On the road again, we cooled off in Katherine Hot Springs, camped overnight in the bush and the next morning pushed on on the Victoria Highway, west, bound for the Western Australia border.
We passed Timber Creek, where we’d hoped to catch Sarah, only some guy’d jumped behind the bar and threatened her with a bottle (just the tip of the iceberg) so she’d escaped to Broome. More on that later…
In Judbarra (Gregory National Park) we swung off on a three-kilometre stretch of unsealed road, followed by a brief stroll into the bush ’til we came upon Gregory’s Tree – a big old boab sacred to the Ngaringman people and that still clearly displays the inscription carved into it on 2nd July 1856 by Augustus Charles Gregory. (We now know that carving into boabs isn’t such a good idea. The poor thing’s lucky to be alive.) We ate the last of our apples, and honey in sandwiches.
At the border the quarantine guy asked if we had any fruit, honey, etc.
Then he searched the van anyway.
The landscape had by now assumed the rugged beauty of the Kimberley – Australia’s remote north-western corner and “last frontier”, which, in much the same vein as Kakadu and Arnhem Land, is home to escarpments, rivers, waterfalls, gorges, Aborigines, rock art, outstations and pristine coastline, as well as Purnululu (the Bungle Bungles).
After many kilometres we rolled into Kununurra and headed for the Info Centre in search of seasonal work that we knew we wouldn’t be able to stop and take.
Instead I found out there was a distillery in town – the “Hoochery Distillery” – Western Australia’s “oldest legal still” – so we picked up Weaber Plain Road (you can also catch this directly from the Victoria Highway) and headed north for about ten minutes or so.
The wind shook the palms.
The doors were barred.
We rang a big old bell overhead and after a minute or two a woman (“Desley”) came and let us in.
“There’s a storm coming,” she said.
Desley was nice and friendly – like maybe she’d been on the rum a little herself. She told us about the current owner, “Spike”, otherwise known as Raymond Bernard Dessert (pronounced “Desert”) III (“the Third”).
The distillery’s “Honk and Holler Cafe” blended the vibrant Mexican colours and American styling (wagon wheels) of his southern Californian past with Aussie tin and other recycled local junk.
Their Ord River Rum is “Australia’s Best Rum,” having won the gold in Melbourne, 2014. (Bundaberg’s not going to be happy about that.)
For $5 we tried a paddle of three rums:
- The mahogany charcoal filtered, 56% Overproof Ord River Rum, which is simply gorgeous!
- The Single Barrel Ord River Rum, which came in at around 78%
- The Raymond B. Whiskey
…and finished off with the heady and “famous Ord River Rum cake”, which even though I’m not usually a cake guy is fucking amazing!
The other offerings at Hoochery currently include:
- Kimbeley Moon white rum
- Spike’s Reserve limited release, 10 year aged rum
- Premium Dark Ord River Rum
- Cane Royale Liqueur with chocolate and coffee
- Aguardiente Verde Aniseed Liqueur
After saying goodbye to Desley, we fuelled up at the Shell garage (where we encountered our first “free coffee for the driver”) and raced the storm out of there.
That night, after dark, we pulled up at the new Muluk Rest Area, where a plaque told us that a 25 year old kid called “Muluk” had recently passed away here. It didn’t say how he’d passed away. Well, at least if we get murdered in the night, this will become the “Roy, Ruth & Muluk Rest Area” …