Nanutarra Roadhouse

11 Mar

He chuckles at something on TV as he picks his teeth with a steak knife. He’s the only other customer in the cafe and I study him as I wait for our chips. Sleeveless orange shirt with reflective stripes, shoulder length brown mullet, in need of a wash, portly stomach which speaks of many hours spent behind the wheel. He’s the archetypal truckie.

We’re in a roadhouse, a uniquely Australian institution. About 300 kms from the nearest town in either direction, this small, dusty, hamlet provides a vital place for road train drivers to have steak and chips, mine workers to refuel and families travelling around the world to stop for the night.

In a place where towns are 600 kilometres apart, and with three children whose car tolerance is about four hours, it was inevitable that at some point we’d stay at a roadhouse. So here we are. I expect you’re picturing something like the Watford Gap, we are on Australia’s equivalent of the M1 after all. Well, not exactly. The first clue is that the forecourt isn’t paved. The next is that there isn’t much traffic. A truck passes every ten minutes or so. Then there’s the shop, it’s a single shelf in the cafe with bug spray, razors and Glee DVDs. Bustling.

We’ve pitched our tent on the small grassy area to the side of the cafe. We’ve swum in the muddy brown river, getting covered in cooling silt. We’ve watched the road trains come and go: huge trucks pulling three or four trailers, carrying building materials, cars, fridges, diggers, houses, everything that is needed for life in this far flung corner of Western Australia. We’ve built a fire and cooked pancakes. We’ve chatted to the people passing through: a man riding a camel the length of the west coast, a Swedish couple whose campervan blew a gasket in the middle of the Nullaboar and they couldn’t afford the cost of towing it 1,000 kms to get it fixed, a Filipino decorator who was driving the very long way home after finishing a job three towns further south.

It’s a funny sort of place to spend the night. It makes the Reading Travelodge look glamorous, but the locals are friendly and the sunset is stunning. Our chips are ready so I leave the truckie to his steak and gravy and go and feed the children before it gets dark. Later we’ll be lulled to sleep by the rumble of passing road trains and the cacophony of a thousand crickets. It turns out that adventures come in all shapes and sizes.


7 Responses to “Nanutarra Roadhouse”

  1. JDaniel4's Mom 11/03/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    What a unique place to camp! How was trying to sleep with the trucks going by?

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 11/03/2011 at 12:11 pm #

      It was actually fine. It’s a very quiet road. The highlight was the one Greyhound bus of the day.

  2. Chris Mosler 11/03/2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Lovely piece. I sat with my chin on my hand as I read it and I was (almost) there with you. Lovely variety you’re getting!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 11/03/2011 at 12:12 pm #

      We’re trying to get variety, it was actually one of the most fun places we’ve stayed, even though we were rather dreading it. Next up, on a beach in the national park with no facilities…

  3. Mummy Mania 11/03/2011 at 8:20 pm #

    what a great place! and as always – beautifully and thoughtfully written

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 12/03/2011 at 8:00 am #

      Thank you, you always leave lovely comments!

  4. mummylimited 21/03/2011 at 9:39 pm #

    What occurred to me as I read this post is that even though you are coming across lots of unusual people in places like this, you must seem unusual to them. I imagine the lorry drivers telling their family that they came across this mad family travelling the world for nine months with 3 kids, all the way from the little ol’ UK. I like that you will be an unusual story from their day too.

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