Travel stories 19 (part 1): Bucky’s little brake down

And there it was. The Perth skyline, rising up above the never-ending roads. This road, however, meant the end for us. The end of the road trip. We would still be together until the flights home, but there was no more road to drive. The answer to the question: ‘ Where are you’s heading?’ was no longer ‘Perth’. It will be ‘home’ from now on.

But hold on. Let’s reverse time a bit. We are jumping forward way to fast here. The last time I wrote I was in Darwin, so let’s pick it up from there! There is almost too much to mention, so much stuff happened that I am excited about, or well, some things were sad but still funny to mention. That is why I will write this one in two parts, so you got a little time to sleep, drink coffee or cook dinner during my two posts

From Darwin, we first drove down, back towards Katherine again to visit the Katherine Gorge. We planned to do a hike there and take the ferry back. That sounded nice, but when we actually got to the gorge and wanted to buy the ferry ticket, they told us that the ferry didn’t run that day. Too much rain

made it dangerous somehow. They told us that we could still just walk in towards the rockhole and walk back again. With some reluctance, we still decided to go for the walk. And wow what were we happy we did that! The Southern Rockhole was amazing! A little piece of paradise where a double waterfall end in a swimming hole with cliffs along the side that are perfect for some cliff jumping. While having lunch we noticed that people all at once started to walk towards the river. Would there be a ferry to catch anyway? Lucky bastards that we are! There was! They closed the ticket sales, but people that bought a ticket the day before were still able to take their ferry, and so on we could hop on as well. A day that began with disappointment, but ended up to be really awesome.

The next day started off as any other one. We woke up at a bleak rest area along the highway and the planning involved just driving mostly. The landscape was awesome during this drive. It looked a little bit like autumn. A combination of young green grass and trees and red rocks mixed through. We stopped at a lookout and had some lunch in Timber Creek, the biggest town after Katherine. Population: 231. We were just about to cross the WA border and had to eat most of our fresh fruit and vegetables (quarantine rules). Altogether we ate 6 tomatoes, 2 capsicums, 1 courgette, 1 onion, noodles and all the potatoes we had. We also had a 3-kilogram bag of rice we weren’t allowed to take, but we thought it was a bit of a waste to chuck it. Our genius plan to hide it in the pillowcase made us laugh quite a bit. As soon as we packed our stuff and fueled up we encountered some problems. We couldn’t get it into any gear anymore… Ah oh… There was no way we could drive on with this and walked to the fuel station to ask if there was a mechanic in town. Luckily we were in a town and not in the middle of nowhere. And even more lucky, one of the 230 people in this place was the friendly mechanic Tim. In second gear we managed to reach the shop.

Tim crawled under the car and tried some things with the clutch before the conclusion came: it needs a new clutch. A job of about a $1000, which is a third of the price I paid for it in the first place. I really didn’t know what to do with it. It would hardly be worth it to fix it, but we really didn’t have any other options, so we to let Tim fix it. Next problem is that we also sleep in that car and we didn’t really have a place to go to. In the meantime, Tim, a tiny, 60+-year-old, grandpa type, guy, had phoned to Katherine about the parts that he needed. In the morning he would know more about it, but for now, it was hard to tell how long it would take to get the parts over to Timber Creek. It might even take a week. He was nice enough to offer his driveway and facilities to us for the night. So that is where we slept, in front of his house, which was more a cabin than a house, but it had everything he needed apparently. We were happy to have a place to stay in the first place, even though it was slightly awkward, we didn’t have a choice.

In the morning Tim woke us with some great news. He would get the parts on the first truck and would be able to fix it within a day or two. He even had already arranged free accommodation for the time needed and could start working on it right away (or at least his younger Indigenous helper Alfred). The accommodation he arranged was just around the corner. A big room that looked like a cantine where construction workers would have lunch, but then three times as big. It even had a shower, kitchen with two fridges, wash machines, toilets, aircon, everything!

There was nothing to sleep on, so we took all the stuff from the car and put the mattress on the floor. We spend the entire day doing nothing, dancing on music in the room, writing in our journals, watching movies, making popcorn. Not really a terrible life, but it got a bit boring after a while. At the end of the day, we were still with the understanding that the car would be done either that evening or the next day until Tim showed up at the door with some sad news. The whole car was ready to go, the gearbox was out and as soon as they had the new part it would be fixed within an hour. But….. they fucked up in Katherine and the part needed, had missed the truck. there now were two options he told us: ‘So, we either wait till the next truck on Tuesday’  (which was 4 days away), ‘ Or I can take one of you girls in my car tomorrow and drive to Katherine to pick it up ourselves.’ It sounded like an awesome generous thing that he offered and didn’t really think much until we agreed and closed the door behind us.

