Category Archives: Pushing The Boundaries

A journey experienced by an mother and son following the Murray River from the high country in Victoria, Australia to where it exits into the ocean 2600 kms away in South Australia.

The Murray Joins The Rest of The World.

I have often quoted “It is not the destination, it’s the journey” but I’m going to change that after this trip to “It’s not the destination or a journey unless you have created something.”

No windmills, but more beautiful country side. We followed the winding road down little twisting valleys over crystal clear creeks and up steep hills, passing little boutique wineries.

On the sides of the road grew enormous grass trees, a distinct Australian native plant, majestic in their enormous grassy crowns with long-stemmed flower heads resembling black spears, many of them in clumps of three or four.  I would love one in my garden, there was a moment when I thought, I could get across the border with some baby plants, but my conscience got the better of me, so I just took photos.

We came out at an intersection and a sign showing we were very close to Goolwa, turning left we followed the small, country road until we came to a beautiful little township and there was the bridge in all its glory, challenging us to enter the forbidden island and complete our journey.

2

It’s a very impressive bridge, similar to a boomerang, it’s a steep entry climbing over a high bending peck and returning down to the opposing road with another steep descent. I’m not sure if the aborigines knew what they were doing, but somebody did as the real estate on the island is grand and very expensive. If this legendary land was based on fertility it became very fertile for some land developers when the bridge went up.

1It was another good 30 minute drive to get to the rivers exit where it emptied into the ocean. Scott kept drawing and enjoying the drive. It was an over cast day and I was feeling a little sad as our adventure was coming to a close.  My mind idly wondered over places we’d seen people we’d met, the day we had to turn the caravan around after one of our best camp set up days, quiet moments watching Scott sitting on the ground drawing on the shores of the Murray.   Teasing Scott with “good night John boy”, “home James and don’t hold the horses” and his insistence his name was Scott.  The caravan rocking us to sleep at night as Scott’s Tourettes persisted, and the multiple crossings over the Murray River changing states backwards and forwards like flipping the pages on a book.  So many memories to keep and so many lessons learnt.

I started a conversation with Scott about our trip and I was really surprised he was a willing participant in my reminiscing and he also had his special moments including several bakeries and pubs and how he really did liked Mildura. Scott kept working on his drawing and it seemed ironic that’ at the moment he finished we pulled up in the car park and there in front of us was one of the most beautiful sights. Between us and the horizon was a picture perfect landscape, the foreground edge with windswept, tall grasses capped with an endless creamy, beige, smooth beach washed by the outgoing tide over a grey smooth lake. Between the beach and the sea lay two points of land pointing in towards each other divided by a watery gap endlessly flowing out to the sea.

3

There it was the great Murray River finishing its journey and joining the rest of the world. I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend who was about to go on a trip, I was happy and sad. I would miss the adventure each day of finding my watery friend and sharing warm days, blue skies and constant inspiration, the teasing motivation to finding the next town, the next bend, coaxing us to follow and explore the country, our relationship and our hearts.

But my best friend right now was Scott, we got out of the car and Scott proudly showed his most recent work and was really ecstatic at what he had achieved. This beautiful oil pastel satisfied all his needs and he was excited to have found the artist inside himself again.

4

5He ran down the sandy gutter to the beach and appeared to take in all its glory or maybe he was celebrating the end and now we can finally get home.  I took endless pictures of Scott and his art, plus numerous coached videos of Scott running on the beach and telling the story about our trip.  Scott found a fisherman to chat to and once again the bewildered look on his face as Scott identified and noted his date of birth and confirmed his age. Like all our past encounters with people meeting Scott he warmed to him and chatted about fish and asked if Scott liked fishing.

It started to rain and seemed like a fitting moment to get back in the car and head back to our little cottage on wheels, as Scott now refers to it.   Scott wasn’t quite as elated as I was about our day, it was a strange feeling of success, completion and satisfaction and I was sorry he didn’t experience the same emotions and feelings to share with me.

I emailed Geoff and a few friends to tell them we had arrived at our destination. They were great and there was great SMS applause.  I knew there wasn’t a welcoming party at the end or champagne, after all it was Scott and my adventure and it wasn’t something everyone could share.

I was cheered up by a flock of Geese meandering around the bottom of the orange trees in an orchard alongside the road and I remembered how my friend Sandy loved animals and kept a few geese, so I took some photos with an idea of painting something when I got home. Scott was getting a little edgy, it had been a very long day and he was ready for dinner and a shower.

