The only way is up! (and then across and down a bit)

Luckily for you, I’ve struggled to find internet over recent weeks, so you’ve been spared my musings. Ha ha, not any longer! This is a short one though so bear with me.

Last time I mistakenly advised our mileage in old money – miles – so not 3000 miles achieved but 3000 kms. Not that it matters that much as it still seemed like we’d covered 3,000 miles!! Anyhow, I can now confidently assert that we have indeed passed the 3,000 mile mark, in fact we’ve clocked up over 7,000 km to date, so well over 4,000 miles and we have also passed into our next state – Western Australia -having left the ‘Top End’ and Northern Territories behind. What was a surprise, though, was having to hand over almost all the contents of the fridge at the border between NT and WA – especially since we had only recently had a supermarket visit. We were warned about it by the very helpful Gary when we were chatting at the campsite in Katherine, but we didn’t actually believe it would happen as we had already crossed from NSW to Queensland and then in to Northern Territories without any formal border control at all. Anyway sure enough, as we approached, there it was and we were soon ‘boarded’ to have the contents of our fridge and cupboards checked for fruit, vegetables and honey(?) The only upside was it didn’t extend to the beer, wine and snacks or else it might have all gone a bit Pete Tong and I might have been carted off. How a sealed bag of rocket from the nation-wide Coles supermarket could be confiscated when surely it is delivered across borders without issue I don’t know, but who I am to argue.

Also a bit of a shock was finding out that we had time travelled AGAIN. Having gone back by half an hour from Sydney time when we reached Darwin (just meant that we got away from the camp site on time for a change!), imagine our surprise to realise that we had travelled back another hour and a half when we crossed into WA – so making the difference between us and the Sydney team a full 2 hours!! Just call me Doctor Who.

It’s getting hot in here….

Our stay in Darwin turned out to be quite eventful having first thought that we would struggle to find stuff to do. First off was a very hot cycle ride into the centre to explore. I’d already had a touch of the vapours having had temperatures move into high 30s and sometimes mid 40 degrees (remember snow only a few weeks back?!) and what better way to deal with dehydration than to cycle in the searing heat? At least we could work out what was where and orientate ourselves and a cool beer always helps to restore the equilibrium although I’m pretty certain it’s not what would be prescribed for dehydration!

Our next outing into Darwin was conducted via the local bus service which, to Tim’s utter delight, was free. We’d booked to do a quick boat tour of the harbour to get a bit of background into the bombing raids by the Japanese in 1942. It was the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia and the attacks were focussed on the town itself, ships in the harbour and the town’s 2 airfields Luckily after Pearl Harbour, it seemed likely that Darwin could be targeted and so over 2000 women and children were evacuated from the region with the final evacuation aircraft leaving just one day before the Japanese raid. Talk about ‘the nick of time’.

Having enjoyed an informative, if somewhat moving, tour, we were brought back to the present very quickly with the sight of thousands of ‘young things’ heading over, in whatever craft they could lay their hands on, to a sand bar party. Sublime to the ridiculous! Apparently it’s a thing on several occasions but obviously only when the tides are right. Captain Gary was quick to point out that they’d get very wet feet indeed by about 2pm so let’s hope the boats stayed with them!

Bossing the buses

After all the excitement of the tour and its sights, it was off to the town lido/wave pool for a cool down before a very nice Thai meal and few drinks taking in the sunset. Then it was back on the bus with all the drunk and disorderly indigenous locals – serves us right for being stingey and using the last free bus back out to the sticks. Quite illuminating – if a little bit unnerving at times (we were the only non-locals if you get my drift) – but all part of the wider experience and joys of travelling don’t you know.

