Back in the Northern Territories, I've made progress on Pete, but he's still not really up to speed with just how sparse bits of Australia are. I didn't manage to get through to him that North of Cairns it gets patchy, and north of Cooktown its pretty much empty all the way to Darwin.
We're in Gove a mining town on Aboriginal land on the corner of Arnhem Land, its got a Bauxite mine a decent supermarket a small yacht club and a club in town and probably the only decent coffee machine on the entire coast between Darwin and Cooktown. To buy booze requires a permit which you have to apply for. Its got metalled roads but only local ones, its 700km odd of dirt till you hit the Stewart Highway after that. This probably makes Gove one of the top ten towns in the NT - not counting Darwin's suburbs. Alice is a big town, Tenants Creeks and Katherine are towns then there's Wyndam and after that I'm struggling to find anything bigger than a village. The NT is huge, you could drop the UK into it and not touch the edges I suspect. The population is apparently 200,000. Or less than Brighton and Hove - which is only just counts as a city in UK terms.
At Cooktown some 600km south of Cape York you run out of metalled road on the East coast, we've just sailed across the gulf of Carpentaria another 600km, not quite certain but I don't think there's anywhere on its probably 1800km coastline where you can get out without a dirt road. Hell even Darwin's only connected to the rest of Oz by the Stewart Highway right across the continent to South Australia, and branching of it one strip of tarmac called the Barkley to Queensland and another to Wyndam and then on to Broome in Western Australia.
So yes, Gove's a pretty big place - we've found someone to repair our Jib and everything. That's the think about the outback. It takes, especially in wet season, so much trouble and cost to get things in and out, that even in a tiny place someone will be able to fix it. Whatever it happens to be. Cos there's no choice. Now in Brighton a city of a Quarter of a million, there's no real sail maker. There are a couple of people who'l patch conventional sails - as we're hoping this guy will. But a racing sail, well you'd probably have to get it to Hydes in the Solent, then they'll package it up and send it to Asia, who'll fix it and send it back.
So who's insane now? I think its the city of a quarter million who's sail makers have been replaced by air freight to Thailand from a city and hours drive away?
That said, I've spent some quality time in the outback. The outback can be defined as "Where every car you see is a white 4WD Toyota ute". Gove super market car park is errr, the odd (white) Toyota land crusier and a lot of Toyota ute's (pickups). Pete hasn't I'm not sure he's got his head round it. Last place we stopped was Sesia. Population 200, one Petrol station, one shop, a campsite, maybe 10km's of metalled road, one pub at another larger town down the road (population 400 tops). He was astonished at how small it was, I was surprised at how big it was. Given the 600km's of Bush and dirt roads to reach the main drag at Cooktown.
Oh and those Toyota's I mentioned they really are universal and every last one of them has a snorkel.