Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Careless being carless in Karijini

Wohey! I've just spent some days in the prettiest thing Australia has on offer now that the impressive buttocks of both Kylie and Elle seems to have gone missing.

First you drive for hours and hours and hours across flat land that from a distance looks so nice, green and lush that you have to wonder why the sheep standing along the road look so grumpy. Then you make a stop, to pee or to pull a rotting kangaroo corpse off the road, or both, and you see that between the green bushes there's plenty of red, infertile dirt, and the bushes themselves are armed with long, sharp, lethal needles that could outcompete any kind of porcupine. Poor sheep!

Every 300 kilometers or so there's a petrol station and a roadhouse, and you don't drive past it. You stop, and you fill your tank with petrol at a price two or three times what you might have had to pay for it in any of this continent's major cities. Or if you're twelve years old or so, maybe you just spend all your pocket money for the entire week on a can of Coke or something like that. Life is hard, and expensive, in the outback.

Maybe you drive through Marble Bar, a place that a few hundred souls calls home, and they're proud of the fact that they officially live in the hottest town in Australia. The title was won when they for 160 days in a row could observe the thermometer rise to above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, 37.8 degrees Celsius. That's actually true, just look here.

Then, right in the middle of the dry hell, you suddenly arrive in the Karijini National Park. It's still a hot place to visit, but you don't care. Down in the many gorges in the park the temperature is bearable, especially because there's a large number of places you can swim and cool down, natural pools that underground rivers fill up with fairly cool water. Besides, it's all just so stunningly beautiful that you forget about the heat.

I spent the last 4-5 days in the park, almost all on my own. During this time of the year the temperature is usually even higher than what it has been lately, and because of this, very few people plan to go there to enjoy themselves between December and March.

I had been warned that I would have to bring all the supplies I would need. But when I arrived, I found a lovely camp, Karijini Eco Retreat, supported by the aboriginal community, where I could get cold drinks, and where I could rent a nice tent with a bed in it. And I could zip off the outer walls of the tent, so that at night a cooling breeze could come in and help me sleep, and in the mornings I would lie in my bed and look out at brilliant sunsets, beautiful colours gradually filling the sky, creating the perfect backdrop for the silhouettes of acasia and eucalyptus trees. Now, THERE's a good way to start your day!

I went on a walkabout in the park. Or to be more exact, I got lost. I carried plenty of water, so it wasn't really a problem. Well, I survived, anyway. I found my way back to the camp, but before doing so, I found a tree that stood by itself, gushing out blood. "That's weird", I said to myself, and photographed it. Back in the camp I showed the photo to the people working there, and they were impressed.

Apparently I had found a pharmacy tree, and it was bleeding/producing medicine as if there was no tomorrow, which was rather unusual, I was told. I took some people back to the tree and we gathered crystallized chunks of the "blood" from the bloodwood tree. The stuff is supposed to be good for your heart, and dissolved in boiling water it becomes a drink that will cure a cold and stop your coughing. They let me try it, but since I did not have a cold the medicine must have become confused, and helped me produce copious amounts of gas instead. It's a good thing I had a tent for myself, and that there were no immediate neighbours of it either.

Supposedly I got off easy. I met someone else who also had tried drinking The Stuff, and she had just started ejecting the contents of her stomach both upwards and downwards. At least she had lost her cough! I'll bring some blood crystals back home with me, so that you, my friends, also can get to try it. It tastes horrible.

Anyway, I'm still alive, and I have now vroomed to Broome. I haven't done much here yet, but I have bought new shorts. The last ones were torn and ripped in dozens of places after too much rough climbing in the Karijini cliffsides. It was SO worth it!
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