6

We celebrated the events of the day with a bottle of champagne back at the van and Scott had a very large bottle of real coke, none of that diet or zero stuff, plus fish and chips.

That night I was talking to Geoff and I got teary as I started to evaluate what Scott’s issues were and it crossed my mind for a moment that Scott may not get any better and maybe there is more wrong than I had confessed to myself or maybe I had drunk too much champagne?

Immediately Scott came over to comfort me and wondered why I was crying.  Nobody can tell me autistic people don’t recognize emotions and want to help, often they don’t know how or what to do.  Since this trip together it’s like he is more in tune with my emotions and his own behavior, there is so much Scott can do and so much more he could have in his life, work, friends and interests but his autism limits his ability to seek and plan the future, he relies on lessons from the past and from day-to-day experiences, he needs to be introduced to all these things and coached on how to deal with them.  It just makes me so much more determined to find him a job when we get back to Warrandyte.  We have tried so hard to find the door to his freedom in our community including the organisations that are supposed to assist people to find work. I have found these to be a gross waste of the government’s money and they whittle away at ones confidence and strengths.

If anybody out there has any work or ideas please feel free to contact me or Scott, if you’re reading these blogs I’m sure you will be getting a picture of a really nice, young man with some good skills, you just need patience, the rewards are multiple and great.

The drive to Mt Gambia to meet Geoff was very confronting …

Advertisements

Ghosts in the car and secret women’s business.

We loved the drive to Strathalbyn, beautifully manicured vineyards and lots of historical, fallen down, old farm houses, left in their ruined state, surrounded by green paddocks and rolling hills, shadowed by a big, blue cloudy sky. Blankets of daisies lay in a blaze of colour down the sides of the roads.  A little cold and crisp, just enough to enjoy wearing a woolly jacket.

Flowers

Scott was sketching small squares and filling them in with amazing colours and designs about Harry Potter movies he had watched numerous times, a pastime he often used to service his obsessive behaviour.   As we drove along I reminded him of the picture we saw in Mildura at the hotel and the drawing he did of the old house a few days earlier using a mosaic style of drawing. I suggested he could do something like that instead Harry potter memorabilia, he wasn’t interested, it was past lunch time and a bakery at the next town was much more appealing.

The four-wheel drive wasn’t giving much trouble, except the screeching noises as I changed gears, especially in first and fourth gear, this made me feel a little foolish to try to attempt another 80 kilometres as I didn’t know what was wrong, but I figured it was just me, Scott and the RACV road side assistance if anything did happen.

I kept calling Geoff hoping the car would repeat its mischievous noises and he could diagnose the problem.    He had years of experience with cars etc. and as a former mechanic he is pretty good at picking up a problem by ear.  We to and fro with questions and answers about what it sounded like, when did it make the noise, could I still change gears and did the car lose any power?  I tried doing very bad impersonations of screeching noises and engines sounds.   Geoff put all my impersonations together and he assured me by a process of elimination there was no immediate danger or trouble.

Then it all happened together, we got to Strathalbyn and the screeching got worse as I changed down gears and the doors started locking and unlocking by themselves, apparently another electrics problem.  I couldn’t help thinking my dad was with us trying to emphasise there was something desperately wrong with the car!! I pulled into the nearest park which was fortunately just a couple of doors down from a really nice bakery and I surrender to Scott’s excellent idea of stopping for lunch. Unfortunately we couldn’t get out of the car, all the doors were locked, we were in trouble  and we were locked in the car with a ghost!!

I started the car up again and the locks opened. We quickly got out and I had a terrible fear of if I locked the car it wouldn’t let us back in.  All this time Scott sat quietly completely unfazed by everything that was going on and thrilled to know we had got out of the car heading for another bakery and  lunch. There is nothing like a home-made pie, a do-nut and a big cappuccino to dissolve all of the worries of the world.

We finished lunch and it was time to face the moment of truth and returned back to the car, thank fully the doors unlocked and we jumped in and started up, all OK!!, maybe it just needed a rest. As we drove along, Scott was very happy, tummy full, mellowed mum and no major issues (at this stage) with the car so he started on his squares again. I let him go for a while then I had an idea, I stopped the car to take more photos and then collected an art board, some pencils and oil crayons out of the back and much to Scott’s surprise I opened his door and set him up to draw.  Amazingly, he was pretty impressed with my idea and happily took on the activity I was suggesting, if he was going to draw it might as well be productive.

