Look out, I’m back. Did you miss me? Were you spending your nights awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering what I was up to? It’s okay, I’m still alive, so you can sleep easy now. Then again, you’re probably wide awake at night due to the stress of an oversized mortgage and the fact it’s become a millstone around your neck. For the next 30 years.
Anyway, moving onto more serious stuff. The title of this post might confuse you, but it sort of makes sense. For the past six weeks I’ve been inside a car with the Smuffin as it travelled 12,000 km. Yeah, sure, I did get out and stretch the legs now and again, but a big portion of the six weeks was spent polishing my trousers on a passenger seat.
Oh, there was more than just the Smuffin household. ‘Gympie’s Finest’ also attended, plus some other assorted freaks. On reflection, all the blokes were bonkers (including me) and the women were the only sane ones. All I can say is, if you’re going away for six weeks, carefully select who you’re going with.
You may wonder what any of this has to do with hiking? It’s a good question and the best I can do is it has absolutely nothing to do with walking at all. In order to keep me remotely interested in continuing with the blog, I have to mix up the posts, so you might get some hiking ones and others that are just a mish-mash where I just waffle crap. Hang on, aren’t the walking posts like that as well?
The trip includes plenty of stories and I was going to write about some, but it’s done my head in. There’s too much content and I’ve no idea where to start. I mean, just look at our itinerary.
We drove from Melbourne and up through Mildura to Broken Hill. Continuing on to some jaunts around the Flinders Ranges before motoring up the Oodnadatta Track. Reaching the Stuart Highway we passed through Alice Springs and on to Darwin. Then down via Litchfield National Park and out west via Kunnanurra and Wyndham. Into the Kimberley via Gibb River Road where we swam in about 10,000 waterholes and gorges. Actually, I think I miscounted the waterholes. It was closer to a million.
Moving onto Derby and then Broome. Up to Cape Leveque and then Broome again before heading back via Halls Creek and the Tanami Track to Alice Springs. Then back to Melbourne on the highway.
As you can see, the trip was insane and the only way I could possibly write about any of it is to pluck something out and do the occasional post. Some of the photos are quite nice, so it would be a shame to leave them gathering dust on a hard drive. It’s also a change from the usual landscapes within the blog. I think I’ve given up trying to make a place like Lerderderg Gorge look fancy.
Here we are then. I have to start somewhere and this seems like a good place to begin. Wolfe Crater, Western Australia is located in the Wolfe Creek Crater Meteorite National Park (phew, what a mouthful). I’ve selected this place, due to the nice photo policy and not for any amazing events that occurred. I can assure you right now. Absolutely nothing happened at Wolfe Crater. I bet you just can’t wait to keep reading?
Before the trip, we’d bookmarked it as a place to visit. I do like all things solar system and with the crater being the second largest of its type in the world, it seemed more than worthy of a closer look. Oh, but the reality of looking at a place to visit whilst sitting on a couch in Melbourne is not quite the same as the actual experience. I’ll explain later.
Firstly, we had to get to the joint and it’s suitably remote. Plonked on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert with the closest town being Halls Creek, 150 km away. Oh, plus it’s via the Tanami Road, which is dirt, so it’s a bit of a commitment just getting there.
We were taking the Tanami to Alice Springs, so it was on our way back. Slightly different if you’re sitting in Melbourne and suddenly say, “I want to visit Wolfe Creek Crater. I might drive up tomorrow for a quick look!”
Anyway, before hitting the dirt road, we had to stock up on supplies at Halls Creek. The only supermarket we could find was an IGA and it looked slightly Alamo-like. The colourful animals on the roof are off-set by barbed wire, which is a nice touch.
Shopping at the supermarket shouldn’t be blog-worthy, but there was an interesting conversation with some bloke at the check out. There we were, getting our standard item for the entire trip scanned, when Smuffin divulged to some other bloke queuing that he lived in Melbourne’s northern suburbs. Upon hearing this, the bloke excitedly exclaimed, “Really? We’re neighbours!”
Guess where this ‘neighbour’ lived? Yep, Bendigo. I’m not sure about you, but to me, a neighbour is someone who’s within ten metres of my house where I can visit to borrow sugar (pants optional). I’d never think of walking 140 km to get some sweet stuff.
By the way, are you wondering what our standard food item was for six weeks? That’s easy. Meat. I’m not sure if I ever want to see animal flesh again. I’m sure my arteries would be happy with this thought.
