Beating About the Bush, 60 Days in Northern Australia (part 16 – Mornington)

After Manning Gorge, Mornington ‘wilderness’ camp is our next stop.

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Mornington is run by Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC). Normally one has to book ahead but when we arrived the repeater station that allows one to radio to the station office was out of action and had been replaced by a sign saying “If you arrive prior to 11 am just come on down”. Since we arrive at 10 am we proceed down to the camp.

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Mornington is one of a string of reserves established by AWC [http://www.australianwildlife.org/] which are designed to address the appalling state of the Australian natural environment which has the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world. The failure to protect habitat, effectively, is one of the key factors in this decline, with the others being excessive burning and feral animals. We should all be eating Cat pie on a daily basis since this would (a) put the cattle industry – which is one of the key factors in habitat destruction – into terminal decline. It would also mean that we would reduce the impact of cats which kill 70 million Australian native animals daily.

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The great attraction of Mornington is that it provides some respite from the crowds one encounters in most other parts of the Kimberley. Despite its reputation the Kimberley is not remote and the Gibb River Road is better than the average road in Byron Shire and certainly has less potholes. If you happen to break down the only way you would get as many offers of assistance in, say Sydney, in 30 minutes would be if you stood at the side of the road offering free bags of money. So there is little risk to travelling in the Kimberley any more unless you are either (a) drive dangerously or (b) go fishing for salties with your arms or legs.

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The other nice thing about Mornington is that they have a good restaurant – although you have to take what is on offer but a la carte might be a bit much to expect given where they are located. Both Kaylee and I and Roger and Jill separately decided assist environmental efforts by eradicating some of the excess beef cattle around. Very nice romantic starlit evenings with good wine and food. Or at least Jill and Roger’s would have been had Roger not spent most of the evening on the phone to their sons.

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Mornington is where camper-rig envy first kicked in. Having spent the last five weeks lazing around in creeks and walking to remote-ish parts of the Kimberley, Kaylee has decided that would like to continue in this manner should the Department of Education be prepared to continue funding her to laze around on holidays. But to do it she requires a state of the art four wheel drive and camping rig.

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The end result of this is that anyone who camps within about 200 metres is at risk of having their entire morning devoted to showing Kaylee every spare inch of their ‘rig’. With each inspection some new requirement is added: the motorised tent so that no effort is required to stow it, the double fridge all on rollers, the sliding sink, the kitchen with 50 separate little drawers for every conceivable object, the espresso machine, the built in massage space etc. As each mornings passes you can an extra year to the length of time she will need to work before she can afford even half of such a beast.

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Our first morning is spent at Bluebush water hole, on the Fitzroy, its is yet another beautiful swimming hole but from my perspective the main asset is a rope swing which allows me to indulge my never to be sated passion for being a ten-year old and my fantasies about flying.

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We visit two gorges at Mornington, Dimond Gorge and Sir John Gorge. Both of these sit on the Fitzroy River which drains a vast area of the Kimberley and has 20 major tributaries. It is 733 kilometres long and drains an area of 94,000 square kilometres, just over 3 times the size of Belgium. Flood flows are among the largest in the world for a catchment of this size and the 1993 flood reached 25,000 cubic metres per second equivalent to 15 Olympic pools each second. Each gorge and waterhole are completely different.

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On our second day we head off for Dimond Gorge. Normally we would have hired canoes and gone for a paddle but they are allegedly all booked. On arriving we find 7 canoes lined up unused. Either they have more cancellations than Tiger Air or the booking system leaves something to be desired. Fate comes to our rescue however and we are able to bot a canoe from two couples who have just finished using theirs. They are graziers from Walcha and discussion turns to the drought. They have now had two dry springs and say that a third one, which seems imminent, will be disastrous. Already they have cattle on agistment around Ensay in Victoria.

 

On the way back from Dimond Gorge we take a quick detour to the wetlands. These are also part of the Fitzroy River and we are fortunate enough to see a pair of Brolgas close up, as well as a mass of long tailed finch’s. On our departure I am ambushed by a gaggle of restless flycatchers nearby and in my struggle to both follow them and take pictures I start dropping everything in my possession. Roger following behind dutifully collects everything I drop until he has the appearance of my hired sherpa. He is carrying my binoculars, binocular case, hat, sunglasses, reading glasses, jumper, t-shirt, lens hood, phone, water bottle and almost everything else I seem to have brought on the two month trip. I keeping with our reward policy he gets a Lindt ball but since he can’t eat Lindt balls I add it to my tally of rewards for giving him the opportunity to win one.