Wow! Scott really got into it, and while we drove on to Goolwa, we chatted and planned the next part of our journey. The country side seemed to grow old and there were lots more little hamlets and towns surrounded by dairy farms, rusty, old tin sheds and chooks bobbing aimlessly down the sides of the road picking at the ground and scratching up mounds of dirt.  Scott loves drawing Chooks so it was a great opportunity to stay for a while and sit amongst the chickens.

Chook

Chooks

Once again I got lost as we headed towards Goolwa and ended up in Milang, a little fishing town on the edge of Lake Alexandrina, lots of old empty buildings from days and lives long gone with a long, grassy windswept shore line. I quickly looked at the map and headed south again, only to be lost in a farmer’s paddocks. We stayed on the dirt track until we reached bitumen and checked the map again. Unfortunately we missed the turn-off and endedup at Port Elliot.

Shack

Settled in 1850 as the site for the ocean port of the Murray River trade and named after, Sir Charles Elliot. The first railway line in South Australia was opened between Goolwa and Port Elliot. The choice was unfortunate because the bay was not protected.  After several shipwrecks, the anchorage was transferred to Granite Island at Victor Harbour.

We still had to find Goolwa and cross the Hindmarsh Island Bridge to get to the river outlet. In Australia you may recall the enormous news coverage over this bridge being contracted for ‘Secret Women’s Business’ in the early 90s?  In 1994, a group of Ngarrindjeri (local indigenous) women Elders claimed the site was sacred to them for reasons that could not be revealed. The island was regarded as a fertility site, as its shape and the surrounding wetlands resembled female reproductive anatomy when viewed from the air.

It was also suggested that the Ngarrindjeri name for the island, Kumarangk, was similar to the word for pregnancy, or woman. The island had to remain separate from the mainland – creating a permanent link (such as a bridge) would be as disastrous as if two bodily organs were connected together and that the proposed bridge might interfere with the “meeting of the waters”, the mixing of salt and sea water in the Goolwa estuary, which was believed to be crucial for Ngarrindjeri fertility.  The waters of the Goolwa channel also required uninterrupted views of the sky, particularly the Seven Sisters constellation, which features in several aboriginal dreaming stories. The existing barrages, built in the 1930s, were claimed to be acceptable because they did not create a barrier between water and sky. The island was a place where aboriginal women went to abort foetuses conceived with white men. This particular practice could not have dated from prior to around 1820, when British whalers began to frequent the area.

Although unrelated to Secret Women’s Business, the lower River Murray features prominently in the Ngarrindjeri creation myth. Many of the geographical features of the Fleurieu Peninsula are believed to be remnants of the bodies of creation hero, Ngurunderi, and his wives. Archaeological evidence suggests that the site was probably used for ritual burials.

Just before Goolwa I turned off onto a little winding road hoping to be inspired by some more chickens or even windmills…

Pushing The Boundaries

Finding friendship with my son.

We reached Hahndorf too late, except for a little gallery that Scott found very interesting and inspiring. It had been a long day and although Scott was not very enthusiastic about another stop, he reluctantly joined me under the offer of an ice cream. It was getting dark and a lot of the businesses were starting to bring in their displays preparing to shut shop.

Hahndorf is a very tourist orientated village with many reflections of the strong, German influence from the past, but it’s very commercial and lacks the honesty and harmony of many of the little towns and villages we have strolled through on our trip.  There’s a strong invasion of tourism style shopping, souvenir shops and people wandering around, who are obviously only here for a brief visit, before heading to another holiday destination.

After a short time we came across a display still out on the street, there were a couple of paintings on easels and an inviting entrance to and old building.  Although they didn’t sell ice creams I managed to distract Scott enough to join me and have a look at some more art.

The Australian Art House is predominantly aboriginal artists and although very traditional there were a few exceptions, I have noticed an evolution of styles coming from new-found aboriginal artists in the north and west of Australia, they are more vibrant in colours and a greater variety.

The manager was very comfortable with Scott’s standard question of birth dates and how bored he was with his day.  At the same time Scott took a genuine interest in the art and seemed to study and appreciate it far more than any other galleries we had visited. We watched a video showing some of the techniques the artists used to draw their art, this included sticks, leaves, handfuls of straight wooden screws dripped in paint or natural clays and pressed into patterns onto the canvas. Scott really seemed to enjoy watching what they were doing and even had a little discussion with the manager as to how much he liked it.