Anyway, we were soon racing along the Great Northern Highway before turning onto the Tanami Road. Something that’s 1000 km and mainly gravel is worthy of a photo at its start. I wanted to capture the welcoming nature of outback Australia. There was this interesting contraption of a hut/building/something with its enlightening graffiti…
…and an information sign…
…which had been suitably ventilated by a responsible firearm owner. Naturally.
Okay, so the welcome mat wasn’t laid out, but the main thing that concerned us was the state of the road. Declared ‘open’ was a good start…
…whilst a recurring activity of the trip was undertaken. Letting some air out of the tyres.
Being the official photographer, my role at these moments was to stand by and other than take a couple of token photos, do nothing. Yeah, that’s about it really.
Driving on, it was time to take in the sights, which weren’t much. A flat, open terrain was pretty nondescript. The sky wasn’t though. There were certainly some weird looking clouds up north. How about this one?
Other than my spine being massaged violently and my fillings being rattled by the corrugations, it was a fairly casual drive on the Tanami until turning off on the road that leads to Wolfe Crater.
Some abandoned buildings were worthy of a quick inspection. One was a renovators delight…
…but again, I wasn’t sure about the graffiti. It missed a bit of warmth.
Some of the scrawls though, made me reminisce about the western suburbs.
It was a flying visit and there’s a reason we didn’t hang around the empty buildings for too long. No, our hasty getaway wasn’t from a fear of roaming Mick Taylor’s, but rather something less newsworthy. The heat. At the time, it seems that part of the world has a default temperature of 35 °C. An air-conditioned car was a nice place to be.
Anyway, upon arriving at Wolfe Crater, I leaped out of the car like an obese ninja and eagerly took in my surroundings. A quick scan revealed one thing. Not a lot. I did eye the visitor building though, so I set off for it.
It took only seconds to enter the premises, as it’s been built with an ingenious design, which allows the maximum amount of air to flow through.
The beauty of a building like this is you’ll never be caught inside if it happens to go up in flames. After a quick scan of the information board, which informed me that a meteorite comes from space, I found myself out through the no door and into the car park.
Before setting off for the crater tilt, something caught our eye and immediately a familiar tune came to mind.
Now, to reach the top of the crater, there was an epic 400 metre walk to endure. Yeah okay, it only took about 12 seconds to cover, but the meteorite had created a hill in this endlessly flat landscape.
How flat? Well, by looking back from the top, there’s a whole lot of nothing to be seen. Other than the visitor centre of course.
Reaching the lip of the crater, I took in the sight, but there was a problem. Its size meant I couldn’t fit it into the one photo.
It’s hard to convey the scale of the crater from the last photo. In order to capture the whole scene, I needed my wide-angle lens, but it happened to be sitting in the car. Surely I should have just zipped down the hill and back up again? Yes, in theory, but there was the problem I mentioned earlier. It was as hot as a bastard.
There I was. Staring at the pulverised landscape and wishing for one thing. If only a follow up meteorite, 300,000 years after the first, could arrive and land on my head. At least I’d have been put out of my misery. There was no way I was going to return to get the other lens, so I made do with side shots…
…and there you have it. That’s the extent of Wolfe Crater I can show you. I seem to have only five photos of it, which clearly shows my mojo was well and truly sapped. In a landscape without colour, there was the odd flower though, so at least it’s something. Actually, I’ll take back the bit about it being a flower. It’s probably a weed.
Heading back down, we moved onto the small camping area nearby. The trouble was though, it was only midday. Setting up was a bit of an ordeal, but once done we sat down and faced the problem we’d had on many a day up north. It’s so stinkin’ hot, you can’t do anything, other than lie around, seeking shade and wishing for the sun to dip or an early death. Either option are good.
It’s funny when you talk to people up north and they rave about how great the heat and sun is, yet when that orb is searing the earth, instead of them running around ‘loving the heat’, you’ll find these sun gods lying under a tree and the only giveaway they’re not actually a corpse is the rapid movement of their chest, desperately sucking in oxygen that feels as if it’s oven-roasted.
Yes, we essentially sat around like chumps under a huge tarp, reminiscing about southerly sea breezes, crisp mountain air and icebergs. In the end, I’ve no idea what we did for the five or so hours until the sun dropped from the sky. The brain has erased from its memory bank the mental trauma endured.
