Greetings from Beyond the Pale: Wolf Creek
Having been evicted from Balgo for transgressing a Christian sacred site, l am standing with my thumb out in the blistering heat. A car going the other way pulls up in a cloud of dust and hands me an ice cold beer, then speeds away. That’s Western Desert hospitality for you. Expect the unexpected.
I cadge a ride to Billaluna. The enterprising blackfellas have installed a petrol bowser for all the thirsty 4x4s that have survived the Canning Stock Route. I am keen to visit the nearby Wolf Creek Crater, one of the largest meteorite craters in the world. The locals can describe in graphic detail the moment of impact, but I tend to think the story is apocryphal, as the event took place over 400 million years ago. Now l know the blackfellas have been here a bloody long time, but come on. No luck hitching to Wolf Creek, maybe the name is off putting. Personally, I blame the film industry for completely ruining the hitchhiking culture. You present yourself as a self respecting vagabond, but all they see as they whizz past is a psycho killer.
I finally reach Halls Creek, where the Tanami track meets The Greater Australian Ring road. The G.A.R. circumnavigates the continent, hugging the coastline as close as possible – think Great Ocean Road – but it veers sharply inland when it hits The Kimberley, a patch of mountainous wilderness twice the size of Belgium, uninhabited by a sparse population of thirty thousand souls, the vast majority of whom cling to the bitumen road that skirts the outskirts. In a world of over 7 billion people, all procreating like mad, this has got to be the emptiest place on earth, curated by the last of the nomads.
Hall’s Creek is a rough town. It has a pub. It has beer. It has trouble. The tame townsfolk are allowed inside the hotel, safe from the wild desert dwellers who have travelled vast distances to quench their thirst, but get no closer than the paddock across the road where they dance and sing with gay abandon then sleep it off in the long grass. One old lady has procured herself a hospital bed and slumbers in comfort, guarded by her pet emu. I kid you not.
Having experienced the wonders of the wonderful Halls Creek l must continue on my lonely quest. Exactly what I am looking for l do not know, but l am sure it is out there somewhere, beyond the white picket fence.
My destination is Broome, the jewel in the crown of this vast kingdom. As luck would have it l am in luck. One local fella whom l cannot name as he may since have died, has plenty of room in the back of his roomy ute and is determined to get to the very same place. But, dear reader, l must warn you, Broome is some 600ks to the west and an obstacle course of calamities could befall us along the way, and they do. Luckily they are serendipitous calamities.
We are humming down the open road, the wind in my hairs, squinting into the mirage. I was born for this moment. We pass the Mary River and the car slows down. A large gathering of the tribes has assembled on the bank.
“We stop here for a while, O.K.?”
“No worries,” this looks interesting.
The get-together turns out to be the Annual General Meeting of The Kimberley Land Council no less, and ‘a while’ turns out to be three days. Fortunately there are plenty of cows to eat around these parts, and wood to keep us warm at night, and soft sand to sleep on, so who cares how long a while is.
IN THE NEXT EXCITING EPISODE your intrepid wayfarer is inadvertently included in the mysterious goings on of The Kimberley Land Council A.G.M. where mining deals and land deals and raw deals are vigorously discussed.
Ben Laycock grew up in the country on the outskirts of Melbourne, surrounded by bush. He began drawing the natural world around him from a very early age. He has travelled extensively throughout Australia, seeking to capture the essence of this vast empty land. In between journeys he lives in a hand-made house in the bush at Barkers Creek in central Victoria – benlaycock.com.au
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