Canning Stock Route : Part 1 – So, Now What?
So, now what?
I’m home, well-fed, comfortable in clothes that don’t smell as though they’ve spent a month in the sewer, I enjoy endless coffee, my favourite microbrews, and bask in the company of friends and my little family. As warm and wonderful as these things are, and as much as they were so desperately missed on the CSR, I just hate when things are over. Two years of planning, dreaming and actually happening all come to an end far too quickly. I’ve got the post-adventure blues, and I know this one will take some time to sink in…
“All good expeditions should be simple in concept, difficult in their execution and satisfying to remember” - Alastair Humphreys
Quite simply, and quite certainly, this whole thing would have been impossible without Tom. As I mentioned in Part 2, not only was this his idea, but he made for about the most patient and capable partner one could have asked for on an expedition such as this. Tom possesses the sort of mellow, yet practical confidence that only comes from having seen and travelled extensively. We formed an efficient, quietly productive team, where the tasks of the day very quickly became second nature and soon ‘just what we do’. We both agreed that this is the sort of work for which we were born, with little thoughts to our ‘real’ professions that seemed so so far away from here. Tom, for nearly 5 weeks, endured my incessant sour candy-induced jabber, my winging as the morning wake-up calls rang, and constant map surveys and ponderings, without a whimper of frustration or annoyance. He acted as Aussie-to-Canerican translator, expedition physician, psychologist, photographer, outback consultant, and friend. All flawlessly. Thank you, Tom. You’re a good egg.
For me, the difficulty of these things always seem diminished once realized. The Canning Stock Route expedition is no exception. While the accomplishment of having done something that so few people on this planet have achieved is a remarkable feeling, and I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that, but it still feels as though it hasn’t even happened yet. Perhaps I’m still jetlagged, or maybe these things just take a bit of time to truly wrap one’s brain around. It does feel like something, just what I’m still not certain. Part of this is that, in my mind, the CSR requires a completely different mindset than any trip I’ve completed, or even considered. There aren’t the ‘hard bits’ and the ‘easy bits’ to plan the days around. The route is neither down-julating, nor up-julating. There is no elevation gain or loss to speak of. There are no 14,000-foot mountains, no epic river crossings. Those deserts simply demand sustained hard work each and every day. As we neared the end of the route, we joked (half-serious) that “out here, if you aren’t riding sand dunes, you’re riding corrugations”. And so it truly was. Though flat, this thing is no joke. However, in contrast to what I had led my mind to believe before departing in July, the CSR is not about the dunes. The washboard, or corrugations, are the thing that will last in my mind as what demanded the most patience and sheer strength to endure. At times, it was easiest to blame the 4WDers, as they were the ones who brought this misery upon us, but I continually reminded myself that this is indeed their route, on which we were it’s guests. Guests that came to the route naive, but prepared for whatever was to happen. This is where the CSR was most rewarding. For the lack of information available to those planning human-powered traverses, the route offers so much uncertainty. With such uncertainty, comes both fear and joy; both human emotions, and in both did we bathe ourselves. One cannot return home from an adventure like this without a feeling of having overcome, at least a little bit, our inherent fear of the unknown. Having grown, and having grown up.
So, now what?
It’s hard to imagine, at this point, what comes next. My mind currently begins the transition back to ‘work mode’ and contentedly so, with the coming winter. But as all of us (well, all of us who have this sort of adventure-affliction) do, I’m already looking for the next thing. According to Tom, I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time. One is supposed to begin planning the ‘what next?’ while on the ‘right now’ adventure. Fair enough. I suppose the dreaming seems less like dreaming while fulfilling former dreams, and the wildest of ideas seldom seem so wild when fabricated in the wild. So, over dwindling little campfires, we would often scheme far-flung traverses. And naturally, the necessary gear talk followed, as is half the fun in dreaming, for two gear-geeks like us. This one will be hard to top though. For so many reasons, this trip was more than the Canning Stock Route. Sure, that’s what drew me to fly to the other side of the globe, but it’s also the times that surrounded the actual riding that were equally as satisfying. Time spent with people who will now be life-long friends, without question. Experiencing and viewing life from half a world away, and having distance to put my own home life into beautiful perspective. This are what these adventures are for.
So, my mind turns to places like the Yukon, Iceland, and Scotland to fill the void of “now what?”. At least I’ve got months (perhaps a couple years) of stitches and snowballs to make it all make sense…
Thank you, thank you, thank you.