Suddenly on this stretch of road the trees become bigger, towering up out of the drop down to the river. Wattles are in the splendour of full bloom, and so are ti trees and white mint bush. The air is dense with the buzzing of bees and with perfume, heavy-sweet and spicy. Below, the swishing of the river in a series of small rapids. No familiarity on this stretch, after more than twenty years.
A car stops. The driver leans over, looks at me, and says “I know you.” His name I remember; his face has changed. On the edge of the road past and present meet, and I’m incapable of giving him the required directions in the jangle of adjusting old memories. What do I remember? Offending him by refusing to let him carry my bag after a P & C meeting in Sydney in 1978. Did he really sulk for 300 km? Is this a story I’ve made up? I don’t want such intrusions on my grinning solitude.
The pink rocks of the cutting soon fill my mind with memories in the making, and I relax into the beauty of the morning. I pause on the bridge, noting that sand has taken over, where there were once pink rocks. The river brushes noisily over pebbles, and floats circular mats of algae. A man on horseback nods hello, and the cutting still towers, revealing tree roots coiling from crevasses.