Driving to Western Australia from Darwin, we breezed through Katherine to stock up on shopping before heading west along the Victoria highway. We passed huge cattle stations and sandstone outcrops as the landscape and climate changed from tropical to semiarid desert. In this transitional zone lies the often overlooked Judbarra (Gregory) national park, a tranquil place, crammed full of natural features crying out to be explored.
During our hike we scampered over escarpments to enjoy unspoilt views of the plains below. We imagined ourselves as Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in the film Australia, driving herds of cattle through the red and dusty land. As we continued our journey west we began to see bulging boab trees, the iconic swollen landmarks which signalled our proximity to the Western Australia border.
We spent the night camped in a bargain national park camp ground not far from the border with Western Australia. Chatting to other campers, we soon became aware of the strict rules about transporting food across the border. To prevent the spread of crop disease it is forbidden to take any fresh fruit or vegetables into WA. Having just stocked up in Katherine we realised we had a whole lot of fruit to eat before we reached the border. We were obviously not the only ones as the pit toilets at the camp ground were particularly fragrant. But in typical outback spirit, a free trade area had been set up and everyone was glowing with vitamin C. It was all quite jovial, although one lady was desperately trying to trade melons for tinned goods with anyone heading east. As the day ended under a sunset of glorious hues of pink, we hung out with a fishing cowboy down by the river, who was no doubt using parsnips as bait.
We spent the next 24 hours eating our way through a sack full of oranges at a free camp just before the border. When we were sure we had cleared the van of all fresh produce we headed to the inspection area. As we waited in line we saw the driver of the vehicle in front hand over two cucumbers and a radish in some sort of salad amnesty. Despite having no fresh produce we nervously approached the vehicle inspection area. Thoughts of incarceration for accidentally trafficking potatoes brought on a bad case of the sweats. Eventually the guard climbed aboard our van and questioned us about the contents of our fridge. He rummaged through our cupboards and rifled through our drawers looking for any illegally migrating mushrooms or stowaway strawberries. Finally the inspection was over, we were deemed free of fruit and veg and allowed to continue our journey into the state of Western Australia.