Darwin to Perth, Final Australian Hitchhiking Trip

After some camping and exploring around Darwin I was ready to get on the road again, my destination now was the west coast of Australia, to Perth. I already had a flight ticket that was leaving from there in just less than two weeks to Singapore, so I'd have to cover this 4,000 kilometers quickly.

Another motivation was Bridget, I'd met her just weeks before back on the east coast of the country and she was going to fly out to Perth where we'd be staying with her sister for one last blast together.

I walked down the road from the house I'd been staying in, it didn't take long to catch my first ride from an Indian family once I hit a major street. This was a short ride, but then there were a couple Cambodian girls who got me further and then a couple guys going barely south of the city to the last gas station. From there I easily got a ride from a guy who was going all the way to Cairns back on the east coast, which would have been incredible had I been going that way, but all the same I happily rode the good distance to Katherine.

This is where the day slowed down, I walked through town, pausing a few times to put my bag down and hitchhike from a stationary position, walking again when I wanted to see some new scenery. Finally I got far out of town and it seemed pretty clear that not much more than the outback was ahead. I stood in that spot for a good while, but eventually I decided to keep walking forward despite the thought of nothingness ahead.

When hitchhiking is slow it's usually because people are driving by and no one seems to want to stop, or just about no one's driving by, this was the latter. I walked and soon noticed the fire all along the road, a controlled burn was going on. I walked all the way down the long lane of fire, flames between me and the sunset until I passed it all and darkness set in. I managed to get one more ride from an Aboriginal family, but it was only for a few miles until they turned down what looked like a long dirt road. I found myself a camp and called it a night.

In the morning I was back at it, there was slightly more traffic, mostly big campers, but it took a while until someone decided that picking me up was worth doing. Two Aboriginal guys, "We're top notch blokes" they told me as we cruised down the desolate road. They said they'd intuited me, somehow had a feeling they'd be picking someone up.

We talked and didn't talk and kept cruising and at some point I had an intuition of my own glanced at the gas gauge which pointed to below empty. I thought for a while it may just be broken, but ten minutes or so later the car jerked and chugged along until we rolled to a stop, easily a hundred miles since we'd seen anything resembling a gas station, no telling how far it was to the next one.

We all stood outside and waited for other vehicles to come, trying to flag them down, they wanted me to get in front and show my face to the cars. I'd noticed a fair bit of racism in the country towards Aboriginals, so I assumed they were aware of this too and figured we'd have a better chance this way.

One van slowed down almost to a halt and then quickly sped off as we approached them to see if they had a gas jug or anything. Finally a camper van with two young French girls stopped. First we tried to work out of either of had some tubing to siphon some gas, but we ended up just piling in their van to ride to the next gas station, which was about an hour up the road or less.

I sat in the back mostly talking to one of the guys about his work as a horse trainer and how he made his own rum. The girls talked a bit, but seemed a bit suspicious and only obligatorily generous with this ride. They dropped us off at the gas station, they were going further and I'd hoped they would offer to let me ride along more, but it never happened.

The two guys sat at a picnic table, they didn't seem to be discussing their next move or even care too much about how they'd get back to their car or maybe continue on somehow to their destination. I filled up my water and told them I was going to carry on, thanking them for the bit of a ride they did give me.

I walked and thumbed a few cars as they passed, including the girls in the van who eventually passed me as well, but kept going. Eventually a cattle expert picked me up and got me a ways, right up to the Western Australian border, all the while telling me stories about cattle. He said one time many of them had become infected with some disease and him and some other guys had to go up in a helicopter with big guns picking them off one by one.

I walked over the border, a guard came running up to me only noticing me after I passed some fifty yards over, but all he wanted to know was if I had any fruit or vegetables. I kept walking and at last got a ride from a couple who lived in the next town.

The guy said he knew all about America and the 52 states and Osama and whatnot. He was also another example of an Aussie who had a generally negative tilt on Aboriginals, "Those black bush fellas are raping all the time. Cindy here has to deal with the little niglets all the time, she's a teacher".

Cindy seemed embarrassed and that seemed to encourage him. She tried to tell me that they weren't so bad and she wasn't racist, "I don't hate the coons at all", she told me, "But they are a problem". Sometimes people are funny.

We stopped at their house where they quickly raided their cupboards and fridge, returning with a bag of things like tuna fish and chips, plus a couple cans of beer. They drove me just outside of town, Cindy handed me a twenty dollar bill on the sly before they dropped me off.

I chugged a beer and smiled on down the road until a group of younger people picked me up and rode me to the next little town, dropping me off at sunset. I managed one last ride after that, a few guys working at the mine, they dropped me off at a car park before the turn off to the mine. There were a few stray dogs wandering around that seemed pretty harmless, I went behind a little hill and made my camp for the night.

I awoke to a nice sunrise and happily got an early start to the day, although I probably could have slept in, it was a good while until any cars were on the road. An Aboriginal family picked me up, we drove until their car overheated and we were waiting on the side of the road, waiting for help once again. The woman up front was older, she gave me some sort of gel, white gum tree sap, she said would come in handy for me if I were to get any scrapes or scratches.

Eventually one of their friends came with water to help cool things down and get the engine back to good. I ended up catching a ride with him to and through the next town to a little roadhouse rest area. I splashed some water on myself there and got back to the road awaiting the next ride.

It came from an older man driving a caravan camper, visiting Australia from the USA, his wife had passed eight years ago and he was just now getting t enjoying life again. We made a few stops, once so he could fill up gas using the canisters he had stocked up, another time to fill up proper at a gas station, then again at a rest area where he cooked us up some noodles mixed with tuna to go with some coffee.

