Friday 13th The alarm went off at 5:30 and we had showers and the last of the bread with some butter, and packed up. It’s a sad time; packing up to go. We dressed comfortably, and did the double-check of cupboards etc to make sure that we had everything. Then down to reception to check out. We then walked with our cases – mine on wheels – to the Greyhound office, which was only a few hundred metres away. We got there in heaps of time because we wanted to get the very back seat after seeing how much room there was on the tour coaches. We got our seat allocations and then went for a coffee at a little café across the footpath. We rang home, even though it was a bit early, Perth time, because we would be out of mobile range for most of the day and wanted to check that there were no problems before we ‘disappeared’. All was well. Eventually, the coach pulled up and they loaded our cases on, then us, and we were off. Bye bye Darwin. So sad to be leaving!
The Greyhound journey, to sort of lump it all together rather than chronologically, was an eye opener in many ways. Not least of all because you couldn’t get comfortable enough to shut your eyes and fall asleep. We did not have the very back seat after all – after booking in an hour early to make sure that we did. The booking clerk had not been sure how many seats there were in our coach, so had given us 10 A and B. The coach had a seat 11. Either way, the coach was made by a different company and there wasn’t the extra room for the back seat anyway, so it wasn’t an issue. The scenery was lovely, although there were hundreds of kilometres of the same stuff in places. There were some spectacular red cliffs rising up from the plains for a while, and there were a few tiny towns. What does anyone find to do in these places? For work, rest or play. [Once you’ve eaten the Mars bar, I mean.]
We’d decided to make this trip by bus just to see what we thought of this kind of travel. I can tell you now, and could have told you within 3 hours of the start of the trip, this will be our last long bus ride!!!
One thrill was the ‘fruit quarantine line’ [wrong name, but it’ll do]. We had to stop – miles from nowhere – and hand over any fruit, peel, cores etc. or honey that we might have. One inspector looked at the luggage in the holds, and another came on to the coach with a plastic shopping bag which people ended up putting rubbish in as well as fruit remains! “That’s all right!” he said, “I’m the desert garbage collector!” and we all had a laugh.
Some of the places we stopped at, we were allowed to get out and some we weren’t. The driver had asked us only to use the coach toilet for emergencies, but when you’ve been driving for 3 hours and haven’t been told how long to the next stop, emergencies happen! We had a timetable showing what time we would reach each town, but had no idea if we would be allowed off or not because sometimes we’d stopped and had to stay on the bus. The drivers were not tour operators, but bus drivers, so they mostly just drove without giving any info. I guess many of the people who use the bus do it regularly and knew the drill.
We got a meal break of 40 mins at Kununurra for our dinner, which we had in the bakery, as recommended by the driver. I am the world’s expert on bacon and egg rolls and this one was a gold medal winner. The girl who made it had a broad London accent! I sort of expected to have only Aussie accents in the Outback, but she was back-packing through and liked it so much that she was staying for a while.
Before we set off once more, we rang the boys. It was about 6:30 pm and peak call rate still, but we’d be out of range again by 7. They’d had a fight and I was hearing all about it at mobile rates, at my expense! I asked them to try to sort it out if they could and if not, forget the subject until we got home. It was all about Dan making a mess of the kitchen and Nat wanting to cook a meal the next day, and then rude notes being exchanged. The pressures of running a household!
Other messages we had received from them over our time in Darwin had been 1) There’s going to be a terrible storm with strong winds and we’ve been told to tie everything down, and 2) There are thousands of window faced envelopes waiting for you. Moral of the story? Don’t ring home. Or better still, put the kids into a Doggie Resort with the dog.
And so we were off again and night fell. We had been asked not to turn off our air vents as it would freeze the condenser. Instead of that, we froze. It was really incredibly cold with the icy air con blowing on us. We had 3 towels between us. One each were used as pillows, and the other in an attempt to keep over me for warmth, but when you’re sitting, it keeps falling off. David went and half-sat/half-laid on the seat in front and did seem to get a little sleep. I was terrified of getting a stiff neck. I am renowned for what a good job I do of these, and am totally crippled for about 3 days with them usually. Wherever I rested my head, I could feel the muscles objecting, so was too scared to settle down enough to sleep. Also, every time I nearly dropped off, I heard one of those little snores that appear from nowhere – it wasn’t me! So I was a bit wary of that too. Worrying about who was playing this cruel trick, waiting for me to settle and then making noises – convincing tale?
