Friday was a long driving day, but before I set off on the seven-hour slog from Fitzroy Crossing to Kununurra, I popped 20km off the highway to Geikie Gorge, another of the Devonian Reef gorges. If anyone ever says to you, 'When you've seen one gorge you've seen them all,' you can tell they've never been to Australia, because however many gorges I've seen – and I can think of a dozen I've seen in WA off the top of my head – every one is unique. Geikie is picture-postcard pretty, not quite as rugged as most, and its green vegetation makes it quite an oasis. There's a lovely little 1.5km walk up the gorge where I met a very interesting travelling group, comprising an Irishman, a Swiss guy and American girl, all trucking round in one van bought in Sydney. Now that's what I call a tolerant bunch, and good fun they were too.
Then I set off on the long drive to Kununurra. I could have stopped at a number of tiny towns on the way, but I fancied a nice long drive and Kununurra was where I'd booked a tour of the Bungle Bungles, so getting there early would mean I wouldn't have to pitch the tent somewhere different every morning. The journey, though long and pretty desolate, was amazing when it turned north to head through the Kimberley. The mountain ranges and odd shapes of the landscape are just stunning, especially when the sun is setting and casting red shadows everywhere. I drove solidly between 10.30am and 6.00pm, with a half hour stop for lunch, and I didn't even feel tired at the end. Compare that with half-an-hour's drive through rush-hour Birmingham...
My camping spot was odd, though. The first place I tried, the caravan park in the centre of Kununurra, was totally full, but just as the lady was about to explain directions to another park, her husband bounded up and said there was room for a small one, so I paid up for the weekend and set up camp. I was totally surrounded by lots of little dome tents, none with attending cars, and after I'd set mine up it looked a bit like an adult dome, surrounded by lots of little babies. It turned out that Kununurra is the spot in the north for getting work as a fruit picker – mainly to pick melons – and I'd picked a spot full of young fruit pickers, all out here on a working holiday visa.
Whoops: here I am, the other side of the globe, and I'm surrounded by teenage Londoners who seem to think the whole world's like Ibiza. It's nice to meet fellow travellers, but some people haven't got a clue: they don't visit National Parks, they visit pubs; they don't get into the local culture, they get onto the beach; they don't often crop up west of Broome, because they stick to the east coast. I even got offered two jobs picking melons, but I politely declined...
Still, I can't be too critical of how parochial the Poms are. The Olympic coverage here in Australia – at least, the coverage on the radio, as I haven't watched TV for ages – is incredible; there might as well be no other nationalities involved except Australia. This nation might be sporty, but it doesn't appear to be terribly sporting; I've never come across such a bunch of bad losers in my life. It's all medal tally, medal tally, medal tally, and when the swimming team had a shaky start to the games, everyone was saying how crap they were, and what a bunch of losers the team was. Luckily the swimming medals started rolling in, stemming the criticism, but it was all a bit sad; no wonder Greg Norman emigrated to the USA, complaining that all the press did was criticise him.
Never mind: Kununurra is a pretty little spot, just right for a lazy weekend. After an excellent start to the day – I downloaded my email to find £440-worth of writing commissions and an invitation to visit a fellow journalist in Auckland – I spent Saturday morning exploring on foot, as it's far too easy to explore by car, and you miss all the sounds and smells. I started by climbing Kelly's Knob for an excellent lookout over the town, and then walking into the very nearby Mirima (Hidden Valley) National Park. The latter is a sweet little park, with some really far out rock formations and vegetation. Its only real drawback is its close proximity to the town, which means it's full of day trippers scrambling around and videoing it (I ask you, what's the point in videoing a still valley?); it was a shame, as this sort of place is perfect for quiet contemplation perched atop a cliff, something made challenging, if not impossible, by noisy kids and day trippers complaining about the flies.
Which reminds me: I have found a name for my pain, and that name is 'caravan'. I hate them! Never in my life have I seen so many caravans blocking up the roads; four out of five vehicles on the road here seem to be towing one, and after a while they drive you nuts. They drive so slowly, often because they're being driven by retired couples who can't see more than a couple of feet beyond their bumper, and over a seven-hour drive, the joke begins to wear thin. Very, very thin.
Clearly in need of a break from driving, I spent a lazy weekend just pootling around, soaking up the rays and the water in the public swimming pool (the only crocodile-free water I could find). I needed it, because on the Monday I had to meet the tour bus for the Bungle Bungles at 5.30am on the other side of town – yes, 5.30am. And it was still dark, a bit like my mood at that time in the morning... though that would soon change.