You know that feeling when you've always thought, 'I'd love to do that, but it's just too scary/expensive/difficult/oh, you know,' and then you actually get to do it? I'm feeling like that right now. I felt the same after I'd done my first bungee jump in a pub car park in Essex. I felt pretty much the same after eventually getting round to having sex after all those years. I suppose I felt it when I landed in Sydney, having made the big decision to go travelling. And now I've done my first real week-long walk, and the feeling of accomplishment is immense.
When I was a kid – ignoring the debate on whether I still am one – I used to love the Moomin books. One of my favourite characters was Snufkin, Moomintroll's best friend, who was a strange sort of creature who played the mouth organ and who knew everything there was to know about the Great Outdoors. For when the Moomins hibernated during the cold Finnish winter, Snufkin would head off and travel for six months, wandering through the forests and fjords of northern Europe. The stories of little Snufkin camping overnight in the forest and meeting all sorts of wondrous creatures really caught my imagination, and strangely enough, this walk fulfilled that old, forgotten dream. It's funny how you remember little things from your early years when they strike a chord in later life.
Anyway, from Karratha I rang Scott, the ranger whom I'd met in Nambung and with whom I was walking, did some last minute shopping, and booked into a campsite to do some washing and freshen up after the roughing-it of Cleaverville Beach. To be honest, I don't know why I bother, considering the clothes come out just as stained as when they go in, everything I own has a dusty red hue, and as soon as I've showered my hair blows all over the place and I look as dishevelled as before... but it feels good to try, and it's almost worth paying the caravan park fee for luxuries like toilets, running water, grassy sites and all those other things you take for granted when you're not out in the bush.
I even explored the area a bit, between hanging out my clothes and trying – in vain – to clean the piles of dirt from inside the wheel arches of my car. I drove west of Karratha to the Burrup Peninsula, a north-jutting finger of land that contains Dampier, the main port for shipping the iron ore mined at Tom Price, and some pretty little coast. One particularly intriguing spot was Hearson's Cove, where the beach sloped so incredibly gently that it took me ten minutes to walk from the water's edge to where it was deep enough to have waves; by that stage it had got about ankle high. Because of the overcast sky and the angle of the sun it looked like I was walking on water, and apart from the strange-looking spikes extruding from the sand – some kind of odd sea dweller, I presumed, so I kept my thongs on just in case – it was a lovely place to swim. Or it would have been if I'd bothered to wade out to deeper water, but it probably would have taken me ages to get to knee height, so I contented myself with ankle-deep wave-hopping.
I drove back via Dampier, a forgettable place with a huge jetty out to a massive container ship where the ore is loaded. By all accounts the tour of Hammersley Iron's depot is interesting, but I didn't have time to go on the tour, so I headed back to camp, cooked, and turned in for my last night in comfort for about a week...
So here's a day-to-day account of my first genuine bushwalk, without a doubt the highlight of my journey so far, complete with snippets of the songs that were floating round my head as we explored the Pilbara.