G'day Folks,

On our first blog I stated that it was the first and may be the last, here now is our 3rd. the second was of our trip around Tasmania in 2009 and now we have just completed a 19 week trip around Wesern Australia and Northern Territory, yeah, yeah I know the first trip was the other way around and we've already seen it, BUT, there are many many things we didn't see and we wanted to see and do them this time as we have changed our car and now have a 4WD, we still haven't seen and done it all so we'll have to do it again.

It was a great trip, we loved it, we hope you enjoy reading our western adventure.

20th April 2011 We head off

Our adventure begins on a beautiful, sunny day the temperature is 22 degrees and the sky covered to about 15% with white puffy clouds, it can’t be all perfect so we are heading into a head wind, with full tanks of LPG and petrol we head out of Adelaide on the much travelled Highway 1, north towards Pt Pirie.

Although summer is only just over, everything is green because we have had a very wet summer and it’s a welcome change to see it this way, because it is usually brown at this time of the year.

We stopped at Pt Wakefield to fill with gas, as this is the cheapest place around and the same price as Adelaide, then head off north to adventure and beyond.

Our first stop for tonight is Nukunu (formerly Pt Germein south rest area 2) and we share the area with another couple in a van. After a quick dinner of fish and vegies we settle to watch some telly

21st April 2011

On the road by about 9.30 with an overcast sky and into Pt Augusta, LPG here is actually cheaper than in Adelaide at 64.9cpl so filled up again at Shell/Coles express, as it turns out I shouldn’t have bothered, I got a bad lot of LPG and only got 160km before red lighting, the lot I got before didn’t return that well either, also Coles express Hmmm. Anyway, with the sky breaking up and giving us about 50% blue sky, we drive on to Kimba where we stopped for lunch and a stretch, we visited Michelle, Brenda’s cousin in her shop, and back to the van, I forgot I had to make a phone call, so went back into town and did that I asked Brenda to see Michele again to ask which Petrol station in town was the cheapest, Michelle laughed and said there was only one??? Fuel up at 89.9 and head off, the sky is now mostly blue and we have a slight head wind.

On the way, I helped a truckie pass me (using UHF radio) and struck up a bit of a chat, as you do! He is Adelaide based, taking a dual tanker of LPG to Kalgoorlie, I asked him why it didn’t go from Perth and he said that it was cheaper in Adelaide? The gas is made in Dampier, the top of WA, piped to Perth, shipped to Adelaide and trucked 2280km back to Kalgoorlie, how stupid is that??????

We get to Wudinna, with wet roads and the rain clouds ahead look nasty, LPG here is 80.9cpl, 9c cheaper than Kimba, 104km, un-bloody-believable, so topped up, we decided to carry on for an hour more than we had planned and went through Minnipa to our stop for the night, Yantanabie South rest area, 22km from Wirrulla, where we spend the night alone under a Be – u – ti - ful clear southern sky, here away from all city lights the stars are so bright, that we can nearly walk around by starlight, and once again we are reminded of the beauty of the bush and why we love it so much out here.
The lay of the land up through to here is a mix of farming land, Aboriginal lands, reserves and scrub country, there has been a lot of rain in the last few months and indeed lately as there are still puddles around, it is all lush and green and reminds us both a lot of the drive to Melbourne, even the rest area is next to a ploughed paddock and a scrub block.

22nd April 2011

As we went to bed early last night we were awake at 6.30, well actually I had a sleep in because I’m usually awake long before that, this fresh air and excitement must be good for me.

We woke to a light fog all around us after the pitter patter of rain on the roof most of the night, some say that rain spoils a holiday but you have to take it as it comes and enjoy it all, we actually love the sound of the rain on the van roof.

We were on the road early as well, onto Ceduna where our holiday nearly finished, just on the outskirts of town, the road from Streaky bay comes in at an angle to form a Y junction, behind me was a big 4WD and another behind him, a semi, who had just caught up, bringing up the rear, a 4wd and caravan combo was approaching from the left and as he came up to the give way sign we both noticed he didn’t even look to his right and came straight out at about 80KPH!!! If I hit he brakes I would have worn the guy behind me as a haemorrhoid and the two behind that finishing off the job, luckily the road there is a lot wider with a painted traffic Island and I was able t go around him, horn blaring, and avoiding the van and truck coming the other way with both drivers rather pale and shaking their heads, I stopped in town and got out of the car, to express my disapproval to the passing driver, later in the day the guy who had been second behind me stopped at the same servo I was in, came to me and said any closer and I would have taken a coat of paint off the van.

Other that that it was a beautiful day, driving in and out of rain and clear blue skies, with the paddocks and scrub still green, although as we approached the Nullabor it got dryer, but it is still not boring as some would say, and NOT treeless, it’s a sham I tell you J there are at least 5 trees in the 10 or 12km between the signs proclaiming the “treeless” plain J , the shrubs and grasses of the Nullabor are all the possible shades of green, from an almost yellow to the richest of forest green, as well as grey through to silver with a bit of brown here and white there makes for a kaleidoscope of colour. It seem almost surreal to be driving “in the desert” and have the ocean at our right, close enough that we are able to stop right on the edge of the great Australia bight and look towards Antarctica, a long day today but we reach Eucla where we refuel (@ $1.10pl for LPG, ouch) and settle for the night in a freecamp just outside of town after paying $1 each for a shower at the caravan park.

23rd April 2011 Bugger, a set back

It’ gets dark early here so we’re settled early and get to sleep early too, hence we get up early as well, I was awake and writing the blog before the sun rose as I am most mornings, last night a whiz-bang with 3 young guys (Spanish speaking) pull up close to us and got up early as well, unfortunately the backpackers aren’t as mindful of others, as most people and once they’re up they think the rest of the world should be, so there is a lot of banging and crashing as the whiz-bang get’s packed again, by about 6.30 I noticed that there was noise coming from the other direction as well so when I finished writing I looked out and there in the truck stop was an army (well 6 or 8) of the boys, and 1 girl J, in blue setting up a booze bus / vehicle checking station, I went over and chatted to the sergeant about their days work, just making their presence known for the Easter period and try to reduce the road toll.

After breakfast, while Brenda was busy in the van, I checked all the levels in the car, tyres etc, as we do most mornings we hit the road and though we had filled with LPG, we stayed on petrol to see what distance we’d get out of tank full so that we know what range we have with the 2 tanks filled (650km BTW).

Eucla is the place where the cliffs of the great Australian bight move a fair way away form the coast, up to around 50km in places so the Eucla pass is a cutting which drops around 50 or 60 meters down to the plateau below and gives you an excellent view of the terrain that you will drive on over the next 300km or so and the Southern ocean to the left, the drive through here is magnificent with the ever changing scenery, sometimes wooded as thick as any mallee scrub area sometimes as flat and barren as a grazing paddock, others a mix of the 2, but never, ever boring, so far we have seen 1 dingo, 4 wedge tailed eagles, and a lot of dead kangaroos and today is no different for the fatality of the great roo, this stretch of road is not good for their life span, at Madura we come off the plateau in as much grandeur as we entered it, through the Madura pass, Duh, and we stop at the lookout out at the top to enjoy the view of the great flat expanse before us and of course taking the obligatory photos.

It’s 9.30 and we move on for another hour through ever changing scenery and still not boring, as I said in yesterday’s log the “Nullarbor plain” is only about 10 or 12km long what people refer to as “crossing the Nullarbor” covers about 1300km, there is “The Plain” which is (almost) treeless, the rest is like anywhere else along the coast of Oz, beautiful, we stopped at 10.30 for me to knead some bread and moved on till 11.30 to knead it again, stopped at 12.30 to cook it (in the Dreampot) and have lunch, at 1.30, 115km from Balladonia, it was time to stop and take it from the dreampot to rest so I slowed and pulled off the road, was doing about 30kmp put the clutch in and took the car out of 4th gear AND ….. The pedal stayed on the floor ….. NO clutch … panic … no, think quick, use the revs to go back through the gears and move on to Balladonia, there’s a caravan park attached to the servo so I went straight I there found a spot and stopped, called the RAC and they have to come from Norseman, and that will be at 8am tomorrow?? I was looking under bonnet, thinking I was sure the level of the clutch master cylinder had been full in the morning, an open seems to be a magnet for the guys in the park to come and have a look, one of them a truckie, and he suggested filling the fluid up, which I was considering, we tried it but as quick as we were topping it up the fluid would disappear with a pump of the pedal. Oh well, we intended spending the night close to here anyway. After all the arrangement were made with RAA premium (thank God we have premium) we settled to dinner and the Caravan and Motorhome DVD # 156, I bought just before the trip.

24th April 2011

Expecting the tow truck at 8am, we were up early. Tidying the van and unhitching, luckily because he got there at 7.30, a real nice guy called Adam (I think) that’s what he introduced himself as, but he was wearing overalls with the name Jason and his boss called him Arndt, so Adam it was, loaded the truck, hooked up the van and off we went, get about 300m up the road doing 80kph, and the truck started to shake violently, we looked at each other both thinking we were going to need a tow truck for the tow truck, but Adam just slowed for a minute and headed off again telling us that the air pressure had to build up and bring the tray level, 110 and we were in Norseman in about 2 hrs, with a couple of mother nature calls (damn frusemide J). On the phone to Adam’s boss and RAA premium, and our best bet is to head off to Esperance for repairs, the RAA will pay for accommodation for 7 days here in Norseman and a hire car (which there are none) while we wait for repair or cover the cost of getting us to Esperance (but not the van?? The tow truck owner however was kind enough to tow the van for free), but no other costs after we arrive, another call to Shaggy Dog, someone I know from Caravan and Motorhome Forum (who we were going to visit, while here) to ask him if he knows of a place that will do the repairs, and a cheap caravan park close by, and he assures me, there are a few mechanics here and 2 are close to the show rounds caravan park which is basic but at $10 for unpowered and $15 for power it’s OK, and one is the mechanic, is the one he uses. He tells us to head for the show grounds, on arrival in Esperance Adam isn’t sure of the showgrounds location so I get the Navman out of the car and give Shaggy another call, to get the address and he says he’ll meet us there, when we get there not only is he there but his lovely wife, The Noisy Scrub Bird, (yes they do have real names but I’ll keep those private) and we unload the car and van and say thanks and farewell to Adam, with Shaggy’s help we towed the car and van, to the spot in the show ground, after a quick chat and orientation of the area, they said their farewell, told us to ring them if we needed anything and left us with Shaggy’s car!!!!! How kind is that, we only met 10 minutes ago, have only spoken on the forum for about 2 years and he leaves us his car, caravanning is a great life style and you meet the nicest people!! After a LONG day in the tow truck with seats made for short distances, we popped the roof and Brenda lay down, her back just couldn’t cope anymore, once we were set up with the awning and the cars locked I relaxed too.

The drive in the tow truck gave me more of a chance to look at the scenery and take photos. The terrain from Balladonia to Norseman is quite undulating, and mostly scrub mallee, there are a lot of tall eucalypts, they look like Salmon gums but they are a shinny brown, a very beautiful tree, but as with the rest of the drive is ever changing, there are palaces where it is almost desert like, with large expanses of sand, others where you think you might be entering the tall forest area, and also some where there are only shrubs, an enjoyable drive (other than the seats) from Norseman to Esperance it starts off similar but soon turns to wheat farming / grazing land, although the drought here is very evident. There are areas with only these beautiful eucalypts and one is a town called Salmon Gums, these are the same tree but are pinker than their “brothers” further north.

25th April 2011

Shaggy rang this morning to say he was coming over to have a look at the car and see if we could fix it between us, he was here a 9.30 and he quickly worked out that the job couldn’t be done without a hoist, so we relaxed and had a coffee and a chat, before we knew it, it was 11.30 and time for him to go pick up his lovely wife.

We weren’t far behind him and went into town, we headed straight for the centre of town and the esplanade, from what we saw of Esperance, it is a beautiful, clean little town of 14,500 people, and the esplanade is a fantastic spot, with the clear blue ocean, the old tanker jetty, where the local seal (Sammy) hangs around waiting for fishermen to throw him their unwanted catch or even just the fish heads, he is one very well fed seal J, there is also the wharf, white beaches and a myriad of small islands in the bay, all makes for a photographer’s delight after walking around for a couple of hours we headed back to the van, organised some hot water on the choofer and put up he shower tent, felling almost human again we settled for a quiet afternoon, chatting with neighbours, the 3 vans the closest to us are all south Aussies, 1 couple from Pt Elliot and 2 from Kangaroo Island.

26th April 2011

After breaky I rang Shaggy told him we were going to do some sight seeing and asked if they would like to come along, with a little bit of arm twisting to tear him away from some tile laying J they agreed to join us, and we headed off in their car, with them as our guides. First we headed west of town along the foreshore as far as 11 mile beach, it was an overcast days but the scenery was magnificent, Esperance Bay, is part of the Recherche archipelago, named by Mathew flinders, and it contains around 120 islands, many of which are visible from and close to the shore, so particularly for someone not used to seeing island close by, it is a fantastic sight, we stopped at the wind farm, 11 mile beach and observatory beach as well as twilight beach, from here are either vantage points, beautiful rock formations or just magnificent beauty in the power of the sea to draw many gazes.

We then went back towards town taking in more of the scenery, into the boat marina , then out to the North east of town as far as Bandy creek harbour, then back into town, past the ritzy part of town, for a bite to eat and a coffee, (I did see an empty bock there, if we get kicked out of the showgrounds, we might come and set up here, the view is great, LOL) unfortunately being a public holiday a couple of places were closed so we settled for Maccas, which was a new experience for our great hosts as well, as it’s a new place in town (about a year old, and they hadn’t been there before) after a leisurely late lunch we headed back to camp, making plans for the cars move to the mechanic early in the morning, after a beautiful guided scenic morning tour, our hosts left us to relax for the afternoon and unfortunately J it was too late for The Shaggy Dog and The Noisy Scrub Bird to start tiling J so they were heading off home to relax as well.

27th April 2011

Well Shaggy was here at 8am as promised and we got the car to David.

Question, are all Mechanics called Dave? Mine is and I now know 3 others by that name Hmmm?

Anyway, he said that it might not be the slave cylinder but the high pressure hose, apparently the Challenger, Tritons and Pajeros pre 99, are known for this happening as the pipe is rigid and cracks with vibrations, 2000 models onwards, of course, came out with a flexible pipe, so we left it with him and a hope he was right, back to the van for a day of nothing much, just rest and watch most of the other campers head off. It wasn’t long before we heard from him to confirm his initial diagnosis and to tell us the part was on it’s way from Perth, although only second hand (updated model from mine) as new ones are only available ex Japan with a 3 to 6 week wait, all going well we should have the car back tomorrow, with a lower repair bill than first thought, thank God! Again!

Went into town later to get and send emails from Maccas, but the system is so slow, that it took 20 minutes for me to get to Yahoo, and get the 4 emails waiting, by the time I had composed the emails with the attachment of this log, the system booted me and when I finally got back in and was waiting for everything to open up, my battery had gone flat, so those on the list will have to wait another day (reprieve you buggers J) and hopefully it will be faster tomorrow.

Back to the showgrounds and only 3 vans left, one who refused to move till tomorrow?? and one who didn’t know they had to move today and asked to stay another night, as well as 2 buses who are too big to fit into a van park, so a quiet night tonight, mind you later at nigh 12 backpacker vans sneaked in for the night, as they do most nights, and like others, they will leave early in the morning before the ranger gets here to collect the money.

28th April 2011

A very quiet day today, just a quick entry. At 10 O’clock I rang Dave and he told me the car would be ready at about 3, so we tidied the van and got ready to move although we are staying another night. We got the car and went to Maccas to send emails and 8 minutes trying to get onto their website decided that we should get a Telstra dongle (guess Maccas will miss out on business now) and we also did a bit of shopping

29th April 2011

We were up early and packed the van, top down and locked it up, Shaggy and the noisy Scrub Bird came around and jumped in our car and we headed off to Cape Le Grand National park, a the drive out there is quite non descript actually, nice but nothing much spectacular about it, other than some Granite mountains on the way and a distant look at some of the islands in the archipelago. Being used to national parks with tall trees this one struck as strange only having small shrubs and a few medium trees and at first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but getting my head around the fact that it is a coastal park with all the strong winds and salt in the air I looked at it with a different approach and started seeing it’s beauty all over. We are way too early for the wild flower season but a few of the banksias were starting to show their bulbous beauty, some low shrubs were covered in tiny white pompoms and the ever present granite stood out in the green land cover of the shrubs, the different rock formations such as Frenchman’s peak and whistling rock and beautiful beaches like Cape Le Grand and lucky Bay add some interesting highlights to the park and a chance to get out of the car and stretch the legs, the sand here is pure white so with the blue of the sea makes a great photo opportunity, visiting the park was a great highlight of stay down here, sharing it with new found friends was even better, we had brought a picnic lunch with us so we parked at the day use area above lucky bay, which is reported to have the whites sand in the world, and shared lunch a few stories, I said “I wonder what the rich are doing” and we came to the conclusion that, none of us really cared J and besides with good friends, good food and a fantastic view like this, we were the rich ones. It was now time to head back to town drop off our guests and say farewell, hook up and leave Esperance. We went on to Munglinup, to a freecamp just out side a service station where we could have a shower, the water was great and clean, the shower and toilets …… well?????? We’ll leave it at that, except to say it’s criminal to charge $3pp to shower there, but we were clean. There is a French couple here touring Oz for a couple of months and their Daughter who is here for a year, had a long chat with them and gave me a chance to brush up on my French, Boy how you forget, even your native language when you don’t speak it often. We organised a simple tea and settled for the night.

30th April 2011

After a leisurely breakfast we said Goodbye and good luck to the French family and hit the road at 9.30, what an amazing landscape, for the first 50km or so it is all farming land, mostly crops but very dry, you can see the lack of rain in the soil, as we leave the pastoral land we come to the once more changing scenery at what seems every corner, the bush here is very different to SA, the few trees present, are much shorter than the gums at home and most of the landscape is covered in short shrubs to about 150-200cm tall, they do vary in colour from a light green, to dark green and all sorts of shades of silver so the eyes never get bored, at times we travel through flat country where there are the remains of lakes, with very little if any water in them, others through hilly terrain where the engine works hard to get the van and tug up the incline, then through more pastoral land and through the cycle again, at one stage there was a very large expanse of bush which seemed to go on for kilometre after kilometre, and was broken by the entrance of yet another mine, as we went on a bit and looked back there was the huge hole and scar on the landscape the is the mine, what they are mining we don’t know, but it was a big operation, there is some evidence of mining I other places but the land has been rehabilitated and in another few years, people passing wont even know the land was once mined, so although now it looks a blight on the magnificent landscape, it will not be evident to future generations, then we saw another emu, not a great deal to some but as the French people were saying, one doesn’t see as much wild life when touring, as you would expect, we have travelled 2000km already and seen 2 kangaroos, 30 emus (in 2 sightings) 3 eagles and 1 dingo.

We stopped for lunch in Varley, a 2 house town, both abandoned, some silos are present, we took a side road and pulled up, while Brenda was making lunch I looked around the place at the sad picture of very dry paddocks which seem to be screaming for rain, not just because it’s summer, it is a much, much deeper thirst because of the drought this land has endured for the last few years, not far from the drinking trough is the remains of a sheep who could no longer endure the thirst, and the paddock is bare, probably why the house up the road is empty and there is a FOR SALE sign on the fence. We moved on deep in though of the shattered dreams people had left behind, we went on through to about 30km from Hyden, our destination for tomorrow, and pulled off the road at a truck stop, onto a side track and found a place in the bush where only the odd vehicle comes as well as a few kangaroos by the evidence left behind, Shaggy Dog had given me some directions to a couple of camp spots, but I had missed the first one so instead of taking the chance of missing another we stopped here. the camp spot is clean so we set up camp for the night, it is still only about 2 O’clock but we need to do some washing, so I fired up the generator, and Brenda got out the washing machine and did the washing while I set up the line to dry them, all the chores were done in ½ an hour it was time to sit in the warm afternoon sun and read a book till tea time and then settle in the peace and quite on the WA bush, and watch the beautiful sunset.

1st May 2011

We started just on 9 O’clock, because we were going to wave rock, and then onto Albany, the 30 or so kilometres to Hyden were a solemn drive as we looked out of the window and saw barren paddocks, only the merest cover of dried, shrivelled grass, and absolutely nothing for livestock to eat, IF they were there, sad to see such dried up land when the other side of the country has been enduring some of the worst floods in history.

When we got to our first destination which we thought was going to be a ½ hour thing, we realized that it wasn’t just the famous rock to look at, and there is a whole resort here and many attractions.

We first stopped at the café / restaurant across the road which houses not only the eatery, but also the dried wild flower display, a toy soldier display with over 8000 soldiers, depicting many battles from Hannibal going over the alps, to the English battle for India, the French foreign legion, and the second World War, there are also many bits of memorabilia from the war, as well as artefacts, some dating back to the Napoleonic war, The lace place is a magnificent display of laces from all over the world and some dating back to the 1800’s, there is restored Dodge car in there to get the guys in, but even I found the lace not only beautiful and interesting, but I was fascinated at the intricate work that goes into making lace, most is made by machine but there are still master lace makers, who make it all by hand, there are also many different wedding dresses, going back through the years, then at the back there is an animal sanctuary, a “bush zoo” that’s the way I describe it, there is anything from birds, rabbits, different types of possum, kangaroos, even white ones, camels, donkeys, Koala’s emus, you name it and it’s probably in there, there are statues of things they can’t keep such as gorillas, tigers and lions, and even dinosaurs, which adds a quirkiness to the place that makes it unique, and a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours, in fact by the time we had gone through the 3 places it was past lunch time, we grabbed a bite to eat on the café’s veranda, which overlooks the animals, and I had one of the best sausage rolls I’ve ever tasted, we then wondered over the road to see THE attraction of the area, there are many places in the world that are photographed to death and those photos are often work shopped so much that they become a must see place, but when you get there, they are a disappointment because the size, colours and beauty of the thing are nothing like the photo you have etched I your mind, this is not one of those places, Wave rock is exactly as shown on photos, it is a 15m high, 110m long wave of granite, which is streaked in black, white, brown and every colour in between those, by the years of rain rolling off it, the wave itself is about 60meters long and it tapers off both ends to it’s maximum length, standing there looking at it’s beauty was amazing, we then went onto the Hippo’s yawn another rock formation about ½ a kilometre away, and obviously it looks like the wide open mouth of a hippo but about 10 meters high, a quick look at Mulka’s cave 20km further on which contains some Aboriginal rock paintings and is steeped in history and Dreamtime, and we finally headed towards Albany, after about another 2 hours of driving through desolate paddocks which here only contain sand, it was time to find another bush camp and settle for the day, it has been a couple of long days with some chores to do and Brenda’s back is not the best, an early day is definitely in order today, besides enjoying the WA bush for a few hours with nothing to do, but read, is a good thing.

2nd May 2011

The spot we stopped at was close to the road and the 2 traffics J that passed by at around 6am woke me up, so we were on the road by 8.30, it is shocking for us, but must be devastating for the farmers to see their paddocks without any covering at all, I kid you not, they are just sand, sand, sand, as far as the eye can see, it’s like being in the desert with a few mallee outcrops (which is a welcome change) and fences, sometimes there is the faintest evidence of the remains of some sort of grass, and the odd paddock has about 2 cm of stubble, where a few sheep scratch the ground to get a feed, and we are only about 200km inland, then in the distance we see the Stirling ranges, as we approach they are reminiscent of the Grampian, on the way between Melbourne and Adelaide, and with getting closer comes the faintest tinge of green over the paddocks like 5 day old lawn, we stopped for morning tea in the national park and head onto the other side where the dryness returns, till we get to within 80km of Albany then the green makes a comeback, at first it is noticed in patches in paddocks and on the side of the road, where the rain has collected, then another 20km further and it is back in all it’s beauty with rich green leaves on the trees, and magnificent rich grass covering the fields where sheep and cattle graze happily, oblivious to what their “cousins” 200km further up are enduring, we come into Albany as if we were in winter with even rain to welcome us (not too cold though), and head for a caravan park, set up, prepare tea in the Dreampot, and go explore the town, as well as check out some free camps for tomorrow.