Although this appears to be a small matter of interest it’s a great step forward, to watch Scott interact and show a reasonable interest and have a near normal discussion. I love the moments that give me a small window into what Scott would be like without autism, a genuine interest and sensibility and a glance of normality. I hold these precious moments securely in my mind, so I can visit them when I feel there is no future or change, and Scott’s life still feels like a hole or a void.  I think of the precious moments when we meet mentally in the same place and realise he is still inside, his twitching, often tired body doing the best he can. Like the aborigines, reality and dream time are both alive and intertwined, surviving together, making up what we see as life.

I think all the moments at galleries and interacting with staff, if only brief, broaden Scott’s appreciation of art and greatly improve his communication skills. In a brief glance he appears to be able to absorb far more detail and information than I can.  I have to sit and study the subject and slowly try to interpret into a pleasing exercise for myself. Scott appears to take in only subject matter that interests him, the rest is ignored and of no consequence.  A wise man, his computer mind is never jammed up with insignificant, emotional back up.

It was getting really dark and cold so we headed for the van at Murray Bridge to prepare for our next day to head down to the Murray River outlet into the sea.

Next morning the weather had improved and we packed up for a long day. I was still very uncomfortable with how the car was running as the screeching under the engine was still bad and we had another stalling moment as the car lost power coming back from Hahndorf. We were so close to our target now, so I went for it. We headed to Hahndorf for breakfast because Scott wanted to see the gallery and the lady again plus the ice cream we missed. A little longer than I thought to get there but it was a good opportunity to talk to Scott about what we had done and today we would be coming to the end.

Scott got a little confused, as the end meant we were going to stay at the end of the river and we weren’t going to go home. I explained our itinerary for the next few days including meeting up with dad at Mt Gambia and heading home. Scott’s mind was now heading home, so everything that stalled that process became a little inconvenient; I asked him why he wanted to go home? He said he missed his computer and his bedroom. I think he missed McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken with the occasional Thai Restaurant and maybe, he was missing his own company, as we had been side by side for more than 3 weeks in very tight accommodation. He also said he would like to do it again but not for 4 weeks next time, maybe only one or two. This was a good outcome and I think both of us really enjoyed the time so close together.  We shared a great respect and love for each other and the trip showed lots of similarities between us as well as our fear of each other.

Just to explain what I mean by fear. Scott has only seen me as a mum, the boss, the carer. I’ve only seen him as my son, my responsibly, somebody who needs support and mothering. Now we know one another better, we’ve found the friend in each of us, what we like and dislike about ourselves, and what we like and dislike about each other. We have learnt respect for each other’s capabilities, when a helping hand is in need and when to be left alone. All of these things lead to a better understanding and trust, not being frightened to share and commit ourselves to the other person. It’s very personal between mum and a son, both challenged with strong personalities and independent skills, both wanting to be free but in a funny way needing each other. I think this is love and after a life time with Scott I would challenge anybody who states Autistic people don’t have the emotions and feelings of others and that maybe they just haven’t spent enough quality time and patience with a person with communication blindness.  I think once they are safe, empowered and loved they want to show what they feel but the doors a little jammed and just like a jammed door you’ll break it if you push and shove or open with force.  Better to gently lift and assist without changing simply what the door does.

Hahndorf was much prettier the next day and because it was a Monday and so early it had a pleasant ambience and sense of beginning as the shop keepers were starting their day and a few tourists wandered down the street. Once again the gallery inspired Scott and he delighted in seeing the lady again and giving her some of his flyers and confirming her date of birth yet again and with great delight having had yet another captured audience we headed back to the car.

Next stop Strathalbyn on the way to Goolwa and a very famous bridge …woman’s business.

Rocking horse’s, chocolate and too much to eat!

 

IMG_2388

We have really enjoyed being tourists. Heading out the next day for Mannum, the plan was a circuit over to Mt Pleasant, Woodside, down to Hahndorf, then back to Murray Bridge.  Like many of our trips we got off the main road and explored some beautiful country side, very picturesque little valleys and hamlets, typical South Australian history, with old bakery mills, churches and more vineyards feeding massive amounts of grape juice to well-known companies, others were very boutique and chocolate box picture card, and some just had very good wine. Lots of inspiring subjects to photograph and paint, but Scott was more driven by somewhere for lunch.

The trip to Mannum took us back up along the Murray River; I was surprised when we turned off the highway to see we had missed Mannum on the way down.  It was quite a big town with a lot of history, edged by the great Murray it was the birthplace of the Murray River paddle steamers, including the old Mary Ann built-in 1853. In 1897 one of the Shearer brothers, David, produced one of the first cars in Australia which featured a differential gear in an enclosed case.  I have to admit I stole that bit of information, as I have no idea what a differential gear box is, but somebody out there may be interested.  Mannum is another proud town of museums and art galleries, well worth visiting.

