Our tent site was only about twenty metres from a two storey establishment which housed a seafood restaurant called Moby's, and a bar and bistro. A couple of bus-loads of tourists had arrived for dinner, and they followed this up with much drunken revelry and jukebox playing until midnight.
Once they had all crawled away, hopefully to die a protracted and painful death, Karen and I became aware of an even more disturbing noise that had previously been hidden. A large freezer attached to the caravan park shop was cooled by a noisy compressor which kicked in for thirty second bursts every minute or two.
Karen's bug had turned nasty and she was coughing, sneezing and blowing her nose every few minutes. On top of three difficult days of riding, the noise and illness had exhausted both of us. Karen finally fell asleep sometime before 1am, and I soon followed. Almost immediately, I began to dream.
The dream took place in the home unit of Ernie, Karen's recently departed grandfather. Karen and her mother, Barbara, were fixing up the unit so that it could be sold. They were in the kitchen, removing the old cutlery and crockery and packing it into cardboard boxes. I was in the bedroom, emptying all of the drawers and wardrobes and collecting all of the clothes together. Ernie was lying on the bed.
I took the clothes out into the lounge-room where Karen and Barbara were stacking the boxes they had filled. Ernie walked out of the bedroom and asked me what was going on. I quickly realised that I was the only one who was aware that Ernie was there. I told him that he was dead, and that he should go back into his room and lay down on the bed. In Ernie's latter years his short term memory almost totally disappeared, and he would often ask a question one minute, only to repeat it a few minutes later, and then again a bit later on. Death had done nothing to improve Ernie's memory, so five minutes later he was back out in the lounge-room wanting to know what was going on again. I led him back into the bedroom, told him again that he was dead and made him lie down on the bed. A couple of minutes passed and he was back in the lounge-room again.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Shut up, Ernie! Do you want the girls to hear you. I told you before, you're dead, so go back into your room and lie down!"
"But what's going on?" he insisted.
"Look Ernie, if you don't do what I say, I will have to hurt you, okay?" I told him.
Suddenly, Ernie turned into a witch, shot out an elongated arm and grabbed me by the throat.
"You can't hurt me!" she hissed. "I don't exist!"
I never have nightmares. Never. In dreams I have had my arms eaten off by lions but while it was happening I knew it was just a dream and I was not worried. When the witch started to strangle me, I was confident that I would simply wake up in a few moments and not think anything of it.
Right at that precise moment - back in reality - I was hit in the face. Karen had sat up after waking with severe stomach cramps and an ear-ache caused by constantly blowing her nose. She had then responded to the pain in the only way she knows - she passed out. She had fallen against the side of the tent, forcing the entire structure to lunge to the left, and the floor had on the right hand side of the tent had come up and hit me in the face.
I sat up and switched on my torch. Karen was slumped against the side of the tent with her head at a funny angle, like her neck had been broken. She was making a long, drawn out snoring sound, almost a gurgle, as if she was choking. I grabbed her arm and called her name. She stopped making the noise when I tugged on her arm, and her head rolled into a more normal position, but she did not wake up. In fact, it look like Karen had died! I quickly checked for a pulse and found one, then took her by the shoulders and dragged her away from the wall of the tent. I had by now realised that Karen must have passed out, so I gave her a little slap on the side of the face and told her to wake up. I shook her arm again. A few seconds later her eyes opened and she sat up, not knowing where she was.
Karen then said she was going to throw up. I looked around for a bag and spotted one at the foot of the tent. Karen always kept a roll of toilet paper at the ready, wrapped in a plastic bag, so I emptied it out, hastily arranged the bag and handed it over. Karen was true to her word and promptly threw up. A few minutes later she threw up again. Not long afterwards she had to go to the toilet, but the trip to the amenities block was too great a distance so she squatted in the garden near our tent, doing only littles at first but then suffering a sudden attack of the bigs a little later on.
The cramps then moved from her stomach to her calves, and she complained of a headache. I gave her some water which she drank, but Karen did not think she would be able to keep an aspirin tablet down. After a while the need to throw up passed. Karen finally settled back onto her pillow, but for the rest of the night she had fevers and chills, constantly throwing her sheet and sleeping bag on and off. She eventually settled down just before sunrise, and was finally able to sleep peacefully.
