All the way we had tried out-running the weather, breaking through the sharp cloud edges like
finishing tape and driving like the wind. But each night it would creep back up, while we lay tented
on the hard ground, with the engine ticking cool, coolest outside the canvas, and, come the icy
morning, our breath falling back wetly upon our faces. For a week we drove like this, leaving the
warmth of the car only to feel the Bight’s wind and the Southern Ocean spit. The sky was the sea
rising up, grey and waving. The earth was the sea lying down, empty and wet. We were Plain sailing
across the Nullarbor.
“Hasn’t rained like this here for years!”
“You must be bringing it with you.”
We were bringing it with us, folding the mud of each night, and the runnels of previous rain, into the
trailer to take with us to the next stop. We camped, damply, in gravel and sand, and sites of
sometimes lawn, and the iron ground of snowed-last-week eco resorts. And we drove – east, then
north, road eating one hundred k’s a bite.
We drove north, side stepping the Flinders range. We passed a man on a camel, raising money for
charity; passing through the eye of a needle on his way to heaven. We passed a man with a dog, who
had been to heaven and was coming back. We paid them both for their endurance and drove on.
We reached a sign. The sign said:
Warning – There is nothing ahead, this is the moon, you are as remote as a man space walking;
attached to nothing. Take everything, take two of everything, take care, take no chances. Avoid, advise.
This was the gibber plain and it was the moon, not just because it was all rock and nothing, or
because, from here, you could see the great curve of the earth, but because sometimes there is no
weather. This day there was nothing, no wind, no rain, only endless light and dark. The small steps of
man would remain in the dust, as if forever. Tyre tracks that veer off the road could be fossilised. We
could be fossilised, layered in dust and salt.
Our tyre tracks veered off the road, and we camped next to the long hump of the old railroad, which
was camped next to the white basin of the salt lake. Someone had rearranged sleepers to spell out a
message to the sky.
The sun melted out of the sky and a full moon rose in opposition. We got dizzy from spinning on our
own axis. Now we could see it all. The earth was never round and the earth was never flat, but a
curving shallow saucer where we all roll to the centre. We were at the centre and the rocks rolled
towards us, the water ran from the northern edge, and we were held by the gravity of situation. We
burnt a 6 foot pieces of history for our fire and sparks flew – In the
moonlight the salt lake shone like a silver sin covered by the beautiful dead. Insects and lizards,
perfectly formed, and footprints going and not returning.
My brother walked from the fire into the blue dark and the white salted rim. He lost himself in the
night. He saw his footprints going and not returning, and panicked. When he finally traced back the
shape that was our tent, and lay to sleep in the murmuring dark, he took fright at a sudden lack of
noise and worried in his dreams that no one was outside. Through some trick of the flyscreen, the
stars out of the window shone in tapering points. Like fairy lights, they were flung and clustered in
uneven rows, and drooped and curved on unseen wires.
The morning opened like a shell. It was neither hot nor cold. Everything was still. And still there was
no weather. I had sprained and strapped an ankle in the night, so moved around breakfast in a
tethered circle. My children brought me presents, cocoons of crystal salt, a stone, a coffee. My
husband rekindled old flames and we toasted toast, before we packed and drove on once more,
towards the north-south road-train road. We had made it. We had outrun the weather, and we made a
pact to always and forever return.