Sunday, 24 February 2008

We got up early to start our long drive to Byron Bay, and we remembered to remove the waste water hose before we pulled out. We spent nine hours on the road before we arrived at our next campervan park late afternoon. We stopped at a grocery store to restock, and made another stop at a gas station to refuel and sample the McDonald’s next door. The landscape is much different than I pictured it. When I imagined this part of the trip I pictured the ocean always in sight on one side, and the outback stretching away into the distance on the other. I pictured kangaroos crossing the road like deer do back home. We’ve only seen dead kangaroos on the side of the road, more like the armadillos back home. The scenery is very green, but we only catch glimpses of the ocean as we drive. The highway we’re taking is more inland.

The kids did their school in the car in the morning, then played DS until their eyes bugged out. Alayna did origami and Nate read his Harry Potter and Benji stared out the window and watched the world slide by. As we got closer, it got prettier. We drove through rolling green hills and green valleys, pine trees and bits of ocean on the horizon. The campervan park was much different, it was made up almost entirely of gypsies like ourselves, and wasn’t nearly as neat and tidy as our previous place. There were lots of Wicked Campers, a brand of camper that reminds me a little of Southwest Airlines. They are converted VW busses, all fitted out in the back with a small kitchen and sleep space, and each one is painted different (like those Southwest planes). Some are kind of funny, but some are a little scary. We saw a Barbie van and a she-devil back in Stockton Bay, both with bizarre quotes on the back and the number for Wicked Campers on the side. Very hip.

Our Byron Bay campervan park featured several other Wicked campers, mostly with vixen women painted on the sides, and one had a bumper sticker that read “Rehab is for Quitters”. In a parking lot, I saw a Harry Potter van as well. I became nostalgic for our first campervan park, and it was only enhanced when I checked out the bathroom. It had dead bugs on the countertop, a trail of ants led up the wall in one of the shower stalls, and the floor was wet and gritty. Our sweet little resident brown bunnies had been replaced by ugly wild turkeys, their toenails clicking on the asphalt as they wandered around the camp sites, their creepy, bald, red heads ducking up and down.

The plus side, our designated campervan site was right across from a small playground, the bathrooms, and the laundry. We had only a short walk to get to the beach access, so we decided to check out the beach. This, too, was different. In one section black rock cropped up from the sand, leaving tidal pools since the tide was out. We checked it out with our buckets and shovels to see what we could find. The black rocks had pretty pink barnacles clinging to them. Alayna found four baby blue bottles that she deposited in one bucket, we found some shells with creatures inside that we deposited in the other. We moved away from the rocks and tested out the water, which was much warmer than the water we’d left behind down south. This, I liked. Benji and I wandered way out into the ocean, it stayed shallow for a long way out, and we had fun jumping in the waves. It seemed like there were more waves here, Alayna and Nate wore themselves out catching wave after wave, riding it all the way in, and splashing back out to catch another.

Clay went for a run while we frolicked in the waves, and returned limping. He acquired four enormous blood blisters while running barefoot in the sand. He’d run barefoot at other beaches, but something about this sand tore up his feet. As we made our way back from the beach we stopped to shower off our feet and boogie boards, and noticed a huge lizard, longer than my arm, scuttling into the underbrush. The kids thought this was really cool. I thought it wasn’t as cute as those little brown bunnies, and was thankful I hadn’t stepped on it. When we got back to the camper, Clay googled what to do about massive blood blisters, and found a website that said what soldiers do when they get blood blisters. He was not going to be slowed down by bum feet. He got a needle from my sewing kit and threaded it with some cotton thread. Then he pierced each blister and stitched the thread through, then cut off the needle and left the thread in the blister. The idea is to leave the protective skin in place while still allowing the blisters to drain. When he was done he had a wad of gnarly Kleenexes and a foot full of thread. Good thing he built up to Kung Fu toe mastery back with his ingrown toenail, he was very brave and didn’t scream once while he doctored himself up.

We ate dinner on the concrete pad next to our camper, sprawled out in our foldable chairs that require you to sprawl, you had to make an effort to actually sit up and get to your plate. The faint smell of incense and pot drifted around us, we were surrounded by hippies. But everyone seemed sedate, there was no major partying going on. Whoever was smoking out there was keeping to themselves. We weren’t in Kansas anymore, and yet we still had our home cooked meal and the sound of the waves rolling in and out. It was still pretty darn great. We had a little church service in the back of the campervan since it was Sunday, all huddled up on the big bed Clay and I share, while the smell of pot drifted through the open windows. It gives the old hymn, “You Lift Me Up On High,” a whole new meaning.

We decided to close the windows when we went to bed and turn on the air conditioning, and that’s when we discovered that our air has three setting. Frigid, more frigid, and most frigid of all. It starts out all right, we got into bed still hot and steamy from all the heat that accumulated in the camper while cooking dinner, it got a little cooler and we pulled up the sheets, then a little more cool and we pulled up the comforter. Just when we were good and tucked in we admitted it was way too cold and one of us had to get up and turn it off. Clay drew the short stick, he turned it off. The air conditioner is loud, when he turned it off a quiet descended on our little campervan. Alayna rolled over and said something in her sleep, one of the boys shifted and the campervan rocked slightly. We’re all at the mercy of each other, our noises and movements (and smells) heard and felt (and smelt) by everyone else. Things are getting interesting around here.


