I’m so far off the writing-wagon that I’ve wandered away from the road altogether and I doubt I’ll see another wagon to even be able to flag it down and hop back on any time soon. Okay, I’m taking the analogy a little too far, but I’m not even trying to write now.
Success in writing normally depends on… you know… writing.
Sometimes it is better to get off the beaten track (how many clichés can I fit into one post?) and discover something new. I don’t mean a new pursuit (though I must admit I’ve still found time for some photography), I just mean the opportunity to come at life from a whole different angle. And that’s what this feels like.
So I’m not the least bit worried. My mind still wanders to the next story I want to write, and I’m pleased to say at least in that respect I seem to have made up my mind. November was always going to be busy, and December doesn’t look like it will let up much either, but come January, I think I’ll be ready to climb back on a wagon. Maybe a different one, maybe one I make myself, or maybe I’ll just run out of ways of trying to fit my life into this cliché and I’ll just start writing again.
P.S. Here’s the moon peeking out between the clouds.
(If you can’t see the pictures on this post, please click on the heading to go to the page).
It seems totally crazy to cover so many kilometres and experiences in one post, but I’ve been home for a month now, and I think it is time I moved on from the holiday and I need to finish this. So here goes…
We left Broome for the Gibb River Road through the Kimberley. The 4WD bus did a good job of managing the bumpy road, but I have to admit I was amazed to hear the whole thing had just been graded two weeks earlier. I imagine it would be quite a tooth-rattler at other times of the year.
We stopped at several gorges along the way, all of which were stunning and all of which involved a hot and sweaty hike, a cold swim in freshwater-crocodile-infested water, then a sweaty hike out. It was brilliant.
I have to dip my hat to El Questro Station as the best campground in the Kimberley. I came to that decision not just because of the beautiful river than ran alongside us, or for the bar with wine that was listed by grape variety instead of colour (yes, one hostel had Red and White as their wine list), not even the washing facilities that allowed us to remember what clean clothes felt like. No, El Questro camp ground has fantastic showers. Right temperature, right amount of spray and (crazy concept here) somewhere to put your stuff so it will stay dry as you shower.
Then it was back on the road and down to the Bungle Bungles. I say that as if they are half an hour away, but the trip was more like 7 hours. Totally worth it. Hiking through the domes was amazing, Echidna Gorge was amazing, Cathedral Gorge was amazing. And just in case I hadn’t had enough amazing, I did a helicopter ride over it all in a helicopter with no doors. A-ma-zing!
Then we made the dash to Darwin stopping at Lake Argyle for a sunset cruise (beautiful, I had no idea), then Katherine to see Nitmiluk Goroge and finally Edith Falls for our last sweaty hike into a beautiful waterfall-ed swimming hole.
Then like that the trip was over. We were in Darwin and I had my flight booked home the next day. I didn’t want to go back. And even after being back for a month… I still don’t want to be back.
Western Australia was stunning, and confronting, and challenging, and beautiful, and awe-inspiring, and cold, and hot, and unforgettable. You need to go there. Put it on your bucket list.
(If you can’t see photos below, please click on the post heading to view in the post page).
I discovered that my tour was not actually a 22-day tour as I thought, but rather two 10-day tours tacked together with 2 days in Broome between them. I didn’t know much about Broome, besides the fact that they had more dinosaur footprints there than anywhere else in Australia, and that for some reason people felt obliged to ride camels on Cable beach to watch the sunset.
I hate to say this, but I didn’t love Broome. The history was great, but as a holiday destination, I didn’t find it very relaxing. It probably wasn’t helped by the location of the hostel I stayed in, which wasn’t near anything. To go to Cable beach was either a $20+ taxi ride, or a bus that stopped running soon after sunset. If you went out to dinner in the main town of Broome (where the hostel was located) you had to come back down dark streets with no lighting.
I’m also not really into pearls, which is the other thing Broome is famous for. Something I was looking forward to was the cuisine. Broom is such a melting pot of cultures that I had heard there were really novel and delicious combinations of food. I’m sure there was, but I couldn’t find it. I don’t think my hostel was really into food, because when I asked about where to eat they directed me to a pizza shop.
Anyway, through amazing good fortune I stumbled onto one of the better mini-tours I have done. I wanted to see dinosaur footprints, but the tides (which are HUGE in Broome) weren’t right for me to be able to walk out and see them myself. The only way I could see some was on a sunset hovercraft tour. One of only three hovercraft tours in the WORLD it was great to glide over mudflats and ocean with ease in such a unique craft. The commentary was excellent and the guide clearly both knew and loved the place. The footprints were spectacular and plentiful, and the sunset was gorgeous. I think it was a much better way to do sunset than on the back of a camel!
I think I need to come back to Broome again and do it properly, not staying in a hostel next to the airport. If I do, I will certainly be booking myself onto the hovercraft sunset tour again.
Next week I’ll finish off with the last 10 days of the tour; Broome to Darwin. That’s going to cover a LOT!
Just a quick note to let you know that if you are not seeing the photos in this post, please click on the post heading and go to the post page. For some browsers the pictures don’t automatically resolve on the home screen. I’m looking into it…
Coral Bay was where I got my first glimpse of Ningaloo Reef. It actually comes right to the shore! You can walk into the water and snorkel over the reef. I elected to take a boat out a bit further so I could get some deep-water snorkelling practice in before my big whale shark adventure the next day. I was glad I did, because it takes a little while to get used to breathing underwater. The reef was stunning, but lacked a bit of the colour that I’d seen in the Great Barrier Reef over two decades ago, sadly I don’t think it is still like that now.