A much more sedate and interesting bus ride was that enjoyed in Broome. The bus service is run by an independent, family business and as you approach each stop, there’s a reminder of which stop it is and also a bit of history or interesting facts about each particular place. As a beach resort it doesn’t disappoint. We were based at a site on Cable Beach which is 22km long and has the whitest of white sand (sorry, not sorry) and the sea is beautifully warm. Mind you, you need to keep your wits about you as it can be frequented by the odd ‘salty’ or two. We spent a very pleasant afternoon availing ourselves of the lovely sand and sea only to be told by the deckchair/parasol man that we were lucky to be here today and not yesterday as the beach had been closed due to said saltwater crocodile making an appearance. I tell you, I’ve never been so vigilant – every bit of seaweed floating about was a possible contender. Anyway, we survived and to celebrate, we took ourselves off the the nearest hostelry for some beers and wine and an excellent seafood platter. Life’s hard I can tell you. We did get a bit of a shock though when we saw a train of camels going by – didn’t know if we’d had one too many – but was pleased to learn that it was a regular tourist attraction. It felt decidedly more like hard work the next day though when we decided to cycle from the campsite up to the lighthouse at Gantheaume Point. In itself quite a hot and therefore slightly tiring ride, it was made all the more exciting (?) when the road turned into a sand road. Cycling on sand on normal mountain bike tyres is harder than I thought and I soon turned into an expert tracker seeking out any harder bits to save us wallowing in the deep stuff. Got there in the end though.

Another thing that Broome is noted for is its history of pearling which started as an industry in the 1880s. The expertise of Asians, especially Japanese, as pearl divers soon resulted in high numbers of Japanese settling in the town and many becoming valued citizens. Indeed, there are many plaques around on the walls of town buildings telling of some of them. Pearling was a dangerous and sometimes deadly occupation and the town’s Japanese cemetery is the resting place of 919 divers who lost their lives working in the industry. Clearly the impact of WW2 and the attacks by the Japanese on Darwin extended much further afield and indeed reached Broome. With only 20% of the population being non Japanese, the impact of a direct attack on sea planes in the port in Broome was massive and must have been traumatic for the community as many residents were rounded up as enemy aliens and sent to detention camps.

It’s a big country – with big stuff in it

I know I’ve said this before, but it needs saying again. This is a BIG place. You can see from the mileages but it’s also the vastness of the landscapes that we travel through – just can’t get my head around it sometimes. Fantastic. Just some examples but probably doesn’t do it justice.

Mind you, it’s not the only thing that’s big. I’ve already mentioned the mineral mines at Mount Isa and the mahoosive hole in the ground there. Well this country is so big that there are loads of them and as we travelled between Broome and Exmouth (no, not that one – now that WOULD have been a massive drive) and we passed through Port Hedland which transports the minerals from the mines within the Pilbara region. The deep water port is one of the largest iron ore loading ports in the world and the largest in Australia. In 2019, 600 million tonnes of ore was shipped! Now, before they can ship it in ships, it has to be moved by train and the Mount Newman railway does that job and boy does it do that job. It runs for 426 kilometers and is one of Australia’s longest private railways with the longest and heaviest trains in the world. In 2021, it broke the world record for the heaviest and longest train – 99,734 tonnes and formed of 682 – yes 682 – wagons making it 7.3 km long. Just imagine having to wait for that to pass over the level crossing when you were late for something!! Tim would love to watch it pass mind you and although we only saw it in the distance, the photo doesn’t really do it justice. Other than those interesting statistics though, the place wasn’t that inviting and an overnight was more than enough. Onwards!

Finally reached Exmouth having passed through some very lovely landscapes with the most beautiful wild flowers. Even looked some of them up they were so pretty. It reminded me of the time we had ridden through Spain after some rain – areas which would ordinarily been quite arid and empty were covered by a carpet of colour. My favourites were purple Mulla Mulla and bright red Sturt’s Desert Pea. Stunning. We’re off cycling again in the heat tomorrow and then, winds permitting, out onto Ningaloo Reef on Monday. Get the snorkel out, I’m going in and if I don’t drown, I’ll let you know how it goes next time!

One thought on “The only way is up! (and then across and down a bit)

  1. G’day to both of you,
    Looks like you’re still having a fantastic time with lots of wonderful adventures and exciting experiences.
    Glad everything is going according to plan and it’s lovely reading about it all, it brightens up our day and puts a smile on our faces.
    Stay safe and well and we’ll look forward to your next instalment,
    Lots of love, Tim and Sheila xxx

    Sent from my iPad


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