Thursday, November 22, 2012

Notes and sketches of ticks and plains

I was meaning to write these notes earlier but I got side-tracked with all the extra walking and finding a good spot and setting up my solitary camp and eating dinner. As I write this, I'm still side-tracked by the occasional tickles coming from my balls and lower legs which throw me into a fit of scratching and checking for blood-sucking critters.
To be completely honest, this trip is nothing but an elaborate side-track. I lie here on my belly peering out of the zip of my tent at the forest fires 100km to the east, at the bottom. They burn hard and orange and comfort me on this lonely shoulder in the Main Range.
After a few fruitless checks a tick materialised on my balls, so I removed it and pressed it with my pen until it burst. Yet the faint tickles persist.
I get afraid when I hear quiet sounds approaching my olive tent and whirring flying creatures overhead. The crickets whisper relentlessly, while the almost inaudible roar of the trucks in the great distance, passing through the gap, fills the momentary silences.
Earlier I walked down a flat road on a hot plain. The peak stood firm in the distance, bolted to the sky behind it, leaning into the wind. My face was turned down at the tar and it burned red and hot. This was inevitable (and there goes another brown tick off my leg. It's still attached to my pen's tip as I write. I should trust my tickles) excessive lathering of sunscreen could not prevent it.
On this hot plain, I thought of a ridiculously pretentious, somewhat Zizekian answer to the question "Why?":
To learn what I had always already known.
To become what I had always already been.
And it goes on.
I thought myself a clever visionary, but the whittle of a long walk and numerous murdered ticks caused me to reconsider.
The popping sound that marks their death is very loud, and I am now surrounded by their corpses. I always hope that this one is the last, but they continue to appear from unfelt crevices. Their stupidity is frustrating. They have me snared every time, yet continue to crawl, always searching for a fleshier, warmer sliver of skin. I fear that I will be scratching all night.
Compared to this, the long slog up Spicer's Gap Road (The truck sounds come from Cunningham's Gap to the North) with my heavy blue pack seems of little consequence.
Nevertheless, I will digress to describe it:
A rolling climb on wide brown, hemmed in by paddock, then by open forest, then by denser thickets. Small wallabies skitting away. Hues of green and straw. It is the kind of country which brings the myth of Australia into being.
That ending was less abrupt than I'd hoped and it fences in a reality that really has no bounds. Don't take it seriously. I feel like this caution has murdered it further.
I'll now brush my teeth for Civilisation's sake and settle down with a book: Gerald Murnane's "The Plains".
I feared that this would happen: I'm having trouble telling which ticks are alive and which are dead.
This doesn't make me stronger. It frays my edges until I realise that I need them repaired.
And yet I waiver between this and utter calm.

I opened my tent expecting to find a nascent sunlight but instead I'm hemmed in by a grey waft. I notice the grass trees now - they're contorted and ominous against this cloudy background. They stand out. I can only hope that it'll burn off.
I had dreams of unfaithfulness and an impossibly big and rugged peak but when I woke up I remembered my thoughts for my love and realised that the top of the mountain, Spicer's Peak, isn't quite as distant.
Now to climb it, although I will be careful.

Another ridiculous unwhittled thought that I now write with embarrasment: (wo)men aren't made on the mountains they climb, but on the warm, flat gaps between them.
And yet I'm compelled to describe the climb:
Large clumps of grass sprawling in the wind, criss-crossed by a thousand possible dirty tracks. To the left, a lofty space - desire and fear embodied in nothingness. Beneath my feet the slippery, tussocky terrain held precariously together by various rocks. I eroded my way up the side of the mountain and found dense, bearded rainforest where I had expected wide-open relief.
The mangled tea-trees clustered me to the summit, and wanted to herd me over the edge. I resisted and returned, pausing my downward scuttle to see a lyrebird hop into view and let out a beautiful scream.
I traced the faint brown lines down the mountain, pausing only to negotiate rocky spurs and impossible-looking descents 30 metres ahead, as well as to collect my pack.
As a quick and irrelevant aside, the fog burned itself into a bright morning within an hour of my grass-tree anxiety.
I write this now as it's approaching late morning and I'm rid of my delusions of adventure (what is "adventure" but a delusion?). Crawling across the side of a lesser peak and making my way impossibly back to the plains and a lake and the promise of cool water and iced coffee.
I never reached the lake.

And now I sit back in my tiny room, surrounded by the sprawling relics of what feels like an impossible trip. After a scorching plod back along the plains as well as fortunate lifts from a cafe owner and a woman whose name was conveniently embossed in dark ink on the side of her neck, I found myself 80km away from Brisbane on the Cunningham Highway. I found a wide turning lane that was perfect as a regrettable home and shoved my left-thumb into the spring heat. Storm clounds moved silently to my right.
The man who gave me a lift came in a red ute with p-plates. He was seventeen and as I occasionally glanced across the handbrake at his brown eyes, I saw myself vaguely reflected.
"I don't want money for its own sake," He said. "I just want it so that I can get a house and a nice dirt-bike bike and car". I agreed somewhat on a structural level, which manifested itself in nods and "yeah", and so it went to Jindalee where I seamlessly caught a bus and a train to mum's house to eat dry chicken and drink juice.
And now I sit back in this tiny room and in the backyard outside my window, obscured by blinds, people are talking of the beautiful house and "I love what you've done with...".

I'm a little more perplexed by these sentiments than I usually would be.

A long sleep has put me even more in mind of mountains, when yesterday afternoon on the long, hot road I turned my back to them.

Spicer's Peak (with narcissistic guilt I write "1222m") is the largest tooth on the right-hand-side of the skyline, to the left lie endless possibilities of ticks and loose rocks and notes and sketches.

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