22/8: And you could write a book about the long and hideous terminal, always without enough seating, in which we wait for the cheap flight back home...Through the portholes on either side I caught glimpses of the island: the arc of pale sand on a Bass Strait bay, the sugar-filled green of watered paddocks, blue-brown rivers slowly travelling to their destination, familiar mountains capped with cloud or snow.
23/8: Moss grew in the most vivid shade I may have ever seen. A big beige fungus at the base of a tree-stump looked to be liquefying. The pinkberries were almost all without fruit, but some had pleasant white flowers sprouting from them; there was common heath in flower too, the blossoming all pink and shaggy, seeming artificial. Optimistic wattles have produced their seasonal neon baubles.
27/8: A currawong and a cow both let out their respective sounds simultaneously, evoking an unexpected harmony.
21/9: Last week out here I watched a brown bandicoot sticking his nose into the dirt at the orchard gate. It was so intent on that business that I could watch it for a quarter of an hour, taking a pace closer whenever it buried its head. This is an arena in which such stories might cross, my being with other beings. There are the eccentric butcher birds, the prolific kookaburras; tonight it is a human family with their chorus in the living-room, and the frogs outside. And a solitary plover sniping at something in the dark.
15/10: We took off up to Lake Mackenzie and started strolling through burnt country, some pencil pines still surviving in damp indentations in the landscape, the white skeletons of heath bushes like claws in the ground, or some sort of strangely-devised animal trap. We quickly decided to go off-track...A bush-bash commenced. Full bushes jostled us. Rocks wobbled indecisively. Sticks caught in our socks, branches went up shorts. We were covered in benign pink scratches; bright claret dripped down to my boots...Later Rob abruptly slipped and planted his boot in the river; he looked up promptly at me, hoping he’d not been seen. “That fucken sheepish look,” I said and threw my head back to laugh.
24/10: On Monday night I happened to be online just as the verdict came out on Lake Malbena...I went quickly into a pique of work, calling several members of the guides’ association mob...An hour or two later, I was at Kenna’s place, as the bluffs outside his windows turned a charmed shade of pink. We were trying to put together a media release; a baby quoll ran around on the table and shat next to my shitty laptop...We both observed that we were ill-fit for such a task, but well-positioned.
26/10: That evening we had whisky by the water. A fair breeze shot through the strait where we’d crossed to the island, but our position was protected and the lake was calm, still, and pale blue. Colour slowly deepened into darkness. We toasted the old hut, the old timers, the old ways. And we lamented the punters who’d probably be there soon, enjoying the same hour, the same serenity, excluding us from it – it was an odd effect, knowing that we would possibly not have the chance to come back here, that the door was closing so distinctly.
18/11: Outside the eucalypts grow tall and thin, sprouting a nest of branches only near their summits. They sway in the afternoon breeze as if trying to reach each other, to rub against one another and produce friction. To light that spark. It is a forest that yearns for fire. There are little wet gullies nearby, a chain of ponds where the spring runs down, but it is mostly eucalyptus, coprosma, exocarpos, bush peas, cutting grass...Embers in here will be the end of all my possessions, all my work. If a bushfire came there would be nothing to do but flee and know that a long shadow would fix itself in our wake. And hope that something would grow again.
22/11: Last night, awake and absorbing the feeling of failure, I thought, if this next project goes nowhere, I might as well up and leave. With no time in mind, like I did years ago, starting in India then continuing west. Uzbekistan, Crete, Alexandria, Ethiopia; Athens, Sarajevo, Lapland, Japan. It would achieve very little I suppose. I would not be surmounting anything. But would it count for much to retreat in this train, mouldering away for a winter, rotting in the stench of wilted dreams?
28/11: There was a line I read a little while back, in a history of the Himalayas that I didn’t otherwise love – “Man is a track animal.” Inevitably, I am; inexorably I have become so. I’ve just done another six days on the Overland. On “the track”. Another “trip”. Not so many can say that they live through the paradigms of journeys more than bushwalking guides. It’s part of the appeal of the job. Perhaps there’s an element of addiction.
5/12: I came home, cracked a beer, and ate ham sandwiches for lunch. I had a nap. I made another coffee. Emma dropped by. I finished The Savage Detectives. I made a tasty dinner, vegies in coconut cream with rice noodles. I poured stout into my nonagonal glass. It must not be forgotten that this is in almost every single way precisely the life I dreamed of. Down to the stout, to Bolaño.
19/12: The other night I dreamed of Lake Malbena – it was built up, like a modern island-city, but there were dolphins in the waterways.
25/12: I looked up and Danny and Flo were on the rocks, near where we jump in. “Do you reckon our ghosts will just sit here throughout summer?” Danny asked. Don glided up to us with a cheeky smile, a grinning grey fish...Danny and I swam over to Hogs Rock and took the plunge. Someone had written the word ‘eternity’ on that big dolerite column, and a recommendation for a certain biblical verse, in colourful chalk. Can I really think about eternity at the Gorge? As Danny suggested, there is an unshakeable characteristic of summer here, which seems to be all we know. Yet it’s also where we see that the years are passing. That it was not one or two summers ago that we did certain things, but seven or ten. That many lives have passed through ours here, some now irretrievable.
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