We decided on an early morning start for Echuca, packed up the van, this is a major job as it’s a pop top caravan and all items inside that are lower than the folded down ceiling have to be put away and all things that maybe loose have to be secured, plus all the beds have to be packed up so we can close the end extensions. That’s ok, we accept that it is part of the routine, but this was our first hook up without assistance, not even Phil or Kim to check our list, plus I had a very tight space to back the 4wd up to connect to the van. Scott has had a lot of difficulty understanding and showing me the distance between the car tow ball and the caravan coupling, although Phil did a great job of showing Scott to make small hand gestures to represent how close I was, I wasn’t comfortable that Scott understood, so I thought I’d have to find another way to have him show me.
I lay awake most of the night, a very restless night and Scott was delighted to tell me I kept him awake with all my wriggling again. Back to how to hook up the caravan, I’d had an idea, what if Scott held something to measure between the caravan and the top of
the coupling? What did we have on board, a broom could be held at window level. Unfortunately, he still didn’t understand the concept, after much thought, I realised how simple it could be, all Scott had to do was hold the broom vertically aligned with the coupling, now I have a vertical stick as a visual marker that was exactly where the coupling of the caravan was. Worked perfect!! I backed the car to the tow-bar and as I hit the stick I was perfectly in line with the ball under the coupling YEAH!! Scott was very proud and I have discovered autistic people love praise around them and we were both delighted to lower the caravan onto the car. We then followed all procedures, as required by seasonal caravan travellers and we were on our way.
When we arrived at Echuca it was a little disappointing, believe me this changed as we learnt more about the area and the people, it was far more commercial than I expected and as we drove into the ‘touristy’ Port of Echuca pulling the van it was a little overwhelming, a very busy area. There were lots of road works and I was happy to get to the end and turn into the first caravan park, this happened to be a big park right next to all of the activity which included the paddle boat blowing its horn around 11.30pm as it ended its night tour on the Murray River. I have to be honest it was a little romantic as I lay in bed and it vibrated through the still night air.
On arrival at the Echuca Caravan Park it became a little daunting as I realised I had to back the caravan into the parking space. Fortunately a man stepped forward and suggested I drive in forward from the other side, he guided me through the parking process, excellent! Scott did his man thing of running around winding down jockey wheels and opening up the pop top van and we got settled in for the night.
I love the camaraderie amongst fellow caravaners; it’s the warmest feeling to know somebody will help without asking. The glory of caravaning is the common ground everybody shares in the park. Retired professionals give way to just helping each other and enjoying their tribal instincts and these instincts are still very powerful, I hope they will always flourish. There is so much power in friendships without class or boundaries. Men tend to form small groups and chat, I have no idea what about, it appears to me like some sort of elders meeting, probably comparing their four-wheel drives, the length of their vans and how well it tows etc. The women appear to relax into a life style of evening BBQ, a good meeting place for a gossip and everybody appears to have a book they’re trying to finish. Mornings are interesting with the early birds shuffling about around 6am, nobody is shy about getting around in their pyjamas and dressing gown and I noticed some people stay like this till late in the morning and of course there is the traditional early morning call as everybody on approach feels obliged to say “good morning, lovely day” as opposed to the other end of the day with “good evening, was lovely day”. There is a similarity between the flocks of early morning and evening cockatoos who fill the air with unbelievable squawking and screeching. Scott has caught onto this and takes great joy in the good morning and evening chore.
Next morning Scott and I headed for some real tourist activity and we weren’t disappointed, Scott loved it. First there was a photo by the Port Of Echuca sign with the Warrandyte Diary as they wanted us to share our travels with them, then a walk through the port. I must say again a great time of the year to be here, wonderful weather and only a handful of visitors, I showed Scott how I used my phone camera to do quick shots, he caught on straight away and started photographing everything he saw, when I looked at his work later I was surprised to see so much and how many of the photos were relevant. We went into the wood-turning shop, Scott loves wood-turning, and he took a photo of the guy in the shop. Scott politely asked him if he could take his photo and the man was delighted, as everybody is when they meet Scott.
A few people watched us and with Scott’s inappropriate body movements and loud voice they were very curious, I’m amazed how the men don’t seem to notice or chose to ignore Scott’s behaviour whereas the woman connect and want to watch him or interact with him or me. After a lifetime with Scott I never feel embarrassed or confronted with other people’s reactions, I actually feel proud and want to interact with them, I think because Scott is in the community, not necessary his community but a worldwide community and I see people are very curious, and I believe they deserve an answer.
