May 12 – I’ve left the coast well behind and I’m now about 500k’s inland. I crossed the tropic of Capricorn north of Cue and passed a sign that read “welcome to the north-west” (of Western Australia) so I knew I was getting up there. You often drive across a bridge with a sign naming the “such and such” river, but there’s no water to be seen – some very large bridges too, over what is clearly a river bed, but bone dry, maybe with just an isolated pool or 2. This is the Gascoyne River (crossed many larger ones, but no place to stop for a photo).
This part of the country is littered with immense cattle and sheep stations (didn’t see any sheep) – “more than 470 stations covering 90 million hectares … more than a third of the state” – government publication . 1 hectare = 2.5 acres approx. Over days of driving (outside few and far between towns) I didn’t see any houses or farm buildings. I passed signs now and then, naming stations, at the entrance to dirt roads that disappeared over the horizon. The stations are on crown land owned by the state government and leased to the station operator. Some of them have been in the hands of the same family for generations (farmers looking for wives?).
They don’t fence along the highway and stock roam freely – keep eyes open. Over 3 days of driving I saw probably a good 3 dozen dead cattle by the side of the road. One was badly bloated with feet straight up in the air, udder swollen and nipples straight up in the air – it was like a Monty Python skit where the beast was about to float off into the air like a balloon! Other carcasses were so old there were only horns, hide and hooves left. Here’s a live one – photographed while driving.
At times there was so little traffic it seemed the roads were made just for me. My main fellow travelers were road-trains.
They put some crazy things on trucks out here. They often come on you with next to no warning and force you off the road as they roar past at high-speed. Take a close look at this one.
Driving along, trying to amuse myself and thinking I hadn’t seen any Aussie wildlife, not a kangaroo, wallaby, koala, emu, camel, echidna, platypus, snake, lizard … when flying around a bend I came upon a dingo feeding on a carcass by the side of the road! I’ve seen 2 more since, dingoes that is.
I stopped in Tom Price for a couple of nights to visit Karijini National Park. I didn’t do the stuff that Wayner would have tackled – rock climbing, extreme sports etc. – but I spent a day in the park walking and checking out the gorges. The road in from the west entrance is crap, especially for a national park – the guy responsible for road management isn’t doing his job and should be fired! He might complain about budget woes, but that’s an excuse. One section of the road needs to be dynamited and re-built!
The park’s website says “pythons and other snakes are abundant …” – this does wonders to focus the mind of visitors like me out walking. It’s difficult to do justice to the scope of these gorges, but if you zoom in on the water photos you’ll people near the bottom.
I really enjoyed the drive out from Tom Price to the Coastal Highway – just wild, beautiful, empty big sky country with hardly any cars, practically had it to myself. Keep your eyes open for wandering stock. It must be a hell of job to find them at round-up time!
May 14 – Trying to recover from the Leafs 5-4 overtime loss to Boston – merde!!!
I’m spending the night in Port Hedland, a mining/shipping town, looks like a “shit-hole” of a place (sorry PH, no offense intended, but an Aussie I met in Broome used the same term) – mud, construction, road trains everywhere, miners/construction guys all over, more mud … A vast chunk of Western Australia is given over to mining – mines here, mines there, mines everywhere.
I woke up in the morning to find this guy had moved in over night – “The Grapes of Wrath”.
They drove all the way from South Australia with a re-built Holden 6 engine under the bonnet (hood).
I used my GPS this morning to navigate out of Port Hedland. When I got out on the highway to Broome the route summary at the bottom of the screen said drive 567 kilometres and turn left 🙂
There’s a 300k stretch on this highway between Sandfire Roadhouse and Roebuck Plains Roadhouse without petrol – no towns, no houses, no shacks, no people, no petrol stations. At Sandfire I noticed some petrol ‘cans’ on the shelf and thought I’d take out some insurance, bought one and filled it with 10 litres. Well, I needed it alright and wouldn’t have made it to Roebuck on my Subaru’s tank. I was driving into a strong head wind all the way and could just about see the petrol gauge dropping.
A strut failed and the caravan pop-top won’t stay up. I tried propping it up, but it won’t come down properly, so I’m leaving it down to avoid causing damage. Now I can’t stand up straight and have to walk around like a hunch-back. I’ve taken to wearing my bike helmet for protection. I’m the old geezer who walks around with his bike helmet on all the time (I do my best to remember to do my fly up). There aren’t any caravan repair outfits anywhere near here and it may be Darwin before I can get it fixed – Darwin’s 2,400k’s from here 😦
May 18 – I’ve spent 2 nights in Broome, where I found Clint the caravan guy. He fixed my pop-top with a couple of new struts. I like what I’ve seen so far here and will stay put for a while, a lot of red dirt to clean off the caravan and car. I’m back in the tropics – 30+, humidity, palm trees, crocs, irukandjis (poisonous jelly fish) – the last sting on Coral Beach was Tuesday! Just realized I’ve been walking under palms bearing large coconuts – better put the bike helmet back on!