Me, the Outback, & the Road

Once we got into Broome the question was ok what is next and how long are we staying here. It was peak season for Broome and with all the lockdowns and inability to leave the country Australians were traveling north in mass. Normally Broome is a town of 15,000 people, in peak season it goes up to 45,000. This season they had 70,000 people. When I say there was no place to say I mean it.

I found a week availability at the hostel by Cable Beach and in a moment of total fear booked it. With no plans or reason to leave but no reason to stay I was a bit stuck. This week would buy me time to make my next moves. I said goodbye to my road trip partner and moved into my millionth hostel of the year. Day 1 I started looking to see what I should do next. First stop, Apollo’s relocation website. Since there was a COVID outbreak in Darwin last week people could not come from NT to WA. WA literally will not let people in and they set up police checks at the one highway that crosses the state boarders. If you want to cross regardless of reason or vaccination you have to quarantine for $3,000 at your own expense for 2 weeks. Australians do not play around with this virus. I was in WA though, so no problems for me. More benefits because since no one could get anywhere there were many vehicles for me to choose from.

I listened for fate to guide me and as luck would have it there was a relocation van available the day I was due to check out of the hostel. It gave me 5 days to get to Darwin and $250 fuel credit. Darwin was not as far as Perth to Broome so 5 days was not a problem. The question was, could I manage 5 days of driving alone through the outback. With literally no place to stay in Broome I did not have many options. I did entertain the idea of working for the camel beach sunset ride company and trying to figure it out for a month. But Northern Territory was the final frontier for me, the last state of Australia unvisited. Without much thought I said fuck it, I’ll be fine and booked it.

The week in Broome flew by with day trips to the Kimberley’s, moped bike rentals, and beach days. 700km laid in front of me before I got Halls Creek to sleep for the night. 9am I got in a cab, hugged my new friends at the hostel goodbye, and headed for Apollo. As a backpacker you get good and hauling all your things including groceries all together pretty efficiently and wishing your new best and only friends goodbye. I spilled all my stuff out onto the Apollo office and greeted Linda the woman I had just returned my last relo van to just two weeks earlier. She tells me I was upgraded to a luxury van, longer, including a shower and toilet. Ugh. I am the only person who would hate this right now. A bigger van to me meant more fuel and a more annoying thing to drive alone. No way around it though, this was my whip.

Just a girl and her van

By 10am I was on the road, by 1005am my oil light was on. My knowledge of cars is 0 so any light on the dashboard frightens me. Luckily I have a resident mechanic I can call on and he told me if it is on I should do something not ignore it like I wanted to. I take a photo and email Apollo asking if they need me to service it. They say nah, it is fine. Cool, so I guess let me head into the outback with no service on my phone with this light on, cool.

I stop in Fitzroy for my first petrol top up. The red dirt is everywhere. The boab trees are still littering the landscape. The next thing I notice is the number of Aboriginal people. Literally from the moment of leaving the east coast of Australia the number of Aboriginal people has skyrocketed. Now that I made it to the top of the country it was even higher. After 3 years of living in Australia I started to finally see the indigenous people.

Fitzroy Crossing, WA

I spent the 7 hour drive listening to music, my Peter Pan audiobook, and when my phone would just randomly disconnect just sit in silence watching the pavement disappear below me. The sun set and I was still an hour from Halls Creek. My eyes were peeled for the kangaroos, cows, and low flying birds. I had found a free campsite by a spring that I was heading towards. I had been using this app called Wikicamps which in Australia is bible. You can sort it 100 ways and you get directions with longitude and latitude connected to google so you really cannot miss. This one I found in a book, first mistake, and turns out to be accessed via an unsealed road.

10 minutes out, the sun is gone and darkness is surrounding me and this massive rental van. As a drive down the road I see some kids and then see them pick up something and BAM. Whatever it was was thrown at my van. Luckily I got the insurance. A bit rattled, I continued and then saw the unsealed road. Fuck. This van shook like it was surviving an earthquake and I did not make it farther than 5 minutes on the road. I said nope, I will pay for a caravan site, this is dumb. I did a 5 point turn and drove back towards the road and the town.

The caravan park was like an Angel from God when I drove in. For $35 I had a “protected space”. They said there is a problem with the local Aboriginal community and the police did regular drive throughs of the park. What is this town I have driven into. A bit shaken still I plugged in my van, opened all my doors to let in some air circulation and started cooking dinner. The women camping in front of me came and introduced themselves. They noticed I was traveling alone and wanted to chat. Some people may hate this but to me this was a saving grace.

We had a chat about different places we have been and they shared some of their lives. They met at a prison where they both worked, and started dating, now married they have been traveling from South Australian around the entire south west, then western coast, and now up the top end of WA. They have a trucker radio and their frequency on the back of their caravan for people to jump on and have a chat. I am forever thankful to these ladies for helping me regain my confidence just through their company on that first night.

Feeling much better, we said goodnight and I packed everything away. I turned my seating area into a bed and told myself. 1 day down, you can do this, 4 days to go.

Mueller Range

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