Most people know what a traditional Scotsman wears under his kilt*.
But far fewer people know what a Frenchman wears under his sarong!
I’d never given this tragic gap in my knowledge any consideration whatsoever – I mean, who associates Frenchmen with sarongs?
But if this vexed question HAD been keeping me awake at night, I certainly wouldn’t have expected to find the answer on top of a mountain overlooking the gorges along the Charles Knife road south of Western Australia’s Exmouth!
Although perhaps the narrow peninsula of the North West Cape with its own ecosystem and weather patterns, and the amazing diversity of the World Heritage Ningaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park invites the unexpected.
And in stark contrast to the magnificent western beaches and gorges, we certainly didn’t expect the scenic grandeur of the Cape’s eastern lookouts, scattered along the narrow, rocky, dusty, steep and horribly exposed ridge-top road of the Cape Range anticline.
A road WAAAAY more suited to a Land Rover 4WD than a more conventional vehicle like ours.
And even less to the van struggling up the incline behind us as we carefully negotiated the narrow, single lane on the knife-edge ridge!
With ‘Tracy’ emblazoned on the bonnet, and its three occupants in classic feet-on-the-dashboard travelling pose, it closed the gap between us and pulled out to overtake.
Strangely unwilling to take part in a random murder/suicide pact with Tracy’s unknown (to us) occupants, Pilchard sped down the middle of the road with the van in hot pursuit.
But finally, superior tyres, aerodynamics and handling won out and we pulled away.
The rough, rugged and rocky track to the final lookout had deterred the less adventurous, but a deserted combi van painted all over with symbols and random Australian place names had made the trip before us.
Looking around, it became apparent that without an 8km hike, the magnificent views from the road below would not be matched at THIS spot.
As we searched in vain for a better lookout spot, two figures emerged from the rugged rocky area below the track. The leader, saronged, shirtless, tanned and dreadlocked greeted us in perfectly broken English.
‘Did you walk to the lookout?’ I asked, taking in the bony outline of his clavicles in that twilight zone somewhere between ‘lean’ and ’emaciated’.
He smiled and gestured to his bare feet. ‘Non, madame. I have not the shoes,’ his beautiful accent a clear indicator of nationality.
Of course. What was I thinking? A barefoot hiker clad in a sarong – and a ‘do rag’ holding back the dreads??
His taciturn companion, also shirtless, but terminally cool with trousers slung so low his family jewels were in serious danger of being rendered useless by the spinifex and thorny shrubbery at the exact right height to do serious damage, lurked behind looking disinterested.
Perhaps we were too old and/or unfashionable to be worthy of his consideration. Or maybe he didn’t speak English.
The leader continued. ‘We went to the cave,’ he gestured vaguely behind him. ‘It is not very big so we come back.’
Noise erupted behind us as Tracy pulled into the carpark. Low pants slunk off towards the combi.
‘Is the lookout far from here?’ I asked, wondering what exactly Sarong man and Low pants had been up to in the cave.
‘We did not go there,’ he replied, teeth white against his tan.
Noise erupted behind us as Low Pants and Tracy’s occupants greeted each other in the manner of explorers in a land of aliens discovering they are at last amongst their own kind. Celebrating their new friendship with a blast of rap music gave us our cue and we turned to leave.
Maybe Low pants was right and we were just too dull and boring for words …
‘I have not the shoes,’ the Frenchman repeated. ‘And also,’ he gestured to the sarong slung low around his hips, ‘I have not the pants!’
You heard it here first!
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