Karratha was the first reasonably sized town we had seen since leaving Perth. It boasted a small shopping centre, a few pubs, a fish and chip shop and even a cinema. Once we had booked the van in to be repaired we had to find somewhere to stay. This proved reasonably simple and soon we had procured a room at the Karratha Backpackers.
The town itself has nothing of any particular interest to the tourist. Its economy is predominantly underpinned by the local mining industries although as with most places in Australia there are a number of interesting aboriginal sights in the area. To fully appreciate the aboriginal sites it is usually necessary to know the dreaming stories behind them though and this is a subject which I will revisit in more detail later on.
The backpackers was an odd place to stay. We had been looking forward to getting a chance to meet other people like ourselves but somewhat unfortunately this was not to be the case. Almost everybody staying there was there on a semi-permanent basis. They worked as labourers for the railway company and for six months of every year they lived at the backpackers. Consequently it felt like we were intruding on somebody else’s privacy. This understandably made us feel more than a little bit out of place but we decided to persevere and make the effort to get to know everybody.
The first night we spent there we found conversation difficult to join in with so on the second evening we went to the local bottle shop and bought some alcohol. Faye rather sensibly bought herself a six pack of alcopops whilst I, rather less sensibly bought a 750 ml bottle of whiskey.
Within two hours the whiskey was gone and conversation was flowing nicely. Had I chosen to stop drinking at that point I may have got away with just a serious hangover and a wasted morning. I didn’t. Instead I decided to start on Faye’s alcopops, snorted two shots of vodka, drank a bourbon and coke and joined in with a drinking game called The Head.
The Head was a glass bust, hollow inside, which was filled with a lethally strong vodka and rum cocktail. Because of its shape The Head could not be put down until it was empty, something which I felt it was my duty to ensure in as quick a time as possible. The rest of the evening is a blank and so I will tell the rest of the story based on what I was told the next day.
I apparently soon got rather uncharacteristically amorous, offering to tie one of the girls up in my room if she wanted. Surprisingly she wasn’t interested. I then stole one of the railway workers health and safety risk assessment notebooks, filling the pages with risk assessments of my own. These ranged from identifying the dangers of going to the pub with your friends to a detailed assessment of the inherent risks of buggery.
Once I felt that I had made enough of a fool of myself for one night I took myself to bed. Our bedroom door faced into the courtyard where we had been drinking all evening and I am told that I staggered into the bedroom and took a flying leap into bed. Unfortunately my coordination was not at its best and instead of landing comfortably in bed I fell with an almighty thump onto the floor next to it. Unfazed I dragged myself into bed and tried to sleep. Needless to say I was a little under the weather in the night. This can be vouched for by almost every surface in the room.
In the morning Faye had woken me by ten o’clock, disgusted with my performance the night before. She made me take a shower and then dragged me to the shopping centre to buy a wide selection of cleaning products.
By this time in the Pilbara the temperature has settled at an average of about forty degrees Celsius. These conditions are not conducive to a subdued hangover experience. On the way to the shop I stopped for a rest, only to fall asleep on the pavement. Faye dragged me to my feet and marched me into the shopping centre where I found myself a bench and went to sleep again. She returned with what appeared to be a selection incorporating every conceivable cleaning product and a packet of alka-seltzer.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning the room as best we could. I tried to avoid showing my face any more often than I had to for the remainder of our stay although Faye became good friends with a few of the other guests there and even joined them for a couple more drinking sessions. Something which I was disinclined to join her in.
Thankfully the van was fixed within a couple of days and we were soon back on the road. This time heading for Port Hedland. We were not in Port Hedland for long as there is very little there aside from an enormous salt mine and a small lagoon called pretty pool, the town’s main tourist attraction. Pretty pool at least cannot ever disappoint, as it is precisely what the name suggests, a pretty pool. No more, no less. On the campsite, parked up next to our van were two compatriots who were in Australia for the next couple of months partly as tourists but mainly to try and get tickets for a couple of games in the upcoming rugby world cup. A few beers with these guys were most probably the highlight of our stay in Port Hedland. Aside from that the only other thing of any note that I did was have go for a guitar lesson with friend of somebody I met on the campsite which was odd because it soon became apparent that I was a better guitarist than the teacher. It is true to say that I am a fairly accomplished player but I am entirely self-taught and cannot read music so I was more than a little surprised when I ended up giving her a few tips of my own instead.