Oh, I did find this photo as well, which flickered a memory of the day. When setting up, one of our standard problems for the entire trip were ants. Yeah sure, they’re not a drama when you get two or three wandering around, but your attitude quickly changes when you find hundreds running up your leg and latching onto your nuts. I’m not even sure if I can write about an event called ‘The Night of the Ant’, where the canvas containing Smuffin was overrun by approximately one billion oversized black ants. I was so gobsmacked I forgot to take any photos, so it’s hard to tell the story without some pictorial help.
Anyway, during the mind-melting heat, Smuffin did come up with an ingenious ‘ant stopper’. It’s fairly rudimentary, but it seemed to work.
Remember, use an empty can. You wouldn’t waste a full one for a job like this. Oh, one other point. One of the blokes there pointed at the can perched on an ant hole and proclaimed, “What have you got there? Is it on a bees nest?” I was so sapped of energy, even I couldn’t explain how wrong that question was.
Eventually, all good things come to an end and the sun sank below the horizon, leaving a pink hue in the sky. You know what? For five years I’ve been waiting to include the word ‘hue’ in the blog and finally it’s come about. What a day this has been.
With the sun gone, the temperature dropped to something more Earthly, rather than the previous Venus-like. It also meant the Milky Way began to reveal itself. I’d pencilled in this location as a place to take night shots. The moon, which is the usual night nemesis for photography was gone and we were miles from any artificial light. Oh, except for the occasional torch that wanders past when you’re running a 20 second exposure.
Finally, I got one that was a little less polluted, although the satellite running through the middle was a bit of a distraction.
I took quite a few photos and with camera covering a large part of the sky, I thought for sure I could capture a shooting star. Alas, no luck. Any we saw seemed to be in the opposite direction. Maybe another day I can head to a remote location and try again. In the end, this was probably one of the better shots. I tried to add up the amount of stars in the photo, but even after taking my shoes off to help, I lost count.
Anyway, as I said earlier. Thinking about something whilst lying on the couch down south, doesn’t always match reality. I have absolutely no inclination to ever return to the place again. Even in winter. Do they have a winter?
So that’s it. There you have the definitive Wolfe Crater story. Has the immersive tale left reeling from the experience? You felt as if you were there, living the moment with me? Ah… hello..? Are you still awake?
What’s next? I’ve no idea. It might be another northern story or it could be something walking-like. I do have a couple of wanders in the bank, which I could drag out. Writing this is has been weird, as it only happened recently. In this brisk Melbourne winter, it’s easy to forget only a fortnight ago I thought I was about to die from heat exhaustion.
Oh, if you subscribe to the blog in order to get an email in your spam folder when I post this, you won’t. The plugin has officially gone stupid, so I’ve disabled it. That reminds me. The blog is getting redone as we speak, so it’ll look a bit different when done. I’m aiming for a more minimalist template. It’ll be so minimalist, you’ll log on and only find a white page with nothing on it. None so white.
Welcome back Greg. Good to hear you are still alive. Nice star shots. Something I struggle with big time.
Yeah, I’ve managed to survive 🙂 Oh, star shots are tricky. What I was looking for was an object on the ground, which would frame the sky a bit. Like a tree or something, but they were in short supply. Those star photos are all at 16 mm, f2.8, 20 seconds and ISO 3200. I think that’s always my default setting! There is of course the problem of trying to get them in focus at the start, which always takes a while…
Thanks for taking me back in time to when I lived in places like that. You’ve done an excellent job of describing and showing with pics the unrelenting, energy-sapping heat out there! It must have been a shock to come back to Melbourne weather. Fantastic night shots and I also love that groovy cloud, the close-up of the shot-up sign (very artsy) and the desolate crater. Looking forward to future offerings. Welcome back. 🙂
I’ve never embraced cold weather so much! Six weeks of energy sapping heat and there was no relief. The default evening when the sun went down was any breeze stopped. Sleeping in a tent was entertaining 🙂 It’shard to know what else to write about next, when there’s so much content. Mm…
What an amazing itinerary! Dream locations for me.
I can’t believe people would go all the way out there to put shitty graffiti on buildings.
Amazing photos of the night sky!
It was an epic trip! I’ll tackle it again for the occasional post, but I’m not even sure where to start 🙂 Yeah, I found the graffiti to be a bit odd as well. Passing tourists? I couldn’t imagine locals painting those in the middle of nowhere.
Once the moon was gone, the outback sky really delivered 🙂
Welcome back! I was expecting to check in to your page to find no updates, but there are a few! Yahoo! Great pictures of the night sky! Hope you are surviving the Melbourne Winter 🙂
Ah yes, I tend to vanish for a few months, but something always drags me back 🙂