Australia Oceania

Lady in the van

We meet her in the campground.

She speaks to Ade first. They always do, with his easy smile and welcome face, they always seek him out for a chat.

“Have you been on any good walks?” she asks him.

Her voice is gravelly, with a slow drawl. A life lived in the country perhaps? Or the careful tone of a one-time casual drug user.

She’s a midwife, she tells us, just come from Swan Hill where she’s spent the past few months working.

She’s got the glistening eyes of a young woman and a smile that lights up her face. But the lines and etchings that frame her eyes and mouth tell of a life well lived, or perhaps a life of hardship.

Her striped knitted beanie and poncho were what first set her apart from our fellow campers. That, and the fact she was a woman over the age of 50, travelling in a ute on her own.

We invite her to join us by the fire, as the wind bristles around us and the temperature plummets.

“Do you ever feel nervous travelling on your own?” I ask her.

“No, not really,” she says. And then “Nope,” more emphatically.

It’s a considered response delivered without hesitation. And yet she’s travelled through India, Asia and South America on her own.

She tells us about her trips briefly, the adventures but not the details. She’s a loner, not one for superfluous words, but happy to discuss earth’s beauty and the nomadic lifestyle she’s chosen.

She takes midwifery roles in towns across Australia, she tells us, and just about everything she owns is in the back of her van.

And then she is gone, off to wander the mountain tracks that surround us and to explore the beauty in each moment.

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