I can remember speaking about disabilities to a wise person once and they said everybody is sympathetic when they see somebody is disabled, even a person with a broken leg has a disability, but till they have a disability they haven’t walked the same road. If this trip helps people to understand the walk, then Scott and I have already achieved a great thing.
Scott in the last few years has let his art go and part of this trip was to ask the question, does he still have it? Does he really enjoy art? Some of his work in the days when we started the trip was very average, it was more about mum does this make you happy. A few days in I was feeling a little frustrated because I felt if Scott hasn’t got the art in him anymore what is this all about? Echuca has played a big part in our journey and when we walked through the tourist part we came across an art gallery, the gallery is trying to find a permanent position for local artists to show their work though the current location is temporary, so I took Scott in.
Now try to imagine, if you have any experience with autism or Asperger’s a person, who shows no interest at all, talks too loudly about some insignificant event in his past life and you are trying to relate to the gallery curator what he is all about. Scott sits in a chair while you talk as though he is bored to tears. I collected Scott and asked him to try to see what this artist was trying to do. I believe although Scott acts disinterested he does take in snippets of information. There were some really beautiful works full of passion and detail. We left and I have to admit I felt like it was a waste of time.
NOOOOOO! to my surprise Scott had collected a ream of information and was about to apply it to his work. As we got in the car I asked another lady, (thank you Dianne from Mildura) to do a photo of Scott and myself at the sign of the Port of Echuca for posterity, much to Scott’s boring response. Scott and I got in the car and then had a big but limited discussion, which he called an argument, about putting more detail in art work. Scott was quiet for a while until he asked “what’s detail?” I tried to describe detail, try it, it’s very difficult. Then Scott said detail is like when I look at Kade (he is our Bengal striped cat) with marble strips and the spots on a white Bengal cat, which he found on Google. How is that for clear thinking, he spent his quiet time in the car working out what detail means.
That afternoon we headed for Moama over the border from Echuca, and yes we did the crossing the border stuff “I’m in Victoria now, I’m in New South Wales…” and by the way, Scott still doesn’t get it. He still has trouble with good night “John boy” from the Walton’s insisting his name is Scott, only surpassed by the new saying, as we left a pub for home and I said “Home James and don’t hold the horses” Scott said “mum my name is Scott”. What a great day, Scott found a water house power station on the river to draw and I took lots of photos of paddle boats going up and down the Murray River. As mentioned earlier, you must do this at least once in your life time, the more we travel the Upper Murray the greater it gets.
I said to Scott I love you so much I could eat you, Scott said “ No mum that could kill me” mind you I say that to my granddaughters and they sort of look at me like “Nana, that’s not a very good idea!”, innocence is so refreshing.
We were going to head for Swan Hill the next day but while travelling between Yarrawonga and Echuca we saw some extraordinary sights. Beautifully groomed farms of olive and fruit trees, each forming long artists lines in the rich, red Murray valley soil, they were covered with the last falling leaves of autumn and the ground was covered with mango gold, burgundy ,Scott’s favourite colour I found out, and a range of golden browns. Because we had the caravan I couldn’t stop, finding a suitable, safe park to jump out and take a photo is too hard, it is one of the limitations of the van. So the next day we back tracked in just the 4wd. The interesting thing was in my mind we would see some really good things that we passed a few days earlier but it wasn’t the same. Maybe a different time of the day and the light was different, I don’t know. I remember when Geoff and I were in Turkey last year a guide who was very philosophical, well we were in the city of philosophers, Rhodes, told us to enjoy our journey and come back again but remember “you can go to the same river but you will never swim in the same water twice.”
Fortunately we found a turnoff down to the Murray River, this was very special and after Scott and my argument about introducing more detail into his work, he was very anxious to show me what he could do. We found a quiet spot on the bend of the river and both settled in to do some work, “just another day at the office”. Scott completed another piece and even worked on a few from the days before. Unfortunately we were surrounded by mosquitoes and agreed it was time to move on. The mosquitoes up here are huge and as my dear dad said once “the mozzies are so big they need a helicopter pad to land”, though the competition is even, as they are a lot slower and easier to swot. Scott has a lovely saying about the sound of mosquito’s that fly around in the dark while you are trying to get to sleep, he describes the sound as ‘Vibrating violins’.
Following the Murray is interesting for a lot of reasons including the small towns, the landscape and all the people who love to chat, from its start in the snowy mountains where farming appears to breed beef cattle to a few hundred kilometres west following the river to Echuca where more dairy-farming is dominant, then after Yarrawonga the olive groves and fruit trees change the landscape again.
Next move; we had a small audience to watch us pack up the van and what a lovely lot who were more than willing to help us get it right. Thanks guys
We still didn’t get it right. Next, Swan Hill … what a day!