Trucks and the Tanami.

Alice Springs, NT. 25th August 2015.

There was still more to interest me in Alice Springs, so I wasn’t leaving just yet. I don’t know what a Festival of the Desert entails but I could easily work out what a Truck Reunion might involve. That was the one for me.
Alice Springs is home to quite a few vehicle based events. These include quad racing, motocross, speedway (cars), motorcycle racing and karting. Biggest of these is the Finke Desert Race. It caters for bikes, cars, buggies and quads and runs over two days across the desert, from Alice to the small Aputula Community, way out in the desert. It’s reckoned to be about the toughest race of its kind in Australia. It seems that Alice is quite a petrol head.
But the biggest event, in terms of weight of metal, if nothing else, is surely the Truckers Reunion, held every five years and centered on the National Road Transport Museum.

White Star, in white of course.

White Star, in white of course.

Mack B615 V8. A very popular truck.

Mack B615 V8. A very popular truck.

A later Mack. Also very popular.

A later Mack. Also very popular.

On Saturday morning I rode out to the edge of town where the Truckers Hall of Fame can be found. The reunion seemed to be taking place on the dirt roads that surround the site and there were hundreds of trucks of all shapes, sizes and age. Mostly they were Artics (semi-trailers), but there were many rigids too. There was a fair number of British trucks, from Bedford and Atkinson for example, along with other European makes.

A very pretty 1960s Mercedes.

A very pretty 1960s Mercedes.

Far and away the greatest number were American. Macks, Kenworth, White Star and Peterbilt. These were the prime movers that hauled the road trains across the vastness of outback Australia and it’s no surprise they were so popular. They were all right hand drive and that says, to me, that American manufacturers regarded Australia, and NZ, as an important market.

A modern Kenworth with patriotic ANZAC theme.

A modern Kenworth with patriotic ANZAC theme.

In response to their popularity Kenworth opened a factory in Australia and have been developing and manufacturing vehicles suited to the Aussie haulage industry since the 1960s. They tend to be bigger, stronger and more powerful than their American counterparts. Inside the hall of fame there’s a Kenworth Dealer section. If, like me, you enjoy heavy, powerful, nicely painted machinery, then this is the place to visit.

A Rotinoff Viscount. A piece of British truck history.

A Rotinoff Viscount. A piece of British truck history.

The story of the Rotinoff.

The story of the Rotinoff.

Fabulous vehicles, beautifully restored. Very impressive indeed! My apologies to non truck lovers, but here’s a few photos to drool over.

A Diamond T, owned by a fan of the Monarchy.

A Diamond T, owned by a fan of the Monarchy.

I can't leave Pete out of things.

I can’t leave Pete out of things.

A White Star recovery truck. Comin' right at ya Baby!

A White Star recovery truck. Comin’ right at ya Baby!

Osh Kosh. One of the more obscure American makes.

Osh Kosh. One of the more obscure American makes.

A couple of Fodens, just to keep the British trucks in the picture.

A couple of Fodens, just to keep the British trucks in the picture.

I remember seeing these three wheelers running around Woolwich, delivering goods from the trains.

I remember seeing these three wheelers running around Woolwich, delivering goods from the trains.

Sunday saw me at the side of the road, along with many others, for the truck parade. They were all going to drive along the Stuart Highway where it ran through the town. They came along in fits and starts, taking three hours to complete their drive by. I enjoyed it immensely. A trucking great way to spend a weekend.

Bedford, on parade.

Bedford, on parade.

Kenworth Prime Mover. Doing what it does best.

Kenworth Prime Mover. Doing what it does best.

Clipper coach.

Clipper coach.

Ignore the sign, it's a Big Mack Drive Past.

Ignore the sign, it’s a Big Mack Drive Past.

Finally, some more British Truck history.

An experimental AEC truck, designed for very heavy haulage.

An experimental AEC truck, designed for very heavy haulage.

Information on the truck.

Information on the truck.

On the way back to the hostel I filled up my bike and all the spare fuel cans, ready for tomorrow’s long run. 15 litres in the tank and 19 litres in the cans. That should be enough. I spent the rest of the day chilling out and chatting to a couple of young bikers who were staying at the hostel. Reed, Canadian, riding a Kawasaki KLR650. Very popular bikes in Nth America and as good as the Suzuki DR650 that’s so common in Aus. Morton, Danish, had a Honda650 Dominator, another excellent mid size trail bike. They’re currently working in one of the Aboriginal communities but stay at the hostel at weekends. They’ll be going on some long trips too, eventually.

