Okay, so I lasted three days rather than one week, but fire me, I’m only human. And, anyway, you should be thanking me because you don’t have to wait a week either. And I’ve made it easier for you because the first part will still be fresh in your head. So really, I’ve done the right thing. That’s what the little voice in the back of my head is telling me anyway.
So enjoy part two. I’ve heard it’s even better than part one… but that’s from the voice in my head too, so it’s probably better if you decide for yourself.
Gibb River Road
The Gibb is a major icon of the Kimberley and I’ve had the privilege to traverse it nine times. There is often talk of sealing it (right now it’s almost all dirt and sealing it would make it all tarmac), but it’s not necessarily that simple: it would cost about a million dollars a kilometre to do that and, by having it mostly 4WD-only, you maintain a natural cap on tourism. A lot of the areas on the Gibb wouldn’t necessarily be able to sustain a dramatic increase in visitors. Saying all that, however, it will probably end up sealed one day. For me, the Gibb will always remind of one trip in particular when we broke down not once, but twice in the space of a day. This trip was the inspiration for my ‘Worst-case Scenarios’ post and it was just a classic case of everything going wrong that possibly could. We lost the tread on one tyre just after the Durack River crossing and then, after spending several hours changing that one, 45km down the road, blew a different one. And we only carry one spare…
The following hours involved setting up the kitchen and cooking dinner on the side of the road, celebrating a birthday, keeping everyone happy and entertained, and trying to work out what the hell was going to happen next. In the end we were rescued by another Kimberley Wild truck that had just dropped its passengers off in Kununurra. In the meantime, the tour guide I was working with at the time had to sleep on the side of the Gibb with the broken truck until a rescue vehicle with a new tyre drove from Broome. And after all that, the rescue vehicle also broke down and had to be saved (irony, hey?), so the truck didn’t make it to El Questro until about midday the next day. It was a tad stressful at the time to say the least, but the group stayed pretty positive throughout and I was lucky enough to be working with a very capable guide, so I look back on the whole ordeal quite fondly. Ah, the bliss of rose-tinted spectacles…
I have quite an emotional attachment to the Pentecost Lookout.
The 24th May 2016 was the year anniversary of my Oma’s (grandma’s) death. It was a real struggle that day to stay upbeat and positive for the passengers and it was at the Lookout that I had the opportunity for a very tearful but cathartic conversation with my dad, which meant the absolute world to me. It was also where, several trips later, I found out that my step-granddad had passed away. And there was a poem that my mum read to me over the phone after she’d told me the news which really struck a chord for both situations. As I was standing outside, surrounded by stunning scenery, a view of the Cockburn Range, wheeling kites against a bright sun and cloudless sky, and feeling the light breeze blow, my mum recited:
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there… I do not sleep.
I am the thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you waken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of gentle birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry.
I am not there… I did not die.
And in that moment and that environment, it was incredibly moving to hear those words.
I’m actually writing this section as we drive away from El Q after saying goodbye for the last time. I’m going to miss it a lot, but I’ve had such a laugh over the last two days that I’m pretty sure I pulled a muscle… It’s bittersweet, but it was a great way to end.
El Q is probably always going to hold a special place in my heart; I met so many incredible people there who I have every intention of staying in touch with for a long time yet (you know who you are, and there, you have it in writing now). I love the surrounding landscape, Emma Gorge is one of my favourite spots in WA, great music, great food (fish tacos at the Steakhouse are to die for…), and I got to watch a genius of a man shake an espresso martini with a wine glass and a paper cup (talk about being resourceful). I’ve almost been run over by a truck while taking a nap (the guide wanted to blast his horn at me, but luckily his passengers convinced him otherwise!), I’ve watched a hilarious game of ‘let’s throw ice at the ceiling fan to watch it fly and because we can’, discussed the benefits of having cane toads and feral cats wipe each other out with the help of a little classical conditioning, had one group christen my alter ego Gemma, won a bottle of champagne for spotting a wallaby, and stayed up way too late way too often. It’s a fantastic spot. I miss it already. And, man, those showers…
This is a treasured place for me for many reasons, but mostly because of three very memorable and very special passengers. I had the privilege (and it really did feel like a privilege) of taking them straight into Cathedral because they weren’t going to the Piccaninny Lookout first with the rest of the passengers. And as soon as we arrived, they completely understood the atmosphere of the gorge, the indigenous spiritual importance, and the peace and stillness that settles on you as you walk in. I won’t go into why Cathedral Gorge was particularly special to these passengers because those reasons are private and their own and not for me to share, but they certainly made an impression on me. I watched them build a cairn and write in the sand, and then they just sat and hugged until the others arrived. They were so overcome that they sat there and cried in silence. I was so moved, it gave me shivers.
And there are obviously other things I will always remember and always miss about certain places, including back flips at Manning and rope swings at Galvans, getting on the mic and playing tour guide every now and then, the simple pleasure of napping in a swag at Lake Argyle, the amazing colours at Echidna Chasm, and waking up to see the moon rise over the Bungle Bungle range at our private camp, but you and I would be here forever if I were to list all the special moments of the last five months.
All I can say is thank you to Kimberley Wild and to everyone I have met along the road. It’s been a blast.
P.S. Sorry for the lack of unicorns…
If you haven’t read it yet, find Part One here.