18 September 2016
0400 wake up on the ride by 0500.
Uneventful road. It is asphalt after all. I check out the prison boab and read horror stories about how White Australia has a Black History. Pretty grim. It wasn’t that long ago.
The slight headwind turns into a tailwind once I turn west onto the Great Northern Highway. Forty minutes at the Willare Bridge Roadhouse where I eat a pie, mistakenly buy a frozen bottle of Gaterade which I’ll have to drink later and fill up for the remaining 131 kilometres to Broome. Broome is 220 kilometres from Derby so my target is at least 110 today.
The Fitzroy River crossings start just after Willare Bridge. It takes nine kilometres to cross the main Fitzroy channels. Most of them dry now. A few with water and some with freshwater crocodiles hanging around (floating around?). It’s takes another ten or so before the floodplan kinda ends. That’s one wide river. When it’s flowing.
Traffic’s light and lacks the friendliness of gravel road travellers.
The grade is easy.
It’s not often I do a hundred kilometres before lunch time and today I manage it by 1130. To celebrate I take a break and drink the by now thawed out Gatorade. It tastes great. I’ll keep the frozen bottle thing in mind for later.
By 1300 I’ve achieved my 110 kilometre objective. I keep on riding. Afterall, what am I going to do should I stop now?
I have a nice chat with Glen who’s atop a stunning GS 1200 BMW during a break in a rest area.
At 140 kilometres I now have but 80 kilometres to do tomorrow and are looking for a break in the ubiquitous fence lines which line the Great Northern Highway.
And finally at 147 kilometres, a new record, I find my break in the fence, make my along a dirt track through the gate until some shade turns up. I am less tired today even after 147 kilometres than I was upon doing the 108 kilometres on the second last day on the Gibb, even though my calorie count for the day comes in at an impressive 6854. Thanks be to asphalt. And a tailwind.
I’m cooking dinner in the shadow of a termite mound when the unmistakable noise of a Troopy alerts me to incoming traffic. Sure enough a Troopy rumbles past with half a dozen kids on the roof rack. Not sure who is more surprised to see who but I wave and they wave. An hour later they return. No idea what lies down the track which would interest half a dozen kids on a roof rack for less than an hour but I don’t try to find out.
19 September 2016
I’m flying. Twenty kilometres per hour overall speed. Damn that’s sexy. Compare that to some of the eights and nines of the Gibb.
Thirty-four kilometres from Broome I pull into the Roebuck Plains Roadhouse, where the Great Northern Highway heads south. Soon enough shall I be on it. Asphalt for near two thousand kilometres. Fast may it be (there will be headwinds) but just how exciting is asphalt?
I make lunch in the shade watching huge three trailered roadtrains negotiate the apron to fuel up before heading either north or south. I’ll be far more intimate with them soon enough. A wide variety of models of 4WD make an appearance. A local motor bike and trike group are here too.
Just as I’m feeling kinda satisfied I notice I’ve a flat tire. On the rear. Fuck me! Didn’t expect that.
Unload everything, flip Dreamer upside down, remove the wheel, remove the tire, inspect the innertube. The liner. Again. Worn through the innertube. Once is a mistake. Twice is a habit. At this point the liner becomes a liability. Remove it. Or what? I use a patch then some PVC tape to soften the edge of the liner. If it happens again I’ll remove the liner. I need to pick up a spare innertube in Broome.
By 1300 I’m in Broome. Craig’s at the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park where for 16$ for a campsite + 2$ for a fridge I have the rather dubious privilege of paying for wild camping for there is no camp kitchen to use, the fridge resides clear across the other side of the huge caravan park, there’s nowhere to plug in any of my devices save for at reception, and there’s nowhere to sit as in benches and tables. Additionally, whilst I have a superlative uninterrupted view over Roebuck Bay I am extremely vulnerable to the Random Thieves who I’ve been warned freely make their way into the caravan park mostly targeting fridges and eskies for beer. My sense of insignificance is merely enhanced by the brute presence of enormous 4WD parked where I’m told is ‘tent camping’. Then there’s the shit my ‘tent’ camping neighbours have strewn all over the place. Part junk yard part car yard part camp ground. And finally, whilst I may have nice juicy shade in the afternoon the second that sun comes over the horizon I’ll be blasted with it.
No way am I gonna last here.
Good to catch up with Craig and Rod after he turns up. He’s in Tarangau Caravan Park near Cable Beach coz it’s the only one which allows pets.
We watch the famous Stairway to the Moon as the full moon rises over the low tide and whose reflections across the sand and mudflaps are meant to resemble, well, a stairway. Leading to the moon. My poor Olympus can simply not do it for the boys. A view for my eyes only it seems.