Good news.

Sign by the roadside. Good news.

So Monday dawned,I got organised and set off for my cross-desert ride. Let’s not talk this trip up too much. I’ll be on a graded dirt road once I leave the bitumen, so no big dramas and nothing different to what I’d ridden before. Just longer. Alice to Halls Creek, the town at the other end of the Tanami Track, is about 1050kms. It wasn’t a dramatic ride, in the end. The first 250kms were sealed. I arrived at the Tilmouth Well Roadhouse and had coffee. One of the spare fuel cans had split near the top so I had to put the fuel in the tank. Luckily I’d covered sufficient distance that the tank had room for it, but it left me short of spare fuel capacity. So I asked around for another can, but no luck. My first refuelling stop was to be the Aboriginal community of Yuendumo so as I rode there I kept my eyes peeled for a can among all the rubbish lying at the side of the track. Second time lucky, and I had what I needed. I cleaned it out and filled it up, along with the bike. OK, back to having 19 litres and all good for the next 600kms.

Vital information.

Sign by the roadside. Vital information, although not completely accurate.

As the afternoon wore on I came to a truck rest area beyond which was a large, cleared area obviously related to recent roadworks. I followed a wide track off into the bush and found a nice place to camp for the night. I had time to go a bit further but it’s not always wise to pass up a good camping place. Day one done and dusted. Especially dusted. My tent zips worked a little better after their clean, but not by much. The track had been OK but was heavily corrugated in places. I was expecting more of the same tomorrow.
It rained on and off during the night. Hang on, isn’t this supposed to be a desert? It had all dried up by morning but had clearly been heavy in some places. Further along the track I saw three Emus bathing in a puddle in the middle of the road. They ran away as I approached, so no photo to share. I came to the border between Northern Territories and Western Australia. It seemed like a good place to pour in spare fuel, eat some lunch and put my watch back an hour and a half. Yes, Australia is big enough to have three time zones and I was heading west. But the sun doesn’t have a watch and I knew I’d have to stop earlier now, so nothing gained really. I also realised that the wind had picked up and was blowing straight towards me, exactly as had been forecast. It was just as well I had plenty of fuel as I was going to need it.

Not something you expect to see in the middle of the desert.

Not something you expect to see in the middle of the desert.

And here's the reason why.

And here’s the reason why.

The rest of the track through to Bililuna, my next fuelling stop, was rough in places. Stretches of deep sand, and the wind, were sapping my power and I had to drop a gear or two to maintain a decent speed. Ride too slowly and the effects of the corrugations were far worse.
Eventually I came to Bililuna and found the general store and its fuel pump. ‘Sorry, can’t sell you any fuel, the satellite link is down.’ Eh, what? Why does a fuel pump need a satellite? She didn’t know, only that it wasn’t working, so no fuel. They hoped to get it up and running soon so all I could do was wait. She sold me a cup of coffee and I sat outside to drink it, chatting to the Aboriginal kids.
This was at 3pm and the shop closed at 4pm. Not long after the shop had closed she came out and said she had some fuel in a can in her garage which I could buy if I wanted to, at $25 dollars for the ten litres. Oh, that’s actually ten litres less what it took to fill the lawnmower, which isn’t much. Apparently. Good enough. I was running very low.
I had had hopes of getting further down the track but with the sun now going down all I did was to go a short way out of town and find a track that led into the bush, where I found another good place to camp. As with the previous night, I heard Dingos barking in the distance. In fact it wasn’t uncommon to hear small animals scuffling around the tent. Lizards? Mice? Maybe small kangaroos? Who knows, and they didn’t trouble me.
The time change had quite an impact on the day from here on in. The sun was up by 05.30 and set around 17.30. I was north of the Tropic of Capricorn once more, and 12 hour days and nights now seemed to be what I could look forward to. I’m not used to early starts but I think I may have to learn to like them.

Justin and his BMW.

Justin and his BMW.

