The day dawns bright and sunny and, what’s even better, there is very little wind. Yes! Today is our last day in Dongara as tomorrow we have to begin the long trek home. Over a leisurely breakfast of bacon, eggs and hash browns we discuss where we might stay on our way home. We have three nights to do a trip we have done a few times before. We’ve stayed at a free camp at Buntine Rocks, a free camp at Greenbushes, Cliff Head free camp and a caravan park out in the middle of nowhere. This time we want to try somewhere different.
While we don’t always go North we do find ourselves wanting to explore further North especially in the colder months of May and August. Generally in those months we are craving some warmth and sun so the chances are we will be coming this way again. It would be nice to check out all of our options. We were talking about Ellendale Pool, just outside of Geraldton, as an option for our first night when the phone rang. It was Kym our Relief Manager. His wife, Shirley, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer had taken a turn for the worse and he was really, really worried about her.
Over the morning Shirley had become increasingly confused and forgetful and Kym wasn’t sure if it was a side affect of her medication or if something had gone terribly wrong. She was constantly exhausted, not unexpected with treatment, but the memory loss was new and entirely unexpected. Of course we said we were coming home immediately.
For the next hour we raced around packing everything up in preparation. We have our pack up routine down pat but we weren’t really prepared for it. We had been at Dongara for 4 nights and had spread out. When our pop top is up we have a fantastic shelf in which to store things that we need easy access to. When we stop for a few nights lots of things end up on this shelf. Unfortunately when the pop top comes down everything has to be off that shelf. After four days of spreading out we had a lot of stuff to pack up.
Sam and Coco knew something was wrong as we frantically packed things up. We had a long drive ahead of us and instead of taking three nights to leisurely make our way home we were going to do nearly 700km in one day! Coco started to get stressed so we had to slow down a bit. W didn’t want her having a seizure.
All packed up we said goodbye to the rest of the family, who had plans to be in Dongara until Saturday. They were, of course, disappointed to see us go but completely understood our need to leave early. Poor Imogen, who was looking forward to one last walk on the beach with us and the dogs searching for any remaining sea urchins and shells, shed a few tears but it just can’t be helped.
We’re keeping in contact with Kym and it looks like Shirley’s oncologist wants her to check in to hospital tomorrow morning. He thinks it is a side affect of her medication but they want to give her a good check up just to make sure. We need to get home tonight. As per industry standard, we don’t get a refund on our final night at the caravan park but we didn’t expect one. It’s not their fault that we have to leave but we will be back. We like this park and this area- perhaps not in the windy season but May and August are lovely here.
By 10.30 we are on the road, homeward bound. We debated whether to take the inland road, the Brand Highway, or the coastal road, Indian Ocean Drive. Indian Ocean Drive was quicker, according to google maps, but we thought it could be windier that is, until we spent a bit of time on the Brand before we got to the Indian Ocean Drive turn off. Sadly the wind had picked up and there was no escaping it, on the coast road or the inland road, so Indian Ocean Drive it was.
Despite the urgency and our cut short holiday the Indian Ocean Drive is still very scenic. It’s renowned for idiot drivers but still scenic all of the same. For a fair distance, through Eneabba, Jurien Bay and past Cervantes, there are huge white sand dunes on one side and beautiful coastline on the other. The beaches in WA are truly amazing. The sand is white and the water has shades of emerald green, sapphire blue and turquoise. It’s just magic! Further along near Lancelin the sand dunes give way to wheat fields as the road touches on the outskirts of the wheatbelt. Not a bad view for a couple of hours.
As we are driving along the wind is buffeting the car and van and our fuel consumption is up around 18.6L per 100kms. It even went as high as 19L per 100kms. For our car and van, even a van full of water and food, that’s really high. We are driving into a head wind. I can now understand why so many grey nomads, who often have no set itinerary, stop and ride out the wind in caravan parks. Especially when petrol is so expensive as it is at the moment. I’m also seeing the benefit of having a pop top over a full sized van- just don’t tell Mark I said that. I’m not ready to concede that he might be right just yet.
We stop for a quick lunch at a free camp alongside the road at Moore River just outside of the town of Guilderton, the most dog unfriendly town we have yet to encounter. We have a long drive ahead, through Perth (where we purchase the most expensive fuel yet on our whole trip- $1.73) with a quick break at the in laws, and dinner stop at Australind before finally getting home. It gives us plenty of time to think about the situation that is happening right now.
Poor Shirley. Like any cancer sufferer, the diagnosis in itself is stressful, the potential end result terrifying and often they have to beat it more than once. To have side affects from the medication as well truly sucks. While she hasn’t had any of the vomiting that so often characterizes cancer treatment, I’m not sure if this isn’t worse and more terrifying for her, her husband and her family.
When I was younger the statistics were that one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer before they are 85 years of age. Now it’s one in two and I can well believe it. I know so many people that have been diagnosed, some of whom have passed on because of it: 3 work colleagues, 1 colleague’s wife, 1 colleague’s boyfriend, 1 colleague’s husband, 3 family members, 1 friend, 1 mother of a best friend, Shirley, 1 in law and that’s not even counting the slew of celebrities that I know of. All of these people are affected by cancer, not to mention their loved ones, family, friends, work colleagues and acquaintances.
We can hope that Shirley’s symptoms are a side affect of the drug, that her doctors can either adjust her medications or give her something to minimise the symptoms and that her symptoms are only temporary and the old Shirley will return once her treatment is over.
It is 9pm by the time when we finally turn into our driveway. Mark and I are both exhausted but Coco and Sam, who have slept most of the way, perk up when they realise where we are. They are just happy to be home. Kym certainly seems relieved to see us. He has been facing this all by himself as well as holding down the fort on our business while he waited for us to get home. Now he can hand over the reins to us and just focus on his wife. Shirley, who was exhausted, has gone to bed. Tomorrow Kym will take her back to Albany and she will check into the hospital where she can get the care she needs. Yes our holiday was cut short but under the circumstances we don’t mind at all. We just want Shirley to get well again.