47. Australian Road Trip: Eighteen Knights in Exmouth Act II
Here be Dragons
Like some inept Hollywood B-movie script, our 21st century Aussie Road Trip has descended from adventure, to farce, to fairy tale. Having been rescued from the worst possible breakdown situation by a tall dark Knight of the Road and his trusty, oil-covered, spanner-weilding squires, I now find myself riding helplessly into a remote township with our home and transportation tied down on the back of a rattley old flat-bed trailer. My damsel, Sheila, has disappeared into the town, and my mobile phone doesn’t work. I am now confronting my dragons.
Warning: This Hub is long and contains some swearing - exactly what it was like in real life!
The Kingdom of Exmouth, WA
Home sweet home.... NOT
Scene: Me in the back seat of a Pajero, two mechanics in the front and our Winnebago sitting on a flat bed trailer towed along behind. The Outskirts of Exmouth, Western Australia.
To escape the strain of pondering what we might do next, I begin to take note of the landscape outside the slow moving Pajero. As we near Exmouth town the scenery undergoes subtle changes. the terrible flatness of the blue desert is replaced, on the right, by the tropical waters of Exmouth Gulf, and on the left, by a rising ridge of spinifex speckled rock, cut with gorges that reveal time-worn, twisted layers. This is the Cape Range National Park, though it is barely a range at all, so lacking in height are those time-wearied mountains.
Then we pass the ‘Welcome to Exmouth’ sign and turn down a wide street into a typical outback industrial estate, complete with chain link fences, rusty equipment and junk yard dogs. Aaron’s yard is a large, vehicle strewn gravel space entered through a double gate in a cyclone fence. There is a sizable tin workshop at the far end, shaded by a few trees. Steve expertly backs the flatbed trailer with Winnie sitting proudly atop it, like a naughty but defiant child, into a space next to a newly-built out-building.
Aaron comes over and explains that Sheila is waiting for me in town, and we are welcome to plug into his power and use the shower and toilet in the out-building. In other words, we can camp here, in our disabled vehicle, for a few of nights while we decide what to do. Then he drives me into the town centre to find Sheila.
'Ave a butchers hook at these captain cooks
Give it up Mick
So this is what it has come to. We are now living in a dented, three-wheeled Winnebago, jacked-up on a flatbed trailer, in a dusty, car-strewn mechanic’s yard, in a tiny, isolated town at the end of a spinifex desert, on a peninsula that juts phallically into the Indian Ocean. It is, by any standards, our lowest moment, and yet, beneath our shock and sadness, there is an underlying relief that at last we have been forced to confront the brutal truth. This Winnebago ain’t no good!
For the next week, we patrol the streets of the town, searching for a solution to our greatest dilemma. At first there is no question - Winnie must be fixed. We must get the beast back on the road, continue our explorations and get her back to Sydney, where we can recoup some of our losses. Aaron bursts that bubble on the second day.
Winnie, he tells us, is almost unfixable. Much time and money would need to be spent to resurrect the tired old Toyota, and even then, there could be no guarantee that she wouldn’t burst another seam somewhere else. Aaron points out that the dual-wheel system, as it is set-up on Winnie, is inadequate and unsafe, and given the age of the truck, almost impossible to fix. So what do we do? How do we get out of here?
Do we abandon the remainder of our road trip and fly back to Sydney? Is this breakdown just another tribulation sent to challenge us? Will I wake up and find it is a dream? No, Winnie the Winnebago is, to use the appropriate Walt Disney rhyming slang – Donald Ducked. Even if we do hang around for another three or four weeks and spend another grand or more getting it fixed, the sad fact is we still have over 7,000 kilometres left to travel to get back to Sydney. There is a very good chance that this old truck will breakdown again somewhere else. Like the middle of the Nullabor Plain for example. I don’t think we can handle the stress anymore. It is time to give it up.
Get yourself a job in Oz
The working life.... well, almost
There is only one practical solution - we must abandon Winnie and buy another vehicle. In the meantime we must find better accommodation than the back of a flatbed trailer in a scrap yard.