20 September 2016
Early morning. Very early morning. My body clock is brutally skewed in favour of the prior to sunrise mode. Handy when on the ride but a bit wasted when in the urban environment.
As I watch the tide disappear across the mud-flats it occurs to me that now would be a very good time to check out Broome’s famous sunken flying boats. 3rd March 1942 the Japanese again surprised the Australians and bombed/strafed fifteen flyingboats anchored in Roebuck Bay either awaiting refueling or suitable tides or both (http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201202/r902141_9176580.pdf).
Unfortunately they were full of Dutch war refugees awaiting the next leg of their flight from the Japanese Imperial Forces chewing their way across Indonesia. Nearly one hundred died (no one seems to know exactly how many people died on the day) since most could not swim and the tide was going out. Burning fuel on the water made an already horrific situation unimaginably more so.
Charlie D’Antoine, an Aboriginal refueler rescued a mother and her young daughter by having them hang onto his shoulders as he swam in. The Dutch awarded him a Bravery Award and invited him to a royal reception in the Netherlands. The Australian authorities awarding him nothing, such was the fate of being Aboriginal back in the day. Refs: http://www.abc.net.au/local/audio/2012/03/02/3444483.htm; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_on_Broome
It’s a good thousand metre walk across the mudflats to the wrecks and a super low tide is required. Pretty much as soon as I make it the tide starts to return. It seems the Japanese bombed northern Australia pretty much with impunity, always seemingly catching the Australians by surprise. I still struggle to understand why we still worship war and the horrors it unfurls upon us. I question how we imagine ourselves and our society to be ‘civilised’ if we still consider war a legitimate and valid solution to various geo-political issues. Looking at the wrecks I have a most unpleasant sensation in my stomach.
I meet both Mal, of the Coke Zero on the Gibb and Carsen, from the YHA in Kununurra in Broome Cycles where the owner scoffs at my Brooks dismissing any notion of even trying to fix it. And my liner “Get rid of them” he demands. Helpful. Not. Mal gives good feedback regarding choosing a replacement seat.
Carsen speaks highly of the Last Resort Backpackers where he stays. I go with him to check it out. It’s a really nice place. I’m attracted to it. Yes, I could stay here. Godda pool. Good internet. Place(s) to write up this blog, which by now you’ll have noticed has become quite long and laborious.
I talk to the manager who’s perfunctory at best and borders on pernicious at worst. Well, perhaps he’s the Broome equivalent of Nick of the YHA in Kununurra who turned out to be a wonderful guy despite his best attempts to come across as something far more insidious. I ask about secure parking for Dreamer and Zi-Biddi and are told in no uncertain terms that had I “looked around like I told you” I’d have noticed the bike storage behind the office block where “the gate is always locked and no one has the key. No one can guarantee it won’t be stolen” he states rather meaninglessly “but it’s as good as you’ll get”. Hmmm.
I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and ride to check out where Rod is staying.
Tarangau is six kilometres from Broome central, has a basic camp kitchen and a ‘communal’ fridge and freezer that’s probably a secret chemical weapon undergoing testing on unsuspecting tourists. Quiet and shady it may be, it has no view of anything and isn’t anywhere near any of the shops and amenities I need.
Last Resort shall it be. I pull in to book in but my perfunctory manager dismisses me with a “See ya tamara” and flounces off (really, he did) to the table of acolytes he is entertaining.
Later as I attempt to sit on my Helinox Groundchair it collapses dumping me and my beer unceremoniously on the ground. Rod points out that it’s probably the smallest fall from a chair on record. One of the plastic housings the aluminium frame fits in broke. Another thing I have to replace. Great.
21 September 2016
Checking out of Roebuck Bay Caravan Park I make my way to the Last Resort. There are two steps to get into the Last Resort Backpackers. I study them. Gonna be a challenge to haul Dreamer + Zi-Biddi up them steps. There’s no one at reception to ask if someone indeed has a key to the back gate my intrepid manager reassures me is always locked.
I wander around and try the gate which opens effortlessly. Not quite what I expected.
Fifteen minutes later the manager turns up. I make to the counter and he starts to tell me what I need and he needs for me to check-in. “Before I do that, you said yesterday that that back gate is always closed … “ “Correct!” he interrupts me. “I gave the key to someone who wanted to unpack his car, NOT THAT THAT’S ANY BUSINESS OF YOURS” he shouts at me with eyes almost popping out of his face as he leans forward to make his point. This too is not quite what I expected. “You know what” he continues “I don’t think you should stay here. We’re not going to get on!”
There you have it. Kicked out even before I check in. Phenomenal.
