Sunday, November 6, 2011

Turning Around to Head Back South

After watching the dolphins at Monkey Mia, I jumped in the car and headed down a scenic route past the small town of Denham, then back out to the main highway—two lanes with three-section "road trains," massive trucks that nearly blow little Hyundais clear off the road when they pass at the overtaking section.

Yes, that was a bit scary.

I drove for hours—Highway 1 in the middle of Australia's west coast is straight and desolate, slicing through a beautiful but brutal hot, dry, and sunny environment. I was glad to have a brand-new zippy rental car instead of one of those dilapidated rental camper vans. Plus, gas prices were nuts—at $5.69 a gallon, I'll take a Hyundai over a van any day.

At each town, I thought about stopping to camp but nudged myself a bit further. First, at Northampton, I thought, "Let's just get to Geraldton, at least get back into the world of phone signals." Then, at Geraldton, I wasn't tired, so I thought I'd try to make it all the way to Cervantes, my scheduled stop for tomorrow night.

I didn't make it to Cervantes. I had pulled off of Highway 1 and was along the coastal road when the sun was just hovering over the horizon. I'd seen enough warning signs about stray animals that I didn't want to travel after dark in kangaroo country. I pulled into Jurien Bay Tourist Park at really the last possible instant before the sun went down.

I started reading all the signs on the door.

And it was closed.

I panicked for a minute, standing in front of the locked reception office. Then I remembered people arriving after dark at my first campsite, the first night near Perth. They'd arrived after the office had closed.

Ah. There it was. A sign with instructions for late arrivals. 

"Pick up this phone. Someone will answer."

They did. A cheerful, friendly Australian woman, about ten years older than me, showed up a minute later to check me in.

"Is there anywhere to eat around here," I asked her.

"Yes, there is a pub across the road. Better hurry though. It's Sunday night in a country town—they might close if no one is there. Set up after dinner."

I parked my car in my site—a lovely grassy site away from all the caravans—and hurried over to the bar.

The cheapest main dish on the menu? $25. That was more than my campsite!

I sucked it up and ordered.

"Would you like something to drink with that?"


Perhaps I needed to reconsider cooking for myself at night.

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