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We would never do a 26 hour coach journey again, but are glad that we did it once! I say that now it’s over!!! At unearthly hours of the morning, we were stopping in little towns to find groups of people waiting to put someone on the coach. The driver would open up the luggage hold and sit there, taking bankcard payments for the fare, and then loading them on. We presume that they just turn up hoping that there will be a seat, as they could have paid over the phone if they’d called to book.
We had been dropping off and picking up mail at intervals along the way too; some of it being even large items such as car parts. At 2:30 in the morning, we stopped by the side of the road and the driver handed a bag of mail to a man who was standing there waiting for it. We were running about ½ hour behind time, so the chap must have been standing there all that time. There is a daily coach, so it must be a daily routine! Yuk!
It was pitch black out there. No towns with lights and no cars coming the other way. It’s too dangerous for cars to travel at night in case they hit a kangaroo. We were warned by the driver that we might hit one in the coach, or it may need to swerve to miss one. A couple of road trains passed us and that was it for the whole of the night. [Road trains are semi-trailers with 3 trailers.] There was a huge noise and a strange feeling at one point and I thought we’d hit a roo. About an hour later, it happened again. I was feeling really sad for the poor things. Then I was looking out of the window. The stars were certainly bright and I could see what little the headlights showed up on the sides of the road. Then there was a road-sign that said GRID, and the noise/feeling happened again. Thank goodness for that – the roos were safe. We’d only been crossing grids, not hitting ‘roos.
We crossed hundreds of small bridges during the journey, but there was no water under most, and very little under the rest. We started to see more and more boab trees as the dawn began, and we continued to drive until we got to Broome at
around 8am. The tourist bureau didn’t open until 9 on a Saturday, so we had a look at a huge bill-board style map to get our bearings, and see where to find our hotel.
It was a very strange thing while we were away, but David lost his sense of direction entirely! He’s normally brilliant, but we had to rely on me more than once to find our way, and he admitted that I seemed more oriented than he was.
The wind was blowing strongly, and continued to do so the whole time we were in Broome, but the sun was warm. We decided that David would look at the beginning of the journey and remember it, and I would look at the streets closer to the hotel, so that neither of us had to remember the whole lot. (We didn’t have a pen.) David chose which way we started to walk, silly of me, after what I’ve just told you above. Eventually we got to a street whose name I recognised and we headed off down there. We found the landmark I was looking for, the hospital, but it was on the wrong side of the road. Oh oh! We didn’t have a map. Only what we could remember from the bill-board.
The cases were heavy, the ground was often too rough to wheel mine as there wasn’t much in the line of footpaths, the sun was now hot and we were tired after 26 hours without sleep and sweaty from the walking and lack of a shower. I kept saying that we should stay along the street we were on until the 2nd roundabout and David kept saying that we should be heading more for the beach. We sort of followed his hunch the first time and mine the second, and so on, and somehow or another between the 2 of us, we managed to find the Palms Resort at last and went to book in.
We were told that we couldn’t have our room until 1pm. We did know that, but had hoped it might have been ready sooner. At least we could leave our cases at reception. Groan! I want a shower! Now what are we going to do? She gave us a map of the town and a ‘Town Bus’ time-table, so at least we could have a look around without walking any more. It was a while until the bus was due, so we did walk up to the beach to have a look, but then time had passed faster than we’d expected and we had to hurry to catch the bus. I just want to lay down! We bought a day ticket each and hopped on and off the bus as suited us. It ran clockwise; or anti-clockwise; and we asked the driver how many drivers there were in the fleet. “Five” he said, proudly! “Two of them part-time”. We won’t move to Broome expecting David to get work!!! The timetable was set so that the bus always got to each stop at the same number of minutes past the hour. Very badly explained – let me try some more. If you were catching the clockwise bus outside the Palms Resort, get there at 23 minutes past any hour and it will come. And so on. That I really liked – how sensible! But the system closed up shop around 6:30 pm, so wouldn’t take you to a restaurant etc.
So we saw China Town which is the touristy shopping precinct where all the jewellery shops are selling Broome Pearls, as expected. And we had a snack style breakfast and a coffee in a little back-street café. A beautiful, peaceful location but hmmm, it was pretty pricey.
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