It has been almost three years since I wrote a blog – time has intervened in lots of ways and in spite of all my good intentions, the blog suffered even though we have made several wonderful trips since then. Intentions have been renewed and as we are about to embark on a huge road trip, I started to reflect on a similar one I made way back in 1969 – dare I say it “50 years ago”.
We will leave next week to drive to Darwin via Mt. Isa and then to Kakadu and on to the Kimberleys and the North West staying in places such as Lake Argyle, Derby, El Questro, Karijini National Park and down the coast to Perth, on to Albany and Esperance in the south west and then across the 1200 kms of the Nullarbor to South Australia, Adelaide and finally homeward bound through the bush. All this is anticipated to take about 7 weeks and quite a lot of forward planning has taken place.
In 1969, newly arrived from the UK, I was invited to make a trip from Perth to Darwin and down to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. Of course I jumped at the chance, little knowing the hazards or what to expect. I had never even been in the bush before! I set off with a friend in an old Holden Panel Van with a roof rack on top holding gerry cans of fuel as well as our suitcases and water, our mattresses in the back along with food supplies and a stove. The road to Geraldton – some 400km – was sealed but the rest – all 11,300 km (or 7000 miles) was gravel or just plain red dirt. There were no fuel stops along the way after Geraldton. I never paused to think about breakdowns or wrecked tyres……….
The first time we needed to refuel I was told to get up on the roof, attach the hose to the gerry can and siphon the fuel down to the petrol tank. Of course, I had never done this before and the result was a mouthful of fuel at the first attempt!
We drove many kilometres and stayed in remote bush clearings or on the coast and from time to time stayed on stations such as Fossil Downs, Frazier Downs and others near Derby and in the Gulf. These were owned by friends of my friend and so I was lucky enough to experience life on huge stations – some larger than small countries in Europe. It was all mind boggling for a young 22 year old fresh from London and working for a film company.
Staying near Broome we visited the town often and got to know several locals. I was fascinated by the story of the Japanese pearl divers and the influx of Asians all of whom seemed familiar to me after growing up in the Far East. The children especially charmed me and we visited several schools and Missions all along the coast.
We had lots of adventures, staked a couple of tyres on lonely outback roads, met some fascinating people from the bush, learned a lot about Aboriginal folklore and The Dreamtime, appreciated the beauty of the rugged coastline and witnessed the birth of Kununurra and the Ord River project. All these memories are imprinted on my mind and I wonder what I will feel revisiting some of these places.
When we arrived in Darwin we decided to go on to Alice Springs and Ayers Rock. Tourists were not nearly as numerous then and at times we felt we had the place to ourselves. The Resort was yet to be built and roads were very basic. Back in Darwin we couldn’t face the long drive back so bought a couple of berths on the State Shipping Service ocean trader plying between Perth and Darwin
The ship was called the Koojarra and we spent ten days relaxing on the high seas with our trusty van in the hold! Calling in at various ports en route, we were able to go ashore and explore more of the coastal towns we had driven through just weeks before.
Now it is time to explore once again – but in a little more comfort this time and with many more facilities along the route including “glamping tents” and caravan parks.