Stage 1: Alice Springs to Darwin, West to Broome, South to Perth and East across the Nullarbor to Adelaide.
Estimated kilometres: 18,324
Towns visited: 98
Modes of transport: 18
TITLE: To begin, begin.
IN SHORT: Well, there goes the start, I am officially on the road! Today I set off with my neighbour Ian for a couple of hours on the back of his Yamaha FJR 1300. The idea was to kick off the mode of transport count with a spin around the country roads of North West Tasmania calling into a few places Dad had shared great memories of. With ideal weather and enough padding to ensure I would bounce given the opportunity, it was a wonderful start and unexpectantly, quite an emotional day.
TIP: Self sufficiency; abandon if unfamiliar with wearing a motorbike helmet - unless of course you’re so fond of it you’d like it to form part of your daily attire.
KMS: 81 + 297
TRACK: Time to Wander - Gypsy & The Cat
TITLE: On the beaten track.
IN SHORT: Early! From 7am, more Stuart Highway, small towns and their communities. All deserving of more consideration than one’s immediate impression while filling their car with fuel. The landscape has changed; gone is the real red dirt and ground covering acacia and in its place, taller trees and termite mounds; some resembling people.Travelling at over 100kms an hour and being half asleep can turn them into almost anything.
Since this is meant to be short I'll go with the highlights; Daly Waters for one, this is as far North as Dad had been in the NT. The town is known for its pub and for Australia’s first international airport - on whose tarmac the bus prepared for take off, reached a maximum speed of 105kms and remained grounded, albeit with some local plant matter jammed in the door.
At the Daly Waters Pub The Bold Line now has its place on the bar along with every other passerby who has had something ‘worthy’ of stapling to its walls; underwear, photos, cash, cards - anything and everything.
I played street bowls after lunch, with a bowling ball that had seen better days, a battered and bruised version of its once rounded self. After a couple of turns the pins won, having stood their ground.
What a camp, permanent! A stunning sunset out over plains where buffalo roam and wild pigs wreak havoc, a warm night around a flickering camp fire, topped off with a beer and a sky full of stars.
TIP: I have a few today; firstly, plan your route. I lost count of the number of tyre tracks leaving the road and disappearing into the gravel. Secondly wedge-tailed eagles take a while to ‘lift off’ after tucking into the highway’s latest bush buffet. Slow down to avoid finding yourself with one embedded in your windscreen. I struggle to move quickly too after a big meal. And lastly, take the 'Katherine Woolworth's Shopping Tour' even if it’s just for the delight of being asked for ID when 18 has long gone.
TRACK: I’m Ready to Go – Panic at the Disco
TITLE: The flying pizza crust.
IN SHORT: Look, to be honest I didn’t do a lot today, after quick zip around I went fishing - in the cereal box for the seemingly absent granola clusters. Wandered into the gym and straight out again and contemplated how I’m ever going to fit my gear (which is strewn across my room) back in my pack.
In the kitchen I found the cupboards to be well stocked: Four varieties of coffee, a selection of alcohol and assorted tins of cat food, for the cat I can assure you. So it was off to Woolworths for some breakfast goods and to master the self-service lane.
A trip to the Tourist Information Centre was in order; there I sorted out car hire and accommodation for the coming days. Then it was back to the hammock to write, check out road maps and turn up the tunes. *Thump* a pizza crust lands from 14 floors up, or thereabouts. Clearly they ‘forgot’ that there’s a lower level with an outdoor area!
TIP: Book your car hire when you get to Darwin at the Tourist Information Centre I saved a packet and have unlimited kilometres which will allow for the ‘what’s down this road’ approach to road tripping.
TRACK: Slow Motion – Little Red
TITLE: Kakadu in a Camry.
IN SHORT: With a coffee firmly planted in its holder, it was time to begin the search for a CD. After no radio reception yesterday afternoon it was imperative that Kakadu have some backing music. After three stops and three blank looks it was fouth time lucky! With buffalo to our left and locals and tourists alike testing out the 130km an hour speed limit to our right we were well on the way.
Taking the turn off for Cooinda the road weaved its way closer to the departure of the Yellow Water Cruise. One and a half hours to wind through the distinct eco systems of the billabong and the tributaries of the South Alligator River. In spite of sighting 7 crocodiles, the abundance of bird life and the 'how’s the serenity’ of the wetlands had me so relaxed I had to put my sunglasses back on in case I nodded off.
Once checked into a bungalow for the night it was back in the car for the drive to Ubirr. Excellent examples of Aboriginal art and an incredible view over the surrounding wetlands and rocky outcrops as the sun began to set. After enjoying every moment it was a race from the top back to the car park before the sun went down completely. The last place you want to be after dark is 40 kilometres from the main road - a Toyota Camry is no match for a buffalo or a wild pig! With fires smouldering close by and smoke lingering in the air like fog we had our ‘game’ faces on determined to avoid contact with anything other than bugs!
Once back at camp it was time to chill out poolside, feasting on barramundi and reflecting on the day. A dingo entered the pool area in search of food and we met again on the way back to camp, thankfully it had it sights set on something in the opposite direction!
TIP: Insect repellent! I have two pairs of jeans and no insect repellent. Priority reshuffle in order.
TRACK: Conceal me - Xavier Rudd
TITLE: The upside down tree.
IN SHORT: On the road by 6am! The bus bumped along occasionally jolting me awake with great views as consolation.
Jabirus flew alongside as we passed the first of many boab trees, the Aboriginal people refer to them as the ‘upside down tree.' This good looking tree was said to have had such an ego that they appealed to the spirits to plant it upside down. The boab trees are moving their way across the top of Australia from the West Australian coast but I was still surprised that the first I saw was in the Northern Territory.
Taking in the rugged red escarpment bordering the Gregory National Park was as if you were passing through a set of a movie. We arrived before sunset in the town of Timber Creek and set up camp at the base of an old boab tree metres from a creek inhabited by freshwater crocodiles. With no chance of rain there was no need for a tent fly so it was off to sleep under the mass of stars accompanied by the sound of a migratory snore as someone relocated their swag.
TIP: Your toothbrush won’t be in a fit state for use once it has taken a slide down the aisle of a bus.
TRACK: World Where You Live – Crowded House
TITLE: Chicken Treats.
IN SHORT: Up as early as the Blue-winged Kookaburras we began the bumpy return drive out of the National Park bound for Kununurra, our lunch and toilet stop. With not a great deal open on a Sunday afternoon Chicken Treats was always set to receive an influx of busting passengers pleading for their toilet key.
Back on the bus for the last of the sealed road we were then destined for our first taste of the Gibb River Road. To begin with, the 52km of it required to reach El Questro. The origin of this name remains something of a mystery, named by Torrance MacMiking in the late 1950s one story has it that ‘Questa’ meaning a sharp cliff face with a gentle slope off the back was to be the area’s name, but that prior to lodging the land claim, Torrance took a sharp left turn at a bottle of rum and ended up submitting a name that has no real English, or Spanish meaning, nevertheless I think it suits.
Arrival at El Questro brought with it a near instant feeling of relaxation, possibly aided by the first shower in a couple of days and a flush toilet.
After dinner and a tasty take on damper for dessert (cheers Rob) we kept with the theme of relaxation lounging in our camp chairs lost in the acoustic tunes and the orange glow of the fire.
TIP: Don’t eat at Chicken Treats, just use the toilets.
TRACK: The Tucker’s Wife – John Williamson (Camp Fire Version: Rachel Baldwin).
TITLE: As the crow flies.
IN SHORT: Woke up feeling rather average so I gave the Manning Gorge walk a miss in favour of a few hours writing and some time to myself. Seated beneath a large boab tree as oversized black crows swooped by I wrote until lunchtime.
I’m fairly sure I saw Richard Branson sitting by a caravan but then I wasn’t feeling well and had had quite a bit of sun.
