First, we were there alone despite it being pretty close to the high season for Kimberley tourist traffic. A fire was still smouldering from departed overnighters. Camping vehicles and a few trucks dust-clouded past regularly but no one else stopped.
We cooked on the campfire and congratulated ourselves on sole occupancy, deciding to stay another night to do the washing and rest a wee bit. Dog Chain Creek and the rest site is not marked on many maps so travellers tend to pass through the gorge before they realise it’s there.
A lonely bull bellowing in the dark, eyes glowing in the torchlight, was our only company.
About 2am we discovered another unusual aspect of Dog Chain Creek. A fine wind swept through the gorge from the north. Roaring could be heard in the distance, growing louder before the most intense blasts hit. As the sun rose and we collected scattered belongings the wind kept whistling – until it swung around to hurtle up the gorge from the other direction. Interesting.
It stopped. We washed, repaired and rejuvenated in the balmy day. By mid-afternoon we wondered if we would spend another night alone. Then the United Nations arrived.
First came Brendan and Christine. They are roaming Australia without a schedule in a tough camper trailer they can put up or pull down in five minutes. We agreed Dog Chain Creek was a corker site and said we had been surprised we were the only ones there the night before.
“I just pulled a German out from under a car,” said Brendan. “He was changing a tyre and the jack slipped. He was stuck under the tow ball. He’s OK, just in a bit of shock.”
Brendan and Christine picked their campsite because they thought the Germans would pull in there too. They did. Two 4WDs and a tent. They set up to the rear of Isabel. Then two carloads of Swiss arrived. Two couples and a baby.
Suddenly Dog Chain Creek became a thriving metropolis as another two vehicles pitched camp closer to the road. Brendan and Christine were as startled as we were. “Did you have a camouflage sheet over your truck yesterday?” Brendan asked as the flock settled in for the night.
Full of fun and energy, Brendan provided entertainment by scampering six metres up a tree to kick down some dead branches for firewood. An hour later he was flicking a lure into Dog Chain Creek and clambering up branches, swinging from tree to tree to free a snag.
He and Christine left Sydney more than three years ago, spending two years in Darwin saving money as Brendan did FIFO to the Solomon mine in WA and they set themselves up for life on the road, pulling off on side roads to camp at night. They might spend another year in Darwin saving again.
“I like climbing things,” said Brendan fairly unnecessarily. “I started climbing stuff when I was five months old. I gave my parents a few frights.”
As he led the slightly bewildered Germans through the creek pool in the dark, searching for cherubin by torchlight, we decided he probably had been labelled as having ADD at some time in his life.
Beside them Roy and Nicole Flynn, from Zurich, set up the left-hand-drive Troopcarrier they had driven out of Switzerland more than three years ago. Roy always had a dream to travel the world and saved every little Swiss franc he could for 10 years, fitting out the Troopy for his odyssey.
Nicole entered his life, shared his dream and set off with him towards Eastern Europe. In Mumbai she discovered she was pregnant. Baby Kevin, now 10 months, was born on Kho Samui island in Thailand.
“A gift from heaven,” said Nicole.
Roy said their Troopy home is a little more crowded since Kevin arrived. “It’s a bit small for three people but it’s very reliable. It’s done 80,000 in the last two years.
“We are not that quick anymore and we need more breaks,” he said. “That is a good thing. Sometimes you can go too fast. And since we have had the baby we get to meet more people.”
No wonder. Little Kevin is cute as a button.
Roy said the biggest revelation of their travels through Asia has been the friendliness of people.
“I have learnt that you have to get out and see the world with your own eyes,” he said. “What you hear from the news every day ….. it’s totally different. You hear Moslems are bad and will kill you but it’s not like that at all. People are so friendly. We never had any troubles. People are always helping us. You have to learn that people are still nice everywhere.”
The Flynns have a blog site, www.globexplorer.ch , and Nicole makes and sells unique jewellery made from delicate, intricately braided horse hair. It’s aimed at the higher end of the market, at $150 to $1200 a piece, and threaded with stones and ornaments picked up on their travels. www.ninas-pferdehaarschmuck.ch is her site.
They plan to wend their way through north Australia and wander back to Switzerland through Tibet and Kurdistan after shipping the Troopy to India from Brisbane.
On the back window is a map showing where they have travelled. In Geraldton the map attracted the attention of another Zurich couple, Chris and Julia Wehlinger, who are travelling in Australia and the Pacific for six months. www.fernweg.ch
The two couples hooked up to travel through the Kimberley and maybe Cape York together.
As evening closed in we mentioned to Brendan and Christine that they might want to make sure their loose bits were well tied down because the wind had been extraordinary during the night. We weren’t sure if it would happen again. It did.
By the morning the Germans’ tent was flat, annexes were flapping and chattels were tumbling south. As the sun warmed the land, the wind swung. After a respite of 56 seconds everything leaned north.
Julia was incredulous. “This is a storm!” she cried. “But look, the sky is blue. In Switzerland when the wind is like this we have a storm, clouds, rain ….”
Maybe it was something to do with the exchange of hot and cold air between land and sea as temperatures rose and fell. Maybe the gorge had something to do with it. Maybe it’s just the bloody West Australian winds that are a sorry state tribulation.