2010 The Hitchhiker - Preparations

I had been living in an Aboriginal Community in the deserts of Western Australia for six weeks. Aboriginal Communities are normally closed to white people – we are there by invitation only. As a volunteer, I worked in the Telecentre, now known as the Community Resource Centre. My job was to build a website for Billiluna and to collect the stories and history of the community and the station. 

In 1978, the Kururrunku People established their community at Billiluna Station, a community that has grown to a fluctuating 250 people. Billiluna is positioned on the north end of the Canning Stock Route on the edge of the desert and has a long history with this historical trail.

Exerts written at that time on the ExplorOz Canning Stock Route Treks page: (since updated)

‘The Canning Stock Route (CSR) is one of the most remote and isolated 4WD tracks in the world and holds it appeal as the "last frontier".’

‘Travel the full length of Australia's longest stock route and to see 51 Wells tapping the great artesion basin constructed by Alfred Canning & Co; see waterholes, gorges, spring and soaks, and enjoyable camping in the remote desert environment.’

‘Do not attempt the Canning Stock Route unless you have extensive outback travel experience and have a very reliable and capable vehicle that has been specifically prepared for a remote, long distance, desert travel.’

So minus the 4x4 and with limited outback travel experience, I set about hitchhiking 1850 odd kilometers across The Great Sandy, Little Sandy and Gibson Deserts.

Sounds daunting and like many Canning travelers I spoke to traveling through Billiluna, you might think me a naïve tourist going to get herself into a whole lot of trouble. But six foot blondes can be surprising. We might even be able to take care of ourselves. A seasoned traveler, I was prepared…. Well, sort of.

HitchHiking Preparations Check List

  1. Location is key. With that in mind I positioned myself at the northern entry/exit of the Canning Stock Route in order to research the feasibility of hitchhiking the Canning Stock Route and give myself the best possible chance of getting a lift
  2. Help contacts were entered into my SPOT (Satellite Personal Tracker) unit, friends prepared to come and get me should I require extraction without the need to push the SOS/911 button for a major and embarrassing rescue effort
  3. Restricting my food to whole foods – particularly nuts, dried fruit and seeds, for maximum nutritional benefit within my limited budget
  4. Carrying 8 litres of water
  5. Minimising my clothing and camping gear
  6. Restricting my total carrying weight to 25 kgs
  7. Learning Bush Tucker lore from the Aboriginal children of Billiluna
  8. Loading the coordinates of the Wells into my Garmin 76csx GPS
  9. Doing a reconnaissance of Well 51 via Mulan Community and Lake Gregory to get an idea of what I was getting into

With everything in place, all that was left was to secure that lift out of Billiluna and into the desert.

In the six weeks that I was at Billiluna I chatted to as many travelers as I could. In May there was barely a convoy a week, if that. In June things were looking up and two or three convoys a week were stopping in Billiluna for fuel. This is why I chose June as the time of the month to begin my journey. I felt that it would be one of the busiest times of the year on the Canning (July being the busiest because of school holidays), affording me the best opportunity of securing lifts. Hitching is a numbers game. The more traffic there is, the better your chances. Luck is also involved, but I think there are at least two more ingredients to hitchhiking.

  1. Putting your self in the best position to get the right lift. What better place is there than at the last fuel stop for +-850 kilometers?!
  1. Connectedness. I believe that all energy is connected. People, animals, plants, the land, water and air. Everything is vibrating with energy. So now I have lost half my readers, because I am clearly showing signs of being a little crazy and not a little blonde. But hear me out. The power of intent is explosive. Put it out there that you want to do something and make definite steps in that direction to achieve it and see what happens. Have faith that if that is the path for you, all things will begin to flow in that direction, taking you along with it. There is a highway of energy out there, just for you. Don’t be afraid to get on it!

So there I am sussing out the situation. The managers of Billiluna are shaking their heads and expressing concern that I am not going to get a lift. All the cars are full to the ceiling with ‘stuff’ and there is not a free passenger seat in sight for six weeks. The travelers confirm the managers’ misgivings:

‘Look at our cars. We are all full. Everyone doing the Canning will be the same. It is not possible to hitchhike the Canning Stock Route. You had better give up that idea’

‘There is nothing out there,’ a haunted looking middle aged women comments.

‘The land is burnt to the ground. It is a desert.’

‘You won’t be able to carry enough water to drink,’ says another.

‘But there are several wells that have water,’ I reasoned.

‘Oh, but you can’t drink that,’ says a man. ‘We carried all our own water. Most wells are dry and if they do have water it is polluted or contaminated. There are only one or two wells that have water and that is only good enough for washing.’

‘I have pool chlorine with me. I can treat it.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t trust it,’ he shudders.

This negative talk about the quality of well water is persistent over the six weeks of my research and I feel my resolve waiver. Can it really be that bad? I am only capable of carrying eight litres of water and it could take me a month to complete the almost 1850 km hitch. Eight litres is not going to stretch past a day or three, depending on the heat and my exertion. It was my intention to get lifts from working well to working well. That way I would never be short of water and should it take as long as a week for my next lift, I would not be in distress.

What a relief then when in my final days, two sexy rugged motor bike riders with impressively sculptured protective clothing arrived on the scene. They had traveled the Canning with no support vehicles, were confident and clearly not daunted by what I was attempting to do. When I expressed concern about the water they assured me that there was more than enough wells with good quality water and gave me a sheet of paper noting which wells they were. They said they never treated any of the water and did not experience any stomach ailments. Relief! These were the first two people I had spoken to in five weeks who were positive. Buoyed with this news, I prepped my bags and readied myself to leave at a moments notice.

Then I put my back out. The pain was so bad that when I literally crawled to the toilet I was crying out in pain and frustration. On the third day, Trudy, one of the managers could not take it anymore and called in the nurse who gave me an injection of morphine. Nice stuff morphine. All the pain drifted away…. By the next day my spine was returning to its rightful alignment and not a moment to soon. My lift was about to arrive.

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