On the road again! We paid a brief visit to Galvans Gorge, observed a couple of goannas basking in the sun and caught a glimpse of a third as it raced out from under the rock I chose to stand on. They’re not small!
Lost in thought as we clocked up some more kilometres our next stop was Imintji Roadhouse, a few of the cars travelling in the opposite direction for the Variety Club Bash had the same idea. Icecream!
We camped that night at a place called Silent Grove, one of my favourite camps for no reason in particular.
TIP: Spend a week ‘off the grid.’ No phone or television. If you could buy that feeling in vitamin form I’d be rich and everyone else would be too.
TRACK: Heart of Gold – Neil Young
TITLE: Broome on foot.
IN SHORT: Mmm - bacon and eggs, walked off with a morning at the markets. I met up with a friend of Dad’s for lunch and heard all about her time on the remote cattle station, Blina. Some wonderful photos and great stories! After a tasty beer at Matso's Brewery it was time to check out of swag and dusty tent and into white sheets and a room with a view higher than ground level! Ahh - a face washer! Easily pleased, it felt like I’d washed my face with a pillow.
From 'past 5' I was sitting at the Sunset Bar and Grill with a cocktail watching the sun go down over Cable Beach as people happily settled in after a day at the Broome Cup. An ideal way to spend the last night out with one of my best mates who had joined me for the Kimberley. So many laughs, mostly at our own expense and so many great memories! A lovely meal but I have to say, if a restaurant is going to have a set menu and a salad bar that offers as many prawns as you can eat, I will take full advantage!
TIP: Broome by bus.
TRACK: Chase the Sun – Planet Funk
TITLE: Cape Leveque.
IN SHORT: Okay so the Gibb River Road has nothing on the Cape Leveque track, at least in their current conditions! How do I know? I got the stitch, my body actually thought it was exercising! What an awesome drive, you feel like you’re part of bobsled team as the bus runs along the banked track of red sand and corrugated dirt. Due to its skate bowl style I don’t think I’d like to be on it in the wet - it would turn into a big slide that takes you nowhere!
We, however reached Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community right on time! Here we appreciated the handy work of the Pallotine Monks and the Local Aboriginals back in the late 1800’s. The mother of pearl shell altar is quite something.
A quick coffee then on to the One Arm Point Community to visit their Aquaculture Hatchery, I learnt plenty about local fishing and the collection and processing of the trochus shell.
The area offers spectacular views of the Buccaneer Archipelago and I watched in amazement as the massive tides ripped past the small islands.
Lunch at Cape Leveque, known locally as Kooljaman and a quick dip before leaving the group to it while I went off in search of the famous coastline the cape is renowned for.
Once on the beach I had 30 minutes with the pristine white sand and golden red cliffs all to myself; a mind-blowing experience, any expectations I had were met and most definitely exceeded.
Returning South we called in at Lombadina Community where we were offered the opportunity to share some time and a little of the lifestyle of this Aboriginal Community. The area reflects its mission origins and the church is a classic example of ‘Kimberley Bush Architecture’ I loved it!
While standing beneath a massive fig tree, the oldest tree on the property, there was an eruption of laughter as 6 children’s smiling faces popped out from behind the fig tree’s Tarzan like façade. There must be good reception in fig trees – a few had their mobile phones!
Back past 6 I was so tired I couldn’t be bothered walking somewhere for dinner so I had 2 apples, did a load of washing and fell asleep.
TIP: Don’t walk down a sandy 4WD track in thongs, or have the sense to take them off.
TRACK: Hit the Ground Running – Donavon Frankenreiter
TITLE: Long train – big pile of salt.
IN SHORT: On route to Port Headland! Home to rail yards, iron-ore stock piles, salt production for export a large deep water port and the Woolworths Shopping Centre where we stopped at to collect supplies for the next 3 days in Karajini National Park.
While waiting to leave, a member of our group said hello to a passing local, assuming this was an invitation to converse the lady asked him where he was from. "Victoria” he replied. “Ohh, I have family near there” she said. “Really” he said, “where?” “Queensland” she replied. I’m undecided as to whether this is a good example of just how big the state of Western Australia is and how unperturbed the locals are about the length of time it can take to get anywhere, or whether I’m just using someone’s lack of geographical knowledge to serve my own purposes.
One thing I know for sure, I didn’t expect to feel more isolated than anywhere I’d been so far. Our Roadhouse lunch stop was the only real symbol of civilisation all day.
As we got closer to Karajini National Park the scenery began to change, what looked like Devils Marbles ‘seconds’ lined the roadside ridges interspersed with colourful wildflowers and irridescent green trees, no wonder people paint the area.
After entering Karajini National Park we dropped by the Joffre Gorge Lookout before making our way to the Eco Retreat to roll out our swags.
TIP: Don’t make the critical decision to send your thermals home in a bag of ‘no longer needed gear’ in 35 degree heat.
TRACK: Little Things –Archie Roach and Sara Storer
TITLE: Are we there yet?
IN SHORT: Up and packing at 5am, on the road a half hour later and back to sleep. We stopped at Paraburdoo for fuel and snoozed our way to Nanutarra Roadhouse for lunch. Back on the bus I read, drank water, wrote, talked and slept. After round 2 of that sequence I woke to an ‘inland ocean’, I’d have made a great explorer – try miles of low lying shrubs on terrain flatter than flat. Thankfully we were almost in Exmouth so there was no time for any more profound mirage like discoveries.
First shower since Pardoo! With my vertical hairstyle rectified and a layer of red dust headed for the ocean, so was I; on a sunset whale watching cruise. The combination of fresh sea air, whales breaching in the Gulf and yet another stunning West Australian sunset over Cape Range made a whole day on the bus fade away with the sun.
TIP: Don’t try and read the Weekend Australian on a bus, it ended up looking like a 4 year old had just unwrapped a whole family’s Christmas presents.
TRACK: Cool Change – The Little River Band
TITLE: Breathing rocks.
IN SHORT: Packed and on the road by 7am, second stop, Carnarvon. Located at the mouth of Western Australia’s longest river; the Gascoyne, the town is known for its fruit and vegetable plantations. As it turned out one member of our group spent a little more time there than the rest of us after dislocating his elbow during a quad bike ride the previous day.
Back together we continued on to Shark Bay and turned off for Hamelin Pool, a marine reserve that contains the world’s best-known ‘family’ of stromatolites. What are they? Stromatolites are rock-like structures, those at Shark Bay are only 2,000 to 3,000 years old, but they are similar to life forms found on Earth up to 3.5 billion years ago. Through their use of photosynthesis they are considered largely responsible for paving the way for more complex life forms. I’m no scientist so to me they looked just like rocks, or rocks that could blow bubbles if you put them in the bath.
We had lunch close by at the old (1884) Telegraph Office, with 14,000 bush flies. These were of the gifted variety, capable of infuriating even the most restrained in under 5 seconds. I still can’t decide if the flies were tame or energy efficient. Either way, stay off my face!
Boarding the bus with the flies in tow we drove a short way to Shell Beach, there’s a whole lot of shells at Shell Beach, so many you have to dig to find any sand. No digging though, no one had any energy for anything after lunch, the flies took it.
Denham, Australia’s westernmost town and our base for the night, no more driving, just dinner and sleep!
Somewhere today I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn again and had to get my jacket out.
TIP: Insect repellent doesn’t count flies as insects, find an alternative. Mortein and Raid are probably no good for your skin.
TRACK: China – Sparkadia
IN SHORT: Spent the day stationed at the dining room table writing from 6am until 6pm, though at around noon I decided it would be a fine idea to wash the red dust out of my runners. What cycle do you choose for that? Not the one I chose! It seemed to be done so I opened the door and foam spilled out all over the laundry floor, I didn’t realise washing machines had a never ending foam function. What do you do with foam at short notice? I piled it all into the (empty) washing basket and the sink and a bucket and finally found my shoes! The laundry was looking all shiny again after its bubble bath - just as their car pulled up in the driveway!
That night we had a roast for dinner, my cousin kindly offered me a different seat at the table just so I could say I’d moved!
