We got lost on the way out there, as usual. Got in a fight about how I can’t navigate with maps, and he doesn’t look for signs.

But we got there in the end, anyway. I knew we were on the right track when I saw the cutting horse stud – and I was jealous of the cowboy riding a chestnut horse alongside the road. We knew we were in the right place, for sure, when we got to the emus. We stopped the car in the middle of the dirt track and met them at the fence, where they stood twining their necks together, sliding their dinosaur feet in the dust, blinking their pale lids across overlarge, skittish eyes. 

The river itself is a mix – someone’s always blasting eighties hair metal from one of the first campsites, and sometimes there’s ruckus at night. Sometimes there are lots of kids. Boats. Four-wheel drives. Dogs. People bringing their horses down to the sandy riverbank beach, to swim in the 40-degree heat.  

But the campsite we chose was isolated and quiet, and apart from the ski boats roaring along the river, it mostly felt like we were alone. I watched the sulfur-crested cockatoos cross the river each morning, and collected their yellow-tinged white feathers along the banks. I watched the sun rise golden and set dusky pink. I got scared at night by koala sounds and wandering animals and our restless dog.

And I mostly liked the quiet, with the high stars behind the gum branches, the river still blindly flowing. I mostly liked having a little bit of time to tap into the real world.