We also decide to look at the job scene in town. There is work, and we both procure jobs on the third day. The Potshot is the town’s main hotel. Our story of woe wins them over and Sheila is offered a job cleaning chalets and I can clean toilets in the bar for $7 per hour after tax. It is karmic-punishment. However, our career as low-paid hotel workers is cut-short the next morning by a ferocious rain storm. It’s our first rain since Pine Creek NT, over six weeks earlier. It floods the car yard, floods the footpaths and floods the main road. It turns the verges into red mud and by the time it finishes we have decided not to work. We are going to make Buying Another Vehicle our job.
Exmouth has a permanent population of about 2500 souls. However, that figure is expanded by thousands during the winter tourist season. There are two supermarkets, three pubs, a bowlo, an RSL, a newsagent, a camping shop, some cafes, a cheap-shop (Pound Shop), a servo, several mechanics, wrecks everywhere, but no used car dealership. Buying a car in Exmouth won’t be easy.
Australia and The Vietnam War
Australian soldiers, both regular army and conscripts, fought in the Vietnam conflict alongside US troops for about 10 years from 1962 - 1972. In total, some 60,000 Aussies served, with over 500 fatalies suffered during the course of the action. For many years after the war, Vietnam vets were effectively ignored, even by the Returned Soldiers League, because of the negative publicity and anti-war feelings generated around the conflict. It wasn't until 1987 that Aussie Vietnam Vets were honoured at a "Welcome Home" parade in Sydney.
The Vietnam Experience
Aussie Songs about the Vietnam War
Exmouth Blokes - local knowledge
Steve, the ex-RAC, road-rescue guy who helped bring us in from the desert, lives in a house in a wreck strewn yard just down the street from Aaron’s. We ask him about used cars in town and he suggests we see Dave, who runs the second-hand bookshop down the road. Dave is a jovial, chubby, ex-Londoner; a know-what-I-mean sort of geezer. He reckons he knows everyone in town and everything that goes on. He tells us to see Tom who runs the scooter hire next door, or Russell who runs the Autopro Parts and Accessories shop down the road. So we see Tom who doesn’t know anything about any cars for sale. Then we visit Russell, who has already been phoned by Dave who told him of our approach.
“I know a bloke who has a Ford he might want to sell. His name is Dobbo and he’s a hairy bloke; ex-Vietnam, dabbles with cars.” So we cycle up to Dobbo’s, using a town map to find our way through the small but confusing web of streets. Exmouth is a new town, only created in 1967, and built on a 60’s style plan of residential streets radiating out from a semi-circular boulevard of amenities, government buildings and shops. Sure enough, Dobbo is tinkering away in his shed on a small two-stroke outboard clamped in a vice in his tidy but cluttered workshop. He’s a crusty, talkative bloke in his early 60s. Vietnam campaign posters, Vets Association pennants and various photos of giant fish adorn the walls of the shed. He has a fridge full of beers which he begins to share with us. Outside there are a couple of old cars and a smart looking fishing boat on a trailer. The car we might buy is a Ford EA station wagon. Old, but in good nick. He only wants a “couple” for it (that's a couple of thousand by the way) and it looks like our luck has changed. We make big plans for Dobbo’s Ford. We will purge - ditch our el-cheapo K-mart stuff, buy a trailer, roof racks, whatever is needed. We are suddenly re-inspired and energised by the possibilities. We take the car for a test drive down to Aaron’s and he immediately smells something funny.
"There’s no power steering fluid in it," he says. "Should have coolant in the radiator too, not water."
We take it back to Dobbo’s and he promises to rectify the shortcomings. Even has a pair of better tyres to put on it. We figure that by Friday we should have a vehicle, sort the rego out, pay the road tax, the weather will come good and bingo…. We’re on the road again!