TRACK: Biding My Time – Busby Marou
TITLE: Wine anyone?
IN SHORT: With the Margaret River known for its fine wines and local produce it’s not surprising day 40 was somewhat indulgent. The region is probably most renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but their Shiraz and Semillon-Sauvignon blends have been getting quite a bit of attention.
We arrived at the first winery at 11am courtesy of our jovial guide who looked a little like yogi bear. Our 12pm stop incorporated lunch so after a swirling competition we were presented with an antipasto style smorgasbord; kangaroo, bush turkey, local cheese and olives, bush tomatoes, desert lime, various chutneys, pesto’s and breads as well as the Kakadu plum which is sold internationally due to its high levels of anti-oxidants. These plums contain 3000g of vitamin C per 100g of fruit, plus, they already taste like cosmetics so I imagine that would save some processing time! Following lunch we visted another winery, dropped by the Margaret River Cheese Company then made our way from there to a local brewery, the chocolate factory and lastly, would you believe, a distillery.
Having shared the day with some great people, the 4 of us who weren’t yet running all our words together decided to continue the day and met up again at the Settlers Tavern before enjoying dinner at another local establishment, not that anyone was particularly hungry, or thirsty!
TIP: Wine; it goes well with good food and friends, not so much with beer and spirits.
TRACK: Down Under – Men at Work
TITLE: Perth in a Prado.
IN SHORT: Packing for the train: Up to 2 checked in bags not over 20kgs each, so the first,17kgs and another, 5kgs plus a day pack. Slight problem, I’d bought some presents and there was no chance they were being checked in to be (unintentionally) smashed. It looked like I might be wearing 2 days clothes and sacrificing the space for a good cause.
Relatively organised I headed into the city with my cousin to see King's Park and have lunch. That afternoon my other cousin, his wife and 7 month old son dropped by, I’m not short on family here in Perth! The 7 of us headed out for a lovely dinner overlooking the Swan River and a great last night in the West! Thank you for everything!
TIP: Beneath the trees that line the avenues throughout King's Park are plaques to honour those who lost their lives in a war. I did a double take when I saw the year some of the service men died (1915 for example) when underneath it says ‘planted by his parents’. It sounds feasible until you see the tree is about a foot high and not a bonsai.
Occasionally, as in this case the trees have had to be replaced. They're maintained in a voluntary capacity through the Honour Avenues Group.
TRACK: Maybe Tomorrow – Stereophonics
TITLE: Hello Mum!
IN SHORT: Awake at 4am reading emails as the train powered along the tracks, though completely distracted as the sun rise illuminated the landscape out my cabin window. With breakfast done, I was packed and ready to go! We rolled into The Adelaide Parkland's Station where I was to meet Mum and 3 of our family friends.
Stepping from the carriage there was not another person in sight, I wandered into the café and ticketing area, no one in there either and so headed back out to wait for my luggage. As the luggage wagon pulled up so did a taxi, they all piled out and made their way up the platform searching for me amongst the growing crowd. MUM! Welcomed with hug so tight I nearly flattened the sunglasses hanging from my t-shirt but I didn’t care, it was so good to see her! “Mum where have you been? I messaged to say the train was running on time.” “Yes, well we were on time, early in fact, we were just at the wrong station!”
Once I had dropped my gear at their hotel we all headed out for breakfast, yes another one, so let’s call it brunch. Afterward, a stroll through the largest fresh produce market in the Southern Hemisphere, a trip on the tram to Glenelg for a look and some lunch, a wander through the never ending Rundle Street Mall and a ride on a bus to take in more of the city just as it began to rain.
We had a short stop back at the hotel then we were due to meet the others for a drink before dinner. It seemed the day had a bit of a theme; it was a half hour before we realised that in a joint effort we’d confused the meeting point and 3 of us were in 1 place and 2 were in another. Reunited we headed out for a lovely meal and a $9 bottle of water.
TIP: You can’t hide a fit of laughter from anyone when you’re travelling on a tram!
KMS: 2690 + 59
TRACK: Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam and Dave, B.B King, Guy Sebastian, take your pick.
TITLE: Up, up and away.
IN SHORT: Awake at 4am, up in the air by 6am and in Alice Springs by 11am. The 30 minute time difference certainly can’t be blamed for my yawning as I type, I chose to spend the 3 hour flight from Melbourne with my headphones in lost in the world outside the window. With the pilot flying at a slightly lower than usual altitude over Lake Eyre, I enjoyed what might as well have been a scenic flight and my Qantas sandwich.
After dropping half my body weight in luggage at a hotel I caught up with a friend for coffee at Monty’s, great service and a fun atmosphere sitting out in the 20+ degree heat. From there we headed South in her red Daihatsu Rocky to the Road Transport Hall of Fame. The RTHF is a volunteer project dedicated to the preservation and presentation of Australia’s unique road transport heritage. Vehicles as they were in working times, one from a more unfamiliar angle while crawling underneath to retrieve a wayward lens cap.
Time for an early night!
TIP: Don’t ply your child with fibrous snacks while on an aircraft - the results affect everybody.
KMS: 16 + 615 + 1858 + 18
TRACK: Because I Love You – Masters Apprentices
TITLE: A gecko in the bathroom.
IN SHORT: There was one. I was still half asleep at 5:30am as it wiggled its way across the mirror while I cleaned my teeth!
Nitmiluk National Park means ‘sounds like a cicada’ in the local Jawoyn language.
Last seat on the Katherine Gorge cruise thank you very much! While waiting in line to board, the man in front chose to use the time to video his surroundings. With commentary. Aiming his camera at a nearby tree he said “those are bats” then turned it off. I’m glad I’m not the one that has to sit through that holiday footage when he arrives home! Riveting.
The Katherine Gorge, yet another place I’d have happily spent a whole day, the colours, the culture, the cliffs and the canoes floating by - but not the man with the camera who spent the entire trip bobbing up and down from his seat taking photos. He took enough to capture 2 hours of water flow in sequence and did so many squats his quad muscles would be ready to line up for a local rugby game. Two hours turned into 2.5 hours and while I loved every minute I had to make a run for the bus whose engine was already doing the same.
Next stop: Edith Falls, a beautiful hot day so it was a top place for a swim if you don’t get put off after seeing the odd snake or two slither across your path to take a dip of its own.
Still 112kms from Darwin the bus made a stop at the Adelaide River Inn for passenger re-hydration, from here on in I upgraded the termite mounds to giant people.
‘Boh boh!’ until next time…
TIP: Cameras, mobile phones, video cameras & net books, all have different chargers, try to find a way around this before you set off with a bag filled with adapters and cords!
TRACK: Something in The Water – Brooke Fraser
TITLE: If you like piña coladas.
IN SHORT: There was a thick fog this morning, not in my mind but wafting through the streets as I tried to find a bus with a 4 on it to take me to the Parap Markets. I had heard, read and been sat down and told that the laksa was must, it was 10am and already pushing 30 degrees, but it had to be done.
The fog lifted revealing a vibrant market filled with food stalls and all manner of market thingamajigs. Laksa in hand I began the search for shade and a seat - I’d have been happy with either! Mouth alight with chilli and coriander and with the sauna like experience from the bus inbound, my eyes sizzled and my nose started to run. All this I thought was worthy of record so I asked the man sitting alongside if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo.
His name was Noel, he was 83 and waiting in his favourite spot for his wife. We chatted for 20 minutes or so while I splashed laksa all over my t-shirt. I learnt he had spent his life working on the land in various parts of South Australia, has travelled the country four times over and now comes regularly to Darwin as he enjoys the temperatures of the dry season. After saying farewell I made a beeline for the nearest smoothie stand and walked away with a refreshing (non-alcoholic, bit early) piña colada - ahh!
Following lunch at Fidler's Green with a friend from home we walked to the other end of town to pick up the hire car.
Tomorrow i'm back on the road!
TIP: You can’t shave your legs with your toothbrush.
