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    Day 108 to 113 17 to 22 November

    Nov 22, 2017, 7:14:49 PM

    Day 108 to 113

    17 to 22 November

    Manjimup, Walpole and Denmark The great southern forests.


    We left Canebrake Pool early and started the short trip to Manjimup. Part of the journey was along roads we had already traversed, but the beauty of the country side just made you appreciate this part of the world more. Just before Manjimup we came to a little river that had a walking trail and some historic relics to see. We stopped for a cup of tea and had a look around and started to get the feel for these forests of Jarrah and Karri trees. These both are majestic trees in their own right and only grow in certain soil types in south west WA. we were quite taken back by the whole experience so we're happy to motor on further into these majestic forests. We arrived at Manjimup just before lunch so decided to press on to our camping ground in the National Park so we would be sure of a spot as they appeared to be scarce. We had chosen to camp at a place called Drafty’s in the Warren National Park. It was indeed a beautiful area with large camp sites within the forest and just enough sunlight to make the solar panels work. We were met by a volunteer host who gave us a choice of two sites to choose from. 


    We set up camp, had lunch and explored the surrounding area. The camp ground was just near the river and to get to it you need to drive along a very narrow windy and hilly logging trail amongst towering Karri Trees that are dead straight and rise up 40 metres and more. Their yellow orange bark shining in the forest. It is indeed a sight to behold. Some of these trees are over 300 years old. 


    Next morning we were up early as we had decided to go back to Manjimup for a farmers market before doing a forestry self guided drive through the Shannon National Park. The farmers market was great with plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, especially pink lady apples which were first developed here. We also had a tasting of a new apple that they have developed which will be available in shops in the easter states next season. They are called Bravo and are delicious. 


    The Shannon NP is famous as the river that runs through it has its source and finish within the park itself. So it is a total Eco system contained within the one park which they claim is rare.  The area has a mixture of two main soil types that grow Jarrah and Karri, but not together. So as you drive through you encounter full forest of Jarrah and then suddenly as though there is a fence line a full forest on Karri. It is magnificent. The Karri forests are my favourite because of the straightness of the trees and their height.  A full grown Jarrah or Karri has enough timber to build 2.5 average sized timber houses just in one tree. You start to feel insignificant when you stand under one and look up. The photo at the top of this blog will give you some idea of what I am talking about. And that tree the King Karri was just over 70 metres high and about 5 or 6 metres in circumference at the base. The King Jarrah by comparison was 2.5 metres in circumference and 50 metres tall but over 500 years old. It had an arrow blazed on it in the 1920’s to claim it for the government and to stop it being logged. It was a grand tree even in the 1920’s.  


    The exploration took all day and we returned to camp for an early night. During the day we encountered patches a very heavy rain, the first experience of heavy falls since we left Cobar some three months ago. It also rained during the night and we woke up to a very overcast day. We headed off again and did another self drive forest explorer trail. This one was mainly through Karri forests and also included a sight where protesters in the mid nineties stopped the logging of the forest in the area which led to the national park that is there today. The area includes old growth forest as well as replanted forests. Some replantings were done in the 1920’s 30’s and the Karri trees would only be about 450mm in diameter. It brings to the forefront just how slow growing these trees are. We also visited Snottygobble loop. We wanted to find out if there was any clue why it was named that. There wasn't so you will just have to use your imagination.


    Next morning we packed up for the next leg and had picked on a camp ground recommended by Drafty’s hosts, being  Parry’s Beach just out of Denmark.  In Denmark we found the best meat pies. They had heaps of awards, and having eaten one I know why. We drove through more Karri and Jarrah forests and then suddenly as we got nearer to the coast the type of bush and trees changed. We were now in Tingle tree country. We didn't explore the tingle forests as we were still trying to digest the majesty of the forests we had just been through. Also we heard that the camping ground at Parry’s was very popular so didn't want to miss a spot. We got there about lunch time and were lucky as we were able to get a very sunny spot. This camping ground reminds us of the old style camping grounds on the south coast of NSW that existed in the 50 and 60’s.  The beach vegetation has been cleared just enough to fit a small van or tent. We have flushing toilets and hot showers and we are right on the beach. What else do you need.  Its so good we have extended our stay to 3 nights. Yesterday we explored the area into Denmark and today we explored the local beach. The scenery is stunning, with large granite outcrops set out from the beeches. The turbulent southern ocean hits them full on giving great displays. We took heaps of photos in the hope of getting one spectacular one. Tomorrow we are off to Albany as the car needs servicing having done 10,000 Klms since we left Broome. 



    We are now embarking on the last leg of our great journey and at the moment it looks like we will make home just after Christmas. Till next time.


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    Day 97 to 108

    Nov 18, 2017, 4:59:43 PM


    6 To 17 November


    Wave Rock, back to Perth, Wellington NP, Margaret River Area.



    We left Dryandra after what was a fabulous 3 days and headed off to Wave Rock. We stopped along the way at Narrogin and stocked up before heading off towards Hyden. Some research on WickiCamps led to the decision to camp not at Wave Rock but at a small place some 18 Klms away at a place called Karlgarin. There is a Caravan Park there, Tessys, which had very good write ups so we booked in for  3 nights. Booking in the owner asked what we were interested in. When we told him he pulled out a map and ran us through all what the area offered and 

    not marked on the maps. So next day we were up early and headed off to Wave Rock. Well the photos you see on brochures make it look bigger than what it really is, and we both found it a bit under whelming. We did a walk to the top of the granite outcrop which made the trip more worthwhile as the views over the surrounding farming land were spectacular.. so we're the wild flowers growing in little nooks and crannies. We also came across some small lizards about 20 cms long with bobbing heads to attract other hiding in the rocks.  Which was fascinating. After wave Rock we drove out to Bates Cave where there were aboriginal stencils dating over many centuries. Back to camp we had an early night after all the walking and climbing. Next day we drove a recommend loop to see the other sights of the area. One was Buckley's Breakaways which are similar but smaller the the Breakaways we had seen in South Australia at Coober Pedy. What was good about these was that you could walk through them.


    Next morning we were up early, packed up and headed off to Perth via York. We wanted to visit a 4x4 show that was being held on the weekend to try and sort out our solar power issues. York is a little historic town about 90 Klms east of Perth and was one of the first European settlements in the state. We decided also to go back to Northam so stayed there for the night before heading to South to Perth on Saturday morning. 


    After checking into the caravan park we headed off to the shopping centre. I had twisted my glasses accidentally so needed to visit OPSM to have them straightened out. Sunday morning we were up early and headed off to the 4WD show. After speaking to the manufacturer of our trailer we bought a Korr 150 watt solar blanket. We got it a a special show price that was about $300 off. Since its purchase we have had no issues in charging up our batteries, so money well spent as it means we don't have to pay for powered camping sites every couple of days. 


    Sunday was a very hot day with the mercury climbing to 38 degrees, so once we had seen and done what we needed to do we headed back to camp for a restful afternoon and the planning of the next phase of the trip.


    Up early again next morning we headed off to Bunbury where we restocked before heading to Wellington National Park. We found a great camping spot near the lake and set up camp for 2 nights. The next day we drove around looking at all the sites, including the dam, giant Jarrah tree, as well as visiting Collie, a coal mining town. 


