Grace

My mother -- Stephanie -- is a trooper in every sense of the word. She left Canton, Ohio, United States of America, bogged down with two large suitcases & a heavy backpack -- the majority of which contained clothes/toiletries for me. From Canton she departed to Atlanta, Georgia, then to Los Angeles, California. After hanging around the international terminal for 11 hours in LAX she flew over the largest ocean to Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, and finally landed in Mackay, Queensland, Australia. All with minimal shut-eye, no bed, no change of clothes, no home-cooked meals, and toting around 45 pounds of luggage total. Although she was in great spirits when she walked out of the "Arrivals" gate, I knew she was relieved to be done with flying too. Unfortunately, nothing in Canton could prepare her for the intense Australian sun. She got sunburnt from sitting in the car for 10 minutes!The next day I showed Mom around Mackay & its northern beaches. I took the liberty of ordering the always-delicious Eagle Boys pizza. We also ran errands in preparation for a week of camping. Not glorified camping: no Winnebago, no electric stove, no portable lounge chairs, no starter log for the fire, no mini-fridge, and no automatic air mattress pump. After stocking up on groceries it was a 4 hour drive southwest to Dingo. Arriving at the pea-sized town of Dingo we could see the massive plateau in the distance. Not looming or jagged like mountains. The plateau actually looked out of place considering we'd been driving on a straight, flat road ever since we left Mackay with nothing but bare gum a.k.a. eucalyptus trees & occasional cows along the roadside.As we drove higher & higher up the plateau to Blackdown Tablelands National Park the temperature noticeably dropped. By the time we reached the summit I was freezing in my tank top, flip flops & skirt. Thank God we arrived before dusk because we had to set up camp & get a fire started -- our only source for warmth and cooking dinner. It was a pitiful fire and the firewood we brought never really caught. Away from the city lights and isolated from television/phones/internet/newspapers, my mom & I passed the night by cooking dinner, deciding what to hike the following day, and enjoying the clean air and each other's company.

Our first full day at the park we chose to hike the hardest -- but most desireable -- trail first to Gudda Gumoo (in aboriginal dialect) a.k.a. Rainbow Waters. The first part of the hike had us winding through levels of the fragrant Wattle bushes (Wattle is apparently Australia's national flower, hence its national colors yellow and green). Throughout our entire week of camping I only fell/got injured once... and, in true irony, it happened at the very top of 300 rock stairs at the only section that did not have guard railings. Go figure!

Later, we hiked Goon Goon Dina to see the aboriginal stencils and remains of a cattle ranch from when the Europeans were settling Australia. When we returned to camp that evening my mom built a teepee structure out of sticks in the area since the firewood we brought was a dud. We turned our attention to other matters, but within a minute I turned back around when I heard a cracking sound. Apparently there were some embers left over from the previous night's fire... and in its place there was an inferno! Using the fallen tree branches, we had a roaring bonfire which cooked and warmed us well until bedtime.

"Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;"-- 1 Timothy 6:17 kept coming to mind during my short stay at the national park I experienced Mother Nature's alignment with the Lord. The sun warmed & awoke us every morning, saving us from the freezing temperature of night. Likewise, the earth provided us with shade, cooling us from the draining afternoon sun. The water cleansed my wound from falling earlier. The embers and the trees that surrounded us renewed our fire and appetites.

Our second & last day in Blackdown Tablelands National Park we hiked to a lookout named Mook Mook in the morning. We then set off on another 4 hour drive south to our next campsite. Neither mom nor I expected the journey to Carnarvon National Park to be so memorable.

Blackwater-Rolleston Road seemed promising since Google Maps recommended it. Plus, the route shaved at least an hour off the drive because it was direct. Therefore, when Blackwater-Rolleston Road turned to unpaved, red gravel just 10 kilometers outside the town of Blackwater, we were a bit tense. Once we realized there would be no bitumen until we reached the village of Rolleston we switched into Survivor mode. We weren't anxious but you could tell we were out of our league since the conversation changed from carefree to the worst-case-scenario dilemmas. We began looking for any sign of life in the distance just in case we got a flat tire or broke down. I constantly checked the temperature gauge and swerved to avoid potholes -- you do NOT want to be stuck in this remote area. We only passed two trucks the entire 150 kilometer drive.

Halfway to Rolleston, on the road ahead, my mom & I noticed something glistening in the sunlight of midday. As our compact car sped forward we watched a 4 foot, silver snake slither out of the tires' way. We were somewhat excited to catch our first glimpse of native fauna. You can imagine our delight & surprise as we turned a corner and saw a 7 foot emu standing in the middle of the road! I think I said "Oh my God" under my breath. Instinctively (like with deer in Ohio) I beeped my horn instead of flashing my lights. Even without the horn I bet the bird was shocked to see/hear something approaching it quickly. We tried to get a picture but obviously the emu had run off into the wild blue yonder. Even the Australia Zoo didn't have emus this size... MOM & I WERE OFFICIALLY IN THE OUTBACK!

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