After a week of driving, we have made it to Broome, WA.
As planned, and only to make the drive up from Perth less boring, we fed the wild dolphins off Shark Bay, snorkeled on Ningaloo Reef, camped in an eco-retreat in a national park, discovered the best kept secret in the Southern hemisphere: the gorges of Karijini, faced the biggest spiders in the world, broke down in the desert and drove on dirt roads.
Today, we had planned to drive our trustworthy 4×4 campervan on the dirt road from town to Beagle Bay, some 100km North. It is wet season at the moment, and it rains a lot… but the locals assured us the road was practicable.
So we engaged ourselves on the track, the girls back on the road with music blaring out of the grunty vehicle’s sound system. We were confident and felt elated, and I was exceptionally happy to be heading towards the aboriginal community I have been looking forward to visiting for over a year now.
That is exactly the moment it started raining. Just a drizzle at first. Nonetheless, the atmosphere in the camper changed. The music was turned off after we skidded across the path the first time.
Lauren, who was driving, held her breath as the wheels lost grip on the dirt. We came to a gentle halt. And resumed our breathing.
After a short stop, I jumped out the car to lock the front wheels and engage the four wheel drive. As we started up again, we tried to convince ourselves that we were still just as confident.
The road became more boggy as rain poured from the dark clouds overhead.
After a hill and a couple of turns, the heavens opened. A tropical thunderstorm as I had witnessed in South Thailand was upon us. At this point, the vehicles wheels lost any grip they may have had and Lauren lost all control. We slid sideways gently at first, and then faster as the red mud softened under our weight. Lauren swore as she attempted to regain control. We swerved the other way, and violently resumed our skidding. I held on to Sophie’s arm as we slid dangerously close to the ditch. In the back, our carefully stored bags fell down, the cupboards opened and the mattress on the top bunk fell onto the sink and fridge.
Then, as suddenly as it had started, we came to a halt and the rain coincidently stopped also.
We revved the engine up to move forward and attempt to park in a drier area. As we did, we noticed a car coming in the opposite direction.
I got out to stop them, and asked how the road looked like ahead. “It is much worse than here” was the unfortunate answer we had not wanted to hear.
They confirmed our suspicions, and shook all remaining confidence out of us. My legs were shaking as I climbed back up to my seat.
We decided to turn around and get back to town. It promptly started pouring down again. My wise words of wisdom were: “let’s get the **** out of here”. My two terrified friends agreed.
I jumped out again, this time equipped with my amazing hiking boots (who have now walked/hiked/trekked on 4 continents) and walked in the red mud to find a decent place to do a three point turn on. A spot of hard sand did the trick. I was drenched the second I got out of the cabin.
We were turning back, defeated by the appalling road condition and the disastrous weather, and shaken up by the sliding incident. We drove slowly in second gear, avoiding the gigantic puddles that had formed since it had started raining, all the way back to the tarmac road.
As I was manually unlocking the front wheels again, I faced my own disappointment. It was just not safe for us to continue, but I deeply regretted not being to get there. “So close, yet so far” as they say.
As we got back to town to check in for accommodation, Lauren and Sophie told me the best piece of news I had heard in a few days.
One of the teachers working in the local school is driving from town to the community, and would gladly take me along for the ride this Tuesday!
I will be able to go after all. Not sure how or when I’ll get back, but that’s not important right now.
I am delighted to say that I am continuing my journey of learning and discovery on Tuesday, where a local will drive me safely to Beagle Bay in their sturdy four wheel drive.
Once there, I will not have access to modern forms of communication such as telephone or email, and I don’t yet know how long I will be gone for.
But for sure I will update my blog as soon as I return to town.