I went back into town next morning and filled up. The satellite link had been restored (router problem it seems) and I knew the (almost) ten litres may not have been enough to get me to the next refuelling stop as I wanted to make a 90kms diversion off the track to visit Wolfes Creek crater. At the shop I met an Aussie biker called Justin, from Perth. He was riding a BMW800 and was heading to Alice, having come from Halls Creek, my destination. We chatted and swapped trail information, just like cowboys used to. Well, we were in the West now.
A few kilometres after leaving Bililuna I stacked the bike on some loose sand. I could see corrugations on the track but not the sand on top of them. I came off at about 70kph and this time it hurt! The front wheel tucked under, I flew over the bars and jarred my shoulder as I hit the ground, chewing sand at the same time. Deep joy! I broke the screen as I flew over it and when the front mudguard tucked under it tore my fender bag half off its mounting. I’d just filled up so fuel was leaking out too. Lost fuel equals money in the sand so I picked the bike in double quick time and assessed the damage.

That old, familiar, forgotten feeling.

That old, familiar, forgotten feeling.

Although split, the two parts of the screen were still firmly in place so I pushed them back together a bit and left them. The fender bag was OK once I’d done the straps up again, so I left it. I now had some jobs to tackle. Nothing left to do but carry on, so I did. My shoulder was stiff and sore but it didn’t stop me riding.
I soon came to the turn off for Wolfe’s Creek, went through the gate and rode the fairly rough 45kms down to the car park.
Wolfe’s Creek Meteorite crater is an amazing place. It was formed about 200,000 years ago when a large meteorite landed. The crater is about 900 metres wide and was originally about 120 metres deep. Since then it’s filled up with sand to the extent that the bottom is now about 20 metres below the level of the surrounding plain. The effect of the rim is to make it look far deeper. It’s the world’s second largest, the biggest one being in Arizona.

From the crater rim.

From the crater rim.

How it happened.

How it happened.

I walked up the short but steep track and was quite taken aback by the view inside. Right in the centre is and area of salt pan, with some plants growing on it. Around the edge of that, in an almost perfect circle, is a ring of paper bark trees. Between those and the rim is just sandy plain, same as that outside the crater. It looks amazing. It seems as if someone has laid it all out, a bit like a garden feature. But no hand of man has ever touched it, just nature. It was unknown to the European population until 1947 when a geological survey plane spotted it. I thought it was great.

What's in the middle?

What’s in the middle?

This is.

This is.

Back in the car park I got chatting to a guy who’d arrived in his fourby. Hughie is a friendly guy and it wasn’t long before he was telling me about himself and how God had helped him through a serious illness. Oh dear! That would once have been my cue to beat a hasty retreat but I was quite taken by his chattiness and the way he weaved God or Jesus into everything he was telling me. None of it sounded forced. Eventually he asked me if I believed in God and I had to tell him that I didn’t believe in any Gods. It made no difference to his friendly attitude as we chatted away. Come the time for me to go and he asked if I’d mind him saying a prayer to help me on my journey. Not in the least, working on the basis that every little helps. So he said a brief prayer and I went on my way.

Hughie, with his good news.

Hughie, with his good news.

With no further dramas or mishaps I arrived at Halls Creek. I had been planning to just refuel and ride on but I felt the need to stop. Apart from my sore shoulder I now had some repair work to do. In the end, I stayed there for three nights all told.
I was just putting my tent up when Hughie pulled in and parked fairly near to me. When I’d finished I went over to him and we chatted some more. He’s been to Britain, likes Poms and our country too. He was full of praise for Doris and my trip. How could I dislike the guy? As before, JC got dropped into the conversation occasionally but that really didn’t bother me. With some people it does, especially when they seem to be using a chat as a cover for proselytising, but Hughie just wasn’t like that.
A couple of Ibuprofen and a hot shower eased my shoulder nicely and I went into town to collect the pizza I’d ordered from the bakery earlier. It was burnt to hell, just to stick with the religious theme. But I was hungry and ate it anyway.
Hughie left the next morning, after we’d had another nice chat. He gave me his contact details, with an invite to stay. I’ll take him up on that.

I'm always pleased to see solar thermal being put to good use. A no-brainer in a climate like this.

I’m always pleased to see solar thermal being put to good use. A no-brainer in a climate like this.