Back to the van and settle to a great hot meal from the Dreampot, and a quiet evening watching some telly.

3rd May 2011

The caravan park is an Oz Park chain, and had wanted to charge peak rates as it is still school holidays, I said I wouldn’t pay peak fare and as they had spots available, they gave us the site at normal rates, unfortunately this is still a tourist destination so that was still $35 a night, we made the most of the power and switched everything over to 240v, charged the batteries, had a good shower, washed our towels (which are a bit of a struggle for our washing machine) and the rest of the washing we have from the last 2 days, Brenda spotted an iron so couldn’t resist it and everything was ironed, Tee shirts the lot, and filled the tanks and jerry cans with water, the park itself is small and apart from the dirt roads which are pretty muddy after the rain, it is mostly grass with cement pads for the annexe, the amenities are old but really clean, and the staff are friendly, we packed up and left at 10am.

Not wanting to slow our progress and thinking I just wanted to keep moving, Brenda has been in some pain and didn’t let on, but it is evident this morning, we were going to have a look around Albany then make our way to Cosy Corner, a small settlement 30km from Albany where, there are 2 freecamps, one, Cosy Corner West, is day use only but as always there are people staying the night, where there are toilets provided and also a cold outside shower, the other, Cosy Corner East, camping is permitted for 7 days and also provides toilets, it is in 2 parts, the lower where no camp fires are allowed because of the low overhang of the trees over every site and most of the camp, where bigger caravans can get in to some sites but have more difficulty, it would be an ideal spot at the height of summer because there is hardly any sun in there, this time of the year with the rain yesterday it is quiet damp and cold, the other is to the left and has spots for a couple of vans before the 4WD only sign, we had checked it out yesterday and went straight to it, and set ourselves up in a prime position, we are about 150m from the beach behind the sand dunes, trees behind us, but we are in a full sun spot, just great for the solar panels, we settled here with nothing to do but read, take a stroll on the beach, and watch the beautiful Blue Wrens, frolic in the sun, gee life’s hard.

4th May 2011

Refreshed after a day of rest we were off into town by 9am, had a look at the Brig Amity, a replica old sailing ship, straights to the Visitor information centre to get some info and off around town. Firstly we went to Mt Clarence, which has the Anzac monument and was the first place in Australia to hold a dawn service on the 25th of April 1930; it also has 270 degree views of King George III sound. which is the place where 30,000 men from Australia and New Zealand, gathered to leave Australia to go to the battlefields of Gallipoli, on the way from the car park, up the stairs to the monument, Brenda kept hearing noises in the bush, which I couldn’t, so we stopped and had a closer look at the undergrowth and found it nearly crawling with lizards, I think they were blue tongues, but as they have much darker colouring than the south Aussie ones, so I can’t be sure. While we were up there some people arrived with their grandchildren, we miss ours all the time, but when we see some kids we miss them even more. Mt Clarence overlooks Mt Adelaide, our next stop, from here you can see where all the ships lined up to wait for the troops, and there is now a plate commemorating the even, Mt Adelaide also hold Princess Royal Fortress an old fort which is now a museum to all things military, we didn’t go to the museum and headed for Middleton beach along Marine drive, which affords magnificent views of the sound and Princess Royal harbour, which is a large natural harbour, and then onto Emu point and the marina where we had fish and chips for lunch, I was amazed that we weren’t mugged by seagulls a we would have been anywhere in SA, and even the ½ dozen or so pelican weren’t interested in us, they waited patiently by the fish cleaning station for any fisherman to come along and throw some scraps. It was time to slowly head back to town and the other mountain stoping at a couple of the lookout along the way.

Mt Melville, this is the tallest of the 3 in town and holds the mobile phone towers, which are on a 3 level base, and there is a spiral staircase in it, from the platforms, you get 360 views of the city and King George sound to the east, across Princess Royal harbour to Frenchman bay to the south and the wind farm power station, out towards Denmark to the west and the distant Stirling ranges to the north, on a beautiful sunny day like today it is a magnificent view, it was time to stock up on some supplies and head back. Albany is a beautiful town, spread out over a large area, so it is not cramped, it has great views from many vantage points and is worth a few days spent here, we only had today, so I guess we’ll be back yet another time, one thing we have learnt, you can’t see and do everything, be happy with what you’ve done, there always a next time.

5th May 2011

Today we feel more in tourist mode than we have been, instead of long distance travelling and not much to actually do, it is the opposite, distances of 20-30km and out to look at something. The weather man has predicted some morning showers and the sky is completely overcast. It is only about 30km from our camp spot at Cosy Crn, to Denmark a nice little town on the south coast of WA, the drive between the 2 is almost like driving between home and Victor Harbour in SA, dairy grazing land and beautifully lush green, Although it is a nice place, there nothing much spectacular in the Denmark area, we stopped at a winery to taste some of the offerings but it’s only 10am, so a light tasting it was, only to compare the taste between here and McLaren vale in SA, but there are a lot of other wineries, as well as chocolate shops, cheese tasting, mead and honey, cider and toffee, and all sorts of produce, the countryside is also very green and hilly, and there are a couple of forest walks to be done, we got one in which took about an hour, walking through the Karri timber forest, we feel like ants among these giants, and these are only the regrowth, after all this had been cut down in the early days of Australia, it is a beautiful dense forest and the light rain has just begun, the ground is wet from past days of moisture, and the lack of sunshine down here has caused it to stay very moist, the smell of the wet forest is almost as entrancing as that of a log fire, the air is cool but moist so it’s not hard to work up a sweat, even though we are only walking slowly to enjoy this natural peace and beauty, as we get back to the car the sky opened up and the heavy rain, which was to stay with us for the day, started. After all the tastings on offer and getting in and out of the car for about 4 hours, it was time to stop on the side of the road and make some lunch, Brenda opted out, because of the titbits along the way and she had only just had a great cup of hot chocolate, made of whole fresh milk with Belgian chocolate bits melted into it, and she felt full. We moved on slowly and up towards our destination for tomorrow, which is the Valley of the giants, Tree Top Walk near Walpole, there is a rest area close by and that’s where we settle for the night, amongst more giant tees, later to be joined by a couple of backpackers in a 4WD.

6th May 2011

Although we were awake at 7am, we decided that a lazy morning was the order of the day as climbing in and out of the car isn’t a favourite with bad backs and Brenda’s certainly is complaining this morning, so we didn’t get going till 10am.

We were only 4k from the National park and the valley of the giants, the entry fee is $11pp or $8 for pensioners, and that gets you past the interpretive centre which we came back to later. The tree top walk is a raised platform which starts at ground level and goes up quite quickly but would still be manageable for a person in a wheel chair with help, there are 5, 20m spans supported by steel columns, and is takes you to a maximum height of 40mt to the tree canopy, as you climb amongst these huge Karri and Tingle trees the ground disappears below you on the open grate floor, those with a fear of heights may be put off by this as Brenda was, but if you concentrate on the natural beauty around you, you’ll be entranced by these natural giant wonders and you’ll be left feeling peaceful as you admire their stature, the view of the distant valley from the top is magnificent, but to be amongst the tree canopy and seeing the world below was great as we slowly meandered along the walkway back to look through the shop and interpretive centre as we waited for the guided tour of the Ancient empire walk, this very informative tour, walks you through the tall timbers and explains all about the forest which apart from a few birds, is relatively void of life during the day but does crawl with small wallabies called Quokkas (the same as on Rottnest Island) and other small animals like possums at night, the dense undergrowth makes it almost impossible for larger animals to survive here, this is the only forest of Tingle trees in the world and need to be kept as a national park, there are many trees which have been hollowed out by fungus, white ants and fire, where people used to walk through and even park their car under, but since some of these trees died, they came to realise that the trees root system is very fragile and other than a few where special walkways have been constructed, people are asked to stick to the pathways to protect these natural wonders, after 2 and ½ hours of walking with the giants it was time to head west, we are heading for a place where we can use the Generator or be able to plug into power as the stop start of yesterday didn’t get the batteries charged up properly and they were very low this morning, we did stop at Walpole which until the tree top walk was built in the late 90’s, was a sleepy little town but with it’s proximity to the attraction, has grown quite a bit into a beautiful little county town, with a great park, visitor centre and it even has 2 supermarkets, after a bit of lunch and a look around we hit the road, the drive along here is a narrow road considering it is Highway 1, but it has a decent surface, it was amazing to drive along this forest of tall timbers almost as big as the valley of the giants still with it’s dense undergrowth for miles, then as if someone had flicked a switch, we were in a flat valley of Australian Savannah with a few trees dotted here and there, thick grasses and grass trees standing tall like guards at the ready, this was the scene for about 2km, then as quickly as it came we were back to the tall trees, and thick understory, the drive for the rest of the day was like this, but instead of the Savannah, it would be sudden grazing land, for a few kilometres, or even at some stages it was like being transported back to Tasmania, with up, down roads twisting and winding through what seemed to be a rain forest with Yakka bushes, ferns and grand old trees, most of the time since leaving home Brenda has been knitting as I have driven but the last 2 days, she hasn’t picked it up for fear of missing something especially when it comes to these quick changes, which sometimes can be as short as 2-300 meters. In the Camps book, there is a camp called Shannon National Park (116 in camps5) and we called in there, to see if gennys were allowed, being able to used the genny (8am-9pm) we decided on this camp for the night for $6pp per night you get the peace of the forest, a great campsite, about 500m long enough room for about 40-50 vans/ campers/ and some tent sites (where no gennys are allowed) each site with a fire pit and a picnic table, there are hot showers and toilets available, and some volunteer campground hosts who keep the whole thing clean and tidy, although they say everyone does the right thing with not littering and mopping the showers after themselves, we started the genny after talking to the other campers here, assuring them it would only be on for a couple of hours to top up the batteries, no one had a problem with it anyway, after doing a bit of washing Brenda rested her back, and I got to cooking our first campfire meal, this place is the perfect mix between caravan park and bush camp.

7th May 2011

We awake this morning to the fresh forest smell yet again, the camp is quiet and people emerge from their campers and vans in awe of the peace here, people going on about their business with hardly a sound in the air even the birds are quiet, we have breakfast and pack up, and we’re on the road at 9am, we travel the 50 or so kilometres, through tall timber country to Manjimup, the shire town of the area, we need some things from the chemist, so after waiting for the scripts and walking around town and the Visitor Centre, it’s nearly 12 O’clock, it’s a nice town with only one attraction in the town itself, Timber park which comprises the timber museum, we’ve seen a few of those so decide against it and settle for lunch in the park, there are a few things to do in the area but we have to move on, and get to Bridgetown, to meet up with a member of Caravanners forum, the drive through here is absolutely beautiful, green rolling hills with the odd tall timber patch, and also some bush patches, with farmers dams about ½ full, but a close look at the green grass sees that there is absolutely nothing beneath it, as a reminder of the drought this area has endured. When it has been dry as in a normal summer, one can still see the dried grass below the new growth, there is some substance to the grass root system, but here it is like new lawn there is just dirt beneath it, and the grass is only from a recent heavy rain fall which these people have seen before in the last 3 years, only to see the grass die and disappear when follow up rains fail to arrive, we get to Bridgetown and our destination, we meet, greet chat, and share a coffee with our hosts admiring the magnificent view from their rural property, which looks over 1000’s of acres of magnificent rolling hills, we leave them about an hour later to head to our camp for tonight, Brenda’s back is still not great and we don’t want to long a day, the first place we look at is very small and more of a picnic spot we manage to turn around, but a longer van would have trouble, and move on to the next place only 4km away, this is down as a picnic spot but has a larger level car park, it is close to the road but it carries little traffic, once again in the peace of the forest with a clear blue sky, it is going to be another cold night, but now it is peaceful with only a little breeze in the tops of the trees 50 meters above us and a myriad of birds happily playing in the canopy, as we settle to cooking a simple meal to finish a beautiful day in the forest, yet again.

8th May 2011

The birds woke me with a gentle song from their, high vantage point, and the fresh smell of the forest was strong in the air, with this fresh air sleep comes easily and though I still wake early, it’s not till about 5.30, 6. After writing the log, it’s time to get breakfast and get moving, Brenda is usually awake soon after me and reads till I finish writing. Today is Mother’s day so were on the road at a leisurely pace after a special Breakfast in bed of sweet French toast covered in a light home made toffee. We once again enjoyed the drive in this wonderful part of the world, where there is everything from, natural bush, to grazing land, to pine plantation and also blue gum plantations, in fact part of this drive was like being transported back home to the drive through Kuipto forest between Willunga and Meadows, then suddenly as we approached Nannup, we came to this awe inspiring valley, with a 2km steep down hill drive, filled with all of the above, what a sight!! Being a small country town everything in Nannup was shut, even the servo so we went on towards Augusta, stopped at the Visitor centre and looked around town, we’ve seen plenty of beaches so today we decided to give the beach and Cape Leeuwin light house a miss, yes it’s a beautiful spot from all accounts but sometimes you just go with your gut and how you feel, Brenda decided on some lunch at the bakery, it’s Mother’s day after all so her choice, and a good one it was too, I was surprised to see some cakes very similar to those Dad used to make in his bakery, as it turns out the head baker is French, another walk and looking is some shops then head off towards Margaret river, we do avoid caravan parks, but today we feel like heading for power and showers for some reason, so we look in Camps 5 and there is a campground with showers and power so we head for it, this is Big Valley Campground, it is a camp ground situated on a working sheep station, set in a quiet valley near Margaret river, hidden by a state forest, and the vista is breathtaking, surrounded by sheep paddocks which are emerald green, with the recent rains, about 300mt from the farm house, all the amenities are farm type building constructed of timer and galvanised iron, but are very clean, and include camp kitchen and laundry, there are about a dozen vehicles here, mostly vans. The hosts Shelley and Kevin either meet you at the office or come to your campsite later and introduce themselves, if they were out busy when you arrive, you can walk around the property, where there have been gates placed to get you to all accessible areas, this offers as much as a caravan park, with the tranquil vista of grazing land and forests, the bird life is very evident here especially in the evening and early morning.

Just as well we went with our gut as just after our walk around this lovely place we got a magnificent thunderstorm which developed all around us, dry at first but just as we were walking back from our showers the heavens opened up and we got 15mm of rain in ½ an hour, then the sky cleared, and the rest of the night was peaceful, I made use of the camp kitchen to cook Brenda a meal fit for a queen, well meat balls in a home made sauce but it was nice anyway, Brenda had been feeling pretty low today, being away from the kids on Mother’s day, but she later said it had been a beautiful day.

9th May 2011

With no packing up to do we had a relaxed breakfast and headed off at about 9am, the first stop was a wool place which was mostly women’s clothes and accessories, luckily the place next door was coffee tastings and all thing coffee related so while Brenda had a look around the clothes, I went to join a few husbands at the coffee place, then we both looked at the cookies and patisserie shop next door, we were good and walked out of there without buying anything. Onto Margaret river and look around the town and a few shops, including a fudge and chocolate shop, then out to look at the area, wineries, though we only went into The Howling Wolf, tasted their wines and I bought a bottle, at $15 it’s a little more than I would usually pay, but it’s a nice drop, and reasonably priced, cheese tasting at Margaret River Cheese Company and again we bought some, it too was reasonable at $30 for 5 cheeses (about 800gms) and crackers, maybe a bit more than we would pay in the shop, but there’s the convenience of not having to go from shop to shop, to find exactly what you had tasted. Then we went to a myriad of other places, one of the biggest chocolate shops we’ve ever been into, where chocolate was ridiculously priced, a place which has a restaurant but also makes and sells chutneys, coulis and sauces where, by the prices, you would believe that the bottles they came in were made of gold, and so on, and so on, every place we went into a cereal and nuts place, the same, except for the 2 mentioned and a place where they have the most magnificent array of silk and fake flowers we have ever seen, as well as some wine which too was cheap, but a decent drop, every other place we went, seemed to want to suck every tourist dollar out of you before you went anywhere else. We realise that prices always are a bit higher in tourist areas, or say at the cellar door than in your local booze shop, but when they make their prices exorbitant it really turns you off the area, after a few of these places we’d had enough and went on to Dunsborough, a nice, well laid out town, with some great new subdivisions with lakes and things, and had lunch at the bakery, prices here are a little dearer than in Adelaide, only a bit, BUT the pies, cakes (which we didn’t have), buns and croissants are about 50% bigger, one potato pie and I was full, Brenda struggled with her roll, this isn’t just here but what we have noticed all through the south west. We then went on to Cape Naturaliste light house a few km away, get to the shop and $12 to go in the lighthouse, (which BTW we found out would have been the same price at Cape Leeuwin) What $12 to go in? Yes! But I just want to go and take a couple of photos, not go in!! Oh that’ll be $4!!! It’s not the girls fault so I didn’t say what I nearly did, thanked her and left, never before have we been asked to pay to go into a light house and worse pay to take a photo, but then again this is the Margaret River area and I guess the council and everyone else is getting in on the act of ripping off the tourist, after a walk around (which was actually free) we leisurely went back to camp via the coast road stopping at a couple of places, taking photos where we could, though disappointed at the pricing attitude of the produce type attractions, we had a great day with lots of sight seeing, the area is beautiful with great scenery, forest patches left untouched, great green grazing land (at the moment) and even the Yakka bushes here are thick and tall quite different than those at home so everything is fresh and lovely, a scratch tea tonight of leftovers and soup, with a great cheese and crackers supper while we watch a movie before settling for the night.

10th May 2011

Re-reading the log of a couple of days ago, I didn’t describe the amenities too well, yes they are made like farm type buildings, but the interior is good, they are lined and tiled, and kept very clean, the camp kitchen also has a communal area with pool table, and lots of seating and there is a fire pit outside so the old camp fire is cranked up in the evening, although it’s usually the young ones gathering around it and seeing as all the facilities are here at the camp we had a good shower before we left and headed off at 9.30. As we had been through Margaret River, Kevin (the farmer) told us to avoid all the traffic and go to Busselton the back way, it was a pleasant drive trough dairy farming land and state and national forests. We arrived in Busselton about an hour later, and went straight to the visitor centre, armed ourselves with a map and some info and headed straight to the jetty to book for the underwater observatory tour, the first available is 1 O’clock, being 11.30 we decide to stroll back to the van and have some lunch, sitting on the foreshore. The jetty, observatory and train to it, have just been refurbished and are all now working, the jetty at 1600m is the longest in the southern hemisphere, and is now covered in cement slabs, the train, which has mini carriages 2 seats wide and 6 long, is driven by a “locomotive” which looks the part but is driven by a car motor and auto transmission, on a 6 wheeled base, 4 being pneumatic tyres, and 2 train wheels, when the train reaches its destination, the locomotive is detached, the train wheels are lifted, and the engine is driven around to the back of the train where the train wheel are re-engaged for the return trip, quite well done and a novel way to travel, you also have the choice of walking to the observatory or back from it, but the train trip is included in the $28 entry to the observatory, as is the $5 fee to get onto the jetty, that I think is a bit harsh for those who don’t want to go the whole lot.

The observatory is a guided tour, not that you could get lost in the place but the info given is informative and well worth it, there are 60 odd steps to negotiate, to 4 levels (there is a wheel chair lift to all levels) where there are windows to the undersea world, the first is at tide level ½ in and ½ out of the water, showing the differences and the underneath of the jetty, the next at 2 meters deep, the next at about 5 and the last at seabed level, it is THE best way of seeing life under the sea without donning a wetsuit, the hundreds of fish of all different sorts swimming by, was great, even with the comment from beside me “See Frank, there are fish in the sea, and that’s what they look like” Har, har, har, Why do women think such remarks are funny?? J Anyway, the growth on the pylons, from barnacles, to green, yellow, blue and red sponges, to yellow, white and pink sea grasses, waving as flags in a gentle breeze, fish of all the colours of the rainbow, swimming in and out looking for a feed or a place to hide and larger fish looking like streaks of chrome flashing the sunlight above, made for a kaleidoscope of colour to tantalise the eyes, to a point where one is mesmerised by the gentle swaying of the sea, where all fish are slowly moving with it’s relaxing movement and you feel like you are in a trans, hypnotised by mother nature, unable to take your eyes of the visual smorgasbord she is offering, after 40 minute the guide is there to make sure you awake and get back up top to catch your train to reality. Walking around town afterwards seemed almost a letdown, and although it is a beautiful town, clean, with well planned parks, decorative intersections and a lovely foreshore, it cannot surpass the magnificence of the underwater world one has just witnessed, if you do come to Busselton, enjoy the city and surrounds, before you set your eyes on the observatory, it was nearly 4 O’clock and time to find a place to settle for the night, about 20km out of town was such a place in the Tuart forest, and we share the place with 5 other rigs.

11th May 2011

We got to Bunbury by 9.30 and were surprised to find such a large town, at least 3 times that of Busselton. It is a very beautiful town with well planned streets and very clean, once again we headed for the visitor centre, we got the info we needed, unhooked the van, then the first stop was the Dolphin interpretive centre, unfortunately it is the wrong season down here for them and although they are in the bay, they spend most of their time out fishing to put on weight for the winter ahead, so rarely come in to shore, the centre itself is good, with some interactive displays, aquariums, and a magnificent 360 degree cinema, showing 3 short films continuously of a dolphin birth, 4 dolphins hunting a school of fish and a shark attack on a young dolphin with the herd protecting it, it is almost like being in the water with them, there are also some boat tours that can be done but with only a slight chance to see dolphins we didn’t go, in summer there is also a swim with the dolphins cruise, after a guided tour of the place and our own look around we left about an hour and a ½ later disappointed that a dolphin hadn’t come in to shore. Our next stop was the Marston hill lookout, where there is a spiral stair case in a tower to the viewing platform for a 360 degree look at the town, unfortunately it is an open tower and Brenda was none too keen on getting up there, but she made it and we both enjoyed the view, after a look at the checker board light house (painted in black and white squares, duh) we went to Taffy’s quality candy, with the name Taffy I was expecting a Scot but he was American? Anyway his candies are all home and handmade, there on the premises, and you can watch them being made, he tells you all about them and then gets you some samples, lots of different kinds, all American style and all really nice, what was even better they were not at the rip off prices we had encountered at Margaret River, more expensive than you’d get in a supermarket, but these are handmade in small batches and the price was fairly represented, we spent a few dollars in there and were happy to see not all places try to rip you off, after that we went to some of the beaches and sights of this lovely town, it was then time for a late lunch and a stroll around town and some of the shopping districts, just window shopping, We headed out of town refuelled and took the tourist drive out towards Mandurah, 25km out to Belvidere camp ground, in the Leschenault peninsula conservation park, a lovely campground with loos and fire pits provided, even fire wood, but the road into it had to be travelled at walking pace in places due to the corrugations, and we didn’t want to shake the van to bits, after setting up the van we decided on a walk around the place, right to the lake and were rewarded by a mob of roos watching us walk by within about 10m of them, lots of birds of all different types, including about 30 black swans on the lake, all in all another beautiful day, with perfect weather once again, and a relaxing evening in a conservation park with about 6 other campsites taken up, each about 50-60mt away from each other.

