I cautiously merged onto M-60 in the newly rented Toyota Tarago (known as ‘El Cheapo’ to the campervan hire and soon to be named ‘Brute’* by yours truely) to began my journey towards the North West Cape town that is solely called Exmouth.
Once I gained confidence in my city highway driving I started scanning through the radio stations. I paused when the screen read ’99.3FM’ to take in the sounds of Triple J. I was sent back seven weeks ago to when I was first intoxicated by the novelty of my new life – a new hemisphere, a new country, a new town, a new view. Triple J blared all around me counting the top hundred hits of the 2016 on Australia Day. The station also became the soundtrack durning many ride-a-bouts of Perth for my first six weeks. By now on week eight I am knowledgeable that Triple J is a country wide station and not a tight lip secret between a boy and I. So like his favourite station he was actually nothing special. And as it turns out I much prefer the station 98.5FM, to be the driver, and a vacant passenger seat.
About an hour and a half north of Perth was when I saw my first Australian native kangaroo. It was lying motionless on the side of the road. In fact after this road trip’s completion I saw more than one hundred dead kangaroos…There was at least one kangaroo corpse on average every fifteen minutes outside the city limits and surrounding suburbs of Perth. It was quite discouraging because the Australia I (and a lot of foreigners) imagine is an outback filled with kangaroos gayly hoping around. The reality seemed to be the polar opposite: a kangaroo graveyard, all above ground.
So about at twenty-one lifeless kangaroos later I arrived at my first non-petrol station stop, Hutt Lake. As I shut Brute’s door to start the trek I really hoped that this natural world oddity would lighten the mood since a majority of the scenery had been tainted by roadside cadavers. Hutt Lake is a pink lake; a pretty rare, humorous/uplifting coloured lake. During the planning phase of this trip my research taught me a few facts about pink lakes, such as their salt levels are particularly high and could provide a similar buoyant experience to that of a swim in the Dead Sea. Also learned that pink lakes’ odd colour is due to an algae. Although nothing I read warned me about the smell (probably due to the algae)…which made swimming quite unappealing. The congealed wads framing the lake added to my lost interest in swimming. Upon closer inspection the wads were merely salt clumps, nothing more perverse; but I still left Hutt Lake dry and wishing to be awed in any way other than the amount of passed away kangaroos.
Five dead kangaroos more and I made it to Red Bluff, a scenic turn off outside the town Kalbarri. I set up camp, which consisted of putting Brute into park. I have said it before and will say it again: when I camp solo I am pretty much homeless. I can’t be bothered to put in effort when concerning a personal campsite. Plus the additional ease that Brute brought to my lax camping style…really Brute completely permitted my homeless camping habits this time. Brute was an all inclusive homeless camping kit – full size bed, changing room, sink, dishes, stove, kettle, and wardrobe. Water was not included, but this camping trip I did purchase a case (six 1.5 litre bottles) of water in advance. l did this thanks to a previous lesson I learned from my solo adventure to Death Valley, CA. Although I again forgot to back toilet paper…I never do remember that…ever. Frankly I am in awe that I have not gotten a UTI yet. So with a James Squire’s One Fifty Lashes in hand I attempted to cook. As soon as the chicken sausage started to sizzle on the pan and the smell reached my nostrils I became paranoid that every dingo occupying Western Australia would be attracted to the scent. I switched my tactic to boiling in a closed, covered pot to avoid attracting baby-and-possibly-adult-eating dingos. I went through a few One Fifty Lashes waiting for the water to boil and my drunk intuition ended up throwing in all the chicken sausages I bought for the whole week into the pot. In that moment it was an efficient strategy; one which would keep me from being out in the open cooking at night (avoidance of being an easy target for the said dingos – good plan). At this amount of beers I was extremely worried about night stalking, chicken sausage tracing dingos. I ate and noticed I didn’t have any tupperware for the leftovers. Knowing I had stomached worse in the past than day old, unrefrigerated, cooked chicken sausages I ended up draining the water and keeping them in the pot until I figured out a solution for them in the morning.**