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Perhaps the most picturesque of the gorges is Sir John Gorge. Unlike most of the others it is not a high sided gorge but a long flat stretch of water bounded by low red rock walls and peppered throughout the water with rock outcrops. At sunset it turns into a photographers paradise with the sunset lighting up the walls and their reflections in the water. When we were there is was perfectly still and there was a perfect sense of tranquility while sitting on the rock ledges.

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On our final morning we all plan to go off and do various short walks. But first we must achieve our own version of lost in translation. It is the morning of Premature Packing.

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Roger, Kaylee and I are already up and Jill is awake in her tent. As Kaylee are going for breakfast in the restaurant I don’t want to leave Roger and Jill to have to pull down the tents alone, so I jump on the roof and start packing it up. But Jill has decided she needs another five minutes dozing and asks me to stop. I assume from her tone that she is joking and carry on. She descends into laughter and keeps repeating her request, so I assume she is finding the sensation of being in a small boat in a storm somewhat amusing. But sadly no, she tells me later, laughter is how she deals with stressful situations and she is not amused. I am, apparently, either as sensitive as sandpaper or have the behaviour patterns of a fifteen year old, but Jill cannot tell which.

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As with all things it is a question of perspective. I view Jill as being incredibly selfish for wanting an extra five minutes sleep when everyone else is up and running and somewhat weird for expressing her annoyance with peals of laughter. Jill views me as incredibly insensitive and disrespectful for not listening to her requests to stop packing. Everyone is displeased. If nothing else one understands how World War 1 started.

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I am largely oblivous to all this since Kaylee and I have taken off for a bit of amateurish twitching on Annie’s Creek where we see a myriad of bush birds including the purple crowned wren, double-barred finch and crimson finch, as well as bower birds, pigeons, doves, honeyeaters etc. Jill meantime is working herself into a state of furious indignation which is to reveal itself later.

 

By 10 am we are packed and on the road to Bell Gorge. En route we stop to try and spot the ever-elusive and extremely endangered Gouldian Finch but we are out of luck so we have to make do with Boab Valley which is a creek line almost dominated by 100s of Boab trees.

Mornington disappears behind us and we are on our way to Windjana Gorge.

 

 

 

 

Beating About the Bush, 60 Days in Northern Australia (Part 10 – Kununurra)

From Purnululu we head for Kununurra which will be our next rest day after Katherine. Our first stop, for fuel and refreshments is Warmun (formerly Turkey Creek). Here we meet, John, another intrepid cyclist. He is from New Zealand and is en route from Darwin to Perth. His wife has abandoned him for the trip as she considers his passion for riding long distances over main roads to be something only explicable in the average asylum.

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His two main loads are 30 litres of water and a bird book the size of the average car fridge. He expects to be in Broome, some 700 kilometres away, in two weeks. His trip has been a positive experience with passing motorists offering, water, lifts, tea and cake. He notes that women are much more positive about his trip than men, with the women offering praise and enthusiasm and the men offering assessments of his sanity. John suggests that men feel that their masculinity is threatened because they are cruising comfortably in four-wheel drives, so they feel compelled to belittle his achievement.

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The scenery as we travel east is a mixture of spinifex plains and low mountain ranges topped by escarpments. The Goddess of Weird Excitability at Very Small Things Indeed (GoWEaVSTI) is agog. If we still used cellulose film instead of digital there would scarcely be enough cellulose to sate her enthusiasm. As we broach a rise in the road a low range of hills appears as a pimple in the distance. It is surely topped by a very nice escarpment! “Stop, the GoEaVSTI urges us, “scarcely a more glorious range of hills has ever been seen, it must be photographed immediately”

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A collective rolling of eyes occurs. “But, GoWEaVSTI, it is very similar to many other such ranges and will, indeed, not be capture-able on the implement for capturing such images. It will be simply a line on the horizon.” But captured it was. And, lo, it was a line on the horizon.

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We roll into Kununurra, which advertises itself as the gateway to the Kimberley. It is packed full of tourists along with a few intrepid travellers, like ourselves, who are exploring where thousands have gone before. We find ourselves ensconced in the Kimberleyland Holiday Park.