12th May 2011

With a good sleep in peaceful place we didn’t feel like hurrying out of there so we took it slow, I got a camp fire going and put the bucket on to heat a good deal of water to do dishes and have a good wash, after breakfast. The kangaroos are still hanging around and have grown to a mob of 5, obviously used to humans around they watch you go about your business and will only move if you get a bit close, the dozens of parrots, (not sure what they are) all green with a yellow ring on their neck and a black head, are everywhere and chatting away in the trees and on the ground, magpies, ravens, and other birds join in the morning symphony. We finally got away at about 10, and headed for Mandurah, after ringing Bernie and Allan, our friends in Perth, we found out that Madge, Bernie’s Mum, is in a nursing home there, knowing Madge from years ago we couldn’t go there without visiting her, we found the place and Madge, as we have only seen each other once, 6years ago, in the last 30 years, she didn’t recognise us at first, but the memories soon came back and we had a great visit. We then went to the visitor centre with a quick look around town, there were only a few of things that interested us in town and we were finished with most of those by 3.30, leaving one of them for tomorrow we headed for Pinjarra, a small town 18km away from Mandurah, it has been, a little out of the way town, not really visited much unless you know it’s history and they are making a push for tourism, with that they have not only a caravan park in town, but also a freecamp and a dump point for the chemical toilets at the visitor centre, we set up for the night there with info on what to do in town tomorrow, had we known about the place earlier we would have planned a couple of days here as there is enough to do to fill them in, with the stop, start of today we didn’t get enough power into the batteries, so after checking with the people in the motorhome closest to us, I put the genny on for a couple of hours while we watched some telly, another beautiful day with perfect weather, we are lucky with only one full day of rain so far and the odd shower here and there, mostly the days have been sunny and warm.

13th May 2011

We were awake early today and after the log was written, we’d had breakfast and cleaned and packed the van it was only 8.30, so we decided to do 1 of the 2 historical walks around Pinjarra, it says it only takes ½ and hour, so we will probably have time to do the other as well, we hit our first snag to the timetable at the first thing on the list, a beautiful old homestead, which was open and even had tearooms, we didn’t have tea but looked around, the second wasn’t open but it’s all within the grounds of the first along with an old barn with some early vehicles and the second snag a museum, staffed by volunteers, one of whom gave us a run down on some of the exhibits, very friendly and informative, all things dating back 40 to 100 years quite a few of them restored and in working condition and some, even I remember, ooh I Hate that J, then it was on with the walk, stop here, stop there, look at this, look at that and the ½ hour walk turned out to be 1 and ¾ very pleasant and only covering about 2km mainly along the riverbank, next time we come, we will definitely stay here 2 to 3 days and enjoy this town and area properly. We then went back towards Mandurah, to the Abington miniature gardens, a very nice place well worth a visit, with 1/10th scale homes, castles, buildings and pubs from England, as well as a working model railway, a miniature golf, a maze and manicured gardens, there is a BBQ and picnic area so you could easily spend ½ a day in there, we walked around the whole place and the maze, in an hour and a half then headed for Perth on the freeway, we have a GPS to make things easier in towns but I still don’t want to fight with peak hour traffic, especially after 3 weeks of hardly any traffic at all. We arrived at Bernie and Allan’s by about 2.30 and settled to spend the next week and ½ here.

14th – 24th May 2011

We intended taking our time around the SW of WA and arriving at our Friends place around the 21st, but Brenda had found a lump in her breast just after leaving Esperance, we’re pretty sure it’s not too much to worry about, but we still needed to get it checked out, after a tense, scary couple of weeks, thank God all its all clear, it is only a remnant of a treatment Brenda had before we left Adelaide, so all is well. I went with Allan when he picked up their hire van, it’s only Allan’s second attempt at towing so with a 21ft van it’s a steep learning curve for him, but he gets the hang of it fairly quickly.

25th May 2011

We’re all packed we hit the road after some last minute shopping, we head slowly for New Norcia, a good distance for a first day of towing and get there at about 3.30, set up in the freecamp and enjoyed our first relaxing evening on the road together.

26th May 2011

When we arrived yesterday there were 4 vans in the camp, we parked away from the others because we were going to use the genny, and by the time we headed into the visitor centre this morning the other 2 were getting ready to move off. The whole town of New Norcia is a monastic town, built and run by the Benedictine monks and is the only monastic town in Australia, most buildings are open to look through or available on the tour, we leisurely looked through the hotel and the machine shop, it was then time to take the tour, it takes you through the history of the town back from when the first few monks arrived from Spain in the early 1800s to today, as well as the buildings, including the present chapel used by the 9 monks left here, the old boarding schools for boys and girls and their respective chapels which have been restored, the museum and art gallery are for you to look through at your own leisure, which we decided to do in the afternoon after a bite to eat, we went back to the vans only to find a small village had sprung up and there were 10 other rigs surrounding us, we had some lunch, went for a walk and then tackled the art gallery and museum, we had given ourselves 2 hours and could have easily used 3, the art works are magnificent and under heavy surveillance due to a robbery in the 80’s in which a number of paintings were cut from their frames, all have been recovered but had to be extensively restored.

It is well worth a stop here for a couple of days.

As well as the freecamp, there are also powered sites available at a cost behind the petrol station, the town is on the main northern highway so there are passing trucks all night, and so can be noisy, but the setting is nice, right next to the town oval, and the Moore river close by.

27th May 2011

We were all ready to head off by 8.30, Bernie isn’t too sure about the caravanning lifestyle, she feels very cramped, it’s only natural after only the first day, the lack of room around you is very different to being in a house where each living space is its own room, and the van has it all in one. We headed towards Cervantes and the Pinnacles, one of the things Brenda and I didn’t see on our last trip to WA, as it turns out Bernie and Allan haven’t seen them either. On the way Allan smelled something burning, we stopped and checked it out, it smelled like hot oil but there was no evidence of any leaks under the bonnet, or below the motor and transmission, and no smoke, we moved on and stopped a little further for morning tea and the smell was completely gone. We arrived at the Pinnacles and decided on the walk first, then the drive.

The Pinnacles are a huge number of sandstone “pillars” which stand erect in an area which can only be called a desert, it is mostly sand with a few shrubs dotted here and there but it is surrounded by a forest, to me the Pinnacles look like the remnants of a petrified forest, most of them looking very much like what is left of large tree trunks after a fire has gone through a forest, but made of stone, others reminding me too much of my youthful early morning glory J most over 150cm tall, some as tall as 3 meters, some only little bumps in the ground, some large, wide and thick, some tall and thin, but all looking like an army at the ready, in some places it looked like head stones in a graveyard and others a lunar landscape, others a beach pockmarked with anti tank devices ready to stop an invading army, the whole scene was amazing and beautiful, in a desert scene on yellow sand surrounded by scrub and nearly pure white sand, it must, from the air, look like a giants child has dropped a load of yellow sand on a grassy patch and filled it with stones, it is an awesome sight.

After the walk we headed back to the car to do the drive, as our car is filled with the things we need for touring and Allan’s only has a few things in it, we decided to only take his, I went to unhook it and found oil all over the safety chains, on investigation I found that the whole rear passenger side of the car was covered in what I think is diff oil, we rang the RAC and at 5.30 pm ended up in the Jurien Bay caravan park waiting till tomorrow morning waiting to have the car looked at, but it looks like a delay of at least 4-5 days, Bugger, …………… again.

28th May 2011

After Organising to get the car to the garage, the mechanic told us it was a common problem with that model it is only a flanges which had come off causing the axle to pop out of the diff, there is an upgrade for it but that needs to be done in Geraldton, he would be able to fix it in order to get us there and we could take it to the Mitsubishi dealer and have to new parts fitted. We left their car there and headed back to the Pinnacles to take the drive around them in our car, the walk yesterday was fantastic but the drive even better, you do go over some of the ground covered in the walk, which is 1.6km, but on the drive you cover 4.5km and it was definitely worth the trip back, the pinnacles are made of sandstone, but with the years and what ever else has affected them, they are different colours at every turn, sometimes the yellow of the sand, sometimes grey and covered in lichen and moss, sometimes, brown and yet others are multi-coloured, speckled all over and some in layers of red, grey and yellow, some are cylindrical and rounded on top and have a very phallic look about them, others pointy and wide, some tall, some short and yet others look like some weird sculpture placed there by an artist as a statement against the uniformity of the surrounding formations, we enjoyed our leisurely drive through these awesome formations and were sorry that the drive was not longer, this is a track through a desert scene, but as it is mostly sandstone you are driving on it is easily passable with a 2WD vehicle in fact they equal 4WDs in numbers of cars going through, even small 12 seater buses go through there, so small camper vans also fit, caravans are banned because of the length, in saying that I had forgotten to mention yesterday that Allan did get in there with his L, he had missed the sign to turn into the car park, and ended up on the track into the Pinnacles and by the time he realised it there were 3 cars behind him and he was committed to find a turn around spot, by the time I got to him he had tried to do a U turn and was in a predicament, luckily the spot he had chose was a Y junction close to the start and I was able to turn the rig around for him, a little red faced he apologised and I told him to forget it, although I like a good friend always does I won’t let him J J J.

After the Pinnacles we headed for Cervantes to have a look around, it is a small fishing village with many crayfish boats close to shore, and the mansions of the poor owners ;) on the esplanade overlooking the azure sea. We then headed back the caravan park, picked up the car from the garage then organised an early tea and went to a performance by “Buzzer” a bush balladeer, he lives locally now, but has lived all over Australia in his eighty years, and has a good entertaining show which he puts on twice a week at the CP and also sells a bit of merchandise including CDs. Like all bush/country music his song are based on life events, one particularly struck me, it’s called Broken bodies and active minds, it’s about the Aboriginal leper settlement which used to be in far North WA, some of his song were from known artists including Slim Dusty and Kenny Rodgers. It was then 8.30 and time to settle for the night.

29th May 2011

We were ready and on the road by 10 to slowly make our way to Geraldton, little did we know that slowly was really the way we’d do it, we had stopped for morning tea at a roadhouse and by lunch time we were within 89km of Geraldton and the diff let go again, Oh cr@p, RAC call again and they told us that the car would go to Geraldton and the van would stay in Dongara 25km from where we were????? The tow truck is from Geraldton, and that’s were the car is going but it would cost an extra $200 to take the van as well ???? On the top RAC table????? Allan was not impressed so after waiting 2 hours for the tow truck the car and van were loaded and hooked up and off we went, the tow truck driver also said “oh yeah, that’s a common problem”, van was dropped off in Dongara, Allan went with the car and Bernie, Brenda and I stayed with the van till some friends of theirs could organise to pick it up, needless to say with all the organising, phone calls to and from and so on, it was 6.00pm before we got into Geraldton, Bernie and Allan’s friend were very welcoming and we set up the 2 vans in the front yard, we organised some tea and Brenda went straight to bed as her back is killing her, and the rest of us were in bed by 9pm after such a stressful day.

30th May 2011

Allan was up early to go to the repairers and have a word with them, they too said this was a common problem; in fact they have already repaired 3 others here this month! We think this should have been a recall, and Allan will take it up when he gets home.

With all he hassles and stress of yesterday Brenda is in a lot of pain so she decided to stay in bed while Donna, Bernie and Allan’s friend, showed us around town, including the HMAS Sydney memorial, we had seen it before, but Bernie and Allan hadn’t, it is a beautiful memorial to the 645 men who lost their lives on the 19th November 1941. The first element of the memorial is the wall, it has the history of the HMAS Sydney and the names of the crew, the second element, is a huge dome filigreed with 645 stainless steel seagulls, it is built on a raised platform with a large ships propeller, as a centre piece, which serves as a wreath laying alter in ceremonies, the forth element a marble monolith the shape of a ships bow, and the forth a bronze statue of a woman looking out to the horizon waiting for her menfolk to return to shore, the fifth element is now under construction because the Sydney has been found, it will be a large pond, with the map of WA in it, 644 S/S seagulls sitting on the edge and one flying over the “ocean” with it’s wingtip pointing to the wreck site, a touching site to remember the lost souls.

After a little shopping we went back to have a relaxing afternoon, the phone call came in that the repairs were going to total just under $900, $600 for parts, 2 flanges and 2 rubber seals, disgusting!!! The car will be ready tomorrow afternoon so we’ll head off on Wednesday, I have booked a snorkelling dive with the whale sharks, from Coral Bay, for the 10th so that still gives us plenty of time to get there.

31st May 2011

Our hosts mother, Shirley, showed us around town today, we went to the museum, I didn’t check but it seems a new building and has some great exhibitions including on the Batavia, a famous ship wreck and other wrecks in the area, also an exhibition on mining, as well as some on the settlers in the early days, and the aboriginals of hat time and before, we spent a good couple of hours in there, in fact it was lunch time when we came out. After a bite to eat we went through the old goal, then our separate ways to do some window shopping, we also had to get some mail from the post office, Amanda, our daughter, sends important things to us to the post offices of cities we will get to, and mail is held there for us, most travellers use this method. During our window shopping we saw a small, 1kg, twin tub washing machine at a decent price, it now resides in the back of the car, and when we got back to the house, Shirley bought our old single tub (no spinner) from us, washing on the road will now be easier.

Then the bad news came, the problem with Bernie and Allan’s car is much worse than first diagnosed, the diff is stuffed to put it mildly, and needs to be replaced, it may be done under warranty but it will take time to organise, at least a week. Bernie and Allan have to cancel their trip, it leaves us all devastated, they have planned this for 2 years to coincide with our trip, they have already overspent on their son’s car to get it ready and now, they are faced with the non return, rental cost of the van for one month which they will not use, and having to get the van back to Perth without a vehicle, they will check with RAC tomorrow and if they can’t help will have to rely on friends here in Geraldton to help, they do not want us to change our plans, and their van is over the towing limit for our car anyway, and they insist we go on without them, so we feel helpless in their time of need, our van is ready to go tomorrow and we will continue on with sadness.

1st June 2011

It was with great sadness that we left Bernie and Allan behind, it was always going to be a hard thing to do but in these circumstances it is even harder. We travelled for a while in silence, hardly noticing the scenery and both thinking of our friends and their predicament. Our first stop for the day was a mere 50km away at Northampton, a nice little town with some great old buildings including St Mary’s, the Catholic church, built in the gothic style with beautiful local stone, we wondered around town, to stretch the legs for a while before continuing on our journey, the ever present pasture land stretches for kilometre after kilometre and with recent rains the paddocks are the most beautiful rich green that would be the envy of any greens keeper, the odd few haven’t been ploughed yet so are still brown or grey stubble covered in dust and still others have not yet been sowed, with the ever changing sand colour in this part of the country, that makes for colours from rich brown soil to white, yellow, orange and red sands of different shades, so one never tires of the ever changing kaleidoscope of colours which tantalise the eyes, Brenda has even put down her knitting to admire the changing scenery. By about 12.45 we fell peckish and stop for lunch at a rest stop, a sandwich and cup of soup later we’re off again, by now the paddocks are decreasing and the state conservation reserves are increasing, so there are more trees, and less open land, it is way too early for the wildflowers, but the different colours of the foliage still adds some beauty to the kaleidoscope, we pass a few rest areas including the Galena bridge rest area which is beside the Murchison river, where we stayed 5 years ago, and head for Nerren Nerren rest area, only about 50km further on, it is a large area, spread over about 3 acres able to accommodate many rigs small and large, there are a number of fire pits, toilets and even a dump point, it is only about 2.30 so after setting up we decide on a walk, and along the road there are many small Spinifex plants just starting to sprout, it won’t be long before we see the ground covered in them, can’t wait to get up there.

2nd June 2011

There were 12 other rigs in the camp last night and we are the last ones out, in fact someone pulled up for morning tea as we were about to leave, they are probably heading for Broome and cover large distances every day, we prefer doing about 200-250km a day, today we only intend doing about 180. Travelling along at 85km we are not the slowest on the road and overtake another van travelling at 75-80 but as I get along beside him he decides he want to do the same speed as us, he has a much larger van so I’m able to accelerate and pass him, mind you I had to get up to 105 to do it, too many idiots, not enough bullets, I say. Anyway we also passed another car, also travelling at 80. we went on to Overlander roadhouse, and now LPG is starting to get up there, 119.9cpl, then turned left towards Shark bay and Denham, we have been to Hamlin Pool before and decide to bypass it today, our next stop is Shell beach, a beautiful beach about 100mt wide and 2km long covered in only shells and shell fragments, we had stopped here last time but it’s time to stretch the legs anyway, we then head further north and stop at a couple of lookouts some we are sure were not here 5 years ago, as we had not been to them and we both remember having stoped at all the lookouts, so we see some new scenery which is breathtaking, long drop cliffs in places others the land gently sweeping down to meet the azure sea, where the water is so crystal clear, that it takes me want to get the mask and snorkel out, one dip of the left toe in the water reminds me that we are not far enough north for that quite yet, brrrrr, anyway we move on past Whalebone bay, where we freedom camped 5 years ago, and at least 5 other vans have chosen today, onto Fowlers camp 5km further on, which is much smaller, we rang the visitor centre to get a permit to stay and we set up camp, it is still early but we have a bit of washing to do as we are putting away most of our warm clothing, and getting out the shorts and T-shirts, while Brenda is playing with her new toy, I get the choofer out and heat some water for a shower and set up the shower tent and start on tea, a beef and cabbage curry in the dreampot, 2 couples in motorhomes decide that this is a good spot as well and by sundown we are also joined by another van, a whizzbang (a campervan with a sliding door, which whizzes as it slides then bangs as it shuts) and a couple in a tent which fills the camp, but having been here first we have the only spot about 60mt away from the others where they are within 10mt of each other. We are literally the width of the road away from the ocean, there is a slight breeze cooling the air, there are no waves, the water it almost like glass, in fact on the horizon one can’t tell where the sea stops and the sky starts, a few gulls glide by lazily, even the flies here are lazy and hardly bother you, the only sound is that of a gull calling in the distance, it is such a peaceful place, that by the time we have had tea and done the dishes, we watch an hour of telly, and fall asleep by 8.30.

3rd June 2011

We remembered from last time that the dolphins usually come in early for their first feed so we were up early, had breakfast and were on the road at 5 past 7, straight to Monkey Mia, to our surprise the entrance fee is still the same as 5 years ago $8pp and $6 for concession, I dropped Brenda off at the gate while I parked the van and car, but the dolphins hadn’t come in yet, there were many people waiting to see them, we walked up and down the beach and waited, finally at 9.30 they were sighted a “family” as they call them here of about 10 including 3 ranging in age from 7 to 19 months and being very boisterous at times, a one stage nearly knocking one of the rangers over, the dolphins are only given a small amount of fish, only as a reward for coming ashore and to encourage them to continue hunting, the rangers gave their spiel on the dolphins how to identify them, how they interact, why they come in to shore, the different families, and so on and so on, this gives the dolphins some time to decide whether they will come in or not and how many of them will, juveniles are never fed, only adult females and males never come in to shore, pods of males and females don’t interact. ½ an hour later the show is over and the dolphins head back out, unfortunately neither of us were lucky enough to feed a dolphin. One bloke had to be chatted by the rangers, while everyone was on the beach, he donned his wetsuit, fins and snorkel and swan out to the pod and tried to play with them and even touch one. We hung around, looked through the shops and had a coffee and went back to the beach, I spotted them first and we headed to the interaction area, and stepped in the water they came straight up to us and within 1 metre, it is amazing the feeling you get when looking one of these beautiful animals in the eye, one of them Piccolo the dolphin Brenda had fed 5 years ago was even feeding her young as she meandered along, there were about a dozen of us there, no one yelled, no one tried to touch them, no one splashed, we all just looked as they swam slowly past looking form one person to the other, one of the rangers came along and asked us all to take one step back, in our haste to see them we had gone just a little too deep and were passed our ankles in the water, we stepped back as the crowd was gathering, only about 60 people this time compared to over 100 this morning, and many new faces, a lot of people had left the complex, the rangers did their thing and the feeding started with Brenda being picked to feed Surprise, she was absolutely ecstatic about having the opportunity to be so close to one of them again, we hung around for the last feed which was at 11.50, ten minutes later they would have missed out as the rangers never feed them after 12 o’clock, once again to encourage them to feed themselves so they do not become dependant on us feeding them.

We headed back into Denham which is a nice town, did some shopping, went to the visitor centre to get a permit to stay at the freecamp tonight, and then saw a group of quad bikes, advertised as Shark Bay Quad Bike Tours, we enquired about the 2 o’clock ride, and went to the bakery for some bread and talk about the ride, we decided to do it an went back and booked, got the gear and went on it, it is an easy ride, no experience necessary, and you can go on the bike on your own or with a pillion, it costs $90 for the bike for he 2 hour ride and $50 for the pillion, the guy running the show was friendly and informative, we went riding through the sand dunes sometimes in 4WD but mostly in 2, and we had been assured there were not too many rough patches, it was a great ride, well worth the money and something very different to do, even though Brenda will pay for it tomorrow, our busy day over, we headed back to the camp to find it filled with about 10 rigs, some even on the roadway leaving enough room to get passed, and later still 4 more whizzbangs and cars came a long. This is after the visitor centre told us that only 4 rigs were allowed here and we were the 3rd to get a pass. Anyway we found a spot good enough to spend the night and as we settled for the nigh, a light rain started

4th June 2011

Well unfortunately Brenda is paying for the quad bike tour this morning, though she doesn’t regret going on it, she is very sore, so we have to stop for at least a day, we have breakfast and wait till 9am to ring the visitor centre to ask for an extension of the 24hr stop, at first they say no but once I explain that Brenda is in pain they allow us to stay, so I get the genny out and fully charge the batteries, and we have a relaxing day by the water, not much to do today, thunderstorms are predicted, they never come but it rains lightly on and off all day, the wind even picks up and it gets cool enough to have to don a jacket, and we are reminded that we are missing winter back home, I connect to the net for a while, send and receive some emails and check in on a couple of forums, and we read, the 5 other vans close by also stay put, all in all a very quiet day in, out of the rain.

5th June 2011

With not far to travel today, only 187km to Gladstone lookout, we were in no hurry to get going, the rain was still on and off so we timed our cleaning and packing up with it, and were on the road at 9.45, took it easy on 80kph and backtracked to Overlander roadhouse, fuelled up and had some early lunch and a coffee before heading off, the road here has long straights in it, so overtaking us, is no problem for other. The lay of the land is undulating low hills spread about 3-4km apart and it is covered in low lying shrubs with the odd 3-4mt high tree, the sand has turned a rich browny red and there are puddles of water every where, testament to the recent rains and those of the last 24hrs, there is even a fine grass covering all over, there are no towns out here, in fact the last one was Northampton, there have been 2 roadhouses and there is one more before Carnarvon 200km away, soon we reach our destination, and set up the van with the cloud starting to breakup and the odd bit of sky showing trough. Gladstone lookout is a flat topped hill the highest of 3, in a mostly flat terrain, it looks out to he west over shark bay about 3km away, the other side of shark bay, where we were this morning is not in sight, there is grazing land between here and the ocean, though there is no stock here at the moment, on that gazing land there are a number of low lying areas which have semi filled from the rains, in fact speaking to a couple here who holiday this way often, it is the first time they have ever seen water in them in the seven times they have stopped here. Because of the rain, although it is only shrubs and now some grass, the whole lot is green, not like grazing land, but very green for what is supposed to be arid country, with the ocean in the background and small lakes in between, these are million dollar views that the developers look for near towns, we relax for the afternoon, sit, read, walk, look at the passing traffic 40 meters bellow us and the magnificent beauty laid out before us, snooze and chat with other people who stop to admire the view, by sundown 6 other rigs make this their stop for the night, and all are watching the sunset of rich autumn colours, set over an azure sea with a few white clouds in the distance, which become black silhouettes against a sky of red to deep brown, all of this reflected 3 or 4 times in the pools of water between us and the sea, finally as we tear ourselves away from a darkened sky, it’s time to cook some tea and settle for a good nights rest, our eyes tired from the overload of colours and sights on this calm, warm evening.

6th June 2011

Having slept in till 7.15 we were in no particular hurry to leave this beautiful spot, the drive to Carnarvon from here is only about 2 hours even at the speed we’re travelling, so we had breaky and packed up, checked the fluid levels and tyre pressure as usual and headed off by about 9.30 with only one other rig still there. The road is similar to yesterday but the closer we get to Carnarvon the more evidence of recent rain there is and the heavier it gets, lots of puddles on the side of the road and in places they are the size of small lakes, lots of wash outs in places and lots of places where the road has been repaired after last years cyclone damage. We get into town and as we may have to stay here a couple or 3 days while we wait for doctors or medication to arrive, we go straight to the caravan park we stayed at last time and book in, we firstly have showers, then lunch and then go to the hospital only to find out it is a public holiday and the doctor will only see emergency patients, so we head back to the park stopping only to get a couple of things from the supermarket and wash the car, back at the park and have a lazy afternoon.

