36 hours later…

I’m very happy to report that I have made it to Alice Springs!

Jane drove us through to Katherine in pretty much one go, save for a few hours between 1am and 6am when she stopped to let the horses have a walk about. I laid down for a kip in the cab of the truck and subsequently got eaten alive. (Don’t give me that look Karen, I swear I thought I had enough Mosi-Gard on!). Suffice to say, I’ve learned my lesson on that front, and the itching is a constant reminder of my errors. I have so much Stingoes on me, I look like I’ve bathed in the stuff!

Around 1pm on Monday, we finally pulled up at the transit station in Katherine. After thanks and goodbye, Jane went on her merry way.

I had until 5pm before I needed to get on the Greyhound bus to Alice Springs. Desperate for a shower and with no clean underwear left, I sought out the Backpackers Hostel in town and they kindly let me use their shower and laundry facilities. Fast forward a couple of hours and I was clean, dry, dressed, content and just waiting for the dryer to finish so I could be on my way.

Then it was the overnight Greyhound bus to Alice Springs. I fell asleep after a few episodes on Netflix and woke up in Alice Springs.

09:18 was the time. I knew that the coach for my excursion was leaving Alice any minute now, so I phoned up Tom the tour manager, who said they’d already left but if I could jump in a cab and get to the airport, they’d turn around and pick me up there. Cue me hotfooting it to the taxi rank with all my stuff and quite literally jumping into a taxi!

It all came together in the end, I rocked up at the airport and 5 minutes later, so did the Contiki bus, and that brings us up to now. I have another couple of hours on this coach before we get to today’s destination, so excuse me while I doze off again!

Escape from Fitzroy Crossing!

I spent all of Saturday lurking around a petrol station and later a hotel lobby, making phone calls, posting on Facebook groups and desperately trying to find someone to give me a lift to anywhere!

Mum and I came up with a theory about how a surprising number of young women have come to be working in Fitzroy: clearly, they’ve all been stranded, just as I was, by flood waters and terrible public transport. They get trapped for so long that they start to feel like they should be doing something with their time and lending a hand to the community. They develop a form of Stockholm Syndrome that tricks them into thinking Fitzroy is a nice place to be, and that’s it. They’re stuck. Never again to see the rest of the world!

Hey, I just wrote my first conspiracy theory piece!

Around 5pm, I decided to call it a day and check into the hotel. Different hotel from the night before, more expensive – and I did have to pay this time – but much nicer! I made the most of having a relaxing night in a room all of my own. Had a long shower, washed my hair, put on a face mask, and sat watching Netflix in bed. I was asleep by half nine and slept through til 8 o’clock this morning!

From my bed, I checked the road conditions and phoned Greyhound to see if their buses were running today. No such luck. When I got up, I packed my things and headed once again to the Shell garage to pick up a lift. After a couple of hours, a strange twist of fate came along and made my day.

A gent who thought I’d have more hitchhiking luck in a different part of the town offered to drive me there, but once we got on the main road we spotted the Greyhound bus! We turned the car round and followed it for a few minutes until it stopped. It had come from Darwin and was headed for Broome, but terminating in Fitzroy because of the closed roads. I asked if they were turning around and heading back to Darwin but they told me not until tomorrow. Another dead end, I thought.

But then! A lady who was getting off the bus overheard me and said she was driving to Katherine (only about 300km south of Darwin) and could give me a ride! She’d come to Fitzroy to pick her truck and horse box and was driving to Katherine this afternoon.As I write this, I’ve been on the road about an hour, and I’m sat in the front Jane’s truck, with our four-legged-friends in the back, feeling like the stars have finally aligned for me this week!

Tomorrow is a new day, a new week, I’ll get to Darwin by lunchtime and from there I’ll have many more options!

The Roadtrip: Day 3

What. A motherfudging day.

I thought yesterday’s rains were exciting – I had no idea what was in store for me!

After going out for a few drinks last night and waking up slightly hungover (sorry Mum!), I checked the weather forecast and decided to get back on the road before the storms got any worse and the roads were closed. It was now or never!

I made it out of Broome and onto the Great Northern Highway in a couple of hours, and tackled a bit more rain and flooding but could certainly see it dissipating.

Fast forward to 3pm and I’d only covered about 300km but it was better than nothing and I was definitely out of the worst weather.

I was only 50km from the next town but I desperately needed a rest, so I pulled into a lay-by to have something to eat and rest my eyes – ended up snoozing for an hour!

I woke up and prepared to make my way into Fitzroy Crossing, where I’d fill the tank and decide whether to call it a day or carry on the next 200km or so to Halls Creek. In the end, my decision was made for me.

