Big Red Tour
Through Outback Australia
The F'n H Tour
© Jens Hültman
Python Pool, Hamersley Range, WA
A couple of days later I left the neighbouring Millstream Chichester National Park. That drive from Millstream out toward the coast is the definition of "scenic drive". The road through the Chichester Range wriggles up and down amazingly-shaped hills covered with lush, green grass. It was like entering an adventure book from my childhood. It looked like another planet.
I stopped at a lookout where one white and one blue Landcruiser were parked. This was my first meeting with the F'n H Tour. Ron and Kath travelled in the blue vehicle. Dwayne and Jan travelled in the white one. Both were in their 50s or early 60s. Ron was blonde and balding, with the look of a foreman in a factory. Dwayne had a trimmed salt-and-pepper beard. They wore singlets with "F'n H Tour" printed on them. They were from Wollongong, an industrial town in New South Wales. The stirring was extraordinary. Ron asked me about the damage to Fidelity. I told them. The F'n H Tour thought that it was a hilarious story. They thought that most things in life were hilarious. I admired all the equipment Ron had on his truck, especially the winch. Ron asked me if I had seen the movie The Gods Must Be Crazy. I replied 'No', omitting the fact that it was considered politically incorrect in my country to watch this movie, as it portrays blacks as somewhat naïve.
'Anyway', Ron said, and the rest of the F'n H Tour immediately started to laugh, 'there's a scene in it when a guy winches his car up in a tree....'
They had been stuck in a deep hole in a river up on Cape York. They had started to winch themselves out of the bog with the help of a big tree. When another vehicle came by, they started to talk to them. Suddenly Ron's car was hanging from a branch just like in the movie. 'Focking hell, mate.' Dwayne, Jan and Kath were close to a cardiac arrest at this point.
Somehow, the conversation switched over to New Zealand, an eternal target of ridicule for Aussies. I told the F'n H Tour how the lads at the office where I worked years ago used to go "baa, baa", imitating sheep, every time a female colleague of ours from New Zealand came to work in the morning. Ron got upset. 'See, this is forbidden nowadays', he told me. 'They call it sexual harassment.'
He shook his head in disbelief. O tempora o mores. Now, wasn't good old stirring a way of showing other people that you liked them? How were the lads to show acceptance to this unknown woman from New Zealand if they couldn't stir her? Compliment her clothes or perfume, maybe? Ron was very upset. 'This country is going down the drain, mark me words'.
'We 'ave been harassed on this trip,' Jan whined.
'Ah, shut yer mouth', Dwayne told her. 'You haven't fucking been harassed, we are the ones that're harassed by all your bitchin'.' Everybody laughed.
We accompanied one another to the Python Pool. This used to be a resting and watering spot for Afghan camel drivers in the pioneering days. Pythons once lived here. They seem to be gone now. On a blistering hot day your whole body can just cry out to sink itself in water. The heat of the Hamersley Ranges is so dry that the sweat evaporates from your body. It is as if the land sucks your body dry.
I had dressed up in total bush gear with boots, hat and backpack with water and safety equipment. I felt slightly stupid when I discovered that the walk to the pool was about two hundred and fifty meters. Jan and Kath had entered the water, stripping off to nothing except their purple panties. It was not a pretty sight. They chatted with a young Israeli boy who sat like a naked Adonis on the shore. They had the perv of their life. Ron and Dwayne were swimming. The Python Pool is a small pond under a huge red cliff. The water had a cool, dark green colour. The sounds echoed around the cliffs. The sky was such a bright blue that it was almost painful, not a cloud in sight.
For someone like me, who had lived his life in the Frozen North in darkness, rain, fog and snow, with endless low pressure storms sweeping in from the North Sea, this was the antithesis. 'Go skinny dipping, son', Jan and Kath croaked to me while they laughed hysterically. I normally swim without clothes if it is possible. Bust since Aussies are uptight about nudity, I always hesitate to swim nude in places where other people might turn up. Encouraged by Jan and Kath's croaking, though, I took off my clothes and jumped into the cool water. The feeling was unbeatable. Swimming under the cliff in the sunshine was something else. This was the best swim I ever had in my life. The gorges in the Hamersley Ranges and this pool in the Chichester Range stand out so much, compared to the dry bush surrounding them, that they manifest themselves like an incarnation of Paradise when you stumble upon them. You do not expect water in these surroundings. Maybe that is why it felt more pleasant than usual to have a swim.
I climbed up onto a shelf on the cliff and lay sunbathing. In moments like this, I have a feeling that somewhere deep into our genes remains a piece of some primeval being who lived half of its life in water, half on land, millions of years ago. To the amusement of Jan and Kath, some people were walking toward the pool. I dove into the water, swam back, and managed to get on my underwear and get "decent" just before a company of unsuspecting tourists arrived. Jan and Kath had already got out of the water and got T-shirts back on. This was just as amusing to them as everything else. Life was nothing but an endless entertainment to the F'n H Tour.
We continued to Roebourne. Driving into Roebourne is like coming into some Southern town in the U.S. that God has forgotten. Droves of Aborigines hung around the hotels. The Aboriginal hostels were conveniently situated next to the pubs. A Youth Centre broadcast propaganda on big signs, on the advantages of sobriety. The asphalt was almost melting away in the heat. I found a panel beater and asked him if he had a rear window for a Landcruiser HJ60. He disappeared into his backyard and returned with a used one. This is the advantage of driving a Landcruiser—there are always parts stashed somewhere in someone's backyard.
'Will eighty dollars be OK?' he asked. 'A new one from Toyota is about a hundred and sixty, and then I'll 'ave to send for one from Perth, and that will take days and you'll probably be on your way to the North'.
I agreed. The dark side of driving a Toyota is that official spares and repairs cost astronomical amounts, due to the popularity of Landcruisers. Fortunately, the used and after market evens out the competition a bit. I walked up to the BP station and joined in the queue with the Aborigines for some junk food for lunch. A huge black woman was sitting outside. 'Yeez, it's hot today, mate', she complained. 'You should be used to it by now, after forty thousand years on this continent', I thought to myself. I returned to the panel beater.
'What bastard sold you this car'? he asked in an upset voice. 'Look at this! This window hung on just by the insulation!'
He showed me how the frame should have been attached with some clips that were missing. According to the panel beater, any major bump or disturbance could have caused the window to fall out. I thought of the blue silicon that had been holding the nipple to the breather hose at the front diff. How many more of these unpleasant surprises would I encounter? It turned out that there would be a lot more. Fidelity was an old lady. Many men had had her in her day, and not all of them had been tender and caring.
Chapter 13 →