...or "Killing Two Birds with One Campervan"
19.06.2012 - 20.06.2012 31 °C
I don't want to leave the Kimberley. I really don't. I say that a lot. But original thoughts are becoming harder and harder to harvest.
After a somewhat restless sleep I cleaned up and went back to the El Questro "Steakhouse" for breakfast. A pleasant Eggs Benedict with Spinach (adding it up, I left a lot of money at El Questo...and by the way, I have sunglasses now. $30.), and two (2) proper coffees (I will regret these) later I packed up and moseyed on my way. I do not want to leave. I think I've made that clear.
One the way back I stop by the Zibbadee Hot Springs (because damnit, I paid for this 'wilderness pass', I'm going to use it); a short walk up a beautiful tropical path takes you to a creek that spawns from a hot spring coming from the mountain that is about 32 degrees celsius. That is what the sign said. I take it for it's word, because I simply do not have time to try it out for myself.
I head back up the road and start up the last stretch of the Gibb River Road. I'm really kind of bummed out, I feel like I've barely tapped the potential here. I pass the turn-off to Emma Gorge (part of El Questro, and covered by my 7 day pass), which apparently is one of the most photographed scenes on the Gibb. Sigh...if only I had time. About 2Km from the turn-off, I decide that yes, I have time (I don't have time, not really) and turn around and decide to take in one last hike, to hell with the consequences (there were some consequences).
The hike was cumbersome; it starts easy enough, but progressively gets tougher, crossing the creek multiple times, clambering over rocks, and eventually winding steeply up and over one side of the canyon...but it's ok, I'm in good shape (...I'm not, and had rolled my left ankle...twice...the night before in the same stupid place at the El Questro campground, so I'm really just asking for it) so I do my usual speed-walk (odd that on the road I crawl along at a snail's pace, having endless cars and trucks overtake me, cursing to themselves...then on foot I race along gorge trails while other folks take it easy, enjoying the scenery and look at me funny as I pass them). I make it to the gorge, and it was all worth it: a huge cavern, the type normally seen only by us folks back home in movies or on travel brochures, with a large deep pool, a monumentally tall cascading waterfall, and a strange duck-like bird drying itself off on the rocks. If patterns persist, this strange duck-like bird may turn out to be what they call a 'duck' in these parts.
I enjoy this as long as I can - maybe 20 minutes - before I resume my obnoxious speed walk back to the car park. The walk each way, at my pace, is about 40 minutes. I trip only once (not the same ankle fortunately, and no one around to laugh thankfully), get back to the resort and call home, and start to head out - realizing I had erased a least 2 and 1/2 hours from my schedule. So my 900Km race to Darwin has now officially been inhibited.
Soundtrack: Remember Me / The Birthday Massacre.
What they don't tell you about corrugated roads in Australia is that...well...they make you have to pee. A lot. It doesn't matter what you've been drinking (but in northern Australia chances are you drinking a lot of water. Add this to the two (2) long black coffees at breakfast...)
Another 25Km or so (and one 'adopting the highway' later...see paragraph above), and I am at the east end of the Gibb. And I made it without destroying any tyres! I win this one. Unofficial Greatest Challenge (number 4). Checkmark.
I stop and re-inflate my tyres, unlock the 4WD hubs, and enter the highway. Now it is just a marathon run; how far can I get before the sun goes down (noting I will lose 1.5 hours in a little under 100Km) before I am again in danger of slaying exotic wildlife and getting in serious trouble with Britz?
I stop briefly in Kununurra (which is an amazing looking place...unfortunately for me on a schedule) for bread, fresh fruit (I can take it back into the Northern Territory, just not the other way...thank god) and diesel, and then I get the campervan going as fast as I feel is reasonable. It is now about 3:00pm NT time (I know because I couldn't stock up on wine in Kununurra as you cannot buy alcohol before 2pm on weekdays...oh well, instant coffee for me tonight...). So 3 hours before sunset, NT time (roughly). The speed limit is 130Km/h (Canada, take note, you slow-pokes) but at 130Km/h, honestly Cass does not handle very well at that speed; being a high-top she sways hard with every turn or slight gust of wind. Visions of me crippled and bleeding out in a single-vehicle roll-over flash before me with every corner. But my goal is the Victoria River Roadhouse, some 300Km from Kununurra. Will I make it before making wallaby+gravel stew?