We cruised on for a while longer until he was done driving for the day, we pulled into a remote rest area along the empty stretch of road. He told me I was welcome to stay the night there and he'd continue in the morning sometime. He had some sausage thawing, it was tempting to relax a while and get a good hot meal as well, but I knew I had to keep making good time if possible.

There was still a fair amount of daylight left, after some thought I told him I was going to go to the road for an hour or so and see if I could catch another ride and if nothing happened by dinner time I'd make my way back and call it for the night.

I sat by the road reading my book, a couple cars passed with no luck. I saw some kind of bus coming and stuck my thumb out without much hope, I was surprised when it actually stopped. I threw my backpack on and greeted the driver as he got out with a bit of concern on his face, "Are you OK? What happened?", he asked me.

"I'm on my way to Perth I told him, I've been coming from Darwin", I told him with a smile.

"Oh... I thought your car might be broken down or something. I've got a bus full of people on a tour right now... I'll have to ask them if it's OK and if if they say alright then I can give you a ride a little ways", he went back on the bus and returned with a smile, I was in.

I climbed on the bus to find mostly seniors from the US and Canada who were all on this pretty high end excursion across Australia, now I was their entertainment and reason to talk about their grand children more, because I was "the same age, isn't this exciting!".

It was pretty fun, telling them about my journey so far and hearing about what they were up to. We chatted all the way to the hotel they were staying for the night in the next town, then I was back on my own to the road again.

I'd walked to the other side of the little town right as the sunset was peaking in a deep beautiful orange color. A car hauling a big camper trailer stopped for me, inside were Jan and Andrew, a couple from the US in early sixties. They too were heading to Perth, but potentially at a slower pace, they were just going as much each day as they felt and stopping wherever seemed nice.

This night I went just an hour up the road with them to a rest area and decided to camp beside their trailer and keep riding with them in the morning. They made up a lamb stew and offered me some ginger wine as well. We talked for a while, a lot about the "end of days" and so forth, they explained that they were Jehovah's witnesses and went on about it.

Eventually I nestled into my sleeping bag along with a pair of Andrew's binoculars gazing up at the stars, it was a clear night as were most nights in the outback.

They made bacon and eggs in the morning, then we were back on the road. We did quite a bit of driving and I did some more listening to the Jehovah stories and ideas, past funky looking trees and giant ant hills until we arrived in Broome. I'd heard good things about the place, so had they, so I didn't mind at all when we stopped in for a while to check it out.

We detached the trailer in a parking lot and cruised up to a lighthouse to check out some wicked rock formations, they were calling them pancake rocks. Next we made our way to the beach and I got my first good look at the Indian Ocean and splashed around in it for a while.

Afterwards we had a picnic in a park closer to town, reattached the trailer and stocked up on water while Andrew headed into the grocery store, "You drink beer?", he asked me.

He came back with a case and we were on the road again, only after driving by the local Kingdom Hall so they could show me and see about any services that may be going on, it's their version of a church. We cruised for just a little while and stopped at the first rest area we found for the night, chicken stew was for dinner and another night of binoculars under the stars.

I rode with them another 500 kilometers the next day as well through to a place called Port Hedland. They found a little RV park and figured they'd be staying there a day or two. I parted ways with them there, they wouldn't let me go without a little cash, fruits and other food to take with me.

By this point it was sunset again, I walked my way back to the main road and the flow of traffic in this miner town. Everyone was coming and going, mundane or buzzing, soon it was dark and I was breaking away from the edge of town. I figured I may be camping alongside the road, but I was still facing headlights as they appeared with my arm outstretched to my thumb.

A rig pulled over looking similar to my Jehovah friends, as I ran up to it I realized it looked similar because it was them again, turns out the RV park was full and they'd decided to push on to the next rest area instead. This would be the last night I'd spend with them, full of pasta, beer and more talk of Jehovah.

In the morning they were settled in, ready for a day of relaxing and a break from the road. We had a little breakfast and they loaded me with pamphlets and the like promoting their religion. They'd either mistaken my interest for belief or simply figured to keep on pushing. I've noticed quite a few people who get caught up in these "do or die" belief systems, some of them are really interesting, but I imagine my brief encounters with them are about the extent of how much they could tolerate me or anyone who wouldn't ultimately sacrifice the sure thing of earthly happiness and instead risk abiding to a story passed down like a game of telephone, rewards vague as punishments and moral compasses external.

Back to the road, another full day ahead and Perth was getting closer. First was a ride from a delivery truck, then a real estate agent, a short ride from a Thai guy, next another miner for a while, then a 500 kilometer ride from a farmer who dropped me off at dark. I walked for an hour until deciding to camp.

The morning came and I knew I was close enough to make it to Perth on this day. Sure enough, the very first ride I got came from a guy who liked to drive fast and was going straight to Perth. We stopped just once for a sandwich and gas, soon we were driving past wineries and all traces of the outback had vanished, the city was emerging.

I found myself in downtown Perth, I used someones phone and called Bridget's sister to let her know I'd arrived and she happily came and met me with her husband. We got some dinner and then headed back to her place after some confusion over whether Bridget was flying in that night, the whole midnight flight straddling the day type of confusion, but it turned out it would be the next night.

We sat and shared some stories for a while drinking German beer, it's always a good night drinking good beer coming off days on the road. I was peaceful being settled for a minute and all the same excited to explore, excited to see Bridget again and excited to soak up my final week in the beautiful country.