Barramundi Dreaming

by Edward Truter

An Australian Aboriginal sits quietly beside the sacred rock revered by his tribe for an unspeakable length of time. His eyes close and he chants. An observer would believe he has entered another reality. But to the Aboriginal there is only one reality, that of the Dreamtime. He doesnot change worlds, he simply enriches his experience of the here and now. Nigel Taylor, Dreaming Our way back to the Dreamer.

Giant mushrooms of bush-fire smoke hung in the amber sky and a weird twilight settled around us sitting in plastic chairs on the porch. Between lazy bouts of talk, the men tucked into the last of their evening meal, eating chunky trifle, with three colours of ice-cream. One of them broke wind with a loud rumble that seemed to make the corrugated iron siding shudder. "Well, if that ain't the smelly stuff, it'll do `til we get some," he said in a self-satisfactory way.

Blue, a short, balding man, came through the doorway still clutching the bottle of dark rum I'd given him for organising a lift for me. A much bigger fellow, better dressed than any of the rest and with a thick red beard, followed him. "This is Radar," said Blue. "You'll ride with him." Radar indicated for me to bring my clobber and stow it in the rear of the road-train's cab. I wrestled in my gear, taking care not to damage someone's bubble-pack baitcasting outfit jammed between the seat and a grimy foam mattress.

Road-trains are uniquely Australian, as its only here, where the roads are long, flat and empty enough, that these 50-metre-long, 62-wheeler trucks with oversize motors burning a litre of diesel every kilometre can operate practically. A late-night ride in a road-train was the only way I was going to get the 400 kilometres from Gregory Downs, northern Queensland, where I'd been working, to Karumba, at the southeastern end of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Australia. At Karumba there was the ocean, the Norman River, numerous other creeks_and, hopefully, barramundi.

Rumour had it that Radar was dangerously gay; the joke amongst my colleagues earlier in camp had constantly hinted that I might get more than just a ride to Karumba. Radar was the silent type, and when I asked him why people called him Radar, he replied, "Ahh, that's cos I know everything, mate." It seemed he certainly did, as in between throwing empty Red Bull cans out the cab window, he argued for many kilometers that the Southern Cross was only visible in the skies of Australia. We were riding in convoy with two other roadtrains, and Radar chatted with his mates over the radio in a sort of gibberish truckie-speak. Typical conversation would go something like this: "Say, Gus, use a manathaworld. The Southern Cross, 'stralian hey?" "Airdingm (fair dinkum)," came the reply, followed by, "Yeah mate, yeah." Later in the night radio conversation wore thin and was reserved for occasional warnings of cattle on the road and to mention interesting local facts, like that we were now traveling through "Devil-Devil" land.

We arrived at Karumba at 2:00 a.m. I thanked Radar for the lift and towed my 4x4 suitcase down the town's only street. I found a tickey-box, called the only taxi, and got a wallaby-dodging ride out to Karumba Point.

(In case you were wondering, it turned out that Radar was happily married with two children.)