It was interesting to note that the night had been much warmer then those in Alice, and the day was hotter too. The effects of a lower altitude but also those of being further north and west. Very pleasant.
So how was the Tanami Track? Pretty much as I’d expected. The surface was about two thirds OK and the rest was poor, and occasionally bad. I camped out twice, as I thought I might have to, and the fuel consumption wasn’t all that good. The headwind killed off any hopes of a decent return. But it was another challenge completed and I always enjoy that feeling of achievement at the end of rides like that. The only disappointment was in coming off. I should have done better. But even those incidents carry their upsides. I’m getting very good at repairing screens, tool bags and pannier bags. My ability to stitch something back together with needle and thread or cable ties and glue is improving all the time. The challenges of self reliance are a pleasure all to themselves.

All fixed up once more. It's just as well I don't have to look through it.

All fixed up once more. It’s just as well I don’t have to look through it.

I felt a reward coming on for all my hard work and it took the shape of a walk across the road to the Kimberly Hotel. Because it was Tight Arse Thursday there was a menu of reasonably priced (for Australia) meals. Sausages, mash and onion gravy, a real taste of home. I was getting a bit fed up with all the foreign food I was being forced to eat – steak, pizza, fish and chips etc. ‘Give us a bash at the Bangers and Mash my Mother used to make’ seemed an appropriate tune to hum myself to sleep to that night.
My 500th day on the road dawned warm and sunny. OK, that figure includes twenty eight days back in the UK last April, but let’s not be picky here.

Old Halls Creek Post Office.

Old Halls Creek Post Office.

I’d planned a ride out along the Duncan Highway to visit a bit of local history. This highway cuts across country eastwards then loops north to join the Great North Highway at Kununurra. The road pre-dates that highway and originally served the gold fields and the cattle stations. On it can be found Old Halls Creek, the original town. It was occupied from the time of the first gold rush in WA, around 1885, through to the 1950s. Then the town was relocated to the new north/south highway. The town had barely been built by the time the gold ran out but it became an important trading and commerce centre as the cattle stations sprang up and the land was settled.
There isn’t much left of the old town. The only building still standing is the Post Office. It’s now been fenced off to protect it but a fair amount of the original walls are still standing, including a rather nice looking fireplace. The building material which has stood the test of time so well is crushed termite mounds. The walls were made of mud slabs and the mud was made from mounds mixed with water. This method was very common, especially for making floors. Let’s be honest, there’s no shortage of raw material. The other buildings have all gone but there are markers to show where they stood. The cemetery is still there though, always worth a walk around. It’s surrounded by disused trucks and other machinery, although I’m not sure whether that was deliberate or coincidental. Rest in peace and rust in peace.

Last resting place at Old Halls Creek.

Last resting place at Old Halls Creek.

Charlotte’s Pool and Palm Springs were two very nice permanent waterholes, which town residents used to visit during day trips out.It still surprises me how many delightful little places there are to be found. The terrain looks to be nothing but sparsely vegetated sand and red rock. Clearly exploration brings its rewards.

Palm Springs. Cool and inviting.

Palm Springs. Cool and inviting.

The last place I visited was the China Wall. A bank of white quartz rock breaks out of the ground and its colour and shape really is reminiscent of the Great Wall of China.

Natural Quartz outcrop, making the Chineses feel at home.

Natural Quartz outcrop, making the Chineses feel at home.

Afterwards I took a walk around the town. There is a kind of village green, outside the community centre. On it are a couple of statues, one of Russian jack and the other of Jack Jugarie.
Jugarie was a well respected Aboriginal Elder who, at over seventy years of age, took part in the 350km ‘Human Race’, from Halls creek to Wyndham. He was up against two much younger competitors but beat them using only his bush knowledge and ability to navigate by natural means. He was quite a character and an important man within his community.

Jack Jugarri.

Jack Jugarie.

Russian Jack (Ivan Fredericks) is commemorated for his determination and ‘mateship’. He used a wooden wheelbarrow to carry his belongings to the gold fields. En route he came across an exhausted fellow prospector and put his load into his barrow and pushed them both. He also once pushed a mate a long distance in his barrow so he could get medical attention.
These, and other stories are beloved by outback Aussies and are always worth a statue.

Russian Jack and his wheelbarrow.

Russian Jack and his wheelbarrow.