    We left Wellington next morning and headed off to Margaret River. The drive through the country side was fascinating. Rolling hills of pasture give way to forests of Jarrah, kauri and other trees. Every turn brings a new and picturesque vista, and photos you take don't do it justice. Driving through one forest we came to a roundabout in the middle of no where and there on the side of the road were hundreds of gnomes. We stopped to have a look and discovered that instead of hundreds there were thousands.  The story behind it is more fascinating. It appears about 20 years ago council decided to put in a roundabout at the intersection where there was a bus stop. A mother was worried that the school children would wait for the bus at the wrong place and put a gnome in the base of a tree that had been cut down for the roundabout construction so the kids would know where to wait for the bus. Other gnomes started to appear and as the collection got larger locals were pressed into service to look after the area. It became such a tourist attraction that council eventually took over its maintenance and the site continues to grow as people add gnomes in memory of loved ones who have died. 

    We did some research of caravan parks in the Margaret River region and non of them had good reports and most were very pricy… $35 to $50 a night. So we opted to stay just out of the area in a Conservation Reserve at Canebrake Pool. What a great decision. It was quiet and magical with only 9 camping spots and only $12 pn… pensioner rates. So we booked in for 3 nights. We were going to stay 6 but saw everything we wanted to see in 2 days. The first day we did the northern region, Including dropping in to Vasse Felix winery. It was the first in the Margaret River region.  However it was not the experience we were looking for. The wineries here are more up market and commercial then the Hunter Valley, and the whole Margaret River is so Southern Highlands, but more so. So we stuck to the natural sights of which there are many.  On the Second day we did the southern region. There are caves and light houses to explore, if you have the money, but we preferred to take in all the natural sights, beaches, forests and old towns. We visited Augusta which was a real treat especially Augusta Golf Course. A nine hole par 3 course with sand greens and a big sign at the entrance about the Masters and another saying “No shooting or hunting”. We had morning tea at a place called Flinders Bay. It is the sight of the largest whale rescue in the world which happened in the late 1980’s. over 90 false killer whales had beached and over 90 were saved by a huge human effort. Plaques along the foreshore record the events. We drove along Caves Road back to camp and were Astounded by the groves of Kauri forests along the way. These truely are majestic trees and we will see more of them in the days to come as we journey towards Albany. 

    On our last night at Canebrake, we decided to roast a chook as we could have fires and national parks had supplied fire wood. It was our first attempt to roast using the camp oven. While it was a bit of hit and miss ( the thermometer we bought for the event wouldn't work) we winged it and I must say the end result was fantastic. A $7.00 a chook will do us for one dinner and two or three lunches… now that is what I call value. (Anyone would think I'm a pensioner)


    Today we packed up and headed out to the next section of our trip… the great southern forests.


     Hopefully the next blog will be sooner than two weeks. But we are having so much fun not working to any timetable. I am writing this at our next camp just South of Pemberton and will post it in the morning when we go into Manjimup where there will be a farmers market.

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    Day 91 to 96 

    31 October to 5 November Lane Poole Reserve and Dryandra Woodland including Barna Mia Nocturnal Animal Sanctuary. 


    Well the stay at Lane Poole Reserve was indeed very relaxing. We only had one issue, in that the campsite, which we had to book sight unseen on the internet, was totally shaded, the only one like that within the camp ground. However, with a little bit of ingenuity we got through, as far as power was concerned. The facilities in this park are new and nothing short of fantastic. We even had room to set up our privacy tent, so could have showers from our solar hot water shower kit. That is a black bag you fill with water and leave it in the sun for a couple of hours. It is really refreshing having a shower in the bush.


    The first day we ran into a couple of experienced bird watchers who gave Louise a few hints of where to go to see the best range of birds in the park. So next morning we drove to the best spot and walked along the river spotting what we could. 


    In the afternoon we went back to camp and vegged out. The next day we went into the nearest town, which is Dwellingup. It is a small timber town in the heart of the Jarrah Forest of around 300 people. A visit to the information centre gave us a small glimpse into the towns past. There is a big display also of the towns most horrific event, being totally destroyed by bush fires in 1961. Almost every building was raised, except the pub and primary school, and yet no lives were lost despite hundreds being trapped in the town with no escape. There is a film you can watch and being an old bush fire fighter I just had to see the film. It was very moving as survivors retold their stories.


    We were also pointed towards a forest information centre, which we also visited. It had the full history of the jarrah industry and how the Lane Poole park came into being. Most of the timber felled in this area was used as road pavers, destined for the UK or South Africa, as well as for domestic railway sleepers. In the early 1900’s the head of the forestry department saw that unless something was done the finite timber resource would vanish. So he put in place a system of reserves, and replanting programs, that was stepped up some years later by another Forestry head, Lane Poole, who the park is named after. Jarrah takes an extremely long time to reach maturity. They had cross sections from two trees, one felled in 1998 and the other in 2005. One tree was dated as stating growing in 1705, the other in 1700.  In fact we saw a re growth forest planted in 1920 to 1930 and the trees were only about 40 cms in circumference. The tree that grew from 1700 was about a metre.


    One interesting fact about Jarah and why it succeeds in a climate where other trees can't, is that it is able to send down very long tap roots that find the water table way below. And so the crown cover survives the long dry spells of the Mediterranean climate.


    They also had a walk through a forest area that showed off the different seasons. We were able to photograph some interesting wild flowers.


    On the last day we visited another area of the park where Louise went bird spotting while I was off photographing some small water falls and rapids.


    Thursday we were up early, packed up and headed off to Dryandra. As we left the forest we emerged into the open plains of the southern wheatbelt. This is indeed beautiful country and it was a very pleasant 3 hour drive. We did come across a bauxite mine, that had an information bay giving you all the details of the mine and their regeneration work as they progress. 


    We arrived in Dryandra in the early afternoon and quickly found a sunny camp spot in one of the two camp grounds here. Again all new and excellent facilities. The next morning we took off and did one of the many walks through the forest. The Woodland here is totally different to Lane Poole, more akin in some areas of Victoria's Malley region. Interesting still the same. On the walk we photographed many wild flowers. They are very petite and colourful, in what is a very dry landscape. On the walk we came across an echidna and a local goanna (Bungarra). 


    On Friday night we took the nocturnal tour which was the main reason why we came here. The tour was post dinner, and we were joined by three other couples. They have two heavily fenced areas in the park where they are re-establishing several threatened species, including the bilbie. Most of the species have  disappeared from the mainland, so breeding stock was sourced from islands off WA were there are no cats and foxes. To relocate them here they had to create two isolation areas, which they have done, which are to be Amalgamated into a 1000 hectare sanctuary. Walking into this place is like walking into a prison. High fences with big over hangs and three strands of electrified wire to keep out  foxes and wild cats. It is working.


    When we went outside after the briefing, we came across Bilbys, woylies, boodies, quandas and Marla but not any marls. Food in the form of pellets were put out and they all flocked around to eat. No fear, between our legs. Because we're we're seeing them under infa red light, we did not spook them. At the end two brush tail possums joined in on the fun. These are wild animals, any sudden movement or strange noise sends them darting off for cover. It was indeed a great and informative 2 hours, and we totally enjoyed it. We got back to camp at 9pm and being way past our bed time went straight to bed.