Not my fault he identifies as a male but doesn’t actually have a dick. I decide not to actually tell him that.
He holds the offending gate open so I can exit it. He doesn’t need a key for the always locked gate. Weird guy.
I make my way over to the monolithic Kimberly Klub YHA. A 168 bed institution where finally I get a bed in a four-bed airconditioned dorm in a place with a pool, large fridges and kitchen for twenty dollars a night.
Helinox apologises for my misfortune and asks where should they send a replacement. Seems it is a known problem with the Groundchair they are trying to resolve with manufacturers in South Korea. Great support.
I have a message in my inbox telling me I can collect my package at the post office. Intriguing. Not sure which package this should be. Goalzero have sent me brand new Nomad 13 Solar Panels. When I write to them to ask what was wrong with the old ones in a bid to avoid the problem in the future I’m told they are yet to receive them. They sent the new ones “in good faith” to ensure I had them available for my Epic. Amazing. Thanks guys.
22 September 2016
I spend the mornings writing. The afternoons organising all the other things. Today has to be saddle day. Try to get an address to which to send my poor collapsed Brooks. And buy a replacement. Back to Broome Cycles.
The rather opinionated gentleman from my earlier visit is not present. In his place is Mo a young and very helpful chap. He takes one look at the Brooks and tries to be diplomatic but horror is written on his face. I tell him I need a replacement for I need to send the Brooks to England to be fixed.
We discuss saddles and eventually settle on one which he helps to mount on the bike. As our discussion continues he suggests he calls the Brooks distributer in Melbourne. Maybe they can fix it rather than send it to the UK.
Nope, they have spare parts but a hydraulic leather stretching machine to affix the tension bolt in place they do not. And Steven of Brooks tells me by email that “this pin can be difficult, if not impossible, to fit at home”. I show the email to Mo as by now we are studying various forums on the internet to see just what we are up against. It appears that I have not lost any parts. Just that for some reason the seat fell apart. How to put it back together again? Can we do it? Mo’s up for the challenge and I’ve nothing to lose.
We retire to the workshop where following detailed research on the internet prodigious use of more force than is necessary various tools of dubious suitability vast amounts of ingenuity and shear bloody determination we’re pretty confident we fixed the saddle. An enormous improvement. It looks like a Brooks again. Guess I’ll find out by Port Hedland, 700 km down the track whether I’ve really been successful or not.
Mo doesn’t charge me for this stupendous achievement even though we spent a good hour or so on it. I buy him a six-pack of Cricketer Pale Ale and thank him profusely for I am really happy and satisfied.
My Bromance with Craig fails amid a malfunctioning washing machine, a brother (his) who kinda abandons him during the BBQ preparation ritual, an early start for his new job on the morrow (taxi driver), and a sunset that doesn’t wait for no-one. Rod is planning to leave tomorrow and a sunset BBQ has been organised on Cable Beach. The abandoning brother has left Craig to bear the beer the food, and me. Originally scheduled for 1730 a stressed-out Craig calls at 1645 and is not impressed that I am not ready although he’s early. No problem the washing shall be done soon. Only … the machine isn’t working! I have no option but to start washing at 1700. My clothes are damp and covered in washing powder in a huge hostel where washing machines are in constant use. Can’t leave them in the washing machine to return to deal with at my leisure.
Craig bears it until the last minute. Literally. But he’s gone when I eventually emerge, obsessed with making that sunset. He’s going to be here for months. He’ll have hundreds of sunsets but if Rod does indeed leave tomorrow I will not say farewell. Thanks Craig.
Back to writing.
23 September 2016
Norma from Sony emails me to tell me I need to pay a 137$ fee for them to assess my camera and develop a quote. I call her and remind her it’s only a few months old. Seems she’s deleted my email with the proof of purchase attached. I resend it. Seems I may have a repaired camera awaiting me in Port Hedland.
Turns out Rod isn’t likely to leave until at least Saturday. He too is waiting on parts. Namely a new fridge. We meet up at the Town Beach enjoy a coffee and a swim in the bay. We talk a little about last night’s debacle but a wet T-shirt contest at the Roebuck Pub tonight isn’t quite my thing and I decline a half-hearted invite.
Back to the YHA. Back to writing. I plan to leave Monday and I haven’t even begun on the photos yet! Oh Boy.
And so it goes on. Monday is a public holiday. Since the frame from Helinox has not arrived today I won’t be leaving until Wednesday.
25 September 2016
Finally finished and uploaded the Gibb River Road blog posts. As a reward I spend the day at Broome’s famous Cable Beach.