TRACK: Sidekick – Lisa Mitchell
TITLE: Grey nomads; bound - to get there eventually!
IN SHORT: Mesh like corrugated iron is wildlife proof but if only wildlife was silent. The occasional passing dingo, the snoring possum, the sounds of unidentifiable bugs and birds and a sporadic sprinkler system meant a full night’s sleep wasn’t likely! I thought birds were supposed to sleep when we do.
A quick stop at the Jabiru Bakery for coffee and we were on the road. Now I’m all for the grey nomad phenomenon but 3 hours with no overtaking lanes going at 50 below the speed limit was a bit much. It did however give me time to look around, many of the road signs are covered in bullet holes. What makes someone (armed) stop their car, get out and think, I might just shoot this sign. Have I missed something?
After navigating my way out to the Casuarina Shopping Centre to pick up a few things it was time to return the car. With renewed energy following an hour by the pool I caught a cab with friends to the Sky City Casino for dinner at Il Piatto. A stunning setting overlooking the ocean and a fitting way to spend my last night in Darwin. After just a week, Darwin will be missed.
TIP: Don't leave 11 days of washing until the day you're due to move on!
TRACK: Every Teardrop is a Waterfall - Coldplay
TITLE: The Day the Music Died.
IN SHORT: After waking at 4:30am due to the resident rooster I took what was to be my last shower for the next few days. On the road just before 7am we crossed into Western Australia through the quarantine check point full of fruit and nut as everyone shared the last of anything forbidden to cross.
Passing through the diverse landscapes of the Carr Boyd Ranges while watching brumbies graze and eagles soar we took a 34km detour from the Victoria Highway from which Lake Argyle revealed itself in spectacular fashion. With the lake classed as an inland sea covering over 1000 square kilometres it’s an impressive sight! Driving across the Ord River Dam Wall made me feel like an insignificant spec amongst the enormity of such a project and the vast area it occupies.
After a stop at Kununurra for lunch we edged ever closer to the 52km track off the Great Northern Highway. The track that would take us nearly 2.5 hours to complete in order to make our way into the World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park.
This was a road I thought surely might shake a little sense into those on the bus who appeared to have left their ability to compromised buried in the bottom of their backpacks. All that will be said on the behaviour that persisted in various forms far longer than the common cold is this:
Tavel alone if you have no comprehension of what is required to travel in a group. Failure to comply with this advice could see you, a middle aged professional, frantically gaffer taping your ‘depend’ over a speaker to reduce the sound of the barely audible music. End of story, but believe me, I could go on!
That aside, the drive in was fun. Fifteen creek crossings of differing degrees, a bull fight on the dirt track ahead of the bus and my being airborne momentarily after launching from the back seat with an unexpected bump made for an entertaining few hours. After setting up camp it was time for dinner and a taste of kangaroo and crocodile.
TIP: Be a child at heart, not outwardly childish.
TRACK: Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles
TITLE: One ‘track’ mind.
IN SHORT: With scrambled eggs for breakfast it was to be a day of scrambling to match. First stop: Emma Gorge, a rock hopping walking trail that weaved its way through the base of the gorge with towering cliffs on either side. Reaching the swimming hole in the shadow of a 200ft waterfall was an incredible sight.
However, El Questro Gorge awaited, refuelled following a BBQ lunch we took the 4WD track in to the start of the walk. Clambering over and around rocks we reached the first pool, considered to be halfway, knowing the most difficult section was yet to come I gave serious thought to waiting it out there. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of the guide our shoes and socks were removed as we waded into the pool passing our bags overhead chain gang style. Working together we heaved our gear and each other up and over the giant boulder blocking our path. Continuing on hoisting and swinging ourselves over rocks we passed through a narrow cave, scaled a wall to take us to the next level and took a leap of faith across a crevasse aided by a small ledge on the rock alongside.
All challenges met we arrived at our reward, a small but stunning water hole for a well-earned swim and celebratory jump from the rocks beneath the waterfall. Returning the same way we opted for an ‘easier’ descent into the water as we reapproached the halfway point. Lowering ourselves halfway down the boulder at an angle which would guarantee you hit the water almost face first was this ‘easier’ option. I was a little hesitant as I jumped which was not helped by Kermet landing on my arm as I was about to jump!
Without a doubt one of the most satisfying walks I’ve ever completed.
TIP: You miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.
TRACK: Inspiration – John Butler Trio
TITLE: Floating sunglasses.
IN SHORT: As of daylight we were off to Bell Gorge, quite an easy walk into a beautiful spot where the landscape reflected in the glass-like pools before the water cascaded further down into the deep gorge. An easy place to wile away a few hours overlooking the waterfall and the lower pool.
Travelling around the King Leopold Divide we approached the Napier Ranges. During the Devonian Era, 350 million years ago, a large barrier reef grew around the then-submerged Kimberley plateau. The Napier Ranges are the remains of this limestone reef which we were to see more of at Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge, our camp for the night.
On the return trip from Tunnel Creek we stopped for firewood and took the chance to try the fruit from a nearby boab tree; chalky at first, then it began to taste like dried apple, kind of. I don’t think it will be on the shelves at Coles anytime soon though.
Sunset at Windjana Gorge and a beer on the river bank with friends! A crocodile lay on the bank opposite while another made its way over - thankfully deciding to submerge at a safe distance instead. Only its sunglasses stayed above the water, well that’s what it looked like; I might’ve gone to collect them had I not seem the whole show.
TIP: ‘Early’ and ‘past 5’ aren’t helpful when advising someone of the time; it would appear I’m well on the way to perfecting vague.
TRACK: Hard Sun - Eddie Vedder
TITLE: The hair straightener flies Qantas.
IN SHORT: It did. I had too much gear so it flew home with 2 pairs of shorts, 4 t-shirts, a thermal top and two books, when did I think I would get time to read?
Awake early and having walked straight into a wall on the way back from the bathroom, I was packed and ready to go!
The taxi didn’t turn up so I was kindly offered a lift to the next hotel,too early for check in I left my things and headed across the street to catch the bus into town. Had a drink with a couple of friends and then wandered about before locating the bus to take me to the supermarket, once done I sat at the bus stop with some locals, when I asked what time the bus was to arrive they replied ‘soon’ so I’ve concluded my ‘early’ and ‘past 5’ responses are symptomatic of 'Broome time', I like it.
Back at the hotel and minus the frog that landed on my leg in the bathroom and the cricket jumping about on the floor I was ready to bus it back in to Town Beach for Staircase to the Moon (seen across Roebuck Bay during a full moon and caused by its reflection on the mud flats, creating the illusion of a staircase). The area was packed with people lining up for prime position and enjoying the night markets and the music of local, Mitchell Cullen. I have no photos of the moon as my position wasn’t prime and the fires in the area made the full effect near impossible to capture (I have heard the following night was incredible).
The night markets were great and if I hadn’t had plans for dinner I’d have headed over to the Lamonds food van for laksa!
Returning to the hotel after a farewell dinner with friends, I realised I had a problem; a homing cricket. He was back.
TIP: Removal of the homing cricket; Step 1: Place wine glass over it. Step 2: Lay the (spare) face washer on the floor. Step 3: Manoeuvrer glass and contents over onto face washer. Step 4: Fold the sides of the face washer up to the stem of the glass and carry it outside. Step 5: Remove glass and fling face washer into the garden (step 5 needs refining). Note: The gardener will collect the face washer the next morning. Repeat if it returns.
TRACK: With My Own Two Hands – Ben Harper
TITLE: The Variety Club Bash.
IN SHORT: Another day working on the website, quite a good distraction once I’d realised there was nothing left to eat beyond breakfast time.
At just past 5 I caught the bus into town for dinner with a family friend, one who knew Dad well. He was in town with his team for the final night of the Variety Club Bash having travelled from Baulkham Hills to Buccaneer Rock (or close enough to, you could see it from our table). I was wearing jeans so I figured I’d acclimatised to the weather and I was definately on Broome time - I swear the minute hand has been removed from my watch.
