In the morning the wind has calmed to a dull breeze while the moon tide has revealed the full extent of the reef below. From the cliff face, their seven-day campsite looks settled now. The bushes surrounding it have been colonised as washing lines and the fishing rods and surfboards create a makeshift fence. Below them the sea has turned yet a new colour of greeny blue.

They eat tinned fruit salad and custard for breakfast followed by cheese on broken bits of Salada – the last of their supplies. The dogs are curled at their feet, long chains twisted around chairs and each other.

‘We should probably do this’, Libby says.

By ten everything is starting to feel a bit dry, too stretched and full of dune. The tent is down to its last peg. Libby coaxes it from the dry earth with water. Around her the pile of things is starting to look precarious.

When they start to carry stuff between the dunes to the car, the dogs howl and yap fearing either abandonment by their people or of this place. With the car stacked they duck down the dunes for a final swim and then drive, still wet and sandy, towards Port Kenny.

On the way up they woke early. Leaving as the sun rose to eat bacon and egg rolls and talk excitedly about imagined rest, an isolated campsite, their tiredness and seven days of books. They made jokes about Iron Knob and constantly checked the K’s as they edged closer, the year stretching behind them full of discovery, each other and bits of trauma.

On the way back Libby notices the kangaroos lying in various states of decay at regular intervals along the highway. Some are just thoracic vertebrae and baked skin. Others are still full bodied, legs stuck in rigor mortis, their hair swaying as the Kalari trucks roll by. At Port Augusta the high tide is out and the stench of the estuary hits them before they can see the water; hot blue under the baking sun.

‘I want to eat less sugar’, says Libby, ‘maybe exercise more’. Dave smiles and nods, his jaw firmly set, eyes on the road.

They talk about finances, joint accounts and assets. Libby will enroll again in yoga and Dave will go to the gym more. Libby will try and bring her lunch from home while Dave will drink less. This will be the year when they will be better people living better lives.

They follow the pipeline as it snakes it way over the foothills of the southern Flinders Ranges, pumping water from Morgan out west, clutching collected stones and Christmas cake and watching out for emus. Admonishing the truck stops without any shade they talk about the list of stuff they need to do, date nights, more art classes and moving in together.

Dave says, ‘we should ride the bikes more too. Maybe get out on a weeknight even.’

At Port Pirie, Adelaide is still another two hours or more away and the tyre monster remains unconvincing in the saltpan. Here the heat is white hot and nothing moves. Dave drives on. Arching his back and reassuring Libby that he isn’t tired yet.

They hardly notice the giant cockroach just outside Port Wakefield while they try and decide what sort of takeaway to get and laugh at the two dogs that have remained motionless the whole way home. At Gepps Cross Libby orders food on her phone while Dave skirts around the city, forgetting to put the lights on.

They arrive home at dusk. The dogs sniff out rats under the decking until the solar fairy lights come on. Then they eat takeaway and drink beer outside, like they always do, while the planes roar overhead.

Read more about Adelaide Stories here.

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