Warburton to Tjukayirla (chuke a lara)
We still have a couple of weeks on dirt and we have been on the road for a month. We do take rest days, four at Ayers Rock, but it is just a very very bad road, through spectacular scenery. When we don’t have to look out for rocks, sand, corrugations and ruts, we can look at it. The bush camps are the treat: hot food and tea, the best view ever of the Milky Way and sweet sweet rest. It took awhile, but I now wake up looking forward to the rewards, and challenges, of the day. Claire had to be patient with me for the first few hard days.
Lamb dinner tonight in Warburton. Wonderful. Reminded me of the pub and roadhouse dinners from our year here 16 years ago except for the price (4x), but we are much further from any center than we were on that trip; it’s a long way to haul fresh food, and keep it from being pulverized.
We are forecast headwinds the next two days, which could make our estimated days four or more instead of three. We have a water cache about half way, thanks to a nice young Perth couple, and plenty of food. All the weight will make us slow ; just hope the road is less bumpy so the bikes will handle it, and that the wind turns in two days as forecast.
We have had 3G service in Warburton, and learned (just) to tether our netbook. It sure is nice to be able to do a post as fast as 3G, instead of the inevitable slow wi fi at roadhouses. I am amazed at how fast photos upload. Nice. I’m about to trade in Cox Cable in Tucson. Here we are in the middle of the Red Centre of Australia with only one cell tower in 300k, yet have great internet.
To Make A Fire
Our bush camp ritual: Begin looking for a hidden spot not too far from the road. Inside curves are best with any openings between bushes subject the west bound driver to setting sun. Some nights there are none. Find a disturbed place on the burm to hide tire tracks. Claire often goes back with a stick to rub them out. Watch out for snakes, stomp feet, swing a stick through the low brush and any high brush you will pass. The snakes here kill. Quickly.
Find an open space for the tent that faces northeast for an early start. Look for ants or other sign of insect infestation. Look for a burnt stump or termite mound to lean the bikes on for ease of unload. Begin the search for a bush root, small termite mound to work as a brace for the billy stick.
Search for good burning wood and begin breaking it into appropriate size sticks to build a quick hot fire. Dig a shallow fire pit to hold coals. We once used a camel footprint made when wet to begin one.
Start the fire with tiny sticks in a tepee shape and begin rapidly adding progressive larger sticks. Hang the full billy over the fire. Put up the tent and lay out the mattress pads. Place our mascot kola Duncan in the middle and call it home. If it is too warm for the fly, drape it over the top of the tent as camouflage until dark. Drink two cuppas, heavy with full fat powdered milk and two teaspoons of sugar. Rehydrate and refuel tired muscles.
Use the second billy to “cook” dinner: raw yam, powdered potatoes, dried peas, can of hot chili tuna. Desert is crackers, nut butter and golden syrup, sometimes if perfect coals, damper. One last cuppa for Bob; Claire likes to take any leftover starchy cooking water (pasta) mix in Vegemite for her evening drink. Let the fire die down. Drink in the Milky Way, always with a reverential look to the Southern Cross. Smell the wildflowers, feel the cooling of the air, pee. Crawl in with Duncan, snuggle under the down and sleep deeply. We make periodic visits to our respective pee bushs. Time to drink in the silence, meditate on the Milky Way and the meteors meant just for us. This is special.
A few days ago, my camera died. to much shaking, too much dust. I am missing it. The phone does well, for a phone, but misses many of the features I enjoy in a camera. I will adapt; if I can just figure out a way to hold it so my finger isn’t in the corner of the picture. Why can’t they put the lens in the middle?!
We knew we were in for two days of headwinds when we left Warburton, so we were happy to get in 67 kilometers the first day out (that included 30 kilometers of bitumen out in the middle of seemingly nowhere.) Anyhow, the three bush camps were quite nice as we’ve watched the moon waxing. Some days, the few vehicles that travel this road speed by without even slowing down and other days, friendly folks stop to visit and we enjoy the company. One fellow took our picture to have as proof, “otherwise, they’ll never believe me.”
The Tjukayirla Roadhouse
On our third day, one day before we would arrive at Tjukayirla, I was especially please when a car slowed to check on us; did we need anything? “Yes!” I called out. They pulled over to parked their car/trailer combo and got out for a visit. “If you’re stopping at the Tjukayirla Road House, could you please book us in for dinner reservations tomorrow night?” I panted. Yes, I really did say that, but you see, the last road house required 24 hour advance booking for a meal, because the roadhouse closes before dinner time, though they would make meals for guests on request. Since we didn’t have a phone signal, we couldn’t call ahead and by now, we were sure we could make it there tomorrow night. And we had heard how wonderful the meals at this particular road house were. And they were. For $40 AUD /pp, we had salmon, carrots, green beans/peas, corn, pumpkin, parsnips/rutabaga, and scalloped potatoes. It sure beats canned tuna and instant mashed potatoes for the fourth night in a row. I tell you, we ate almost all of it, saving only the scalloped potatoes for brekky. Dessert was included: mulberry cake with cream AND ice cream, just because Serena heard us ask for ice cream earlier in the shop. Now, in case you’re planning to come this way, you should know that Serena made a very kind exception for us because we didn’t know any better: these meals are normally only for guests of the room accommodations, NOT for campers like us. At the earlier road house this was not the case, but we certainly do appreciate the exceptional service!
The Tjukayirla Roadhouse (most remote in Australia) was a joy because of Al and Serena, who run the place for the local Aboriginal community. It’s clean and well stocked and they are cheerful. How they manage the last for months at a time, under pressure from tired travelers, I’ll not know.
We stayed two nights to do wash and eat extra. The first night we talked until late (for us) with Lorenz and Larry, father and son and both a delight. Lorenz, the son, was wearing a Michigan jumper talking and working his computer non stop, while Larry bubbled with anticipation of his coming visit to America to see concerts by Adel and a country singer I forget. Somehow both were from Switzerland, Lorenz with a recent accent, but live now in Perth.
They were headed for Warburton for a “dustup,” a gathering of Aboriginal people for traditional games, to volunteeer to prepare healthy meals for the children. They do it every year. It sounds like hard work, but they love it.
A few days back up the road, my camera, my one camera, died, victim of the pounding and dust of the road. I was adjusting. Our second evening, after Lorenz and Larry had left, Claire came back from the roadhouse crying, happy crying; they had given Larry’s camera to a caravaners to leave with us. “Just post it back when you leave.” Sweet guys. They caught up with us on our final day, and we had a fun reunion, and I gave Larry back his camera; don’t trust being able to protect it. They were a joy.