Next stop, the biggest Rocking horse in the southern hemisphere.  I thought Scott would really get a kick out of it.  But I got lost; it’s in Birdwood a small town in the Torrens Valley in the northern part of the popular Adelaide Hills. The region’s beauty would have been a welcome sight for German settlers escaping religious persecution in the 1840s. Like many of the German-settled towns in the area, Birdwood was originally named after a Prussian town, Blumberg. However, anti-German sentiment during World War I created a feeling of unrest and the town’s name was changed to Birdwood after the commander of the ANZAC forces in Gallipoli, Sir William Birdwood.

We went around in circles, and lunch became much more important than a giant rocking horse or so Scott told me, as he grew more and more bored and suggested we should go home. Scott is a very good traveller and even better now after almost 5200 kilometres with me and a caravan as his only true company, but finding a lost horse was not as interesting to him as it was to me.  We decided to head towards the largest Chocolate factory in the southern hemisphere, this was much more appealing and there was a moment of joy as Scott chatted about his favourites and how fat we were and how it would be very bad if we bought too many chocolates.

Once again we missed the turn off and headed into Woodside, found a park and both decided a pub lunch would be well worth the effort to walk back up the street.  Woodside is a quaint little town, very touristy and is just a few kilometres from the chocolate factory.

How deceiving was the pub, we sat in the bar, it was one of those old bars and you could see through to the other room, where a couple of guys and girls were killing the afternoon playing pool. There were several stuffed deer heads on the walls and time had worn a scar across the front of the bar, where many knees had rubbed and scuffed over long drinking binges.

Scott was really happy, food was coming and the young, attractive girl serving warmed to Scott immediately and he just bonded with his standard opening line, “When’s you birthday?” Any guys reading this, for some reason it works as an opening line, but I would learn to duck before you ask the question, as I don’t think everybody has the charm Scott does, it’s a gift. I’m not sure how much impact Scott had on the bar maid, but I have never seen fish and chips and a sea food platter like it, magnificent, huge and delicious.  Scott couldn’t believe his eyes and there was a new kindling of hope that the day was about to get better.

IMG_4085

We struggled to get through the meal and even had to leave most of the crispy chips behind. This was all topped off with a coca cola and a cappuccino. We wobbled back to our car groaning and discussing the chocolate factory.   Melba’s famous chocolate factory is in a historic cheese factory where you can watch a variety of confectionaries being made. The original old heritage chocolate and confectionery making machinery was still there and still being used today. The factory shop is the biggest retail area I have ever seen, packed with every conceivable sweetie and all sorts of gadgets old and new.

Scott found a basket and off he went, as I looked over I could see a number of confused consumers as he chatted away, really excited to be surrounded by endless calories.  He came back to me with a full basket and he left me with directions to return most of the items. We finished shopping and before I got to the counter Scott had already moved the crowd aside and found a sales person to complete our purchases. I don’t mind shopping with Scott, you always get served promptly and very few people intervene as Scott moves directly to the front of the line with me, ragged and apologising for his energy and disrespect for the waiting customers. People just look at him, then me and smile and say, no that’s OK go ahead.  Although I do feel guilty and should ask Scott to conduct himself appropriately I am inclined to take advantage of the situation.

Back to the car but I still felt I need to complete our day and see the world’s biggest rocking horse. So back to Birdwood for another look. This time Scott was the navigator and he took great pride in the fact we found it. I don’t know how we missed it the first time, it’s 18 meters high. Scott was not happy, especially when we went into the toy factory where he was very fidgety and intolerant and a little angry. I took him aside and asked what was wrong but he was even more irritated and angry. I found a quiet spot and asked him to tell me what was wrong and I would try to help him, but this seemed to inflame the distress even more, so I suggested he go outside for a while and I would follow in a few minutes.  He really liked the idea and I thought maybe he just needed some space, we all do.  When I went outside he was gone, I never really panic as the cord was never cut, it’s just invisible, he always finds his way back,  so I just sat down outside and waited.  As a parent your mind wonders when you don’t know where your child is, when they’re young you panic and find them, but now I had to be patient even though my mind started to think silly things, like what if somebody had taken him or he wandered off and got lost and my heart beats a little faster as I start to think I’m negligent and I should be more proactive about finding him.

