A different kind of travelogue. As an avid young traveller I often wondered what would it would be like when I got older, gathered commitments, created children and accrued debt. This is what it's like.
You have to live. I have one of the best jobs in the world and I cannot complain but I don’t live to work. I work to live and in fact my work is usually about keeping other people alive. My name is Doug Lynch and I am one of the Royal Flying Doctors in Australia. This has been my life for the last 3 years. This has put me in a privileged position; I get an insight into the lives of very special people, people that live in very special places. My exposure to that world is a large part of the inspiration for this blog. I cannot, of course, allow any confidential information to leak out in my mutterings. I can however try to share a little of the amazing places that I got to and stay in every week. This is an important thing to do as there is an awful lot of bad press about remote communities in Australia, especially remote Aboriginal communities. These people and these places are challenging, confronting, sometimes desperate but more often beautiful. Todays little story is the most recent of my 200 or so micro adventures that I have managed in the last few years. I’ll tell you more about the work I do, the places I fly, the everyday heroism that I see in the short stories that I put up in the coming months. Today I want to talk just a little about getting out. Birdsville. In the red centre of Australia is Birdsville. It’s in the state of Queensland. Birdsville is a mixed community of aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. It is not a dry community; meaning there is alcohol for sale. This is often not the case where I work. It has a population of 70 which swells to over 7000 once a year for the increasingly famous Birdsville Races. The climate is quite something. In January when I visited the mean temperatures in centigrade are max 40 and min 26. When I fly into Birdsville I usually get there late in the evening. I unload the aircraft, sort out the items needed for the clinic the following day, follow up any remote patient phone-calls that are outstanding and then I go to the pub. Theres a famous pub in Birdsville which is worth a visit. I like the pub. I don’t get to have a beer as I’m on call for emergencies 24 hours a day when I’m working. They feed me. I’m vegetarian and there aren’t many of us in this part of the world but I get something. My pilot and flight nurse usually have a giant steak. Then what everyone does is go to their individual little adequate hotel rooms provided for the visiting “Flying Doctors” team. Not me. Despite very strict requirement on weight in the aircraft I have a tiny little camp out set up which is tucked into the bottom of my “Work” bag (under the stethoscope and my tiny ultrasound machine). This is usually a Tom Binh Tri-star or Western Flyer. I eat and pick up my bag and I get to see the real beauty of the country around Birdsville. I walk out into the dusty sunset. It is still 38 degrees at dusk. There are no trees in sight and I sleep in a hammock so its a walk. Each time I have been in Birdsville I have walked a different directions. This time its north and towards Bedourie. There are a few scraggly gum trees and a lot of insects. After a few kilometres I head off the dirt track towards a stand of small trees in the dark. Hammocks are fiddly, they limit me but at the same time if you are sleeping surrounded by sometimes very dangerous animals its nice to get up off the ground. Snakes, ants and scorpions are all possible bedfellows out here. I get set up in the heat and watch the moon rise.
I like the whole fast and light aspect to camping though for me its more a professional necessity than a pastime. Because I am on call I cannot be more than 30 minutes away from being ready to fly. Im calculating 10 minutes to break camp and 20 back to the airstrip at a gentle running pace. I cannot be outside radio or telephone contact either. On this night I get 5 individual calls overnight but none requiring me to wake up my Pilot and flight Nurse. Easy-peasy. The sleep is a poor one. Despite the net (Buttinasling.com) and the hammock (hummingbird hammocks.com) I am eaten alive by a number of species, primarily mosquitoes. I had to pull out my under quilt (Hammockgear.com) just to decrease the bites at the expense of being far too hot. At dawn I was looking at the sky glow red, purple, orange and gold. I felt alive. I didn’t feel like my nostrils had been attacked by desiccating air-conditioned air. I had another long day ahead of me, inspired if not rested I got my self moving. I make myself a truly amazing coffee with my funny little coffee maker. (If you like coffee keep an eye on this blog, I’ll write about my secret later.) I pull out my nanoblocks wash kit ( https://lessbaggage.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/ode-to-a-plastic-bag/ ) and get ready to work. Ive been doing these sort of micro-adventures for years and I am really happy that people like Alistair Humphreys are trying to spread the idea. I personally think it will have huge benefits for the adventurous souls trapped in a “No-Can-Do’ world. In the spirit of this I will share this post with Korpijaakko on his blog for his #twonights challenge. This is one of my January nights out. I’ll add the next shortly.