7th June 2011

We needed to be at the hospital at 8am, so we were up and gone by 7.45, early morning rushes are not good for youJ, but at the hospital they told us we would be better off at the medical centre?? Why couldn’t the nurse have told us that yesterday?? So they actually made an appointment for us, we went back to the back to the caravan park to do some washing and along the way looked for some LPG for the car, 3 stations were washed out in the cyclone last year and 2 are still closed, Shell and BP, the only other one with LPG, Caltex is still being remodelled and has no LPG pump operational, so we have to go on, on petrol, Minilya roadhouse, 140km away is the next with LPG, hopefully. Anyway we got our washing all done and went back into town to see some things which weren’t there 5 years ago, including an Aboriginal cultural centre and gallery, well worth the visit, the town does look sad though, as all the buildings have bars, grills or shutters at the windows, and although it has a friendly atmosphere, one can sense a disruptive, destructive element here at night, there are a couple of large rigs parked in town, one of them was with us at Gladstone lookout, they seem to be OK so, just buildings may be the target of alcohol fuelled destruction, never the less we wouldn’t feel comfortable parking in this town. After some window shopping, checking out the town, doctors appointment and the chemist, we headed back to the van to organise ourselves to leave tomorrow, and cook tea. We bought some prawns from the wharf, $16 a kilo for broken and soft Australian king prawns, ½ of that with vegies, in a Napolitana sauce, with some added garlic and spices, slowly cooked with some pasta, washed down with a glass of red, mmmmm! What a way to finish the day. But I may have to find photos of Kia and Jazz again tonight we both miss them but Brenda is really missing them and she want to see the photos.

8th June 2011

In Town, and at the caravan park there was an advertisement for a one hour plantation tour just on the outskirts of town so we left the caravan park at 9.45 and headed for the plantation, but only when we got there, was it advertised that there was a cost of $6.50pp, there were about 15 other people there and most did the same as us, bought an ice cream and left with only 4 joining the tour, we headed north up to Minilya roadhouse, an hour and a half away, fuelled up and had lunch at a rest stop just 500m away, the landscape up to here is quite different to what I remember with having a lot more shrubs and being very green, last time we were here about six to 8 weeks later in the year and being the dry season of course makes it very different, as I said before they have had a lot of rain recently, and this area was in heavy flood just 6 months ago, so there is a lot of undergrowth and great amount of new, fresh, green grass, we have only see one dead kangaroo but there are a lot of wild sheep and many more herds of wild goats, they are thriving with all this food and water around, the puddles of water on the side of the road continue all the way to Minilya and in some places even look like inland seas, in many places you see, where a truck has tried to come off the road and sunk in the dirt only to come back onto the road, even the rest areas look like they were mere mud puddles very recently, after Minilya, we turn off the main highway towards Coral Bay and Exmouth, and head for 14 mile beach, a cheap camp on Warroora station, we have heard a lot about on forums and from people who have stayed here, the area is more sparsely vegetated but the green continues and the termite mounds are making a show once again, I had contacted Warroora a while ago, by email, and was told it was $12 a night for 2 people, the map on the net shows a “good unsealed road” we have been told to bypass the first entrance and go to the second about 45km further to save some dirt driving, and the road is better, then there is only 11km of “good unsealed roads” we turn onto this second entrance, pass the grid and almost instantly have some corrugations, then the road smooths out for about 300mt and the corrugations start again, who in their right bl@@dy mind would call this goat track a good unsealed road is beyond me, the corrugations are so bad that people have made a track to the side of the road to avoid them and although that is still undulated it is better than the road which has corrugations 7cm high and 10cm long nearly all the way, where there are no corrugations it is full of rocks and potholes, hoping the road gets better we carry on but even when we turn onto the track to the beach, all that happens is it narrows and cambers in the corners, so much so that I damage one of the support legs on the front corner of the van and get a big scratch in the side of the car trying to avoid a pothole, it only smooths out when we get to the beach, by this time Brenda is in so much pain that we cannot just leave the place when we are told that it is $7.50pp per night and there are NO facilities save for a dump point and rubbish tip, there must be well over 100 rigs here of all shape and sizes all along the beach spread over about 500mt and this is only one of a few camping site on the place, THEN we are told we are lucky to have come the way we did! The other road is worse???????? How in the hell can it be worse, the guy behind me had a broken gas line to his 3 way fridge, and a light fitting was broken on the ceiling when he got here because of the rattling , the wiring was even shorting and he had to repair it before starting the genny, we are here now and because of the pain Brenda is in we will have to stay, we will let the tyres down for the trip out, but you can be sure will tell everyone we know to avoid this place like the plague unless they know the roads have been done, apparently these are main roads, they are on maps, but they have never been sealed and are graded once a year, if you or anyone you know is considering coming here, the scenery is beautiful, but the road IS NOT worth it, stay in a freecamp where sometimes at least, you get toilets and you don’t destroy you suspension or your back getting there. We will rest here till Friday when we go on the whale dive boat but we’ll have to let the tyres down to get out.

9th June 2011

Sure enough, Brenda is in a lot of pain so she is staying in bed all day, she is very sad that there s a beautiful beach just 30 meters away and she can’t even get there, so I just potter around talking to other campers, sit relax and read a bit, seeing as we have abundant sunshine, I get the hot water bag out and fill it so we can have a shower this evening, let the tyres downs and go for a test drive and have a bit of a look at the property, after lunch I go into Coral bay, to see how long it will take in the morning and also to confirm our booking, 2 people have backed out of the booking and the trip may be put off till Saturday morning, but they’ll let me know this evening by text. Went back to camp and took it easy till it was time to organise have our showers, then I cooked tea and placed it in the dreampot, Brenda is feeling a little better so we took a drive up to Telstra hill, the only spot with phone reception near the camp, which is about a 3 minute drive, we rang the kids, but didn’t get a text, so I guess the snorkelling with the sharks is on for tomorrow.

10th June 2011

With the expectancy of a big day ahead and all things needed for the day, in our bag, we were up and gone by 6.30, got 2 minutes up the track and got an SMS that the trip had been cancelled, found a place to turn around and disappointed we went back to bed, the days here are beautiful but he mornings are cold, about 10 degrees but with an icy wind so the best place to be is in bed, pottered around not doing much at all some reading and resting mainly, Brenda will need to be well rested for a big day and with the pain she has been in, another days rest isn’t going to go astray, in the evening there was a sunset cocktail party three “doors” up, Brenda opted out but I went along for an hour before coming back for tea.

11 June 2011

With the expectancy of a big day ahead and all things needed for the day, in our bag, we were up and gone by 6.30, ooh did just get a case of déjà vu? J And headed for Coral bay, we were very early but we got a chance to have a quick look at Coral bay and the dive shop souvenirs, the boat is full today with 20 people on board all looking forward to the experience. We were all kitted out with fins and wet suits all the stuff loaded onto the trailer, us on the bus, and down to the marina to board the boat, after a few preliminaries we were off, after about ½ an hour we stopped at a dive spot to get organised with a practice swim, whale sharks are very shy and if we all go jumping in the they’ll dive and disappear so, it is all an organised swim with only 10 people at a time in the water, the practice lasted about 15 minutes over some great coral patches with many species of fish just lazing around, being tropical waters the smorgasbord of colours was intense, where ever you looked there were blue fish, yellow fish, green fish, white fish and even fish with blue, yellow, white and green on them, there were reds, oranges, silver, DUH, black, small and big iridescent ones, fish of all colours swimming over coral which appeared almost grey but when you got close you could see all those colours in the coral as well, all too soon we were called back to the boat to resume our search, unfortunately the day was to finish without sighting a whale shark. In our search though before lunch we did see a dolphin with her young, which is very unusual as they normally hang around in a pod, at the same time there was a humpback whale with her calf, they swam about 20mt from the boat before slowly moving away another whale sighting was made but they were about 200mt away, and yet another closer at about 11,30, the highlight of the morning was the sighting of 3 manta rays, one quickly disappeared but the other 2 hung around feeding for about 5 minutes, coming to within 10 meters of the boat, the biggest of them was about 3.6mt across the wingspan, all passengers and even the staff stick to one side of the boat, to see these creatures and we were all in awe of them, it was great to also have 3 children on board, listening to their ooos and aaas added to the excitement of the sighting, they too went off to open sea and we resumed the search, which, is not only done from the boat but also from the air, the company has a small plane which flies from 10 till 3 over a 10 by 50 kilometre area looking for the sharks. Lunch, of cold meat and salads was served as well all the makings for the same sandwiches, coffee and tea is always available on the boat and biscuits and cake are brought out for morning and afternoon tea, all morning the anticipation of seeing a whale shark is high and everyone stays in their wetsuits, hardly feeling the cold of the wind and the water splashing off the bow of the boat, but after lunch a place is sought away from the wind in the warmth of the sun and many people drift off in a siesta, we are soon awake at the sighting of a pod of whales and the skipper made his way out to where they were spotted about 150mt from the boat, he slows the boat and we wait for what seemed to be 3 or 4 minutes, all thinking they have been frightened off by the boat, but suddenly the fin of 2 mothers and their calves appear about 60mt further on, we only see their backs and they appear very small so the skipper says they are pilot whales but then a juvenile male comes out of the water along with and adult male and the long, tall dorsal fin of the Killer whale is unmistakeable, even the skipper of the boat, in 15 years, has only ever seen one Orca in these waters and he says that was a single sighting about 300mt away, he has never been so close, he moves the boat forward and the whale swim parallel to it for the next 15 to 20 minute most times about 20 meters from us but a couple of times coming as close as 10 meters, at one stage the large male turns onto his back makes a big splash with his fins and then his tail, luckily I have my video camera trained on him and capture the show and he even repeats it 20 seconds later, at the sight of these beautiful creatures we, including the staff of the boat, for whom this is their first encounter with Orcas as it is for us, forget about the search of the whale shark and delight in the show, mother nature has provided for us, the pod of Orcas before us is not the only one in the area as we spot at least 2 others, within a 500mt radius, we are not going to leave this area just to try and see those, as the ones before us seem undeterred by our presence and folic almost within touching distance, then they once again disappear for a couple of minutes and reappear on the seaside of the boat and are slowly making their way out to the open sea, we leave them to it, feeling elated to have had the experienced that no others have recorded in the area, after that stop we are running behind schedule and the skipper opens up the motors a bit to get us back to Coral bay, we make one more stop to have a snorkel around a small part of Ningaloo reef, there we see small reef sharks slowly swimming on the ocean floor about 3mt below us as well as other fish, the colour of the coral is different, mostly grey but with patches of pale blue, white, brown and orange, and also having different shapes, sometimes looking like a ball shaped rock with a smooth surface, others like flat fronds stuck together at the base, or the left over twigs of a long dead bush with a myriad of fish swimming amongst it of using it for refuge at the first sign of danger, some of these look like yellow ribbons floating along and as you try to get a good look at them hide behind some coral, other more brazen fish defiantly come out and look at you in what seems to be as much amazement as we have for them, only to duck for cover at the first movement towards them.

It was disappointing to not have seen a whale shark today but we do get another chance, the company gives us all a voucher for another trip, which can be used anytime over the next 3 years and we opt to go on Monday, as we get off the boat we thank Steve, the company owner, whom I know from a caravanning forum I belong to. Exhausted from a full day out we head back to the van exactly 12 hours after leaving it, just in time to warm up some left over’s and settle down for the night.

12th June 2011

I had let the tyre pressure down on the car, which made for a much smoother ride in and out on the goat track so Brenda’s back didn’t suffer as much and she was much better able to cope with the corrugations but she is still not able to face another 2 trips on this road, and to tell you the truth neither am I and I think neither is the car, it already has squeaks, creaks and rattles that were never there before, so we decided to leave today, there is a strong wind blowing so Brenda did the washing before we left, hung it out and when she had finished the washing, she started bringing some in already, we went for a walk along the beach which Brenda had wanted to do all the time we were here, came back, had lunch and hooked up, I let the tyres down on the van as well, and we headed for Coral bay, booked into a van park and relaxed, paying $36 a night is worth the peace of mind of not having to face that road again. We went into the dive shop and checked on tomorrows snorkelling dive, it is confirmed at the moment but has been changed to a wildlife swim, where only 3 hours of the tour is dedicated to whale sharks and the rest to finding manta rays and swimming with them, some people have not been able to be contacted, and may not want to do that swim and want their money back in that case the swim would be cancelled, but we keep our hopes up. It was then back to the van with fish and chips for tea.

13th June 2011

We got to the shop at 7.45 to be told the swim was cancelled, disappointed we went back to the van left my snorkelling gear behind and went to check what’s on today, there are a few things on, one in particular we find interesting and not too expensive at $70pp for a 3 hour trip on a glass bottom boat, with a chance to snorkel with manta rays and turtles, but they advise not to do the snorkelling if this is your first time, and it would be for Brenda, as the conditions are fairly choppy due to the high winds, it has been very windy for the last 5 days and today it is gusting at 35 knots. We have a look around at some look outs and walk along the beach and head back to the van for a cuppa, then the call comes in that we can do a flight today so we get ready and go to the pick up point and head for the air strip, the flight over Ningaloo reef is one of the most beautiful things we have done on this trip, our pilot Cameron explained that Coral bay is named for that reason, this is the only bay along the reef that is 95% covered in coral, the rest are mostly sand up to the reef, the reef is about 1 and a ½ to 2 km off shore, and stretches for 120km along the coast right up to Exmouth, the colours of the reef from the aircraft are amazing, the azure blue of the water over sand, is the colour one usually only sees in photos and I always thought it belonged to someone’s imagination, but yet here it is right below us, the browns, greys, whites and greens and all shades of them, of the coral, the deep blue of the ocean after the reef, the lines in the sea grasses left by the currents, the contrast of sea and sand then onto the browns and greens of the expanse of land, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, yet even if I put the many, many photos I took on the flight, and put them in here, it could not possibly describe the fabulous gift we were given on this day, we came down to earth, expressively and literally, with our visual receptors in overload, feeling as if our heads were still in the clouds, floating on air from the amazing sights we had just witnessed, the memories will stay with us for a long, long time, we went back to the van and had some lunch and relaxed till 3.45 when we went on another quad bike ride, this one though was on rougher ground than in Denham and took it’s toll on Brenda’s back, one of the guys on the ride asked Brenda why she did things like this, if she had a problem back, her answer was “it’s Franks holiday too, I’m in pain anyway, so I may as well be in pain for a reason”, on reflection maybe, we shouldn’t have done it, but we still had a good time, riding along the sand dunes and seeing the sunset before coming back to the van, a hot shower on Brenda’s back, some tea and settle for he evening.

We would like at this stage, before leaving Coral Bay to rescind our description of it in our first blog, we were less than flattering about the place, we got to see another side of it this time and we can see why people love it so much, it has many, many good points, the very least of them, the people who live and work here, and to also thank Steve of Ningaloo Reef dive, for his wonderful generosity, if you ever get across to Coral Bay, visiting shop 8 in the arcade, is a must. Or visit http://www.ningalooreefdive.com/ for more info.

14th June 2011

Coral bay does not classify as a town, at best it is a holiday village, so it is a disappointment when you first drive into it, it only consists of 2 caravan parks, a small shopping arcade containing a newsagent/post office, a supermarket, bakery, dive shop, hair salon, and a couple of other little shops, there is a backpacker hostel, a bit further down another supermarket with a couple of petrol pumps, a holidays resort, and tucked behind all that a few houses, that’s what shocked us so much last time that we gave it such a poor review, but having spent a bit of time here, we leave this morning at 10am with fond memories which will last us till we come again, it is very windy again today so we travel at 70-75pkh the van and car are steady but I can almost see the fuel gauge going down, if I try going any faster, Exmouth is only 130km away so it wont take long anyway, we stop a couple of times to stretch out and make a cuppa and get to Exmouth at 12.30 having stopped just outside of town at a seafood place, who were offering 1kg of fresh large tiger prawns for $29, at that price we couldn’t leave them there, the National parks we were going to go to are not only 60km past town, but they are also full, one needs to be there at 8am to see if there are places available, if not back into town to a caravan park, of which there are only 2 and the cheapest is $33 a night unpowered and $44 powered, that is a rip off, there are no freecamps in the area and warning signs that it is a $100 fine to camp anywhere but in a caravan park, so we decide to stay one night and go spend our money elsewhere, where there is a cheaper alternative than a money grabbing caravan park. We had a quick look around town, and drove out to the light house lookout before coming back to the van for tea, fresh prawns and salad, not too shabby I must say, oooh the things we put up with when were on the road

15th June 2011

Strictly 10am departure the caravan park ordered, or you don’t get the swipe card deposit back, so we left at 10 to 10, and left town heading first south, then east, what a difference as soon as we’re away from the coast, this is where the sand starts to turn red and boy the contrast in colours is fantastic, there are some deciduous trees which are loosing their foliage so all the autumn colours are in them but with the recent rains in the area all the other shrubs are green, some dark, some light, some with a silver tone and some even starting to flower so there are patches of white, and yellow, the lambs ears plants grow wild out here so their silver stands out and the purple flower glistens in the sunshine, all of this on a covering of bright green Spinifex which is only just starting to get it’s beige flower head, and all on a carpet of red sand, it is as though a master painter like Van Gogh had been let loose with an easel and worked his artistry into the land, the lay of the land here is unusual, there are row after row after row of 10 to 20 meter high hills, for the next 50 or so kilometres, they are spaced about 200 to 400 meters apart and the ground is flat between them, each time we reach yet another crest another masterpiece is laid out before us, this is a time I find difficult to drive, as the tapestry of colour which urges the eyes to look at it, makes it hard to keep your eyes on the road, lest you would miss yet another flash of colour, a picture makes a thousand words yet a thousand words cannot describe the tableaus set out before our eyes. We reach our destination for today at about 1.30 after having travelled a mere 200km and having stopped twice to stretch our legs and have lunch, it is a large rest area next to the Yannarie river, it has toilets and plenty of shade, I have to make some fresh bread, so, after a long walk along the river (which has some water in it but is mostly sand bed) I organise that, and get the choofer out to also cook tea, tonight I use a steak with some potatoes and vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes and a Tuscany sauce with a strong hint of rosemary which is followed later on with cake and custard, while we have tea I boil some water on the choofer for Brenda to do the dishes, we are back into touring mode, travel, cook on the fire and enjoy the wonderful, picturesque north.

16th June 2011

From flat terrain to valleys, past mountain ranges with hills as high as 283mt, all covered with the lush, green, prickly Spinifex, dotted with some shrubs of lime green with their hints of yellow or white and a few bottle green trees to add to the easel of colour, was our drive today, the ground is not as red but taking on a burnt orange tinge, lots of floodways crossed with the evidence of rains just passed, and many creeks with water in them, a few rivers who’s levels are higher than 5 years ago when we were here last, but the trees in them showing their appreciation for the water with a show of pink orange splash of new growth and leaves glistening in the sun, such is the rest stop we choose for the night next to the robe river, after having travelled a mere 180km, we stopped on the way at Nanutarra road house to get some LPG but the, umm, rogue, that’ll do, wanted 135.9cpl so I told him it was cheaper for me to go on, on unleaded, switched over, and drove off, we’re sure LPG will be cheaper at Karratha. The official Robe river rest stop, is on the left hand side of the road, it has toilets and a dump point and room for about 15 rigs, it allows a 24hr stopover, but the other side of the road also has plenty of space, though there are no facilities, there the parking spots are among the trees on fine river pebbles left by the last floods, there are many spots along the river but most are taken by rigs when we get there, it doesn’t matter though, as we want to do some washing and have a shower, and for that we shouldn’t be too close to the river anyway, so we choose a flat spot about 30 meters from the bank, with a couple of trees for shade, the bank where we are is steep and muddy, the water is clear and deep but has many reeds, I still manage to get some water from the river, hang the line and Brenda does the washing while I get lunch, I then get a chair out and read for a while before going for a walk along the river, a little further from where we are is a kind of beach covered in the same fine pebble and it continues on, into the water which is warm and inviting, so I went back to the van put on my bathers and went for a swim. How relaxing it is here, the peace of the bush, next to a river, the sun shining, the birds chatting, plenty of water, of which I get some more to shower tonight, and on this side of the river no sign to say we can only stay 24hrs, we decide to stop here for a couple of days and enjoy the peace.

17th June 2011

A day of R and R, one wouldn’t think you wouldn’t need a day of rest and relaxation when you’re on holiday, but it’s good to have a day off the road, for no reason at all, except to juts stop and smell the roses, in a spot like this that’s an easy thing to do, 80% of the “ground here is a fine (about 2mm) river pebble, which has been highly polished by the years of tumbling in the river bed, it’s a reddish brown colour and it does contain some dirt on which a few plants grow, Spinifex for one but also acacia, and a number of other plants including one which has silver foliage and a mass of white flowers which look like mini cotton balls and a weed with tiny purple flowers, they are all in flower here so with the ground cover of green and purple, a higher cover of white and the yellow of the acacia, amongst a stand of ghost gums with their orangey pink new growth, a few birds in the trees and only the odd traffic on the bridge, a full river and sunshine with a mild breeze, it’s the only place to be doing nothing much. I had some meat off cuts I kept from the steak a few days ago so used them as bait for all those fish in the river, not big enough to eat and besides I don’t now what they are, but a bit of catch and release to pass the time away, I spent about an hour and a ½ and caught 18 of them before some crow stole my bait, bastard, I showed them to Brenda before releasing them, with my record at catching fish, or rather missing fish, I had to have proof or nobody would have believed me J, we walked, we talked, we read, had lunch, morning and afternoon tea, slept, read and walked some more, got the choofer going heated some water and prepared tea, that was our day, easy, relaxed and ready to face the road tomorrow and head for Karratha, maybe!

18th June 2011

Last night a couple came in at dusk, in a Coaster bus and went straight for a flat spot, unfortunately in the darkness he didn’t see the soft ground and went straight down to the axle, so this morning after breakfast about 6 of us, with shovels and snatch straps helped him out of it, it took over an hour, as I was packing up my gear, another guy was walking by, dragging some heavy fire wood so I gave him a hand up to his van, then I though “bugger it, after all this work. I need a rest” so we decided to stay another day, I sent a text to people expecting us in Karratha and told them we were delayed another day, so the rest of today’s log is ditto to yesterdays.

19th June 2011

It was with some sadness that we left that small piece of paradise behind and headed for Karratha, but the drive there held some surprises, the terrain has now flattened out a little and a lot of the shrubs are gone leaving the ever present Spinifex which is a rich green colour, with all the rain here lately, the wild flowers are out early, so there are carpets of pink, purple, white, and red where the Sturt desert pea has come through, where there are a few bushes, they are acacia which are in full bloom adding yellow to the pastel colours on the easel, all of this on the reddish brown gravel that made up the riverbed where we were before, it’s not only in the river beds but seem to be the “dirt” of this whole area, covering kilometre after kilometre, after a while some hills appear and turn out to be rugged on one face which reveals that the ground here is rich in iron, the ground is now the colour of rust, looking like giant heaps of rusting iron, which Van Gogh decided would make a great back drop for one of his masterpieces and covered the lot in blotches of pastel paints, every now and then we pass over a river or creek which does hold water and the trees in there are rich and strong, adding to the rugged beauty of this drive.

Before too long we arrive in Karratha, which has changed dramatically in the lat 5 years, firstly as we approach there are at least 3 new mines in the area leaving their own blight on the beauty which surrounds us, but the town has grown by at least 200% and the building in the area is bigger than any city we have come across, and the change astounds us. We get to the visitor centre and are directed to a caravan park which still has some places, we arrive there to be told, there are only powered sites left, in the overflow parts of the park, we are not to use the BBQ areas or camp kitchens, which are only for permanent guests who have about 85% of the park, and the cost is $46 per night, we have to do some shopping and catch up with friends so we have to take this spot, but once again we will only spend one night here and get out of town as do a lot of people because of the prices of caravan parks.