Thanks to Brute’s moon roof I went to bed quickly under the stars and easily rose with the sun. I didn’t feel so refreshed from the previous night’s ten hour slumber when I and a thousand flies spent the day hiking around the highlights of Kalbarri National Park. March is the end of summer down under and summertime in the outback means heat and flies. I was not prepared for the latter. I felt my face was a horse’s ass as my head shook my pony tail back and forth to shoo flies out of my face (more specifically my nostrils). The Murchison River was severely low and the lookouts were a bit less marvellous than I had hoped for. After the last lookout I jumped into Brute and I immediately noticed an obscurity on the passenger window. It was an odd shadow, blackened figure. One constructed of eight thin lines conjoining together in the centre to make a – rather huge mother fucking spider. There was a huge mother fucking spider on poor Brute! I did my best to shake the arachnid on the road. I could barely keep track of the amount of dead kangaroos I passed while in route to the town Denham. I spare all the attention I could from driving to my left side peripheral to track the whereabouts of the eight legged freak. Since I failed to count the decaying kangaroos I just know thankfully it vanished sometime before I reached Hamelin Pool. Stromatolites would not have been a worth while site if I had to have encountered a huge mother fucking spider upon exiting Brute. I would have passed on a quick walk around microbial mats to avoid facing my biggest fear. And neither would the road side attraction, Shell Beach, be worth my sanity in facing a big ass mother fucking spider. That huge mother fucking spider haunted me at every stop until Coral Bay the next day. Shell Beach was unforgettable though. Accurately named the beach is made up of tiny shells called cockles. L’Haridon Bight is unable to support much life other than these itty bitty crustaceans. “It is the most uncomfortable beach to lay on ever,” said I and many other cockle seat hating individuals. Imagine a bunch of cockles sticking and poking you. Very unsatisfying cockles are.
Day three I woke up at Eagle Bluff minus a neighbouring caravan that had been there when I parked Brute at night. Appreciating the solitude I went for a stroll to the bay for a morning dip, a mermaid bath, in the twilight. Filled with joy and a cuppa after the sunrise I came back to a note on Brute’s windshield requesting that I pay a fifteen dollar camping fee to avoid the penalty fine. It was hard to get upset because of the nice morning I had and the note was signed with a thanks and smiley face. I just had hoped that local Australian governments had not quite caught on to the caravan travel trend and had not started charging for vehicles to park/camp on sides of the roads, turn offs, or really anywhere…So my caravan neighbours where actually some slick gypsies.
After I bailed on a scheduled shark dive due to it being conducted in Shark’s Bay Ocean Park’s aquarium tank (basically a lie of a shark dive), Brute and I made our way to catch a dolphin experience at Monkey Mia. There are only three interactions allowed and led by park rangers per day within the time frame of 7:15am to 12:00pm. As we raced down Monkey Mia Road we past what could have been Steve Irwin’s ghost on the side of the road – a man shaded by a akubra wrangling or possibly killing a snake. Because that is normal? Even though thus far in my adventure the awe had fallen a bit short of my expectations I definitely was getting a very Australian experience on this road trip. I made it to Monkey Mia in time for the possible final dolphin experience of the day. It was 9:00am and it was more than likely a dolphin would show up to be feed in the next three hours. I settled onto the sand, reading and waiting for the said show to start. Just as the beach crowd became enamoured with an emu bathing further down the beach the dolphin pod appeared in the distance. I walked into the Indian Ocean and listened to the Park Ranger’s presentation and watched the feeding of the four female dolphins. A calf also approached the shore and swam around nudging the other members of its pod. I couldn’t believe it. I was ankle deep close to wild dolphins. And that’s when half way to Exmouth (a guesstimated thirty-six dead kangaroos driven passed) the long awaited awe I had left Perth in search of sparked into existence.
*The name is a combination and play on the tale of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ my favourite movie of all time. It was a really long time on the road with limited radio and music choices, which left my mind to cover many a topics one that lead to the origin of ‘Brute.’
**If you are curious I did get a container and made room for it in the eski. I consumed them along the remainder of my trip…I don’t recommend it to everyone, but with my iron stomach and will to stay on budget I was not going to be wasteful.
[Thank you for reading the first instalment covering my road trip to Exmouth! Part two is now published, so you can continue reading my journey – ‘Exmouth Awe, Part 2‘]