One display that really fascinated me was about the Canning Stock Route. It is a 2,000km long drovers road running from near halls Creek all the way south to Wiluna. It was driven through the Great Sandy Desert between 1908-1910, and a series of wells were dug at about 30km intervals. Many of these were water sources used by Aboriginals and there was friction between them and the cattlemen. Canning used to capture local Aboriginals, hoping they would lead him to water. In 1908, acting on accusations from his cook, a Western Australian commission of enquiry was set up to investigate the cruel treatment meted out by Canning, including water deprivation and the inflicting of various injuries, including on women. When the first mob of cattle was driven through in 1910 a drover was killed by a spear near one of the wells. The port of Wyndham was established soon after and was found to be a much cheaper and safer way of transporting cattle.

All about the Canning Stock Route.

All about the Canning Stock Route.

But the route is beloved of fourbys. It is now a real challenge, not just of driving but of organising too. It’s necessary to arrange fuel and supply dumps at the Aboriginal communities close to the route and several permits are required, as the route passes through Aboriginal land. It’s the kind of challenge I’d love to try but it’s just not practical.

The route of the Route.

The route of the Route.

My shoulder felt fairly good, everything was repaired, time to move on. Not far though. 150kms northwards lies the Purnululu National Park wherein can be found the Bungle Bungles Range. About 360 million years old, it is noted for its geological splendour. For the last 20 million years the effects of erosion have been working on the landscape and have left an incredible legacy of gorges, domed, multi layered hills and a series of rivers. The park has World Heritage status and getting around has been made easy, as access tracks to all the best areas are provided. This network of roads and paths is well signposted and has plenty of info boards. The Bungle Bungle Range is renowned for its banded domes, the worlds most exceptional example of cone karst formations. The bands occur when cyanobacteria grows on layers of sandstone where moisture accumulates. The orange colour is oxidised iron compounds which have dried out too quickly for the bacteria to grow. Erosion has done the rest.

Just to give you a sense of scale. Here's Doris next to a road train.

Just to give you a sense of scale. Here’s Doris next to a road train.

From the Great North Highway it’s fifty three kilometres of twisty, windy, stony, hilly, difficult riding. It was great fun! Four creeks to cross, unusually with water in. One was just a splash but the other three were deep enough to warrant wading across first, to test depth and find the easiest route. For two of them I took my luggage off, just in case I found a deep hole or fell off. In the event, nothing to worry about, just boots full of water.

One of the four creek crossings.

One of the four creek crossings.

Arriving at the visitor centre I paid my National Park fee, having already booked the camp site on-line. The VC had information about helicopter flights over the park and I put any thoughts of budgets to one side and gave in to temptation. The VC arranged for a 7am flight, thirty minute for ‘only’ $379 – £180. Ouch, but I’m worth it!
The park has a north and south section. I was camping in the south, close to the airstrip so the sensible thing was to explore the north that afternoon and then the south after my heli-trip.
The camp site was another 12kms into the park and once all was set up I headed back to the northern section to enjoy the rocks. There is a 2km walk into the Echidna Gorge but I didn’t have to do that. I went to Stonehenge, which was nothing at all like its namesake. It’s a loop walk showing the Aboriginal uses of various trees and plants. Plenty of info boards to explain how a given plant became food, tools, weapons or medicine. Often more than one of each. Seeing this reinforces why Cook and Banks were so impressed by the Aboriginals they met when they first landed in Australia. They were expert in using what was available to them to live a comfortable life. A couple of examples follow.

Spinifex Grass.

Spinifex Grass.

Spinifex Grass.

Spinifex Grass.

Red River Gum.

River Red Gum.

River Red Gum.

River Red Gum.

Next was Bloodwoods Lookout, at the end of a short walk from the car park. It over looks part of the escarpment which forms the northern wall of the Bungle Bungle Range. It’s a huge sandstone wall with woodland in front of it. Mighty impressive.

Sandstone escarpment.

Sandstone escarpment.

Finally I went to Kungkalanyi Lookout. After a walk up the hill I could see the whole of the escarpment, from end to end, making me wonder not only how it got there but why it starts and finishes where it does. What happened all those millions of years ago to cause these phenomena? I was thinking about all this while the sun set behind me and painted the escarpment in a variety of shades in the process. A very nice end to the day.