When Karen woke a few hours later, I gave her some Gatorade, hoping it would help her energy and fluid levels, and provide electrolytes to stop the cramping. Karen managed to keep a small bowl of muesli down, as well as a cup of coffee. In hindsight, the fibre in the muesli and the diuretic in the coffee were probably not the best things she could have had, but they seemed to do the trick and she felt a little better.
Karen then discovered that her watch was as dead as a dodo. I hoped it was not an omen. She wanted some fresh air so we took a slow walk around the village, to Honeymoon cove, to the boat ramp, and to the water tank on the hill which gave us good views over the town and out to Cape Lambert. We then walked back to the caravan park along the beach. While Karen sat at a table outside of Moby's, I prepared coffee and cake, but Karen only managed a couple of small pieces before she dashed into a thankfully handy toilet and threw everything back up. She then retired to the tent to lie down, so I washed up and wrote up the diary. I had a lot to write!
Karen missed lunch. This worried me more than all the events of the previous night. She got up in mid-afternoon, but only because the shade provided by trees in the garden had disappeared and the tent was too hot to sleep in. She moved into the shade where she did a bit of reading. I took the opportunity to fix one of the tent zippers with the spare pieces we had picked up in Port Hedland.
Karen had recovered sufficiently by the evening to cook and eat a light dinner of vegetables and noodles. This made me feel a lot better, because as I have previously mentioned, for Karen to miss two meals in a row she would have to be dead. After dinner we took a little walk to the beach. Karen showed no ill effects from either the dinner or the walk. I hoped she would make it safely through the night.
No tour groups arrived at Moby's so the noise from the restaurant was minimal. So too was the noise from the refrigeration unit, or maybe we were both too tired to notice. We both slept right through until dawn. Karen said that she was well enough to ride.
After fixing the last of the tent zippers, we rode out of Point Samson, battling a strong and cold south-easterly wind which had arrived overnight. We soon turned off to the historic town of Cossack along a good dirt road. The Devonshire coffee at the kiosk had been highly recommended by Gary and Pauline, our lookalike fellow cyclists. The said it was the best they had ever had, with a huge pot of coffee and massive scones covered with jam and cream. With their description in mind, and always looking to reduce expenses, Karen ordered a single Devonshire coffee, plus one extra empty cup. We were soon presented with two cups of coffee, two small scones, little packages of butter and jam, and absolutely no cream whatsoever.
A Cossack building
Karen complained bitterly and successfully, showing that she was fast regaining her health. We soon had an extra plunger of coffee and a bowl of cream, but Karen was still far from impressed. After a couple of photos of the renovated historic buildings around the town, we rode out towards the highway, with Karen even less impressed with me when I admitted that I had forgotten to fill up my water-bottles. Karen waited at the turn-off while I rode to a service station in Roeburne for water, then we were off to do battle with the wind.
The country to the west of Roeburne was similar to that of the east - flat and pretty boring. Karen mentioned that she had a sore throat, so I rode in front for most of the day to give her as much shelter as I could. We eventually reached the turn-off to Karratha, riding up and over a small range then down to an information centre on the edge of town. While Karen grilled the staff about the merits of each of Karratha's caravan parks, all of which are four kilometres from the town centre, I drooled over a poster of Elle Macpherson. It had been taken on a tour run by a guy called Neil Macleod in Exmouth, and I decided then and there that I had to take the same tour as well.
On the way out to the Rosemary Road caravan park, we called in at Scott's Cycles and ordered new chains and clusters for both our bikes. It would be expensive, but necessary. My chain was totally shot, and given their common age and experience, it was likely that Karen's chain was much the same as mine. The parts would arrive within a few days. We booked in to the caravan park for a week, getting the usual deal where the seventh day was free. We then learned that the weekend tour we had hoped to take to Karijini, formerly the Hamersley Range National Park, had been booked out. We did not want to wait around for another ten days to do the tour, but we had already paid our money to stay at the caravan park.
What were we going to do in Karratha for a week?