Mention the name “Wolf Creek” to anyone in Australia, and their minds turn to the famous horror film from about 10 years ago, which told the (supposedly true) story of a group of backpackers who are abducted and murdered while staying overnight at Wolfe Creek, the site of a huge meteorite crater in remote Western Australia. While horror films aren’t really our thing, we knew the story well enough, and had been told specially not to watch the film before we set off on our travels!
So it was with some trepidation that we pulled into the campsite adjoining Wolfe Creek Crater to find it deserted – except for one single man, sitting alone outside his beat up looking van. One hates to stereotype fellow travelers, but if you wanted to draw a picture of a would-be abducter and murderer, this guy would fit the image perfectly. Older, scruffy and bearded, with clothes looking like they hadn’t seen a wash for several months. Still, we laughed, only a madman would think that this location, of any he could choose, would be a sensible location to abduct and murder anyone.
On further reflection, we realized that of course only a madman would want to abduct and murder people in the first place, and maybe abducting and murdering them in this, of all locations, adds to the thrill of it and maybe we should just turn around and head back the way we came. But by now it wasn’t long until sunset, and we’d driven a long way to get here and we should probably give him the benefit of the doubt – at least until he had demonstrated some murderous tendencies.
Still, we found the camp spot furthest away from where he was parked, maneuvered our Land Rover for a quick getaway should it be required, and started the process of setting up our own camp, reassuring ourselves that of course he wasn’t an axe murderer, we were just being overly imaginative.
So, when, a few minutes later, we saw him start to walk over to us, carrying something large in his hand, our hearts skipped a beat. We paused in our tasks of trying to hammer tent pegs into the stony ground, and wondered whether we should run and hide in the bush to be picked off one by one, or jump in the car, and attempt to run him over while exiting the campsite at high speed in a cloud of dust, abandoning our half erected tent in our mad escape frenzy. Of course, under the strict rules of narrative, the car would fail to start and we would be left pinned in terror as he knocked on the car window, a mad gleam in his eye as he brandished his blood-stained axe. The third option, of setting Bailey and Saffy on him, didn’t really seem a solution, unless we thought he could be licked into submission.
Of course, being British, we did none of these things, and waited, slightly nervously, tent pegs and mallets in hand, while he made his way, somewhat unsteadily, to where we were standing.
“Hi mate”, I called over, thinking a friendly overture might quell his murderous tendencies.
“Do you think my van would make it down the road to the Bungle Bungles?” he asked, unexpectedly. “I’ve heard the road is a bit rough. Have you been down that way?”
If this was a prelude to bundling us into his van and carting us off to his secret lair, it seemed like an odd introduction.
“Sure, can’t imagine you’d have any trouble,” I responded, wondering if a tent peg would make a good spear, if need be.
He nodded and continued “See, I really want to go down that way, but I don’t want to get stuck”.
We continued a slightly stilted conversation about road conditions and the relative levels of pot holes and corrugations while I judged the distance between us and wondered whether a tent peg through the heart would be enough or whether I should plan to run over him a few times as well just to make sure.
Just then, another vehicle pulled into the campsite, and we breathed a small sigh of relief, that, at the very least, our abduction and murder would not go unwitnessed. Our visitor, perhaps sensing that whatever nefarious plans he might have, he may be better finding another set of victims, wandered back to his vehicle with a nod of thanks. Our relief was short lived however. The new arrival pulled up to the camp spot immediately adjacent to ours, and who should step out, but another older single guy, bearded and looking even more dodgy than the last one. But rather than start setting up his camp, he merely pulled a chair out the back of his truck and sat down on it to watch proceedings.
We felt even more unnerved, but continued to put up our camp while keeping an eye on our two potential murderers.
Then, a few minutes later, another truck rolled into camp – and yet one more, older single man steps out, surveys his surroundings and sits down.
This was now getting seriously weird. Had we somehow stepped into the Annual Wolfe Creek Killers convention? Would we now be subject to long expositions on the relative merits of stabbing vs shooting vs strangulation? Had our companions been preparing PowerPoint presentations with subjects like “Burying bodies in the outback – a practical guide”?
We didn’t wait to find out. As our tent was more or less up – we headed out of camp as quickly as we could to view the crater and plan our defence for the night ahead.
By the time we got back, it was completely dark and it looked like the murderers convention was in full swing, with loud chatter and lots of beer being consumed. However, we were relieved to see that some regular looking folks had also arrived at the camp site; with luck the now inebriated would-be psychopathic killers would select them over us. We sneaked back to our tent and crept inside, setting Bailey and Saffy by the door to warn us of any attempted abductors approaching – but the night passed quietly enough.
In the morning, as soon as there was enough light to see by, we crept outside and quietly dismantled and packed up our tent as surreptitiously as we could, doing our best not to wake any of the snoring killers. Jumping into the car and locking the doors, we breathed a sigh of relief at having made it through the night alive, I inserted the key into the ignition and turned it over, my heart thumping. The lights on the dashboard flickered and the engine whirred ….and started first time of course. What did you think it would do?