Saturday was another blazing day. The temperature in Katanning was 38 by 10.30 am, increasing to 40 mid afternoon. It was time to get out and go somewhere. I decided to try out the swag, so I packed it up along with a pillow, a few provisions and plenty of frozen water bottles and set off on my bike into the heat. I called in to visit Don, a colleague from work who has a hundred and seventy odd acres out about 60k away between Broomehill and Dumbleyung. He showed me around the property, which is half bush and half planted in trees. I learned something new – that Sandalwood trees are parasites and grow on host trees. On Don’s land the hosts are Jam trees. They are called that because they are said to smell like raspberry jam when cut. I learned that of course from Wikipedia.
I saw kangaroos springing away into the trees, and heard a kookaburra call. Other than the calls of birds, the wind in the trees is all Don ever hears out there. No traffic, no neighbour noise.
Don says he has a few snakes on the property, so I did a bit of hunting and hollowlogging but despite some promising locations I discovered nothing.
Don lives in a small donga* and is self sufficient, in that he owns the property freehold, generates his own electricity by wind and solar, uses rainwater, grows veges. He works only to make money for groceries, clothes, vehicles and holidays. His donga has a kitchen/dining room and a lounge/bedroom separated by a small study that was once an office reception area and still has the receptionist’s counter. It was originally a mobile architect’s office of the sort you see on skids on building sites. He is in the process of building on a room which will be his laundry shower and toilet. Outside is a seatainer which Don uses as a toolshed and store for his generators and batteries, and on the other side is a green house of shade cloth in which he grows his vegetables.
Don is an ex army and Airforce chef. He cooks a mean baked fish with salad and so I did not need the supplies I packed. The beers I brought turned out to be a good idea in the post-prandial evening heat.
I set up the swag in Don’s yard, under his clothes line so I could use the pole as a support. The ground was rock hard, and I bent my tent pegs trying to hammer them in. There was a lot of gravel and very little grass so I knew this was going to be an excellent test of the 50mm mattress in the swag. Then we heard the weather forecast and I knew it was going to be an excellent test in more ways than one. Rain and wind and low temperatures predicted. Don Suggested I sleep on a camp stretcher in the donga, but I was determined to try my swag.
We watched the news and a little TV, then sat out in the dark and chatted until bed. I retired to my swag with a torch and settled in with the main flap down and just the insect screens zipped up. Through them I could see the stars in the clear loom-free sky. The Milky Way was bright. I don’t think I have seen such lovely clear skies since I was in Solomon Islands so long ago. When I awoke much later the wind had risen and the sky was completely overcast. It was much colder and rain felt imminent. I got up for a pee, and then zipped myself in securely this time, ready for the weather. I had been sleeping on top of my sleeping bag on the little 2m by 750mm mattress, but now it was much cooler and I slipped into the sleeping bag, which is rated for down to zero degrees C. Snug and secure, I left only the end flap open, with the insect screen zipped up. The cool breeze around my head was pleasant, and the rest of me was warm and comfortable despite not having an extra pillow to support my gammy shoulder.
Sleeping in a swag is a little strange at first. I felt a bit like a giant Alice in an undersized tent and memories of childhood came to me, when I used to get under the bed covers and pretend I was in a tiny cave or in the cabin of a rocket ship, or something like that. Then the weather set in. Wind howled, rain poured, and I lay listening until I slept, snug and comfortable. It was a good test of the set-up: Hard gravelly ground, wind, rain, chilly temperatures. I had anticipated that I might need to replace the mattress that came with the swag with something better, such as a 75mm self inflating one. But I was very pleased indeed with the comfort and pleasure of sleeping out. All in all a most successful venture, and I am now confident I can manage anywhere I go.
* Donga, (Australian English) A transportable building with single rooms, often used on remote work sites or as tourist accommodation