On arrival in Darwin I
pitched my tent between the shade of two trees in the Shady Glen
Caravan Park in the Darwin suburb of
Winnellie. Being the end of the dry
season, there wasn’t much grass left to camp on. Sprinklers ran
day and night but they didn’t seem to make all that much
difference. The grass just didn’t want to grow in such hot, dry
and shady conditions. The daily maximum temperature in Darwin
hovers around 34 degrees Centigrade. That may seem a nice
comfortable if you’re sitting beside the fire in a northern
winter. But it isn’t, as the minimum temperature is around 26 C.
Unless you’ve got air-conditioning there is very little relief
from the heat. And then there’s the humidity to deal with.
Darwin is on the coast and this naturally brings up thoughts of
a tropical shore line, with beaches, coconut palms and cool sea
breezes. Far from it, there are beaches in the vicinity of
Darwin but they’re also popular with the local crocodiles,
poisonous stone fish and during in the monsoon, the notorious
box jelly fish. There are many fresh water swimming holes, but
these are sometimes inhabited by smaller fresh water crocodiles
which aren’t a serious threat. But there’s always the chance
that during a high tide or flood, one of the man eating salt
water crocs will swim up into a fresh water tributary and sit
there and wait for some poor unsuspecting tourist. There is only
one place to cool off in Darwin and that is in a chlorinated
swimming pool. After pitching my tent, the park’s swimming pool
was the first place that I went.
day I drove into the City of Darwin. My first visit to Darwin
back in 1969, I found a small
country town. The city was wiped
out in the cyclone in 1973 and rebuilt. My next visit was in
1982, and the town had grown in size and population. But this
visit I found a city booming from tourism. It was September. The
locals told me that most of the tourists had left in early
August but down on the tourist strip it was still
usual with bars, restaurants, hotels, backpacker resorts, retail
stores and internet cafes all still doing a roaring trade.
Darwin had changed. Last time I was here I felt like I was one
of only a small number of tourists in the town. Now it was full
of tourists and tourism now appeared to be the main economy of
stopped by a local tire dealer and asked about Michelin tires
for Hewie. The salesman looked through a pile of
catalogues and made a couple of calls, but ended up looking up
at me with a defeated look on his face.
“Sorry mate, I can’t help you. I certainly did my best, even
called Adelaide but no one seems to have or know where to get
I thanked him
for his effort and went out to Hewie and drove down the
road a little until I came to another dealer. The same again,
but this time the salesman gave me a telephone number of a tire
expert in Adelaide.
“Give this guy a call, I just tried but he’s not in” said the
defeated I climbed into Hewie and headed back to the camp
ground. When I got back I gave the expert in Adelaide a call but
he still wasn’t there. Next morning I called him again but still
no luck. I then called the Morris Minor Center in Sydney, luck
was with me this time. The owner Allan answered the phone.
sure do have tires that’ll fit,. How many do you need?” he said.
your company the only place in the whole country that has tires
for Minors?” I asked.
know they’re hard to find. Michelin stopped making them about
two years ago. For that stretch of time it had become almost
impossible to find tires that’d fit. Luckily a company called
Nankang in South Korea has started making them. They’re good
tires, and priced at one hundred dollars each.”
“I’ll take two. Can you send them up to Darwin for me?” He went
then quiet for a minute.
“Yeah sure, I’ll send them to a business called Sports Car
World in Yarrawonga, a suburb of Darwin. Can you go out
there and pick them up?”
problem solved, next morning I took
Hewie down to a
radiator repair shop. The owner came out and took a few
measurements of the old core.
“I’ll send the order off to Adelaide. It should be here in a few
days. The damage will be four hundred dollars - that’s if you
take the radiator out and re-install it yourself. It’ll be extra
if we’ve got to do the lot,” he said.
“Okay then. I’ll give you a call in a couple of days. When it
arrives I’ll drop by and take the radiator out, you can fit the
new core and I’ll put it back in again,” I said.
paid him a deposit and a couple of days later returned to the
shop, took the radiator out and watched them install the new
core. When they finished, I installed it back into Hewie
and filled it up with water.