Unfortunately the lakeside site which we should have had is denied us when Roger appears unable to choose between a beautiful, green lakeside side with views of sunsets, birds, water and numerous other upmarket facilities and a dusty, non-lakeside site, with no views, directly on the toilet block and hence passed by several dozen visitors each five minutes. As an added bonus we are mere feet from the kiddies playground which, I should add, does not change my view on involuntary euthanasia for noisy children.

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Forced by Roger to consult and achieve consensus over such a difficult choice we find ourselves gazumped by the next arrivals, who for some reason, unlike Roger, are able to see, on the map, that the site indicated as being by the lake is, indeed, by the lake. Our camp plot is lost. Some compensation is achieved by the fact that we are adjacent to a very pleasant family from Macedon, Victoria, called the Royals. The Royals pass us important and confidential information about destinations which are, of course, not available to other tourists. This includes secret information such as the most popular camping spots around Wyndham.

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Since it is late and no one feels inclined to cook we go for dinner across the road. The food is passable but the décor of a variety of female crotch and tit shots leaves something to be desired. MONA it is not.

Our days in Kununurra are dedicated to business and provisions, as well as a brief lunch with Lloyd, Lynda and two friends who are traveling with them. But first order of business is locating the town’s best coffee shop which is the Mango Tree on the corner of the main street. We also have to get our temporary repair to the sump crash plate fixed.

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While the car is being fixed I retreat to the library. It is a beautiful new library and I am apparently funding its entire construction costs in the amount I am paying for access to the internet. At least it is a good investment since I am able to respond to my tax accountant about some questions he has about my tax return. He is unconvinced that by using the local coffee shop in Byron for work, I can charge all my 365 morning coffees against my tax.

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We replenish our food and alcohol supplies. Licensing rules in Kununurra limit us to one bottle of spirits per person, so we need three separate purchases. The most important additional purchase, over and above the gin and tonic, is a bottle of Baileys to add to the morning espresso. For the uninitiated this is an essential component of camping trips which I discovered on freezing cold climbing trips in Joshua Tree and Red Rocks in the US. When you get up, sit in a chair facing east, in your sleeping bag and watch the sunrise while drinking coffee and Baileys. Apart from being a perfect day-starter, it has the added advantage of relaxing one enough that one’s climbing techniques improve considerably. On this trip it improves ones dexterity while climbing on the vehicle to put the tents away.

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A part of our alcohol allocation permits the purchase of six bottles of apple cider for Jill, who promptly gets drunk on one bottle. Jill observes that alcohol does not really agree with her. Jill’s tendency to be a cheap drunk has a very problematic downside on the morning that we leave Kununurra, when Kaylee and I are outraged to discover that she has given away the rest of our communal bottles of cider because she can’t cope with the entirely predictable side-effects.

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Roger and Jill are out canoeing on the lake when Lloyd and Lynda turn up. Kaylee and I meet them in the Mango Tree. They are travelling in an identical hire vehicle to us, albeit that, because it is not a one way hire, they have been able to leave the surplus swag, chemical toilet and other encumbrances in Alice Springs. The vehicles are equipped, unlike most similar four-wheel drives, with two double tents constructed one roof.

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I observe to Lloyd and Lynda that the main drawback is their proclivity to roll around like a ship in a storm when anyone moves. There is no need for Kaylee and I to move if we want to have sex. One person simply lies on top of the other and we simply wait for Roger to turn over, at which point the swaying motion of the vehicle accomplishes everything for which one might otherwise have to exert oneself. There is the added benefit that the only thing Roger and Jill notice is that Roger has turned over. It is the perfect sexual technique for shared vehicles.

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Saturday morning sees Kaylee and I go kayaking on Lake Kununurra. My paddling technique is somewhat limited since I managed to put my back out due to Roger’s night-time movement, but it’s an easy and short paddle surrounded by a plethora of water birds. It is one of the bizarre eccentricities of bad backs that you can spend three weeks walking, lifting heavy boxes, climbing on vehicles, crawling under vehicles etc with no ill effects. On the other hand one tiny movement, with no apparent stress, and ones back decides to pack it in for three days. I am consoled by the thought of cooked breakfast at the Mango Tree.

