On To Camooweal.


Driving the next leg of the trip was the longest, most difficult day, but also the most rewarding. As we passed the road that we should have turned on to head to Hell’s gate, I noticed Derek had a hard time letting go. His eyes stayed focused on it, even as we drove past. I know how much he had wanted to take that road and I again questioned him to be sure he had not made the decision based on my epic meltdown. He assured me he had not, but still . . . I knew he was disappointed.

We eventually found our new road, the one that would lead to Camooweal, and made that turn to do our own 220 km of dirt road, sans the river crossings. It was rated “moderate corrugation.’ We soon found out that it too had not fully recovered from the cyclone. In many places, Derek said the corrugation was some of the worst he had driven in Australia. The first clue might have been the complete lack of other vehicles on the road. The second clue being that we both sounded like the munchkins when we tried to talk. Either that or the annoying girl in the opera class whose vibrato was so out of control that some ears actually bled as she sang. Wow, it was tough.

First thing Derek did was to let some air out of the tires. This involves me getting out of the lovely air conditioning to stand in the stinking hot heat of the day, with the dust swirling all around me and sticking to every drop of moisture it finds which is not that difficult considering I was sweating like crazy. And then, those damn flies hover around me, rubbing their greedy little hands together waiting for me to either blink, open my mouth, move my hand . . . or die. I hate them all. I don’t care that some of you weep for them and want to cuddle them and dress them up in cute clothes and post their pictures on Pinterest. I hate them all.

Oh ya, then I am supposed to turn the air compressor on or off as Derek directs.

Sometimes I am too busy fighting the flies to notice Derek has said “OK,” and then “Stop,” and then “ARIA!!” and then gesturing wildly at me and then yelling AND gesturing. I hope a tire won’t blow up or something, but I have flies that need swatting. I either swat or go insane and after the last incident, I think he would prefer a blown tire. At least he should.

But the scenery!! WOW!!!

We were going to pull over and lunch but where do you pull over? We would have been fine, in that no-one was coming, but I guarantee you that with Derek’s talent, the moment we stopped, we would have had a 7 trailer cattle truck bearing down on us in the distance. I know it. He knew it too.

truck train

The NT has this weird thing they do where they leave cars right where they break down or where the accident happened, so you find them in all states of deterioration. Some are left mangled and broken. Some are rusted out. Some are covered in graffiti and others are hanging from trees. I tried to grab a few pics and now I am fascinated with them. Derek said it is the cost of recovering them from out in the middle of nowhere – there is no point. I wondered if they perhaps made that same decision for the people in them – costs too much – so what was the point? Leave them in there? At least it might serve as a deterrent to others to drive more responsibly.

I had also noted there were fewer kangaroo and wallabies dead on the side of the road and instead, we were seeing more dead cattle. The speed limit in the NT for most roads is 130. Imagine getting hit by one of those huge truck trains at that speed? Good night Irene!!

It took us nearly the entire day to drive that stretch so when we found a place we could pull over for the night, Derek took it. He promised me another romantic night under the stars but when we pulled in, I discovered:

I mentioned him it was really inspiring to be taken away from civilization and graffiti and all the crap that goes along with people to take me into the outback, driving hours through the wilderness down a dirt road to pick such a perfect spot for us. Of all the places we could have stopped in the wilderness, THIS ONE called out to him and said, “romantic night with the woman of your dreams.” I wanted to know, I desperately needed to know … what was wrong with him? What Disney Movie was this from??

We set up, and had a really nice fire with another great night under the stars. The air was cooler but it was really pretty and such an amazing feeling to think you can drive a whole day and just set up and spend the night.  How incredibly lucky are we to be able to enjoy such privilege and freedom here in Australia?  What a beautiful country!

We actually pulled the quilt up for the first time, it was that cold and were having a great sleep when I woke to the sound of a booming and music and men’s voices. I became aware of a light and I realized we were no longer alone. I looked out to see about 3 young men with an expensive work truck all laughing. At first, I thought they were taking a bathroom break and then I realized the time and that it was a weekday and there was not any other traffic on the road. They were staying too long and they were all out of the truck and talking. Nothing was being repaired. They disappeared to the back of the truck and all had lights. All their doors were open, the music was booming. They did not care at all that they were disturbing us. I woke Derek up and I was completely panicked. You start thinking about where you are, in the middle of nowhere and that really, what the hell could you do if they came over to the van? We had no reception where we were. We really could be sitting ducks.

I had worried about all of this before we went out – the idea of just pulling up anywhere, all alone and camping. Now I was in the middle of my worst nightmare. I really thought about dying and I was terrified. They probably did not stay nearly as long as it seemed, but long enough for me to jump at every noise the rest of the night. What if they came back?

The next morning Derek talked me through it. Most people in Australia do not have guns. They do not commit crimes like I was worried about. All the years I had lived in Australia I had not heard of a single serial or psychotic type killer. Derek said there were few he could even think of.  Crimes here were usually drug related between the parties distributing them or were domestic type things. These people had no idea who we were in the caravan. They did not know how many of us there were, or what age we were, so breaking in would be a big unknown for them and a risk.   He looked around where they had stopped and suggested they were probably heading back to a station where they worked after a night out.  He thought they had probably stopped to use up the last of their drugs.  They probably did not want to risk getting caught with any back at work.   It made sense.   I started to realize I was being ridiculous and I really did not want to give up the best part of the trip, which was the nights we were totally on our own, under the stars with a campfire.

I still was not a big fan of the dead carcas of the kangaroo or “Corbag Whorebag.” THAT I could do without.