The rare black kangaroo paw
Michael O’Brien hosted us in Paraburdoo. He met us at a bush camp in Karijini National Park and showed us two beautiful gorges. The gorges are very much like Southern Utah and N. Arizona, but theyare not slickrock, instead they are bands of slick rock (really slick when wet) Some wading or swimmi is required at times, just like the gorges of Southwest U.S. The rock is a deep burgundy red, and the light down in them is beautiful. One overlook lingers in memory:
Steep burgundy cliffs with blue water pool reflecting paperbark trees and deep blue sky; steep slopes above the cliffs, dotted with soft green spinifex grass and anchored by white ghost gums with deep red dirt between and intense blue sky above.
Probably a quarter of the world’s iron ore (did you get that, one quarter!) comes from this region and it is served by dedicated rail lines to the coast for export. Michael is a mathematician for Hamersley Iron, making sure the ore moves smoothly, with mathematical precision. He’s by far the most adventurous mathematican I’ve ever met; he’s bicycle toured in some very remote areas of Asia.
Too Close For Comfort
First Damper and Bush Fires by Moonlight
One bush camp in this section was special. We had our first damper. Claire mixed self rising flour and salt with water and wrapped it around a stick, held it over coals. Drizzled with golden syrup (a bit like our sweet sorghum) and consumed with billy tea, it would become a ritual at our bush camps. This night there was a large bush fire on the horizon, just in line with the risen moon; the smoke was lighted from below by red flames, the moon lit the towering smoke clouds with an amber/white light. It was huge and spectacular. Bush fires can be scary. You never know for sure how far away they are, or where they might burn in the night. Just enough peril to keep the excitement alive. We drink lots of tea and are up a couple of times during the night to water the landscape and admire the stars.
We came to love our billy tea so much we sometimes stopped at lunch and boiled a billy. It is amazing howeasy it is to start a fire here with the dry grasses and many small gum trees killed by previous bush fires, standing and dry, easy to burn. One day we strung a piece of wire between two ghost gums and hung the billy from it. The wire is carried in case of a third break in our BOB trailer. In bicycle touring, EVERYTHING has to have at lest two uses.
BOB Needs Welding Again
Speaking of BOB. In South Headland it broke a second time and we had to take it in for welding. We noticed the crack a fortnight before, but it finally broke. I went to a servo (service station) near the caravan park. I was not encouraged when I went to talk to the mechanic. “You’re not one of them bloody idiots ridin’ push bikes all over the country. Bloody crazy.” He said this to two blokes nearby, not looking at me. “Bring it in at 9 in the morning,” he grumbled. Next morning Claire and Zippy must have charmed him because his did a good job, charged only $35 and was smiling as the “bloody pushbikers” rode away waving at him.
“It’s lunch time!” The call rang out from a group of caravaners parked by a billabong first day west of Paraburdoo. Four couples, farmers from the wheat belt east of Perth, were out traveling together before heading back to their properties (farms here, ranches are called stations, homesteads or downs). We had a fine lunch, looked at each other’s caravans and shared travel stories. They invited us to visit when we are in their area, and we just might. Maybe we could work harvest?