After a weekend of planning and packing provisions into the white Delica van the morning arrived, grey and rainy, for the start of a ten day trip into the Western Australian outback. Lee drove our 4x4 van with me sitting beside him and his mum and daughter Chia nestled in the rear seats among luggage and spare water and bags of snacks and bananas and a guitar.
Joining in convoy was his sister Sarah and brother-in-law Paul and their kids in a powerful Dodge Ram pickup towing a trailer with a bush buggy and stacks of dry wood. In another 4x4 vehicle was his co-worker Elma and her two daughters. Paul had brought walkie talkies for us to communicate as we drove in areas without mobile signal.
I tested our radio: "Come in blue viper, come in black ram."
"We read you, white elephant."
We were on the road before nine, quite an achievement I thought, but we had far to go. With so many people there were frequent stops needed, including pee breaks beside the road with half a dozen of our crew squatting behind bushes in the wind and rain, so it wasn't until noon that we reached Hyden and so didn't have time to visit the famous Wave Rock.
At Lake King, where we would leave the blacktop for dirt roads, Lee got an update on road conditions from a workman in the petrol station. The cashier told me a surprising fact: her daughter lives in Bend, Oregon, and she would be going there to visit next month. Such a small world.
We began hours of driving on red earth roads among the short trees and scrub of the Great Western Woodlands, a forest the size of England. Much of the road was well graded, until we left the Frank Hann National Park. Then we hit the teeth chattering washboard and had to slow right down. Just before sunset we spied our destination, Peak Charles, a grey nipple of granite poking above the horizon.
Dodging ruts and potholes we made our way slowly to the campground there and happily the rain had mostly stopped as we positioned vehicles and set up tents in the dark. The kids ran around like a happy pack of cherubs. Everyone was happy to find proper toilets and picnic tables here. It took no time to fall asleep.