Twenty-four kilometres long. 4WDs turn right (north) to enjoy driving along a beach. Lesser humans turn left and cluster among beach-umbrellas between the ubiquitous safety flags watched over by attentive Surf Life Savers. I turn right, to see what’s down there. The beach is a hundred meters wide packed better than quite a few roads I’ve had to ride along and goes forever. It’s Sunday so there’s a even sprinkling of various 4WDs for kilometres. Part car yard part beach. I park half-way between two 4WDs reason I’m as ‘secluded’ as I’m ever gonna be, strip and enjoy swimming naked.
There is but one problem where I am. No shade. All the 4WDers have awnings to provide shade. Dreamer and I are both pretty exposed. Before I get too hot dry and frazzled I’m cycling back towards the beach umbrella section where I arrange a couple of deck-chairs as far under the shade as possible lay out my new maps of the Pilbra region of Western Australia and start to plan. Even though there’s a dude wandering around packing up umbrellas and deck-chairs I am not asked to pay for the privilege of not frying myself. Perhaps the umbrellas are courtesy of Broome’s local government.
Sunset is coming. Cable Beach sunsets are famous. I intend to enjoy mine at the aptly named Sunset Bar at Cable Beach. I choose table 19 because it will have uninterrupted views of the sun setting over the beach. Aside from a couple of tables waaay down the other end of Bar I’m alone. But like Broome’s famous tides, when it comes in it comes in fast and within twenty minutes the entire bar and terrace areas are full.
I start on perhaps the world’s most expensive Margaritas. In fact everything’s damned expensive. Yet there’s no table service and the menu simply offers pub-grub, food all the health departments all over the world advise people to not include in their daily diet. I take on the fish and chips.
Kids play footy on the grass in front of the terrace. Prams get a-pushing. Random families wander back and forth. Teenagers sit engrossed in their devices, oblivious to the sunset and action around them. Couples sit dangerously close to each other on blankets drink wine and picnic. It’s that kind of place and this kind of evening. A steady stream of 4WDs trundle up the ramp from the beach. Busy place.
A table of five next to me tried to eat in the restaurant but were told it’s fully booked. When they are told this the entire restaurant is empty. They are not happy and complain. Mom is incensed and the complaining goes on for quite a while. Still they are here and watch uninterrupted views of Cable Beach as the sun dives below the horizon in spectacular fashion.
In terms of service versus price they are right. It’s waaay too expensive for no table service and a basic pub menu. But they have us, all of us, by shear virtue of location and the predictability of that sun. And we pay for that. I could easily go sit on the grass and enjoy brilliant views with neither cold margarita nor hot fish and chips to go with it. I chose to treat myself and so endure the expense and poor service. Perhaps next time I’ll enjoy the sunset with chilled wine in a cooler and take-away fish and chips whilst sitting on the grass. But not this time. This is my treat and I am enjoying indulging myself.
Returning along the cycle-path between Cable Beach and Broome Central I notice an unmistakable shape on the path. I stop and try to take photos but it moves, as a Brown Snake does. A good metre-something long it’s the first close encounter I’ve managed in 9500 km of cycling. The only times I got closer to a snake where with Scott in Kakadu and Arnhem Land. And they were pythons. A Brown Snake is on of the world’s deadliest. A beautiful animal but one to be wary of.
I am intrigued though at the fail of the bromance. A single missed arrangement apparently equals disintegration of what I thought was a pretty sound friendship. Not just with Craig but also with Rod. I’ve heard nothing from either. Rod departed Broome without a goodbye and I’ve heard nothing from Craig even though I bumped into Brett his brother who reassured me Craig would be in touch to at least say farewell. Sensitive fellows? Or do I not understand nor comply with the nuances of Aussie ‘Mateships’? Or both.
27 September 2016
Broome’s coming to an end. The Kimberley is coming to an end. In fact The North is coming to an end. It’s sort of all down hill and down the temperature scales from here. In a way that’s good. Fifty-odd degrees on the handlebars is a bit much. In a way though it’s not good. The night’s will get chillier, the water in the rivers and billabongs nippier, and all of my ‘winter’ clothes have been long sent south. Hot weather has it’s virtues and not having to worry about being cold is certainly one of them.
On the other hand, be careful what I ask for, for Summer Is Coming and I may just get more than I bargained for.
My new Helinox Groundchair frame arrived today. Sony claim the damage to my DSC-HX90V is caused by water and corrosion and therefore will be neither repaired nor replaced. Great camera it may be but not for an Epic. Blog has been posted. Brooks saddle repaired. Broome museum and Cable Beach ticked off. Time to go.
Tomorrow I leave. See you all in Port Hedland or Karratha in a couple of weeks.
Kimberly Klub YHA, Broome, 27 September 2016