I have a confession to make: when I described Mum hitting a large red roo roadkill a week ago and smearing it all over the bottom of old mate corolla, well, I was using a bit of poetic license. I’d say old mate Corolla had ‘essence of roo,’ rather than ‘bits of roo,’ on her belly.
The reason I’m making this confession, is because I now have a more nuanced understanding of what it means to have roo bits stuck to the underside of your car.
I was driving this time, somewhere between Tennant Creek and Mataranka. The roos are smaller here, but this one was dead smack centre in the middle of my lane, and I had road train flying down the other side of the road. So I had to hit it. Mum yelped, and I think I swore as we clunked/cracked/karoomphed over this carcass. I looked in the revision mirror in time to see a conglomeration fur and innards fountain into the air behind us.
So we pull into the Bitter Springs campsite area, which is pretty full. The area around Mataranka is filled with palm-fringed thermal springs of various temperatures, which attract a silly amount of tourists in the Dry.
There are lots of smells in a campsite. Toast is usually distinguishable, along with smokey smells, dirt, sometimes citronella or mozzie-coil smells. But Mum and I could smell poo – cow poo we thought, which was weird because we were in the middle of a National Park. We were stinking hot and tired – we’d left cool winter desert weather well behind. So we let the poo-smell slide, set up our swags and ventured down to the Bitter Springs to soak in the reportedly croc-free water.
It was nice, the water. Although, I wouldn’t exactly call it a relaxing way to unwind at the end of a road trip. Every time my leg touched a slimy rock or my eyes caught a piece of smooth bog wood protruding from the water’s surface, I would twitch and look blindly into its depths. These depths were lit quite nicely by some blue-ish rocks below, and if you had the coordination and a pool noodle, you could float lazily down the length of the spring. I was more of a floundering hefalump trying to balance on my noodle, and Mum was too busy watching her life flash before her eyes every time she bumped and underwater object. As a result, Bitter Springs wasn’t exactly a game changer. It had been talked up so much, that it came closer to a – ‘festy pond,’ were the words Mum used – than the tropical oasis we expected.
Back at the swags, we’re getting the camping stove out for dinner and I notice that the poo-ey smell has become altogether more pungent. Mum thinks that maybe someone’s laid out some blood and bone for the trees. And suddenly it clicks.
Mum and I both get down on our bellies in the dirt and worm under the car. I can make out tufts of fur jammed in between the fuel tank and a pipe. Mum’s at the other end, and she reckons there’re a few danglies, although I take her word for it, because the smell from under there has almost knocked me out. And no, I realise, that is not dirt smeared on the back bumper.
So Mum drives old mate Corolla around to a hose at the park entrance and washes her off. She’s very thorough, as in the time she’s gone I’ve started and finished making a dinner. Problem is, old mate’s hose-down seems to have dislodged as much roo-ness as it got rid of, sending waves of blood and bone smell over the campground.
It’s late at this point. Dark, too. And the lemon carbonara pasta I’ve cooked is going cold. So Mum decides on a quick fix for the smell, and says we’ll deal with it in the morning.
So old mate Corolla is not only covered in animal guts, red dirt and coffee (I’d tried to throw a cup of coffee out the window at high speed that morning), but she becomes an incense pin cushion; Mum sticks an entire packet of sandalwood incense in old mate Corolla’s hub caps, cracks and keyholes.
The result? We (and everyone around us) went to sleep to the mingling scents of Sandalwood and the Antilopine Wallero.
The photos below feature me in all-Australian mode at Mataranka, and Mum doing everything BUT going for a swim at a Buley Rockhole in Litchfield National Park (which we visited after Bitter Springs). Unlike the ‘festy pond’ at Bitter Springs, this rockhole was cold, clear and not a swamp.