Sandstone cliffs in the sunset.

Sandstone cliffs in the sunset.

And again.

And again.

Up with the sun next morning, and over to the airstrip for my helicopter ride. Once booked and weighed, I had a nice chat with Heath, one of the pilots, who owns a big KTM. Our chopper was a Robinson R44 Raven. Enough room for the pilot and three passengers. Very basic. No fripperies, not even doors, but it did have seatbelts I’m pleased to say. It felt like being in a Mini Moke. Bill and Gayle, an Aussie couple, had flown in from Kununurra especially for the trip. Keen, or what! We had our safety briefing and were then directed to departure gate one, ready to board.

Departure Gate One (and only).

Departure Gate One (and only).

Robinson Raven R44. Help, no doors!

Robinson Raven R44. Help, no doors!

Helicopters never seem to be in a rush. I suppose it’s the vertical lift off that denies you the sensation of speed and forward motion. No rushing down a runway looking for lift. Just twiddle the controls and we’re airborne, moving forward at 80 knots (about 140kph). An amazing feeling.
We flew around the Bungle Bungles, with our pilot giving us commentary on what was below. The dome rocks were formed about twenty million years ago and have been eroding ever since. But some of the others are around 1.5 billion years old, among the oldest on Earth.

Gorge, dry riverbed and karst and sandstone rock.

Gorge, dry riverbed and karst and sandstone rock.

We saw the domes, gorges, river courses and hills, all looking fantastic from above. I knew I’d be walking among some of them later, which added to the moment.

Amazing landscape.

Amazing landscape.

This land was once completely flat. The effects of erosion are incredible.

This land was once completely flat. The effects of erosion are incredible.

Half an hour isn’t very long and soon we were back on Terra Firma. I was back on my bike riding the short distance to the car park for the southern walks. There are a couple of long walks that can be done from here but I opted out of those in the rising heat. Keen hikers can tackle a two day trek deep into the gorges if they feel like it. Not for me, thanks. Instead I went to look at the Domes, Cathedral Gorge and Picaninny Lookout.

Layered Domes.

Layered Domes.

The walk around the Domes was great because I could see, close up, how time had formed these peculiar rocks. The different layers are surprisingly clear in their separation from each other and I could only wonder at the forces that create them. Cathedral Gorge and Cavern was simply amazing. Water comes tumbling down over the rock face and had created a deep pool at the bottom while also undercutting the cliff at the same time. The result is a huge cavern, the floor of which is just sand and rock. Very little sunlight gets in there so there are very few plants.

Looking into the cathedral, showing how it was created.

Looking into the cathedral, showing how it was created.

Fractured rock. In years to come this may become another gorge as water works its magic.

Fractured rock. In years to come this may become another gorge as water works its magic.

In the gorge itself it’s easy to see where movement of the earth has split the rock face and over the millennia a gap will form, more rocks will tumble down and so the process of erosion continues. I wonder whether there will be visitors in the future to gaze in awe?
As I walked back towards Picaninny Creek there were info boards describing some of the plants and their traditional uses. The creek itself is wide, with a mixture of sand and rock. The rock has been worn down by the water flow so it now has strange channels in it. The heat was definitely rising so I was glad to get to the lookout where I met some travelling Brits, from various parts of the country, on working holidays. Always nice to see.

Travelling Brits.

Travelling Brits.

The heat had built up now and I decided it was much too hot for decamping and packing away. So I decided to stay another night and leave early tomorrow. I was heading to Kununurra, further up the Great North Highway, and I wouldn’t have got there before dark that day. So I spent the afternoon sweating in my tent. There was no shade outside to sit in, but at least I got some writing done.

It's a nice view. Shame about the bloke spoiling it.

It’s a nice view. Shame about the bloke spoiling it.