After catching up with Bob and Sue, and Bob’s parents, who happen to be visiting from Aldinga, we did some shopping and went back to the van unpacked and settle for the night, wishing we were back at Robe River.

20th June 2011

10 O’clock on the dot when we left the caravan park, we only had a bit of washing but that was done as well as a shower before we left and all tanks full of water, we don’t mind paying for a caravan park every now and then, but when you get a spot to put your van, a bit of power and a shower, told you cant use the facilities and are charged $46, that is a rip off, and that we don’t like.

We called in to the visitor centre again to see what is around Roebourne, Cossack and Point Sampson way, and to find out about the road to Cleaverville nature based camping, it is a cheap camping facility put on by the Shire of Roebourne, that some travellers have told us about, it is a dirt road but we don’t want to get caught out on a bone rattler again, the answer is very broad and left to ones imagination, so as not to commit themselves. We decide to check it out for our selves, I said to Brenda “well go in, and if there are corrugations for more than 200mt we’ll turn around” well THIS road, is a good dirt road, we could easily go faster but not knowing it stick to 60kph, there is only one creek crossing which is dry and we need to slow down for, we arrive to find a similar view to Warroora station, only the ocean is a greenish blue, but we are right on the beach, the camp is about 4 kilometres long with many rigs set up in their little spots with 5 to 10 or so meters between them, and we park in a lovely little spot with our name on it. At first we are here for only a couple of nights but soon decide that at $7 a night per spot we might stay here a few days and look around at the area from here, we are only 27km from Karratha, though we have seen the Karratha, Dampier area, but also about the same distance from Roebourne, Wickham and Point Samson area, which we only skimmed over 5 years ago, and when we’ve seen that, well there’s reading, walking along the beach, sleeping, relaxing etc, etc, plenty to keep us busy or notJ

21st June 2011

We leisurely got ourselves ready to go out and left camp at 10, intending to go to Roebourne get some info on the area and see, Cossack, Wickham and Point Samson. At the visitor centre we also got some info on a 4hr bus tour of the area, including Rio Tinto’s mining operation in the area and Cape Lambert iron ore loading dock, at a cost of $20 each, it sounds pretty good but we thought we would wait, to see how much of the area we saw ourselves, In Cossack, now an abandoned town which has had some extensive renovations done by the local shire, it is now a museum with many buildings restored, the old police barracks, as budget accommodation and accommodation for the onsite caretakers, another building holds a kiosk. The town has a history dating back to 1866 with pearling as it’s main attraction, the town met it’s demise when pearling shifted to Broome early this century and after Wold War II, became a ghost town, there is a lot to see in the place as well as the 2 cemeteries which hold a lot of the history, though some very tragic, with many babies being buried there, there are many buildings to look through and things to see, including 2 lookouts, from which you get some fantastic views of the town, and right out to Point Samson, Roebourne and Wickham and also the countryside, which at the moment is all green and beautiful. The work put into the place to restore and especially upkeep it is ongoing and makes Cossack a town well worth a visit, you’ll find as we did that an hour is just not enough, while we were there we also met the caretakers Russ and Sue, who are members of the caravaners forum I belong to, it was nice to put yet another face to a name, I have spoken to for over 4 years. We left at 3 and headed back to the visitor centre to book for the bus trip tomorrow and we’ll have to wait till then to see the rest of the area, we then headed back to camp to relax and read a bit before tea.

22nd June 2011

We were booked on the bus, but in the middle of the night I turned over and lifted my knee, right onto Brenda’s back, causing her a great deal of pain and she had to spend the day in bed, I rang the visitor centre to take our names off the list, and we will probably book for Friday, we’re due to leave then, but we’ll see. For today we’ll just stay, relax, read and generally do nothing, at 4 o’clock I got a fire going put some water on and we had a shower, and at 5, revived the coals and cooked an early tea.

23rd June 2011

After the days rest, Brenda is much better today, so we’ve decided to got see the Point Samson and Wickham area, though we had only skimmed over the area 5 years ago we didn’t notice much change and it is all still much the same, we did take a walk along the beach at Point Samson, the sand here is a light brown colour which is quite different to most of the beaches we have been to in WA, where the sand has been white, we had a drive around town but apart from the beach and the lookout to the Cape Lambert ship loading jetty, which by the way is the longest (3.5km)ad tallest (17m) in the southern hemisphere, it is just a sleepy fishing town, with a pretty beach, onto Wickham, it has a lookout at the far end which has great views over the area to Cossack and Roebourne, apart from that it is mainly a mining town and not much else. Being only 12.30 we decided to go to Harding dam the water supply of the area, we had been told it was a nice place to visit and a great photo opportunity, the 26km dirt road out there is OK, I suppose, you have to slow down a few times as there are many creek crossings and a few places where it is rough but still nowhere near as bad as the goat track on Warroora station, here at least the view is worth it. All the hills in the area look like some giant truck has just dropped piles of boulders willy-nilly, over the whole landscape, and with the iron content in them, the rocks are the colour of rust, over the years the Spinifex has grown up the side and covered the base of the hills in a light green fungus but none have reached the top yet so it leaves the top of the piles contrasted in a rusty brown colour, with the wild flowers covering the ground, the rust colour, adds a harsh unreal touch to a canvas of soft pastels, you come in at the base of the dam, where the overflow has made a small pool about 400mt long and 50 wide, it is surrounded by some grassed areas on which there is a picnic ground, then the road takes you at an angle across the face of the dam which has been made of rocks blasted from another area and is the contrast grey/blue we all now of blue stone gravel, as you reach the top, the water of the dam lies beneath you surrounded by the rusty brown hills with only tufts of Spinifex where there is flat ground, it is a place of contrast well worth a visit and many photos, it was now 2 o’clock, so we headed back to Karratha to do some last minute shopping and re-fuel the car before leaving the area tomorrow, shopping and fuel is much cheaper there than in Roebourne. We then headed back to camp to settle for the night.

24th June 2011

With the water we had left, Brenda did some washing and dried it before we left, while I was packing up everything else, the washing machine is great but, doesn’t fit the quilt cover so we’ll have to find a Laundromat in the next couple of days. All the chores finished, we were still able to leave at 11 o’clock, stopped at the visitor centre in Roebourne and filled the tank and jerry cans with good water and hit the road again, the terrain around here is undulating with the constant rust red hills and the familiar fuzz of the Spinifex which covers 90% of the ground, the shrubs are acacia or wattle with the occasional ghost gum to stand tall, but almost as soon as it takes to describe, it changes to flat with hardly any shrubs and no trees for 8 or 10mkilometers, only to be broken up every now and then by a creek bed filled with trees, then back to undulating hill steep enough to slow us down, we stopped about 25km out of Roebourne to pick up our S/steel bucket which we use to heat water, as I had forgotten to tie it down and it caused a hell of a clatter as it came loose and fell off, with the tall grass it took a long time to find it and we had just given up looking when I spotted it as we drove past it, it only suffered a couple of dents and now holds a story. Our next stop was at Whim Creek Hotel, a historic pub in the area, which was rebuilt and re-opened in 2006 after being completely destroyed in 1999 by Cyclone John, a mine has opened next to it with the attached donga village, and I was surprised too see that the prices were not ridiculous as one would expect 100km from the nearest town, with cans of drink only $2.50 and pies $4, which is actually cheaper than at the Roebourne roadhouse. Brenda made a sandwich for lunch before heading off, the vegetation around here is still very green compared to the way it was when we were here last and the wild flowers are out early, but as we travel further north there are less flowers and the colour of the grass is starting to loose it’s richness, the Sturt Desert Pea is out, but at an earlier stage and hasn’t started to flower yet so it’s beautiful red and black is now missing from the tableau, but has been replaced by a small red flower on a bush, so the master artist is still with us adding his craft to the landscape as we continue our journey. At about 2.30 we reach the Herbert Parker Rest area, which is our stop for the night, this was a large area when we stopped here 5 years ago with room for many rigs, but due to misuse it has been cut down drastically and now holds a maximum of 8 or 10, although a track has been made to the side and is used by people with camper trailer and tents, like 6 people have done tonight, the toilets have been removed and it is now just a carpark next to a river, but having being here early enough we still got a spot and chatted to other travellers over the campfire as our water heated for a wash and to fill the dreampot with water for dishes tomorrow morning, after sunset I got a salad and cold meat ready for tea and we settled for the night.

25th June 2011

Once again we were the last ones to leave the camp ground at about 10, we made our way to South Hedland, where most people live in the Port Hedland area, the two separated by about 5 kilometres, got fuel and bought a couple of things, as well as looked for somewhere to fill our gas bottle but everyone only has the swap and go bottles, we’ll have to wait till we get t Broome, from where we were the land is still green but the wild flowers, though still around, are diminishing with every kilometre travelled, there are still the odd place where it looks as though the master has dropped his giant easel and splashed the country side with colour, the creeks and rivers we cross, have less and less water in them. After Pt Hedland the terrain changes completely, the wild flowers are all but gone and although the grasses are still green to a degree, there is much more dryness in them and you can see the lack of rain, not only in the grass, but also the trees and the soil itself, the hills too are all but gone to be replaced by small hillocks of stone and hundreds of termite hills, only now and then do we have acacias lining the sides of the road to form a sort of yellow avenue of honour, on both sides of the road. We arrived at the rest stop, known as the De Grey river rest area, being on the De Grey River, duh at about 1.30. The rest area is a carpark style area, made of only the bare dirt, capable of holding about 20 rigs, and has a toilet and dump point for the chemical toilets, beyond that, are tracks leading a short way back into the bush, where another few rigs can go, this is for the people who merely want to stop for a quick overnight stop, as it is only a 24hr limit, below that, nearer the river are areas, where tracks have been made over about 600mt along the river banks, and could hold any number of rigs in the many, many nooks and crannies that are along the tracks, tonight we saw at least 50 on our walk along the river. Like the Robe River there is water in the De Grey, but it is not as clean, as this is a working cattle station and the river is the watering hole, the banks are muddy and the water cloudy, but it is a very tranquil spot with only the occasional traffic passing on the bridge and the chatter of the birds, some of them very amusing, I didn’t know what they were, but their chatter, as they flit from branch to branch, sounds like a group of kids, just babbling and carrying on, then someone who is a bird watcher told me they are called babblers, “ka-chink” I can see why! There are also quite a number of very plump quails here and I tried to work out a way of getting them in the pot for tea tonight but Brenda wouldn’t be in it, Bugger! As well as a number of other species, adding to a cacophony of sounds which just sooths the mind, along with watching the water flow slowly by, this is another restful place, we have decided to spend a couple of nights here.

26th June 2011

By 8.30 we’d had breakfast and I was out chatting to some other campers, who too were having a quiet day and Brenda was reading. At 9.30 I got the machine out, filled it and got the genny going for Brenda to do the washing, the night time temperature here drops to about 17 degrees for most of the night, then to 13-14 at dawn, it takes a while to get going but by about 9.30 it gets to around 23 and reaches the maximum of about 29 by 2 pm, by then there is a slight breeze to keep the days perfect, we haven’t seen a cloud in well over 3 week, though we were getting sick of the strong head winds that were with us daily, for about 2 weeks, and only abated in the afternoon, but they too now have been gone for 3 days. The washing was done with river water which, although cloudy is clear enough for washing, we also had a shower but used fresh water for that, it was time for lunch, a siesta then, do nothing much at all, read, go for a walk, chat with people and generally relax till tea time.

27th June 2011

Early for us, today we were on the road by 9am and heading for Pardoo roadhouse, 130km away, there are no towns between Pt Hedland and Broome a distance of 597km, only 2 roadhouses, Sandfire, 133km from Pt Hedland and Pardoo, a farther 100km, the terrain here is ever changing, one minutes there are no wild flowers and the vegetation is minimal and brown and the only thing taller than the grass are hundreds of termite mounds standing guard over the vast plains, the other you cant see 10m farther than the edge of the road, because of the tall green grass, the shrubs in full bloom and ghost gums towering above all, round a bend and there are fields of purple flowers, round the next and it’s all white, there are places where the Sturt desert pea is coming out but not yet flowering and stands about 60cm high, in contrast to South Australia where they are a ground cover, but other flowers show their colours, some plants have no leaves, because of the harshness of the land but are abundant in flowers about 4cm long the shape of a pussy willow flower and both white and purple in colour, others are so small and purple, you can only see them when you are about to stand on them, others are the red flowers in the trees, one place we drove along for about 20-25 minutes, without seeing a bush or a tree just wild grasses and the ever present Spinifex, this place should be named the Nullarbor, at least there are bushes on the Nullarbor. After refuelling at Pardoo, at $1.25pl for LPG, we kept going north till we reached our rest stop for the night, Stanley rest area 108km away. We have travelled 279km today and it’s one of the longest travelling days we have had since crossing the Nullarbor, we have taken 5 and a ½ hours to do it as we often stop, too long in the seat causes Brenda a lot of pain so we need these stops for her to stretch her back. The rest area is large and has a fair bit of shade, which is good, the days are not too hot at around 28-30 degrees, but the sun beats down hard here and the van heats up very quickly if parked in the sun and the temperature inside easily reaches 35, so shade it good, there are also a couple of places where there are seats and shelters as well as a couple of bush toilets, rough and almost clean, by the time we settle, there are about 2 dozen rigs here, including 2 large trucks, towing very large boats, so big, they need OVERSIZE LOAD banners and that is why they get off the road at sunset, even with 2 dozen rigs here there is still at least 20-30m between each of us. With a long days travel, Brenda has a lay down while we read, then we enjoy a walk and a chat with other travellers before settling down for the night.

28th June 2011

Wow, early 2 days in a row and on the road by 8.30, this is going to become a habit, we were still the last ones to leave though, some people leave before first light. The scenery around here is quite strange, at first there was the semi open scrub with the wild flowers and beauty, then all of a sudden for the next 50 or 60km, we were driving through what seems impenetrable scrub, really thick undergrowth, up to about 60cm high, shrubs about 2.5m high also that thick that their branches nearly touch and then trees 5 to 6m high to fill in any sort of gap left by the bushes, the lot, apart from a few yellow bushes, devoid of flowers, then as we came around a corner, we were in open grazing land devoid of any shrub and trees, for the next 10km or so, suddenly as we approached a floodway (which BTW are as numerous as traffic lights in major towns) the ground became very marshy looking with lots of marsh reed, even marsh birds foraging around, then trees started again and within 1km we were back to the impenetrable scrub till we reached Roebuck plains, as we started to head from there to Broome we started to spot the Boab trees, only small ones but there were a few.

Anyway after a few stops, for photos, stretch of the legs and back, etc we got into Broome at around 12 and headed for the visitor centre, not all parks are booked out so there are no cheaper alternatives, we had to book into a caravan park, we decided to leave it till later and organise the medication for Brenda first, not all were available so we have to wait till tomorrow to pick them up, so we had to book in to a park, we had a quick look around town which hasn’t changed much in the last 5 years, save for a large shopping centre on the way out to the port, we then booked into the park, settled did some washing along with the quilt cover, $3 for a load unlike Karratha at $5, and even the park was cheaper, only by a dollar, but the staff were friendly, and helpful, we had a couple of things to get from the shops so we did that including hunt around for a Bunning’s which compared to the ones we know is only an baby, LOL, it’s only a shed about 30mt long and 15m wide and another hardware which not only passed the time but also saw us seeing some more parts of Broome most tourist don’t see, unintentionally as I kept making a wrong turn,. Back to the park do some chores and settle for the day.

29th June 2011

Brenda’s medication wasn’t going to be ready till 3’clock so we took our time getting out of the caravan park, as well as carrying the water in the tank, 59lt, we also carry 3, 20lt jerry cans, so we made sure they were all full, charged all the batteries and phones and left at 10am, we went to the visitor centre and left the car and van there, with the solar panels plugged in so they could run the freezer and went to have a gentle stroll around town, we had seen some of it but had only skimmed most parts, at 12.30 we had lunch then checked with the chemist, but the scripts weren’t ready so we walked around some more and generally wasted time, at 2.45 back to the chemist to check again and still nothing but then, they found the script at the bottom of a pile of papers, so 15 minutes later we got the medication and found that, we only had one months supply and there should be 2, after a few phone calls between Brenda’s doctor, who had to contact authorities not only in Perth but also Canberra, us and the chemist, we finally left town with all the medication at 5.30, We headed for a rest area 20km out of town, as we were absolutely buggered, I didn’t even put the legs down on the van, Brenda made me a salad for tea and a few crackers for herself, and we settled to watch a couple of hours TV and we were both asleep by 8.30.

30th June 2011

It may only have been a small rest area but there were other campers there and in the morning when I looked around there was a track that led out the back and there were another 5 whizzbangs (that’s a lite-ace type van, with a sliding door on the side, it whizzes when sliding, and bangs when it shuts) in a small clearing. We only had to have breakfast and go but we still left at 9am, stopped at Roebuck Plains to top up with gas (the next place is over 400km away) and hit the road by 10. Once again we are driving through what seems to be impenetrable scrub on both sides of the road for miles and miles, slowly it started to open up, we stopped for morning tea at bout 10.30, and lunch at 1.30 y now the Boab trees are every where and there are some real beauties including at the rest stop we chose to stop for lunch, aptly called, The Boab Rest Area, this tree has to be 30 meters in diameter at the trunk and is bang smack in the middle of the rest area, there are many people there for lunch, some longer I think, while we’re there I also knead some dough to make some bread tonight, back on the road and to our stop for tonight, which is only 65km away, which we reach at 3, it has a tick in the camps 5 book, so by the time we get there the good, level sites are slim pickings and by the time the sunsets there are 26 rigs crammed into a small area, 3 motorhomes have parked nose to tail, 3 meters beside us right on the roadway, but we make the best of it and still enjoy ourselves chatting to others and relaxing

1st July 2011

It amazes me that people don’t bother using their brains when touring, there are many road side rest areas along the road, everyone we have passed here in WA have had at least one bin, most have 2, and most only have a little rubbish in them, yet in the 24hr stopping places, or what we refer to as freecamps, the bin are overflowing and people still put their rubbish on top of them or beside them, it’s not rocket science is it, to take the bag with you and place it in the next roadside bin? The other thing that irks me is people with a grey water holding tank, they have it closed when stopped, then just before they move off they open it and leave a trail of grey water right through the camp area, then they stop at the dump point to empty their black water and leave a bloody great pool of water on the ground? They are stopping at the dump point; why not empty their grey water there?

OK whinge over J the terrain has taken a turn for the ……… flat! All along here there are only small undulating rises (can’t call them hills) in the road, but we still go from greenish pastures, to dense scrub, to impassable scrub, back to pastures as we round just about every bend, which by the way, are not as numerous as floodways up here, the Boabs appear and disappear also as we drive along, sometimes numerous in numbers and sometimes a solitary one just to remind you that you still are in their territory, some are still in leaf and look spectacular, others devoid of green with only the remaining nuts waiting for the next strong wind gust to blow them down, the small boab tree doesn’t have the bulbous truck that the older ones do and look almost like any ordinary tree, the older ones however, each have their own character, some look just like a bottle which has had dry twigs added to it to make some sort of modern art piece, others have twin, triplet, or even quad, trucks and seem like a deformed piece, thought up by the mind of a twisted artist, others lie on their side with the branches becoming trunks of a future deformity, then we all know the huge big trees with hollow trucks, which were used by the police of days gone by, to hold prisoners in transit, overnight, and then as we head away further away from the coast we realised that, there are no more Boabs, but there is the reappearance of wild flowers to take our interest. An hour after leaving our rest stop we arrive at Fitzroy Crossing, a quiet town, with not much to do other than Geikie (pronounced Geeky) gorge, it is 26km out of town and the one hour boat cruise, costs a mere $25 each , ($20 concession) now this is no cruise liner, it’s actually an oversized dinghy capable of seating 40, with attaching pontoons to take it up to 120 people if needed, but the scenery is absolutely awesome, the cliffs of the gorge have every colour you can thinks of, there is white to black and every shade in between, pink, purple, beige to brown and also every shade in between there is the green of trees hanging on to life from the tiniest of fissure in the rock, there are yellows and reds, and the blue of the sky finishes the kaleidoscope, the water itself is a muddy green, but still flowing and without looking dirty, there were fresh water crocodiles, fish and birds of all descriptions, including a myriad of swallows building their nests on a lot of the overhangs, the place was teeming with life, there were great expanses sand to put some city beaches to shame, where ever you looked there was a postcard perfect picture to take, and you just knew that when you took it, you’d miss another one, this has to be the best, most value for money, picture perfect place we have been to. We headed out of town with our minds still full of the colours of the gorge and to our rest stop for the night, 96km away, there we were to be faced with another magnificent view, the Ngumban cliff look out is elevated about 100m from the valley below, which we have just driven past, the rest area is right on the edge of the cliff and overlooks a most beautiful valley once again filled with colour, soil from white to orange to brown to red, greens of Spinifex, grass and trees, white of the ghost gum bark, rusty red to brown of iron laden rock, once again I don’t know where to point the camera to get the best photo, they are all great. We settle for the days here at 3.30, unfortunately we will not see a sunset here, as today has had one drawback, it has been overcast all day, never mind, it can’t be perfect all the time.

2nd July 2011

We had been told that Mary Pool, the next rest area we want to stop at, gets pretty full fairly early in the day and that if we wanted a decent spot close to the river, we should get there at 8 o’clock, with a 90km drive to get there, it would mean leaving Ngumban cliff at 6.30, yeah right! With great effort we managed to leave at 8,05 and got to Mary Pool at 9,30 behind at least 8 or 10 other rigs who were setting up, in all there were already at least 30 vans of all descriptions already there, including a bus, we had heard was here a week ago. We headed for the same spot we were at, 5 years ago, but it was taken, there was one just meters away, not river frontage, but close, this is a fabulous spot and has a tick in the book, so by the time the sun went down, there were over ninety rigs here taking up every bit of shade available, with room, in full sun for about 30 more.

We settled into our spot and firstly had a coffee and a rest, bugger these early starts, I didn’t sign up for this! If I wanted to be up and moving before 8, I would have stayed home and gone to workJ. At about 11, we went down to the river, got some water and came back to set up the genny and washing machine and the clothe line, for Brenda to do some washing, then it was time for another rest, we’ve decided to stay here a couple of days as most people seem to do, this place seems to have it all, water in the river, plenty of shade, natures music in the form of bird calls, from whistling kites to crows to corellas to finches, whistles and shrieks’, peeps and squeaks, deep and high, birds small and large all shouting to be heard over the others, making a symphony of nature, they are natural sounds and you can hold a conversation without even noticing them, but if you stop and actually listen to it, it is almost deafening, this is the Mary Pool we remember and one of the reasons we came back. In the early afternoon another camper stopped by and in conversation I told him that I had forgotten to get fuel for the genny at Fitzroy crossing, and I’d hoped to buy some from someone here, he told me he had plenty and I could have a few litres, when he returned with it, I again offered to pay, but he refused saying that if I wanted to and we could, his wife was willing to barter for it as they had run out of bread, so I told him that in 3 hours or so he would have a fresh loaf that I would cook for him, he was surprised but gratefully accepted, I got to kneading some dough and kept my promise. A little later there was a knock at the door, and when I answered, there stood someone who I didn’t recognise but he said “Frank, I’m Steve, Steve and Vicky, from the forum”, I have been speaking to both of these people for about 5 or six years, on the 2 forums we belong to, and worse for them I think J they have read our 2 blogs! I chatted with Steve for quite a while and we also caught up with both of them a little later on when we walked around the camp, it is nice not only to catch up with people and put a face to names, but to do so, when you just happen to run into each other in the middle of nowhere, touring Oz, sort of makes your day. The rest of the day was quiet and easy, resting and reading, organising the choofer and hot water for a shower, and cooking tea, before settling for the night.