The night itself was a credit to all involved, I have never witnessed such a wealth of generosity with the bash raising 1.8 million for the Variety Club of Australia. Those who take part have a great time, for some an experience of a lifetime, for others, an annual event, but its focal point remains the fund raising. Their efforts go toward helping children who are sick, disadvantaged or have special needs in order for them to live, laugh and learn.
My final night in Broome was also the final night for this month’s staircase to the moon. The moon came up over Town Beach just as our mains arrived, my SLR camera was having the night off for good behaviour so I have no proof, just my word, and it was good!
A group of us got a lift back to our hotels in one of the bash cars, slightly more people than seats!
TIP: After my experience in Broome I'd say to give the taxis a miss, take the bus or make some friends, unless you have an hour to kill.
TRACK: Take It In – The Waifs
IN SHORT: The second tallest peak in Western Australia was the destination for a morning walk.
We took the route that led us up the western face of the mountain. Single file we walked along the narrow rocky path over and around the banded iron formations exposed in the rock. We rounded the first and scrambled up over shards of solid rock to reach the second.
On arriving at the base of the third ascent it was time for me to admit defeat, the increasing winds and my fear of heights got the better of me. With a choice of bright dusty red rocks or a clump of spinifex resembling an inverted pin cushion to sit on I went with the dusty rock option and waited while the others continued on.
From my view on the ridge, riven and ravaged ranges extended in one direction and in the other, the Marandoo open cut iron ore mine created a narrow scar in the mid-section of the park. Arriving back at camp nearly 7 hours later it became apparent that the war wounds endured by one who conquered Mt Bruce were going to require more than a band aid. Roadtrip! Nothing like an unplanned adventure! We piled onto the bus bound for the Tom Price Emergency Room, closely followed by the Tom Price Hotel where we happily waited it out!
TIP: It is possible that the constriction of sleeping zipped up in your hoodie in a sleeping bag liner, zipped up in your sleeping bag, zipped up in your swag, zipped up in your tent may cause one to wake the whole camp with a scream of ‘HELP where are we?’ Thank you to those that considered coming to my aid, I’m sure you would have if it weren’t so cold and you were able to free yourselves from your own zipped up environment!
TRACK: The Horizon has been Defeated – Jack Johnson
TITLE: Sleep in!
IN SHORT: Wow! Up at 7am, biggest sleep in yet! At 9am we were bussing it out to Cape Range National Park en route to Turquoise Bay. As the waves barrelled onto the outer reef we spent a leisurely 3 hours snorkelling, walking and playing catch amongst a school of inquisitive trevally.
While practicing my ability to do nothing we watched in disbelief as a woman looking after her friends two children while she snorkelled misplaced one. Turns out the young boy had had enough of the bay and decided to head out to the car park to sit on top of the family 4WD.
With lunch taken care of, coffee in hand and the bus restocked with food we were on the road to Coral Bay. We had to slow right down a few times for cattle, sheep and a number of emus and their children, who by the way were much better supervised!
After checking in to the backpackers it was time for a beer with friends I’d not seen for 5 years!
TIP: Leave your sunglasses on rather than on your head when visiting a long drop toilet, lucky I can catch.
TRACK: In Your Light – Gotye
IN SHORT: Pulled into the car park at Monkey Mia in time to grab a coffee and hit the beach to watch the dolphins have their breakfast. As people lined the shore we were joined by 7 or 8 playful dolphins. We were advised to not touch them and fair enough, to be honest if 100 people patted me on the head every day there's a good chance I’d become aggressive too. They’re not fed until the last minute, nor are they fed very much, just a third of their daily requirements. This ensures they don’t rely on these handouts and lose their wild instincts!
Out the window of the bus I could make out an island on my right as we left town. Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog stumbled upon this island back in 1616 nailing a pewter plate to a post inscribed with the details of his visit. This plate was swapped in 1697 by another Dutch explorer with a competitive streak and evidently, little faith in historical records.
Billabong Roadhouse was our lunch stop, we arrived just minutes after a seniors tour bus. Some men with walking sticks were inspecting an area that was taped off with clearly marked ‘danger’ tape, women were dancing rather vigorously by the petrol bowsers and the rest were lined up out the doors for the toilets. I preferred my bus.
On to Kalbarri National Park to a lookout that took in the Murchison River as it wound its way through the steep gorges. Next was Red Bluff where sheer sea cliffs meet the Indian Ocean, not the best place to play catch. Further along, the view from the Natural Bridge lookout added to this impressive coastline - be sure to lean over the railing a little so you can see it properly, yes, so I don’t have a photo of it.
TIP: Colourful flowers do not mean phone reception, it just feels like you’ve returned to civilisation! So much so you could be arriving at a friend’s place, that is, providing they enjoy gardening and have an exceptionally long driveway.
TRACK: Part Time Believer - Boy and Bear
TITLE: A day at the Docks.
IN SHORT: After dropping by Garden City to pick up a few things I met up with a friend from school days, one I’d not seen for 12 years! We spent the day catching up in Fremantle; first stop, fish and chips on the docks, closely followed an ice-cream and a wander along the boardwalk. Once we’d devoured our ice-creams we walked through the park and the streets of the heritage precinct - conveniently ending up sat at the front terrace of the Monk Brewery for a beer.
Later he dropped me off at the South Fremantle Football Oval where I caught up with another cousin at the Docker’s headquarters. Dad had come to the same oval some years back to watch him train. It was great to be somewhere I knew he’d been before and wonderful to share the memory with someone who could recall it. I got picked up just before 5 and then it was home for dinner and a reasonably early night.
TIP: Pick a town, be a tourist and smile 'til your face hurts.
TRACK: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding
TITLE: Where two oceans meet.
IN SHORT: Up bright and early, though feeling less bright than I’d have liked I checked out and made my way out to Prevelly Beach. It seemed this was a location for the new surf movie Drift featuring Sam Worthington, apparently it is set back in the 1960’s and 70’s which would explain some of the vehicles parked in the area. The man himself was spotted in town but barely recognisable due to having cultivated quite a bit of facial hair.
From Prevelly I weaved my way down Caves Road amongst magnificnet towering pale barked Karri trees all the way to Augusta and on to Cape Leeuwin. On your approach to the edge of the earth you’ll be pleased to know it’s not, though it is the most south-westerly point of Australia, home to Western Australia’s tallest lighthouse and where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet, that's enough in itself really.
With a thunderstorm due to hit late afternoon and not finding the prospect of driving in one remotely appealing I took myself on an speedy tour of some of the wineries that were not included on the previous days jaunt. My first stop was the most memorable; the wine tasting experience made all the better by the cheerful pair behind the bar and having my dislike for Chardonnay completely trounced after sampling their 2008 Art Series release. Unfortunately its worthy price tag means that no one will be receiving it for a present, however I couldn't pass up a couple of bottles of their Shiraz.
After 4 more stops I had then planned to call into the town of Yallingup but the clouds closed in and it began to pour so with the wipers on the ‘flat out’ setting I headed straight to Dunsborourgh and checked in. I did get completely drenched and so to avoid a second saturation drove the car one block closer to the shops. Back at the hotel I wrote, made dinner and decided that since there was a spa I should make use of it.
TIP: The Margaret River Region; if you arrive in a town in the rain and it still looks inviting it gets my vote!
TRACK: Love Love Love – Avalanche City
TITLE: Father’s Day travelling along the railway.
IN SHORT: So arriving at the train station in layered Michelin style I watched passengers check in their 20kg bags and wheel equally colossal bags out to the platform, at this point I became slightly envious and a little overheated. If you haven’t read yesterday’s post this state is due to my hand luggage consisting of presents and my wearing most of what I wanted on-board. Please! Some uniformity with the baggage restriction information!