So, here’s a question for you. Is there such a thing as Karma, whether good or bad? Personally, I’m not sure but I don’t really think there is. Read what follows and see what you think.
I ought to have paid the $12 fee for the extra night’s stay, and possibly another $6 for NP fee, but as the camp site is unattended and is 12kms from the visitor centre, I didn’t bother. All that’s there is a tap and a toilet anyway, so I felt no real obligation to do so.
Next morning I was up early, packed and heading out of the park by 8am. The distance to the main road is 65kms, across four water filled creeks. All was going well until, after about 50kms I realised I’d left my backpack sitting on the ground at the camp site. So I turned around, recrossed the creeks while keeping up a fair old pace along the twisty, hilly, rocky track, until I got back there. It was sitting on the ground, exactly where I’d left it. The daft thing is that I’d said to myself, as I rode away, ‘Geoff, have you checked that you’ve got everything?’ My answer was, ‘Yes of course, if I’d left anything unpacked I’d have realised it.’ So was this Karma punishing me for my dishonesty, or maybe a touch of guilt skewing my thinking? Bad Karma, or guilt? Or coincidence?

Me, Nathan and Heath. Standing next to a tank full of high octane go-go juice.

Me, Nathan and Heath. Standing next to a tank full of high octane go-go juice.

But the story continues. I’d had to put my spare five litres of fuel in the tank, enough to get me to the nearest Roadhouse, about 100kms away. But now I’d increased the total distance by 100kms and definitely didn’t have enough. What to do? A light bulb moment came my way. I’ll go down to the airstrip – only 6kms away – and see if any of the people there carry spare fuel. I rode down and Heath was behind the counter again, along with Nathan and a young woman whose name I didn’t get. I’d given Heath my blog details the day before because I knew he’d be interested in the rescue pilot’s account. So some surprise was expressed that I’d managed to find my way there. But nobody had any spare petrol. What to do? Well, I can’t say too much but they found a solution and filled me up with burnable fossil fuel, and after some photos and more chat, I was on my way. Unearned good Karma or me being a lucky SOB? By the time I finally got to the main road I’d ridden that track four times; crossed each creek four times; and I’d had a ball. I rode north, with a stop for fuel and coffee, and made it to Kununurra in plenty of time.
So if it was Karma, it doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to because I reckon I came out on top in the end despite my naughty behaviour. Personally I don’t believe there’s any ‘force’ that influences what we do or what happens to us. When our behaviour or events seem to be affected by unknown influences then it comes from within, that’s all. The rest is just the consequences of our own actions and how we handle the situations that arise.

Two different ways of doing the same thing. On very hot days, I'm sometimes tempted.

Two different ways of doing the same thing. On very hot days, I’m sometimes tempted.

Three things happened on the way north. It got hotter. I could feel the heat increasing, even while riding. The sun was beating down on me and I was very glad I had plenty of water, albeit warm. I came across a cyclist, a young Japanese guy, who’d started his journey in Adelaide. I gave him some of my bottled water. He looked like he needed it. I began to see Boab Trees. These are only found in NW Australia and are a direct relative of the Baobab Tree, found in South Africa and Madagascar. It’s reckoned that seed pods floated over thousands of years ago and took hold. Some of the bigger trees are over one thousand years old.

My first sight of a Boab tree.

My first sight of a Boab tree.

I spent six nights in Kununurra, although it’s hard to work out why. There isn’t much to see there but I think the heat just slows me down. I was catching up on washing and writing and also went out for some walks and a ride out. Most of the time I was sorting out some issues on my blog relating to disappearing photos. I won’t go on about it except to say that using WordPress can be very frustrating!!
I must mention something about the hostel I was at. It’s linked to the YHA but came nowhere near their usual standards. They operate a frustrating system where, instead of leaving all necessary equipment in the kitchen for everyone to use, they issue you out a kit of cutlery, crockery and pots and pans. It’s very inconvenient and I don’t like it. Far worse though, was the fact that of three gas hobs with a total of fifteen burners, only two would light. Even worse than that was that the kitchen light was operated by a push button system, which only lasted about five minutes before switching the lights off. It’s impossible to exaggerate how dangerous this is, given that there will always be people walking around with pans of boiling water of hot fat. I flagged it up to reception but I don’t think the young French woman there had the authority to do anything. It so happened that I received an email after I’d left, requesting feedback. So I gave them some. There were some things I was able to praise about the hostel too, and in fairness to the manager she responded very positively to what I said and has now had a movement sensor installed to control the lights. Much better.

Who put that there?

Who put that there?

