• Barbara Murphy-Shannon

Australia, Chapter 6 - The Outback, Crocodiles and First Base

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

It’s December and summer in Australia. The days are long, and the sunsets late into the evening. Returning from a group hike, I’m hungry and thirsty. We eat dinner and wash it down with some cold beers.

I noticed there are all these beautifully colored butterflies majestically floating through the air. I hold out my palm, hoping the butterfly would touch down, but they weren’t having it. Every time I get close, and they would fly away. Mitch (John) is by my side trying to help me. We’re giggling probably a little high from the beer.

Mitch is very affectionate, and he makes me laugh. An appealing trait in any man. He’s big-time flirting with me. He makes it look like he accidentally brushes up against me saying “sorry”. Oh, he smells wonderful.

I look his way and I see him glancing at me and smiling.

I resolve I’m tired from running after butterflies and sit down on a rock. He notices and comes over.

“Wat ahah ya doing?”


“Oh catchin’ butterflies got ya all tuckered out,” Mitch teases.

“ha, ha”

Mitch lays down on the ground in front of me with arms folded behind his head, a tall piece of grass sprouting from his mouth wearing a cowboy hat, and ray bans looking very comfortable in his skin. I study his chiseled face and the sexy dimple on his chin. Brown flowing hair. It’s not short, and it’s not long. Beautiful blue almond-shaped eyes. He’s not very tall but has muscles in all the right places.

“Ya alright,” says Mitch.

“What?” I jump up. I’m a little startled and embarrassed…busted. Could he tell I was thinking about him? Shit!


The next day, we drive towards the Darling River. The Darling River is the third-longest river in Australia, measuring 1,472 kilometers from its source in northern New South Wales to its convergence with the Murray River at Wentworth.

We are on our way to Lightning Ridge to visit Roy Barker, an Aboriginal man from the Murrawari language group. Roy is famous for his hand-crafted boomerangs. I know little about the Aboriginal population but from what I have seen; they are treated with disrespect, much like the native Americans in America. They have been displaced from their land and from their traditions. The whites are arrogant and rude to the Aboriginal people. For whatever reason, they believe they are inferior. Same old racist crap.

The dirt road is bumpy and dusty. It’s 116 degrees outside and I’m hot as hell and choking from the dust blowing in the car. I decide to take a roll of toilet paper and wrap my head to block the dirt from suffocating me. Roberta and Mitch determine it’s a good idea and wrap up their own heads. I make two holes for my eyes, so I can see and put on my sunglasses. We look like mummies. It does the trick.

We finally arrived at our campsite. A campsite in the Outback is anywhere you decide to camp. Just find a clearing and set up camp. We unload the van and set up a table so we can prepare dinner. For sleeping, you pick your spot on the ground and drop your sleeping bag. No tents. This is the outback. There’s evidence of someone having camped in this spot before. There’s a circle of rocks where they had a fire and a wooden stump for sitting. The camp is next to the river, which is muddy and lined with eucalyptus trees on its banks. The current is very slow, and I see an occasional log float by.

After unpacking, we head to the river for a swim. I am so hot and covered in dirt. A swim would be nice, but I wonder about crocodiles. (If there are any, you most certainly would never see them in that water. There is no visibility. They’d be right next to you, and you’d never know. If they decide to bite you and take you under, which is what I heard they do. They take their prey underwater and roll them on the bottom of the river until they stop moving, then they hide their “dinner” under a rock or someplace they can nibble when they get hungry.)

Mitch, Marty, and Pete go right in without a second thought. I’m nervous but I’m also not going to allow my worrying about what “might happen” to stop me. That’s why I’m on this journey, to do things that test my confidence. To decide what I want and don’t want. I don’t have to ask anyone’s permission. I don’t have to worry about someone telling me I’m stupid. I don’t have to walk on eggshells. I have free will. I have free will. If I want to go swim in a river where the largest semiaquatic reptiles live, hell...that’s my decision. Crocks or no crocks, I’m going in.

I slowly step into the water. The sand on the river bottom sucks my feet down like quicksand. The bank drops quickly and I’m suddenly waist-deep. I quickly dip down and get out. Ha! Take that!

At 2:30 pm, we drive to Roy Barker’s, but he wasn’t home. The dusty outback is enough to make your throat feel parched and ready for a coldy anytime. We all decide to go to the local pub for a drink. The bar is an old wooden shack with a corrugated-iron roof. Inside, it’s cool and dark, which makes it little oases in the outback. The walls are colorful, covered with signs and graffiti. It’s also the post office and general store. There is a row of bar stools, no two the same, it’s kind of mesh mash. There are wooden tables and chairs along the walls. It’s the middle of the day but the pub is filled with locals, both men, and women, Aboriginal, and white. Everyone seems to be friends and get along. We walk in with Big John, and I can tell he’s brought in groups like us before. They welcome us and ask us what we’ll have. The bartender tells me they’re known for their famous ‘feral mixed grill’, featuring kangaroo, emu, goat, and camel meat made into steaks, sausages, and rissoles.

“Thanks, but I just ate,” trying not to act horrified.

We spend the afternoon hanging out at the pub.

After dinner, Mitch and I go to bed. We find a spot in the tall grass away from everyone else. The night sky is unbelievable, with millions of stars. So romantic. Mitch massages my back and pulls me in closer. He kisses me. He’s a good kisser. I feel his hand on my breast, but I don’t mind. We kiss and caress until we fall asleep in each other’s arms.

I was sleeping peacefully when a beam of light caused me to stir. I groaned as the bright light hit my face. It must have been 2 or 3 am. I gently opened my eyes to see a colossal crystal ball shining slowly coming over the horizon. At first, I wasn’t sure what it was? A spaceship? The sun? But it’s the middle of the night. No, it’s the MOON!

It was specular and intimidating at the same time. It increased in size as it took up the entire sky. Its brightness drowning all the light from the stars. I couldn’t be witness to this alone. I shook Mitch until he woke up. We watched like little kids laying on our bellies propped on our elbows with our hands cradling our face in awe of its pure beauty as the yellow glowing circle slowly lifts into the sky.


This is a true story that chronicles my rebellious journey when I was 24 years old backpacking around the world looking for solace after the end of an abusive marriage (ok to escape). An intensely graphic and heartfelt memoir of self-discovery is about how getting lost can be where you belong, how traveling to new cultures and meeting new people helps you heal (they don't judge), find your voice and remember who you really are and want to be. It is certain to inspire anyone who has ever woken up in a life they don’t want to be in. Many life lessons and some bad decisions (sorry Mom) along the way. Buckle in! It's going to be a bumpy ride.

xoxox Barbara