57-IMG_1080While Kaylee and I are breakfasting, Roger does the shopping. This later proves problematic since, according to Jill, Roger is foolish enough to actually follow the shopping list. Jill’s technique, according to her own words is to waste a considerable amount of time writing a detailed list of requirement and then completely ignore it.

You then go shopping randomly adding anything you feel like and increasing or decreasing the shopping list accordingly. To quote, “I10-IMG_1033 just add at least a third more things to any list to ensure we have enough.” The logic of writing a list seems to have passed Jill by. After our breakfast I visit the chemist to replenish my reading and sunglass supply. I have a reading glass consumption rate of about 2 pairs per month and, regrettably no amount of efficiency efforts have managed to reduce that.

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Our final job is to explore getting rid of surplus gear to make packing easier – we plan to freight the chemical toilet and spare swag to Perth. We ring the local trucking companies – only one is open on a Saturday morning. They need to check on costs and delivery schedules and promise to ring back. But by the time that call comes we have already left and are out of reception range.

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We are now officially on the way down the Gibb River Road which branches off from the road to Wyndham. But first we plan a quick detour to Wyndham. It is one of those towns on which one gets mixed reports. But like Halls Creek it’s sum is greater than its parts. Many of the alleged attractions of the town are closed, such as Look Sea Fishing Charters, the crocodile farm, the botanic gardens, the Lee Tong’s Oriental Grocer, the video store and the war memorial gardens. The town is also a tad overwhelmed by a constant stream of road trains carrying ore from the nearby mine.

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Having had a poke around the town we stop for afternoon tea at the Rusty Shed, where, as with virtually ever other place we have visited, we are served by a French woman on a working holiday. It seems our hospitality industry is sustained by visitors on long-term holidays. We meet Fred there who recounts his life history as a emigre from the Netherlands and a long-term resident of Wyndham. Fred is fascinating and has strong links with the Aboriginal community. His father was part of the resistance during World War 2. He recounts the difficulties of surviving the war with virtually no food and getting arrested for cutting down trees for firewood.

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He says that even in the fifties there were massacres of Aboriginal people occurring; he quotes a case where a black tracker, from one clan group, assisted some people to kill a group of other blackfellas from a different clan group.

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On Wyndham’s positive side there is a thriving and well managed caravan park, a great cafe, The Rusty Shed, an impressive Aboriginal memorial which is hidden in the back blocks and is half dignified and half kitsch. Nearby there is the fantastic five rivers lookout from which you get a Panorama of the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf where the five huge rivers meet on an enormous flood plain.

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Leaving the Five Rivers Lookout we pick up fuel and head out down the road to the Gibb turnoff. En route we stop to photograph the “boot tree”, which appears to be a random tree into which passing motorists have thrown their worn out boots. It is at the top of the hill on the other side of double white lines. I insist we stop to get a photograph of this phenomenon and my insistence persuades Roger, just short of the crest of hill, to swerve at high speed across the double white lines in order to meet my request. Mission accomplished, Roger is advised by Jill that crossing a double white line at speed is risky and out of character and that he has been in my company for too long.        55-IMG_1078

Beating About the Bush, 60 Days in Northern Australia (Part 8 – Wolf Creek)

We are heading for Wolf Creek. Despite the film we have been able to persuade Kaylee’s children that we unlikely to suffer an early death as a result of the visit.

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Our final hours before leaving Halls Creek were filled with joy and redemption. Kaylee has given up on getting internet on her phone after the previous days traumatic call. But over dinner the evening before I decided to add another employment option to my expanding CV and have managed to find and fix the issue within 1 minute. Two Optus employees and three Telstra employees were unable to surmise that an iPhone 4 has a function in which you can pre-set your data connection to a particular network. With my immense IT skills I was able to find that setting within a matter of seconds. Kaylee is now in my debt for to the tune of 10 chocolate Lindt balls.

In addition to the Telstra phone saga, two parcel sagas have resolved themselves. Bert, our Dutch cyclist, has received his parcel. We have all, independently bumped into him in the street and have had separate parcel conversations with him. He will now return to the Netherlands convinced that Australians have a very limited conversational repertoire. My parcel has re-materialised in Byron and has allegedly been returned to sender. It’s unclear how Australia Post did this since the sender is actually in Melbourne, the intended recipient in Halls Creek and the return address is unoccupied. But full marks to Australia Post for creativity.

