After several months of chopping salad in a small Australian town of 4,000 people, Leah and I were desperate to see more of the country in the hope of discovering why it is that so many people love the country. Without much of a plan, we bundled our lives into our beloved Jacky, and hit the road with two friends, heading north.
Wherever you go in the world, there is always a lot to see. You stop, take a look around, and find something interesting. Bizarrely though, I found much of the Australian west coast to be unchanging for vast stretches. We drove for nearly ten hours before reaching Karajini National Park which was truly breathtaking.
For five days we explored gorges, climbed mountains, swam in chilly pools, and learnt to appreciate the most beautiful landscape in this country that I have thus far discovered. If you ever visit the west coast of Australia, there is nowhere that I would recommend visiting more than Karajini – I hope that conveys how special this place is.
Whilst walking in one of the gorges, we stumbled upon a brown snake – quite which type of brown snake, I am unsure – and carefully shuffled around him. Most brown snakes are, as far as I am aware, fatally venomous (poison is ingested, venom is injected, thus snakes are not poisonous). In nearly nine months of living in Australia, it was one of the few dangerous animals that I have encountered. Standing next to this incredible beast, whilst intimidating, was probably one hell of a lot safer than walking down Mitchell Street in Darwin – the wildlife there, fuelled by watery lager, are certainly the most unruly beasts I have encountered for quite a while.
From Karajini we headed to Broome, utilising a wonderful map of free camp sites so that we never had to pay for beds on the road. Broome is a pleasant little town with white sands, mangroves, camels, and a raging alcohol problem which has come to dominate much of Australia’s west coast. Both the alcohol and methamphetamine abuse were two issues that I was completely unaware of before visiting Australia, but I now see evidence of both continuously. On any night of the week while living in Darwin (where I lived for over three months), it was possible to see a fight. In fact, I sometimes witnessed two or three fights a night while simply moving about the city. This aggression and hostility is something that I am largely unfamiliar with and if I think back through my life, despite spending time in many different countries across multiple continents, I believe that I have been witness to more fights in the last three months than the other 28 years of my life combined.
Having the off road capabilities of a four wheel drive, from Broome we went off road, deciding to take the Gibb River Road as it was supposedly more scenic. It was a scenic route and we were lucky enough to walk beside one of the largest concentrations of freshwater crocodiles in Australia, enter more pretty gorges, and pass through hills, some of which had trees on. Hills and trees might not sound like much, but after spending multiple months living in the flat, red (almost desert) of Western Australia, it really was a refreshing change. Wallabies littered the roads at night, as well as the occasional kangaroo, and we even got the chance to catch a glimpse of a dingo. The road was a good one, but it took its toll on our car, claiming a wheel (in a very uncomfortable night time incident) and the exhaust, somewhere along the many hundreds of kilometres of dirt tracks.
Back on tarmac we climbed slopes, swam in hot springs, and eventually made our way to Darwin. The road had been long, many thousands of kilometres, and expensive (this is Australia), but it was fun. It raised the question at the end of whether or not I would choose to do this trip with hindsight. I’m torn and not sure that I would. Whilst I very much enjoyed certain days in Karajini (which I would certainly not miss with hindsight), much of our time was spent in the car, racing from A to B, and even more importantly, the expense was huge. For someone who does not like chopping salads for ten hours a day, spending so much money in such a short period of time was hard, but it was impossible not to with the cost of fuel and the need to buy food. I suppose it was a road trip after all, but I think in future I will try to remain more within the comfort of my normal budget, spending no more than a handful of dollars a day and taking the time to explore more slowly.
The roads of WA looked a little bit like this…