I went out for a walk to Mirima National Park one morning. Temperatures were climbing into the high thirties so I was pleased to be able to go into Hidden Valley and escape it for a while. This is another place which has info boards describing various plants and their traditional uses. It’s long been a special place to Aboriginals too. A climb up the hill to the lookout produced a nice view over the fertile Ord River Valley, made nice and green by the dam and irrigation scheme. This particular river runs down into the Bungle Bungles, although the water doesn’t get that far this time of year.

One possible answer.

One possible answer.

I also took a ride out to Wyndham, one of the two ports I mentioned. On the way up there I called in to look at The Grotto. This is a flat, rocky cliff top from where a waterfall drops down to fill, and flow out of, a permanent pool. It’s reckoned to be 300 feet deep and is a favourite swimming location. It’s a steep walk down but worth the effort. There’s a typical display of eroded sandstone rock, with fig trees and other plants clinging on to the near vertical cliff sides. Getting back up the 140 steps isn’t quite as much fun though.

Cool and deep.

Cool and deep.

After that short diversion I took a longer one, out across some salt flats and down to Diggers’Rest Station. Here I looked at the Prison Boab Tree. On their journeys across the area policemen would utilise the hollow trunk of these huge trees as overnight lock-ups for their prisoner. There’s enough room inside for a man to sit, but not lie, down. It can’t have been very comfortable.

Prison Boab. One of several in the Kimberley Region.

Prison Boab. One of several in the Kimberley Region.

Rock art. Plane? Frog? Insect? Who knows, but probably not a plane.

Rock art. Plane? Frog? Insect? Who knows, but probably not a plane.

Nearby there is some good quality Aboriginal rock art. I’d seen some at Uluru and other places too. Mostly animals as far as I could tell. How old? I’ve no idea and I presume nobody has, given that there was no information to tell me. I’d guess they were for story telling purposes.Wyndham used to have a large meat works, now closed down. Cattle tend to be exported live now. I took a ride up to the Five Rivers Lookout, which offers a fantastic view over the sea, estuaries and shoreline. The tide was out so I could see the effect that an 8-10 metre tide has on the landscape. After a cup of coffee at the aptly named Rusty Shed Café, I headed back to Kununurra, feeling ready to move on now.

Dis-ued industrial machinery from the old meat factory.

Dis-used industrial machinery from the old meat factory.

The Rusty Shed Cafe.

The Rusty Shed Cafe.

Back in Kununurra I finished my planning for the ride across the Gibb River Road. It had been highly recommended, lets hope it would live up to its billing.

Looking out across the mudflats from the Five Rivers Lookout.

Looking out across the mudflats from the Five Rivers Lookout.

5 thoughts on “Trucks and the Tanami.

  1. trishnainbris says:

    Great post Geoff. I’m even learning stuff about my own country from these posts of yours! And I am very impressed that the YHA took up at least one of your suggestions. You must have lit a fire under them so to speak. There have been several nasty incidents over the years wherein backpackers and itinerant workers (again usually foreigners) have lost their lives in some of these older wooden accommodations of which there are hundreds. Childers, just north of here, is the site of probably the worst one where 15 backpackers were killed (in a deliberately lit fire unfortunately if my memory is correct). It is strictly enforced now that smoke detectors are installed and regularly checked in these sorts of digs.

    And far be it from me to correct your writing as that is not what all these wonderful entries require but I couldn’t help but notice that, the same as me, you refer to what are correctly called baobab trees as boabab trees. Surprisingly, the term boab is acceptable here in Australia though. Unsurprisingly though, many of us confuse the two names, along with baobob, although of course importantly we all know what we mean whichever term we use. I think boab just runs off the tongue a little easier. Just thought you might be interested.

    Stay safe.

    • Hi Phil. Thanks for your kind comments. I’m pleased to be able to educate you!
      You’re right about the misspelling of boabab. It should, indeed, be Baobab. I’ll amend the blog. Thanks for pointing it out, I need people like you to keep me on the straight and narrow. Boab does seem to be the accepted Aussie spelling though, so that’s how it will stay.
      Cheers,

      Geoff

  2. There is so much history in this post, you could write a book. I do mean that in a good way! I think that there are a lot of people out there who don’t really know how trucks came about or even anything about there past. Learning how and where something came from will only reinforce your views on how it is today.

  3. Bob Hines says:

    Well yet another fascinating account of your trip Geoff,I’m not a great reader but once again I really enjoyed this I had no idea you had such a way with words!

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