Then we started thinking. A lot. Why would he only take one of us? We had seen his car, I think he could easily take us all. The environment we were didn’t feel very safe. Many indigenous people that made us feel like intruders. It was a creepy small town in the middle of nowhere, we didn’t know the guy, it was a long drive through nothing. If something was wrong there wouldn’t be any reception and there wouldn’t be anyone to help. With all the stories going around about backpackers being murdered we got really scared. If someone didn’t have good intentions, this was the ideal easy situation to take advantage and do bad things without anyone knowing. Wolf Creek scenarios played on and on in my head.

It all got worse when we were watching a thunderstorm on our doorstep. Alfred walked towards us with a bunch of his friends. They were clearly drunk, but started talking about the situation, and about Tim. ‘He isn’t a good man…’, ‘He owns a whorehouse in the Philipines’.’Is one of you really going alone with this guy?’. Fuck. That made it even worse. We all called home and thought about it some more. We still had to decide who would go with him. Neither of us wanted to, obviously, but we still decided to do it. We didn’t feel very safe in the place we were staying either (locals trying to scare us and knocking on the door at night). And so far, everything Tim did for us was very kind and generous and all with good intentions. I picked up some tweaks from outside. the shortest stick would go. Riina chose one, Viola chose one and I took the one left. ‘ One, two, three!’ Aaaaaaah, I had the shortest one! I would go in the morning.

I didn’t sleep at all that night. Everything that could go wrong passed in my mind. I had my alarm set for 6.15 and he would pick me up at 7.00. Obviously, the first thing I did that morning was making coffee and taking a shower to wake up. As soon as I walked out of the kitchen I heard a car pull over in front of our door. 6.30? Is that him already? Damn! No breakfast for me than… I forgot the pot with water on the stove and walked out with my bag. As soon as I saw his car I was confused. Why couldn’t he take all of us with that car? Was he so early so I couldn’t have breakfast on purpose? So I would be weak? As soon as he got in the car I saw he had the back seats down and a massive esky in there. That explains something… Breathe in, breathe out, let’s just do this.

We just had some random conversations, small talk, but somehow I was overthinking everything way too much. He talked about how there is no reception on the place we were driving and how even his satellite phone didn’t have any reception. ‘You can try it if you want, it is in the glove box. Just put it on, see if there is reception.’ So I turned it on and everything. No reception. ‘Yea, so if something happens, there is no way to call anybody’. Then he started about wolf creek. ‘ Have you seen that movie Wolf Creek?’ This is a movie about backpackers that got murdered and the location of this (true) story was actually not far from where we were stranded. It all gave me a really unsafe feeling, but most of it I just made worse in my own head. When he suddenly pulled over on a spot with nothing around, it scared the hell out of me. Eventually, he just asked me to drive, nothing dangerous going on. With myself behind the wheel, I felt much safer than before. I had all power in my own hands now.

We made it to Katherine without problems, picked-up the parts we needed, got brekky at Woolies and I drove back the entire way. Got home safe and sound. A nervewracking morning, but I was happy he could fix the car now. The car was done at the end of the afternoon, so we decided to stay for one more night and to start driving first thing in the morning.

We drove to Lake Argyle, the first place of interest after we crossed the WA border. Some lookouts, a little lunch and we decided to inform about canoes and paddle boards on the campsite. When we got at the campsite we heard there was an offer for the sunset cruise on the lake. For half the price we ended up eating unlimited carrot cake and cookies, got coffee, tea and soda’s, went for two swims, saw baby crocodiles, cruised on the lake, watched wallaroos being fed and as icing on the cake we finished up with cheese and champagne during a sunset swim. Yes, the cheese and champagne were with us, floating in the water. It was amazing! We continued the boat party in the infinity pool on the campsite with some beers. This stupid girl even got a bit tipsy and dived in shallow water. So I broke a tooth, oops…

Next morning we would move on again, but when we started driving it all went a bit different than expected.

To be continued…

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