Hewie failed to start again. Same old problem, - the
ignition was working fine and petrol pump was ticking away like
new. I left him sit, while I made another cup of coffee. Two
other park residents came over and introduced themselves as
Jason and Brad from Melbourne, who were in Darwin to fish for
“How’s the spark?” Brad asked.
I lifted the
lead off a spark plug and out shot a spark about an inch long.
worries there! Maybe it’s a fuel blockage in your carby. Why not
take the bowl off and wash the plunger in clean petrol.” he
I got the tool
box out and took off the bowl and washed the plunger and needle
in some clean petrol and put it back together again. Hewie
started first kick. But the problem rose again the next morning.
When Hewie just wouldn’t start. Brad and Jason came over
again as I opened the hood.
“Same again! Take off the bowl and wash down the needle and
plunger. Do you have a fuel filter? Are you sure it isn’t
clogged?” Brad said
“There’s a fuel filter in the petrol pump” I said.
I turned off the
ignition and pulled off the hose that runs from the pump outlet
to the carburetor. I un-bolted the hose connector from the pump
and looked in the hole for a small fine wire fuel filter. There
“Crikey, no wonder you’re having so many problems. The fuel up
here in the territory is filthy!”
“That’s amazing! When I first bought the car it had an original
fuel pump, I can distinctly remember the small fuel filter.
Anyhow that pump only lasted a few months after I bought the
car. The pump started to overheat and would always cause the car
to stop places like traffic lights and one lane bridges, all to
the annoyance of other drivers. Get that bloody piece of shit
off the road! I can remember some of them yelling out at me.
I replaced the original fuel pump with a reconditioned model.
That only worked for a short time before I was back getting it
replaced. If that wasn’t enough, the second reconditioned unit
they gave me also only lasted a few months before it started
giving trouble. I replaced that with a brand new one. It has no
points in it to burn out like the old models had. That was great
I thought, but now I realized that they didn’t include a fuel
filter like the originals,” I said.
“Just down the road there’s an auto parts place. They’re only a
couple of dollars each. I’ve fitted two to my car,” Brad said.
As we were
talking, another park resident came over and joined us with our
heads under the bonnet, he introduced himself as Bob from
did my time on these things” he said. We all stopped in our
tracks and moved aside to let him move in closer and take a
“I have some dirt in the carburetor,” I said
“Take off the bowl and we’ll clean it out. Maybe the float is
incorrectly set” Bob said. I took the air filter off and took
the carburetor apart again. Bob moved in and closely examined
there’s your problem. You’ve got it set too lean I’ll make a
slight adjustment to the float. You’ve been starving it for
just had the carburetor fully rebuilt before I left,” I said.
“Well they didn’t get this right.”
did you work for in Horsham?” I asked.
was with the Bedford and Austin dealer. I started as an
apprentice mechanic. I used to do
everything. One my of my
favorite jobs was being sent up to London on the steam train to
pick up the new Bedford trucks and Austin A40s for the
He went back to his camper van and
brought back his own tools and made the adjustment to the float
level and reassembled the carburetor. I pulled the starter
button and Hewie started first turn and idled perfectly.
Bob looked and listened to the engine ticking over.
“Who set your tappets? You’d never
get away with them being set that loose when I was a mechanic in
the workshop. The boss would tell you to go back and set them
again,” he said.
“I dunno. A bloke gave me the engine
and it looked okay so I put it in. I never thought about setting
the tappets. I had too many other things to think about,” I told
Next day I
called the Sports Car City to find that the tires had arrived.
As I drove down to Yarrawonga, I envisaged a fancy sports car
sales yard on a major road. But instead I found a shed on a back
street surrounded by old Morris Minors, Oxfords, Minis, MGs and
a few other classics. Some were for spares sitting out in the
weather and others were in the large shed being restored or in
for general repairs. The owner Ben came out and introduced
himself and pointed me towards the tires.