Friday comes and it’s apparent that the Ford won’t be ready till Wednesday. It transpires that when Dobbo booked it in for a rego test, Waddy, the mechanic who does all the Town’s Regos, reckons it needs an immobiliser to make it legal, and that won’t happen till next week. Our luck bucket is once again leaking, but what can we do? Meanwhile, Winnie has finally been forklifted down from the flatbed and now sits with its back end propped up on a jack. But the car yard accommodation is taking a toll on our moral. We sit there watching the Aaron working, day in, day out. Cars and trucks roll in, are fixed, and roll out again. Vans, laden with surfboards, bikes, fuel tanks and holiday paraphernalia, come and go, while we sit like a bedraggled pair of clipped-winged galahs in our useless cage, watching those free-birds limp in and fly away again.
A good book to have if you happen to get lost out here
Long, wet weekend
Short weekend at Ningaloo
We decide to buy a tent, hire a car, and go around the coast for a few days while we wait for Dobbo’s Ford to be made road ready. Russell at Autopro rents us a Nissan hatchback and we buy a decent four-person tent and a double-burner gas stove from the hardware store. We stock up with supplies and as a blinding rainstorm squalls in from across the Gulf, we head north out of Exmouth to the Ningaloo coast and the Cape Range National Park.
It’s a foul day, reminiscent of the west coast of Ireland. Sheets of rain lash the road, the wipers struggle to clear the water from the windscreen. Wind gusts buffet us. Out of the gloom, huge antennas loom ahead; this is the joint US/Australia, military communication station. It’s a stark, dystopian, and totally fitting thing to plant in this lonely wind swept place. We round the Cape and come to the Lighthouse. It grows out of the top of the Range where it slopes steeply down to the flat land at the tip of the Cape. From the windswept lookout we can only imagine what the spectacular view over the desert and the sea might look like in sunshine. The golden sun-scorched spinifex, the turquoise sea – a dappled motif of white sand and coral gardens - the fabulous Ningaloo Reef. On the west side of the peninsula now, we drive till we come to the National Park Entrance. Out of a small hut, a ranger appears. “Are youse planning on camping?” He asks. “It’s pretty wet in there you know.” He sucks air, mechanic-like, through his teeth. We answer "yes" and he calls ahead to one of the campgrounds in the Park and discovers that there is a relatively dry pitch available at the Mesa site, about 20kms into the Park. We drive through the pelting squalls till we come to the Mesa turn-off and then slosh down a potholed, dirt road till we reach the campsite. It is tucked behind some dunes, right at the ocean’s edge. There are 13 camping bays, most occupied by Grey Nomads in caravans. Mary and Don are the Volunteer Camp Hosts and as we drive in they come out to cheerily greet us, despite the stinging gusts of lashing rain. They show us our bay. In other circumstances this would be one of the best campsites we’ve ever had the pleasure to pitch a tent in. Our site sits on a slightly raised, flat dirt area and is sheltered by Sheoaks and nearby dunes. There’s a picnic table and a great view of the sea through the trees. The only problem is the rain. Mary suggests that we drive 5kms further down the road and spend some time in the Visitor Centre. She promises to hold the campsite for us. So we go and sit shivering through a short film about the Ningaloo Marine Park. The rain refuses to abate and at 4.45, when the centre is about to close, we head back to Mesa. The rain has created a huge puddle in the turn-around area of the camp. As the wind picks up and the rain becomes horizontal we begin to pitch our tent.
It must be pointed out that this is Sheila’s first time tent-camping. Well, she once camped, as a gal, in her back garden, but it wasn’t proper camping like this. I take the brand new tent out of the boot. It is still in it's as yet unopened cardboard box. First thing I do is read the instructions. I order Sheila out of her hiding place in the car and get her to help me put together the long, bendy pole system. We raise the inner tent and connect it to the poles. We drape the fly over the top and peg the whole thing down.