3rd July 2011

After a couple of long days logs, today will be just a short one, we stayed put at Mary pool, it’s a nice place to relax and get some R and R, I had put out the hot water bag in the sun just after lunch so we had water warm enough for a shower in the afternoon, apart from that we just relaxed, read, and rested and walked around the park and the river a couple of times, we had also been invited to have a cuppa with the people I had cooked the bread for, and it turns out they’re from Leicester in England, which is where Brenda is from, the rest did us both some good, especially Brenda who had a really great day, so much so that to show her appreciation for what do for her, she insisted on not only cooking a nice chicken curry for tea, thank you very much, but also did the dishes which she normally does anyway, and since the bloke across the way had a fire going on one of the BBQs supplied, she heated the water for tea and the dishes on there, so I didn’t even need to light the choofer tonight, all I did today was set up the shower and cook a loaf of bread for us, other than that had a complete day off chores, Bugger it, that felt good so we’ve decided to stay here another day.

4th July 2011

Today was another peaceful rest day, the last 2 days have been very still and quite hot in the afternoon, but because of a slight breeze today it has been perfect, the birds wake me at about 5 – 5.30 which is a bit of a bugger but I just lay in bed listening to the sounds of the bush, the most numerous of birds here, is the Little Corella, the night before last I was able to discourage some from settling in the tree above us, but last night I forgot and this morning their chatter was the first thing I heard, then some of the neighbourhood crows decided to join in, some others which sound like a baby crying, brought back distant memories of early mornings, and in another few minutes all the birds were joining in the early morning cacophony, within ½ an hour they have all but gone to other places to forage for food, leaving only a few whistles and calls, here and there, and the crows waiting for a careless camper to put rubbish in a overfull bin, to go and scavenge through the bags and make a mess of the area, during the day in a lot of places, some campers do as I did, and clean up, and put a bit of cardboard or something to protect the rubbish from being strewn all over the place. We walked on both sides of the river this afternoon hoping to catch a glimpse of the local fresh water crock, who haunts these waters, there were two here 5 years ago, and we have heard that at least one is still here, we spoke to a camper who saw one today, but we were unsuccessful, we did meet another camper though, from SA, who used to teach at Willunga high school, where I do the school run from, and knows one of the guys I work with really well, he and is wife are also good friends of a lady who used to teach Amanda, when we got back to camp, there was another car and van parked next to us bearing SA registration, he introduced himself as Frank ... and I didn’t catch his surname and saying he was from Goolwa, only 40 minutes from our place, I introduced myself saying “Hi Frank, I’m Frank, we’re from Aldinga” he then asked me if I knew a certain person, who I didn’t but as he asked the question I recognised a friend in his features, I asked him his name again, and he turned out to be, the father of our Daughter and Son-in-law’s best mate, who was best man at their wedding, Amazing what a small world this is, we then spent a bit of time getting to know each other and talking about the kids. The rest of the day was spent lazing around enjoying this beautiful area, tomorrow we will move on, if only to give someone else a chance to enjoy this place, because we could honestly stay here a couple of weeks.

5th July 2011

Reluctantly we packed up and said goodbye to the people around us and left Mary Pool at about 10.30, and headed for Halls Creek. The last time we were there, there was a lot of trouble right through the top end, with, not only alcohol abuse within the aboriginal communities, but also child abuse, and Halls creek seemed to be the centre of it, there were as many cops around as aborigines and you could cut the air with a knife as you drove into town so our intention was to fuel up and leave, but as we drove in, the place felt totally different, we asked about getting water which was only available at the visitor centre, and whilst there, got some info on the place, there are a few things to see close by as well as an arts centre which we wanted to see so we booked in to the caravan park for one night, at $32 a night it’s the best we’ve had so far in the top, OK it wasn’t much but the loo’s were clean, and the people friendly. We did some shopping and sorted it out then realised the Freezer hadn’t been working properly and we had some cooking to do, not all was defrosted though, we left it for now and went for a drive to firstly “China wall” a natural quarts wall reminiscent of the original, this wall is about 150m long and a stands about 4 meters high, and being white quarts really stands out in it’s red dirt and rocks, and lush green flora surroundings, quite a beautiful sight! We then went on to Caroline Pool, a popular swimming hole in the wet season, and it also happens to be a free camping spot, which I had forgotten about, though the road to here is about 15km of dirt, where I had to let the tyres down due to corrugations, and the water now, being low for dry season, being a popular breeding spot for mozzies, there were 8 brave people in 4 rigs set up though, it too was beautiful spot with cool tranquil water, surrounded by cliffs with a gravelly sand type of beach, with the sun setting behind the hills at 4 o’clock, it made a lovely picture as the brave campers were settling into happy hour, we then went on further through a couple of wet crossings (OK for 2WD), into Old Halls Creek, I must admit, we thought it was a waste of time, others may not. There is nothing much there, a few mud walls of the old post office, protected by a fence and a roof, and a myriad of stone monuments with plaques telling of which building stood where, the cemetery where the last person buried was a mere 40 years ago, and a “lodge” come caravan park, with 2 rigs in it, and street signs, none of it kept and all of it in tall grass where one would fear to tread lest there be a snake in there, we drove around, and left disappointed, stunned though to find out that this rough road is actually called a highway, the Buntine, and is a road train route, well according to the sign anyway, which is quite old. We headed back to the caravan park, to do some cooking and settle for the night.

6th July 2011

After leaving the caravan park at 10 we parked the van in the shade and went to the art galley in town, it is where about 30 artists are registered but a small number of regulars paint, the 3 we met come daily, Stan and Bonnie are also elders of the area, and we loved their paintings, if only we had the room to put them up at home, I spoke to Stan for a while and his painting are about his mother land, which is the Wolf Creek area about 100km from Halls Creek, and also about bush tucker, after seeing him create one of his dot paintings it was easy to recognised his style in the gallery, Bonnie also paints bush tucker, but in a different style altogether, in fact she has two separate styles, each identifiable as hers, and each quite beautiful, both are dot paintings on black backgrounds but one style also incorporates identifiable objects, such as leaves, witchetty grubs, ants and other items, the lass running the gallery said that, Stan and Bonnie were the 2 most successful artists in the place and that there was to be an exhibition of their works in Freemantle later this year, the prices of the paintings were very reasonable starting at $80 up to $800 for a large painting that would sell for much more than that in the big cities, and the gallery only gets 40% as they supply all the materials and the place, if an artist paints at home with their own materials then they get 80% of the money. We then did the 40 or so minute history walk around Halls creek and to look at some of the other shops, which a lot are in shed style buildings and are not well advertised from the street. It was now 12.20 and after some lunch, we hit the road and headed for Leycesters rest, a rest area we had used last time, which is situated on the Ord River, being 100km away we reached it in just over an hour and a half driving through the beautiful country that is the Kimberley, it is so amazing that it is hard to describe, firstly at the moment it is green, something that it wasn’t last time, the terrain is ever changing from flat to undulating, to flat with rocky outcrops, to undulating and driving though floodways which feel more like a roller coaster dip than a highway, some with water in them, over hills and down dale, all the time being surrounded by a carpet of Spinifex which is starting to seed so now sports a beige crown, and armies of termite mounds, which change colour, from grey, to almost white to red to brown and back again, and shape, from tall and thin to looking like mounds of cement slurry that have been place there by the wheel barrow load, the changes come at what seems to be every turn in the road or hill you come over, there are valleys full of trees, riverbeds partially dry, some with a lot of water, but all supporting eucalyptus trees, still no native wild life, but the ever present cattle in open grazing land to watch out for, lest they decide to cross the road in front of you and we did see a heard of wild brumbies, we loved the Kimberly last time we were here and love it even more now that it is green, a thousand words, nor a thousand pictures, would describe it, it truly is something you have to see for yourself. We arrived at Leycesters rest and had a look around to find quite a few sites still available, a lot of travellers have been telling us of another rest area only 7km from here which is really nice so we decided to check it out and headed there, Spring Creek is a nice rest area next to the creek, but it is small and having a tick in Camps 5 as does Leycesters rest, is very crowded but it does offer a lot of shade, the top section is more open to the sun, but is not very level, we want to have a sunny position in which to leave the solar panels, so decide to return to Leycesters rest, we found a nice spot and settled for a couple of days.

7th July 20111

With a big day expected when we go into the Bungle Bungle, we decided to postpone it and go in tomorrow, to give Brenda’s back a day’s rest before the onslaught, we walked down to the river a couple of times to fetch some water to do some washing, I had packed a small suitcase trolley just for the occasion, there are times when a heavy load needs to be carried a long way, even the porta potty tank gets heavy after a 100m or so and I have had to use it a few times this trip so especially today with a good 400m to carry 2, 20lt buckets it came in handy, the rest of the day was just the norm, read and relax, at tea time I got the choofer going and cooked a roast, the left over was for sandwiches tomorrow.

8th July 2011

With a big day ahead, we were up at 6.30 and gone by 7, the entrance to Purnululu national park is on private land, only 7km from Leycesters rest and when we got there the land owner about a week ago had place someone at the gate to cash in on the tourist industry and is charging $20 for cars and $50 for buses and trucks as a road toll, supposedly to fix the road, but as we soon found out he hasn’t started yet, an unexpected expense, but we have come all this way to get into the Bugle Bungle so we paid it, the trip into the park is 52km and takes about 2,1/2 hours, it is a 4wd track, only because of the ground clearance needed, there are 32 creek crossings though only 15 were wet when we went in, and 5 of those were mud, 3 of them the water came lapping over the running boards of the car, single axle trailers can be taken in and there is one on the side of the road with no A-frame, a testimony that one, the road is tough and 2 some people just do not slow down enough, when we went in I let the tyres down to 24lbs and travelled the road at an average speed of 25kph, most times on 25, sometimes up to 30 in small bursts, and slowing down of course for the creeks, there was a guy in a hire car who came past us at about 60, creating dust for kilometre, he also went past the guy who in front of me for quite a while but he hadn’t let is tyres down and was very slow over the corrugations so he let me pass, finally we arrived at the Bungle Bungle, our intention was do see the famous “beehive” formations, and Cathedral gorge, anything else will be a bonus, so we headed straight down for the Piccaninny creek car park, as you get close the beehives start and they are a magnificent site, but it’s not until you get in amongst them that you realise just how big they are, I always thought they were about 50 or 60 meters high but they actually tower 200 meters over the surrounding plains, we started off at the carpark and headed first for the domes walk, a 700m detour off the Cathedral gorge track, the mostly orange and black with some grey and white beehive shaped mountains, can be singular or multiples and they surround you, there is a feeling of peace and tranquillity as you walk amongst these ancient giants to rejoin the 1.5km track to Cathedral gorge. We were a little disappointed in it’s appearance at first, as we were expecting a large clear crisp pool of water at the bottom of it, as it is described in photos and TV travel shows, but obviously they have been made during the wet season, because although there is water, the pool was much smaller than depicted and stagnant, this did not detract though from the grandeur and majesty of the cave which has been gouged out of the formations over the last few thousand years, it is about 60 to 70 meters wide 40 meters high and 30 meters deep and has natural acoustics, as we walked to the back of the amphitheatre someone had an iPod going at a low rate and it echoed Ave Maria played on pipes throughout the amphitheatre, then the song, I still call Australia home by Peter Allen, by this time there were 70 people just sitting and standing around with a look of complete relaxation and smiles on their faces, we slowly walked back to the entrance and as we were about to leave some one in the crowd who had gone to the back, started their rendition of, We are Australian with everyone including us joining in on the chorus, a fitting end to this visit of such a wondrous place, on the way back we also walked the 800m piccaninny creek lookout track, to be rewarded with a wondrous sight of a valley 60m below us, of flat plains covered with Spinifex, trees, grass and termite hills with yet more beehives in the back ground, by the time we got back to the carpark it was 1.15 and we had lunch, we had prepared 2 bottles of water to bring with us but they were still sitting on the table in the caravan, we did have just enough drink to last us though, we headed back towards the visitor centre and entrance as the other attraction in the park, Echidna chasm, is in the opposite direction to cathedral gorge but by the time we had covered the track it was nearly 2 o’clock, with the track yet to cover and a 1 to 2 hour walk, it would not give us enough time to leave by 3 to have enough time to cover the 2 hour track out of the park, we had seen what we came for and 2 other marvellous things, we were happy with that and headed out, our eyes almost sore from taking in all the colours and shapes of the last 6 hours, by the time we got back to the van, Brenda was in a great deal of pain, which we had expected, I got some water to wash up and cooked some rice to have with left over’s for tea, and we both had an early night.

9th July 2011

Considering the punishment we got yesterday we both pulled up quite well, so after a late start, I actually got to sleep in till 6.50, we drove the car down to the river and I threw a few buckets of water over it to get rid of most of the mud and dust, then we filled our containers and went back to the camp, Brenda did some washing and I took the opportunity of having the genny on to vacuum the car then washed it, by the time I finished it and repacked all the gear into it, it was 1.25 and Brenda had just made a sandwich for lunch, we went for a walk down to the river and had a chat with a few people who have settled for the day, and generally relaxed till it was time to have a shower and have tea, before settling down for the evening.

10th July 2011

I had blow a fuse in the van this morning and after blowing a second it took a while to work out what the problem was, it turned out to be the 12v power supply for the laptop, spending that time meant we didn’t leave the camp till 10.50, not that we are on any schedule. We made our way north towards Wyndham, with a rest stop about 80km from there our destination, stopping at Warmun (formally Turkey creek, which everyone still uses) we got only $20 worth of LPG, as the thief charges 144,9cpl, we have enough fuel to get to Wyndham or even maybe just make Kununurra, but I don’t like JUST making it, I’d rather be on the safe side. Then we get into the East Kimberley, this is the country we fell in love with 5 years ago and we are quickly reminded why, one minute we are travelling over mildly undulating terrain with dry-ish vegetation, which has all been lovely, but the next we come to a climb to rival many we have climbed this trip and then plunge into a magnificent panorama of rugged mountains, covered in a blue hue, amid plains of green grass, boab trees, white and river gums and Spinifex, criss-crossed with streams and rivers, mostly dry but some still with water in them, giving live water to the herds of not only cattle from the surrounding stations, but also herds of wild, magnificent looking horses, and the abundant wild life in the area, today we have seen dingoes, kangaroos and a myriad of birds, black cockatoos, corellas and kites just to name a few, the land is rich and fertile, the reason why Kununurra is a fruit and veg growing area and with the largest fresh water lake in Australia in the region, no wonder people fall in love with the place. We reached our destination at about 3 and found a spot still available, the last one with a bit of shade, and set up, we read for a while then went for a walk at sunset to see the mountains turn red under the setting sun, by the time we got back to the camp, it was full with another 6 rigs finding spots to settle for the night, we organised some tea, and with no 12v for the laptop, I started the genny for a couple of hours to watch some telly, before turning the genny off and reading for an hour or so before turning in.

11th July 2011

We packed the van and were ready to go when one of the other campers came to ask if we had jumper leads, his car wouldn’t start, I got my power pack out but it wasn’t powerful enough to start his diesel engine, after a hunt around the camp and some mucking around we finally got him started and got under way at 10am, heading for Wyndham the terrain is still the same undulating hills and rugged mountains, plains covered in Spinifex, with the ever present termite mounds, standing guard over this beautiful land, we were to pass many more herds of horses and cattle grazing openly. We made out way to Wyndham and went to the post office but they couldn’t help me with Ambrose’s phone number, Ambrose Mungala Chalarimeri, is the Aboriginal author we met at the five rivers lookout the last time we were here, I read his book “The man from the sunrise side” when we got back to Adelaide, and contacted him to tell him how much I enjoyed it, we came to Wyndham specifically to catch up with him, when we were in Broome we went to the publishers to get his number and after contacting him they gave it to us, but we have lost it in the paper jungle one collects when touring, so I rang the publisher and they gave me his number again, I rang him and we caught up with him at the bottom of the lookout road, he was glad that we made the effort to come to meet him and we had a good chat, with him sharing some of his stories with us, after saying our goodbyes we got some bread and went to the Dreaming Park, a special place, where there are bronze statues of an aboriginal family, a dingo, kangaroo, snake and a lizard, there were many aboriginals there compared to the last time and most were younger, they are there painting and carving boab nuts, and selling them to the tourists, we bought a small one for settling on $15, in Broome I saw for $100 for a small one in a shop. We then headed out of town and towards Kununurra, deciding whether to go in and find a caravan park or stay in a freecamp tonight, as we were driving, 3 kites were fighting over a meal, a dead snake I think, and the first one dropped it in front of the car when he was surprised by the us, as we came towards him, the second, concentrating only on getting the food from the other dived after it, with our speed dropped between the car and van and smashed into the front of the van, the bang was loud and feathers went everywhere but I couldn’t see any damage, we stopped a little further and when Brenda went into the van found some glass on the floor and table, I had good look and saw the front wind shield of the van was dented and realised that the front window was smashed, that made up our mind and we headed into town, only to find all the powered sited in the 5 caravan parks in town gone, the only place with power was the show grounds which is reserved for big rigs and people travelling with dogs, we pleaded our case of needing to use a vacuum cleaner to get all the tiny glass shards out of the front of the van and they allowed us a site for 2 nights, then we found out that the car will no longer idle on either gas or petrol, so we’ll have to call the RAC tomorrow, all in all an eventful day, neither of us felt like cooking so we bought tea and by the time that was finished and had a shower, it was time for bed.

12th July 2011

I rang the RAC first thing this morning, while Brenda made breakfast, and was told exactly what I expected “he’ll be there in about an hour or so” adding that the guy would ring me, to tell me he was on his way, so I went back to the van and had breakfast, then I went to the car and lifted the bonnet, I’m no stranger under there but “in the good old days” J you could have a pair of pliers, a hammer, screw diver and a wire coat hanger and you’d get out of trouble, but theses days there’s wires and pipes, coming and going, in and out of all different places, it’s like looking at a telephone exchange, I had my suspicions that when the car had back fired yesterday, I may have damaged the air intake meter, which I know is a very expensive part, I made sure that all the connections to it were tight as well as any others I could see, but to no avail the car still sounded as if it was running on 4 cylinders, an open bonnets seems to be a magnet to other men in the area and by then the guy next to us was there “assisting” me, then looking around I saw this little bit of pipe, which looked like it needed to have a hose attached to it, then I saw a hose, which looked like it needed to be attached to a pipe, connected the 2 and voila and smooth idle, the advance and retard hose had come loose, which was probably the cause of the back fire I had though started the problem. With the car fixed I tried to ring the RAC back but after waiting 5 minutes hung up and decided to wait for him to ring me. We went into the visitor centre and got some info of things we could do and booked onto a cruise for tomorrow, into town to chase up a couple of things we need, and as we were heading back to the car got a call from Hans and Judy, more members of the Caravaners forum we have been talking to and planed to catch up with along the way, after meeting with them, we went on a 45km tourist drive which took in some stone works, a fresh produce farm, where they said we could have a look at the river in flood, but said not to go too close to the steep bank, as there were crocodiles there, when I said freshies, they assured me that “No salties and one of them it the guy who bit the tail off the 4.5 meter crock which is in the crocodile park at Wyndham” we did have a look at the river but stayed about 100 meters back, we also went to Ivanhoe crossing, a historical crossing of the lower Ord river, which is also in flood at the moment and impassable, The hoochery, where I tried 3 shots of rum at 37, 53 percent which were really nice and a 71 percent proof which had not as much taste and a lot of fire, we also had some lunch of barra and chips, at that sort of percentage I was well over the limit so Brenda drove to the last place on the run which is Mirima national park, also known as hidden valley, where we went on a couple of short walks, the place is reminiscent of the Bungle Bungle, and the rock formations in there are unbelievable, there are also some great plants and flowers, one a small bush, it’s flowers are a bottle brush shape but only 1 and a ½ to 2cm long and bright yellow, other flowers are purple some are white and with a range of colours of foliage from silver to green and on the rocks from black to white, yellow to red, bright oranges, beige and brown made for a mosaic of colour that the eye could never tire of, a beautiful way to finish a good day, so we went back to camp to relax and prepare for tomorrow.

13th July 2011

After a lazy morning we were picked up at the front of the park at 11.30 and taken by coach to Lake Argyle with a quick stop at the homestead museum, the homestead was moved a few kilometres, stone by stone and rebuilt where it is today as a museum, it was the home of the Durack family, and where it was, is now 25 meters underwater, we also stopped at the resort, which is slowly getting a complete revamp, where we had the opportunity to get a drink from the pub if we so wished and also a look around at the lake, another quick stop at a look out where we saw a huge expanse of water, only to be told it was only 1/5 of the surface area of the lake, we also met some people there from Aldinga Beach, and made plans to meet up at home, we then boarded the boat, a specially built vessel to be used in shallow water, for the 5 hour trip back to Kununurra, which was informative and well done, the boat at times travels along at 50kph and zips along like a sky boat on the flat, reflective water, and at other times along some rough fast flowing water, where the river narrows to only about 20 meters, at other times we just float along as the captain, Jeff, who was also the coach driver, explains about some aspect of the river, the dam, the ecology of the surrounding area, life on the river or life in the river, with 70 odd species of birds, a myriad of fish and 100’s of fresh water crocodiles, not to mention the breath taking scenery, there is always something to look at or a picture to take, after taking in all this wonderful scenery, rock formations, information and a beautiful sunset reflected on the river, we finally got back at 5.30 and we driven back to the caravan park by 5.50, completely tuckered out from a great day, we settled for left over’s for tea, a shower, a Skype call to family and an hour of TV before falling asleep.

14th July 2011

Supplies were running pretty low and we had some shopping to do, unlike some caravan parks where we have been told that our $20 deposit for the gate key would not be returned if we were not out by 10.30, here at the showgrounds they said take your time, you get out when you get out, don’t rush, Troy and Karen have been very friendly and accommodating people, after shopping and organising everything it was 12 o’clock when we did get out, and by the time we organised ourselves and got LPG and all we were on the road by 12.30, after stopping for a quick bite of lunch on the border, crossed into the Territory at 1.30, the terrain and vegetation seems to change as you cross the border, the lack of rain is much more evident around here, and the hills loose their rough appearance, but the Boabs are still with us though, we arrived at our rest stop for the night, Saddle Creek, by 3.30 to us, but 5pm to everyone else as the watches jump 1 and a ½ hours to Australian central time, we set up where we could find a spot, as this rest area has a tick in the book for the beautiful backdrop of the mountain behind us, it is very popular and full up already, as we thought, but by the time the sun settled another 3 caravans and 4 campervans had squeezed in. I chatted to a few other campers while Brenda rested her back, then we had a walk for a while before sunset, we then organised tea which itself was strange to be doing at 7pm twilight instead of 5.30, by the time we had finished tea and settled for the night and watched a couple of episodes of Highlander (the old 80’s series) it was 10.45, the camp had settled everyone gone to sleep and we were wide awake, it’s going to take a few days to get used to the time change.

15th July 2011

A sleep in, after crossing the border, though I got to sleep late last night, I didn’t wake till 6.50 this morning, so maybe this clock change is good. After breakfast and getting packed up we were still the last ones to get out and headed off at 9.15 and slowly made our way to Timber creek, it is quite flat around here, and the vegetation very dry, and very tall where the fires haven’t been used to control the grass, at times it looks impenetrably thick and unusable, till you see a herd of cattle grazing through it. Timber creek is a sleepy little town which is surrounded by Gregory national park, as you enter the park, about 10km before the town there are signs on the road warning that crocodiles live in the park, the are NOT freshies, they are the salt water crocodile, the big mean buggers, so swimming is out of the question, in town there was no LPG so the rest of the trip to Katherine will have to be on petrol, we had a quick look around the Croc shop, offering tours of the river and souvenirs, then had some lunch in the park in the middle of town before resuming our trip, as we approached Victoria river, the landscape changes dramatically to a downhill windy road amongst tall mountains which have tapered sides to about half way then rugged vertical cliffs the rest of the way to finish on a flat plateau, the Gregory national park resumes here and once again the warning sign are placed telling of the dangers of the crocodiles. The river is close, at times, so close that the road side plunges to our left to reveal the river below and the mountains rise sharply to out right, the vegetation is green due to it’s proximity to the river and we feel like we have come through a time warp from brown, dry, flat land to an almost tropical rich green rugged country, we stopped at Victoria River, marked on the map as a town, but all it is, is a petrol station and caravan park, not far from the river, on a steep bank, a helicopter out the front is the draw card for some joy flights over the river, but we move on. The first rest area we got to was full, we could have squeezed in but it was tight, we decide that it was still early and move onto the next one, 89km away, unless we find something else, there were a couple of spots which looked promising but ended up being to tight for the van, we finally got to the rest area at 4 o’clock and easily found a spot thinking we would be the last ones in, but by sunset another 5 rigs had squeezed in as well as 2 people on pushbikes with tents, luckily we had picked a spot where no one could box us in, we enjoyed yet another beautiful sunset before getting some dinner, and decided to read tonight rather than watch telly.

