Random thoughts about our life on the move ...

Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
Trip End Jul 13, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, June 20, 2011

We've been closeted inside the campers' kitchen at Fraser Range all day today, apart from venturing out into the cold to do a couple of loads of laundry and tidy the trailer and car. We had an unusually late night last night after making friends with another couple and chatting till the ungodly hour of 11pm! Out here, that's like staying up till 4am at home.

I have also used the opportunity to finally write up a few lost entries before my memories of those times fade away entirely. This entry is just a collection of comments that didn’t necessarily fit anywhere else, but which I wanted recorded as part of my travel diary. Along the way, you start to observe things, but at the time you first notice them, they don’t necessarily warrant a mention of their own. Then later, when they have become a generalisation or a comment you want to make, it’s not always easy to find the right place for them in an entry that’s specifically linked to a single destination. Or, more to the point, I tend to just keep forgetting them until we are back on the road. As we near the end of this adventure, I have started trying to jot these things down as they occur to me, as very soon it will be too late. The moment we re-enter the "real world" they will be gone forever.

So here they are, a selection of random musings on nothing in particular …

1.            "In Australia"

Something weird has happened to me out here. I noticed it quite early and it has remained a habit that I can’t shake, even though I am aware of it. Whenever I want to make a comparison with something from home, or even Victoria in general, I always say "… in Australia". For some reason, I feel so detached from my own life over here that I must subconsciously feel like I am in a different country. Maybe this means that I have relaxed so much that distractions from home are not creeping in, although you could also argue that some things over here really do make you wonder if you’ve gone to another country.

2.              Camp grounds and miners

Lots of campers seem to avoid caravan parks that cater to the mining industry, although we only learned today that many of the nomads ask specifically at the tourist info to be sent in the direction of parks that cater for tourists rather than “permanents”. Until then, we hadn’t actually thought about the fact that there might be such a distinction, as there are always a couple of permanent residents, no matter where you go. However, we have recently landed in a number of parks where there seems to be a higher proportion of locals, permanents and miners than we’ve seen in other parks, and in some parks we have been the only “blow-ins”, so we had been pondering this very issue in our travels. However, we disturbed quite a few people at happy hour last night by announcing that we prefer the parks with miners in them. The main reason is that these parks seem to be quieter, and after some of our horrible experiences on the coast, where inconsiderate tourists kept us up all night, we rate a quiet park very highly. In Newman, we were told at reception when we booked in to keep quiet until 3pm, and there were signs everywhere reminding us that the shift workers were asleep. It was absolute bliss, everyone tiptoeing around being considerate of others. Miners don’t make noise when they come home, either, so the courtesy goes both ways. They shower, eat and go to bed. On their wages, if they do want to socialise, they don’t waste their few precious hours off sitting in the freezing cold with random strangers in the camp kitchen – they go to the pub and treat themselves to a good meal in comfortable surroundings. This means campers like us get the kitchen to themselves. For me, it also means having the toilet block to myself, as there are very few women living in the caravan parks, even though they are popular as employees in the mines. Paddy has not been so lucky in this regard. It has also meant that the people we do meet are more or less locals, or at least long-term residents, and there’s a different tone to the place when this is the case. It has led to some very interesting moments, as many of the folk who live permanently in these parks are colourful to say the least. But they are salt-of-the-earth characters, happy to have a yarn and help the new kids in town find their feet, so we’ve had some very entertaining and informative conversations. The best one of these was in Kalgoorlie, where we snaffled the last tent site in the whole town by being willing to camp on the handkerchief of lawn next to the driveway. The place was full of rough, tough-looking characters who wouldn’t have looked out of place in a drunken brawl down the street, but they showered and vanished – either to bed or the pub, we never found out which. Yet another reminder never to judge people too quickly!
3.              Shooting stars

These have to get a mention somewhere, so it might as well be here. Our first amazing shooting star was in Red Bluff, north of Carnarvon. Each of us thought we might have imagined it, as it was so big that it can’t have been real. But we agreed that, as we had both seen it, it must have been real. It came from nowhere and streaked right across the night sky in slow motion, slow enough to actually watch the action unfold. I have never seen that happen before, and it was a massive big star, which made it even more memorable. Paddy missed the second one, but it was up at Yardie Homestead. It wasn’t quite as massive as the first one had been, but nonetheless another mighty impressive spectacle.