I may be crap at automotive mechanics, but when it comes to putting up an unfamiliar tent in a rainstorm at dusk, I am not bad! By the time the last rays of feeble, watery sunlight have been swallowed up by nightfall and rain, we are sitting in relative comfort and total dryness in the little annex of the tent. Inside the dome we have a double air bed, our clothes, blankets and a certain aura of cosiness. Before long, I have the camp stove going, and we are on our way to eating a hot meal. I love camping. Not so Sheila. She hates camping - a thin, billowy structure, sitting on hard wet gravel is not a proper place to sleep, especially when it is being thrashed senseless by wind and rain. To make matters worser, the large puddle in the turnaround area has become a lake, the shores of which are lapping only metres from our tent. As the evening progresses and the rain pounds deafeningly against the flimsy walls of our tent, the lake grows, insidiously, larger. We crawl snugly into bed where we can cuddle up and hear the rhythmic pattern of the rain. “I’m scared, Mick,” she says. “What if the water floods us.”“It won’t,” I say. “But what if it does? What if everything floats away.” “It won’t,” I repeat. I peer out of the tent to check, to ease her mind, and see that the lake has begun to creep under the our rental car parked nearby. “It shouldn’t reach us here,” I say with complete uncertainty. In the middle of the night she awakens me.
“I’m scared,” she whispers, “what if the water comes up and floods us?”
“Look,” I say, “it won’t. But if it did, we would grab our valuables, some clothes and some blankets and go and sit in the car.” ‘But what if the car gets carried away by the water?” I finally crack: “Shut the f**k up! Shut the f**k up! Shut the f**k up!” I scramble out of bed, unzip the flaps and climb semi-naked into the annex. I unzip the main tent flap and poke my head out. The torchlight shows that the lake has levelled out and the rain has finally relented. Unless there is an unprecedented downpour, we will be fine. I go back to bed and after a period spent assuring Sheila of our survival, boosting her confidence and praising her newly acquired camping skills, she mimics my counselling method in no uncertain terms – “Shut the f**k up yourself Mick” She says, but by then I am asleep.The dawns brings promise. The rain has stopped and I cook a hearty camp fry up - bacon, eggs, tomatoes and mugs of tea. The sky is streaked with thick grey clouds, like smudged mascara on a tearful face, though an optimistic brightness lurks just beyond the murk. The breakfast is tasty and reminiscent of a hundred camp breakfasts that I’ve had in the past. There is a column of sunshine cutting through the clouds. I love camping.
We spend the day exploring the coast. It is obvious that this is truly a wonderful place. The ocean is still warm, despite the cool weather and rain. The sand is almost pure white, and as the day wears on we can see the shadows of the coral gardens just below the surface. While driving down to Turquoise Bay we see a kangaroo and two emus in the spinifex at the side of the road. If only it was better weather. We want so much to snorkel in the crystal clear water, to loll about on warm sand, to soak up the magnificence of the place. But no, the weather is still not perfect and we must have the hire car back by first light in the morning. We need to return to Exmouth. Ningaloo will have to wait, as we will, for better weather. Eventually we force ourselves back to town. We shall make the tent our new home now - we have decided that we won’t be living in Winnie anymore, it’s too depressing.
Back in Exmouth, we check into the Ningaloo Caravan Park. It is prone to floods here too, so we choose a campsite on a well drained slope, between a stand of trees. As it isn’t raining and we have lots of daylight left, we erect the tent with great care, Pegging every corner, flap, and guy rope securely. We then spend the rest of the afternoon taking advantage of the hire car to transfer our stuff from Aaron’s yard to the campsite. That night it rains like a bastard, It’s still raining like a bastard the next morning when I take the rental car back. Sheila has lost her new found love of camping.