Monday, 25 February 2008

I woke up this morning and made my bleary way to the bathroom in my black polka-dotted pajama pants that my sister bought me before we left. I love these pajama pants, they have worn soft and comfy over the last seven months. My hair was a mess, and I was suddenly very aware of the strangers sleeping in their vans all around me as I crossed the road. It was pretty deserted, but still, I was in my pajamas. I got to the bathroom door but couldn’t remember the number. Luckily, a kind lady behind me remembered it and let me in. I feel like I’m at summer camp sometimes, going to the bathroom and taking showers with so many other people. It feels almost nostalgic, and perfectly normal. It’s strange how quickly something can begin to feel “normal”.

We spent another day at the beach. The kids did their homework in the morning, and Benji made a new friend at the playground. He was swinging by himself when a little boy came up to him, maybe three years old, and asked if Benji would swing him. I was hanging out by the fence that surrounded the playground, just keeping an eye on Benji.  Benji told the boy “sure”, and then looked up at me, shrugged his shoulders and grinned a crooked, snaggle-tooth grin. I think he liked being the “big boy”, helping this little guy out. Later, as I sat in a chair on our concrete pad, keeping an eye on the playground, I saw Benji start home and the little guy started following Benji across the road. I jumped up in time to see his dad come running over from a trailer on the other side, Benji got a real kick out of his new follower.

I took Benji for a walk to find a huge lizard I’d seen hanging out by the office earlier that morning. He was like the one we’d seen at the showers the day before, only this one was by the office and he seemed to be posing. I saw three different people stop and take pictures, while this lizard stretched its head in the air and held perfectly still. A superstar, photogenic lizard. Benji loved this guy, it looked like a small dinosaur. Benji squatted down on all fours and sidled up really close so I could get a picture of the two of them. The lizard didn’t seem concerned at all, until Benji began to run at it on all fours. Benji claimed he was just trying to act like a dinosaur since the lizard looked like a dinosaur, but the lizard didn’t like it and ran off.

Clay was still nursing his blisters, they had drained but they were still sore. He decided to re-thread them and take a nap while I took the kids out to the beach.  We were having a blast, riding the waves in, but Benji started to get cold and tired of it and wanted to go back. By this time we had drifted pretty far down the beach, away from the black rocks we had played on yesterday. The waves were better, and there were no rocks to scratch up our legs. I hated to make Alayna and Nate hike all the way back with me, made them promise to stay in the shallow water until I got back, and then Benji and I jogged down the beach, and made our way back to the camper.

I woke Clay out of a deep sleep, he was all foggy and confused when I popped my head in and tried to explain to him the situation. “I brought Benji back here, I need to go back to Alayna and Nate, they’re still in the ocean.” While this conversation transpired, Benji decided he didn’t want to stay at the campervan with dad, because I happened to mention that he could shower off and then spend time in the campervan. He balked at the shower. He decided he wanted to go back to the beach but just play in the sand so he wouldn’t get cold. Clay half-way heard this, shook his head, and said he’d meet us out there in a minute.

Benji and I turned around and made the long trip back out to where Alayna and Nate were staying true to their word, waiting in the shallow water with their boogie boards, ready to surf some more. I kept an eye out for Clay while Benji and I dug an Egyptian tomb, then made a cool sand bridge, then started work on a pyramid. I couldn’t figure out what had happened to him, maybe he’d gone back to sleep. He finally appeared, really irritated. “I thought you guys must have gotten caught in a rip tide,” he said as plopped down in the sand next to our pyramid. He had gotten worried when he came out to the beach and didn’t see us, he figured we’d be right at the entrance from the campervan park, so then he went back to the office, thinking maybe we had gone to the pool. Only there wasn’t a pool, so he went back out, searching for us, walking and walking on his badly blistered toes, until he finally spotted us. “You guys look like nothing from far away, like little specks, and your swimsuit makes you look naked, so I figured it wasn’t you” Well, well. I guess I really do need a tan.

After he got over being mad, he hung out on the beach with us until we headed back to the campervan. The sun came out after dinner. Clay said, “I think I might go for a little walk.” Clay never goes for walks, he doesn’t like to walk. He likes to run. “You better not go for a run, or you’ll get less than sympathy from me,” I proclaimed. So there. He did go for a walk, and if he ran it didn’t hurt his blisters. Or he didn’t say anything if it did.

So there’s a bit of domestic turbulence for all of you out there who email and say things seem just a little too perfect in the Davis world. The kids are a little too happy, things go a little too well. Of course there are days when we want to pull each other’s hair out. Days when the kids squabble. But the good days far outweigh the bad. As we spend more time in our teensy-tiny campervan we’re reaching a whole new level of “togetherness”. Someone has to move so you can open a drawer and throw something away, someone has to hold their plate on their lap at dinner because it isn’t quite big enough for five, it’s a little cramped. And yet, there’s a whole wide world out there when we step out that screen door. Miles and miles of beach and ocean, so things aren’t that small after all.

Everyone took showers after returning from the beach, much to Benji’s disgust. He has decided that we take entirely too many showers since we’ve become beach goers. “Why do we have to shower every single day? Do we have to use soap?” he whined. I began to realize just how few showers we took back in the old days, when we weren’t getting sandy and gritty every day. How many days did we go? Two? Three? The average got worse as we went through China and encountered so many undesirable shower situations. Benji will just have to deal with an increase in showers, poor guy. Times are tough.

Clay surprised the kids after dinner, he had downloaded the first season of Bugs Bunny cartoons off of iTunes that afternoon. Our TV has various channels depending on where we are, but rarely anything worth watching. They kids had watched the rest of the Hannah Montana back in Stockton Beach, and fifteen minutes of Bugs Bunny was like offering them a hot fudge sundae as they assumed the TV watching positions, lined up across the loft. After Bugs, they all got in their PJ’s, made a last run to the bathroom, and settled into their spots for the night.