Tell me – How bogus is instant coffee? Making it double-strength only slightly mitigates the feebleness. Ali remains in slumberland, because it’s 6:30. I have figured out where to get joe-to-go and picnic fixings on our way out of town. We both require breakfast (never will I succumb to ‘brekkie’ as the morning meal is universally known here). At a drive-through called Muzz Buzz we order the works. A nearby supermarket provides lunch fixings and water for the 430 kilometer drive ahead. Oh, and my favorite, Arnott’s Gingernut biscuits. I told Ali she should drive and then I got behind the wheel like an asshole. The grass on the hills is gray/gold and what trees there are are dusty green. There’s no one to overtake in the overtaking lanes. Every time the GPS indicates a curve in the highway, we get excited. At one point, we pull off to use the toilet only to be assaulted by a biblical plague of flies. Unswatable little fuckers.

At Overlanders Roadhouse, we park under a ‘tree’ to eat our ‘picnic’. Ali’s brought along a couple audiobooks, so we plug into the first volume of James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Wakes series (the basis for the excellent Canadian TV show, The Expanse). It’s a mix of solar system politics, noirish detective machinations, and monster-on-the-loose suspense, with plenty of space cowboy techno-jargon.

As we close in on Monkey Mia (Maya, it’s pronounced) it behooves us to stop and pay our respects to the Stromatolites, colonies of the world’s oldest organisms, cyanobacteria whose metabolism gave us the atmosphere we have now. They form large black lumps that spread for hectares in the shallow tidal areas of this, the world’s most geologically ancient continent. Australia has little or no tectonic activity. It just sits there, flat and dry, with its incredible mineral riches. Here be MORE flies. It’s like the Penn Station of Flying Insects. Off in the distance we spy a pair of women resembling beekeepers in bikinis. Evidently, they sell Fly-Be-Gone Hats with a flounce of protective netting draping from the brim.

Monkey Mia is but a short distance further on. At first glance, its layout and the ongoing construction confuse our road-addled brains. But we become registered and find our rooms, which are at opposite ends of the facility. Ali gets a fabulous ocean view: I’m poolside. The WiFi is dodgy. Oh, well. Dinner’s al fresco and by twilight, the flies have mostly retired. The oysters suck, but the meal is delicious. A half dozen little girls in dresses frolic on the lawn as the sun sets and silent lightening lights up the clouds.


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