Travel Stories #20 – Saying my goodbyes

As we were driving towards the main road again, we slowly saw a still car getting closer. I remember how Riina started saying: ‘Oh No…” At first I didn’t see the problem, but soon enough I realised what this meant. When we approached, we saw a proper river over the road. The road was no longer accessible.

We stepped out and spoke to the other people (that had obviously been camping in front of the river quite a while). They pointed out where the water level was an hour ago, which was about as high as the roof of the car. A bit surreal if you didn’t see it with your own eyes. I mean, how can rainfall from one night possibly cause the water in a tiny (mostly non-existing river) to reach a point as high as our van’s roof? Because they had told us that the water went down a lot since the last hour, we, as well decided to stay in front of the river and wait until water would go down again. Bit of a gamble, because it is really hard to tell if it actually will go down. You only know when it is rainy where you are, but when it would rain 10km’s further in the mountains, it will just as easy cause the water level to rise again. We waited the entire day, until, at the end of the day, a guy from the resort in his car came. A couple 4wd’s had already crossed, but since we were in a van, it is a bit of a different story. I mean, you don’t want to fuck up your engine, but you certainly don’t want to be caught by the power of the water stream once the car doesn’t have enough power to get through the river. The car from the resort drove in front of us so he would push the water away and the other cars, including us, would follow him through the first river. Maybe we could get out of here before the sun sets and reach Kununurra.

We knew that there were two more floodings over the same road a couple of kilometres further. But we might just as well try. Maybe we can cross those as well, when we can cross the first one. The first crossing went fine. Surprisingly enough, hardly any water came in from the sides (what I expected since the car doors never really close that well). We easily got through the second one without help and at the third crossing there were supposed to be other people that could help us out. As soon as we saw that last crossing we knew we couldn’t do it. The water stream was so strong that even walking through it was quite difficult, but most of all there was a hill with gravel and one sandbank where we probably would strand on. After a while, checking out the river, seeing a couple of big, high 4wd cross, we decided not to do it and to return to the caravan park before the sun would go down.

Next morning we had an early alarm. As soon as we woke, we asked if there was any news on the floodings. The water level was that low now, that probably all cars could cross. We decided to quickly pack and hop in the car. Who knows what storms are coming over if we wait too long, the whole situation could change again in an hour. The guy that let the way the day before would drive with us again, just in case we would get stuck in that gravel, he could pull us through it.

The first river was completely gone when we returned, just as the second. There was still quite some water in the last one, but we could do it, we went through this amount of water yesterday too. Even the gravel wasn’t any problem. We were out! FREE!! Woohoooo! We could continue our journey towards Broome. We passed a bunch of shady Aboriginal towns where we would rather not stop because they didn’t feel very safe. However sometimes you have to stop for gas or food and in Fitzroy Crossing we wanted to stop at the visitors centre to ask if there was anything to do along the way to Broome. We entered the visitors centre and asked the lovely lady our question. ‘Do you’s know there is a cyclone heading towards Broome? You really shouldn’t drive there today, it is expected to hit this afternoon…’. No, we didn’t know that…

We don’t really listen to the radio and don’t really have a tv to watch either, so this was the first time we heard about this. Well, if she says we shouldn’t go she is probably right, they know better than us, so we decided to book a caravan park in Fitzroy Crossing and to wait until the cyclone would move over. When we woke up the situation hadn’t changed a thing. The cyclone was still not really a cyclone, but a tropical low and the conditions weren’t any worse than when we went to bed. Even on the news there wasn’t even a mention on the cyclone warning. That is when we just decided to pack our stuff and drive straight to Broome now we still could. We’d rather be stuck in a hostel in an actual city, than stuck in our car on a caravan park in a shitty Aboriginal town.

The drive was about 396 km and the weather wasn’t too bad. I mean it wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t more than heavy rain and some wind gusts. We could definitely tell that if we would have waited longer in Fitzroy, we would have been stuck there for a couple of days. The roads were about to flood when we passed by and this would only get worse and worse.

I think we made the right decision to just head to Broome. At first I was quite nervous to drive. I mean, we were heading towards a bloody cyclone and wouldn’t know what we would encounter along the way. We got to Broome safe and sound and sat the entire day on our ass in a hostel. The situation went to a code red at one point, but in my opinion it wasn’t that bad. The day after we had a lot of rain the entire day, so we still couldn’t do a lot, but then the next day, we could finally explore Broome!

Wow what an amazing beautiful place is this. The red dirt desert literally meets the blue blue blue ocean. It looks amazing and the sunsets here are the best I had seen in ages. The colours somehow just explode every night. It never bores me. We explored the surroundings and did the world famous camel train rides along the beach during sunset. What a ridiculous animals.

