Driving from Exmouth to Nanutarra, we noticed continuous signs pointing out that we were driving over a flood plain. There were very few hills and a flood plain covering an area of at least 100 square kilometres illustrates how the summer monsoon overwhelms the capacity of the ground to swallow up the deluge. A few years ago Roddy and I drove from Port Headland to Monkey Mia and got stuck at a flooded creek near Paraburdoo. We had to just wait for the waters to recede enough so we could drive through in the Polo Roddy had then. 4WD vehicles attempted the crossing much earlier and roadtrains didn’t bother waiting at all but it would have been impossible to attempt in a normal car. I actually can’t wait to come across a flooded creek again, as this time we will have the comforts of the motorhome – sit back with a cup of tea and wait. This land is a land of extremes which is one of the reasons why I love it.
Our travel companions on the dashboard:
Nanutarra is one of those places you see on the map and think, ah, a small town along the road. No, Nanutarra is a roadhouse, the equivalent of a motorway service station just that the road is not a motorway in the way I used to understand it. It is really a country road with a speedlimit of 110km/h. Many roadhouses also function as motels and campsites. When I say motel I mean a collection of ‘dongars’. A dongar is a ship container that has been remodelled into a bedroom. Some dongars are more like stationary caravans but you get the idea. Rough and ready.
The outback is empty and you will often see nothing between roadhouses hundred of kilometres apart. Sometimes there are turn-offs to stations (farms) where a dirt-road takes you 250km to the farmhouse. Mental!
Anyway, Nanutarra is situated next to the Ashburton river which is very picturesque at this point. We checked in and Roddy delighted the Pakistani owner with his command of Urdu. The owner really couldn’t get enough of Roddy’s conversation and killed himself laughing when Roddy commented on his age saying the Urdu equivalent of “My hair didn’t turn white from standing in the sun,” or “मेरे बाल सूरज में खड़े होने से सफेद नहीं हुए।” pronounced “mere baal sooraj mein khade hone se saphed nahin hue.”
After setting up we headed for the bridge across the Ashburton river in order to see the riverbed and watch the sunset. Initially I went by myself in order to take photos, following a small path down to the river. There I came across a small but rowdy group of middle-aged pot-bellied men on Harley Davidsons. I called them the Hell’s Angels in my head. I tried to gauge the situation as I was alone there in a rather isolated location so I only lifted my hand for a brief wave and a semi-smile. I saw them look and heard them laugh, one of them saying, ”I ordered THAT one for us.”
‘Such arseholes,’ I thought and my metaphorical pocketknife sprung open. Not normally one to hold my tongue, I decided that in this situation it would be unwise to challenge them as there was a small tent and a car, plus 8 of them and 1 of me. So I threw them optical daggers and buggered off. Later on two of them came up to the bridge to also watch the sunset – lol. At this point they seemed polite and said ‘hello’ but I just looked at them as if they were the scum-of-the-earth, employing my best teacher death stare. I asked Roddy to biff them up but he declined. I guess I am the muscly one in this relationship.
We met a woman called Leigh who travelled alone although she was being ambiguous. Sometimes she said ‘she’ was travelling and sometimes ‘we’. We never saw the partner and there was no strange smell coming from her van so we assumed she was on her own. Leigh was seeking our friendship and I felt a bit bad when we drove off, as she was clearly a little bit lonely. You sometimes see people travelling alone but most are in pairs. I wonder what that’s like…
The drive to Karratha was smooth. Roddy used to have a house there, which he rented out. He sold it earlier this year after the mining boom crashed. So many houses were built here to accommodate the people working in the mines and all attached industries and now these lie empty and house prices have fallen sharply and, yes, he made a huge loss. Don’t even ask! The main purpose for coming to Karratha was to enable me to catch a flight down to Perth and from there on to Scotland.
So this is where I am now. In fact, just now I am on the train to Dundee (in fact we are just pulling in to the original Perth) where I will attend Paul’s graduation tomorrow. This is the reason why I came to Scotland. Roddy, on the other hand, is making his way south inland to the mining town of Laverton and then on to the Jindalee Operational Radar Network which is an over-the-horizon radar (OTHR) network that can monitor air and sea movements across 37,000 km2. It is used in the defence of Australia, and can also monitor maritime operations, wave heights and wind directions. Roddy has always said it was ‘unfortunate’ that this radar seemed to have been pointed in the wrong direction or even been out of action when the missing Malaysian Airlines flight disappeared a couple of years ago as it would definitely have picked it up.
From there he will travel to Kalgoorlie where I will meet him after the Scottish adventure.
Some more wildlife pictures from Exmouth, Yardie Creek and enroute: