If You’re Driving From Melbourne to Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road is on Fire

Consider getting off Highway One and taking the inland route, where you can visit the magical Little Desert National Park.

K next to red river gums and the Wimmera River, Little Desert National Park, Victoria

On the fifth of January, after a long hot drive from the other side of Melbourne, we arrived at our campsite hungry, tired and hot.  At 6.30 in the evening, it was still 31 degrees C.  I had a headache, the girls were fighting, but we pressed on—we had to—and set up the camper.

The drinking water was warm and the flies swarmed and there were more ants than I’ve ever seen in my life, including bull ants—no thongs here!

Then it was past 7 and I knew I should cook dinner, but instead I said, “I’m going to put my toes in the river.”  K followed.

The river, just 20 meters from our campsite, was green and wide with a slight ripple.  We put our feet in, looked at each other, took off our clothes and jumped in the water.

The effect of being submerged was instant—we laughed and splashed, feeling cool and free and fully refreshed.

That night it was quiet and light until nearly 10.  Even at 10.30, the stars weren’t completely out.  At 11, when the girls were finally asleep, Lee and I started to see shooting stars.  There were only two other campers in this large campsite, Horseshoe Bend, named for the bend in the river.  And although there was a live redback in the women’s toilet, there were no mosquitos.

The next morning, when I was tidying up the camp kitchen, I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a large emu.  It gave me a shock.  Close behind was an emu chick, who was still larger than my four-year-old.

Emus at our campsite, Horseshoe Bend, Little Desert National Park

We stayed three nights.  One morning K and I biked into town past a large olive orchard.  When we saw a rope swing hanging over the river, K stared longingly at it.  “I wish I lived here,” she said in Auslan, “then I could go on that every day.”  And she made the sign for swinging on a rope, letting go and splashing into the river that described the action in a perfect visual manner.  It’s something I would never have thought up myself, despite the fact that I’ve been signing for five years and have a Diploma in Auslan.

This happens all the time when I’m signing with deaf people.  I try to describe something, fail, and then they give me the visual language for it—paint a picture in the air so succinct, so apt.  I wish my brain worked like that.  For me, Auslan will always be a second language.  K’s chosen not to wear her hearing aids lately—excited by the prospect of going to Deaf Games in a few days, where she’ll communicate with everyone in Auslan.



Author: sarahklenbort

I'm a Brisbane-based writer and mother of two children--one deaf and one hearing. I'm also a sessional academic at the University of Queensland, where I teach literature and creative writing. In 2016, my husband and I took the kids out of school and travelled around Australia with a camper trailer, visiting deaf schools along the way. When we found Toowong State School, it was so good, we decided to move to Queensland! We still have the trailer and take off for the bush whenever we can.

One thought on “If You’re Driving From Melbourne to Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road is on Fire”

  1. It was so lovely to share our New Year with you all! Alfie talked about his new friends long after we got home, and I keep stopping what I am doing to wonder where you are now, and where today’s road has taken you! Love that I can keep in touch with your adventures through this blog! Big hellos to you, Lee and the girls from us 🙂


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