All aboard! And one off to the airport, the poor love was a bit claustrophobic. Admittedly I thought the single cabins were the size of a toilet cubicle but that was only until I went to the toilet and it turns out the toilet cubicles are half the size so that's something. Speaking of toilets, there is a sign near the flush button with an apple core symbol floating in mid-air and a red line through it - when was the last time you took off to the nearest toilet with your apple core just to flush it?
I came back from an enjoyable meal with a fine group of people to find my cabin had transformed into sleep mode and dispensed a chocolate on my pillow. The only issue was that this set up left you with about 20 square centimetres in which to change, so I wasn’t surprised to see people sitting in the hallway to get their shoes off. Nor would I be surprised if people just wear their pyjamas to dinner tomorrow night.
We came to a halt at Kalgoorlie station around 11pm, an hour later than expected, some set off on a tour that went for nearly 2 hours but as I could barely keep my eyes open I went for a brief stroll and called it a night. Not much sleep happened - I think they were trying to make up time, at one stage my doona shook itself off.
Happy Father’s Day Dad!
TIP: Don’t spray on deodorant in your cabin when the door is shut. Just don’t.
KMS: 39 (to the station) total train kilometres on arrival in Adelaide.
TRACK: Holy Grail - Hunters & Collectors
TITLE: Red, red wine.
IN SHORT: The Adelaide Hills and The Barossa Valley. Sorry, that was probably a bit too short.
Together we left the city bound for Mt. Lofty to check out the view. Numb, we continued onto Hahndorf where we explored the various specialty shops that line Main Street of Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement. As it had reached a more appropriate hour we stopped in at a couple of wineries, one of which I found positively frustrating. I was hard pressed to find a wine that I didn’t like!
Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop was next on our agenda, here we watched a cooking demonstration and enjoyed a picnic lunch overlooking the lake, o’ so full! Not the lake, my stomach. Slow to move but back on the road we made 3 more stops, a wine purchase and took group shot on a hill overlooking the vines. At just past 5pm we left the Barossa behind and headed back into the city.
TIP: Your eyes can never be bigger than your stomach so I think the problem is Maggie Beer; every product bearing her name is so true to the flavours of the featured ingredient, not only that, but she then takes it to a whole new level. So therefore, you cannot blame your eyes, you can blame your taste buds, all of them. They will tell your brain that your stomach is more than capable of ‘eating all that’, especially at Maggie’s Farm Shop.
TRACK: You & Steve McQueen – The Audreys
TITLE: I can see for miles, I think!
IN SHORT: A 5am check out and on the road by 5:30am. The bus headed North passing through the Tropic of Capricorn in the dark. As the sun came up we sped past small towns all with interesting histories and stopped for lunch at Wauchope. Later, the Devil’s Marbles were a welcome reward, you could easily wander for hours or perch on your own marble in the sun - which by the way was out in force!
We kept moving on from Tennant Creek where an elderly man had sat in his gofer waiting patiently for a 50+ metre road train to shift from his path and a local laughed at our bus’ plastic bull bar, and rightly so. As fires burned a kilometre from the road side the unrelenting straight continued. The appeal of the isolation and sense of freedom this road offered was very apparent, something Dad experienced nearly everyday.
At 6pm the bus pulled into Banka Banka Cattle Station, tents for the night and a feast for dinner.
With no reception I’m now sitting by the campfire somewhat distracted by the mass of stars and the roar of road trains as they barrel past.
TIP: Find out the nutritional value of the humble termite before consumption, if there is none, why would you!
TRACK: Going North - Missy Higgins
TITLE: Friends in high rises.
IN SHORT: Ahh, the first morning I’ve not had to pack up! Darwin is base for the next few days and today, a day to check it out. It was my intention to begin the day after a sleep in but I watched the sun rise over the harbour instead. After spending a little time in hammock heaven I was off to explore. Very easy to find your way around, ended up at Wharf One and had lunch at Il Lido. Did mistake a gas plant in the distance for a large ship, could be due for an eye check.
Got a lift back ‘home’ and headed off to check out the pool. To go from a tent to luxury in the space of 24 hours was a bit hard to take but I’m progressing well and should make a full recovery by tomorrow.
A half hour later I was in the car and off to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market. The real coconut milkshake was a definite winner! Did also try crocodile, not at the same time.
Watched the sun go down from the Nightcliff Jetty.
TIP: Get some sleep. Location: Mindil Beach
“What’s the beach called?”
KMS: 4 + 10
TRACK: Sunsets - Tamarama
TITLE: Wayward dingo.
IN SHORT: Three girls on the road to Litchfield National Park. Three girls who were actually on their way to the airport, but once the map was rotated and a u-turn made we were back on track.
Cruising down the Stuart Highway and only minutes into the morning's drive I wasn't expecting to test the brakes so soon. A dingo sauntered with speed across our path doubling back with a snarl as if to taunt. I'm sure those dingos that appear in the brochures afford the Marie Claire like airbrushing usually reserved for aging celebrities. This one was looking rough!
First stop, the Magnetic Termite Mounds, from there, Wangi Falls which reopened for swimming just 3 days earlier, I can't say that instilled a great deal of confidence!
Quite hungry we pulled into the Monsoon Cafe for lunch. After, we headed down (which also means up) 130+ steps into the Florence Falls plunge pool, 'cheers' were free flowing as so many were obeying the no alcohol signs while we were polishing off the last of our water.
Buley Rock-hole was the days' frontrunner, a series of rock holes along Florence Creek cascading down a hillside, people from all walks of life sat in the flowing water on different levels enjoying the sun and the fact that even with so many people, not one could be heard. You were able to lose yourself in thought disturbed only by the brush of a passing leaf sparking 'snake alert' in your brain and triggering some amusing reactions.
A BBQ dinner on the deck by the pool was a fitting way to end a laid back day as the affects of an early start and unavoidable sun made themselves known.
TIP: Automatic cars have never had a clutch. So when lined up in the express lane for the evening's refreshments jamming your foot on the 'clutch' causes mild whip lash.
TRACK: Class A - Pete Murray
TITLE: The day after the night before.
IN SHORT: I probably should’ve come straight home after dinner last night, fun with friends on my last night in town! I'm still not quite sure why I have a 100 dollar chip and I can't recall asking the taxi driver how he 'does his turban.' I also have some lovely photos with some members of the local indigenous community. Just quietly, feeling a little worse for wear today!
Tomorrow I’ll head west though the Kimberley region, my bag is near bursting at the seams but it's packed and I’m now ready to set off into one of the most amazing and remote places in the country.
It’s been confirmed that internet connection will be near to impossible travelling through this region therefore tomorrow night will be my last update until I reach Broome. I’ll continue to write the updates each day and post those 10 entries in bulk when I arrive, from then on it will continue as normal.
For now it’s time for bed, an early start tomorrow and nearly 700 kilometres to travel!
TIP: Almost everything is funny after no sleep so only surround yourself with close friends... anyone else might think you've lost it!
KMS: 2 (apparent kilomtres: 12)
TRACK: Days Like This – Van Morrison
TITLE: ‘No swimming’ (rainbow serpent).
IN SHORT: Woken by a dingo pack howling in the distance and the kookaburra that was kindly filling in as the replacement rooster, we headed in early to start the walk into Cathedral Gorge. The black and orange beehive domes of the Bungle Bungle Ranges are truly captivating; this can be a bit of an issue when you should be looking where to land your next step! My photography in the Cathedral itself has done it little justice but the acoustics made for an exceptional rendition of a Bob Dylan classic.
We took a walk to the Piccaninny Creek Lookout before driving on to Echidna Chasm. The colours of the Chasm we walked were incredible, the clear blue sky and shear orange cliffs formed a backdrop for the vibrant green Livistona palms and the reflections of sunlight on the creek bed below.
While I’m sure flying high above the ranges is a breathtaking event, to travel amongst them by 4WD and on foot was a privilege and an experience I won’t forget.
That evening we made our way toward the Kungkalanau Lookout for sunset. With 360 degree views it was a top spot to end a great day and the most unlikely place to run into someone from home!