4.              Residents of WA and the road rules.

We get a good laugh out of signage in rural Victoria, and indeed these days, there’s plenty of it all over the state, so poor literacy is not unique to the West Australians, but it has been interesting following various debates about their schooling system in the media and simultaneously observing the degree of literacy in all areas of life here. I have to say it’s not great. We have also come to the conclusion that it must be pretty easy to get a driver’s licence here, as it has become very apparent that you don’t need any knowledge of the road rules in order to be in control of a car. One of their specialties is overtaking in the most dangerous way possible; in fact, this is so common we are starting to wonder whether there is some competition going on, in which drivers try to outdo each other in the “crazy overtaking manoeuvre” stakes. Noone slows down when they come up behind you, they just maintain whatever speed they were doing and swerve around you, regardless of road or traffic conditions. We’ve had people overtake us plus multiple road trains on bends, crests and through crossings. The roads are good, but the rain everywhere has meant that having to get off the road in a hurry would be fatal, so we’ve had more than a few white-knuckle moments, that’s for sure. Mind you, there’s been no aggression as such, so I am not looking forward to trying to drive in Melbourne again, where everyone is impatient and has to let you know if you have got in their way. After so long tootling along like Grandma and Grandpa Kettle, we are going to be sitting ducks in Melbourne traffic.

5.              Oversize vehicles

We can’t believe the number of oversize vehicles and loads we’ve passed, each accompanied by an entourage of smaller vehicles with flashing warning lights and signs. Often there isn’t actually room on the road for these vehicles to get past, but that doesn’t worry them – they let it worry you. The piece de resistance came yesterday, as we saw a police car cruising down the middle of the road with all its lights flashing. It clearly wasn’t in a hurry, so we had to think about what was going on. We soon spotted the problem – a massive big road train carrying some enormous structure that reached from one side of the highway to the other. We had no choice but to get completely off the road, which was a bit hairy. Luckily, we were following a “triple” – a road train with three big trailers – and I was able to observe how well his vehicle coped with swerving off into the mud before it was my turn to give it a try.

6.              The “library”

We think we might be the only campers on the trail with a fully stocked “library”, and it has served us well. Lots of people have travelled lighter than us, and this method also has its merits, but our decision to take a trailer meant that we could throw in a few treats to make sure we had what we needed to enjoy our time away to the fullest. One of the things we both wanted to do was read lots, and I wasn’t sure how we would fare getting hold of books out here, so in the weeks leading up to the trip I started collecting a selection of mixed books. We left with about 20 books in a number of different genres and by various authors. Eight weeks in to the trip, we have read heaps, but there is still at least one book left for each of us to tackle on the home stretch. The shortage of books on the trail was as bad as I thought it would be, so our little “library” has been a godsend.

7.              2,500 rpm

Who would have thought that the tachometer would prove to be one of the most important pieces of technology on this trip? Early on, it became apparent that rather than selecting speeds based on the speedometer, the car was comfortable at a certain cruising speed and that actual speed had very little to do with this. Since then, we simply nominated 2,500 rpm as our chosen cruising “speed” for the entire journey. It clearly works for the car and it means we are making good progress without either hooning or creeping along like Ma and Pa Kettle. I will have trouble learning to look at the speedo again once we are home, as I don’t use it at all any more. The “2,500 rule” works surprisingly well for all weather conditions and over all types of terrain. I wonder what the Victoria Police will make of that explanation! 

 I am feeling frivolous tonight, so I'm just going to publish this entry without any photos. If you have to wait for me to select photos to match these musings, it could be a very long wait, and we all have better things to do! 


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