    In this park there are wild numbats which a day animals. The guide told us that they had been sighted on the ochre trail so on Saturday morning we set off to do the five Klms walk in the hope of finding them. The range for a numbats is about 20 square kilometres, so you guessed it we didn't see any, but plenty of beautiful wild flowers and another echidna. We also walked through a mallet Woodland. The mallet tree was highly prized for tannin. Its bark was very rich in tannin which was used for tanning leather and making inks. As synthetics replaced the natural product in the mid sixties, but not before replanting was done to protect this resource. Part of this Woodland is a result of the replantings. The wood being very hard is used mainly today for tool handles and fencing.


    The wild flowers here are particularly dainty and pretty. The tannin from the trees stops many species from growing, so the flowers are sparse but scattered throughout the understory. Little bits a colour in what would be a drab landscape without them.



    In the afternoon we did the 25klm drive around the park  that have various stations describing the area. It was very interesting, and led to the taking of a lot more photos of wild flowers.


    Tomorrow we Are off to Wave Rock and will spend 3 Days in thar area.



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    Day 76 to Day 90

    16 to 30 October. Francois Peron NP, Kalbarri, Geraldton, Pinnicles, Dongara, Lancelin, Toodjay, Perth and Lane Poole Reserve.


    I have been a bit remiss in not doing a blog for the last 11 days but something always got in the road. Well I will just have to try and remember everything we have done. That is not easy as it becomes a bit of a blur after a while, but we will try anyway. Luckily I maintain a spreadsheet of our itinerary which I update so at least I can get the order of events fairly right. One of the reasons for writing the blog is so that we can remember everything we have done and when and in what order.


    We left for Francois Peron national park early. The drive up there was fairly uneventful, except when you enter the park, because all roads are unmade and are a surface of soft sand, you have to let your tyres down to at least 20psi. That is about half the normal pressure of the tyres. National parks in WA have excellent infrastructure and at their entry there is a point where you can let down your tyres as well as a compressor so you can pump them up again when you leave. After deflating we proceeded to the nearest camp ground that is called Big Lagoon. The campground fronts one of the lagoons in the park, and if there was no wind it would be a truely magnificent place. Unfortunately we are here in the winding season, and on the second day it blew a gale. Rather than just sit around to be rocked by the wind we were up early next morning and did a drive to the top of the park, visiting all the sights on the way. It is serious sand driving, and the experience we got driving the Simpson Desert helped us to navigated deep soft sand without getting stuck. We got to the top where there are several vantage points where on a clear day you can watch the manta rays, sharks, dugongs etc in the sea below. We had met travellers that had been up there two days previously and had sat and watched the spectacle for hours. But you guessed it when we were there the winds made it almost impossible to see anything. We did see a couple of murky outlines that looked like sharks, but that is all. Another place to return to when the weather is better.


    We left the park to head further south. We didn't go to monkey Mia, as it was an extra $15 each over and above the fee we had already paid for the park pass, and with the weather the way it was we didn't think it would be money well spent. Maybe next time. 


    We then headed south towards Kalbarri. However the trip was not without incident. I can't count how many times we were passed by others over double lines or on the crest of hills, with a couple of close shaves to boot. Some people seem to think that no one will be coming the other wary, let alone doing the speed they are doing. 


    We arrived at Kalbarri early afternoon and as we drove in we decided to visit two of the lookouts at the eastern end of the park. On proceeding to the Second lookout we came around the corner to be confronted with a head on crash involving a Avon motor home and a ford that had just happened. We quickly established that both drivers were ok but both vehicles were locked together and immovable on a blind corner. We had one bar on the phone and rang 000. Well I don't know where it was answered but one of the first questions is what stAte are  you in followed by what town. When you answer Kalbarri National Park they can't handle it and keep asking for a town you are then asked for the nearest cross street and when you give the name of the highway that is beyond them as well. But with perseverance we prevailed and help was sent.


    The accident was very unfortunate. The driver of the motor home being French came around the blind corner on the wrong side of the road and cleaned up an Italian driving the ford. I really felt sorry for the Italian as he had bought the car in Darwin and was on his way to Perth to sell it to fund the rest of his overseas trip. To save money he hadn't insured it and now it was wrecked. He also  had buyers lined up for it, so not a good outcome for him.


    After organising help we headed off and booked in for three nights at another farm stay. This one was very basic, and not as good as others we had been in, but did the job and was better than staying in town.


    Kalbarri National Park is split into two parts, one coastal and one inland, so the first morning we were there we went and explored the coastal area. It is truely beautiful, but we couldn't really captured the magic with our cameras because it was overcast and the wind had thrown up a salt spray mist. The coastline is rugged and spectacular. We visited all the lookouts. 

    Next morning it was to be the inland part of the park to visit. It was very overcast and threatening rain, but we headed off anyway. When we got to the park, the clouds had dissipated and the sun was out in its full glory. 



    The 20 Klms drive to the first lookout and walk is through low Heath country. It has a beauty of its own that is quite different to any other we have seen. There were quite a few wild flowers out in bloom, including beautiful large yellow bottle brushes. We got to the first walk, which included Nature’s Window. This park is nothing short of spectacular. Better than anything we had seen to date. Because of the heat and crowds we didn't do the full Gorge walk, but did do the cliff top walk and took heaps of photos.


    The next lookout is Z Bend and that is the most spectacular of all. It is hard to capture its grandness on camera but I have tried but won't get a chance to fully process the shots until I get home. The photo above was taken on the iPhone and gives you some idea of the spectacle.


    We went back to our camp well exercised and ready for a early night. They are building a sky walk at Kalbarri which should be finished later in the year, so another reason to come back.


    One thing we have noticed in WA is the standard of facilities at National Parks. They are excellent, well thought out and executed. Kalbarri is no exception as it has just been upgraded, but standing at the men's urinal having a pee, the view through the open window down the valley was amazing.


    Next morning we were back on the road and headed off to Geraldton. When we arrived we were overwhelmed. It has 35,000 residents, after two months in outback places we found it too crowded so ducked into Woolies to restock and then back on the road heading south. 


    South of Geraldton there are two must sees. First are the leaning gum trees, created by all the wind, and the Second are the Pinnacles. Both are worth seeing and I have uploaded some iPhone photos into the gallery.we did a walk at the pinnacles, (most people drove) which was really worthwhile as you got a better appreciation of the spectacle of these numerous monoliths.


    We left the Pinnacles and headed south stopping at a small town called Dongarra. The only reason for choosing it was the name. We booked into the caravan park for two nights. This was the best caravan park we have stayed in too date. Trees or partitions between each space and excellent facilities. We also got the washing up to date, and I was able to wash the vehicles and remove one month of accumulated red dirt.   Bliss.


    The wind was still blowing so after 2 days we decided to move on towards Perth. Were to stay next. We found a caravan park at a place called Lancelin and got a space right next to the beach as when we arrived there was no wind. But that quickly changed as a sudden gale warning was issued for the area for that night and next day. So we moved on of course.. 


    We didn't want to stay in a caravan park in Perth, but had two nights to kill before we met up with friends in North Perth, where we were going to stay Saturday night. A quick look at the map provided a couple of options, and the one we chose was a small historic town of the name Toodyay (pronounced Twojay of course). It's about 80 Klms from Perth in the Avon Valley area. It was indeed a great choice. We stayed two nights in a loverly caravan park set on the river bank. It was about a kilometre walk along the river into town, which we did the first morning we were there, and explored the town. It was founded in 1826 and still has many original buildings. There is also a miniature railway, built by people on work for the dole scheme in 1998. The train runs on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and I expect it is a great tourist attraction.