As the days pass, we gradually decant the rest of our belongings from the Winnebago to the campsite. During the first day, in the pouring rain, I erect our tarpauline. Helped by Chad, a young South African guy camped next door, I raise the structure to form a roof supported by 6 tent poles, secured with guy ropes. Then I tie the spare tarp around the windward corner to form a wall that protects the cooking area. I set up the table and chairs and generally create a dry living space for us, adjacent to our sleeping tent. The Tarp House is a godsend, further proof of my camping expertise. If only I was as good at buying cars. By Wednesday we look like permanent residents - gypsies who have decided to squat on this mild slope behind the Caltex servo. At night, as we sit about in the warm pool of light cast by our hurricane lamps, as rain patters the roof and wind billows the walls, faint sounds of crap pop music waft across from the loud speakers on the servo forecourt, further adding to our melancholia.On Wednesday, I cycle past Steve, the RAC guy, and stop to chat with him. He has heard through the grapevine about the Ford that we are buying from Dobbo. “Make sure you get the CO2 checked,” he warns. “Those old Fords are prone to cracked heads.” How would I know that? I’m a tent guy, not a car engine guy! I head up to Dobbo’s and ask him if he minds me taking the car to Aaron's for a CO2 test. “No worries,” he says, “I checked the compression meself and it’s bloody fine.” “I’m sure it is Dobbo,” I say, “but I gotta check.” Later, I return the machine to Dobbo. Sadly the CO2 is bad. The worst it could be in fact. The mechanics at Aaron’s shook their heads, sucked air through their teeth and said – “Not a good buy mate, it won’t make it to Perth much less Sydney.” Dobbo is gutted to lose the sale, but not half as gutted as we are.
Square one is where we are again. You need a ladder to climb in and out of our pit of despair, and still the rain, lashed by a cold wind, slaps us about with a cruel indifference. Each visit we make to Winnie becomes more and more painful. I have started calling her Christine, after that Stephen King novel about an evil car. We remember all the things that she has done to us over the months… The way she barked and farted when going down hills. The way the side door to the camper would fly open for no reason as we drove along; or the malevolent way it would occasionally lock us out.
A family of mice have taken up residence in Winnie too, leaving little, stinky black poos all over the counter tops. We dare not open the fridge. The book I never finished at Termite Nest has been soaked by a little leak in the back window, it stinks of moldy book. Ironically, it is a Stephen King novel about malevolent mobile phones. I will never finish it.
Then we discover Jeff. He comes to us through Pete, yet another mechanic, who noticed a Nissan Patrol For Sale. He gives us the number off the windscreen and I spend several hours trying to get hold of the owner. When I finally get through, the seller, Jeff, tells us he is camped out at the Lighthouse, enjoying a beer. He offers to come straight back to town then and there, so we can see his truck. It’s dark and pouring with rain so I suggest he comes back in the morning. It is a glimmer of hope. Not only that, but he owns two vehicles. The Nissan Patrol, and a 4x4 van. The following morning I cycle up to the address given to me by Jeff, to have a sneak preview at the Nissan. I arrive just as a bloke is about to back out of the drive in the it.
“G’day mate,” he says, offering me his hand, I’m Buzz.” I take one look inside the truck and am visibly shaken by the chaotic mess. In the back there is a pile of what can only be described as “Stuff”. In the front there is more Stuff, and a confusion of electrical wiring stuffed into the space where the radio should be. I immediately discount the Patrol as being a suitable vehicle and tell Buzz that the 4x4 Van is really what I’m interested in.
“He should be back from the coast any time,” Buzz explains, “make sure you barter with him.” All day long we wait for Jeff to return. We try calling his mobile but he is out of range. As the gloomy day dribbles to a damp end, we sit disconsolately under our tarp, wishing we were elsewhere. Then, as darkness sweeps in on the back of a thick and endless rain cloud, our phone rings; it’s Jeff. He’s on his way back into town so we arrange to meet in the Caltex servo next door. When I see the 4x4 van pulling into the forecourt through sheets of rain, we scurry from our camp across the convenient shortcut, via stepping stones in the creek, to reach the Caltex. From afar the van looks cool. It’s a Mitsubishi L300. Basically, your bog standard small transit van, but with four-wheel drive, huge great desert-dueller tyres, a large roof rack with a ladder, a bull bar, a wiremesh windscreen protector and a bank of spotlights along the front. Looks great. I change my mind when I look inside though. Jeff must have a thing about Wires, and “Stuff”. The back is strewn with Stuff, and Wires hang, dangle and protrude everywhere. There is a heavy duty battery sitting amongst the Stuff and Wires coming from that up to the ceiling and across to more Wires. The dashboard is severely customised with bits of wood-effect, masonite board and there is a tangle of Wires sprouting from the steering column like unruly pubic hair.