“Sorry mate. I can’t fit them for you. You’ll have to go down
the road a bit. There’s a tire dealer down there.” He looked at
my interstate number plates.
come a fair way. How’d she go? No major problems?” he asked.
usual, a blown radiator hose, brushes burnt out in the
generator, leaky water jacket on the engine. Nothing severe,
like a cracked block or a blown piston,” I said.
“Come in for a cup of tea,”
We sat down at a large table among
newspapers, tools, spare parts and old tea cups. After tea we
moved upstairs to his classic car library and furthered our
discussion on classic cars.
I offered to pay him for receiving
the tires but he refused and wished me a safe journey. I headed
down to a tire dealer a few kilometers away. They jacked the
front of the car up and while they were fitting and balancing
the tires I got the grease gun out and greased the front
was now set for the next leg of the journey, from Darwin to
Broome. Next morning the odometer showed17,348 miles on the
clock. I subtracted the original mileage and the result was
3,745 since leaving Ballina. I was hoping to get away before
sunrise but I was slow at packing up. Furthermore, a new tent
sat beside mine. They must have arrived sometime in the night.
Just before I was about to leave a woman emerged from the tent
and bade me a good morning. She told me how she had just arrived
from Perth over the same route that I was planning to take. I
had a mile of questions that I hit her with, and she told me how
at a place called Victoria Crossing which is about half way
between Broom and Darwin, the battery in her new Holden 4WD
failed. She went to the local service station who ordered her
one to be sent up from Perth. It arrived after a few days but it
was the wrong battery and it didn’t fit. So they sent it back
and finally sent the right one up. It fitted, but the final cost
Back on the road again, I gave Darwin
a wave goodbye and headed back down to Katherine. Here I
to make a right hand turn onto the Victoria highway and head
west to Broome. The run down to Katherine took a little over 5
hours. On arrival in Katherine I stopped a pub in town called
The Diggers for some Barramundi (fish) and chips
washed down with an icy cold glass of Victorian Bitter,
before heading out to set up camp Katherine Gorge. The
temperature was forecast to be a maximum of 37 C in Katherine.
But when I pulled into the tourist parking lot at Katherine
Gorge it must have been up there in the forties. I changed into
my swimmers and headed down for a swim in the gorge. On the way
down I passed the beginning of some nature walking tracks. They
advised that the maximum temperature on the trails that day was
expected to reach 50C. I decided not to do a bushwalk - instead
I headed down to the swimming hole. The camp at the gorge, where
I stayed the night had to be one of the best I had stayed in on
the whole trip. There was lots of wildlife including tame
kangaroos which hopped around the park.
Next morning was the 1st
of October 2004. I drove back into Katherine, filled up with
fuel at a cost $AUS1.09 a litre. I headed out onto the Victoria
highway and a few kilometers out of town I passed over the
bridge crossing the new railway line running from Adelaide
through to Darwin. Just off the bridge I passed two hitch hikers
with their thumbs out looking for a lift in the same direction.
I gave them a wave, If, I’d had more room I’d have picked them
up, but my backseat was full and the passenger seat was also
covered in odds and ends. I then passed a sign saying “Next fuel
stop Victoria River 193 kilometers”
After a three hour drive I crossed
over the Victoria River Bridge and pulled into the Victoria
River service station and camp ground. That is all there was of
Victoria River. I wandered down to the rivers edge where signs
warned of crocodiles. I thought of staying in the camp ground
but it was hot and dusty so I decided to keep moving. I went
back to the restaurant at the service station and sat down to a
cheese and tomato sandwich before heading off again to the next
town; Timber Creek. When I arrived there and saw the camp ground
I was glad I’d kept moving. Where the Victoria River camp ground
was a dust bowl, the camp ground at Timber Creek was set on the
side of the creek and the ground was covered in cool green
grass. I set my tent up in the shade of two trees. The town was
made up of a general store, service station and a few houses. A
large Aboriginal community was the main population of Timber
Petrol at Timber Creek was $1.35 a
litre. I filled up, added a little oil and a cup full of water.