    One feature of the town is its roses, and they are truely to be marvelled at and photographed, which we did. A stop at the local bakery was also a treat as well. We bought two cups of tee, two hug cakes and a huge baguette for the sum total of $14. And it was good bread as well. Toodjay reminded us of Berry 30 years ago.


    Next day we did a tour of the country side and visited Meckering, the name of which rang a bell in the back of my mind. When we got there I remembered, it was the centre of the strongest earthquake ever measured in Australia, 6.7 on the Richter scale in the 1960’s. It destroyed or Bradley damaged every building in the town. A fault line ran across the countryside where the ground had been thrown up over a metre and a half. They have an earthquake park where there are items such as bent railway lines showing the force of the event.


    Saturday we packed up and headed to Perth to catch up with an old work colleague who moved to Perth some four years ago. It was great catching up with Dixie and reminiscing our time working together.


    Sunday morning we jumped into the Patrol (after having a break from packing up) and headed south. We are now camped in the Lane Poole Reserve, which from what I can work out is akin to a state forest in NSW. It is managed by National Parks and has excellent camping facilities. The best part there is not a breath of wind… non at all so we are here for four days. There is plenty to do, not least bird watching and scenic walks along the river that runs through the park. At the end of this stay we are heading off to the Dryandra Woodlands where we are booked into a nocturnal tour where hopefully we will see elusive Bilbies, boodies, woylies etc. so till then.


    PS. Because of internet issues I have not been able to upload any images in the gallery, but will do so when able. 

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    12 to 17 October


    As mentioned in our last post we travelled up to Quobba next morning to see the blow holes and the HMAS Sydney Memorial Cain. It was a 50 Klms easy drive. We had planned to camp at Quobba one night, but we were so comfortable at Carnarvon decide to stay there for the extra night and do a day trip to Quobba. What a great decision. When the wind is not blowing it would be a nice place but the day we were there the wind was strong enough to blow your dog off its chain…. Assuming you had a dog. Being low tide we thought we would miss the blow holes but the opposite is true. They are at their best at low tide. There a couple of shots in the gallery. More interesting from a photographic point of view was the raging ocean smashing onto the rocks. Spectacular.  On the way back we suddenly noticed a huge display of wild flowers beside the road. They were not open on the way out but the sun had done its job and they were displaying their beauty. There is a photo in the gallery.


    After about a hour  of shooting the blow holes we headed up to the memorial which was 12 Klms away on a corrugated road. The Cain was built in 1980 by the members of the Naval Association before the remains of the boat was found, which was in 2005. The spot for the Cain was chosen as it was about half way between where 2 boats from the German boat beached. All were lost on the Sydney, and the Germans lost about 86 of their crew. After the the Sydney was found an inquest was held and the findings are interesting reading. It can be read on a navy website if you are interested in the history.


    Back in Carnarvon we bought some vegetables from a road side stall of one of the big irrigation producers in the area. His tomatoes are to die for, so full of  flavour. As well we solved another problem, that of our refrigeration capacity. We just didn't have enough, and we were having to restock every 3 or 4 days, which limited a bit on what we could do. So a visit to the local camping store saw us purchasing an Engel 40 litre fridge freezer to use as a full time freezer. The price was the same as what I would pay in Sydney so we didn't have second thoughts. The first thing to go in it was a box of magnums from Woolies. Ice cream on the road yum.


    The other fridge freezer we have is a 55 litre evakool, and we will use that solely as a fridge. We now have plenty of space for keeping food cool or frozen, which frees up what we can do. As well we have a back up system if something goes wrong.


    Stocked  up we headed off on Saturday morning to Kennedy National Park, some 170 Klms inland from Carnarvon. The national park sits in the middle of the driest plains you could imagine. Everything is either dead or wilting. What's makes the park interesting is that it encompasses a huge Messa. The top is what the level of the surrounding country side was before it was all eroded away after being pushed up from the bottom of the ocean many many millions of years ago. It is hot and very dry. No water or signs of water at all. It is an unforgiving landscape and very hot. 


    On the way out we crossed the Glascoyne River. It is a dry river at this time of the year, full of sand and also the longest river in WA. When dry the water runs under the sand. In the wet season the flows are huge and there are photos of the river in flood some 25 metres deep and about 500 metres wide. In fact the town of Glascoyne Junction was wiped out in the floods of 2002 and has been rebuilt. All nice new and shiny now. Further up the dirt road just before the National Park we came across a cobbled road. It was built in the 20’s  and 30’s during the depression when motorised transport was starting to be used to move wool and other supplies about. Prior to that camel and bullock wagons were the main means of moving goods about. In fact the road we were on was used by Charles Kingsford Smith for his mail run. The money he earns here provided the capital to fund his later flying adventures. Some of the stories and photos on the information panels show just what a hash and isolated life these pioneers had.


    We rested after we arrived and walked a couple of the gorges next morning when it was comparatively cooler. They are stunning, but very revealing of this fractured, dry and fragile landscape. Because there is no water there is very little wild life here, except for small marsupials who hide amounts the rocks during the day and come out at night. We noticed that a couple of the wild shrubs have adapted their leaves to capture the night dew and so survive without rain. 


    I have posted photos in the wa  low res images gallery which will give you some idea of what the country side is like, and the blow holes etc.


    Tomorrow we were going to love off to Mt Augustus, but given the heat and the 450 Klms round journey we have decided to leave that till next time. So will head off across the back roads to Hamelin, the Shark Bay (Monkey Mia) and the Francois Peron National Park.


    We have had this camp ground all to ourselves today, but just now some backpackers have pulled up and set up camp almost next to us. This camp ground is so large they could pick anywhere they liked and would never be able to see us or let alone hear us. But no right next to us in full sight and we can hear everything they say. They must like living on top of themselves in Europe or they are scared of the dark. With no moon and no lights it is pitch black at night out here. Oh well. 


    We were up very early next morning as the winds blew all night keeping us awake. By early morning they had stopped, but we had breakfast and packed up, visiting the Honeycomb Gorge before we left. As we headed back to Glascoyne Junction it started to sprinkle. We took a back road which had just been graded and as we progressed the clouds got thicker and the sprinkles turned to intermittent light rain. Roads are closed here very quickly when it starts to rain and fines for driving on them when closed are pretty steep. Luckily the hadn't shut the gate (yes there are gates on the back roads here)  Anyway the road we took was in good condition as I said and we made good time on our way to Shark Bay. 


    A check on Wikki Camps led us to choose a farm stay for one night at Hamelin Outback Station Stay. It is an ex sheep Station purchased by Bush Heritage Australia in 2015. It is a 202,000 hectare property. We are very glad we did, as the amenities are excellent, so much so we stayed an extra night so we could explore the surrounding area.


    Today we went to Hamelin just down the road and viewed the oldest living organism on the planet, the stromatolites. These organisms date back 2 billion years and are the mechanism that produced oxygen on our planet. The stromatolites here is the largest remaining collection in the world, making them very special and part of the reason it is a world heritage area. The landscape and seascape is truely amazing. The colour of the water has to be seen to be believed and no photos can really do it justice. Although while in Denham today we saw a photo exhibition of aerial photos taken by some very famous Australian photographers that go close.


