Definition: An intense and irresistible desire for freedom.
That is a good reason to own a caravan. Maybe we are not manic as in some definitions but it is a lovely word, isn’t it? We can pack up and go wherever we like whenever we like (except life does keep getting in the way, even when you are retired).
By the time we had driven right around Australia I decided I was OK with what had happened. We had had some uplifting experiences in more ways than one. Flying to the Horizontal Waterfalls from Derby we visited what David Attenborough called “One of the greatest wonders of the natural world”.
Walking alongside the fresh water crocodiles in Wyndjana Gorge and into the dark caves at Tunnel Creek in the Kimberley we relived the agony of Jandamarra, a Bunuba man, torn between two worlds.
We travelled back in time to 1629 as we flew out to the Abrolhos Islands and imagined the wreck of the Batavia and the massacre of many of its crew and passengers by the wicked Jeronimus Cornelisz.
The new DNA discovery actually made life a bit more interesting. There were puzzles to solve and new family to meet. Denise wasn’t home when we drove through Mildura. She was in her caravan enjoying the warmer weather in Queensland. My husband was keen to get to our home to check on the garden and the house. From Ceduna onwards we were travelling through familiar territory, so arrived home after three days of steady driving, averaging 700 kilometres a day.
It was two months later that with van in tow we set off once more for Mildura. First we had to visit cousin Don who lives in Kyabram, Victoria, not far from the Murray River. Don is not really my cousin. Rather he is my mother’s cousin and I knew about him long before joining Ancestry! His father was my grandmother’s brother and he is one of the few people I have been able to claim as a relative since my mother and grandmother died. Don lives with his wife in a large house on a large block a long way from anywhere (from my perspective). He has collected gramophones and phonographs as well as musical instruments over the years and houses them in a large garage. This time we didn’t look at his collection but had tea and cake with him and his wife reminiscing about our previous visit ten years ago and our common ancestry. That was an amazing experience for me because when you have no other relatives, being able to talk about your common family history is a bonus.
We broached the topic of my parentage but he was unable to offer any clues. He didn’t really get to know my mother until after my father died. His attitude was to proceed cautiously as he was worried my visit to Mildura might achieve very little.
We bid Don and his wife farewell and drove the short distance to the Echuca Rotary Steam Park. Camping here is free apart from a small donation for water and dump point. It is an old river port complete with paddle steamers plying the Murray and a street of heritage buildings.
ECHUCA WHARF. Photo: Robert Blackburn
Meandering slowly along the Murray, we stayed at free camps along the river bank, until Mildura appeared on the horizon. Denise had invited us to park our van in her front yard. She may be my cousin but could we really just roll up to a complete stranger and camp on her property? Diplomatically she suggested a caravan park but still insisted we stay at her place.
John made the decision and soon we were carefully squeezing through her front gate and onto the circular drive. We all embraced a little nervously, set up the van and reported to the back garden for drinks. That night we had a barbecue dinner and did a lot of talking.