The new radiator was doing well in the intense heat only using a
cup of water since leaving Darwin. Next stop after an easy three
hour run from Timber Creek was the Northern Territory and
Western Australian border quarantine station. The purpose was to
stop bug infected fruit from entering Western Australia. The
quarantine agents did a reasonably intensive search of all cars,
asking for any fruit, vegetables or even the box or packages
that they came in. From here I continued on another 50
kilometers into Kununurra.
Aboriginal word meaning “meeting place of large waters”
Kununurra sells itself to the tourist industry as the eastern
gateway to the Kimberly. When the town first started back in the
early 1960s, tourists were the last thing on the minds of the
original white farmers who came to the area. A large dam, the
Diversion dam, was built as part of the Ord River scheme. The
water is used to irrigate the local area, where sugar cane and
tropical fruits are grown. The town’s population is around 5000
Town Caravan Park is across the road from the business
district. It may not be the most adventurous, but is certainly
the most convenient. I was in the process of setting up my tent
when a truck carrying a Toyota HiAce van stopped next to
the adjoining camp site. The driver of the truck, and a couple
jumped out. The driver pulled the ramp out at the back of the
truck and slid the van down into the camping space. He spoke to
them for a minute or two then climbed back into the cabin and
drove off. They both stood there looking at their van in a sad
and dejected manner.
“What’s the problem?” I said as I walked over towards them.
spluttered and came to a stop after we left for Broome this
morning. We couldn’t get her to start again, so we had to get
towed in. The truck driver told us that it’s either the petrol
pump or ignition. We are worried about how much it’s going to
cost to get fixed. I’m Hans and this is Maria”
sound like you’re from Germany?” I asked.
wouldn’t worry about the cost in getting it fixed if it’s only
an ignition or petrol problem. Those things are easy to fix.
Will it start?” I asked. Hans climbed in and turned the key, the
engine fired up.
“Sounds okay by me, put your foot on the gas” I ask. The engine
“Maybe it’s your points or condenser” I suggested. Hans opened
the engine cover. It was covered in fine red dust. I reached for
the distributor and took the cap off. The points looked fine,
but where was the condenser? I looked everywhere but couldn’t
find it, no doubt hidden under the dashboard or somewhere to
keep the backyard mechanic like myself puzzled. Then I looked
for the petrol pump and found it, but it was impossible to
reach. The only way of getting to it was to jack the car up and
reasonably knowledgable when it comes to Morris Minors but these
modern cars!” I said. They laughed.
“Don’t worry, a mechanic is coming tomorrow morning. Right now
let’s have a cold beer,” Maria said.
“Sounds like a good idea to me. Don’t let the ice melt and let
them get warm”
morning the mechanic arrived and replaced the petrol pump. The
cost came to $230. They were happy and the next day set off
again for Broome.
the tent next to me there was an Italian couple. They also had a
Toyota HiAce but it had either cracked the block, blown a head
gasket or piston. Whatever was the problem, it had clocked up
some serious internal damage with water inside the cylinders.
They’d also been towed into town, but didn’t have the money to
pay for repairs so had taken a job picking melons. Now, farm
labouring would be good if you were born in Kununurra and were
used to the heat. They introduced themselves as Christina and
both got jobs on a fruit farm, just out of town. My job was in
the packing shed, Roberto’s job was in the field picking the
melons. It was hard work in 40 degree heat. We’d only been
working there a few days when we were offered jobs working in
the pub. We took them immediately. We have been here a month and
will get the van fixed and continue on our around Australia trip
in a couple of weeks,” Christina said.
our tents was a woman who introduced herself as Sharon from
Newcastle. She’d set off in a camper van to find herself again
after a divorce and had stopped in Kununurra to work for a
“There is plenty of work on the farms
here. I worked for a couple of weeks picking mangos, I lost a
lot of weight, which was good, but it was hard work. I was
offered a job working here at the caravan park and dropped the
fruit picking job like a hot potato,” she said.
“I see signs on shop windows asking
for farm workers. Down south when you see a job vacancy it’s
generally just asking for one person. I notice here they ask for
gangs of workers,” I said.
“I think the farmers are finding it
very hard to find workers. I’ve heard that backpackers aren’t
coming here to find work as much as they did a few years ago.