    On the way to Denham we stopped in at Shell Beach. This beach is made up of cockle shells that survive in the very salty Hamelin Bay. It is an amazing place to walk on millions if not billions of shells that have accumulated over 1000’s of years. Makes you feel very humble that we are only small specs in the time line of earths history. 


    Our reconnoiter of the surrounds has led to us deciding to move on tomorrow to Francois Peron national park, and do some bush camping at the top end of the peninsula. To get there we will need to do some pretty serious 4 wheel driving on sand tracks, so should be fun. We will be up there for two to three days before we head off to Kalbarri.



    Till next time

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    Day 64 to 71

    Exmouth, Cape Range National Park, Carnarvon. 5 To 12 October


    Well our stay at the free camp just outside Old Onslow was indeed relaxing. The views over the river, which is lined with white River gums wAs indeed picturesque, and Louise had great fun photographing the many birds and then identifying them. A rail ( or in twitcher speak a buff banded rail) befriended us and hung around the camp the whole time we were there, not scared or intimidated by us at all. the only thing wrong with the camp was the increasing wind squalls that arose from about midday and went right through till sun up next morning. The country here has not seen rain of any sort for at least 4 months and the wind threw up the fine red dust everywhere. 


    Our drive to Exmouth was fairly uneventful. We had decided that we would not stay in Exmouth, but rather at a Conservation Park called Giralia  some 120 Klms from town. The property where we stayed at used to be a working sheep farm but was bought by the WA government and turned into a conservation park. We stayed two nights and if you are on Facebook you would have seen photos of one of the visitors to our camp. We left Giralia and headed into Exmouth to restock. Being a town of only 2000 odd residents we didn't expect much but a visit to the bakery changed our mind. It was good as or even better than any good bakery in the big smoke. The town also has two IGA supermarkets in competition with each other about 50 metres apart… strange.


    The main reason for Exmouth was the US Communication set up…North West Cape that is the main communication base to all US nuclear submarines around the world. A very strategic site…. I wonder if it is in North Korean sights.  The communication towers are just outside town, and one of them is the tallest structure in Australia according to all the visitor info, but a think a building in Melbourne may now hold that honour. Anyway the tower is taller than the Empire State Building.


    After stocking up we headed out to Cape Range National Park where we stayed for three nights at a place called  Yardies Creek.  In WA all the camp sites in national parks are very well laid out and this one was no exception. Next to the beach, there were only nine sites there plus the camp host. We set up camp and explored the beach and nearby inlet. Next day we walked up the Yardies River Gorge. The trail takes you up on top of the gorge as the area is all limestone and very fragile. There are several endangered species in the park, so where you can and can't go is strictly controlled. One endangered species in a black footed rock wallaby which evidently is a very timid animal and easily disturbed.  We saw one hopping away as we climbed the Gorge, plus plenty of bird life.  We also got some good photos as well.  We really like this place so next morning decided to explore further. There are heaps of small camp sites along the numerous beaches that make up the park which covers about 50 % of the Ningaloo Reef. The reef has world heritage listing and has very heavy protection. With the coastline along it being either National Park, or coastal protection zone there is no major developments impinging on the reef so it is almost in its natural state. As well being very close to shore it is easily accessible to view and we will be coming back. We explored all the camping areas and beaches to pick where we will stay next time. That is more likely to be earlier in the year, around May so we miss the windy season. And then we can go on and visit the other areas we have missed on this trip or go back to places we want to visit again. One of the great things about WA is there is a lot of space so it does not appear too crowded. One of the biggest attractions in the national park is the turquoise water over the reef which runs along the shore line, with whale sharks, and a multitude of marine life. Whales run up the coast near the reef, but it is now past the season so sightings now  are few and far between.


    On the way back to our camp we came across an Australasian Bustard. These birds are rare, and because of their acute shyness are very rarely seen. So how lucky were we. Louise got a couple of photos as it calmly walked off into the bush.


    We would have stayed here longer but the winds come up in the afternoon and like Old Onslow stay till first light next morning. On our last afternoon the winds were indeed strong and buffeting and it became very difficult to cook dinner as the gas was continually being blown out. It got worse overnight withe winds of over 50 Klms an hour more. It broke one of our tent ropes overnight holding up the vehicle awning. We were up early next morning after having very little sleep and in the heavy wind packed up and headed into town to have breakfast at the Bakery. 


    After breakfast we headed off to Carnarvon. This drive was also uneventful, driving in country similar to the Tanamai. As we got closer to Carnarvon, it was just miles and miles of spinifex, no trees and very little else. On the way we stopped into Coral Bay. At last we found a tourist spot a la Queensland. Up market resorts and caravan parks lined the shore. A beautiful little cove but too many people and too much development for our liking. But I can see why families like it as the bay has so much to offer kids. Snorkelling, coral viewing, kayaking etc.


    Just below Coral Bay we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn  some two months after going across it on the way to the Kimberley's. Our 2 months of being in the tropics has finished. Now fully acclimatised to the heat and no rain we are going to have get used to cold and rain again.


    We moved on the Carnarvon which is the first non mining town we have visited in a while. It was founded in the late 1800’s as a port to ship supplies for the wool farmers. It is also home to a space tracking complex as well as a huge agricultural irrigation area. They have been growing bananas here since the 1930’s and today it is a huge food bowl of bananas, avocados, mangos, tomatoes and other salad vegetables.  



    Tomorrow we are heading off to Quobba where there are blow holes and a memorial to the sailors who lost their lives with the sinking of HMAS Sydney in the Second World War, the wreck was found just off the coast from Quobba. 

  • IMG_1881

    28 September to 4 October


    Millstream National Park, Port Samson, Karratha, Dampier and Old Onslow


    We are sitting on the banks of the Ashburton River (photo above) enjoying the piece and Quiet and updating the blog. We are here for 3 days free camping, instead of paying $40 a night for a caravan pRk in Onslow. We have plenty of power now that I have sorted out the electrics, plenty of food and water, and also we have our own toilet facilities. This is truely a magical place with the nearest campers to us being over 200 metres away. Totally private. I'll get back to the blog before I get really carried away.


    As I said in the last blog we stayed in Tom Price a night as the chance for a hot shower was too good to pass up. Next morning we headed off to Millstream National Park which was about 280klms up the dirt road. There are two sections to see in this Park. The first is where the camping ground is and is the site of the original homestead and also a natural aquifer that feeds the local river. The water is also harvested to supply Karratha and surrounds with a reliable year long water supply ( but not the National Park). We visited the local sights and did a walk through the wet lands. There is also a popular swimming spot in the river. It is different scenery than Karijini but worth visiting. 


    Next morning we were up early and headed off to Karratha to restock.  On the way and still in the National Park, we drove through spectacular scenery as well as visiting another famous water/swimming hole, Python Pool. The drive to Karratha was 150 Klms with some stops along the way at Roebourne and Port Samson. Karratha is a recent town having been developed in the 1960’s to service the iron ore industry. Port Samson and Roebourne date back to the 1800’s as they were developed to service the emerging pearling and pastoral industries. Port Samson appealed to us so we checked into the caravan park for two nights. The reason for two nights was that a tavern was adjacent and we could watch the AFL grand final live. On the first day we went out and explored the ruins at Cossack. Being at the mouth of the river it was the old port developed in the mid 1800’s. Roebourne became the main administrated centre but is some 20 Klms inland. There are some beautiful govt buildings still standing in Cossack. The interesting thing is that there construction was completed when the town was in its dying days because everything had moved to Roebourne. 