Shortly after setting off I noticed that the tiniest bit of added pressure on the gas made the engine rev like mad, but made no difference to my speed. Odd. For 5km or so I crawled along at 50 kmph, and then noticed, when I went to change gear, that there was no pressure under the clutch. Worrying. I optimistically hoped that pulling over, cutting the engine, and restarting it again would solve the problem. But alas, a car is not an iPhone – you can’t just turn it off and turn it back on again! The engine restarted just fine but the car wouldn’t go into gear and the clutch was being about as much use as a Swiss cheese umbrella.

The clutch was burned out. Bollocks.

I called the roadside assistance number provided by the car hire company and the Northern man (yes, Northern English) on the other end gave me some advice and said he’d try and source a towing company in Fitzroy.

As luck would have it, at this point a 4WD drove by and the three guys inside stopped to see if I was okay. Fitzroy is a small town so of course they knew the local tow truck bloke and called him out for me! Then they gave me a lift into Fitzroy and kindly offered to take me to the cheapest accommodation in town so I could find a place to stay the night.

Thomson, one of my rescuers, came into the hotel with me and asked how much the cheapest room was; $189 for one night. That’s £120. I’ve been paying no more than $35 a night for my accommodation since I got to Oz. Up until this point I had been taking the whole situation in my stride and very much keeping my cool. Not any longer; I could feel the waterworks coming on.

Clearly pitying me, Thomson offered to let me stay in his caravan and he would find a mate to stay with. Without stopping to weigh up my options, and blinded by the thought of not having to pay almost 200 bucks for a night’s sleep, I took up his offer. Though later, having spoken to Mother dearest, I decided the hotel was the better option after all. Don’t get me wrong, the guy was lovely, and I don’t think he was planning on cutting me up into pieces and BBQ-ing me, but he was a complete stranger so you can never be sure!

They very kindly bought me dinner and then dropped me back at the hotel. Just as I was about fork out, the lady I’d spoken to earlier on appeared and made an announcement: a businessman from out of town had paid for a room which he wasn’t actually planning on using, (something to do with tax, I wasn’t going to ask questions), and since it was paid for and empty, they were going to give it to me!

So that brings us up to now. I’m tucked up in bed, looking forward to a good night’s sleep, and even a lie in, since I won’t be leaving in a hurry in the morning, and feeling much much calmer than 5 hours ago.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the car or with my transport to Alice Springs, nor do I know what of this mess I’ll have to pay for, if any. But that, my friends, is a problem for future me.

The Hermione of tomorrow morning will have to deal with those questions; let’s hope she’s got her thinking cap handy!

Goodnight 😴

Edit: After writing this, I discovered a beautiful little green frog living the bathroom of my motel room. His name is Floyd. He is looking after me tonight.

The Roadtrip: Days 1 & 2

Wednesday: Today I set off up North for my big drive to Alice Springs. After filling up the car with petrol, buying some snacks and plugging in some tunes, I was well on my way!

The day was uneventful, but that’s exactly what you want when you’re driving alone across Australia!

I did have an interesting experience with a lady in a service station though… I had decided to buy a jerry can to fill up and keep in the boot, just in case I needed it in an emergency. The first can I picked up had no lid, so I checked the others and sure enough they didn’t either.

When I mentioned this to the lady at the till, she didn’t seem to get what my issue was – her response was along the lines of ‘what’s on the shelf is all we’ve got’. Sigh. “Okay, but I can’t put petrol in something that doesn’t seal,” I countered.

After some backwards and forwards and a bit of sign language, she disappeared into the back room and came back a full ten minutes later with a lid for the Jerry can. I presume they keep the lids out the back to stop people from stealing the cans, and this is fair enough. Just a shame the whole thing took so long!

I covered 550km and ended up in a town called Karratha for the night, where I stayed in a very quirky little Backpackers hostel. My supplies were waning and I was feeling tired so I decided to treat myself to a bought dinner out rather than cobbling together my own. It was only when I got into town and seated myself in a restaurant that I realised it was Valentine’s Day…

But! I stood my ground, sat on my own, and enjoyed my Valentine’s date with myself…because I could!

Thursday: Word of the day – rain. It’s wet season up north so this wasn’t unexpected. I left Karratha around 8:30am and managed about 600km without a hitch. Then I had another interesting petrol station experience – anyone noticing a pattern here?

I stopped at a roadhouse with about a quarter of a tank left, only to discover they were only taking cash…of which I had none. The next service was another 230km away, and even with the contents of the Jerry Can I wasn’t going to make it. Thankfully the cashier finally agreed to let me owe the money – she took my card details and name and said they’d charge the card once their system was back up. The fuel here was also horrendously expensive so I only filled up enough to tide me over and then made a point of driving more economically (aka slower) to the next service.