Maybe they have more money in their pockets now,” Sharon said.
“I get the impression that maybe the
ones that do work take their stories home and warn their friends
– don’t work in Kununurra, the heat is just too intense. Or
maybe they all talk about it in the chat rooms and
boards on the internet. News travels fast these days. On top of
that I can fully understand the farmers employing people who
don’t have a work permit. Imagine if you were a farmer and every
morning you stood at your living room window and watched the
fruit rot on the trees because you can’t find anyone to pick it”
As we sat and talked, a large black
cloud moved over and it started to rain. The heat of the
afternoon dissipated into a cool evening. I slept with a sheet
over me. I actually felt a little cold. The next day the steely
grey sky stayed all day. For one full day it was cool and there
was no sun – it was glorious.
My next destination was the old port
town of Wyndham, about a two hour drive from Kununurra. The town
sits on the edge of the Cambridge Gulf and was first settled in
1884. You can imagine how isolated this area was back in those
days and it still feels very isolated even today. But by 1886
the town had become a boom town boasting of six pubs due to the
discovery of gold at nearby Halls Creek.
But as fast as the boom came it
disappeared and by 1900 the town’s population had dwindled to
about 60 people. This town continued to serve the cattle
stations in the area. In 1913 the Western Australian government
started the construction of a meat works. Construction slowed
down during the World War I but was finally finished in 1919.
The meat works continued to be the town’s main economy until
1985 when it was closed. Today, cattle are still exported but a
new industry has opened – crocodile farming.
Wyndham is a detour of just over 40
kilometres off the main highway. But it was a town I’d
wanted to visit - its isolation being the big draw card. The
town is split into a series of small settlements, like suburbs.
The first one I arrived at was called Wyndham Three Mile. Here
was a general store, a post office and a large concrete
crocodile in a park in the middle of the street. I stopped and
took some pictures. I continued on another kilometre to find two
service stations, a cake shop and a caravan and camping ground.
I then continued on another 4 kilometres down into a small town
close to the port. Here I found a series of old shops and a pub
on the corner. Across the street from the pub was a museum. All
the shops appeared as if they’d closed down years ago. Most were
covered in fine dust. Others appeared not to have been painted
in years, except for one, a video store which was open for
business. I continued on passing a crocodile farm on my way down
to the port. Here I looked out over miles of mud flats and
mangrove trees that sat there baking in the hot
Cattle trucks were unloading cattle onto a ship that sat at the
wharf. I stopped by a collection
of old railway locomotives and
rolling stock that were once used on the short railway that ran
between the wharf and the meat works. The
one that attracted my
most was a single cylinder diesel locomotive.
Heading back up into the small town I
stopped by the old pub for a barramundi, chips and salad lunch,
then headed back along the road to the Three Mile Caravan Park
set up my tent for the
night. The park had a camp kitchen.
In it was a television, stove and refrigerator. I walked
with a beer to cool down in the freezer. There was another
couple with their little boy in the kitchen preparing dinner.
They introduced themselves as Jim and Cheryl. Jim worked at the
local crocodile farm as a crocodile skinner.
“How did you learn that trade? Are
you a butcher?” I asked.
“No, I’m originally from Darwin. I
grew up on a cattle station.
Dad, myself and my brother used to
go out and choose a young steer, kill and butcher it up
ourselves. So I learnt to use a knife as a kid. I originally
had a job at the croc farm as just a labourer, feeding the
crocs, doing odd jobs and cleaning up around the place. There
was a woman there who did the croc skinning, but she wanted to
leave so they got her to train me. I’ve been doing it a few
years now. I don’t live here in Wyndham I need to move around. I
go to a place, skin their crocs and then move on to the next
farm. I’m headed to Cairns after I’ve finished here, I’ll head
back home to Brisbane” he said.
