Another Unique Aussie Experience
Far Out! ...is the only way to describe my recent adventures! After trying to get a lift from Alice Springs to Darwin for a week I decide to give up and take the Greyhound bus option (cheapest). Just as I am boarding news comes in of a cyanide spill on the Stuart Highway just after Tennant Creek (1/3 of the way to Darwin). The road is closed and I am advised to go back to my hostel. After chatting to the driver I decide to get on the bus anyway as I really need to be going forwards and who knows what might happen when we get to Tennant Creek. We arrive at 2am and there is no change so my options are....1) Go back to Alice Springs and stay at the bus driver's house!! 2) Get a hostel in Tennant Creek and wait - apparently it is not that safe though and tomorrow is Thirsty Thursday....3) The bus driver asks a truckie at the bus stop/petrol station if he can take me on from here.... So all of a sudden I am standing in the middle of the road making a split second decision and I decide to go forwards 25km to the road closure with Arthur the truckie! We arrive at Threeways Roadhouse at about 3am and I try to sleep a bit but fail. Adrenaline, anxiety and sleeping sitting up in a random truckies cab don't equal happy snoozing! Up at 7am to check on the news and there are various stories but it is sure to be a while. I get brekky and meet some of the other stranded folk. Lots of truckies and people trying to get home as well as a couple of tourists. The spill is 100km north of here and it is sodium cyanide which is ok until it gets wet when it produces cyanide gas and instant death! We hear it has fallen into a creek and there is rain coming so it is not looking good. I try to sleep in the shade of a tree - it is 40 degrees c here but I get munched by ants. I then discover there is a pool (thank the lord for the pool!) but it is only so long before I get bored and wrinkly and get out. By mid-afternoon it is clear no one is going anywhere tonight and most people have started drinking at the bar. I decide to join in (it may help me sleep) for a while and everyone is a good laugh and there is a great community spirit. Nearly everyone commented on how sorry they felt for me sleeping under the tree (I must have looked like a hobo) and I had various offers of spare beds/truck bunks for the night. I declined them all in the end! After a few winning rounds of poker I try to sleep again back in my upright position. No joy and now my ankles are swollen too - I wish I was a camel as they have special pumps in their legs to pump the blood back up - I recently discovered! Up early again to hear no more news. Everyone is pretty bored, very hot and totally fed up now. I am starting to lose the plot with tiredness, hunger, the heat and the surrealness of the situation. By 3pm I am sitting in the toilet bawling my eyes out at the situation and the world in general (more on this later...) At 3.30pm the police come and say we can probably go through tonight. At 5.30pm they come back and say we can go now...Yay! The convoy sets off, 27 trucks with 61 trailers of freight and god knows how many cars. As the cyanide contamination readings are still high we have to go slow and wait 3 minute intervals between trucks and 1 minute intervals between cars. We spend another 5 hours waiting on the road with humourous chit chat from the truckies on the radio as entertainment and to cap it all off, a bush fire to the west and a lightening storm to the east! Finally we get under way at 10.30pm and spend a few delirious hours driving into a crazy lightening storm listening to German and Nordic heavy metal/opera music! Finally my body gives in and I manage to snooze on and off the last 900km to Darwin, via dropping some meat off in Katherine in the middle of the night during more rain storms! I arrive in a zombie like state and somehow find a bus to the city and collapse at the lovely, quiet Banyan View Lodge hostel.