January 30, 2014

Just like a horror movie. Breaking down at Wolfe Creek Crater, WA. Australia.

The road to the crater was shocking. It had been flattened by a bulldozer but the recent rains meant it was like driving over corrugated cardboard, with lots of little channels formed from the rain water. The whole car would vibrate terribly at slow speeds, which meant I had to drive at a fast 80 Km an hour, reducing the vibrations considerably. The Tanami track is one of the great 4WD journeys in Australia, going down from the Kimberley to Alice Springs, but it is seldom used. I only passed one car in the journey down to the turn off to the crater, but you do have to pay attention the whole time, as going out of control and flipping the car over is a real possibility. Sadly it is the road on which Eugene Shoemaker died on the way to Wolfe Creek.

I was the only person at the small crater car park. Climbing the wall was straightforward, what was  surprising was the amount of greenery in the centre of the crater. It collects water and hosts a wide variety of plant life, and Wallabies. Looking out from the edge of the crater the land was so flat that you could see the curvature of the earth. To walk around the crater, and inside it (a bit of a rock scramble is required to get out again) made me appreciate the insignificance of humanity versus the power of one lone rock visiting us from the universe.

After spending the whole afternoon exploring the crater, dusk was approaching and I had to leave to start the journey back to Halls Creek. Driving at night in areas full of wildlife, which the Tanami desert was now after the recent rains, was fraught with risk as so few cars pass this way it is more than likely that the Kangaroos and Wallabies may never have seen one before, with inevitable consequences. I had no wish to kill any marsupials, or pay any excess charges.

With one last look at the crater wall, I jumped in the car, in the still empty car park, and turned the ignition key. Nothing. I tried again, the same problem. This was not good. Life was beginning to imitate art. I had seen the B grade movie Wolf Creek (cleverly dropping the E) with the classic Australian actor John Jarratt. The tourists in that film were tortured and murdered by an insane outback loner (Jarratt) after their car failed to start. This was no fun at all now. My phone had no reception out here, and I had only seen one other car all day. The only good thing was that I had popped into a supermarket before leaving Kununarra to load up with 20 litres of water, and lots of snack food.

I know nothing about the mechanics of cars. After ten more failed attempts to start the car I popped up the bonnet, removed the battery connections and cleaned them with a cloth (I had some vague notion that the battery was connected to the starter) before trying again. It worked! I left the engine ticking over as I closed the bonnet, and turned the car around, heading back down the rough road to Halls Creek.

Part 1Of the Wolfe Creek Crater trip here

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