April 22, 2010
We have been to Halls Creek and we won’t be going back.
It’s a pinprick on the map, with just one pub cum hotel-motel, one motel and a caravan park and that’s pretty much it.
It was the only fuel stop until Fitzroy Crossing, another dot on the route, and after riding all day through the spectacular East Kimberleys, we pulled up with almost dry tanks and even dryer mouths planning to stay the night. Oh how we wish we hadn’t.
The motel turned out to be vastly overpriced, the hotel even more so and both appeared to have ideas above their station, and seemed to be running some sort of cartel in the town.
We decided on the caravan park, which also knew how to charge at $36 for three people on an unpowered site.
Basically $12 each to use their showers.
It got worse when we tried to find something to eat and drink. The liquor store closed at 5pm, leaving only the hotel which refused to sell Geoff anything but light beer as he wasn’t a resident – the logic of which still escapes us.
As for food, the only choice was the restaurant at the motel which we were told did ‘delicious’ take-away pizza.
We ordered two and were informed by the Asian woman running the place that they were $25 each, but were ‘very large’.
She then took my card and when I got the receipt, also foud that she had charged $1.50 for using a credit card, infuriating me, as that is one of my pet hates, and it is nothing more than a rip-off pure and simple. If I’d have known I’d have refused to pay and gone and got cash.
The pizzas duly arrived and were not ‘very large’, not even ‘large’ and when we bit into them, we couldn’t tell one from the other, despite the fact one was allegedly a Hawaiian and the other barbecue chicken. The base was like rubber and obviously frozen.
Our next problem was sleeping arrangements, as there was not enough room for three in Matilda, and being qall manly men, didn’t fancy spooning up together anyway.
Mightily pissed off with weak beer, crap pizza and now the rubbish band at the pub across the street starting up for the big Friday night dance, where shearers meet Sheilas and make Bruces, we decided to turn in as the excitement was all too much.
Geoff and I pulled two foam matresses out of the van, electing to sleep outside, despite the worrying sight of lightning on the horizon all around us and the fact that the ants were scurrying around madly, a sure sign of rain that we ignored.
Paul, as Matilda’s keeper, and newboy settling in, got the van.
Scared of creepy crawlies, Geoff made up his bed on a picnic table and proceeded to start sawing his way through it using only his nasal passages.
I settled down under a tree, which was OK for a while until I was crapped on by bats twice, causing me to shift out into the open.
Then it happened. First just a few drops to get your attention. Then nothing. We settled back down. Then it started again, totally without warning – no thunder, lightning or even a wisp of a breeze, but down it came.
Geoff asked me if I thought it was on for a while. I answered by picking up my bedding and making for the awning over reception. He also headed off – to the van I assumed.
The rain was relentless. Just when you thought it was slacking off, down it would come again even heavier.
I lay there, gradually getting wetter and wetter, as the awning proved about as waterproof as a colander, listening to my radio tell me of ‘widespread thunderstorms over the Kimberley region, with ‘heavy rain and flooding expected in some areas’.
‘Right bloody here’ I thought.
I continued to try to sleep, moving around as a new leak appeared in each part of the overhang. I was listening to a local Aboriginal station until I twigged they were surreptitiously slipping in Christian records about every third song, without letting on, so changed over to the ABC, where I learned all about what the current crop of Aussie actors were doing in Hollywood and how to make a will valid in every state in the Commonwealth.
I even sent my wife a text telling her of my predicament, but got no return message. I sensed she probably either didn’t trust herself to reply or couldn’t hit the right keys as she was laughing so much.
Just as I was slipping off, wet but warm, the heavens completely opened and water poured through every part of the roof. I felt like an extra on ‘Das Boot’.
I suddenly remembered there was a laundry section in the toilet block which was open and dashed there, only to find Mr Hill recumbent on the washing counter, looking like a blonde King Tut. As I entered, the sensor switched the neon lights on, blinding us both. It was now 4am.
Mumbling apologies, I threw my wet mattress on the ground with a splat, lay on it, wrapped my feet in the wet sleeping bag and lay there waiting for the timer to turns the lights off.
At around 5.15am, the lights snapped on again and I awoke to the glorious spectacle and olfactory treat of another camper emptying his chemical toilet into a drain three feet from my head.
That was the last straw. I got up and stomped off, closely followed by Geoff, both of us in need of eight hours sleep, and failing that, tea and coffee and sympathy.
Paul was also awake, having been lying in a pool of sweat as he gently steamed in Matilda, unable to open the windows because of the biblical flood outside.
When I went to pick up my motorcycle boots, which I had cunningly secreted under the eaves of the toilet block to keep them dry, I found a green tree frog had taken up residence in one. As I shook them to remove any nasties, he emerged and clung on using his sticky feet and looked at me accusingly. That’s how bad a night it was – even the amphibians were trying to get out of the rain. Losing patience, I told him to hop it and he did.
We breakfasted after having to borrow a lighter to light our stove, as ours, like everything else, was soaking.
Hungover with lack of sleep, we voted Halls Creek the ‘Shithole of the Adventure’ so far, vowed never to return and left while dawn was still breaking, leaving the mercenary burghers dreaming of new scams to rip-off tourists.
Oh, we happy few.
After we got far enough away from the benighted place and the sun finally made an appearance, we stopped at a roadside halt to dry all our clothes, beds and sleeping bags, hanging them on bushes making the scenic desert look like a hobos camp – which it was after a fashion.
Dry and still sleepy , we made for greener pastures towards Fitzroy Crossing, and either Derby or Broome after that, and a decent bed for at least one night.