September 5. Wooramel roadhouse. This is the infamous roadhouse in Roff Martin Smith’s National Geographic article. He was refused water here and made a very big deal about it. I remember that he claimed to have used up the last of 10 litres of water. Now, having just cycled the 125 kilometres from Carnarvon to Wooramel, I can’t imagine how he used 10 litres of water in that distance, unless he foolishly bypassed Carnarvon. If he was that much of a drongo, he should not have blamed the roadhouse for his troubles. There have been only two roadhouses where the bore water was undrinkable, and they both gave us water from their precious stores of rainwater, or trucked-in water. Mr. Smith should have been a bit more self-sufficient.
There are new owners at Wooramel, a delightful couple who after a year, still are excited about giving good service to travelers. I’m not sure how many years people can maintain a good attitude running an outback roadhouse; everyone you see is road weary, often a bit fuzzy and sometimes belligerent. After about five years it must get very old indeed.
Jerry and Trudy on Cue
About one in the afternoon, we saw Jerry Tendam scanning the road with his binoculars for a hungry tandem couple they know very well by now. Jerry waved us into the car park and Trudy laid out a lunch for us. We could even eat sitting in real folding chairs for a change rather than taking turns holding Zippy beside the road. What a treat. We visited for over an hour. Trudy was in rare form and made for lots of laughs, and Jerry is never short of conversation. We were promised coffee and cake the next morning, somewhere up the road. Did I tell you we are planning to detour to Canberra to see them. It’s a bit out of the way, and hilly at that, but they are worth the effort. Such special people.
September 6. Another memorable bush camp. We push off the road quickly. I look for a leaning bush/tree for Zippy, Claire looks for a tent site and we both begin gathering wood. Claire makes our bed while I prepare the fire and begin heating Billy for our first cuppa. The second Billy is to re-hydrate our dried peas for tea. I put the tins of beans, kipper snacks near the fire. We put on our rain jackets, turn our backs to the wind and cradle the first aromatic cuppa of the night. Ahhhhh. Pure joy. Sunset warms the wildflowers surrounding our camp and the birds begin their noisy roosting ritual overhead. Twilight brightens the fire and we scooch closer to it for warmth and look for the evening star and then the southern cross, final sign that night is upon us. Tea is beans, peas and kippers mixed in a bowl, and a raw yam to crunch. Later, Claire makes damper over the coals; we drizzle it with golden syrup for desert with our final cuppa before bed. We crawl into our little nylon house, our bedroom, our special bed, to write in our journals by candle light; then it is ginger bikkies (biscuits, cookies) before we brush our teeth, blow out the candle and snuggle in for the night. Road trains rumble through the night out on the highway, but we sleep quickly, easily, soundly.
Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Pushbikers
September 7. At the Billabong roadhouse, the owner gave us water. “We give water to mad dogs, Englishmen, and pushbikers,” he said. We took five litres of his water and bought five litres and a couple litres of lolly water. We had planned to camp near the roadhouse, but culture shock drove us on. We had three tour buses of delightful pensioners to answer questions for in the hour and a half we were there. We love visiting with pensioners, even a tour bus load, but three in one day was just too much. The traffic is picking up on the highway. We were buzzed by a tour bus driver just before the roadhouse, and I gave him a polite education on passing pushbikes. He seemed contrite. He had noticed that his wind blew us onto the shoulder; good thing it was a nice smooth patch of shoulder. The roadhouse was crawling with people and we were actually disoriented by all the activity and people. We have been in the outback for over three months, and this return to the stresses of civilization will not be an easy one.