March 2009

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.

  • March is over, Easter eggs on the shelves, boy oh boy is it flying by already. As most are aware we ended up in Laramba, a couple of hundred kms up the Tanami (track) from Alice Springs. We spent 7 weeks there and headed off to Yulara on the 26th March after an overnighter in Glen Helen. This is the beginning of our trek into WA.

    Laramba Clinic Working my guts outThe Emergency room

    Our time in Laramba was actually enjoyable, and once again we will look back at our time there with a smile on our faces. It was interesting for me as I was sent out there to be the boss, so there was a bit of a steep learning curve. For most of my time in Laramba,  I did have a colleague with me which is nice, someone to have a cuppa with and to share the work when it gets a bit busy. The nicest part though, is that when disaster strikes, you have someone to help you deal with the situation.  Being a sole operator is nice because you only have to deal with yourself, but it does add a whole new dimension. Let me explain.

    A few weeks back, while I was completely on my own, the phone rang at home. On the other end was a local yelling 'Come to clinic, quick, quick'. Now does that mean finish you dinner, have a shower and wander up, or does it mean drop everything and run? Well who knows.

    This time it was 6-00pm and the voice did sound a bit stressed.

    So put yourself in my shoes. I jump in the ambulance and hoot the 2 kms up the dirt road to the community. As I come around the corner near the clinic all I can see is a sea of locals, hundreds of them, some standing, some on the ground, distressed, crying and wailing. Your heart hits your boots. What the hell is going to greet me? I get out of the car, scanning the crowd for what it is I am looking for. There in the middle of the crowd, being held in the arms of an elder gentleman is a child, lifeless, bent over his arms like a rag doll.

    I unlock the door and usher the gentleman into the emergency room. We place the child on the trolley and I look around and there are 50 people in the room. This room is tiny, maybe 3 metres x 5 metres (about as big as a bathroom) with most of it being taken up with the resus trolley. The child is alive, but what happened? I ask the question and everybody just looks at me. The room is in silence. Is it a snake bite, a fit, a drowning or an accident? Where do you start?  After raising my voice a little and asking the same question, one person coughs up. 'She fell out off the back of a ute.'  Good, a starting point. Who saw the accident?  Total silence again. Was the car moving? Still silence. How can so many people be so quiet? After raising my voice again, "Come on guys, help me out here, work with me for Gods sake", one person again splutters, '80 kms an hour.'

    Bloody hell, 80 kms/hour is fast to hit the deck. Next problem. It will be dark in 1 hour so if  I need to get a plane out here, the window of opportunity is rapidly slamming in my face. Our air strip is not lit. Its a 'day time use' only.

    A quick set of observations, look her over for other injuries then try and get all these people out of here. I cannot even get around to the other side of the trolley.

    At the top of my voice, "Everybody out, out now, go go". Nobody moves. Time to be a little more forceful. Slowly the crowd makes their way out. I lock the door behind them, but someone on the inside opens another door and in they come again. I am fighting a loosing battle. I grab a senior man and lady, take them in the other room and tell them, "I cannot help this girl unless I can move. Get rid of these people, and get rid of them now." I know these people are upset, but they will just have to be upset somewhere else. The ploy works and they scream out in language and almost everybody except the immediate family leave.

    Why do I have to be on my own??? The child is not well, not well at all, but stable. It's now dark, and the only way out of here is 80kms of rough dirt road and then 130kms on the highway to Alice Springs. How do you drive and look after a sick child? Who around could or would drive for me? Who do I trust enough on those roads at night, with cattle everywhere. I really want to get home to my family tonight after this is all over.

    Alice Springs is notified, and hopefully St John Ambulance can do a half way meet, that is,  meet us somewhere along the road. That can be the difference of  2 hours on the road or 5 hours. That is a big difference at 11-00pm. Again luck is on my side and they will meet us, somewhere on the highway. They leave at the same time as I do. I drive, with relatives in the back of the ambulance with the patient. I have to stop every 15 minutes to check on her and am constantly asking "Is she OK?" If I ask that once, I ask it 300 times during the journey. Not a pleasant situation. Finally we are on the highway. All has gone well so far. Our red beacons are flashing, lighting up the night sky like a bush fire. How far away are these guys? Then in the distance, a sea of flashing beacons, they are coming my way. We pull over, finally I am not on my own. Believe me that is a nice feeling.

    The patient is transferred to the other ambulance, a hand over given and they are ready to complete the journey to town. As they drive off into the darkness, their flashing lights fading in the distance, it is time for our beacons to go off, for us to turn around and back down that dirt road. It's midnight by the time I get back, time for dinner and then to try and get to sleep. Welcome to a night in my world. Thank goodness this does not happen every night.

    This kid will live. That is a nice feeling. How easily it could have gone the other way.

