Story Archive

STORY - 5

SLEEPING WITH THE ANGELS

Posted on March 8, 2014 by
Raymond
on the road at
COOLAH

 

When you are over sixty, even if it's only by one year, and you have been a traveller for the majority of that time, you get to sleep in a lot of beds: beautiful ones, four-posted ones, soft ones, hard ones and even water-filled ones that occasionally don't leak. When you spend decades leading walks carrying a sleeping mat on your back, you recline on thin foam mats in deserts and on top of mountains. I've slept in hammocks in rainforests and in caves on cliffs. Of all of those nights of slumber three stand out, three nights amongst the thousands upon thousands.

On the first, I was walking along the Great Dividing Range hoping to reach My Hotham by nightfall. I didn't. A high country storm was building fast .... As darkness hit I could smell the rain before it burst over the plains. I just had time to secure my pack, lay out my bivvy bag [a thin waterproof bag that encloses the sleeping bag] and put the little poles in above my head. Think a still alive Tutenkarmen embalmed in a minuture tent. The last zip coincided with the first rain ... which was thunder driven ... frighteningly loud ... torrential in its intent ... but I'd made it. I was, against all odds and in defiance of the Gods, perfectly dry. Body heat from my walk circulated through the tiny space and I laughed ... uproariously ... a little crazed no doubt ... with the sheer glorious incrongruity of finding such comfort in so inhospitable an environment. 

The second was on the Krickhauff Ranges in Central Australia. Having announced that it definitely would not rain I set up under the stars. For a time I was right, then less so as droplets inoffensively brushed my swag, then decidedly not so when the heavens opened and everything slowly drenched. I was caught between a number of things: the slight comfort of the still not saturated sleeping bag, the fear of moving camp in the middle of the night and the incredible warmth of my dog Tommie who crept closer and closer until finally we were locked in a manly embrace, taking from each other what shelter and warmth was available. It was a night that makes a man and a dog very close and the warmth of cross species camaraderie much appreciated.

The PENTHOUSE

The third was a few days ago on my last night in Coolah. The weather was oppressive and heavy with expectant rain. I lay in my little pop up tent, my penthouse, on top of the trailer. The windows were open and in the early hours a wind came, a gentle, cool, sweet wind. With each gust pleasure ozzed through me with an exquisite sigh of relief.

Is there a message? To me there is. What is memorable, what you remember years after, is not the comfort of things. On that first night it was the defiance of the raging storm, on the second the warmth and companionship of my dog and on the last the knowledge that the extraordinary pleasure of that sweet breeze existed only in the relief from the clawing, non-airconditioned humidity of the night. 

Tonight I am camped by the Gwydir River. I can hear it gurgling. I can hear ducks landing. Birds will lure me to consciousness in the morning. I will be all comfy and happy and warm. But I won't remember it next week.

Read Tommie's daily WUFFINGTON POST on FACEBOOK

Send your thoughts and stories to or call Raymond on 0414 929768. If you wish to speak to Tommie just leave a message.

Comments
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Davina
Reply
love your stories (and of course Tommie's)
Raymond
Reply
Thank you Davina. Glad you are with us.
Ingrid Petersson
Reply
Thank you for a good story and you are so true. There are not many of special nights I remenber. One is in a tent in Cathederal Beach in Frasier Island. With wild dingos outside, some animals coming up from the ground in the tent next to ours. Not much sleep that night for a person coming from a country with not many dangerous animals. Are you never afraid sleeping under the stars? Of course you have Tommie to warn you. Your nights out under the stars sounds very special to me. Please say hi to Tommie.
Raymond
Reply
Hi Ingrid .. I spend a lot of my time afraid but not of being alone in the bush
cecilia
Reply
I still have not figured out how to get into a swag when it is raining. When you are standing in the rain for 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get in without getting the bedding wet. And where you are going to put the wet boots. And trying to get changed into something dry. And when you try to get out in the morning you realize that puddles had formed on the swag and the flap and you get drenched again trying to get out. Swags should come with wet weather instructions and a large umbrella. I remember the first camp, with your organisation, many years ago, expecting heavy duty canvas swags and getting thin bivvy bags instead. Then spending a freezing night in a river bed. The best sight was the morning sun on Mt Sonder and the realization that in a few hours it would be WARM. And how nice it is when you hear that the camp fire is being lit in the morning. I also remember that you brought extra sleeping bags and that the following nights in the bivvy bag were blissfully warm. Bringing extra sleeping bags was a good idea, ‘cos now I remember that the bivvy bags were not that uncomfortable after all. It does not have to rain to make the Krickhauff Ranges unforgettable. I still look at the pictures every now and then. Good times. (I hope that the Gwydir River did not rise during the night!)