On the way to the Bungle Bungles we stop in Halls Creek for provisions. Our second battery, the one that powers the fridge and lights on the camper has not been charging and we ask around for a repair shop. Halls Creek has everything a passing traveller needs and we soon find Reados Repairs.
Reado gets stuck in straightaway. Multimeter at the ready he checks the electrics, announces the second battery is not charging, but the main battery is good. He can’t replace the Redarc charging unit that he thinks has failed, but jury rigs a bypass that will get us on our way. Bush repair job done we wander into the Main Street.
The township has a bakery, a huge IGA, a butcher’s shop and a groovy new cafe next to the information office. We guzzle down flat whites and mango smoothies. They are rare delicacies after our days in the Tanami Desert.
At Halls Creek two worlds collide. It’s a busy town. Grey nomads are everywhere. In their uniform of shorts, tshirts and caps, they fill up on diesel, water and free sugar, lifted from the local cafe. There’s a large local population of indigenous folk too. Groups of aborigines sit under shady trees as they have for thousands of years. They watch the campers and caravans drive by with as little interest as they must once have watched birds fly from tree to tree. I wonder what they think of the incessant busyness of the white man.
School is out and indigenous children play on bikes or with footballs. One grey nomad in tight blue shorts tries to cross the cultural divide. “Lovely place this”, he calls to a tall bony local boy with a shock of black hair, baggy jeans and a loose football shirt. The boy grins, shakes his head and looks around puzzled, as if to work out what the white fella could be referring to. “Do you like living here?”, asks Mr Tight Shorts. Another sheepish grin and the boy shrugs and slopes off, bare feet dragging in the dust.
In years gone by it was not so relaxed. Alcohol took its toll and the community struggled with addiction, poor health and education. New controls on alcohol sales seem to have helped. Now police wear native designs on their shirts and their relationship with the black population appears good. For now the two worlds coexist.
Europeans first arrived here in the nineteenth century when Halls Creek was the centre of a gold rush. There’s still gold in these parts if you know where to look. At the caravan park we meet a couple of treasure seekers – modern day prospectors, looking for gold. Ronnie is a wiry leathery skinned Croat with dyed jet black hair. He speaks of gold with a passion and in an almost indecipherable accent. He describes diving into rivers to chase an old seam and hunt underwater for the hidden gleam of yellow metal. At Halls Creek he’s using a gold detector and a shovel. He literally dreams of gold and has had some success. He found 1 kilo last year. Enough to pay for the occasional trip back to the old country. His wife smiles indulgently. It takes all sorts.