IMG_4090

But to me it’s all common sense and I have to give the reins to him or he would never take responsibility for himself, best lessons are learnt by mistakes. If Scott can use a mobile phone, public transport and ask people directions then he’s not going to be far away.  In his own way he asked for his independence many years ago.  It was difficult to watch and wait while he sorted out in his way,  how to get around and  how to exist in a community. Together with  a good community and support from lots of people, Scott has been able to learn more than I could have ever have imagined and he has  evolved into a person who can take risks and grow wiser. I still worry and want to protect him, my motherly instincts are very strong but his determination to be free is even stronger. Finally, coming down from the men’s toilets was Scott, bright and happy and my beating heart was relieved and my negative, negligent thoughts were alleviated.

I asked him why he was so distressed.  It was the noise and high-pitched scream of excited children and loud intervening parents, plus the brushing and pushing of the people in a confined space. I also think the need to move on lunch and food we had gorged ourselves on was also a great relief.  I think we under-estimate how miserable we are when our bodies don’t function properly and I think Scott is often in a stressed situation when nature calls.

It had been a very long day and the drive seemed to take forever to reach Hahndorf, one of Australia’s oldest surviving German settlements.  There is still a strong German flavour in Hahndorf, the smallgoods outlets and German bakeries that line the main street are colourful and full of delicious foods. There are several boutique cellar doors and trendy eateries serving the fresh and local produce.

But there was one more little drop-in before we reach the town, the Bird in the Hand winery. Scott had fallen asleep and I saw my opportunity to buy some nice wines for gifts when we got home, as we pulled into the park I told Scott to wait while I went in.  It was a shame I was by myself and Scott was not a complimentary partner to enjoy the finer side of food and wine.  I wandered through to the tasting room, I cannot speak highly enough of the hospitality and kindness the ladies and gentlemen showed me. It must have seemed strange a single, aging, sorry, maturing lady, all alone tasting a range of wines.  An enjoyable memory even if a little lonely. With cases of wine and an assistant to take them back to the car, we were on our way again.

We reached Hahndorf too late, except for a little gallery that Scott found very interesting and inspiring…

Morgan to Murray Bridge

Scott and I have decided we don’t mind the caravan life, I think we’re in a niche environment and Scott feels very secure in the fact he knows the routine, I think I do too.  There are unspoken rules and guide lines to each day and it gives you a very comfortable feeling of routine and safety.

Scott knows we’re heading back towards home now, and he is becoming more anxious about the familiarity of his own room and space. He is missing his computer and movies, especially the three stooges.  I think he is also missing McDonald’s and take away food and controlling his own culinary world.

I’ve enjoyed watching the passing crowd, the people who come in and out of parks, the buzz of noises in the morning and evening as people greet each other and the pantomime at dusk as the late setters arrive yelling at each other left, left, right now, straighten up again, straighten up, no left and the camaraderie’s of all types of people as they mingle together regardless of statue or any daily codes.

I have come to believe you would never suffer from Dementia or Alzheimers if you kept caravanning. Maybe that’s why so many grey nomads are out here, or maybe they have dementia and don’t know how to get home?? Regardless, if you have to drive a car for hundreds of kilometres pulling another seventeen foot plus trailer behind, through unknown towns, finding caravan parks and all under extreme circumstances, park the thing, unload and load up again to leave, which requires a check list as long as your arm to make sure all is secured and safe.  That must surpass all the think exercises required to keep the mind active. I’ve seen some pretty mature little bodies jumping out of their vans in the morning heading for the toilet block and returning for a healthy breakfast then off for another days adventures.

We had arrived ahead of schedule having driven straight from Morgan to Murray Bridge. The next two days the weather improved and we were both happy to just explore the surrounding districts.

Murray Bridge is very well located and close to the Princes Highway into Adelaide, about 70 Kilometres away. The manager at the caravan park suggested a lot of interesting areas to visit and also explained to me about the exit of the Murray River at the mouth of Lake Alexandrina and it would be well worth the trip over the Hindmarsh Island Bridge linking the island to Goolwa, because that’s really where the Murray River finishes, and if we wanted to finish our trip from the beginning of the Murray River in Victoria to the end and true exit to the southern Ocean we need to go there.  It was an exciting idea instead of just finishing where the Murray enters the lake at Wellington.

But today we needed to sort out what was wrong with the car and what was close so that we could just settle back and enjoy the  area maybe find some new subject matter.

Murray Bridge and Tears.