We were exited to move on as well. A lot of amazing reef to snorkel and lovely water to swim in awaited. Finally we could swim again! No crocs, no stingers, nothing that could kill us! Well, within a certain extend. There is always a chance that something kills you in this country…

The snorkelling at the Ningaloo Reef was bloody amazing! It was much better than what I had seen from the Great Barrier reef. And on top of that you just walk into the water and there you have your beautiful reef. Full with turtles, reef shark, fishes and alive and kicking corals. I had never seen anything like it. We even did a tour to swim with Manta Rays! Wow. They are massive! It looks like an elegant carpet, floating through the ocean!

I still remember seeing my first shark! It is a small reef shark, but it still looks like a shark and it was fucking awesome. I almost drowned from excitement when I tried to call the others while snorkelling (not recommended). Later along the trip we would also spot dugongs (sea cows, for the Dutchies) and swim with dolphins. This coast here is amazing! Everything is literally on your doorstep, all you have to do is to go for a swim.

We found a couple of amazing camping spots on the beach and lived the true van-life that one imagines to have when you go on a roadtrip. Including some car troubles which is part of it as well of course. Last thing what happened was in Broome, our power steering and battery broke, so we let it repair in Broome and then half way the coast we encountered some age related issues. The wind along this entire coast was very strong, it even blew us to the other side of the road every now and then, but it also blew of an entire part of the car. It just cracked and flew off! Huh… We drove to Perth without the indicator and had some permanent air-conditioning going on without that part of the car.

We had some pretty awesome luck as well. At Monkey Mia we got a tour on a Catamaran for a quarter of the original price, because he needed to fill up his boat. So lucky! He just ‘picked us up’ while we were chilling on the beach and asked if we would be interested to come on his tour. Sure! 20$! SOLD!

A week later we hired a sand board at the Lancelin Dunes and when we started chatting with the owner of the company we got some free rides on his quads and he brought us up the dunes in his way too fast buggy. He drove it like it was a rollercoaster, hell yeah!

And suddenly, after all this excitement, there it was, Perth. The first 48 hours in this for me familiar city were a rollercoaster of emotions. From the moment we got closer to Perth’s skyline, it got more real every second.  This skyline meant not only the end of our roadtrip together, it meant the end with Bucky and most of all, it meant the end of my travels in Australia. These girls had become better friends than I had ever had in my life and now I had to leave them behind again. It wasn’t the most cheerful idea. It is kind off terrifying all those endings at once. Let’s just hope these ends are loose ends…

Funny enough I had booked the same flight as Vi, so we would have one flight together before our ways would split. Riina however, would still stay in Australia for a few more months. The last few days we spend in a hostel, mainly doing necessary stuff. I had to find out a way to sell the car and that wouldn’t be easy. Not just because by now it has a lot of emotional value, but because it was a fucking old car, with nearly 400.000kms on the odometer, and it had NSW-plates while I would try to sell it in WA. This might be big troubles for a buyer since there probably is going to be a lot of extra costs for fixing stuff to get the car roadworthy in WA. I knew this, but I just had to find some clueless young backpackers that didn’t. I had my doubts if this would even be possible, but then I got a text. There was a young English couple that would come for a viewing in a few days, but they asked  if they could see the car that night. They would even be able to take it right away. They had been a bit unlucky with a car they wanted before, someone sold it while they already agreed on buying it, so they were very keen to do everything fast to prevent it from happening again. Eventually they took the car, transferred the money and they probably would know that it is going to cost them a whole lot more, when I have already left the country. A bit harsh, but otherwise I would have a little problem and officially I hadn’t done anything against the law.

I was relieved that I sold Bucky, although I miss my little scrap-dump, but it at least was one worry less. Before we would actually go on the plane we spend one more fantastic day on Rottnest Island. I had already been there, but it was so much more fun to cuddle the quokka’s with my friends!

The day of my flight was very emotional. I cried about 4 times. When we left Riina by herself on the train station, when I took off from Perth, when I touched ground in the Netherlands, when I hugged my parents and brother again on Schiphol. It all was incredibly overwhelming, and now three days later, it still is.

It is pretty tough so far to get used to all of this again. It feels like I have been taken from a movie and have been placed back into reality. Everybody stares at me (probably because of my tan or something), so I really feel like a stranger in my own city. It is weird, but I suppose I just need to give it some time…

To the common question: ‘What’s next?’, I don’t really have an answer yet. Except for a trip to Ireland and an Ed Sheeran concert in Paris and I might have to plan a visit to Viola and Riina any time soon, because I already miss them so much! Other than that my life still is not that hard 🙂

It has been so awesome to hear how many people actually followed me this trip. Thanks for all the great reactions! I hope this wasn’t my last long trip and if I leave again, you will definitely know!

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