We do have to congratulate Australia Post on their boxes, however. In Katherine I purchased a box in which I had intended to pack my surplus and redundant items such as 4 android phone cables, jocks etc and mail them back home. But it turned out that it was cheaper to send them in two pre-paid plastic postal bags, so we ended up with one surplus box which, when flattened, it turns out, has extraordinary powers. It has served as a substitute tarpaulin, mechanics trolley, yoga mat, table mat, chopping board, sun-shade, fire-fanning device, pot-stand, among other uses. It is undoubtedly the best $3.50 I have ever spent and the flattened box is clearly so much more versatile than a flattened box from Woolworths.

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On the road to Wolf Creek, I am cogitating about snakes and tenants. The tenants, in the downstairs flat, in Byron have emailed me and sent pictures showing a dead and bloodied brown snake on their bed. Indi had, apparently gone to embrace her partner, Josh, during the night and, instead, put her hand on a snake coiled around his neck.

Leaping from her bed and abandoning her intention to hug Josh she then grabbed a nearby knife (the flat is small and similarities to Fatal Attraction are just coincidental ) and beheaded the snake. At any rate, Indi has been sufficiently traumatised by the incident that she now wants to move out and break their lease. My pointing out the fact that they have consistently left their bedroom door open and that closing the screen door will prevent snakes entering in future are apparently unpersuasive. As election results show, logic will never overcome fear.

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The road to Wolf Creek is also the Tanami Road. At this point it is relatively smooth highway but presumably, given its reputation, it must deteriorate at some point. In the absence of anything dramatic about the road to talk about the conversation turns to the trip blog. I am somewhat mortified to find myself on the side of George Brandis, in arguing that I should be free to be entirely bigoted about anything that I feel like being bigoted about, and that vilification of my fellow-travellers is justified poetic license.

02-_MG_0607Still, I think, I am defending free speech. The three fascist defenders of censorship, in the car, feel that the blog should somehow reflect truth and reality whereas I suggest, in the spirit of Rupert Murdoch that you should not let the facts get in the way of a good story. The three fascists offer that in the absence of truth, justice and the Australian way, they may refuse to participate in the blog and will with-hold circulation to their friends. But I have already pirated all the necessary email addresses so their arguments fall on deaf ears.

At this point the conversation deteriorates further. We have side-tracked into discussions about population and two of the defenders of censorship have, according to Kaylee, entirely misrepresented her views on population. When I joke that based on her defending having three children, there is clearly no relationship between population and fornication, something is lost in translation. Kaylee and I are in imminent danger of separation. Jill, on the other hand, is happy about something Roger has said to her and offers to “re-marry” him. This subsequently turns out to be a shallow and superficial offer since, judging by Jill’s offer to marry me when I bring her tea in bed, in appears that Jill will offer herself to any man bearing agreement or gifts. As a postscript, Roger confirms this tendency, since he notes that Jill has offered herself to Garth, Hugh, Megan and Georgie and Margie at different times, in return for tea. A woman of Catholic tastes.

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We arrive at Wolf Creek. It is just this side of freezing. A wind is blowing from somewhere near Macquarie Island. We rug up and ascend the 60 metres to the rim of the crater. The pictures of the crater do not do it justice. As one descends into the crater, one progressively enters a little oasis. The centre appears to have almost permanent water and it is an oasis of plant life and birds. The plant life is quite different because as the moisture evaporates it makes the area more saline and the plants in the middle must be salt tolerant.

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Most of the crater has been filled by sand and what was originally 160 metres deep is now only around 60 metres deep. The sand blows in off the Tanami and, if you walk around the rim (only Roger is energetic enough to do this and he reports back) on the side facing the Tanami the sand is only about two metres from the top of the rim. Eventually the sand will fill the crater and it will disappear.

Our trip to Wolf Creek is over but we stop for lunch nearby. Roger and Kaylee disagree over the use of meths in Kaylee’s trangia. Kaylee clearly has a view that Roger is very similar to climate deniers in that she has tangible evidence of the beneficial of adding water to meths but Roger is not prepared to accept scientific fact.

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We head back to Halls Creek and decide to stay in a motel since it is pissing with rain. We have a choice of the Best Western or the Best Western and choose the Best Western. I am not convinced that the decision to stay in a motel is unconnected to the fact that it is the final of the world cup soccer.