    We had great fun on grand final afternoon. Being 2 hours behind Melbourne the game started at 12.30pm. We decided to back the Tigers as they were the underdogs. The crowd at the pub was evenly split with some diehard Crowe supporters there in all their football gear. They were very vocal for the first 10 minutes of the game but gradually quiet down as the tigers took and kept control. Not so us as each of Richmonds goals was met with even more raucous noise from us. One lady even photographed our response to each Richmond goal. It was a great fun afternoon.


    Next morning we headed into Karratha to stock up. The reports of the caravan parks in Karratha are not good so we had decided that we would stay in Dampier once we had got our supplies. Karratha is a mining town, as I previously reported, set up to service the iron ore industry as well as salt production.more recently the gas and oil discoveries on the north west shelf has greatly boosted the population and is now over 20,000 people, by far the largest town we have visited since leaving Alice Springs. It even has multiple sets of traffic lights, something we haven't negotiated since Alice as well. It is also a growing town with a lot of new developments taking place. 


    After stocking up we headed to Dampier another mining town set up in the 60’s. it is named after the English explorer, who discovered the desert pea. For some reason it was not named after him but after Sturt.  


    Dampier is the port for Karratha with a loading facility for iron ore and salt. As well it is where Woodside process all the off shore gas and load it for export and the WA market.  The other thing not mentioned is that it is not far from the Montebello islands where the British tested their atom bombs in the 1950’s. also Barrow Island is nearby as well. However, outside that Dampier is a dying town with what it looks like most residents moving to Karratha. We stayed in the caravan park there with a spot that had un interrupted views across the harbour to the loading facilities. 


    The other reason for visiting Dampier is that it is the home to the largest number of aboriginal peckings to be found in Australia, most dating between 10,000 and 20,000 years old, and some being carbon dated at over 40,000 years old. 


    Dampier’s other claim to fame is that  it is the home of Red Dog. I have not seen the film but the locals tell me that the film story is not the true story, which is available to read in the local library. 


    We were up next morning and visited Deep Gorge in the Murujuga National Park. You walk through a pile of jumbled rocks and there scattered amongst them are the peckings. Truely remarkable.


    After we walked through the Gorge we headed off to the gas processing facility where they have a visitor centre. The complex is massive, processing gas for both the domestic and international market. They have a loading facility that loads the boats with gas for Japan and others plus a pipeline that delivers gas to Perth and south WA.


    In the afternoon we visited the library and I read the real story of Red Dog. I'll now have to see the film to compare. While in the library we came across another interesting story about another interesting local. His name was Sam and he came to Australia after the Second World War. He was Yugoslav by birth and fled to USA when the Nazis invaded his country. There is a small island in Dampier Harbour and he squattered on it and built a castle in the Yugoslav tradition. He became a celebrity as he carted all the material he needed, including water to the island by boat. He even carted across sand to make a beach so others could visit. Owing to a fire that destroyed part of the castle because he did not have water, Hammesley Iron built a pipeline to the island and than granted him a 99 year lease over the land. He died in 2005. The town got together and organised his funeral and council passed a special resolution to allow him to be buried on the island. Several years later a cyclone destroyed a lot of the castle he built, but again the local community came together and restored his works. It is all there still today and open to anyone who wants to boat out there to see it. It is now protected by council resolution. The local school documented the story as Sam used to invite the children across to the island to visit each year. This to me is a great Australian story.


     Next day we headed off the Onslow, but discovered the free camp spot at Old Onslow where we are now. Onslow is a small town that is close to another salt mining operation run by Mitsui. As well there are two huge gas processing plants, one of which is run by Chevron who will be paying no royalties on their extraction for at least 20 years. What idiot negotiated that contract where they take our resources and pay us nothing.  We did not take to the town so headed off to old Onslow where we are now and will be for two more days. We are then heading down to Exmouth but on the way will be camping for a couple of nights at a station stay. We are going to stock up at Exmouth and then camp for three nights in Cape Range National park, so our next blog won't be for about 7 days. If you want an idea of  Where we are and the ground we have covered you can follow our tracks at




    Also keep in mind that all my blog posts are available at http://christopherwilsonphotos.com/blog/


    It updates whenever we pass a phone tower so you can see where we are. If there is no phone tower it will give you our last position. To date we have travelled 11,000 Klms since leaving home.


  • IMG_1822

    Day 54 to 57 Karijini and Tom Price

    Sep 27, 2017, 9:01:00 PM

    25 September to 27 September. Karijini National Park and Tom Price


    The drive from Newman to Karijini was pretty straight forward, arriving at around lunchtime.  The country side is indeed beautiful with rolling plains of spinefix and trees giving away to mountain outcrops. This part of the Pilbara is the home to about the 20 highest peaks in WA. 


    The camping area at Karijini is manned by volunteers as it is school holidays and generally the park is full. Arriving early was to our advantage as we were allocated a loverly spot for 3 nights camping. After lunch and setting up, we headed off for one of the walks around the top Dales Gorge, taking in the magnificent sights. I have uploaded some photos onto my photography web site. The views are indeed stunning. As the sun set we found our way back to our camp site for dinner and an early night as we were going to walk Dales Gorge next morning. It is a class 4 walk meaning it has the 2nd hardest rating of bush walks. 


    As the sun set it became quite cool and the temperature dropped to below 20 degrees, the lowest in early evening we have had since we left Alice Springs. We must have acclimatised to the warmer weather as we rushed to get jeans and jumpers on. And we needed blankets on our bed the first time in 6 weeks. 


    We were up early next morning, commenting on the coolness and got ready for our walk. Let me say the walk through the Gorge was stunning, and a very memorable experience. It started with going down a steel staircase down about 70 metres or more. Once on the Gorge floor we did a slight detour to the fern pool. The photo heads this blog. It was a magical place with only two other couples there and no boisterous back packers to spoil the atmosphere. It is spring fed with a small waterfall and large pool. It is a sacred spot to the original inhabitants, and spending 30 minutes here soaking it all in you can see why. 


    We finally tore ourselves away and slowly meandered through the Gorge taking about 200 photos. It was simply stunning. The green and gold against the deep red of the iron rich soil.  In one of the photos you will notice a warning sign about asbestos. It is in the rock that surrounds the Gorge in small quantities. 


    We went to the other end of the gorge where there is another pool, the circular pool. While beautiful it was full of backpackers, noisy, ignoring all the warnings and generally making the place unpleasant. They have a habit of ignoring all the rules, making it sometimes very unpleasant for the others. 


    We climbed out of the Gorge using the other exit which is a very steep rocky climb. The leg muscles were hurting when we got to the top.


    Being worn out after our excursion we had a relaxing afternoon getting energy for the gorges we would walk next day at the other end of the park. 