16th July 2011

Oh well awake at 5.30, pitch black and nothing much to do, after writing the log, I tried to get back to sleep but to no avail, even Brenda woke at 6.30, so we had breakfast and packed up ready to hit the road, we’re only about 120km from Katherine so it’ll only take a couple of hours to get in, we chatted for a while to another couple from SA, who have been on the road for 7 years and say they are also usually the last ones to leave, not today though, they left before us and we hit the road at 8.30, this part of the road, from Broome, has been really quiet compared to further west but we remember that from last time too, although 7 out of 10 cars seem to have SA plates on them and they are all heading west, in fact 90% of traffic is heading that way, they say that travelling anti-clockwise is better for the wind direction, and we have been driving in a head wind all the way across the top, but also it is shorter, because you are on the inside lane J apparently, according to a traveller who claims he has Googled it, it is 350km shorter around Australia going anti-clockwise than it is clockwise, I haven’t Googled it, so I don’t know if it’s true. Anyway we arrived in Katherine at 10.15 and rang ahead to see if there was a place in a caravan park, that we had been assured there would not be “it’s extremely busy at the moment and you won’t get in” we were told and “Yes, no problem” we booked in, unhitched and seeing as Brenda has always wanted to see a country show, we walked down the road to the showgrounds, where we had worked 5 years ago to prepare for the show, and attended the Katherine show, of course not the big affair of the capital cities shows but a good few hours spent watching country events like mustering and such, and walking around listening to the shrieks and squeals of excited children, one thing we notice was that the big thrill rides, such as the slingshot, lay idle most of the day, and the show bag stand also was very quiet, we bought a soft serve ice cream from a young lass, whose vehicle had SA plates, it turns out she is from Seaford rise, (2 suburbs from us) and she plays netball for the Aldinga sharks, our local team, small world. Tired from walking around and an early start we headed back to the caravan and changed into our bathers, the Katherine hot springs are just 400 behind the caravan park and it was a great way to finish the day, after a long soak, we went back to have a shower and get some tea.

17th July 2011

Last night we got a phone call from Clif, a friend from the forum saying that he, his wife and Lance and Annie also from the forum were coming into town and hat we would meet up but not being able to contact them this morning, weren’t sure what time and we didn’t want to be waiting all day so I left a message for him and we headed into town, got a couple of things and went to the visitor centre, got some information and booked on the cultural experience for 11.30. At “Top Digj” we met Manuel Pamkal, and aborigine from Arnhem Land who told us a bit of his life story, and his family’s, he has had no formal schooling, and cannot read nor write, but his life experience is more education than we white fellas have received and on top of that he speaks 4 languages, 2 aboriginal, English and Pidgin English, not too many of us can lay the same claim, his name Manuel was given to him by a white prospector who lived in the same camp as his parents and was married to an aboriginal woman, she has now passed away but he remains living with the community, Manuel did ask him if he remembered when Manuel was born but all he remembered was 1963, no date or month, then Manuel talked about aboriginal painting which was taught to him by his Father and “nother” Father (who is his Father’s brother, the name Uncle is reserved for his Mother’s brothers) and showed us a step by step way of painting our own, then how to make fire with sticks and how to throw a spear using a woomera, the 2 and a ½ hour experience which ran an hour over time was a great, and all who attended were amazed with Manuel’s way of “teaching” and remembering everyone’s names, we then went back to the van for lunch and Brenda did some ironing, at 4 o’clock we got a call from Clif, we went a few kilometres out of town to catch up with them all as Lance and Annie are leaving in the morning, we have been offered their spot at the home where they are staying , we have gratefully accepted and will head off there in the morning.

18th July 2011

We were out of the park Just before 10 and went into town, to get some info on a cruise on through Nitmiluk (Katherine) gorge booked on the 2 gorge trek and headed out to where Clif and Alison are staying at their daughters place, set up and had some lunch with them, in the afternoon we rested, the I went into town with Clif and got a few things including the requirements to make a cheat lead from a 10a power point to the 15amp power supply to the caravan, we only have the waeco fridge, laptop and lights we run on 240 volts, so the barely reach 3amps, so though not technically legal the cheat lead is safe enough, the rest of the evening was spent chatting and sharing a BBQ tea together before turning in.

19th July 2011

Yesterday Brenda was very sleepy during the day, we thought it may have been her medication, a phone call to her doctor in Adelaide confirmed it, with the warm weather the patches are delivering more that they should so he suggested removing the smaller of the 2, to see how she went, unfortunately it didn’t work too well, she isn’t sleepy but in a lot of pain, so we had to defer our cruise on Nitmiluk gorge, Brenda spent the day in bed reading and watching some movie, resting is the only way to ride this out, I pottered, read and generally relaxed, Clif took me for a drive around the Charles Darwin Uni grounds, which is where we are staying at the moment, to show me the diversity of the grounds which cover 55.000 hectares, later, we had some vegies which were soon approaching their use by date, so I cooked up a big stew, which will go into take away containers and the freezer, an uneventful day, tomorrow is another day.

20th July 2011

Brenda was better this morning so we headed off at 9.30 ad arrived at Nitmiluk gorge at 10.30 as we approached the visitor centre, Brenda called out “snake” there was a black snake about 1.5 meters long, moving fairly quickly away from us and towards a couple sitting on a wall, we both called out “don’t move” twice, but it was too late, his reaction was swift and he jumped out of the way, she on the other hand was on the phone, and a lot slower, by the time she saw it and realised that it was coming towards her is was only about ½ a meter away from her, she froze on the spot and turned a funny shade of pale as the snake slithered over her feet, it was excited by the movement and disappeared in the leaf litter in a split second, now she’s on the phone stuttering “ a big snake just crawled over my feet” we congratulated her on not moving and said she had done well, her husband came back to her, looking rather sheepish but also a strange colour, we went inside and Brenda went to the desk to ask directions while I went to the restroom, as I came out Brenda was heading out the door to tell the couple that she had found out that it was a whip snake, dangerous to children and the frail and it can make an adult very sick, but they are not aggressive, I saw her tap the man on the shoulder, and he was still a little jumpy from their encounter, the poor bugger jumped about 2 feet in the air and 4 sideways, which brought great laughter from his wife. We headed down the path to the boat area and at 11 o’clock we were on the boat, our Aboriginal guide (who turns out is a nephew of Manuel, the guy who took us for the cultural experience) was great, telling us about the gorge and the culture of the area, the sound system on the boat let him down which at times made it hard to understand him, but his sense of humour certainly made up for it, after about 30 minutes we got off the boat and set off on foot over the rocks on the bank and along man made paths, 400mt to the second gorge, there are 13 in all but only 3 accessible by boat, the second gorge is the best and the actual Katherine gorge, here the cliff faces are on both side of the river and the colours are great. There are also small caves and overhangs one of which has a dripping waterfall, and a lot of vegetation growing from crevasse in the rock, but a bit further along is where :the hanging gardens” are, a place where all sorts of different grasses and trees hang on to the tiniest of crevasses where water comes from high above in the rock, there are even purple flowering plants to add to the kaleidoscope of colours surrounded by the blacks, whites, oranges and browns in the rock as well as the aqua green of the river, the colours are not as vivid as those of Geikie gorge, but the grandeur of this makes it stand amongst one of the greatest sites we have seen in this great land, at the end of the gorge we turned around as we have only come on the 2 gorge tour, the third gorge is a short walk to the other boat and takes you to a spot where you have the opportunity to have a swim in a big rock pool but that is a fair walk scrambling over rocks and Brenda is not up to it, besides if I jumped in there is a fair chance I would empty the pool with the splash, people would be hurt J the trip back was spent looking at and taking in the scenery we had passed before. but having a chance to see the other side of the river properly and being entertained by our guides humour, after the cruise we went into town and caught up on a couple of phone calls, and a bit of shopping before heading back to the van, to rest a little before our hosts cooked and prepared a BBQ tea for us, after a good meal, with good company and a shower we retired to the van to settle for the night.

21st July 2011

Thankful for the spot to park for a few days we left our hosts with sadness, it was great to see them again and spend some time with them. At 10 we were heading to Katherine to fuel up, and take the opportunity of having a carwash in town to give both the car and van a good go over, the car hasn’t been done since we came out of the Bungle Bungle, and the van since we left home, we also got some water and were on the road out by 12.o’clock. This road is definitely not the lonelier stretch from Kununurra to Katherine, and the traffic is constant, I also wonder if there is indeed anyone left in South Australia? As for the last couple of weeks, it seems that very other car we pass has SA plates on it; one man did tell me he turned the lights off as he left SA. The scenery is nice here, but dry compared to what we had in the Kimberly and the road much straighter. In one and a ½ hours we had covered the 100km to reach Mataranka, our intention was to have a dip in the thermal pool, then head out, to a freecamp down the road, but after looking around the town for 5 minutes we decided that we’d stop here for the night, visit the “We of the Never Never” display in the park and the gallery and also relax a bit longer in the spring, we booked in to the Mataranka cabins and camping ground, went back into town, did what we had planned and went back to change into our bathers and took the short walk from the caravan park to the thermal pool. Bitter springs is a pool of warm artesian water which has travelled from the Barkley tablelands in Queensland to emerge here as crystal clear water at a constant 32 degrees, it is set amongst paperbark trees and palms in a beautiful setting and we lingered there whilst our bodies absorbed the minerals and the soothing warmth of the spring, the water is warm, but the air felt quite cool when we got out, even though it was still 24 degrees, it was time to get back to camp and let the relaxing effect of the water do it’s thing, Brenda hopped into bed and did some reading while I had a drink with a couple who had shared the camp with us at Mary pool some weeks back, I then organised some tea, by cooking some potatoes to have with the stew I cooked a couple of days ago, before settling for the night.

22nd July 2011

We were out of the park by 9.15, but before leaving town we went back to bitter springs to have one last dip, Brenda wasn’t strong enough but I had a few photos left in the underwater camera I had bought for the Ningaloo reef dive, so I thought I would take some in the spring, I also went back with my mask and snorkel. Although from the top I knew the water was clear, I was amazed at how clear it was when I actually got under water, I could clearly see people in the spring 25mt away, I spend some time in there taking photos but also soaking in the warmth, as this morning has been the coldest we have had for quite a while, with the temperature dropping to 14. We were on the road by 10 and heading south, we have for the last 6 weeks or so driven off every morning with our windows wide open but today it was 11 before it was warm enough to open them, strange how a mere 100km or so can make such a difference. We travelled 240km all up today a long stretch by our standards, but got to the rest area we had chosen to find it almost full with 10 rigs already here, by the time the sun set there were to be another 5 rigs and 5 whizzbangs, crammed into every corner possible, including a Korean couple in a car, with a tent, between us and a coaster bus, where I thought no one would fit. After setting up the van, Brenda rested and read, while I chatted to other campers and helped a guy sort out a leaking gas system, a while later a camp fire was lit, where I warmed tea, whilst enjoying happy hour with others, before settling in for the night.

23rd July 2011

The mornings are noticeably colder. It was 10 degrees this morning, and the wind brought it down even further. We were up and on the road by 8.30 and travelling through very dry country, although there is some water in almost every creek crossing we come to, in contrast to WA where the grasses and trees were green but there was no water in the creeks, there are some flowers out but no where near as many as WA. The next town we got to was Elliot, where on approach “Cheap fuel” was advertised, with one of the 2 petrol stations out of fuel, the other was charging 127.9cpl for LPG, so I didn’t bother, we then came to Renner springs, which is just a pub/motel, come servo, come caravan park and his price was 106.3, I fuel up then went inside to ask for the manager and thanked him for not ripping people off, he was surprised at first thinking I was being facetious, but when I explained about the price at Elliot he was happy that someone had bothered. We moved on to Banka Banka station where we had stopped 5 years ago, but they have put their price up from $6 per person per night, to $10, that is for an unpowered site, so what you get is a bit of grass which is almost green and a shower and toilet, the atmosphere is similar to a freecamp and people are also packed in there like sardines, we opted to keep going and find a freecamp away from the road a little, so that not so many people choose it as they did in last nights freecamp, we went to “The Pebbles” also known as The devil’s Pebbles, which is a National park and has the same rocks as the Devil’s marbles, only smaller, there was one other rig there when we arrived at 1.30 but they left a little later, they were just having a siesta, before sunset, one car arrived with 2 young Germans couples in it and set up camp near us, but not in our pockets like last night, it was peaceful away from road traffic, 5 km away in fact, out in the bush with a little company who were very respectful, whilst tea was cooking I warmed some water on the choofer, before settling for a quiet night.

24th July 2011

Another cold morning start, but we waited till the suns rays warmed the van a little before we packed up and left and we were moving by 9.30, we headed into Tennant Creek fuelled up but found it strange that it was so quiet, most of the shops seemed to be closed and there was hardly anyone around, we asked someone where the rangers office was, as I wanted to tell them that all the bins at The Pebbles were full, they lady wasn’t sure where it was but gave me directions to 2 government buildings and said it should be in one of those, when I said “thanks, I’ll try this one first” pointing to the one across the road, she said, “it’s closed today, it’s Sunday” DUH, unfortunately when you’re touring most of the time you don’t even know what day it is, every day is Sunday, we looked around the town quickly, then headed out. As its Sunday all the villages we would go through would be closed and most of them are only a petrol station with sometimes a caravan park attached. We called into the devil’s Marbles to have a look. But as we ad stopped there 5 years ago we didn’t stop, past Wauchope and onto Wycliffe well, we stopped here for lunch and a break, as I said in our blog last time, this is supposed to be the UFO sighting capital of Australia, the whole place, petrol station, restaurant, and even the attached caravan park is done up in outer space theme, painting depicting aliens all over the place including the toilets, they have really gone all out with the air brushing to make this place stand out, it is amazing, but it seems to draw people in as there are a few people booked into the caravan park. We had lunch then moved on, before we were beamed up J on through Barrow Creek, the place made infamous 10 years ago, by the assumed murder, and disappearance of Peter Falconio, then to our rest stop for the night, 23km out of Ti-tree, we have travelled 350km today our longest day yet, it is now 3.30 and time to stop and relax, Brenda’s back is not happy. Just after tea and on dark, a car which was travelling in the paddock behind us stopped and 3 Aborigines got out, they had 2 flat tyres and no way of fixing them, luckily I had a puncture repair kit, so after they removed the tyre, we fixed it with the help of another caravaner, then they changed the tyre and they were on their way, thankful of the help, their last word to us was “thank you Brother and God Bless you” we then settled for what was shaping up to be a very cold night.

25th July 2011

Ok, this is getting ridiculous, for the last 6 weeks we’ve had overnight temperatures of 14 to 21 degrees, last night we dropped to 4, now we know this is winter, and it gets cold, but to go from 16 overnight and sleeping with the covers off, to 4 degrees, in 2 nights, it’s a shock to the system, at 7 o’clock when the sun comes up we open the curtains just to let the sunshine in to get a bit of warmth, I suppose that’s a consolation at least, the sun still shines during the day and by 11 we’re back into shorts and T-shirts. We were up and gone at 9 this morning and heading for Gemtree caravan park, it is 140km north-east of Alice Springs, and from there we can do a day trip fossicking for Garnets, something we missed out on last time and wanted to do now. The road is quiet with many less travellers than 5 years ago, not sure if it’s the time of year, where people have reached their destination and are waiting out the end of winter, or the price of fuel keeping people home, most places are saying it has been a quiet year though. The surrounding area is very dry as it has been a heavy, wet season and the grass is very tall resulting in a lot of places introducing fire bans as the normal burn offs are harder to control, some fires have started and burn for weeks on end, where as normally it’s only a day or two. We stopped in at Aileron a small town, which has a built up around a station as many do here in the NT and the hotel owner has built the place up with a nice restaurant/ pub/ petrol station and caravan park come motel, there are a few homes in behind and also an Aboriginal art gallery, on the hill behind it all is a 16 meter tall statue of an Aboriginal hunter, next to him the name of the town in 2 meter high lettering and in town a matching statue of a woman killing a goanna with a child at her side, quite an attraction but a look at the bowsers give you the opposite, $1,40.9 for LPG the dearest I have seen anywhere in Australia, and $2,05.9 for diesel, the town of Ti-tree was only $1,20 and $1,99 for the same products and it was only ½ an hour up the road, the attitude of the guy running the gallery was a definite turn off and we headed out from there. When we reached the turn off, the road narrowed to a one lane bitumen and continued onto Gemtree. We arrived at our destination at 1.30, set up in a non-powered site and relaxed in preparation of the fossicking tomorrow, a little later we did a 1 hour bush walk which has been set up around the park, looking at local flora and bird life, before a shower and tea, we then settled for what is shaping up to be another cold night.

26th July 2011

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr we started this morning at 2 degrees this is ridiculous, I got out of bed and I’m sure I heard 2 thuds hitting the floor and my voice is also noticeably higher this morning J We were packed and moved off the site by 10 past 8 and ready to get our fossicking gear at 8.30, there were 5 couples all up and by the time we were all ready, we moved off and got to the digging site at 9.30, the guide showed us what to do, how to set up and described what a Garnet looked like, then showed us how to dig and prepare the soil for sifting and washing, then we got to it, we were the first to find a garnet although only small, after we ad all found one, he left us to it and returned to the caravan park, at 11.30 someone called is it smoko yet and we all downed tools, most of us by then had at least 20 stones in our collection, after 2 hours of digging out in the sun my back was ready for a break and Brenda who had been doing the washing also needed a break, we had a piece of fruit and got back to it but by 12.15 I was really starting to slow down and could tell that Brenda was also struggling, so we stopped for lunch, after 15 minutes the others also stopped and we got back to digging soon after but at 1.30 we had both had enough and we downed tools, with 30 stones in our tin we were happy with our little “fortune” and glad for the experience we had been thinking about for a while, this was one of the things we didn’t do last time and really wanted to do this time around, we went back to the park handed in our tools and had our “gems” evaluated, 14 of them were only good to give to the grandkids for show and tell, but the other 16 are of “gem” quality, one when cut would be 6mm round so will make a nice single stone pendant, 4 are 5mm they would be ear rings, 6 are 4mm and would do nicely as 2 or 3 stone pendant or a small cluster ring, as would the other 5 which are 3.2mm, the experience was good and the “value” of the stones a surprise. Happy and tired with our day’s work we headed for Alice Springs and the National Transport Museum, where we will stay and work for the next 2 or 3 weeks, we met Liz, the manager of the whole shebang and she showed us to our spot then left us to it, we unhitched and went back into town to buy a heater, no more cold nights for this little black duck, we’re on power for the next few weeks, I ain’t freezing the family jewels anymore.

27th July 2011

Today was a catch up day, tidy the van and car, do the washing and just walk around the museum re-acquainting ourselves with the place, there have been many changes, the most noticeable was the gardens, a lot of work has been put into them, the displays have been moved around too and in the main building the whole place looks different many people have been inducted to the hall of fame, and their photos proudly hang on prominent walls, we also did a lot of relaxing and meeting other volunteers, so that we can get stuck into the work tomorrow.

28th July 2011

We were up and ready for work by 9, Brenda’s job was sweeping the entrance of the Hall of fame, mine trimming and taking suckers off the palm trees that have been planted in the “Cameleer’s Garden” out the front of the Ghan museum, they are there not only for landscaping but also for the figs, which are harvested and sold through the shop, we didn’t realise Brenda’s job was going to be so tough and the 2 hours took it’s toll so when she finished, it was time for a break and we were going to the van when Kel and Liz, the owners invited us to have a coffee with them at the Ghan café, after an hour or so Brenda went back to the van and although Kel had said I needn’t finish today I was more than half way through so I finished the palm trees in time for lunch. After lunch we just relaxed and took it easy before getting ready for tea, we all went to the “Todd Tavern” for the Thursday night special, schnitzel and chips with salad for $7, at that price, it’s not worth the bother of cooking yourself, we didn’t stay long after tea, as Brenda was in pain and we still had to get some bread and also fuel up, by the time we got back to the caravan it was 9 o’clock and we were both bushed, it was time for an hour of TV before turning in.

29th July 2011

Today Brenda needed to stay in bed and rest, I did some more pruning and cleaned up the area around the 4 site camp, where we are, over the years people have more or less used the underneath of the building as a spares dump and there were a lot of plumbing gear, lengths of timber and steel and bits of sheet iron which were put into useful or rubbish piles, then stored or disposed of, that took most of my time till 3. It was then time to relax for the rest of the day.

30th July2011

Saturday, most of the volunteers take the day off and so will we, we start off with some house chores, a bit of washing, cleaning the bathroom, then fight a fire, someone has put a match to a rubbish pile and walked away from it, it’s gotten away and into some tall grass and it’s heading for the vans, we started with the hose and buckets while others went to get the fire truck, luckily we caught it before it got away too much, it only burnt about 100 square meters of grass. We all then went to the opening of the Alice Spring solar power station, the largest tracking solar power station in Australia, it consists of 30,000 panels which track the sun across the sky, and produces 1 megawatt of power which feeds straight into the grid, with a free BBQ on offer as well as many giveaways there were many people there, and there was a wait for the guided tour, which was interesting, we went back to the van to relax and do some reading, a large whirl wind came through the place causing havoc but also putting enough air through the fire pile to restart it again, so out came the fire truck again as well as some rakes to get to the middle of the pile and put it out properly, it was time for a shower and to get ready for the BBQ tea, Kel and Liz are putting on as a thank you to the workers, Brenda is still sore and turned in early and I followed at 8.30 after a great day.

31st July 2011

A day of relaxation, firstly shopping for a couple of things, checking out a market, lunch at the Gap tavern with a couple of the volunteers who are leaving today, then back to the van to read a book and have a siesta, Brenda had a hair cut by one of the volunteers who is a hair dresser, and some more reading, finished the book and generally did nothing much, sitting in the shade enjoying the peace.

1st August 2011

We both did some work today, Brenda worked at the reception desk/shop in the morning and I started with one palm tree I had forgotten a coupe of days ago then cleaned some toilets, swept some paths and cleaned a store room, after lunch I swept in the Kenworth hall and dusted the trucks, that’s made up some hours which we need to catch up on a couple of things in town in businesses which weren’t open on the week end.

2nd August 2011

Another ½ a days work for me, cleaning and dusting in and around the Kenworth hall with a young fellow, who is doing community hours, actually I was mainly supervising, Brenda had a day off because the standing around at the desk yesterday has caused more pain, in the afternoon we went to town to get some mail and walk around Todd mall.

3rd August 2011

Unfortunately Brenda twisted her back yesterday and needs to rest all day, she wasn’t rostered on anywhere, she has been reassured that they only want her to work when she can and not to worry about it, but she still feels like she’s letting people down. I finished putting a security screen in font of the office window which I had started yesterday, I am also doing the battery maintenance in the Kenworth hall, and the batteries need to be maintained in order to start the trucks at any time if they need to be moved, another ½ days work and a relaxing afternoon.

