Monday, March 17, 2014

Day 2: South of Meeketharra

The road trains run wild on the Great Northern Highway. Modern day cowboys of the Wild West, carrying their payload between the mining boom in the north and the ports of commerce in the south. Yet for the most part they’re friendly, signaling when it’s safe to pass and flashing their lights when a road hazard presents itself ahead. They’re big, occasionally taking up both lanes with a paddy wagon in front and back, and they’re about the only things we see on this otherwise lonesome highway. And sometimes they’re dangerous: not ten minutes into our driving day, one of these road giants kicks up an almond size stone, which slams into our windscreen causing a poker-chip size chip just in front of the driver’s seat. Our trip expenses just increased by a few hundred bucks.

We spent the last few days scouring city shops for camping necessities and holiday indulgences, stocking up for the journey. As we head into Dalwallinu, 100kms north of New Norcia, we realize we’ve forgotten two essentials: beer and a cable to hook up the MP3 player to the car radio so we can listen to music and podcasts while we travel. The dusty town of Dalwallinu doesn’t hold much promise for fulfilling our urban tastes, and we resolve to make do with a sixer of Vic Bitter and no music. But the local bottle shop stocks Little Creatures Pale Ale (a Fremantle favourite) and, after several unsuccessful searches in local shops, we’re surprised to discover we’ve parked right in front of the region’s only unsigned computer store. A double-ended head phone cable is five bucks and gets the music rolling.

Not far north of Dalwallinu agricultural lands give way to scruffy plains. Flat red earth peppered with green scrub and yellow grasses. An occasional gum tree rises to silhouette its curvaceous limbs against the deep blue sky. The road stretches in a straight line north and the distance between towns lengthens. This is as good as it gets in the Australian outback. An emptiness that’s both alluring and disturbing in its utter relentlessness.

To fill the void, I connect up the MP3 player. Credence Clearwater Revival’s greatest hits fills the car, providing a soulful soundtrack to our road trip and allowing two aging hippies to sing their hearts out alongside these gutsy blues ballads from a rock-n-roll past.

We pick an appealing spot from the free camping book for our destination, located just out of Meekatharra near some red rock caves and breakaways. But 50kms south of the town we both spot an unsigned track heading east to a small incline that parallels the highway. This might provide a more secluded spot with potentially nice views. Indeed, the slight rise is just high enough to offer excellent views across a dry salt lake to the east (Lake Anneen) and expansive dry scrublands to the west. As the setting sun pulls its red shade over the land an orb of yellow light ascends through the distant clouds to the east. The full moon casts an eerie reflection off the salt pan and gives us enough light to eat a quiet dinner before heading for an early bed.

Morning chi gung against a backdrop of the setting moon

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