Perth to Broome
After such an amazing trip through Alaska I was more than a little nervous about joining up with my second Trek America tour. It couldn't possibly top my previous experience, could it? There was only one way to find out so I grabbed my bag and walked the short distance to the bus station where I'd been told to meet the others doing the 21-day Western Xposure trip up to Darwin. I was somewhat surprised to find 40 or 50 people waiting huddled under a small canopy trying to keep out of the early morning rain but, having introduced myself to a number of them, I learned that ours was just one of many tours departing that morning. Before long four or five buses emblazoned with the Western Xposure logo drew up to collect their passengers. The last one to arrive was accompanied by blaring horns as it pulled a spectacular u turn across the front of the oncoming rush-hour traffic... guess which bus we were on? I knew right away that me and the driver - the ever-smiling Jenai - were gonna get along just fine and those nerves went right out the window.
There were just 12 of us on the bus - later to be named, for reasons quite beyond me, the Yippee Yippee Bus - which was fantastic as it meant we had loads of room to spread out and it made life very comfortable. Certainly more comfortable than on the other bus which would be running in tandem with us up to Exmouth as their bus was not only full but a dodgy speed-limited meant it wouldn't go above 80kmp/h (despite the best efforts of Jenai who took her tool box to it a couple of times!)
Our group consisted Sam, Sarah, Sandra and myself from the UK, Sanjyot, Ross and Joan from Australia, Claus and Anne from Germany, Peter from Ireland, Enis from the Netherlands and Isabelle from France. Apart from Anne and Peter, we were mostly old farts so I was confident that we would all get along well.
The first four or five days were fantastic: the weather was improving the further north we went, the group was really starting to gel and we had a huge range of activities to choose from. In the space of a few days I went sand boarding, tried abseiling for the first time, went ATVing and shared the water with the dolphins at Monkey Mia. It truly was going well. And then we reached Exmouth.
Our visit to Exmouth had started well when we stopped to rent snorkelling gear for the following day's visit to Cape Range National Park before heading for our cabins and enjoying fish and chips from a nearby take away. But the following morning it all changed. The rain had returned and spirits had dropped: maybe tiredness was starting to creep in from the hectic first few days or maybe it was early signs of tension within the group. I was the only one to so much as get in to the ocean but, being both a terrible swimmer and someone who is capable of sensing the bad atmosphere, I was soon out and changed back in to warm clothes. We visited Yardie Creek before spending some time in the visitor centre but were soon heading back to the cabins where we spent most of the day.
That evening we headed for a local bar and were introduced to a new member of our group - trainee tour guide Andy. I try never to judge people on my first meeting as I am often proved to me wrong about them later but this time my instincts would prove to be right. The first time I met him I thought he was an utter tool and that feeling would only intensify. I'll spare you all the gruesome details but let me just say that his arrival was the final nail in the coffin for any chance of the group regaining the spirit of the first few days.
We left Exmouth at the crack of dawn on day six and headed off on the long drive to Karijini National Park. Following a brief stop for provisions at the mining town of Tom Pryce, we turned on to the bumpy dirt road that led us out to Karijini where we would be spending the next three nights sleeping under the stars in swags. We had been warned that we would need to sacrifice a pair of clothes to Karijini's red dirt so it was something of a surprise to arrive to the sight of a wedding being conducted in the campground. Not something that you see every day! I do hope that she found a way to remove the dirt from her long white gown afterwards as, despite my best efforts, I've been totally unable to shift any of the dirt from my clothes!
Despite the ruined clothes and the increasing tension within the group I liked Karijini. I liked it a lot. That had little to do with the fact that Andy disappeared to spend the day with his friends (though it definitely helped!) and everything to do with the hiking and exploring that we did there. The entire trip would see us exploring some beautiful gorges and water features but, for me, Karijini was the best of the best. The gorges are rated on a scale of 1 to 6 in terms of difficulty with 1 being for beginners and 5 being the toughest before you have to gin for advanced training, certification and special equipment. Rather than mess around we were straight in to the tough ones and hanging off of sheer rock faces like spider man. Looking back it was terrifying but, with the adrenaline pumping, it was huge fun and a great way to see an amazing national park.
'Leaving Karijini was a sad moment as it was the last major stop before the group reached Broome and went their separate ways. We spent the day driving - stopping at Port Hedland for lunch - and ended it on the campground at Indee Station. Some of us headed off to the nearby beach to watch a spectacular sunset before returning to the campground to enjoy a fantastic meal and to be entertained around the campfire by another camper with a guitar and an amazing talent. It was a perfect evening and, for a time, the tensions were forgotten.
And then, after a brief stop at 80-mile beach, it was all over. We arrived in Broome and, following a group photo on the beach, we headed to our accommodation for the night. Most of us were staying in the Cable Beach Backpackers which turned out to be a miserable experience. After the last four or five nights sleeping in the peace and quiet of the bush we were suddenly confronted by party central at the hostel. It was a shock and I for one was grateful when it was time to head to the nearby restaurant for our ‘farewell meal'. It was a great evening - despite the unbelievably long wait for food! - and we agreed that we should meet one more time for breakfast the following morning.
After we'd eaten breakfast, and said our farewells once again, we headed off to explore the town of Broome. The highlight of the day was finally managing to get some new flip-flops (mine had fallen apart back in Exmouth) whilst the lowlight came after we had taken the bus back to Cable Beach. Whilst some of the group had left Broome, those that remained decided, yet again, to meet up for a final get together. Having been on the end of a bit of a mouthful from one of the others as we waited for the bus into town I finally lost my cool and informed them politely that I would not be joining them! Instead I spent the next few hours in a local bar chatting with a young couple who used to live in my hometown and who were doing a mammoth tour of Australia in a rented camper van. As the saying goes - everything happens for a reason!
Our final day in Broome was merely an attempt to kill time before joining the next leg of the tour: the drive up through the Kimberly to Darwin. The day started with another visit to Broome, continued with a look around the local cemetery (seriously!) and a visit to the local crocodile sanctuary (where I held a baby croc in my hands) before ending back at the pub where we were entertained by a live band. Back at the hostel I had the commotion of the four-hour ‘happy-hour' going on outside my window but it was somehow easier to endure today as, at 630am in the morning, we are getting the hell out of this town. I honestly can't wait!
Originally published on - and Copyright retained by - Boogity, Boogity, Boogity
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Last edited by UKCraig; 05-18-2009 at 06:03 AM.