We kept following the Murray.  Because it was raining and the Murray wasn’t offering much inspiration we pushed on to the next town.  As the day drew out, we drifted into each little town thinking that we’d stop at the next bakery and have something to eat and maybe decide what to do and where to stay.  Unfortunately we didn’t find any bakeries, so we pushed on to Murray Bridge.  Murray Bridge was originally known as Edwards Crossing, because of an early settler’s hospitality to passing drovers, it’s rich in river history.

As you enter from the north side, there are two very impressive bridges spanning across a vast river.  The first bridge to span the Murray was built here in 1879, and was joined in 1925 by a rail bridge and in 1979 by the Swanport Bridge. It’s a narrow crossing and a little claustrophobic as large vehicles come towards you; as you leave the bridge you find yourself in the main centre. All along the trip I have found it little over whelming each time we enter a new small town, let alone a large one and although the caravan is no trouble to tow and follows dutifully, I always feel a little reluctant to try to explore my options. This time was even more testing as it was now after 2 in the afternoon and neither of us had eaten, it was still raining and the car started making screeching noises when I changed gear or slowed down. There is nothing quite as nerve-racking as mid day traffic, new town, caravan and a screeching noise; plus it had already stalled on me twice before getting into town due to a minor electric problem the car has always had.

It is generally not an issue, the car stalls and cuts out and you simply start it again and off you go, but I didn’t need to be in fear of all the problems uniting at the same time. Scott could pick my tension as I tried to control my attitude and dilemma. He sat quietly and patiently with the odd comment like “this is not good”, “are you OK?” or “is it better yet?”

Finding a camp-site to unload the van was my priority but I had neglected to prepare for this town as we were originally planning to stop at Swan Reach. Now with screeching noises etc. I had to find an information centre to find a suitable caravan park and after endless exhausting turns and street lights we eventually found one. Reluctantly, I stopped the car fearing it may not start again and knowing the situation I would be in would not a good option.

After some very good support and guide lines from a nice lady at the centre we headed back over the bridge to find a caravan park on the Murray.

Feeling some relief that we could soon get to a location and deal with our other problems later, we pushed through the rain for around 10 kilometres and found our home for the night. The location was really nice, right on a beautiful part of the river and surrounded by wet lands and lots of birds and wild life; an oasis in the storm. The manager suggested a parking area but I would need to back in, my lack of experience backing in was about to test my confidence and any skills I may have acquired along the way. Ten tries! The rain was bucketing down and I could only approach it from Scott’s side, so I had no vision, and poor Scott, who was trying to help, didn’t have any experience on how to guide me into position. In frustration, I moved up to another level that appeared to be more lenient for an inexperienced caravan reverser and this time it only took five goes but the result was pretty impressive as I was lined up well.

Scott was so relieved and more than anxious to jump out and set up camp. We were both starving and very tied so I suggested we just do the basics and then go and find some food and come back and finish setting up later. All went well, as I hoped back in the car I looked at Scott and I must have appeared very worn and at my end. I said to Scott “Right now I could just cry!” and in the most sincere, concerned and supportive manner he looked right at me and said “Please mum, don’t do that”, a small thing to some, but a gesture of love and support that almost made me cry for a completely different reason. I gave him a big kiss which he reluctantly accepted, pulled myself together and we headed back over the bridge to find food.

Murray Bridge proved to be a great spot to stay and see the highlights of South Australia around Adelaide…

Food is essential…

IMG_4060

Food is essential to Scott.  But what is a balanced diet? I have made Scott’s life miserable by controlling our diet to be gluten-free and fat-free, telling him to stay away from preservatives and not to drink coke, as so it seems sugar is the modern man’s poison. None of these are supported by any scientific research, just panic buttons and internet garbage and hear say, hoping I could fix autism. It has made little or no change to Scott’s behaviour.  Autism, as many intellectual disorders, is far more complicated than modern foods or preservatives or sugar, if I could fix it with food, I would have discovered this a long time ago.

What’s more important is a full tummy. I once went to a lecture where I heard food passes through the gut and is then broken down to a fluid, then further reduced to pass through the walls of the intestines and after amazing designs by Mother Nature into the blood, where it is transmitted to the needy organs and systems.  Here is where peptides are produced, apparently these peptides have a large influence on the brain and how it function. I’m not an expert on this nor do I have time to learn all the ins and outs of the process so I have a better understanding of how Scott’s brain functions, I can only work on what I observe and what I can provide with minimal inconvenience and agony to Scott.