The next day was the big one. Whale sharks! I will never forget the moment when we were all bobbing about in the water wondering what was going on and the guide told us to look down. I put my face in the water and was almost eye to eye with a 7-metre long whale shark! I struggled to believe I was really there. The photo below is courtesy of Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours and if you ever find yourself up in Exmouth I would HIGHLY recommend you go out with them. The staff were amazing, and everyone had a fantastic time.
I had never heard of Karijini National Park, and if I’m honest I stopped reading the tour itinerary once I established I would see stromatolites and swim with whale sharks. As a result, I was not prepared for the amazing beauty that is Karijini National Park. I can only put up a couple of photos, but for the more adventure-minded this is the park to come to. The ‘paths’ test you out physically and mentally. You have to climb over stuff holding your weight with your hands, you swim through water crossings, and you clamber through slippery waterways. It is amazing.
The other bonus is that it is so far out in the middle of nowhere that the night sky is unlike any you have ever seen. It was almost hard to make out the main constellations because there were so many other stars around them. It also made for very chilli nights, and this was where I discovered that my sleeping bag might have been exaggerating a little when it said it went down to -5°C. I literally woke up shivering.
From there we went to Broome, where I spent a few days, so I think I will give it a post all of its own.
It seems crazy to try and cover Peth to Monkey Mia in one post, it’s hundreds of kilometres of travelling, but I can’t do a post for each day of the tour, or it would see us out to the end of the year. In an effort to cut out some I’ll skip Perth cover just some of what we did in along the way.
We hit the ground running, sandboarding down brilliant white sand dunes in Lancelin. This was the first test for my Tough camera as we got sand-blasted at every turn. It performed beautifully. After this tour, more than ever, I love my Olympus Tough tg-5. It puts up with a lot!
Back on the road we then found ourselves at the Pinnacles. I’m sure most Australians have seen the Pinnacles, but what you might not realise is that no-one actually knows how they formed. Some say they are the remains of a petrified forest. To me they look more marine in origin, but right now we are all just guessing. Despite the many people (and cars) moving through them, they managed to hold a magical aura that was quite haunting.
But this was a tour, so we were back on the road to burn away as many kilometres as possible. We stopped for the night in Kalbarri and then took off early for a quick romp through the national park. It seems a crime to speed through this, but we went to Murchison Gorge, Nature’s Window and Z-Bend Gorge. All stunning. Then on the road again to get to Monkey Mia just in time for sunset.
The next morning we ambled down to the beach and watched the dolphins come up to the shore. I was lucky enough to be picked out of the crowd to feed one. She didn’t take my fish -they thought she might be pregnant, so I shouldn’t take offense. Then we were back on the bus to visit shell beach; a massive expanse of pure white beach made up entirely of shells. Apparently they are up to 10 metres deep!
Next it was time for the main reason I found myself in WA. Hamelin Pool and the Stromatolites. These were the first life on earth, and the reason all the rest of life could follow. For many years they were thought only to exist in the fossil record, until Hamelin Pool was discovered.
I must have taken at least 100 photos, and I did nearly cry. The significance of these bacterial communities cannot be stressed enough. No stromatolites, no people. I just hoped my selfie there wasn’t documenting the creatures responsible for the start and end of life on the planet.
Okay, I wasn’t just taking a digital holiday. I was having a holiday holiday as well. I have just spent the last month travelling from Perth to Darwin (nearly 10,000 kilometres) and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.
The holiday tested me on many levels, pushing me to, and beyond, my limits. I swam with whalesharks, I clawed my way through the ravines of Karijini National park, and I sat up front in a helicopter with no doors and an amazing view of the Bungle Bungles.
I also showered in hostels where I had to wash the ants down the drain before I could get in, I used public toilets where the stench of rotting faeces came over to hug you before you even opened the door, and I ate off dishes washed in cold water. I think my gut flora were tested too.
I met lovely people. I saw beautiful, and terrifying, and wonderful things. I ticked items off my bucket list. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
But I am back to reality now. Work, cold, housework. All things that I could forget about for a while. So, over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my trip with you in the hopes that it will inspire you to get away. I think we could all use a break from reality sometimes.
Here are some snaps from Rottnest Island, a 90-minute ferry ride from Perth, Western Australia.
This week I’ve not managed a lot of writing, so I thought I’d give you a blast from the past instead of authorial words of wisdom. About ten years ago I won a balloon ride at a work Christmas function. Although I was a little bit terrified, I did it, and it was AMAZING.
I always knew that week 2 would be hard. This is when the excitement of starting has waned, the book can enter sagging middle territory and you see that even with all the hard work you have done, you have even more hard work stretching out before you. I felt all of that this week. I even gave myself two days off because I just couldn’t face the book a couple of times. There is a chance I might not hit my word target this week.
To add to the draw of not being at my computer, I bought myself a new toy; the Olympus Tough TG-5 camera. It takes super-close photos (along with about a million other things I haven’t yet worked out). So I’ve been out in my garden playing with it. This is a lot more fun that forcing myself to squeeze out story. It also doesn’t help that I’m not confident the story is going in the right direction. It took a turn I didn’t expect, and I don’t know if I’m up to taking it where it wants to go.
But I’m going to try really hard to have a big Sunday and see if I can at least get close to the word count, because I know this hard reality; the only thing harder than week 2 of a Wri-Mo is week 3. So head down, I’d better get writing.
See below for some of this week’s efforts with the new camera…