G’Day from Tom Price! I’m sitting here in clean clothes with clean hair after having my first shower in 4 days – ahhhhhh heaven!
But let’s start back when we left Meekatharra.
26th August 2018 (Sunday): Due to our campsite in Meekatharra being so close to the main highway, road trains barrelled past constantly, some sounding like they were heading straight for our camper!
We packed up and decided to drive to a place called Bilyuin Pool, a campsite we found on WikiCamps. We took a turn-off as directed by Apple maps and drove along a dirt road until we came across signs saying ‘KEEP OUT!’, ‘TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED!’ and ‘NO UNAUTHORISED ACCESS!’. By the third sign we felt maybe we shouldn’t keep going, not sure why, gut feeling perhaps, so we turned around and headed back to the main highway. We decided to just drive straight to Newman.
Newman is a fairly bustling mining town with most cars carrying orange lights and every second person wearing hi-vis uniforms. We didn’t want to stay at another caravan park so found a free camp at a place called Rhodes Ridge Rest-stop, 50km north of Newman.
Rhodes Ridge is a wide open area slathered in fine red dust and scattered with low scrub and spots of campfires. We set up our camp for the night, by now our process is well-oiled and now, well-dusted.
27th August 2018 (Monday): The next morning I went to the loo, the chemical toilet of which Tim set up in the open air down the side of the camper. Looking up from my book, my eyes met the eyes of a dingo standing directly in front of me merely 10 metres away from where I was sitting in all my glory! After hesitating for a second, I leapt up, my book flew into the air and landed in the dirt and I scarpered into the camper still trying to pull my pants up! Tim thought it was funny and said the dingo would just be hanging around for scraps and they are more dangerous in packs. We both peered out the window to see the dingo still standing in the bush, patiently waiting for any remnants of last nights dinner.
We packed up the camper and headed north to Wittenoom where we set up camp in Wittenoom Gorge. Our campsite was absolutely beautiful with the gorge wall on our right and a short but turquoise clear waterhole all to ourselves. We spent the first evening practising our ‘Coo-ee!’ bounce around the gorge walls and echo back to us from a different direction. It was amazing!
28th August 2018: We were awake early listening to the birds greet each other good morning.
Pressure points on each corner of the camper trailer canvas had become unstitched leaving gapes on either side. If not addressed, they would soon tear open leaving an entire front wall missing. Tim spent the morning patching up the seams with spare canvas and kwik-grip with me as his trusty, yet day-dreaming T.A!
In the afternoon we paddled our kayaks up our waterhole admiring the slate slab construction of the wall, all intricately pressed together. There were some gaps in the slabs resembling a half-played game on Jenga. The colours of ochre, maroon, slate grey and, dare I say it, dark asbestos blue, made up the colour scheme of this part of Wittenoom Gorge.
Willy wagtails, finches and ibis danced on tree branches around us welcoming but unsure of why we were there. As we lay back in our kayaks, the sun warming our sunscreen lathered legs, we watched at least 5 other 4WD’s lumbering up the track, through the water crossing and roaring up the hill and away from us. This is our campsite for today.
29th August 2018 (Wednesday): After breakfast we packed up and got going to have a look around Wittenoom then venture into Karijini National Park.
Wittenoom is a ghost town. During the 1940’s-1960’s it was Australia’s only supplier of blue asbestos used in items such as roofing, fences and when woven or mixed with cement, would be resistant to fire and heat. The use was extremely popular however it was eventually found to be a direct cause of lung diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma. The mine was shut down in 1966 and the status of it being a town was removed in 2006. Tim and I (both aware of the risks) looked through some vacant houses, many often left as if the tenants put their knives and forks down, the children put their boardgames pieces to the side and they all just walked out.
According to Wikipedia, there are still 3 people living in Wittenoom and although a few houses looked like they were inhabited, not a soul was seen.
In Karijini National Park there are only two campsites (known to travellers), Dale’s Gorge Camping ground and Karijini Eco- Retreat. We were, perhaps naively, hoping we may find a secluded area to camp in rather than either of the two main camping grounds, but no such luck. It was becoming late afternoon so we decided to head to the Eco-Retreat.
On the way along the very corrugated dirt roads, I heard a bumpity bump bump and in the rear view mirror, a flash of green and yellow shot away from the car – the kayak’s fallen off! Fortunately it was undamaged but just an inconvenience.
We wandered into the campsite paying $40/night for an unpowered campsite. It was really windy when we were setting up our camp with canvas flying everywhere and seemingly aiming at Tim to add to his already jolly mood.
30th August 2017 (Thursday): Packing up once again, we drove to some of the gorges to have a look around. Tourists scrambled everywhere and most carparks were full. The gorges however, were gorgeous haha.
We are now in Tom Price, the town where I was born almost 35 years ago and left when I was 4 years old. I wonder if anyone recognises me? We’re staying here for a couple of nights and going to have a game of 9 holes of golf tomorrow. 9 holes of golf in the town of my birth. Fore!
I wrote a poem:
Rough starts, unforeseen and grating, although every box we drew we checked.
We wanted someone or something to blame for our troubles, a culture inside us we’ve not let go.
Kilometres of bitumen, gravel and dirt. Corruated, smoothed or firm.
We have no-one’s company but each other’s and our own.
The drone of an audio book keeps the drivers mind active; alert. While the sleepy passenger comes and goes between what is real and what isn’t.
Red dirt, ochre dust fluffs and billows behind the vehicle. When it is idle, the dust gently lays on every surface like an ethereal permeating cloak.
Two bodies flop out of the car, stretch and take in the scenery. Before long, hitches are unhitched, trailers stop trailing and a house is unfolded.
Methodically and purposefully the two bodies work in unison. Then planting bottoms in chairs, wiping perspiration from the brow.
Eyes watch as the Australian sun settles behind the hills. The moon is anticipating its nightly return for all who admire it.
The sky is red, orange, purple, pink then grey. Dingoes lift their heads, noses twitching at smells of steak and onions frying.
Should they creep later and check for morsels?
Bodies retire, one by one and the loud zipper shatters the outback silence.
It will all be done again tomorrow.
Catch ya soon! 🙂