Jeff himself is a bit of a character. A strong featured young man, he looks a bit camel-like I suppose, in his early thirties. He is dressed in dirty jeans, no shirt and is barefoot. He has food stuffs scattered about the van – old sandwiches, sweet wrappers, slightly off bananas, and avocado skins mixed with beach sand on the floor.
“Sorry I’m late man,” he explains in a slow Oz-hillbilly drawl. “I was kidnapped down Yardie Creek and spent all day in a tinnie out on the reef. Then, on me way back I ran out of LPG and had to switch to petty and it looks like I’ve run out of that too.”
While Jeff fills the tank with “petty” we look over the truck. Sheila is visibly shaken, as much by the red mud caked to the undercarriage as by the chaos inside. I’m still liking the van. I’m thinking – let’s fix the wiring, clean out the inside, sling up some sarongs to make it cosy, get it back to Sydney and sell it to some adventurous German backpackers. Jeff can’t start the van.
“It usually works really well on petty,” he says. I can sense his embarrassment. We end up pushing it around the forecourt in an effort to start it, to no avail. Eventually we push it up to the LPG pump and he fills it with gas.
Sheila risks crossing the creek alone in the dark rather than come for a test drive. I stick around with Jeff, willing his van to impress me. Finally, we get it running on LPG and he suggests we go for a drive to see how well it runs and to get the petrol working. Off we go down the lonely highway out of town. It’s pissing rain and there is only one working windscreen wiper and that only works on Intermittent. Jeff fiddles endlessly with the nest of loose wires while I reach over and steer. It’s scary. “Sorry man,” he keeps saying. “It runs OK on LPG but when you switch to petty it’s really good.” Fear of breaking down in the desert, or crashing, in the rain, at night, urges me to persuade Jeff to turn around. We arrange to have a better look in the morning. I’m sure he can get the dual-fuel thing sorted - I’d love to see how it runs on Petty.
For the next couple of days, Jeff becomes a regular visitor to our camp. He is so anxious to flog the van, he even cleans it up and empties it of Stuff, or most of it. We take some rides out on the highway and Jeff decides that I should see its four wheel drive capabilities. He drives me down to the beach and tears around the dunes with expert recklessness, until I remind him that the dunes are signposted as being under repair and out of bounds. Later, Jeff allows me take the van to Sir Aaron’s workshop for a look over. It fails Aaron’s stringent scrutiny miserably. “It’ll never make it back to Sydney!” he says while his crew of mechanics suck air through gritted teeth in agreement. I’m gutted, but also relieved.
Jeff is disappointed but I suggest we show the Nissan Patrol to Sir Aaron too, who politely tells Jeff that it is only good for around here, not up to a drive to Sydney.
“A Cape Car?” says Jeff. The Nissan is destined never to leave Exmouth. He drops me back at camp and before he drives off he shows me a glossy surfing magazine. There is a large full colour article, several pages long, about a famous surfer and board shaper known throughout the west coast as Camel. I flick through the pages and realise that Camel is, or rather was, Jeff. “Just wanted to show you man, that I used to be in the loop man,” he explains. “I just had enough and wanted to do my own thing, plus I suffer from paranoid psychosis”.
I blink back a tear and shake Jeff’s hand warmly. Despite his lurking paranoia and Stuff-and-Wire fetish, Jeff is a nice bloke, an eccentric one, but nice. Respect to Camel.