“Do you earn good money doing it?” I
“Sure do, it’s more than a butcher
earns, and I didn’t have to do an apprenticeship. It’s much
finer work. It’s very easy to slide the knife right through the
skin. The part they want is the belly of the croc, it’s softer
than a cattle hide. When you’re skinning a croc, you’ve got to
careful not to hit the point of the knife in the same spot a
second time. Unlike cattle, with a croc, it’ll just go straight
through the skin. When the buyers come they look for a nice
clean skin with no holes where the knife has accidentally
pierced the skin. When I’m finished skinning the croc, I then
bone the meat, but that’s not the money maker that the skin is,”
“I’m not a great lover of croc meat.
It doesn’t seem to have any taste and the texture isn’t anything
to write home about,” I said.
“I’m not a great lover of it myself,
but it’s the skins that count. They go into the making of
handbags and belts. In Italy someone is making lounge suites out
of croc skin. They sell for a fortune. People keep buying them
and they keep coming to us for more skins,” he said.
“How do you both like Wyndham,” I asked.
Cheryl looked at
me with a sour look on her face.
“I’d rather Brisbane or Cairns any day. This place
is a dump!” she said.
kind of like the place. It’s got a strange sort of character
about it. Anywhere that isn’t over run with tourists I tend to
like,” said Jim.
I agreed with
Jim. The town had an industrial character,
disappeared from most small towns back in the 1960s but it was
still in Wyndham. There were no boutiques or café’s. Car junk
yards were not hidden from sight. Nothing was made to look
pretty for visitors. Houses were unpainted and old cars and
other pieces of junk normally hidden from sight were all on
public display. Not that I would want to live there, but it was
a great place to visit – it was different! Now, if you’re
reading this, don’t go out and tell everyone what I’ve said.
Next time I go there I don’t want to find the place over run
with bikini boutiques, condos and alfresco cafés.
before getting on the road, I again I stopped at the service
station come wrecking yard, workshop and general store and
purchased some petrol. It was $1.17 a litre.
“That’s cheap!” I said to the
salesperson behind the counter.
“Where have you just come from?”
“Kununurra. They charge $1.27 a litre
for it over there. Why is it cheaper here? I thought you’d be
more isolated sop therefore more expensive,” I said.
“Our fuel comes in on a ship from
Singapore and from here it’s transported over to Kununurra!”
destination was Halls Creek. After a two hour
drive I stopped at
a roadhouse at Dunham River. Fuel here had jumped to $1.37 a litre. I pulled up at the petrol pump and was filling up when
the whole family who managed the roadhouse came out to inspect
Hewie. Their teenage daughter also had a Morris, a 1956
model which was in her grandmother’s garage back in their home
town of Toowoomba in Queensland.
“I’d really like
to go back to Toowoomba and take it for a drive” she told me.
The next stop was a roadhouse at
Warmun (Turkey Creek). I’d left Wyndham around 7am, which was
much later than I had hoped to get away. By the time I got to
Turkey Creek it was past midday and getting hot. I stopped and
topped up the tank and thought about stopping the night in the
camping ground but it was too hot to sit still under the shade
of a tree. At least there was a slight relief from the heat with
the air rushing past as I drove along. I kept moving. Halls
Creek was three hours down the track. After an hour of driving,
Hewie started to miss occasionally, then cut out
completely for a few seconds then start running again, then cut
out and so on. At first I thought it was something electrical.
Then I realized it was just a vapour lock. It was so hot that
the petrol was probably boiling inside the carburetor bowl.
There seemed nothing that I could do to prevent the problem. I
just kept driving. Hewie would cut out and start to slow
down, then slow down a little more and all of a sudden the motor
would start up again. Then he’d start running normally. I’d
cover a few more kilometers and then the motor would cut out
again and then cut back in when the carburetor cooled enough for
the petrol not to boil. A couple of times I pulled over and
opened the bonnet to let the engine cool, but it didn’t make any
difference. The good news was that the engine wasn’t overheating
and not at any time did it look like doing so. The temperature
was around 42C and the thermo cycle design was working
perfectly, although I wondered what would happen if I needed to
climb a long steep hill. I remembered my father saying to me
before I left
“What are you going to do when you go up steep
hills, it’ll boil,” he said. I remember looking at him and
“This is Australia, there are no
hills. Australia is so old that all the hills were eroded away
millions of years ago,” I said.
