Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Surviving Wolf Creek, Part II

You already know we got to Wolfe Creek - firstly, I told you yesterday that I survived; and secondly, if we hadn't I wouldn't be writing this post, would I? Chuh. Logical thinking, really.

But the devil is in the detail, as they always say! So picture the scene, as it unfolds:

It's 530am, and I wake to a cacophony of snoring and the sound of rain pounding on the roof. It's not clear which is noisier.

I'm eminently pleased that no snake has crawled into my sleeping bag and snuggled up next to my warm body during the night, which was my primary fear; but I'm apprehensive about the rain. More rain is not good.

Out of bed and rolling up my swag, I feel my shoulders sag with disappointment. I love the Wolfe Creek crater, I've come all this way from over the other side of the country, I'm lucky enough to be working nearby which means I can do a weekend trip, I've got fantastic company on the journey with me, we've driven much further than we actually needed to in reality, and despite it all, I've got a sinking feeling that the roads are going to be rubbish and we won't get through to the crater.

It's a mere 22 kilometres away, but right at this moment it might as well be the moon.

The lead naturalist, Eddie, gives us the Weather Forecast Of Doom, which is that another 25-50mm of rain is expected today. He happily informs us that this will definitely mean the road to the crater can't be driven, certainly not, can't even be attempted; and that we might even be cut off from getting back to civilisation  -well, to Halls Creek at least- that day. Yes, a very high chance of being stranded for another night at least. The road might be closed! The creeks might flood!

(Silently, I wonder if I murder him with my Swiss army knife, could I defend myself in a court of law by arguing that he deserved it due to an overwhelming superiority and a perverse display of schadenfreude at our predicament?)

The thought of being stuck for a full day and another night with these naturalist folk (and ye gods, probably  being made to sing again - heaven help us) well, let's just say it galvanises us into action. We breakfast on scrambled eggs prepared by Snatch, ditch the washing up in favour of getting started on the trip, and pack up the cars poste-haste.

Turning down the road that leads to the crater, we're all a bit quiet in the cars. Dave and I agonise over how terrible it would be if we were to stumble at this last hurdle, when the scent of the crater is practically in our nostrils.

Neither of us can really explain the drawcard of the crater itself, though I try to describe how the thought of something that powerful and random makes me more fully aware of my insignificance in the universe, and how it's all completely by chance that we are here on this planet, living our little lives, going about our business, when it all could have been quite different. It makes me alive to the reality of how infinitessimally small our world is, and makes me profoundly grateful for simply just being here, as well as far more aware of the futility of it all. Does that make sense?

Anyway, as our philosophical discussion progresses and I grapple with trying to describe the enormity of it all, it suddenly becomes clear to us that the road we are driving on is not impassable. That it's actually quite good. Very good, in fact, when compared to the Tanami Goat Track we just got off. Much better, in fact! Drier! Considerably less muddy! All of a sudden, we feel a surge of hope that we might get there after all.

22 kilometres, some old tin sheds, an animated Dutch couple and several gates later, we're there. We're there at last! Here is a picture of some lunatic - hang on, that's Dave! What on earth is he holding in his hand??

The Aboriginals of the area tell a Dreaming story about two snakes that came out of the ground at Wolfe Creek. They say one of the snakes came from the sea, and that is why the interior circle of the crater is so salty. I knew I had good reason to worry about snakes in my sleeping bag.

Now, to bust some myths from the movie. It is NOT a three-hour walk to get into the crater. It's 400metres and about 10 minutes. And thank goodness for that, just quietly. I did not fancy a three-hour walk in the rain.

As we come up to the lip of the crater, struggling against the icy wind and the water running down the inside of our collars - the landscape falls away beneath our eyes.

Magnificent. Awe-inspiring. Astounding. We all let out coos and gasps of admiration. Snatch may even have whistled in appreciation.

Here is the Mother Hen on the very edge of it, looking down - she was the only one of us clever enough to bring some wet weather protection. (Because when does it rain at Wolfe Creek? Never! Oh, except for this weekend - of course.)

The Mother Hen wisely stays on the top of the crater, but the other three of us make our way down the rocky slopes into the great bowl of the impact site inside. It's 20 metres down to the base of the crater, but originally, the crater was six times as deep, 120 metres down.

You can clearly see how the impact pushed up the surrounding rock, and the enormous crater looks like a gigantic drop of water splashing up from the ground, frozen in time. Three hundred thousand years ago, a meteorite weighing 50,000 tonnes slammed into the ground here, and its impact literally sent ripples through the earth.

The echo inside is at least a second long.

I felt tiny inside it. Tiny, and wet.

That was the apex of the trip for me. That was my goal, my dream, my quest. Achieved now, it sits safely inside my chest and from time to time I will gently stroke it in satisfaction.


Jennie said...

Hurrah! So glad you made it. And you never know, you may hear in a few days that Eddie's body was found suffocated by the pages of a birdwatchers' handbook.

Isabella Golightly said...

I felt the same way after climbing the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Weird, isn't it? And it was raining. Oooh, spooky!

Also, if you did decide to commit an entirely justifiable crime on the person of the doomsayer from hell, I'm sure no court in the land would find you guilty. Some things are just unthinkable.

Dave said...

Hilarious. Imagine we'd still be there tonight with the Naturalists if we hadn't left on Sunday...the roads been closed since. There was a fine line between what was an awesome weekend to one that could have been an utter sing-song disaster. Thankfully, it was as the locals would say, a "deadly" weekend. Quite an apt description in more ways than one!

Anonymous said...

Mother Hen sounds like a lovely person!