Big day arrived. Cab at 6.40am over to Barry’s place at Mosman. Picked him up and Tony Smuts, as well as Barry’s friend Kelvin Steggles. Barry’s bother Robbie met us at the airport. It was very exciting for me for the following document to come over the boarding counter. Haven’t been this excited/relieved about a boarding pass for some time. Bought a book for the plane, called the Art Forger – an American novel by B. A. Shapiro, about someone making a living forging an Edgar Degas painting. It’s really quite good after some of my recent disappointments in modern fiction literature. But it couldn’t compete with what was on offer out the window of the plane as we crossed into the desert. The Channel country loomed large with its familiar mosaic of greens and blacks, browns, reds and greys. It was ironic that I was reading a book about art, while one of the world’s great tableaus of artistic endeavor slid silently by under-wing. I was mesmerised in a way that tore me from my reading. In all my years travelling back and forth to Darwin and Katherine I never cease to be amazed by that wonderful tapestry as you cross the New South Wales/ Queensland border heading towards Mount Isa. The landscape is one of the most surreal, impressionist paintings imaginable. Nothing done by human beings comes close to that vast canvas done by nature. The familiar heat blasted me as we walked out of Darwin airport. It is 18 years since I first came up here to plan the North Australian Expedition.
Nevertheless, it remains the land where the rubber thong is the favoured footwear. I’ve never seen so many people wearing thongs.We are staying in a modern block of apartments on Cavanagh Street.
I’m sharing a two bedroom apartment with Tony. Dinner was a big steak at the Cav, a pub just down the street. Spent a half hour studying the maps, trying to get my mind around the challenge ahead. This will be the first expedition I have been on where I’m not the navigator. Not sure how I feel about that.
Bus arrives to take us to Nitmiluk at 6.15am tomorrow. Very excited. Got weight in pack down to 12kgs, including 3 litres of water. With 5kgs of food and World Expeditions gear like a mosquito net it’s 17kg. Perfect. Let the busted leg test begin.