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Wed 13 Sept. Adelaide to Lake Gilles.
Leave Adelaide bound for Perth on a 9-day bush camping trip, in the company of a bizzare small group ranging from four tough-as-nails rogue grandmas from Queensland who have camped all over Aus without smudging their lipstick and face powder, to Natsuko, a Japanese ex-dancer a long way off the Japanese backpacker trail, and led by the cheery Andy and the gently monolithic Doug.
The first day of the trip heads past the ochre foothills of the Flinders Ranges. Bound for the vast Nullarbor plain, these are the last things anything like a 'hill' we will see for the next five days.
The first nights camp is at lake Gilles, a salt pan surrounded by saltbush and bluebush, low many-trunked mallee trees. Galah's, related to Cockatoos, pearly grey on top and salmon pink underneath flit between the trees as the moon rises like a counterweight to the setting sun.
Thur 14 Sept. Lake Gilles to Streaky Bay.
Two seperate kangaroos bounce into the road, do a double take at the bus and promptly fall over. Drunk at this time of the morning, I ask you!
Fri 15 Sept. Streaky Bay to Fowlers Bay.
Check out the world famous surf of Cactus Beach, and stop for lunch and a swim. I snorkel out through the murky green water to the shark nets, and confirm that the reason they look as though they are tied up out of the water (and therefore useless) is because they are tied up out of the water, and are therefore useless.
No-one stays in the water long.
(Note: about a fortnight later two surfers are taken in separate attacks on this stretch of coast by rogue Great White Sharks. To date, only pieces of their boards have been found.)
Get to Fowlers bay, a near-deserted old whaling station, in time to scramble up the rolling dunes and watch the sunset lick blue and gold across the sand ripples.
Sharing a bottle of Australian Red with Natsuko and Doug at the end of the wooden jetty, an invisible fold between black velvet sky and black velvet sea lets slip a moon, burning like a hot coal.
Sat 16 Sept. Fowlers Bay to Eucla.
Down the 90-mile straight, the longest strech of straight road in Australia and quite possibly the world. 140-odd kilometres long, an hour and a half of resisting the temptation to do a few swerves just for the hell of it.
Sun 17 Sept. Eucla to Newmans Rocks.
Pass not one, but two roadkill Camels. Beat that!
Cocklebiddy cave, falling out of the flat plain like a plughole - which is pretty much the role it has when storms hit.
A steep scramble 100 metres down a rough shaft to a silent lake at the bottom. Everyone elso declines to swim, but - well, someone has to, so I go for a shivering plash about.
Camp for the night at Newmans Rocks, an area of Granite hollows that collect rare and precious fresh water. As the dusk gathers, with frogs burping round the waterholes, I take the blunt axe and bludgeon a dead tree till I've broken off enough brittle wood for the fire.
Round the campfire, Andy tells the story of a log just like mine from an earlier trip, that was on the fire for a full twenty minutes before a dozen four-inch baby Huntsman spiders broke and scattered in all directions. Followed by mummy, and boy was she angry...
Sometimes what you can't see is comforting...
Mon 18 Sept. Newmans Rocks to Cape Le Grand.
Camp for the night on the beach at Cape Le Grand, on the southern coast of Western Australia.
A couple camping at the same site bring over an ugly, sickly-pale and furrily chubby 3 inch spider that was strolling past their tent. Wander nonchalantly over to my tent to check all the zips are properly closed...
As a card-carrying arachnophobic wimp, it is amazing how quickly you get used - in principle - to the idea of hand-sized spiders lurking in the bushes just waiting finger your sleeping face. Not that I'm claiming I wouldn't scream blue murder if that happens.
Tues 19 Sept. Cape Le Grand National Park.
See dive report.
Wed 20 Sept. Cape Le Grand to Albany.
Walk round the cape, over granite headlands separated by more baking-soda white beaches, playing with shore crabs and seagulls. Venomous snakes of the horrible-death-within-an-hour-or-two-of-being-bitten variety are common here, so I stamp my feet through the tough shrub to give them plenty of notice. It's a long way to the nearest phone, let alone hospital.
Thur 21 Sept. Albany to Perth.
After nine days in the wilderness, driving into the (compact) city, we feel like country bumpkins come to town, mesmerised by street lamps and concrete.
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