TIP: Hat, sunscreen, water, camera. All essential!
TRACK: Compass – Saltwater Band
TITLE: Scones on the Gibb.
IN SHORT: After a night spent dreaming of crossing rocks our first stop was Zeebedee Springs for a thermal dip. The Pentecost River Crossing was up next, then a taste the flowering Kapoc at a nearby lookout, apparently it tastes like aniseed, but mine tasted like the strawberry jelly baby I’d finished a couple of minutes earlier. Further up the road we stopped at the site of some rock art and learnt about the Aboriginal Culture of the area, powerfully represented by the mouthless spirits of the Wandjina.
Once across the Durak River we witnessed a ‘Willy Willy’ this being a localised wind storm that forms a tightly spiralling vortex of dust-gathering wind, a strange sight when there’s not a breath of wind to be seen elsewhere.
We pulled into Ellenbrae Homestead having turned off the Gibb River Road and down a 5km ‘driveway’. There you can have scones, or scones, no complaints as they were the best I’ve ever eaten! Though I have less regard for their public ‘system’ and obeyed the wise advice ‘don’t look, don’t sit’.
And so it was back on the corrugated Gibb River Road. While I continued to inhale enough dust to warrant the design of an internal enyo mit I could still see enough to acknowledge that the region needs no enhancement. There is no need for extra contrast, saturation, vibrancy or hue, the Kimberley has it covered.
Having rolled into Mt Barnett Station and set up camp at Manning Gorge we were advised it was Census night, the ‘how many bedrooms’ question got a laugh as we counted the tents.
TIP: Don’t wash your feet in the river when the route back to camp is sand followed by red dirt and you only brought thongs.
TRACK: Wide Open Road – Bob Evans
TITLE: The last of the Gibb River Road.
IN SHORT: Originally constructed to transport cattle from surrounding stations to the ports, the Gibb River Road has since become better known for blown tyres, corrugations that shake you senseless and multiple river crossings. Along with the challenges the rewards are endless, it’s a chance to experience a true side of Australia, visit cattle stations, Aboriginal communities, secluded gorges, see wildlife in its natural habitat and meet the genuine characters of the bush.
So now with the 660kms of the Gibb complete the day became about getting to Broome, late morning we crossed the Fitzroy River and headed into Derby before a brief stop at the Prison Boab Tree. We arrived into town after lunch for a lazy afternoon and an amazing sunset on Cable Beach.
Having spent 10 days crossing the Kimberley a night out was in order. I know I enjoyed myself because I was so tired I went to bed with my feet still in the sleeping bag cover and my head torch on my head (still on).
Before moving on, a big thank you to those of you who made the Kimberley leg a memorable one (in a good way), you all know who you are!
TIP: The Kimberley already has it all so it’s the friends you make, the music and the laughs you have along the way that will see you remember it for years to come.
TRACK: Paris Nights/New York Mornings – Corrine Bailey Rae
TITLE: Dinosaur rides on Cable Beach.
IN SHORT: Breakfast by the pool followed by a whole day on the netbook playing catch up. By 3pm I decided I’d better do something or for the first time I’d have nothing to write about! I phoned and booked a Sunset Camel Ride. Did I actually want to ride a camel? Not really!
The walk from the hotel to the beach was a couple of kilometres but I was not tempted as a man in a 4WD pulled up alongside to offer a lift, while I’m sure he had my best interests at heart I politely declined and vowed to get the bus back.
I got to the beach a little ahead of time so I took some photos while I waited, all was going well until one camel let out a prehistoric bellow that seemed to reverberate through its dinosaur like frame, at which point I went and sat on a rock to contemplate if the next hour plus was really going to be the best use of my time.
After a brief demonstration it was time to board, once seated with our seat belts firmly fastened we were advised where to find our life jackets and then we were off, at a slow and rather lopsided pace (photo - middle camel on the back).
My dinosaur’s name was Jacko and we were second last in a line of at least 20. Jacko was from Alice Springs originally and used to work at Uluru before deciding on a sea change and taking up office on Cable Beach. He kept his bellowing to a minimum but preferred to walk beside his friend Isaac as opposed to in a line. Thankfully Isaac was very tolerant and didn’t seem to mind.
Look it was lovely. I just didn’t really relax until we were almost back!
Once I was on my feet we were to reward our camel with a carrot. As I held mine out to Jacko it fell to the ground, he looked at me as if to say ‘seriously, you’ve just sat on me for over an hour and all you had to do was give me a carrot, come on!’ I got it right the second time, I think he smiled.
I'd heard the elderly lady behind me on the slobbering dinosaur say that she was sure she wouldn’t be able to walk when she got down, but as I was waddling back up the path she sped past with a normal gait. She must do yoga.
TIP: Don’t take photos of the sunset from a moving camel; you’d have more luck from a moving vehicle.
TRACK: White Knuckle Ride - Jamiroquai
TITLE: The bus that rocked.
IN SHORT: Who’d have thought there was another road with so much more ‘nothing’ than the Stuart Highway, it really was incredible and I mean that without a hint of sarcasm (admittedly this picture was taken a day later but I like it).
We made a quick toilet stop at Stanley, identified by a patch of red dirt the size of a small football field with a toilet and reggae music floating through the air from a nearby Range Rover that had seen better days.
A short time later we took a break for lunch at the Sandfire Roadhouse which was back better than ever having been destroyed by fire in 2007, 2008 and 2009. I was pleased to see Mother Nature had kept fires in the area to a minimum of late, it was nearly 2pm, it was hot and I was hungry and the highway offered no alternatives!
After lunch we spent an hour at 80 Mile Beach and then continued on, welcoming any sight of a tree that was slightly taller than all the others! We arrived at Pardoo Station and checked into the ‘walk-in wardrobes’, made use of the last of the last night with reception for a while and headed off to bed early.
TIP: The 'Mine Game' is a game for life, Facebook has it listed under 'Sport and Recreation' What is it exactly? The rules are simple. If you say the word 'mine' in response to having been provoked by someone in question form, you HAVE to do 10 pushups wherever you are at the time. This was to be an ongoing source of amusement.
TRACK: Picture Frames - Georgia Fair
TITLE: Nothing to do and all day to do it.
IN SHORT: Why nothing? I have never been good with heights or more specifically being on the edge of anything high, Karijini National Park and its gorges had me beat. Yet there is something about this I can appreciate, it means that it may still be a while before future development makes these areas accessible to the hordes. As it is, many overestimate their ability or just simply misjudge their next step so it’s not uncommon to hear about a fall or a helicopter rescue. There is nothing wrong with challenging yourself, just do your research, talk to someone who has done it before.
TIP: Know your limits and don’t be too proud to make them known.
TRACK: The Great Beyond - REM
TITLE: Relaxed? ‘Shore Thing!’
IN SHORT: A day with mates, but first thing’s first, washing! A quick stop in at the supermarket for a heavy duty stain (red dust) remover, a tour of Coral Bay’s one street and sweeping white sandy beach on Bill’s Bay before making our way to ‘Kenya’ to do my washing. Where? The Coral Bay settlement has never been listed as a town site and residential land has not been available for freehold purchase for some time, so many who work there live in onsite vans. The ‘Kenya’ tag comes from the car lined dusty ‘streets’ and the shade cloth that also acts to provide some privacy. This place exudes character so I was looking forward to coming back for dinner!
In the mean time I had a boat to check out!
The ‘Shore Thing’ is a purpose built, live-aboard sailing catamaran it's 51 feet in length and 27 feet in width, the ideal vessel for guests to experience the natural wonders of the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. For me just a short time aboard was enough for me to give it a place among of the highlights of the last 33 days.
We ate lunch overlooking the bay with a glass or two of wine before wandering down to Bill’s Bay to watch the spangled emperors being fed. After the sun set I had a great night with friends over a delicious home cooked meal, lots of laughs and a little more wine.
TIP: You’ll need a torch to find your way out of ‘Kenya.’