4t August 2011

Today something different, we did some sight seeing, last time we were in Alice we went to the west MacDonnell ranges, this time we went to the east, after a couple of chore we’ve taken on we headed into town to get some lunch and a couple of parts for the van then headed east. The terrain and scenery this side of Alice is completely different, it changes quite dramatically from flat open grazing land, to undulating hills covered in trees and shrubs, naturally with the ever present Spinifex covering the ground like a green prickly carpet, the lack of rain is evident here and the grass, where there is some, is very short, We had come a short way into the east 5 years ago, so we bypassed Emily and Jessie gaps and went on another 25 or so kilometres before stopping at corroboree rock, it is a rocky projection out of the land surrounded by mountains but it stands out on it’s own, it is about 40m tall, 100 long and only about 15 thick, looking like the fin of some giant prehistoric monster sticking out of the ground, there is a walking track around the base and signs asking people to treat the area with respect, after the walk and a couple of photos we moved on to Trephina gorge national park, there is a turn off just after the entrance which takes you on a 4km, 4WD track to the John Hayes rock holes, whilst the scenery here is nice, it is not as nice as the west MacDonnell ranges but we were there for the experience and took it all in. Next was Trephina gorge, there are 2, 1 hour walks which can be done, one says it is challenging, the other is a ridge top walk, which “after an initial steep climb is a relatively easy walk for the family” then it returns via the gorge itself, well the initial steep climb is OK for a mountain goat family, as it is on a rock surface and although the surface is flat, it is almost steep enough to need climbing gear, we did try it, but Brenda doesn’t like heights so, when we heard harp music and angels singing it was time to turn around and try a different approach, with our feet back on earth, we headed off up the gorge, unfortunately the river is flowing and although it is shallow, after about 500mt it became impassable for us, as we would have had to jump about 1 and a ½ meters at a time and that would have been murder on Brenda’s back, enjoying the scenery we could we returned to the car, and headed back to town.

The east MacDonnell ranges are, in our opinion, definitely not as scenic as the West MacDonnell’s are, and we would suggest that if you come to Alice, you should see the east first; doing it that way you will enjoy the beauty of this jewel in the desert to its full extent.

5th August 2011

We were both in the front office today, Brenda on reception and marking stock, I was helping her with the stock and directing visitors to different exhibits, after lunch we headed into town to do some grocery shopping.

6th August 2011

Today is Liz’ birthday but she doesn’t like celebrating birthdays so it turned out being a relaxing day with not much to do, we will be having a BBQ tomorrow night and I made a cake so we’ll share that then.

7th August 2011

This morning whilst I was changing the battery charger over to another truck in the Kenworth museum, Kel came through with a number of truckers from America they are doing a world wide TV program, which is all hush, hush at the moment and they were amazed at the history here and some of the unique trucks we have, like the 1934 AEG which is fully restored to working condition. Sunday is our day off so as soon as I had done the battery charger we headed into town, to have a look at the Todd Mall markets, a much better display than last weeks markets, we did buy a couple of things before heading back to the van for a restful afternoon watching a couple of movies before attending the BBQ and surprising Liz with her cake. All in all a great day in central Australia.

8th August 2011

Just a quick job today, well about 2 hours anyway, changing the batteries in the Kenworth building and also cleaning it, windows, cobwebs, sweeping floors, dusting the trucks, etc, it is the only building here that is completely sealed so it is easier to keep it looking good, I was finished by 11 o’clock so, Brenda is very sore again today, so it was just a relaxing day after that reading and watching a couple of movies.

9th August 2011

Ryan, the young guy doing community hours was back today and I got him to finish the job he was doing last week, which was cleaning the cobwebs on the Kenworth building, he wasn’t keen on doing it last week and missed most of it, this time he has been told, not by me, to do it properly or his hours wouldn’t be signed off, so he is putting in a better effort, I did the inside of the building and left him to the outside while I was moving some books into a store room. After lunch another relaxing afternoon, we went into town and did some shopping and we also bought a painting from the artist in the mall, Amanda and Dave have been looking after the dogs for us while we’re away, as well as Adam, so we are buying them a little something as a thank you. As Brenda is still sore, we didn’t want to push it, so we went back to the van and settled to watch a movie before getting tea.

10th August 20111

Brenda is still not good so will rest today, I started with the Kenworth hall again and the floor is very dusty, well past the sweeping stage, so I mopped part of it around the entrance to make it more presentable, that alone took over an hour, I finished around 11.30 but by 12.30 I was working with Bruce, another volunteer, on moving a large mural, which is in 4 sections, that took us till well after 3 and we’ll finish the job in a few of days when Bruce has done the preparations, after a rest and preparing tea we went to the hospital to visit Kel who is in there for a couple of days.

11 August 2011

Brenda’s Birthday, no work for us today, we went into town to walk around, widow shop and get a couple of things from the chemist, lazed around and generally just enjoyed The Alice, although it is tough being away from family on a birthday and even more so when we have found out, that our Granddaughter, Danika, is in hospital and will be there for a few days, including her 12th birthday in 4 days time, she had fallen over a couple of weeks ago and had a 3cm piece of date palm frond in her knee, which hadn’t shown up on x-rays, it had to be removed in surgery and they are now treating the infection, it’s times like these you really want to be home, we went back to the van for lunch and have a rest as we were going to the movies this evening before going out to tea, unfortunately by 4pm Brenda was feeling ill so, I put a movie on the laptop and went out to get some Chinese, not quite the romantic dinner we had planned but something a bit special just for the 2 of us anyway.

12th August 2011

Another quiet day, I spent a couple of hours in the Kenworth hall, and generally tidied up, then nothing much for the rest of the day, Brenda is sore again today but we may have worked out that it may be due to the medication not doing what it should be. When we left Adelaide, she was taking her medication every 2 days, but with the heat of the tropics, she was getting too much so, with doctors approval she dropped to 3 days, since we’ve been in The Alice the pain has been increasing because it is cooler, even cold at night but Brenda hadn’t changed back to 2 days, we will try that, as of tonight and see how she goes.

13th August 2011

Brenda is much better today and helped out with a Breakfast which was being served in “Sturt’s kitchen” it is a part of the museum that is open to being hired for functions, lunches, dinners or afternoon teas by the public for group functions, I was cooking the BBQ, sausages, eggs, bacon, and warming the beans, the people were helping themselves to the bain-marie, there was also fruit, fruit salad, cereals, fruit juices, tea and coffee, set out and Brenda and another lady were doing the dishes, I had another guy helping me with fetching things and cooking toast, after that we did our daily jobs, the Kenworth hall and the toilets at the Ghan museum, being a weekend it is just a quick check to make sure all is well, then we went to the “Old timers” fete, The Old timers place is a nursing home which holds a yearly fete which is well attended by the community, not the greatest fete we have been to but very busy and you could see that the organisers and volunteers had put in a great effort, we did spend a few dollars and I dare say if we were at home without the constraints of space we have in the van, I could easily have been coaxed into spending a bit more at the second hand stall, we then went back to camp, as there was a group expected at the Ghan for lunch, I helped out in the kitchen and Brenda on the museum till, by 2 o’clock, the rush was over and Brenda had had enough, so the till duties came back to the front counter, and I finished off in the kitchen before also calling it a day, we spent the afternoon just watching movies having enjoyed a great day with Brenda almost out of pain.

14th August 2011

Sunday, a day off, well at least after the batteries are changed over, tomorrow I hook up the last truck in the Kenworth hall. After that we went out the back of the museum onto the dirt tracks to go and have a look at the Pine Gap site, but after a few tries of finding tracks that weren’t too bad for Brenda we gave up, did have some fun though with 4WDriving, but Brenda’s back can only take so much, she’s only just come good after 2 and ½ weeks so we don’t want to push it so, we went into town to have a good look at the second hand shop I spotted a couple of days ago, but alas it’s Sunday, closed, stopped at Anzac hill on the way back to take a video from the top, I wasn’t able to do that last time as our video broke down, then we headed to Coles for a couple of things, walked around a bit then headed back to the van, read and relaxed, till happy hour with the others and settled to watch some movies for the evening.

15th August 2011

We both put in a couple of hours today as Brenda is a lot better since the new pain relief regime, then we did the washing and got the van ready for Brenda’s mum arriving tomorrow, a fair bit of rearranging to do to accommodate 3 people in a 15ft van, but it’s only for 10 days, it’s not like we haven’t done it before, after that we we’re both pooped so it was just relax.

16th August 2011

We both did some work again this morning, before going to the airport to pick Mum up, the pane landed 15 minutes late but Both Brenda and Mum were happy to see each other again after nearly 5 months of us on the road, we spent the afternoon catching up on family news before going into town to get some tea and to give Mum quick a quick tour.

17th August 2011

Another ½ a days work today, a quick check over the Kenworth building, then put up the murals Bruce and I had moved a few days ago, the preparations are all finished and we had 3 other guys helping with the job so it was a lot easier to finish, Brenda and Mum cleaned one of the office together, then we had some lunch and a rest, then back into town for some more window shopping and looking around.

18th August 2011

Brenda had some money given to her for her birthday so, she and Mum went clothes shopping today, while I worked with a few other guys, moving the trucks out of the main hall in readiness for the reunion dinner next week, it took us all day till 4, it was then time to have a shower and get ready for tea down the pub, Thursday night $7 schnitzel, 22 of us were there, we then went back to the van to settle to watching TV.

19th August 2011

It is really getting busy around here with the reunion coming up, 800 people are expected to attend functions over 3 days next week end, and a lot has to be done, we finished moving trucks around today and also swept the main hall and with having had large bush fires in the area over the last week the place was covered in ash. By 12.30, I was bushed and went back to the van to have lunch and a rest, the afternoon was spent relaxing.

20th August 2011

We were up and out of the van by 9, we had breaky at McDonalds and were heading out of town to see the west MacDonnell ranges by 9.30, Mum was on the phone to Lynda, Brenda’s sister in Melbourne, telling her what we were up to and that tomorrow we would be going to the Henley on Todd race, when Lynda told her that the race was today not tomorrow, so a quick u-turn and back into town to check it out, sure enough it’s on today, back to the van to get some chairs and prepare to spend a day in town. The Henley on Todd, as you would know is the only boat race in the world which is run, literally, on a dry river bed, in fact when the river is in flood, like last year, the race day is cancelled. The “boats” are made by groups and families, out of tubing, wood, plastic or in fact any sort of material, this year there even was a cut up suit case, and a bottomless blow-up swimming pool, anything for a laugh and anything colourful, the contestants dress-up and the best dressed team wins a prize, races are run in heats with the crowd joining in the barracking for whoever they please, and eventually at the end of the day, there is a winner, there are other arenas where sand shovelling competitions test the stamina of the entrants, or where sand boats, actually oversized skate boards on rails, are paddled across the sand and winched back to the start by teams of life savers, there is also an auction of old postie bikes which have been ridden from Brisbane, by a team of people who have paid for the privilege, also a fund raiser, and the 30 odd motorbikes fetch between $800 and $1000 each, all in all a whole day of silly fun to raise money for the Rotary club which in turn donates it to charity, to finish the day 2 (trucks done up to look like) ships, have a canon fight right there in the middle of the river bed, the regatta started as a small fundraiser 50 years ago and has grown into a world known event, where people from all over the world come, not only to see it, but sometimes also compete. We left at about 2pm and went to the Alice springs botanical gardens, a surprising sight as they are arid land, gardens almost completely void of green apart from the foliage on the trees, we walked around there for about an hour and just before leaving were rewarded by a show from 3 Bower Birds building a nest in order to attract a female, an unusual and rare sight, we even gave them a 5c coin to add to their show, we then went back to the van after a great day out.

21st August 2011

We were up and gone by 9 again this morning, heading for Todd mall, today is the day of the markets and as they are quite good Mum wanted to see them, be didn’t spend too much time there, but we did get a couple of things, we were o our way out of town at 10 and our first stop was Simpson’s gap, a beautiful place in the west MacDonnell ranges. The gap is about 10 meters wide and is a permanent water hole and eve on a beautiful day like this the water is really cold, cold enough to cause cramps and cause someone to possibly drown from them, warning sign are in place to tell people of this, Mum was amazed, as we were our first time here, at the grandeur of the place and all the different colours in the rock, as well as the amazing flora which seems to hang on to the rock, as it grows from the tiniest crevice in the rock surface, from there we headed to Standley chasm, another gap in the mountains, but this one only about 3 meters in width, where the rock glows orange with the midday sun, unfortunately we got there a little late and only caught the tail end of the show, but still worth the effort of getting there even only to see the beauty in the colours of the rock and all the different plant growing in the river bed including strong healthy cycads, Standley chasm has an entrance fee of a few dollars, but people just walk past the signs and walk straight in, some even pulled down fences and climbed over while we were there, we didn’t see them do it, just the fence pulled down in the car park which was repaired before we left, after some lunch we went on to Ormiston gorge, one of the best gorges in the park we think and really wanted Mum to see it, we were running out of time so passed a couple of other attractions in order to get there, if we have time on the way home we will stop at them, mum was quite amazed at the different t rock formations in this part of the world and the ruggedness of the terrain, most people think that out here I the desert, it’s all flat sand, but, as we found out 5 years ago, out here, it is all undulating terrain with rugged mountains on both sides and beautiful rock formations everywhere, in a number of places there are what look like man made stone walls along the road, from 20cm up to 2.5 meters tall, straight as a string line and when you o up to it there is a drop of about 5 to 10 meters behind it, it almost looks like a smaller version of the great wall of china, excepts it is a natural formation, on looking around it is repeated over and over again, in the mountains as they disappear in the distance, we got to Ormiston gorge and enjoyed the peace and tranquillity of the Australian bush with only a few people here, some kids having a great time climbing over the rocks, and building cubby houses in the small caves and just enjoying life, once again this is a permanent water hole but as we were leaving a couple of backpackers found out that that water wasn’t as inviting as it looked , there are no signs in the area where you come in and they thought they would cool off, they “cooled” a little more than they bargained for as they were both shivering in the 25 degree day, after only a few seconds in the water. We got back to the car and headed home, stopping at the Ochre pits, the place where ancestral aborigines mined the ochre to make their paints, there the ochre rock is all the colours imaginable, white, yellow, orange, red, purple, and almost black, the sight of this rock is fantastic, there are signs warning not to take pieces of rock and telling of $5000 fines for those who do, but still people ignore the signs and even right in front of us a woman picked some up, I told her of the fine and she said she didn’t know about it, but still kept the rock in her hand as she walked off back to the carpark. After a full day we headed home, our minds tired from all the beauty we had taken in today.

22nd August 2011

We had a few things to do before heading off to Curtin Springs, so we didn’t get going till just after 12.30. We headed south and having expected flat dry sandy country, as most people do, Mum was surprised seeing the landscape undulating, even hills and quite rocky in places and, where it wasn’t burnt in the recent fires, even quite green considering we are in the middle of the desert. 85 kilometres down the road we came to the Rainbow Valley turn off, we have heard that it is a very pretty place but have never been, we are running a little late but decide to go anyway, the road is recommended for 4WD, and soon we get to corrugations, but not too bad, then we hit sandy sandy terrain and I engaged the 4WD, ½ an hour later we arrive at one of the most vibrantly coloured cliffs we have ever seen, the colours range from pure white to a dark brown with every shade of yellow, orange and red in between and with the sun shining on it is absolutely beautiful, we got out and went for a walk closer to it, and this thing is monstrous, standing at least 70 meters high and spanning 200m along, the kaleidoscope of colour in the brilliant sunshine, is almost too much for the brain to take in, and you almost feel dizzy in awe from looking at it, after about an hour we head off back to the highway, and head off to Curtin Springs, we arrive at 6.20 and are all tired from the trip, we have our tea, which Brenda had prepared in the dreampot, and settled to watch some movies before going to sleep.

23rd August 2011

We woke at 6.50, and Mum was already awake so she served me a cup of coffee in bed, I could get used to this, usually it’s the other way around, we got up and headed to Uluru by 9 am, timing ourselves for the trip in tomorrow, when we have to be on time for the plane, we did make a couple of stops to look at some wild camels and also the first glimpses of “The Rock”, then headed straight to the Airport, and confirm bookings, we bypassed Yulara and headed to the National park, then bypassed Uluru and headed first for Kata Tjuta, (the Olgas) when Brenda and I were here 5 years ago we weren’t that impressed with Kata Tjuta but realised that it was because we had been so enthralled by the grandeur of Uluru, that Kata Tjuta felt like the poor second cousin, Mum really liked it as did we and we were even all able to do the 2.6km walk to the end of the valley, though it did take us longer than most people, what with take 3 steps – drag Mum, take 3 steps – drag Mum, take 3 step...... not really but with Mum in her late 70s we were amazed that she did so well, after the walk we had some lunch at the picnic area, then headed to Uluru, the 2 attractions are about 50km apart and the anticipation mounted as we approached “The Rock” Mum was surprised to see the surface wasn’t smooth as she had expected it to be, but full of ripples, holes and cracks, we did a bit of walking along the edge of it but didn’t attempt the 9.4km walk around the base, and were surprised at the amount of people who walked up to it started the walk and the gave up before reaching ¼ way, not having read the warning signs about how strenuous it is, we then went to the visitor/interpreter centre and looked around till it was time to go and see the sun set on Uluru, we have seen it before but were still as amazed as those who haven’t, to witness the colour changes on this beautiful icon of central Australia, we headed back to Curtin Springs, to buy dinner and settle to a good nights sleep after a long day in the Australian outback.

24th August 2011

Up, breakfast and gone by 8.30 to make not only the airport in time but also show Mum a quick look around Yulara, it’s not really a town just a big resort and the prices in the shops reflect that, we made the airport just in time to get Mum on the plane and after we had seen it off the ground we headed back, it had been our intention to walk around Uluru, but neither of us feel up to the 9.4m walk, 4 hours later we arrived back at The Alice, just as we got a phone call from Mum to say she was back in Adelaide, after waiting 1 hour in Alice Springs for her connecting flight, Brenda is very sore after a long 2 days so we just rested for the afternoon.

25th August 2001

The next 3 days are going to be very busy with the reunion here at the National Road Transport Hall of fame, and we started today at 9 and kept going till 2.30, mainly cleaning and tidying up.

26th August 2011

Staying on for the reunion may have been a mistake, Brenda’s back is causing her a lot of pain and she may have to sit one of the days out or not do some of the work she is down for, as well as our morning jobs, the Kenworth hall for me and Brenda checking some toilet blocks, we worked the lunch time BBQ today, 11 till 3, me on the BBQ itself and Brenda selling tickets for it and for a raffle, but even though she was walking around she is still very sore today, then in the evening setting up some table decorations. Hope this was not too big a mistake.

27th August 2011

Our day started at 9am, but Brenda had to sit out the early start, yesterday was too much for her and she needs to rest so I went to the Kenworth hall did what was needed and then checked the toilets were clean, had a break of ½ an hour or so then started on the lunch time BBQ, selling drinks tickets, with 400 people attending it was a very busy few hours, a break again from 3 to 5.30 and it was food service for pre dinner drinks in the Kenworth hall till 630 where Brenda joined in, still in pain but wanting to help, then cooking of the BBQ started and straight on to serving tea at 8.15 till 9, the buffet and salads for the BBQ had been prepared by caterers who had 3 staff to help with food preparation, and serving, the volunteers did all the other work, at 9,30 we started clearing tables and Brenda’s back gave in at 10, by then most of the tables were cleared and we were sitting down to tea, at our own table in the hall, I gave up at 10.30 and went back to the van, but returned at 11 for clean up and putting the chairs and tables away. A long day but people did appreciate it and a few of them said so, even coming to our table and thanking us, tomorrow is the quiet day of the 3, so they say.

28th August 2011

Another long day, started at 9am at the usual Kenworth hall, but this time with a function for 400 people held there last night it took me 3 hours to clean it, Brenda pushed it a bit much last night and she’s in a lot of pain, she wants to get up and do the toilets but I think it’s best she stay in bed, so I did those as well and finished at 1pm, we had lunch, courtesy of the lunch time BBQ, then had a sleep and rested till 5.15, and back on tea duty, another BBQ, to use up all the left over salads from the weekend, this time only 150 people were booked for it and few of the volunteers turned up to help so it so it wasn’t too hard a job, but we still didn’t finish till 9.15, Brenda hasn’t been able to get up today and we were supposed to leave for home first thing in the morning, well first thing for us in touring mode, so that’s about 10, but we’ll have to have another days rest, otherwise Brenda won’t be able to cope with travelling, never mind, I look forward to a days rest too.

29th August 2011

Well although today is our last day here, we want to leave with our jobs well done so we still did our regular jobs and for the last time I went to the Kenworth hall to make sure it was in good order and Brenda did the toilets over at the Ghan, then we went into town to get the food well need to get home, we plan on about 5 days but knowing we’re on our way home, we will probably push our own limits and travel more than 300km a day. When we got back to the van I packed the car and Brenda did the washing and tidied the van, then we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, till about 5.30 when a few of the neighbours came over for one last happy hour with us, including Desley and Clancy, Des is the new secretary here at the hall of fame, after tea we settled in for our last night in Alice, till the next time we come to this lovely jewel in the desert.

30th August 2011

We were up and packing by 7.30 and ready to go at 8.30 we headed to the hall for one last time to catch up with Liz but missed her by a couple of minutes, so we said goodbye to those who were there, and headed out of Alice on the road already travelled in the last week, we reached the NT/SA border by 12.30, this is where we had planned to stop for the night but being so early we decided to push on, we have been this way before but it was 5 years ago, travelling the other way, also 3 months earlier in the year so there were no wild flowers out then, but this time they are everywhere, amongst the millions of white, purple and pink tiny flowers covering the ground, the Spinifex makes a mottled, prickly carpet of green with its magnificent crown of beige seed heads, there are clumps of large spear head shaped flowers, coloured from green with a dull pink hue when first open to a rich crimson when in full bloom, above that, there are thousands of yellow flowered bushes which form a layer of gold as far as the eye can see, and higher still the green canopy of the desert dweller trees, standing only about 2 and a ½ meters tall but still being the highest vegetation of the desert plain, till we come to a creek or river bed, usually dry, but still supporting the majestic king of vegetation, the river red gum, who says the desert is dull and boring, we went on driving through this coloured landscape, till we reached Marla by then both of us had enough of travelling and Brenda’s back was stiffening up so we decided to stop, we refuelled and went on another 30km to a rest area where we settled for the day, there were other campers here and after happy hour with them, I cooked a spaghetti Bolognese for tea, and we settled for the night.

31st August – 2nd September 2011

The next three days were a blur and we became the dreaded white liners, the road we travelled we had seen before and although it still amazed us to see the constant changes in the terrain and scenery, we travelled faster at 100 KPH, and longer covering 500 kilometres per day, stopping only for fuel, stretch the legs and rest the back late morning and to make some lunch early afternoon, all three nights were sent free camping with the last, 100km out of Pt Augusta leaving the last day to get us home by 2 O’clock in the afternoon. We never travel like that but I guess when you’re on the way home on familiar road you tend to just want to get home, especially when you’ve been away 5 months.

After unloading the car, we went to pick up the grandkids from school, the surprise brought a squeal from our granddaughter, that almost pierced our eardrums, and our grandson was almost speechless, it’s good to be home.


This trip was to see me fulfil one of the items on my bucket list, to dive with a whale shark; unfortunately it was not to be, oh well next time.

There are always things that go wrong with cars, especially when you travel 18,500 kilometres, fortunately our little problem of a split pipe with associated loss of the clutch was a minor one compared to Bernie and Allan’s problem which turned requiring a new diff fitted to the car, because the fault was a known problem, The car maker came to the party and paid for half of the repairs, which took another week, unfortunately for them it was too late to try and salvage their holiday, so they returned to Perth planning the next trip.

Once again we mainly free camped and love the freedom of those camps, not to mention that we could not afford to do trips like this if we had to stay in caravan parks every night as most of them charge between $30 and $50 per night, which would have cost us $6600, instead we spent around 18 nights including 3 nights at the farm stay in Margaret River, all up costing $612, the $5,988.00 saved, more that paying for the cost of setting up the van with 12v power and solar panels.

This is a beautiful land, full of surprises for the traveller who is unaware, even for those of us who have travelled it before, it still amazes and we are in awe of it’s magnificence, especially in the Kimberly region and the top end, even the red centre holds a special place in out hearts, not just the land but the people who live in the harsh environment that Oz can sometimes throw at us, this was our second trip in the area, and definitely not the last.