Soundtrack: more Louis C.K. Comedy routines are wonderful for staving off loneliness.
I'm about half an hour from my goal when the first casualty is realized. A bunch of birds, probably really pretty ones with families and such, are on the road investigating...whatever it is they find interesting. They take off just as my campervan blows through their little pow-wow, but too late. I hear the definite 'THUD.........THUD.....' of at least two of them being mortally crippled as Cass slams into them with her high-top roof. For the record, there is no blood or matted feathers and bones stuck to Cass' roof; I can only hope those birds either were only stunned (not likely) or died quickly (more likely).
Getting to my goal before darkness is close; it doesn't help that the highway goes through some seriously awesome picturesque places, which I need to slow down and take pictures of. Damn you, nature! I keep pressing on, and manage to land at the Victoria River Roadhouse just as the sun is going down behind the amazing mountains and cliffs around the Victoria River valley.
$10 per person (I am only one in my vehicle) for a powered campsite at the roadhouse? Hell yes. I can charge the iPad and video camera.
A gentleman at Fitzroy Crossing (the same gent who could not help me figure out my air compressor) had suggested this place as a good place to stop. I'm glad I followed his advice; not only are the rates cheap (the 'campground' is kind of open and lame, but who cares, the sun has gone down anyway) but the roadhouse is open until 8pm. So I get a real Australian roadhouse experience - again, kind of a big deal for a Canuck like myself.
Quick shower and then back to the roadhouse for dinner - at this point, if I don't have to cook (with some uncertain amount of LPG left) I'm not going to. And during a veggie burger and fries (veggie burger...at a roadhouse in rural Australia; only drawing more attention to myself, really) at the bar I honestly get a bit trashed on cheap red wine (since I couldn't stock up in Kununurra in time) and just soak in the experience. So, sorry for any spelling or grammatical flaws (or stupid ideas) in this segment.
This place has a story somewhere - the sign advertises "under new ownership", but the the word "ownership" has been pasted over with a red decal proudly displaying the word "wife" instead. And inside I find the roadhouse being run by: a gentleman who looks like a short(er) Australian version of Robert DeNiro, two younger blonde (maybe German? I'm not good with European accents) girls, an darker-haired (also maybe German? Dutch?) lady, and a cute punky/inked girl in the kitchen. I'm careful to keep my eyes wandering because I'm not certain for sure who is the owner, and who is the "new wife". Maybe none of them, but it makes an interesting story.
Tomorrow: Darwin or bust (what does that mean anyway? I don't think I want to find out). I'm aiming for a caravan park just outside the city in a place called Howard Springs. And then it is just the the 4 nights left in this soul-capturing country. I really don't want to go. But kind of. But not really.
Soundtrack: cheap-wine snoring.
There isn't much left to tell about the road-trip. I left the roadhouse and made good time along my ~500Km trek to the outskirts of Darwin. The road remained scenic until I turned north at Katherine, after which the most interesting thing was watching the landscape change from drier and brown to slightly wetter and green, with more palm trees. And lots of patches of controlled burning by the roadside...some of it still burning. Actually, it kind of looked like a Cambodia war-zone (and I ask, how in the hell would I know this?) - maybe it was the hazy tropical scenery and countless WWII airstrips along the highway obscured by the smoke from burning undergrowth.
I'm now in Howard Springs, about 20 minutes from where I drop off Cass tomorrow. I celebrated getting here the only way I could - by doing laundry, washing dishes, and trying to wipe out some of the limitless red Tanami + Gibb dust from every nook and cranny in Cass' interior. After that, dinner - soup and an awesome double-decker grilled cheddar + chicken + ham + spinach sandwich, or what I like to call "double-decker-whatever-is-left-in-the-fridge-put-it-on-the-damn-sandwich" sandwich.
And since there isn't much left to tell...I won't bother telling it. The road-trip is over. There are still a couple of days potential left for me to screw something else up and make an ass of myself, but that tale is for another day. Good night.
Soundtrack: A Star-Crossed Wasteland / In This Moment...good 'credits rolling' music...the type where you know damn well there is already a sequel in the works.