Exmouth Animal Life
Back at the tent, we again battle with the reality that there are no cars of any quality for sale in Exmouth. Meanwhile, our camp grows around us. It evolves like an organic, living thing. The ground inside the tarp house becomes well trodden and hard packed. We make a shelf out of milk crates, breeze blocks and a couple of pieces of planking that I find; we hang more sarongs. We develop homely little habits, like leaving the washing up in a bucket outside till morning. It’s a tent, who cares? We feel like we may live here for ever, on this gentle slope, near the footpath next to the creek, just across from the Caltex, where every car in town comes and goes with ease while we remain trapped like shipwrecked survivors, out of sight, out of earshot. HELP – somebody sell us a sodding car! At night we sit about, writing, reading, playing scrabble or socialising with our neighbours, Chad and Chelsea. Chad’s a have-a-go South African guy, married to Chelsea, who is a have-a-go Aussie girl from Bunbury. They are on a long-term road trip and are typical of another species of Aussie traveller – the Young Aussie Nomad. They have a slick Landcruiser, a big old canvas tent, a staffie called Bortia (Africaans for ‘Little Shit’), a tinnie on a trailer and a three-way fridge freezer that is a must for the outback. They’re in Exmouth trying to find semi-permanent jobs, but the weather means that Chad’s job as a labourer is washed out until further notice. He goes fishing all the time instead. Chelsea is a nurse in real life and she eventually lands a job in Parabadoo, hundreds of miles away in the desert near Karijini. We hope we can leave town before they do.As the days tick over, we continue to chase cars. Our bicycles are put to constant use and the streets of Exmouth become more and more familiar. We are beginning to like the place. We may just stay here forever. We are close to insanity. One day, Sheila forces me to take a ride down to Waddy’s garage to see if he has any cars for sale. Waddy is the other main mechanic in town; some say he is ‘The Man’, but we think Sir Aaron is ‘The Man’. Dobbo had told us, without any prompting, that Waddy wears the tightest shorts in Exmouth.
I arrive at Waddy’s workshop, identify The Man himself by the cut of his King Gees and ask him if he has any cars for sale. He turns to one of his young mechanics, Paul, and asks him if he want’s to sell “it”.
The next day we are the proud owners of a Mitsubishi Magna Station Wagon. We are dumbstruck by the thought that once again we are mobile. We have finally rejoined the travelling class. But hey, we don’t look like travellers, No, our little station wagon has genuine Exmouth, “EX”, licence plates. We look like fucking locals!
EX - Locals
Last view and farewell to our Winnebloodybago
It's all systems GO
We head out to Sir Aaron’s Castle, I mean workshop, and strip the Winnebago of everything we can fit in the wagon. It’s a tight fit and already I can sense many days of stress lurking in the future, as I pack and re-pack, again and again, all our belongings into the back.
We decamp. It’s an operation reminiscent of a military invasion. There’s logistics to manage. Where does the tent ride? How will the tarp poles be attached to the roof rack? Does the table go in first? And what about all Sheila’s clothes? Fortunately, our last morning in the Ningaloo Caravan Park is a sunny one and there’s no one around to enforce the 10.00am departure rule, so we take our time - what is a couple of hours after 18 days and nights. By noon we are packed. We sadly sell our old bikes to Chad and Chelsea, for “80 bucks and some buds” and say a fond farewell to them and Bortia, who has become Sheila’s new best doggy mate.” Then, whoopy…. It’s off for a bit of rough camping on the rugged Ningaloo coast. The Round Australia Road Trip is on again.
Several years later... in the era of Facebook and the internet, I keep seeing references to a surfer called Camel, recognised as one of Western Australia's most dynamic and fearless surfers. I'm so glad that he has survived his psychosis and achieved the fame he deserves. But I wonder if he still has those old trucks of his; and I wonder whatever happened to Winnie. Is it still parked in Aaron's yard or did he pass it on to Camel who was interested in having another useless motor? One day we will return and find out the answers.
More by this Author
Leaving Port Hedland in their newly repaired camper van, Mick & Sheila wend their way cautiously down the west coast of Australia, surrounded by desert wilderness and the fear of breaking down again.
One effect of Cyclone Larry (March 2006) was increased rainfall, the consequence being that we were trapped in the outback town of Katherine for over a week while the town flooded. Disaster Tourism.
80 Mile Beach is exactly what it's name implies; and Pardoo? Call it the Waterloo of our Aussie road trip. From here on in things are never the same, not that the trip was ever predictable.