    Next morning we headed off to the other end of the park. The first Gorge we stopped at was Kalmina Gorge. We descended into it. It also is spring fed so there is still water in the bottom of the gorge despite being the dry season. This also was a stunning walk with many photos again being taken. After we climbed out of the gorge we headed off to see Joffre Falls. Would love to see these falls when there was a full body of water going down them. It is a long drop and would be spectacular. We then headed off to Weano Gorge. When we got there about lunch time the car park was full. We did a walk to the top of the gorge and looked down to the bottom 100 metres below at a place where three gorges meet. Spectacular. There was a Celtic Cross just near the lookout that was a shrine to remember the life of a SES worker who drowned while saving others in the canyon after a heavy downpour. A telling reminder of the dangers of going into gorges, and also to the bravery of rescue workers risking their lives when others take unnecessary risks and don't follow the warnings.  We looked into Weano Gorge and the rough rocky descent, and the huge number of people in it and decided to give it a miss. Too many people to get any descent photos. We headed over to Hancock Gorge and had a look at its entrance. It is a class 5 walk.. the hardest. With the state of my knees we gave that a miss as well. We will do the Hamersley Gorge when we head off to Chichester Millstream National Park in a couple of days. 


    On the way back to camp we did a detour to a lookout that gave views of one of Rio Tinto mines. Somehow the WA government redefined the boundaries of Karijini in the 90’s to allow Rio Tinto to mine in the middle of the park. One thing we noticed that in the gorges of Karijini the rocks you walk on is in fact iron ore. If it is loose it rings if you knock it against another rock just like a steel slab. I hope the Rio Tinto precedent is not repeated. This park is a very special place and it's gorges in my opinion surpass those that we saw in the Kimberley's. 



    This morning we were up and headed into Tom Price to restock some supplies before heading off to Millstream. Our intention was to only shop in Tom Price. Having got here the call of a fresh hot shower was too much, after a 4 day break from them, and we checked into the local caravan park at the base of Mount Nameless. The amount of red dust that came off me in the shower had to be seen to be believed. Today will be a relaxing afternoon, and then tomorrow we will be on the road again.

  • IMG_1791

    Day 51 to 53 Marble Bar and Newman

    Sep 26, 2017, 4:16:58 PM

    Day 51 to 53


    22 September to 24 September.  Marble Bar and Newman


     We packed up and left Port Headland early. On the way out we saw an iron ore train stopped and was able to work out that the train was 130 cars long being hauled by two locos. We have subsequently learnt the the double one we had seen the day before with 4 locos was 270 cars and 2.7 Klms long with a total payload of 38,000 tonnes of ore. That is big.


    We headed down the Marble Bar Road for a drive of some 250 Klms. On the way we stopped into Doolena Gorge which was not far off the main road. Then back on the road arriving at Marble Bar in the early afternoon. A very small town but with a delightful caravan park, with grassy sites down near the dry river. We booked in for two nights. That afternoon we drove around and had a look at the relics around town and then adjourned to the Ironclad Hotel for a beer or two. Next morning we went out to look at the old gold mine out of town. Marble Bar was founded as a result of gold but its other claim to fame is that it is the hottest town in Australia. In 1923/24 it recorded 160 consecutive days where the temperature did not drop below 38.7 Degrees (100 in the old scale). It reached 39 the two days we were there, and the locals described that as comfortable. Hot is when it gets to 48 degrees. I'd call that bloody hot. The last night we were there the temp did not fall below 30 which made for a very uncomfortable night.


    Up here when you do get cold nights the temperature may be 14 degrees at 6.30am but by 10 o'clock has rising to 30 or 34 degrees. Once the sun is up it gets hot very quickly. Also the humidity may be 100% early but quickly drop to 10% by midday.


    In the morning we went out of town and had a look at a large outcrop of jade. It was this outcrop that gave Marble Bar its name. The person who discovered it thought it was Marble, but in fact it is jaspa. It is a protected site and if you take a sample of jaspa from this area the fine is $50,000. So there are no signs of people chipping bits off…. How refreshing.


    We then went out to look at the relic of the Comet Gold Mine. It is the only relic left.

     While out at the gold mine we looked in on the museum that is out there as well. It has many interesting artefacts and storys. When gold was first discovered at the mine site it was yielding 10 Troy ounces of gold to the ton. A very rich body of ore. Once they got down a bit the yield dropped off to 40 grams a ton, low but still profitable. The mine closed in the 1950s but there is a chance it may reopen in the future. 


    At the mine we saw a large piece of jasper which had been cut through the middle. It appeared to have gold seams in it, but they were actually asbestos. Witernoon, the home of the largest asbestos mine in Australia is south of here just outside Karajini National Park. 


    The other interesting thing about this area is that it is the home of the Invisible Air Base. It was the best kept secret of WWII. The airbase was manned by Americans and Australians from 1943 to 1945 and was set up as a result of the Japanese bombings of Broome etc. the bombers were American Liberators and they would set off on 15 hour return bombing trips of Japanese installations in Java and Timor. They are reputed to be the longest bombing runs in WWII. The base was camouflaged and despite many attempts was never found by the Japanese. The men who were stationed there worked under extreme hardship. There was no refrigeration and water was a scarce resource. They lived on bully beef and other powdered and dried food. Some of the American airman came straight here from enlistment after training and spent their whole service there. 


    Next morning we set off to take the back road to Newman, so that we could visit Herring Gorge on the way. We arrived at Newman in the early afternoon and booked into a tour of the BHP Mt Whaleback mine. Newman is a real mining town and there is not much to do there. Next morning we were up, packed up our gear and headed down to the information centre for the mine tour. The tour was fantastic. The bus took us to a look out in the middle of the mine where we could see all that was going on. The guide gave us facts and figures till they were coming out of our ears. So that we didn't miss any she gave us a hand out that summarised them all. 

    We learnt that the mountain they have mined looked like a whales back… hence the name.the mine is the largest single open cut mine in the world being 5.5 Klms long and 2 Klms wide and to me it looked 500metres deep, right down to below the water table. In fact the original Mt Whaleback was 805 metres above sea level and they were mining down to 135 metres. We took a gps reading on the lookout, the highest point left and it was 711 metres above sea level. The iron ore seam is estimated to be 1.6 billion tonnes. The ore is very rich being 68.8% pure. In fact after the ore is crushed it is mixed with less rich ores to create a blend that is wanted by their customers. Any ore that is below 50% pure is discarded. When this mine runs out in 20 years they will then move to the next close by mountain and start on it. Owned by BHP they expect to mine 295 million tonnes of ore this year. They pump 46 million litres of water out of the mine each week. I wonder what that does to the water table.



    Once the tour was finished, we were given tea and scones and we then set of to our next destination… Karijini National Park.

  • 80 mile beach sunset - No reproduction without written permision

    Day 41 to 50


    13 September to 21 September

    Broome, 80 Mile Beach and Port Hedland


    We were up early to say our good byes to the owners of the Goombaragin Eco Resort. It was definitely a restful experience and if we do come back here next year this place will definitely be on our list… but it will be earlier in the year to beat the heat. We headed into Broome. It was unseasonably hot at 38 degrees, so we headed out to Cable Beach and booked into the caravan park. Being closer to the beach we thought it would be cooler, but we did get a nice shady powered site and set up camp. To cool down we decided to hop into Clive and chase down a few tourist spots. We headed out to the harbour entry as at the reserve are supposedly the largest collection of dinosaur prints in Australia. Once out there we discovered they were on the sea rocks which was now covered with a metre of water. Oh well what else to see. Louise found a large Osprey chick nesting on the tower at the end of the spit. We then went and topped up supplies and headed back to camp as it was bear o’clock.