The motel is significantly better than it appears from the outside and has been completely and tastefully renovated. It also is an important stop for Grey Nomads since the operation of the coded locks on the room doors require an intelligence level or memory which is clearly superior to mine and are a exercise in mental agility which, no doubt, is intended to slow one’s decline into senility. My companions, far from assisting me to get in, simply enjoy my intellectual inability to manage a simple memory task.

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We have dinner at Russian Jack’s the restaurant attached to the motel. The décor is modern and decorated with images of various film actors (sometimes referred to as “stars”). The food is good and the service is excellent. Who needs gorges?

Other hidden gems of Halls Creek include a display at the IGA promoting literacy and numeracy. One gets the impression, maybe wrongly, that the town is a relatively cohesive community.

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Beating About the Bush, 60 days in Northern Australia (Part 7 – Halls Creek)

 

Having repaired our first puncture, we head for Halls Creek. It’s a town that suffers from mixed reports but we find it a pleasant stop. Physically it is not particularly attractive but it clearly has a strong sense of community.

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It has a great caravan park with a toilets that are cleaner than the average operating theatre, a new(ish) pool/recreation centre, a good and helpful visitor centre, good coffee at the cafe and the Best Western Motel while looking entirely uninviting from the outside is newly and relatively tastefully renovated and its restaurant ‘Russian Jack’s,’ named after a gold mining legend, is also more than passable.

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Our first stop on entering town is to fuel up and then to the tourist bureau. We are beautifully serviced by two very efficient tourist workers who may well have been abandoned when Priscilla Queen of the Desert passed through.

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We ask about tyre repairs and I race off to find the recommended location but it is very closed. The only solution to that problem is more coffee. As it turns out Halls Creek is more multicultural than one might have imagined and we are served good coffee at the Bakery by a South American woman who clearly knows her coffee.

I return to find Kaylee on the phone to Telstra again. The frustration meter has finally rea13-IMG_0555ched the red zone and I fear for her blood pressure levels. My attempts to persuade her to calm down are met with a stream of invective and arm movements that resemble a manic semaphore operator. I retreat. Kaylee gives up. We head for the campground.

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The campground ‘grass’ doesn’t look as if it has seen water in several years and the pine railings have passed their use by date. We camp near a permanent resident living in a dilapidated camper that clearly no longer runs. The resident himself has seen better days and has a hang dog look and one arm. On the other side of the camping circle are two women who appear obsessively neat. Jill postulates that they are lesbian based on her extensive sampling of lesbian campers which has led to her lesbian camping theory.

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According to Jill, she has camped with two groups of lesbian campers at different times. Both have been very neat and therefore, so the theory goes, if two women campers are neat they are, ipso facto, lesbians. We question her on her theory and the margin of error. Did she run controls? No satisfactory answers are forthcoming. Further research and larger samples are required.

We rush to cook dinner ahead of the approaching rain. Despite the approaching rain and cold, however, we must first complete important pre-dinner rituals. We have purchased gin and tonic and dinner cannot be consumed prior to gin and tonic, as is required by travel regulations. Up to this point dinner standards have been unacceptably low since not only have pre-dinner rituals not been followed but decent coffee has not been available after dinner due to the absence of an espresso maker. That was a situation that was remedied in Katherine with the purchase of a stove-top espresso maker.

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To complement the important elements of the meal we are having pasta with roast chicken and Roger is despatched to town with orders never to return without an organic, free-range, roast chicken. When he has not returned after 60 minutes we fear he may have taken his instructions seriously. But, no, he was just having a toilet stop.

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Across the campground is a lone cyclist who we invite for drinks. Bert is a Dutch mechanic who works for four months of the year and cycles for another eight months. His partner who is back in the Netherlands is due to join him. He met her while cycling from Puntas Arenas in southern Chile to Alaska. He rides a specially constructed mountain bike which can carry all his gear. This includes a special single wheel behind his bike over which he hangs 50 litres of water enabling him to ride from Sydney to Perth via Alice and his current ride which is the Canning Stock route. He has also cycled through China to Lao, Vietnam and Burma.

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I am able to commiserate with Bert who after two weeks is still waiting for a special food parcel with his dehydrated food. It was sent via Australia Post from Adelaide and is still somewhere in a special Australia Post orbit along with my package to Darwin which has clearly been in the same parcel Nirvana. This reminds me to check Australia Post’s special “mail tracking” system, since we now have internet reception.

