‘Nav…?’ I heard someone call from somewhere in the distance.
I recognized the voice but I was pretty high and I wondered if I was just dreaming. ‘Nav…?’ I heard it again a few seconds later.
I jumped up and shone my torch in the general direction of the voice. Maybe it was actually them! ‘Nat…?’ I yelled back into the pitch dark.
‘Holy shit! You found us!’
The others have got up by now too and we all stand there and watch, somewhat bewildered, as Nat and the others materialize out of the dark. Chaos ensues; we scream and hug like we have been reunited with long lost cousins.
The chatter of humanity in the camp ground had faded, replaced by the incessant chirping of night critters. Huge bats occasionally raced against the backdrop of a starlit sky under which the four of us laid, sharing a bag of goon and a dirty spliff.
‘I sent Nat a text…’ I said as I exhaled a magnificent cloud of smoke and passed the joint to Matt. ‘I told them I’m wearing a bright red top and that my car is a black 4WD.’
‘You know they can’t see your red top or your car in this darkness, right?’ He replied dreamily.
‘Ah, no shit…’ I stop, not knowing what more I could have done.
‘Maybe tell them we are listening to Bob Marley?’ Sab suggested. ‘They could find us that way?’
‘Okay. But give me a few minutes. I’m too high right now and can’t feel my legs.’
We were at the Plantation camping grounds, in the Grampians National Park. Matt, Sab, Kathi and I got there in the early afternoon, after a 2 hours from Melbourne. We set up camp, played some badminton and cracked a few beers and waited for the others to arrive. Nat and three other mates had had to leave Melbourne a bit late, but had told us would get to the campsite before the sunset. Except that they didn’t. It was almost 10 in the evening by the time we were discussing the Bob Marley solution and they were still nowhere to be found.
I liked Sab’s idea. So once I had sobered up sufficiently, I climbed onto the roof of my car to get some phone reception, sent Nat a final text and then plopped back down next to the others and took the joint back from Matt.
‘Do you guys think they’ll actually find us tonight?’
But then again, did it really matter?
We smoked and drank and talked about whatever. Our plans of rendezvous seemed to have failed, but we had left our anxieties back in the city. Out here, the darkness was no veil trying to keep us from our friends, but rather a blanket under which laid the mysteries of a whole universe. It imbued a sense of whatever was to happen, would happen. And then I heard it…
There is something revitalising about waking up in the bush. Your body feels fresher, younger, and that’s how I felt the next morning, even though we had stayed up talking well into the night. A breakfast of toast, beans and freshly-brewed coffee and we were off to do some hiking.
But then, less than 12 hours after being reunited, we lost each other again. We took off in two cars toward Halls Gap. The road was pretty dusty, so I slowed down a little and by the time the dust had settled, their car had disappeared. But that same feeling from the night before returned, telling us to go and that it will be fine.
So we set off on the hiking route known as the Pinnacle. The sunlight was crisp, the air laden with light. The ancient sandstone rocks felt firm and reassuring under our boots as we navigated one of the most captivating landscapes in Victoria.
It took us about an hour to reach the top, where the land falls away to a sweeping view of hazy green hills and smoky mountains in the distance. We sat at the edge of the cliff, with our feet dangling over the side and snacked on nut bars and crackers.
And I thought to myself it had been a brilliant day, even if we couldn’t all be together to enjoy the views. And just then, I heard Nat’s voice from somewhere behind us; ‘Guys?!’
I turned around, stunned. Mother bush had reunited us, once again.
All photos courtesy of my good friend Natalie Jurrjens.
You can find out more about her incredible work here.