On our recommendation they wandered up to the waterfall where more than an acre of shiny, flat alabaster-like rocks glow in swirling patterns of reds and orange.
Awesome scenery – but not as startling as the scene that greeted them on their return. Eleven teepees had mushroomed between their site and ours, virtually surrounding them with merry campers who had spilled out of a Kimberley tour bus.
We laughed sympathetically with them as the air crackled with loud voices, banging and the busy sounds of 25 people pitching camp, setting up tables, going swimming and preparing a meal. Oddly, you feel like you are the intruder in these circumstances.
A few days later we laughed sympathetically alone as the Patriot boys from the Gold Coast burst into peaceful Honeymoon Bay at Kalumburu.
We had camped near a big boab, spending the first night quietly around the campfire with a couple of other pairs of middle-aged wanderers. Our second night was spent, surprisingly and appreciatively, alone. We set off early the next afternoon to collect oysters in the next bay.
As we strolled back we were a little alarmed to see the smooth beach on the first loop of Honeymoon Bay had been carved out by dozens of deep tyres tracks and signs of bogging. A fair bit of action had happened in our absence. Campers near the small point were shaking their heads, annoyed that their peace and beach had been scarred, and warned us we had been invaded.
Around the point was cyclonic activity. A couple of nearby campers had cracked tinnies and opened mouths to watch. Six vehicles had been set up in a tight circle beside the boab tree. Rooftop beds and a couple of hootchies had been popped and three Patriot camper trailers had done the Transformer thing, opening out into kitchens and storage drawers.
One boat was zooming across the bay. A second boat was near the water’s edge, where the 4WD that towed it was roaring, trying to become unbogged. Another 4WD charged in with a snatch rope and with a lot more roaring the first vehicle was hauled out.
A chainsaw was bellowing and within minutes six blokes with fishing rods were barrelling the two boats towards the open sea, leaving a group of women, four children and two older chaps to tend the camp. We could barely see Isabel but were relieved to find the newcomers had packed themselves in tightly and thoughtfully left us a lot more space than Mr and Mrs Port Hedland had been afforded by the bus tourists.
Our new neighbours talked, camped, drove and hunted fish at full throttle. They returned in a couple of hours with their first haul of cod and barracuda. We learned from the other folk in the camp that they were on a bit of a trial run, shooting some promotional shots for Patriot camper trailers, owned by Justin and Sarah Montevello.
Justin and the guys had set off from the east coast on a month-long charge across the Simpson desert to Alice, up the Tanami Track and around to the Gibb River Road, shooting up to Mitchell Falls before hitting Honeymoon.
The WAGs and children had flown to Alice for the middle 10 days and were due to fly back east from Kununurra. Accompanying them for that leg were editor Emma Ryan and a photographer from a camper trailer magazine: no doubt their presence hiked the adrenalin up a notch for the lads who had gone to school together and were ….. yep, they were in macho mode.
They had lost a a camper trailer, rolling it four times in the Bungle Bungles, and had a cow crash into one 4WD smashing a back window (not sure how that happened). They weren’t sure what route they would take for the 10-day trip home after dropping the WAGs and children at Kununurra.
One of the dads said they were doing a lot better than on the Cape York trip earlier in the year when they left with three vehicles and came back with one.
We enjoyed the extrovert entertainment and found the folks friendly and pleasant when outside the synergy force. We were also impressed by the polished manners of Justin and Sarah’s 10-year-old identical twins, Christian and Ashton, and their 7-year-old sister Mia. Christian wears black shorts and Ashton red so they can be readily identified but Mia says she has no problems.
“I can tell them apart even when I look back on the old photos,” she said with a touch of aplomb.
They were loving their 4WD adventure and keeping journals of their travels to make up for lost school time. I reckon that will be worth reading when they show it to their teachers.
Footnote: The Patriots are a pretty sweet little units. They won 2014 Camper Trailer of the Year. www.patriotcampers.com.au