Checking the Australia Post tracking system is the equivalent for physical items of being put on hold by Telstra. “Thank you for checking, your package is entirely unimportant to us. We have no idea where it is, failed to scan it properly, cannot give you any useful information and, in any case can only give you information if you are the sender but not if you are the recipient. You parcel may or may not be extant and may or may not arrive one day. Check again when your frustration levels have fallen.

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Bed-time approaches. Today, Jill sets a new record for early to bed as she turns in slightly before 7 pm. Even Kaylee who thinks that any bed-time after 9.30 pm is the equivalent of a night on the town, has not managed to get to bed this early, which I note, judging by the parties going on around us, (it is the NAIDOC week celebrations occurring) is earlier than the bed-time of a Halls Creek 10 year old.

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During the day we have discovered that the car has suffered more undercarriage issues. It is this tendency to temperamental behaviour that has led to her being called Beyonce. It appears that the car repairs that Jill undertook that neatly removed the radiator crash plate from beneath the car also sheared off the bolts that held the main sump protection plates and these are now hanging down about two inches beneath the front of the vehicle, perfectly placed to hit any large rocks or other obstructions in the road. It this occurs the plate will buckle smashing the sump and bringing our trip to a premature climax.

The night brings heavy rain and in the morning it is cold and gloomy. Our night has been disturbed by the NAIDOC celebrations but the music quality was good. No Abba, country music or heavy metal was played. But Kaylee feels she has been living on the edge in a risky town with the repeated sound of police sirens. She is a little disappointed when I point out it was a car alarm.

Jill and I both have early morning showers. I am passing under the tent at 7am when it decides to drop its night full of cold water on me. Jill suffers early morning trauma when, at 7.10 am she pours the content of her third cup of tea of herself. But her trauma is not caused by the shock of the hot water but by the loss of the tea. Counselling is in order.

Kaylee’s spirit is lifted, however by her visit to the shower. On entering the shower the sole female occupant turns to Kaylee and radiant smile and a look of joy and adulation passes over her face as she raises her arms and shouts “At last you have come”. It is apparently truly a miracle and Kaylee foresees a new career as the Messiah. Sadly, she reports later, it is merely that the worshipper was unable to reach the socket in order to plug in her hair drier and Kaylee, being three inches taller, could. Kaylee tries to persuade us that she was the same height as the other woman and, in keeping with her new status as Messiah, simply levitated.

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I, again, call Nathan the company owner about Beyonce’s problems. He commiserates with us that in two years of operations he has received five calls from renters who have had on-road problems and we have made three of them. I suspect he is thinking that we are the on-road problem. He is concerned at the potential terminal damage if we cannot get the plate fixed and suggests we do so in Halls Creek. We set off to do a grand tour of Halls Creek looking for workshops. The first place can do nothing for a week.

At Fitzgerald Motors the proprietor is not happy. Neither is the proprietor’s Rottweiler which Jill has had to befriend before it is possible to approach Mr Fitzgerald. While the Rottie seems happy with white friends the two little black girls cycling past do not seem confident that it will like people with black skin and ask if the dog is “safe”. It reminds me that when living in South Africa, dogs would let us white kids walk past peacefully but any blacks-skinned people were at risk of being torn limb from limb. White South Africans would train their dogs to attack black people.

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The reason for Fitzgerald’s unhappiness is that he has two mechanics but, apparently, they have been playing in a World Cup Final which took place at 2 pm the previous day and have been unable to attend work as a result. His general level of satisfaction with Halls Creek is apparent “Who would want to live in this cunt of a place he observes.” So he is also unable to assist.

We re-pare for a further coffee and cake. Roger and I consult. We need to fix the plate so a visit to the hardware is in order for a couple of 6 mm bolts. The owner of the hardware is in worse condition than Beyonce and will not advance beyond his counter since such a long walk might bring on an early end. After much searching we find the right bolts. But we are to be disappointed since one of the missing bolts has sheared off in the nut preventing the repair. We consult further; my advice is cable ties and fencing wire which will fix 95% of all mechanical and household problems. 20 minutes later we are done. Beyonce is ready for anything she will encounter and Roger has also fixed an errant water problem by tightening the clamp on the hose. Our potential future earnings are escalating; rally driving, blues band and now Horton and Harris car repairs. Right on!!

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Next stop Wolf Creek Meteorite Crater.

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