    Next day we headed into the Centrelink office to find out how my claim for the pension was going. I submitted it on 15 July and it was supposed to be determined by 4 September. After some persistence it was discovered that there was an IT problem and I would have to wait for that to be fixed before I could find out the result of my claim. Don't you just love government… if private industry behaved like that they wouldn’t have any customers. Anyway to cut a long story short very late Friday afternoon I got an email saying I had been granted the pension.


    Being my birthday we decided that we would celebrate it on Friday as we could go to the pub and have dinner and watch the Swannies on the big screen. The dinner was very nice but the less said about the game the better, unless your a Geelong supporter. Gee did Geelong play well.


    So on the Thursday we had Clive booked in for a 10000klm service… yes we have done 10000klms since we left Scone. To fill in the four hours we did a walk around Broome on a day the temperature reached 39 degrees. Unlike home the max temperature is reached at about 11am to midday. The heat took its toll as I don't think we were drinking enough water. This became evident when we picked Clive up and we headed off to the museum. As soon as we there in the air conditioned room the heat effect hit us. After many cold drinks we got our energy back and then had a look at the exhibits. Mainly pearling artefacts, but a lot of information about the bombing of Broome, Derby, Exmouth and Kalumburu by the Japanese in 1942/43. I never knew that the bombing of Australia went this far south.


    Friday was a quiet day, recovering from the day before. We went to the shopping centre to connect to Telstra Air but found it took hours to upload anything. I'll have to sort this out when we get to Port Hedland as it is driving me crazy, and in 5 days we have used our phone data allowance of 4GB doing nothing.


    On Friday night we left the pub at half time (yes we are bad losers). Next morning we were up early and headed off to Broome Bird Observatory for two nights of bush camping. The two days we spent at the Observatory were amazing and so far one of the highlights of the trip. 

    It was established in 1988 and is totally run on public donations and the work of volunteers. Broome is a very important stop over for migrating birds and the sand flats are the richest source of food for migrating birds in the world.  The Observatory monitors the migration of birds and also their population with weekly netting and tagging.  Each night  at 6.30 everyone meets at the shade house and calls out if they have seen a species of bird when it's name is called out. The first night we just sat and observed in awe. Louise was becoming hooked on bird watching so next morning I bought her a copy of the Australian Bird Guide. She immediately opened it and started trying to identify the birds we had seen the day before. Then we headed off to walk through the surrounding bush and they down to the bay and mud flats identifying birds as we went. That night at the bird call we were able to add to what was logged. So far this September they have logged 200 different species of shore and sea birds. Wow. Another place to visit when we come back, but next time stay longer and do a bit of volunteering.


    We left next morning and headed down the road towards Port Hedland. We had decided to camp along the way so headed to 80 mile beach which was near the sea and reported to be cooler. Outside the temperature nudged 40, so when we pulled up for a cup of tea which was drunk quickly as the heat was unbearable. We got to 80 mile beach to find that the temperature was 8 to 10 degrees cooler than inland… bliss. We set up camp changed into our cozzies and headed over the sand dunes to the beach. There was one problem. It was low tide and the water was about 1000 metres from the high tide mark, so we paddled around in the wet sand. In places it is like quicksand. Evidence of that is the roof of a 4WD in the sand about 800 metres out from the high tide mark. The rest of the vehicle is still below the roof. One expensive mistake. They lose between 10 and 15 4WD’s a year around Broome as people ignore the warnings about the big tides. Some tide variations are more than 11 metres between high and low tide.


    As the sun was going down Louise suddenly noticed the brilliance of the sunset so we made a quick dash to the top of the sand dunes and captured some great pics of the sun setting.


    Next morning we packed up and headed to Port Hedland. When we arrived we checked our batteries to find that the batteries we rely on for camping lights and fridges were not being charged so we checked into the caravan park with a powered site to get everything charged up while we tracked down the cause of the non charging. A trip to an auto electrician checked everything and established our alternator was ok and everything else was working properly but that the DC to DC regulator was overheating and cutting out. Because he was booked out he couldn't do anything for us but at least we now knew the cause. We went to ARB to see if we could buy a solar blanket so we could add to our solar capacity and keep things charged up as the next part of the trip will include free camping in the middle of no where. He pointed us to another auto electrician who could help us but he had closed for the day. Back at camp I had a look at the whole set up and found that the heat sensor was on top of the black battery and in the drive down with 40 degree heat the battery was extremely hot. I reasoned that if I moved the sensor to a more open position near the charger it would remove the heat affect from the battery and subsequently found that the fix has worked. 


    The next morning we had booked into a boat tour recommended by a fellow traveller we met at the bird Observatory. It is run by the Mission to Seamen. They visit every boat docked in the harbour and provide free transport to the mainland for any seaman that has a shore leave pass. They take them shopping, supply cooked meals and even has a licensed bar plus other support services. They help over 3000 seamen a month and are totally private funded charity. They sell tour passes on the boat that help fund the mission. $55 for Louise and $49.50 for me ( I'm now a pensioner). It was a fantastic and informative trip as we visited all eight ships docked in port at that time. Getting up close to these monsters is a photographers dream come true. We we got back fully impressed with the work the mission does I donated my pensioner discount back to them. Some facts we learnt is that the port is the largest bulk carrier loading port in the world, operates 24 hours a days with the main export being iron ore but also salt, precious minerals, and scrap metal to name a few. The tankers include some of the largest in the world and the port can simultaneously load 19 bulk carriers at a time. At any one time there is between 20 to 50 carriers off shore so efficiency is a must as the waiting cost to the mining companies up to $100,000 a day.  The ships when loading are turned around in 24 hours. Also if a cyclone warning is issued the harbour must be cleared and it takes 18 hours to clear 19 ships from the harbour. All ships must have pilots and 4 tugs to move them through the harbour entrance. All this info comes from the mission and we would recommend the tour to anyone staying in Port Headland.


    The other impressive sight. Was the iron ore trains. We saw one that had 160 cars being Towed by 2 drive less local but then saw another that was two sets of train and cars joined together. That is 4 Lucas and 320 cars…. Huge. 


    Another place we visited, other than the shopping centre to replenish stocks, was a working aboriginal art centre that has up to forty artists working there over time. It was very interesting watching them work on pieces that can take up to a month or two to complete. One artist was working on a commissioned piece and stop to talk to us. Her mother came from the central desert near the South Australian border and her mob only came out of the desert in the late 1950’s early 1960’s and saw their first white man. Her mother was only a child but was taken away from her family and sent to Perth. The family is now reunited but listening to her story was very moving. She is a proud mother of 3 and her eldest daughter has won a scholarship with one of the government agencies to go back to learning the traditional land care skills and then to pass it on to the next generation. 


    With the temperature again nudging 40 degrees we decided that we had enough of Port Hedland. The decision we had to make now was would we head to Marble Bar, Newman and Karajini where the temperatures over the next couple of days was going even higher, or would we miss them all and stick to the coast. An examination of the longer forecast showed that temps were going to drop from Sunday onwards to more normal levels, that is 10 degrees lower than they have been for the past month. So we decided to stick to our original itinerary and that is why we are in Marble Bar now, but you will have to wait for the next blog for that story.



    What I can tell you is that I have finally fixed the problem of not having enough data allowance to upload blogs photos etc.  I have been able to change my phone plan to get 15gb a month of extra data from Telstra without it costing me any more money, so will be able to upload photos to my website when I get time. Time is scarce when you are doing nothing, but we will see what happens.