Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Death of a Campervan

The sun rises on the final day and we know it's over. There isn't a word spoken to acknowledge the denoument but with every cycle of the wheels the reality that our time together is over only becomes more harsh and pointed.

I started noticing road signs more and appreciating, if only because the petty annoyance of it was now to be relegated to the dusty halls of memory forever more, the odd wrong turn, the drag it's fibreglass roof gave in the wind. With every oncoming roundabout my clenched teeth were loosened and I stopped worrying about the things that the inertia of navigating the circular interchange would certainly send flying because the end was near.

Even as this day, a day like any other, was dawning the sun had begun to set on our most recent companion. And as I stifled a tear, our three hour (4 mile) journey through the winding east side streets of Sydney at it's end, a map crumpled in my tight fist, I looked at our campervan, the ship of our emotional desert, the physical manifestation of our psychological locomotion, parked, it's headlights the sad eyes of a puppy begging it's indifferent master not to leave it at the pound, I said to myself, quietly:
"Fuck You, Campervan. Fuck you."

Am I required perforce to drive home the full impression that campervan travel left on me to the reader? I think not. It's one of those things that's fine in principle. You get a bedroom on wheels and with your driving gloves on tight and a stubby cigar held between your jaws you explore a new country safe in the knowledge that there will never be an inn whose owner says "No room," because the ass you rode in on is all the room you need. But like so many things that are fine in principle the reality is somewhat less romantic. Like going to the gym: one thinks of health, the outdoors, looking good in shorts, a satisfying sweat.

One rarely is encouraged to visualise, when being sold membership to a gymnasium, oneself vomiting from overexertion, or the dark evenings when all one can see through the window is oneselves' withered carcass pulling itself in an awkward gait over the neverending black plastic road to early death, a corpse in animation: Sisyphus on a treadmill. So it goes with campervan travel. The harsh realities of it are thus: Imagine sleeping on a thin spartan cushion, the thickness of one you'd expect to be provided on the wooden bench of the viewing room during an exectution in the early 20's. Imagine now having no room to sit up in this bed. It is cold enough to freeze the testicles right off of a brass monkey when you lay your shivering head down, in three layers of clothing.

But consistency is the enemy of the efficient tormentor. A subject can become accustomed to any amount of consistent misery so what to do? Well have it become unbearably warm at around 6 in the AM. Yes, of course, you could almost hear Herman Mengele cry, that's it. Freeze thaw action it's called in modern Geography. A month of that, and eating microwaved supernoodles while sleeping in holiday parks people with the armies of the white hair. The over 70s. Ghostly Man and wife feeding each other spoonfuls of yoghurt or mashed potato under a canopy at a plastic table wittering away to each other that "This is nice, isn't it?" "Yes, Dear." Happiness is a warm room with no wheels, whose mercy is manifest in her soft mattress and her constant temperature. Caravan Parks, like limbo from the annals of Catholicism, should be stricken from the record.

There follows a less embittered photographic essay on my wanderings towards and arrival at the welcome city of Sydney.

A Manta Ray. They are frigging huge. Feeling less despondent about the demise of Steve Irwin having seen one so close. They could probably just touch you to death.

The view from the underside of a large and carnivorous fish. Unpleasant.

A testament to the aforementioned low temperature to be found within our van. These sheets had come out of the wash and the wrapping of them around ourselves was an almost indecent joy.

As can be seen from my puerile face.

The ugliest of exotic fish - a Titan Triggerfish. I saw one of these diving in Thailand (the fish wasn't diving, I was. Well I suppose it was too but it wasn't wearing SCUBA gear) and apparently they bite divers when they're in the mood. It's described as similar to a bad dog bite. Don't they look uglier now, hearing that?

The almost Jane Austen-esque-edly named Darling Harbour in Sydney. A very pleasant place indeed.

The inside of a Kangaroo. This was in a museum by the way. Not just a zoo that hates animals.

The grand view of the large tropical fish tank in the Sydney Aquarium which was, not to make it sound untrustworthy, extremely fishy.

A tiny squid. I've decided I now want a fish tank full of these little guys. Apparently they're quite intelligent. I got the impression from this one he was well aware of me. I even took a picture while he was eyeing me, using the flash, just to see his reaction. He blinked and swam off, almost mouthing "WANKER."

A prehistoric possum. It weigh(s)(ed) 3 tonnes.

I can't imagine this fossil was taken from the earth intact like this. Proves a long held belief that you can't trust anyone who works with bones all day. Especially butchers.

Interesting to look at behind glass however I would happily eject my lunch through whatever orifice was closest at the sight of one in the wild.

Artificial coral reefs. Exponentially more luminous than the real thing but very James Bond villain conference room none the less.

The harbor so suggestively named you'd almost want to hug it, Darling.

I think this one is self explanatory.

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