10 June—11 June 2002
The overnight stay in Halls Creek was uneventful. We awoke early and broke camp, pleased to leave what was a very ordinary caravan park. We went to the tele-centre where I sent two emails I had drafted the night before, one to my colleague Gavin Mooney who is now based in Perth.
We then drove to the camping shop where Susan picked up a toaster that can be used on a gas flame. After that, we drove out to the old Halls Creek township which was about 15 km out of town along a red dirt road. The kids seemed uninterested in this site until we got to the graveyard, which captured their interest somewhat more. We dropped into the small restaurant-come-office, and bought them an icy-pole. This was a curious and shabby establishment, littered with objects recovered from the old town. The yard surrounding it seemed to be some kind of graveyard for heavy machinery.
On the way back into town we dropped by the China Wall, which was part of a long vein of quartz that runs through the surrounding hills. It’s just like the veins of quartz you find running through small rocks, except magnified ten thousand times in size, so that the quartz crystals assume the dimensions of huge boulders, stacked one on top of the other.
We bounced back into town along the dusty road to refuel and pick up some last-minute supplies from the supermarket. We sat down on the side of the oval in the shade and had some lunch. This was clearly the spot favoured by the local Aboriginal people and also by passing tourists. All through the Kimberley we have heard horror stories from the Grey Nomads about how dangerous the towns are, but in our experience the locals seem either indifferent to tourists, or quite friendly.
We drove out of Halls Creek with the intention of pushing on to Fitzroy Crossing, but about half way there we ducked into Mary Pool to check it out. This is a well-frequented, free camping spot off the highway. To get to the camping area you have to drive across a decrepit concrete weir, but once on the other side, the camping prospects are irresistible: there are wide, level sites along a riverbank, with pit toilets and plenty of shade. There was no water however, except for the river. Both of our water tanks were full so we pulled up on a level site adjacent to the river with a view of the sunset on the water through the white gum trees.
I set about making a one-pot wonder with some lamb, after driving over 2 km to collect wood. All of the firewood in the area had been picked clean. When I found a fallen tree some distance away, I noticed that somebody had already had a go at it with a saw. Meanwhile, the kids enjoyed the company of two girls their own age. They played 44 Home on the grassy riverbank below us until dusk. I love to see them mucking around with other kids, although this is a pretty infrequent occurrence as most of the other travellers we encounter are Grey Nomad couples who largely keep to themselves. When one of their playmates fell and hurt her ankle, I seized the moment to shepherd Ruby and Clare to the dinner table.
The kids put themselves to bed soon after dinner. They’re usually pretty knackered by the end of the day. We enjoyed a blissful overnight stay in a beautiful spot.