TRACK: When the Night Feels My Song – Bedouin Soundclash
TITLE: The Bold Lines join in Perth!
IN SHORT: A big day on the road to get to Perth. First stop, Geraldton, the largest town between Perth and Darwin and the first time I’d seen a set of traffic lights in 24 days. Sandy Cape was up next for some sand-boarding, though mine was a somewhat wary attempt - no one wanted to be the third casualty!
Injury free we headed to Jurien Bay for lunch and on to the Nambung National Park to check out the Pinnacles Desert. Thousands of limestone pillars rise up from the yellow desert floor and we wandered amongst them for an hour or so. It's kind of a shame that a loop road runs in and around these eroded relics. I have a photo of a lovely new Toyota Landcruiser posing alongside these ancient structures. Don’t let this deter you though, seeing this unique landscape for yourself is a great experience.
We hit Perth just before 5, I loitered out front of the city train station with my bags while I waited for my cousin to get through traffic. From there we headed out Fremantle way, my base for the next week. After washing away the last 10 days of travelling, my cousin, her husband and their 4 year old son took ‘Aunty Bridget’ out for dinner to Little Creatures in Fremantle. Thank you all for a great night!
My own room! Goodnight!
TIP: Wherever you are, be there.
TRACK: Living Darfur – Mattafix
TITLE: On my own all by myself.
IN SHORT: Off early to the hire car company to pick up a vehicle and find my way out of the city and onto the freeway. All in all it was quite straight-forward once I turned around and went the right way.
With a quick break on the outskirts of Bunbury it was on to Busselton to check out the longest timber-piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere, 1.84 kilometres long! You do have to pay a small fee just to walk on it but there’s a good reason. After the jetty closed as a port in 1973 the government was no longer responsible for maintaining it. This, combined with the effects of a cyclone 5 years later saw the formation of a community organisation who together raised the necessary funds and later contributed 50% of the amount required to replace the structure, establish the train service and construct the underwater observatory. It’s a great little walk! Just make sure you don’t leave anything at the other end, you really only need to do the walk once.
I'd say it was about 40 minutes later and just as I was approaching the ‘Welcome to Margaret River’ sign that it bucketed down! So there you have it, the end of 38 days of sun! Nevermind, next two hours were spent happily wandering the main street, meeting some locals and sorting myself out with some dinner.
TIP: In the Noongar language, ‘up’ means ‘place of.’ There's Meelup, Yallingup, Cowaramup, Injidup, Calgardup, Metricup, Kudardup, Boranup, Wilyabrup and Makeoneup. So, Bottomsup! No, on second thoughts that would mean ‘place of bottoms,’ and I just wanted to say cheers.
TRACK: Every Day Should be a Holiday – The Dandy Warhols
TITLE: This track isn’t leading anywhere!
IN SHORT: I was checked out by 9am aware that the ‘impending’ thunderstorm had taken the previous day off and had plans to make up for lost time. I took the Cape Naturaliste Road to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse - that made sense I thought. Apparently that was the extent of my navigation skills because I lost my game and took the Lighthouse Loop walk, which does exactly that, takes you on a loop of the lighthouse, not to it. So upon returning to the car park I had a new hair style (it was very windy) and a photo of the lighthouse with a whole lot of trees in front. I had intended to find the right path but the rain set in so I left.
Arriving in Yallingup to massive surf I drove around a bit looking for the town centre, after 15 minutes of trying different roads and turning around in people’s driveways I called into the caravan park and said to the ladies at reception. “I realise this is a ridiculous question and I’ve probably just missed a sign, but where is the town centre?” “Ahh, you’re in it” they said, laughing. Whoops! I was looking for somewhere in particular so I got the address and found the place, just out of ‘town.’
Driving back to Perth with the road map on my lap so I didn’t miss the exit and surrounded by black clouds I found my way through the outskirts of Perth and into Fremantle to the car hire place. In 3 days I’d managed to accumulate enough brochures, maps and information sheets to make a piñata. I was busy donating them to someone’s wheelie bin when my cousin arrived to pick me up.
While she and her husband went out to sort some building matters, I ‘small child sat.’ After an hour of tonker trucks, lego ships, drawing and tiny teddy consumption we all took off to check out the Northern Beaches, Leighton where kite surfers braved the gusty but probably ideal conditions, Cottesloe, the City and Scarborough Beaches.
As we travelled home I was most impressed to hear a 4 year old sing all the lyrics to one of Mumford and Sons finest tunes. Love your work and so proud you found a suitable substitute for that word.
TIP: When singing at the top of your lungs in the car, make sure you've hit 'end' on the last phone call.
TRACK: Fast Car – Boyce Avenue
TITLE: Watching the world go by.
IN SHORT: Awake at... oh that’s right, I was awake all night! A coffee arrived at my door at 6:30am, thank you, thank you, thank you! Eyes half shut became eyes slightly more open. There are some wonderful people on the train, those I had breakfast with were no exception, one couple shared the story of their trip across the Nullarbor to Sydney back in the summer of 1967. With dust rising from the gravel roads they travelled across country for 72 hours in a HR Holden with their 3 young children. One incredible feat and no doubt a journey with so many memories!
After more coffee, orange juice, bircher muesli and poached eggs I could barely move. I managed to make it back to my cabin and once there I wrote, stared out the window at the wildflowers and became slightly confused as to why some still had their blinds shut, surely that’s kind of like watching a television with the power off?
We crossed the border from Western Australia into South Australia marked by a sign that went whizzing by before I could get my camera out. We stopped briefly at Cook for an airing and then we ate again. As a passenger you do a lot of that; eat, sit, eat, sit, have a glass of wine, eat, try to sleep. Start over.
TIP: Where there is seemingly no service or internet connection, one might be surprised to find that waving your net book around your cabin does wonders, just doesn’t do much for your balance.
KMS: Total train kilometres on arrival in Adelaide.
TRACK: Paperback Writer – The Beatles
TITLE: Homeward bound.
IN SHORT: I had breakfast with Mum and our friends before taking a taxi to the airport, very fitting that the driver was sporting a well ‘done’ turban, purple it was (see day 12).
Once on the plane it was an hour to Melbourne which was over before it began, we landed, the seatbelt sign went off and everyone began moving about, only to be told to sit back down as there was someone requiring medical attention. We had been sitting for all of 5 minutes when the women on either side began to complain. I didn’t say anything, clearly the person wasn’t well, I thought it was the least we could do!
I had a few hours to fill so I headed toward my gate to write. With no flights due to leave for a while there was no one else about so I thought the term ‘random’ was a bit wrong when the security man stopped me for a random explosives test. How random is it when there is no one else there? Three hours later I was on the plane to Hobart.
Driving back toward the city alone, it occurred to me as I got closer that it felt a little odd to be back, I don’t know what I was expecting, did it feel unfamiliar or as if I’d never left? Maybe it just felt as if I’d stopped. In 7 weeks I had learnt so much, met amazing people, seen incredible parts of Australia, laughed, cried, been challenged enough to discover more about myself than I ever intended and completed a large part of a journey that had been on my mind for years. And now I was home.
As I drove over the bridge toward my house I realised I’d barely given it a thought, nor my belongings or any part of what had basically been my routine for the last 3 years. At this moment all I knew for sure was that while I had missed my family and friends, this project was an experience of a lifetime, an adventure that allowed me to reconnect with old memories, make new ones, be inspired and enjoy every waking hour for what it was.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this; whether you have listened, given advice, shared stories, offered encouragement, sent emails and messages, joined in my excitement, created opportunity or were able to support this project with your service or product; you have all contributed in ways for which I will always be grateful.
To everyone who followed along on Facebook and on The Bold Line website and to all the wonderful people I met along the way, thank you for your support and for your part in making the last 7 weeks everything it could be!
TIP: Please stay in touch, this is not over yet!
KMS: 17 + 641 + 615 + 63
TRACK: Big Jet Plane – Angus and Julia Stone