Waukivory. Saturday, 8.35pm
I left my shack under the cliffs at the dawning hour on a clear day in the supercharged summer of the year 230 (since invasion). With my little caravan clipped securely (I hoped) to my Superoo, I nosed out of my valley, crossed Leycester Creek and was at once cruising the backroads, keeping the rising sun on my left. Waukivory, land of the Worimi and Biripi people, place of bald rocks, talented musos and swarming flies, lay to the south.
In my hand is a cocktail. I don’t know its ingredients. The cocktail-maker poured different coloured spirts into my glass, added some soda water and a slice of lime. The spirits, homemade and unlabelled, are lined up at the bar, a sparkling spectrum of sozzle: green, blue, yellow, red… In my glass is a mixture of the green and blue.
Alcohol is the drug of celebration – the legal one at least – and that is what I’m doing in Waukivory: celebrating. I’m celebrating a marriage.
Waukivory is a long way from the Homelands, and the journey here is a perilous one. There are ranges to climb, and many rivers to cross. There are strange people with tattoos who cluster outside bakeries in rustic villages and stare as you drive by with Jimmy Cliff wailing from your car speakers.
There’s a dead wombat, feet-up, at the base of a look-out-for-wombats sign.
There are rivers that demand that you swim in them – so you do, despite the no-swimming sign. (Who dares refuse a river?)
Travelling to Waukivory is not for the faint-heated. At journey’s start, I was apprehensive, but after conquering Thunderbolts Way I have confidence in my little rig, and I appreciate the precariousness of life. Plus, I have reached Waukivory Hall, a little country hall built in 1932, set among the cow paddocks and overlooked by abrupt rocky mountains.
The cocktail, surprisingly, tastes really good. Blue and yellow is a sophisticated combination, creating a fluorescent cyan in the glass and a breathtaking afterburn in the throat. With my glass I salute the groom’s father, who made these spirits. He’s sitting with his other son under a photo of two blokes with whiskers and axes standing beside a massive tree stump. He acknowledges my salute with a nod and satisfied smile. It’s a good night to be a parent of the married couple.
Marriage may seem irrational. How can anyone say they’ll love and be with someone forever? It seems such an unreasonable vow. Who can know what the future will bring (apart from hotter summers)? There’s enough irrationality in the world already – bottled water, January 26 celebrations, shark nets – without adding to it.
Coming south, I avoided highways. Highways are fast, efficient and unsurprising. Like McDonald’s, you know what you’ll get with a highway. You learn nothing. The backroad, however, is a drive into the unknown; every corner a mystery revealed, every side road a question to be answered.
On stage, musicians are rocking out a Brazilian tune loaded with sexy syncopation and peppered with Portugese. The dancefloor is packed. The bride, from Brazil, is with her family and Brazilian friends, and they’re moving to the grooves in funky Latin ways.
The newly married couple has taught me something: Marriage may well be irrational but, hey, life is irrational. (Driving Thunderbolts Way with a 60-year-old caravan is irrational. Drinking by colours is irrational. My trying to dance the samba is irrational.)
The newlyweds have raised a finger to rational – and pointed it at something bigger: love.
Love is the last magic left. And magic needs ritual. Marriage is the ritual that activates the power in love.
Marriage is taking the next exit from the highway.
Marriage is the backroad that leads to who-knows-where.