Welcome to the Australian Outback: seemingly never-ending stretches of desert and wasteland intermittently broken up by the odd gas station or run down town. It’s so different to what I’m used to that I love it. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, you might spot a lone kangaroo grazing on the scrubland. And every now and then you might pass up a beaten up truck speeding down the highway. But aside from that, you’re pretty much on your own.
When we left the now familiar territory of Perth early on Saturday morning, we were greeted by the least ideal weather for a road trip: incessant, torrential rain. Half the group took this as a sign that the trip was not meant to be, and bailed immediately. Although we were down to a convoy of four cars we still left in high spirits, blaring out James Bay to try and drown out the rain drumming on the roof of our swanky car. We’d managed to get an upgrade (this keeps happening!), and had soon affectionately named our Mitsubishi Outlander “Calvin”.
I managed to fall asleep within the first ten minutes of the journey, despite the blaring tones of Adam Levine, and only woke up once we were well into the outback. I groggily glanced out of the window and was struck by how amazingly empty the landscape was. It seems curious that we have houses cheek by jowl juxtaposed with 2.5 million square miles of nothingness. Why not build out here too? We passed a few isolated houses, and a run down school, before reaching the modest town of Lancelin. We stopped at the petrol station (because where else would you think to stop for lunch?) and ate our sandwiches in the car park. Glamorous, I know.
The local seagulls appeared to like our presence, encircling and serenading us in a chorus of screeches and squawks, rather like the assertive seagulls in Finding Nemo: “Mine! Mine!” We pacified (or rather excited them) by feeding them the remnants of our soggy sandwiches, much to the horror of my seagull-hating friend. Soon, however, we’d escaped their cries and left the desolate car park, thankfully.
We headed to the Pinnacles, which are “limestone formations in Namburg National Park” according to Wikipedia. Apparently, they were formed from broken down seashells which were blown inland and then calcified to form the strange structures. They range in size: from barely a foot tall to wonderfully majestic structures towering over us, and we were given some pretty spectacular photo opportunities…
Having driven around the Pinnacles several times, not letting the odd bout of rain deter us from taking full advantage of our many cameras, we hit the road. We managed to find the beach, and our only hiccough was a brief stint on the other side of the road. Seriously, it’s so empty that you even forget where you’re meant to be driving! Next time we’ll end up in the desert…
Our next stop was a town which resembled something straight out of a 20s cowboy movie. We cautiously drove through in the fading twilight, not glimpsing a single soul. A dodgy motel completed the scene. I wouldn’t have been surprised if man on his horse had pulled up alongside us and threatened us at gunpoint…I kid, but I did feel rather uneasy. My apprehension was heightened when we had to walk through some sketchy back route to our dinner destination, and ended up running through long grass screaming “snakes!”
Fortunately, the bar was much more reassuring inside, and overall enjoyable despite the hideously long wait for food. I made a good choice not drinking, as the Rekorderligs there were $12! Oh, Australia.
When we got back to the house, the stars were actually breathtaking- although I hate to be cliché. We all gathered our duvets and curled up outside, trying to ignore the threat of spiders or snakes. Above us, uncountable stars stood out in the darkness: unfamiliar stars in a well-known galaxy. The Milky Way was crystal clear, iridescent swathes of constellations occasionally marked by dark patches which looked like clouds. I tried to take a picture but sadly my camera skills weren’t quite up to scratch. And there we were, ten exchangers swathed in duvets, half-way across the world, gazing up at the night sky. Despite losing all feeling in my arm (my friend had decided to lie practically on top of me!), it was a half an hour I won’t be in a hurry to forget. The lack of any cars or anything at all made the silence penetrating and all encompassing, and it became so uncomfortable that whenever we stopped talking (rarely) my friend burst into hysterics.
Without warning, the stars started disappearing, which creepily reminded me of Doctor Who: “the stars are going out”. (Two references in this post- I swear I’m not usually this good at pop culture!). It promptly started raining and we fled inside. All good things come in small doses, eh?
Morning dawned, and brought with it the horrible piercing chill of winter I’d happily forgotten. The rest of the troupe arrived and we rustled up a wonderful cooked breakfast before hitting the road. We made a quick stop at Jurien Bay, and then headed home to the mellifluous tones of James Bay.