Once we left Perth and headed through WA and into NT, we realised we were hitting peak season in this part of the world! The ‘dry season’ is busy, much busier than Jack remembers when he was through here 15 years ago: people now have more money to travel, especially during retirement and everything has improved: the facilities, communication, the roads and technology.
Campsites and tourist attractions are busy, sometimes packed to capacity. We started looking for quieter options off the beaten track and away from the bus tours. What we discovered, is that if there is no coffee shop, ice cream van, hamburger and chips, or cake shop at the end, middle or beginning of a tourist attraction, then it would be quieter. No reward, no one goes!! Also, if the route to the attraction is longer than 8km return, then we would be pretty much on our own with a few other folk, although if we really wanted to see nobody, then we pick anything over 10km+ return.
Human nature and consumer behaviour is funny sometimes and if you are entrepreneur out here and want to make some money out of tourists, it’s pretty easy because we humans are very predictable. Just create a walkway (make it around 2.5km) close to a stunning location and then put up a plaque or monument documenting something that happened in the area; it could be anything from a local Casanova who managed to have 10 wives, to a tough pioneer who found gold on that spot. (We’ve lost count of the number of ‘Historical Markers’ that we’ve passed/seen!), then make sure you have catering of some kind, with a twist, like mango ice lollies with a hint of green ant or coffee made from Kangaroo poo, and hamburgers with lemon myrtle spices etc. Do all of this and you have a guaranteed hit on your hands and you’ll get everyone stopping. The distance is important, because everyone wants to feel like they’ve worked for the ice lolly or hamburger, so 250 mtrs is not long enough and the plaque or monument has to be informative and possibly a bit controversial too, the wilder and funnier the better!
Yep, we’ve had some great, great walks, hikes, runs & bike rides, and seen very little people and it’s great to know we can still get out there and do that; go where not many people get to – off the beaten track. Those we do meet along the way are like-minded souls who you get to share the experience with and maybe a few words about the track and the place etc, (many of you former- Zulus would be walking these very tracks we’ve done!) Two families stand out: one was a family from Switzerland, who had 3 children, aged 3, 7 and 11. They did the 25km return hike in the Katherine Gorge on the same day as us, 30 degree-plus temps, with dad carrying his 3 year old on his back – who weighed 16kgs. We were amazed at this little family of toughies: Swiss family Robinson, & some! They’ve been coming to Australia every few years since their honeymoon and always bring the kids along, the first time when they had just one child, and they still do everything they’ve always done from their first visit to Aus. We bumped into them two days later and they said they had a ‘rest day’, at the lovely Edith Falls the next day, to give the kids a break – but apparently the kids said it was a boring day!!
Another couple we met en-route to the top of Mt. Bruce, WA’s second highest mountain, in the beaut Karajini NP, was a couple from Adelaide, who were 75 and 79 and were taking on the 9km return trip up the mountain, including a tricky scramble up one of the faces. We found it challenging ourselves, especially because it was so windy that day with gusts of wind around 50 to 70km/hr, so for them it would have been a big day out. During our 4 hours on the mountain, we probably met around 12 people, not a lot for such an iconic Pilbara landmark with fantastic views. This couple in their 70’s had just returned from sailing around the world in a yacht, which they had done for 15 years when they first retired – just the two of them. They said they were now too old for the boat. I get the feeling the Mt. Bruce hike was a dawdle, compared to what they had seen and done on the High Seas!
When you are really ‘out there’, you take the time to meet your fellow walkers, bikers, swimmers and check how they are doing – it’s kinda the ‘done’ thing, but down at the touristy stuff, there’s not much love lost between folk as they push and shove to get the best view, photo or position; actually it’s a bit ruthless, so we avoid these attractions and tours at all costs, and pick the most challenging thing to do in an area, knowing we’ll never see any of ‘them’ on the way.