But alas, I didn’t get that far before another interruption! The rain had already hit by this point and about a kilometre after the roadhouse, I encountered my first bit of flooded road. No matter, it was merely a couple of centimetres and nothing to write home about. There were a few more of these before I eventually found myself facing one which did look a bit more dodgy. I’m pretty sure I could’ve got through it, but since there was a guy and his daughter with a tow truck, literally waiting to give me a ride over (yes, really), I didn’t bother taking the risk. Saved me some fuel too!

I eventually got to Broome around 7pm, having covered 850km, and checked into the YHA. A shower, a cold beer, and some time spent watching the incredible electrical storm unfolding were the next things on my agenda, and since I have achieved all of these, I am satisfied.

There’s a chance that if these rains get worse overnight then I may be stuck in Broome tomorrow if the roads are closed. I can probably spare a day though, it’ll just mean the other two are much more km-heavy. We’ll have to wait and see!

Adventures in Exmouth

Quick summary of today:

  • I got up at 5am to go to a yoga class which turned out to be cancelled.
  • I went back to bed until midday.
  • I drove into the Cape Range National Park.
  • Here, I walked through the Mandu Mandu Gorge, went for a swim at Turquoise Bay and watched the sunset from Vlamingh Lighthouse.

Enjoy some photos!

Turns out the 10 second timer on the iPhone camera is pretty useful for solo adventurers like me. Special thanks to the rock that I perched my phone against to take this.
Mandu Mandu Gorge
Red-faced and sweaty after the hike – so worth it!
This was the view over the Ningaloo Reef from the site of the WW2 interpreter, just near the lighthouse. Learned a lot of interesting history up here.
Vlamingh Lighthouse against the sunset

An update on my plans

Many of you will have heard me talking about my itinerary for this trip, and so many of you will be expecting me to head east pretty soon. But I’ve had a change of plan.

I felt that 2 beautiful coasts, plus a week in Alice Springs was too much to tackle in just 2 and a half months. When I leave Alice Springs I’ll have only three weeks before my flight home, and the last thing I want to do is rush any part of this experience. So, I’ve decided to come back West after Alice, and experience more of what WA has to offer. Even in the 5 weeks I’ve already been here, I know I haven’t seen even half of it!

As mentioned in my previous post, changes of arrangements during a big trip can be a little anxiety-inducing, but this is one decision that I’m 100% confident is the right one!

You Live and You Learn

That’s the phrase that keeps going through my head as I’m travelling around WA.

Not everything can go exactly according to plan when you’re travelling, and unfortunately for me, anxiety makes it even harder to let go and just let things happen!

Yesterday I left Monkey Mia and travelled South to a town called Geraldton. Due to a bad experience with the shuttle driver who took me to Monkey, I wasn’t going to get the shuttle back, and hitching a lift with two other volunteers who were heading back to Perth was the most cost effective and sensible seeming way to move forward.

When I got here, I checked in to my AirBnB, sat down on the bed and burst into tears. Going from the beautiful beaches, blissful remoteness, and friendly faces of Monkey Mia to the utterly juxtaposing overcast skies and small city that reminds me painfully of Salisbury was too much for my sleep-deprived head to cope with.

Fortunately a quick FaceTime chat with Beth helped me to calm down and rationalise; leaving Monkey was hard, but I’ve done that bit, it was amazing, and now it’s time to keep moving. And I can always go back!

As for my next steps, I have to stop feeling like I’m wasting days. Today I slept almost all day, which sounds like the ultimate waste of a day, but truthfully, after a spate of late nights and early mornings, I needed the catch up.

Tomorrow I’ll go out and see what the town of Geraldton has to offer – I’ve done some research and I know I can fill a day. Tomorrow evening I get back on the bus to Exmouth, where I’ve made the decision to hire a car for the rest of my trip. The logic there is to make things easier, and allow myself the freedom to go where I want, when I want, rather than relying on buses that only run twice a week!

I’ve learned three things:

1) You’re allowed to have a rest day – we’re all human and we all need to sleep!

2) Sometimes you have to take what feels like a step back, before you can keep moving forwards.

3) You can’t control everything. Even the best laid plans don’t always work out, but there’s a solution to every mishap.

It’s all part of the experience, and now I know for the future. I’m living and learning.

And I’ll tell you one more thing – I bet people didn’t expect to read a post like this on my blog about the epic experience of travelling around Oz, but not every second of every day is filled with joy and excitement. That’s part of the travel experience too, and it wouldn’t be an honest account of my travels if I didn’t mention the shit parts.

Tomorrow’s a new day – wish me luck!