One of my observations was Scott and I needed breakfast, it appears to be the most important meal and strangely it’s the one you least feel angry for.  I often miss breakfast and I now realise it really messes with my day.  For Scott and me its best if it’s high in carbohydrates, as this appears to be very satisfying and must bring out the happy endorphins that make us feel good.  I also discovered we were at our best if we didn’t apply the three meals a day routine, something I inherited from my family, who had very strict rules that 3 meals a day were essential and there was a religious sequence to how they were put on the plate, especially ‘meat and 3 veg’, a white one, a green one and a yellow one.  I have discovered that’s not how Scott or my metabolism appears to work.  If either of us was really hungry again around 10.30 or 11am, we had another  reasonably good meal, then didn’t have lunch till 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon followed by a very light salad and meat style dinner and nothing to eat till the next morning.  We discovered we were both very happy with this routine and Scott very rarely if ever, asked for extra food, something he really loves and usually has too much of.  This appeared to suit our disposition and needs, plus we both lost weight and we slept well especially when the rocking stopped.

Morning came after a night of heavy rain, so under duress and with the thought of packing up in the rain we made up our minds to move on.  Swan Reach was our target, settle there for the night and have a day to wander around, maybe find some more inspiring subjects.  Everything went well till the jockey wheel became an issue again; I have decided they call this a Jockey wheel, because just like a horse race it’s very unpredictable! I thought all was well when we set up the van on arrival, but the jockey wheel had sunk into the wet, sodden grass during the night and we couldn’t get it up high enough to put the tow ball under the hitch, lucky from our past experience we knew what to do. Scott and I started searching for anything we could use to build a support under the tow bar of the caravan, remove the jockey wheel, then place it in a better position and wind it up high enough to get over the tow ball.  We were drenched by this time but actually dealt with it pretty well, finding some stone bricks behind one of the cabins. Finally, jockey wheel in place, the loading procedure was completed, we looked at each other, saturated and covered in mud, but once again Scott’s odd sense of humour lightened the moment “it’s just mud and it looks like chocolate, doesn’t matter mum“ in his funny little brush away ‘Que Sera’ style.

This delay was only surpassed by the fact I didn’t know how the ferry system worked.  Morgan was another country town on the Murray River that used the free ferry to cross from one side to another town on the other side.  Rather than use the Ferry, which in my mind didn’t seem to match where we were going, I thought we had to go back down the highway and back onto the new road to go south, only to end up at the ferry on the other side of the river which took us back to Morgan, it was like ground-hog day in the rain.

We finally worked out what was where and headed for Swan Reach. Once again the country side changed and although it was raining it had a particular beauty of its own, I still find it difficult to think that this is just one country, but each state has its own identity, even the culture changes a little bit.  There were lots more orange groves and they were better manicured than ones we had seen earlier, almost perfect paddocks or rolling hills that looked like bright, green ,velvet blankets had been thrown over them, very little live stock, but the signs of more vineyards coming to consume this beautiful country was, a little sad.

We arrived earlier at Swan Reach as it wasn’t far down the highway. It didn’t have much to offer, it is on the Murray River but it was more like a holiday village for campers and caravans and of course it had a pub, so we pushed on.

The Murray now dramatically changed, it appeared to be very deep and more of a constant grey/green colour as it cut through an enormous gorge most of the way to Upper Murray Bridge.  In parts it joins other water ways and spreads into large lakes on a flat landscape, the straight up cliff faces rich in red soil mixed with clay and large boulders.

IMG_4051

Many fine Australian artists have followed this trail including Arthur Streeton (1867–1943): landscape painter, born near Geelong, he loved the South Australian bush. After this trip I can appreciate how moving the Australian out back is. No matter how dry, how wet or how big, it’s grandeur and beauty draws the artistic, creative mind to its rich heart including photographers, writers , poets and the list goes on, even adventurers like us.

Scott’s art is more driven now and he is starting to instigate his own ideas, he is really enjoying his new-found style. As we drove we talked more about what he wants to do and how he feels about his art and I gathered that although his autism played a role, it was also the enemy of his creative side because the disorder finds it very difficult to accept change and to have forward vision, so he is often limited to only draw on his experiences even though he has a great natural instinct for perspective and colour.  He has been able to draw since he was three years old and not long after appeared to enjoy the world of colour.  We named him ‘Rank Xerox’ because at four and five he could duplicate anything he saw into a drawing. We lived with a range of Walt Disney characters and other interesting subjects for many years, now it’s Harry Potter that has proven to be a great inspiration to Scott, once again the introduction to something he could by inspired by.

On to the Upper Murray Bridge almost in tears…

IMG_4127