In my posts so far, I have been describing our journey, along with its ups and downs, most of which have been related to Covid and border permits. It is now four weeks since we left home and we have only just started to feel we are having a holiday, rather than being on a journey. So, I thought it would be interesting to write about what life on the road is like for us.
Having entered WA with its new time zone (2 hours behind Melbourne) and climate, we have fallen into a range of routines. Although this sounds a bit boring, it is actually a good thing.
For example, our day usually starts by getting out of bed at 6 o’clock to witness some amazing sunrises. This is followed by breakfast of Muesli and toast, with the occasional bacon and eggs (but only if we are not moving on that day). We generally prepare our lunch and fill the flask with hot water for morning coffee and lunch. What happens next depends on whether we are moving on or staying put.
When we first started, it took us nearly 2 hours from getting up to setting off. Now, with some minor prior evening preparation, we can do it in 1 hour – we both know what needs to be done and in what order. This time extends somewhat if we have erected the awning, which we tend to only do if we are staying in the same place for three nights or more.
If we are staying, we like to get out and about as early as possible, usually by 7 o’clock. This helps us to avoid the worst of the tourist crush and, of course, the heat for the day.
During the day, I play ‘chase the sun’ with the solar panels in order to boost our batteries as much as possible, which so far, we are managing successfully, just. Because our journey distances are shorter, the solar is having to do the work to recharge the batteries.
In the afternoon, we are now managing to find time to relax, read books, review photos etc.
We have found it more relaxing to arrive at our destination before lunchtime, if we can. Now that we are back on our planned itinerary, we will be able to this more and more.
The time to set up the trailer has also been reduced dramatically – we can be sitting having lunch or afternoon tea within about 20 minutes. Unless we decide to erect the awning – this takes a lot of time and effort, particularly in the heat of the day. However, the additional shade it gives us is worth it.
Sunset where we are at the moment is around half past five, but this will become a bit later as we move west. We take turns at cooking dinner which we eat at about 6 o’clock. After washing up, we may play a game of Scrabble, watch a DVD or go for a walk in the dark for me to photograph the Milky Way.
Bedtime is usually by nine o’clock.
Internet access is somewhat challenging, in fact where we are now, non-existent. It is only when you don’t have it that you realise how much we depend on it for things like:
- Checking the weather (although now this is not that important except to see if it will be 30 or 32 degrees under the daily clear blue sky).
- Checking the next campground
- Checking road conditions
- Using some of the apps I use for night photography
- Emails, of course
- Paying bills (yes life goes on)
- And, of course uploading these posts
We occasionally get excited when we find 4 bars reception on the mobiles, but when we try to access the internet, it is so slow that we give up.
Up to date and accurate information is so important. During the first three weeks this was all related to Covid, border restrictions and latest outbreaks. This is fortunately less important now that we are in WA for the next one and a half months.
That said, everywhere we go we are asked to complete the register with name and phone number. If there were an outbreak in the Kimberley, this information would be useless to the authorities (no mobile phone reception) and we would be none the wiser (no news).
However, being on the road, there are other travellers that we can glean information from, although this is sometimes more opinion than information. So, we have learned to try to cross refer what we are told and, if possible, get the info first hand or check it out personally.
As an example, this morning when we went to walk to Manning Gorge, we followed the pink ribbons to almost the end where we hit a problem. The direction seemed a bit tricky and the man in front of us had checked it out and told us the track ended in a sheer drop. After spending 30 minutes trying to find the way down, we discovered that the original track was correct and that there were steps down. I should have checked it out myself!
The roads and dust
From the point of passing the entrance to El Questro on the Gibb River Road, we will have been on gravel roads for about 14 days. Dropping the tyre pressures to a comfortable level has been a bit of a challenge, but even so, some of the surfaces have been very uncomfortable. This not only applies to the Gibb itself, but also to the access roads to the various campgrounds and gorges. I would like to think that the unprecedented amount of traffic has caused significant surface degradation, but I wonder what it was like at the start of the tourist season.
The punishment to the wagon and trailer has taken a bit of a toll, with various nuts and bolts loosening and the most significant victim being the water pump on the trailer which has stopped working. Fortunately, the wagon seems to be intact and looking forward to its service in Broome.
The other impact of the gravel roads is the red and grey dust. I have almost forgotten what colour the wagon is and our clothes will, I am sure, have a forever red tinge to them. When we get to Broome, I think we will need to give everything a spring clean as the roads from there will be mostly bitumen.
We are now managing to totally relax, to feel we are on holiday and to really enjoy our travels without the stress of Covid issues. I am a bit disappointed that I am falling into the trap of taking happy holiday snaps, but I still try to be a bit creative (the night sky has provided me with some great shots). Now that we are progressing along the Gibb River Road, we keep bumping into familiar faces for a chat and sharing of experiences. We are not getting any news from anywhere, but that is probably a good thing.
I wrote the above on 2 July and not having internet access since, I am only now able to upload. However, as an update:
We are now in Derby with full internet and mobile phone access
The water pump is fixed – after phoning the supplier, I discovered a wire that had come adrift.
Tomorrow, we are off the Cape Leveque (no internet) where I will hopefully get a chance to get my writing up to date.
It is such a joy to be on bitumen roads again