The drive started to become a little
stressful. Instead of enjoying the scenery I was constantly
listening and waiting for the engine to cut out and wait for it
to cut back in again. I assured myself that I’d stick to my plan
of leaving before sun up to drive in the coolest part of the day
I stopped off at the caravan park at
Halls Creek for the night and set off an hour before sunrise the
next morning. The stretch into Fitzroy Crossing was going to be
the longest run between petrol stops on the whole trip - a
distance of 290 kilometers. The run went well with no vapor
locks, taking a little over five hours. The fuel gauge was
running well below empty for the last twenty kilometres, but I
was reluctant to stop and top up the tank with the 20 liters of
fuel I had in a jerry can. Hewie made it into Fitzoy
Crossing without requiring the top up.
Two dogs lying in a puddle of cool
water under the large awning at the Fitzroy Crossing service
station jumped up and ran off when I drove in. I filled the
tank, Hewie had used 20 liters to cover the 290
Fitzroy Crossing is now a small
mostly Aboriginal settlement. Before there was a suitable bridge
to cross the giant Fitzroy River, Fitzroy Crossing was a much
larger town. The river consists of just sand flats and small
pools of water in the dry season but when the wet season
arrives, the river becomes a gigantic floodway. Until the new
bridge was built, travellers were often marooned there for weeks
on end, waiting for the river to subside. The town is much like
Wyndham in that it is series of small communities spread over a
large area rather than just one compact little town.
I headed back out of town and stayed
at a camp ground next to the river. As I approached the Fitzroy
River bridge there was a sign warning of crocodiles in the
river. I looked over the bridge and down below were Aboriginal
kids waving to me and swimming in the river. The Aboriginals
have lived with the crocodiles for millions of years. They even
swim with them, but put a white fella anywhere near a river with
just the hint of crocodiles and one will for sure jump out and
grab him. I’ve never heard of an Aboriginal being attacked by a
crocodile. Back at the camp ground there was a swimming pool in
which I spent the afternoon.
I rolled out of the tent just before
5am the next morning and set off for the five hour drive into
the town of Derby where I stayed the night. Like Wyndham,
is also spread out with no real main street. There was a small
shopping centre as I drove in and few kilometres further on was
another shopping center. Further on were the Council Chambers
and library. As I passed these buildings I sighted a white
Morris 1000 sitting out front. I swung a quick left and drove
into the Derby Council parking lot and parked next to it. I
hadn’t turned off the motor, when out rushed a woman from the
council chambers and introduced herself as Kaye. She was
ecstatic that another Morris had arrived in town and was in
disbelief that I’d driven mine all the way over from the east
coast. Her and her husband had recently moved up from Perth but
they’d had her Morris shipped up on a truck.
“So it is possible to drive a Morris
all that way. I’ve only ever used mine to drive a few kilometres
each way to work and around the corner to the local shop. I’ve
always wondered how she’d go on a long trip. I’ve often thought
of driving her down to Broome. Now that I’ve seen you come all
the way from Ballina in New South Wales – I’m going to do it!”
“Just make sure your ignition points
and spark plugs are in good condition, set out early in the
morning to miss the hottest part of the day and drive along at
about 60 to 70 kilometres per hour and you shouldn’t have any
problems,” I told her.
“Before we left Perth I was nearly in the mind to sell her and
buy a car more suitable for up here but I couldn’t, so I brought
her along. I’m glad I did, I love her.” she said.
“Nope, once you buy a Morris you really need to keep it for the
rest of your life. It’ll become like a noose around your neck,
but, you can’t sell them. They become a part of your soul. Sell
her and you’ll feel like you’ve sold someone in your family. How
many people walk up to you in the street and tell you
affectionately that they once owned a Morris the same as yours
and wished they’d never sold it.
“You’re right. Lots of people,” she said.
took some pictures with my digital camera, which I later emailed
to her a copy.
Next morning I
set off early and arrived in Broome a little after 10.30 am
after a five hour drive.