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Alice Springs back to Darwin

Written on: Sunday August 31st, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

With a stinging, well deserved headache I clambered from the tent and began packing. Coco and Loz were staying on in Alice for a couple of days and then heading east to Cairns. Bizarrely I had decided to head straight back up the exact same road I had come down returning to Darwin, where I'd meet back up with Ben who was finishing off building a toilet and shower block on a camp site in the tiny petrol stop town of Dunmarra. When you're travelling back up the same road you just travelled down back in England it's not such a task, but when that road is 1500km long you do begin to question your illogical approach to the conundrum of where to go next. Alas poor Yorick, there was a method to my madness. Back in the alcohol-consumption capital of the world Ben and I would have a much better chance of picking up a decently priced 4x4 vehicle to plough our way across the west coast. Within the backpacker hostels that litter Darwin there are adverts a plenty featuring anything from cars to IPODs to hair curlers to guitars to letter writing offers (I actually responded to an ad from a guy offering somebody $30 to write a letter for him). Ben and I had decided to combine our monetary forces (and formidable they were not) together to get a car as together we could afford a much nicer one and fingers crossed shouldn't have to worry too much about it breaking down in the middle of nowhere.

It just so happened that the day previous at the regatta I'd met an English girl by the name of Natasha who together with her 6 compadres was this day leaving Alice Springs en-route for Darwin. Nat had gone in together on the east coast to buy an antique, beige Volvo, with an excitably German named Andre who had the ability to swear in the most entertaining of fashions and Alex, a Canuck who took great pleasure in constantly baiting Nat with sexist insult after sexist insult. What more should a women expect getting in to a beige Volvo with three men? Travelling in convey with them were two Essex boys, John and Josh, Laura from Leicester and her boyfriend Nat from Colorado.

Other than a few brief stops and a couple of minor mishaps along the way our drive back up the Stuart Highway was relatively swift. The mishaps I speak of were all at the expense of our archaic German automobile. About 200km north of Alice Springs we heard an alarming and disturbing noise coming from somewhere on the car. At the 140km/h we were travelling at we couldn't locate exactly where it was coming from and so Andre who was driving took the executive decision to just keep going and hope that it just phased out or became so natural that none of us heard it anymore. Less than a kilometre later the driver's side rear wheel exploded and sent the back of vehicle slipping and sliding across the road like a sheep being chased by a Welsh man.

Luckily Andre managed to keep control, let out some incredible *$^ %$"^* and we set about jacking up the car to remove what was left of the tire and replace it with the spare. We camped just off the highway that night at the side of the road then headed in to Tenant's Creek, pretty much the halfway point between Alice Springs and Katherine, the next morning to pick up a new tyre. The mechanic sniggered as he was checking over the car and came back to ask Andre, Alex and Nat if they knew they had four different sized tyres on each of the wheels and which size would they like for the new one. I personally recommended the tractor tyre as fully inflated the inner-tubes double up as a great way to float down a river.

We made sure to stop back off at the hot springs in Mataranka and also spent an afternoon cooling off with a dip in the river at Katherine Gorge, all places I'd been to on my way down, but places you'd never complain about visiting again and again. We also stopped off again at Litchfield National Park, my third visit now and did all the main waterfalls again. Boys being boys and group dynamics what they are led to us taking greater and greater risks jumping off the top of the rocks at Florence Falls. I'd began it by climbing up the side of the one of the rock faces where you can jump off in to the centre of the plunge pool, making sure to avoid the giant boulders lying close to the water's surface. Each of the boys began to join me, each time climbing higher and higher before Nat (the American guy, not the English girl) climbed right to the top and not satisfied with just a straight legged drop in to the water, threw himself off sideways, flipping in the air with his hands cupped under his bent spread knees, in Monty Pythonesque animated fashion. I didn't think that was going to be topped, but Alex had begun climbing up the side of the 110m falls itself. He wasn't going to jump off the top though. You couldn't tell how deep the pool beneath it was, plus there were people swimming in and around the bottom of the falls. I was impressed he'd made the climb up there and we could just see him wandering around at the top checking the place out and the view from the top. Then without any warning he just ran straight off the top. None of us thought he was going to do it, but I'll give him his due he's got balls of steel. Unfortunately for him those balls are now located just beneath his neck.