All Began
It was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining, the birds were out in force singing at the tops of their lungs – not a breath of wind. Ideal for a flight over the Lost City in a helicopter. The Lost City is on a plateau amongst surprisingly hilly country. It is spread over about 10 square kilometres and is estimated to be 1.4 billion years old. The eerie sandstone spires are the result of an inland sea. Water penetrated the rock and eroded it breaking it into columns up to 25m tall. They resemble skyscrapers which is the reason Lost City was given its name. I wasn’t going along for the ride – but I was certainly looking forward to hearing about the experience once the others returned.
Leo, the pilot gave them the run down and shortly after they were in the air. From all accounts on their return it was amazing, the photos and film said it all.
It was time to say goodbye to Maz, not easy when you’d spent time sharing good memories with someone who knew you and your family well. A big hug and plenty of tears and we were on the road again. This time to Daly Waters, back to where it all began.
This place was significant for me and for this project, it was the furthest North Dad had been in this part of the Territory and was therefore the official start of stage one back in 2011. There was something about arriving into a town which I knew Dad had visited. This was the case in Georgetown and Borroloola but to be returning to where it all began was even more emotional. After putting five years work into this project and enjoying all that involved, this was a memory I needed just for myself. Having finally gained some confidence after a couple of long and challenging days on the road I was looking forward to travelling this single lane of tarmac alone, to be alone with my thoughts and be able to be myself, cry if I felt like it and ‘let go.’
I’d missed this feeling, one Dad would have experienced himself alone on the road. As the kilometres fell away and Daly Waters came into view I smiled, this was it. A huge moment for me, not that anyone would have picked it there and then, sometimes my emotions come tumbling out but otherwise they’re locked up, hidden behind silence and a smile. I pulled into the pub at Daly Waters, it was four years since I’d last been in town and many more since Dad had been there. I got out with that same smile on my face, then Jason asked if I was okay, it turned out I wasn’t and my eyes filled with tears. I was feeling so many different emotions all at once. The magnitude of what I’d worked so hard to achieve had hit home, the journey itself had taken its toll in many unexpected ways and while I was proud to have completed the loop, I missed my Dad. Being on the road had always made me feel closer to him but here in this moment, it was overwhelming. I was certainly at my emotional limit and wanted nothing more than to take the time required to assimilate it all, in my own way.
The Manager at Daly Water’s Pub kindly put us up in the camp-grounds for two nights. I had phoned the day before to let them know we were on track was given a room. Receiving that news was both wonderful and unexpected and given the significance of being in this town, timely as well.
We were directed to a campsite and place to park the vehicles by the caretaker of the Daly Waters’ Caravan Park – Scottish born immigrant Ed. He’s a well known character and adds to the welcoming vibe that Daly Waters had in abundance. Ed gets around on his bike, a plush toy, a horse or maybe it’s a camel perched between the handle bars greeting weary travellers at the campground gates. A psychiatric nurse in a previous life it’s little wonder he enjoys looking out for people and wants them to have a good time.
A celebratory beer was shared as I read a little more about the history of the place; Daly Waters was named in honour of the then governor of South Australia Sir Dominic Daly in 1862. It was then that John McDougall Stuart successfully crossed the continent from south to north and here that he discovered water.
The telegraph line followed Stuart’s route north, the untamed environment caused the project to fall behind schedule which resulted in the Pony Express carrying messages between Daly Waters and Tennant Creek 400kms south of Daly Waters. An original telegraph pole dating back to approx 1878 was found out bush in 2009 and is now erected outside the pub. The name ‘Pony Express’ was given to one of the rooms, each of them had the names of explorers or other important historic references.
Prior to the 2nd. World War, Daly Waters was also the site for the first International Airport in Australia and refuelled planes and passengers en route to London. The trip cost 275 pounds and took 8 days. These days The Daly Waters aerodrome is in semi-retirement and used more locally.
I went outside to make a call after a lovely meal – better reception out the front in the middle of the street. On my way back I spotted a familiar face, “Tom?” I enquired.
He gave me a blank look at first and then his face registered recognition, “You were starting out with The Bold Line! I took you from Alice Springs to Darwin, we stopped here in Daly Waters too!” He said.
“You sure did!” I replied happily. “I’m doing the third stage now, I can’t believe I’ve run into you, here of all places!” I said, surprised by the co-incidence and happy to see him.
When I sat back down I saw I had an email, it had come via my website. The subject, “I was a mate of your late Dad.” I felt my face light up.
“I heard about your trip, (a friend saw it in the newspaper) and I have just read about you online. I went with your Dad for a couple of weeks on his first interstate trip in the late 80s, we shared the driving. If you want to, drop me a line sometime or give me a call.”
I took down his number thrilled to have heard from not only someone who knew him but someone who knew so much about his first ever interstate trip.
A third co-incidence was still to come.
TIP: Wake up. I wheeled my bag down the red carpeted hallway to my room, unbeknown to me I had taken the rug with me and it was neatly rolled and sitting in front of my bag at the other end of the hall.
TRACK: Hunters and Collectors – Holy Grail