    This might sound a little selfish, but the other thing that is on my mind while I am alone, is what will happen if something happens to me. What do I do if I get really sick, collapse or get chest pain. Who will come to save my life? The simple answer is no one. Absolutely no one.

    During our time out here we had two weekends away in Alice Springs. One was at our expense, to do some grocery shopping and the other compliments of the NT Govt. I had to go into town to complete a course I had done, so it was tacked onto a weekend. It is nice to get away.

    We have caught up on plenty of jobs since being here and the kids have been working away at their school work. Poor Harry only finally received his school books in the middle of March after a number of cock-ups. Luckily Chris brought plenty of other work for him, so they have been plugging through that.

    In my second last week at Laramba, yet another one of those great "It could only happen out in the bush" things happened. We had just opened the doors at work and were sitting out the front of the clinic having a cuppa when a Landcruiser pulls into the driveway. Who this time? It really is a constant stream of visiting everybodies, coming out here, almost on a daily basis. This time it was the 'Rural Vet' from Alice. These two ladies were in town for two days to deal with the huge number of dogs in the community. Part of the strategy, other than the 'Green Dream" is to spade or castrate as many dogs as they can. "We need a bit of shade and power. Some water would be good", they say. They look longingly at the carport where the ambulance is parked. Yeah, OK I say, and within minutes of moving the ambulance we have a makeshift, open air operating theatre happening. Dogs on the table, IV in their paw, anaesthetic injected, let the surgery begin.

    I must say it did add yet another dimension to our daily routine. They had a recovery bay set up on the ground and at the peak of production, they  had 5 dogs lined up, all with their tongues hanging out. What a sight.

    Outdoors surgery Preparing the patientRecovery

    Yes, we will miss it out here.

    Another brilliant experience for me was to be involved in the "men's business ceremony". While I am unable to elaborate, as I do not wish to betray the trust that the locals bestowed on me, it was an amazing experience and one that I will never, ever forget. It was an absolute privilege and something that almost NO white fellas ever get to see. These are the reasons why working in a area for a while, gives you such a different perspective, as opposed to just being a tourist, who flits in and flits out, only seeing the things the local folk want them to see. Every town, every community has it's hidden jewels, the jewels that only the locals know about and use. By living and working next to these people you get to discover these jewels.  No amount of money can buy you experiences like this, believe me.

    Now I must mention one of our afternoon sporting events. We have taken to late afternoon cricket games in the front yard, and it is becoming fiercely competitive. A few weeks back Alex was batting and Chris walked behind just as Harry bowled the ball. Alex swung and firstly collected Chris in the face with the bat and then followed through and hit the ball for a four. There was plenty of blood and yelling. Poor old Chris ended up with a nice laceration across her nose and then a few days later a good black eye.

    The Injury
    So where to now. We left Laramba and had an overnighter in Glen Helen and then the next day headed toYulara. We had 5 nights in Yulara which was great. We stayed again in the Fire Station visitors quarters and played up just a little more than we should have. We will leave Yulara and actually head back to Kings Canyon to go camping with the Murphys for a few days and then off across the "Great Central Road" to the WA coast. We have to be in Broome by the 25th April so we have a bit of time to revisit some of our favourite places. After a few days in Broome restocking it will be off to Kalumburu for 6-8 weeks work. At this stage we do not know if we will be driving all the way to Kalumburu or whether we will have to go to Kununurra and fly out. It will all depend on whether the roads are open after the wet. That will be decided much closer to the time.

    So that is almost it for our experience of 'desert living'. In all we have spent nearly 6 months living in 3 different areas of Central Australia, and each one has been distinctly different. The desert is not all the same. In fact each place has had its own unique characteristics. Different landscapes, different vegetation and different creatures and animals. We have enjoyed every one of them, but the desert is harsh, very harsh. I am not sure we could or would want to live the desert life forever, but to experience it has been one that this family will never forget. While we haven't actually missed the beach, I guess it is the lure of the coast that is calling, or is it just a change of scenery and a new adventure. Who knows, and to be honest who cares. Living that dream, experiencing semi-retirement and spending every minute with Chris and the boys really is what it is all about. To experience a lifestyle that is as close to being 100% stress free as you could possibly get. We are all more adaptable, more resilient than we ever were before. 'Yeah, whatever' is our new catch cry.

    A serious game of chess
     But most importantly we are closer as a family, seeing, living and experiencing all these things together. That really is the "jewel in our crown".
    And for those critics out there, yes the boys are missing out on some things in life, but nothing that they can't pick up again later if they wish. Believe me, the benefits vastly outstrip the negatives, the things they have seen and done most people could not even dream about. And yes, we do regularly ask them if they have had enough, do they want to settle down yet. The answer is always the same, and said with feeling and conviction, 'No way!'  That's good enough for us.

     Make sure you tune in next month. It will be very busy and lots of fun..

    Until then.

    "See in every sunset, a new tomorrow"