We are bombing along the Great Northern Highway to the sounds of Nirvana, having crossed the Pilbara from Newman north through Marble Bar on the dirt. So far Bruce Almighty is proving robust yet economical on the fuel, which is good when it’s 300km between pumps.
This was Bruce’s first taste of the dirt. We had a good run on the gravel out of Newman past the new mining camps but conditions rapidly deteriorated as 250 teams kicked up dust in the still afternoon air. Within an hour, it was hanging over the landscape in the bottom of the valleys like an eerie yellow fog, the lowering sun combining to make conditions very difficult and progress painful. To the east, fires burned all along the ranges lifting dark clouds into the sky as we pulled back onto the strip of bitumen running into Marble Bar in the dusk.
We spent the night in the Ironclad Hotel, shitboxers mixing with the locals before heading back to the campsite for more festivities. Later, I climbed the hill behind camp in the dark to get a better view of the clear night sky. Looking across the town, a hill on the outskirts had a different kind of glow and as the minutes passed, the light intensified until the whole hillside was on fire. It’s an unsettling sight when there’s nothing between you and a wall of fire except fields of dry grass. The wind was behind us though, so after a while watching the blaze we turned in for the night. The outback is like that….