Upon leaving Adelaide our scenery quickly changed from urban to rural. The surrounding area was beautiful country. It was the rolling hills I had fallen in love with on our Barossa Valley wine tour during our first stay in Adelaide. Everything was rural and there were tons of vineyards. The next stretch of scenery flattened out. For several miles I felt like I was back in Oklahoma. Everything was flat and full of cattle or sheep. It wasn't until the end of our first day that we saw our first mountain range; the Flinders.
Perhaps the funniest part of our first day on the road was when we encountered the famous Pink Lake. I had read about this on Pinterest and Maggie, having seen it before, gave us a heads up as we were approaching it. What was funny, was that the approaching lake was not pink at all. In fact, it looked just like Frederick Lake, a lake back home that was thought to be dirty from red clay and known for its ability to stain any clothing article within ten feet of it.
Naturally, Matthew's first statement of the lake was, “Hey look! It's Frederick Lake!” I laughed hysterically and commented back, “That's not pink, it's dirty brown!” Although Maggie didn't appreciate the joking, Matthew and I went on to make up our own commentary of the lake.
We decided if that was a pink lake then maybe Nessie, the pink lockness monster, was hanging out at the bottom. Or perhaps Puff the Magic Dragon lived there. Or better yet, Barney could be the park ranger! The last comment sent me laughing through the roof. I pictured Barney the dinosaur guarding a pink lake and my eyes watered from so much amusement.
I finally pulled out my phone and found the Pinterest picture of the pink lake I was expecting. I showed it to Maggie and Matthew and they laughed and pointed out that the photo was clearly Photoshopped. Regardless of our opinions, Maggie pulled over and the three of us took pictures of the brown/pink lake. I wondered if this were considered a tourist attraction for its coloring, why couldn't Frederick Lake be considered the same?
By four o'clock the sun was setting and we were still an hour from our first destination. Rather than keep driving and have to set up camp in the dark, we voted to google the nearest free camping spot and make a night of it. Fortunately we were just a few kilometers from the nearest camp. It was outside of Port Pirie and considered a relatively nice campground.
I wasn't sure what to expect for our first night camping, so I watched as Maggie went to work opening boxes, moving our bags around the car and putting things in order. She handed Matthew a tent, which would be his sleeping quarters, and instructed me to set up a table and chairs for dinner. While I did that she moved things around in the car so a mattress could be folded out over the back seat and into the trunk. This was where her and I would sleep. I had purchased a big pink blanket and a soft pillow at K-mart so I was pretty excited to try out my new gear. Matthew had a yoga mat, a sleeping bag and lots of blankets, so he too was ready to conquer the night.
For dinner we heated up some soup on Maggie's portable grill and quickly found ourselves making friends with a French girl who was camping next to us. She had a station wagon like us, but hers was red and she was travelling alone. Her name was Lilly and she was going the opposite direction of us. She had conquered the outback and was now on her last stretch back to civilization in Adelaide.
The four of us found a nearby campfire that one of the other campers had abandoned. It was there that we swapped travel stories and told of spider and snake encounters that each of us had experienced while travelling.
The sun was down by six o'clock. By seven we very easily could have gone to bed but instead we stayed up and admired the stars. I was fascinated by an orange one that I assumed was a planet. Eventually I took out my star-gazing app and confirmed that it was Jupiter and right below it was Mars. The four of us stood around the fire, staring up at the sky for some time. I heard “Drops of Jupiter” playing the background of my mind and I remembered the sketch I had done months earlier on Kangaroo Island.
“Tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded,
And heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall upon a shooting star,
and did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?”
I had listened to the song for years and each time it meant something different to me. Tonight it was asking me why any of us traveled on these long trips like this? Were we chasing something? Our youth, perhaps? Or maybe we were running from something...the next big life step? I pondered these things as I looked up at the sky. We talked about how the stars were a million years behind our present time and how it would take a lifetime to reach them. In comparison to the millions of galaxies above us, our lives were small, insignificant and oh-so fleeting. And in that moment I felt that deep sense of purpose I often feel when I know I've encountered a tiny bit of God's vision.