In the morning the source of the hoof clopping revealed itself. Cows and horses were grazing all around the rest stop.
My headache insisted on hanging around so we had an easy morning with breakfast in bed. Then this little guy popped in. We had no idea if he was poisonous. But concerning spiders in Australia it’s best to assume the worst so we chased him back out.
Our peace disturbed we decided to get up and soon reached Halls Creek. Most little outback towns we had seen were very uninspiring with functional concrete and corrugated iron buildings squatting behind rusty fences. But this place was different. The Architects had designed interestingly shaped buildings arranged nicely around parks and public spaces. It was a pretty little place in the middle of nowhere.
Thinking we would be in Halls Creek much sooner I had initially ordered a front sprocket to be sent here Poste Restante. But when I arrived at the postie, they had still not received the parcel. Oh well, I didn’t actually need it anymore so it would just have to be returned when it did finally arrive. No chance would we wait around again.
I found Aidan chatting to someone about the trip as happens so often. The loaded bikes are a real ice breaker rousing people’s curiosity… Another bonus of traveling by motorcycle.
The landscape turned flat and riddled with small termite mounds some more. Unable to find a single tree tall enough to provide proper shade we pulled down a short dirt track to cook tinned lunch.
The ride on was pretty uneventful and we made good progress on the boring highway. It was so monotonous that I got all excited when we finally spotted a few rocky hills and made Aidan turn around for a photo. So here is another picture of me on Lea in front of some rocks.
We rolled into Fitzroy Crossing in the afternoon. This was a slightly bigger but nondescript town perfect for stocking up on fuel, food and water. We fancied a cold beer and followed Google Maps to a hotel (Australian for “pub”) by the Fitzroy river. It was our kind of shabby: ramshackle and made of whatever was around, dingy yet friendly and colourful.
They only took cash and Aidan said we should just leave and grab a beer in town. But I liked this almost makeshift place and was curious. So I rode back to town to find and atm. Meanwhile Aidan got chatting to an older couple whose travel-thirsty children had all but grown up now and had children of their own. Their red-head daughter had traveled via Israel, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria to Turkey. And here I thought we were having adventures!
They let us go with many well wishes so we could finally get that ice cold beer. Choice was limited so we picked what sounded best and settled at the only free table.
The place was full of aboriginals and soon one wearing blue jeans, a cowboy hat, cowboy boots and the obligatory oversized belt buckle, came over for a chat. In the past we had always struggled to understand aboriginals as they seem to speak so fast and in a strong accent. But this guy was easy to understand.
He even let me take a quick photo of him . (Apologies for the crap quality, I had to use my phone.) Aboriginals don’t like having their photo taken. Or even photos of sacred sites. As far as they are concerned it devalues the image. People and things must be seen in their original surroundings to gain the full and only true experience. A photo is a soulless lie. The others around seemed uncomfortable so I put the phone away again. He chatted some more, telling us to ignore our visas and stay in Australia on his land. Then he joined his mate for a ciggie in the smoking area.
In most of Australia, especially in the outback, people call aboriginals “blackfellas”. I could never quite figure out whether that is considered a racist term. I actually quite like it and said in a friendly voice it doesn’t sound bad bearing in mind the same people also say “whitefellas”. When speaking English, aboriginals themselves also say blackfellas. Or just countrymen; not as opposed to city folk but meaning the people of this country or the land. So from here on I will use the term blackfellas and it is not meant in any bad or racist way.
Every now and again someone would drop some coins into the jukebox and chose a soft rock song. That music seemed totally out of place among the blackfellas. But they loved it stopping their conversations for a dance. An older woman, white curly scraggly hair, boobies flapping round her waist (literally…. you see it often among old aboriginal women…) and dressed in miss-matching gloriously colourful flower pattern skirt and blouse got up to dance.
She seemed a well respected lady. Everyone cheered and wolf whistled as she suggestively waggled her shoulders and swayed her hips. Others got up to join. It all ended in a happy noisy crescendo when a big guy got up and gave her a huge hug. Then the jukebox fell silent for a while and everyone settled on the benches and stools to chat away as before. Oh if only I could have filmed it!
We could merely stay for one beer as we still had to drive. So when I finished mine I quickly made use of the bathroom to wash my knickers. There hadn’t been much running water the past few days and I was out of clean panties. You gotta grab these opportunities when they present themselves!
I returned to the bar hiding the clean knickers in an unassuming plastic bag to find Aidan chatting to an older aboriginal lady and her brother. She immediately launched into a persuasive and calming explanation that she had no naughty intentions and was just talking to my man about bush tucker. That’s another thing I had noticed among blackfellas. From what I can tell it is unseemly for people of the opposite sex to talk to each other unless permission from partners or close relatives has been obtained first.
Once it was established that we were all ok with the four of us talking among each other, their conversation on how to find and cook food in the Australian outback resumed. The brother took me over to a photo wall next to the bar, explaining each picture in turn. They showed the exceptionally high flooding of the river when he was young and he had lots of stories to tell how people had to be ferried across the Fitzroy, where he lived and how his place got flooded, how animals and people had to be rescued and who had helped who. He was really proud to be from here.
We would have loved to stay and get to know everyone some more. But the sun was threatening to set far too soon and we still had to find camp. So we said our good byes, waves and smiles all round and rode off into the sunset (with clean panties hanging from my luggage straps to dry).
What an experience! It was the first time we’d properly interacted with the blackfellas. They usually stick to themselves and I’m not surprised. We had heard many nasty comments here and there about how they’d stolen stuff or got drunk and caused trouble. We knew that could only a be very few and most stories were probably not even true. It was almost just something to talk about to get the conversation going among a certain type of caravan campers. A bit like the weather.
We were pretty sure that like with all other peoples of the world most of the blackfellas must be really nice if only we got to meet them. Somehow it had just not happened so far. Until today and I was super stoked I’d insisted we stay for a drink. Of course we were proven right once more. They are amazing people and I am so happy to finally have met some of them.