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11 Exmouth & Cape Range National Park

semi-overcast 21 °C

11th July
It may have been a Sunday morning, but we were up and off to the showers before 0500 to ensure a quick getaway to the national park. It was pretty cold as we trudged off to the shower block. The men’s’ block had plenty of lights on already so I jumped in the shower, and as I was rejoicing in having hot water the lights went out. It was pitch black, apparently because they had one of those timer light switches somewhere that I had not seen as I entered. Never mind, I finished getting dry and dressed but when I tried to unlock the cubicle door the lock just kept rotating! I was locked in the shower in pitch darkness while trying to get an early start.

After a while I managed to ‘escape’ and we got going along the 40km road to the Park Ranger Station. Because we knew that it was first come best dressed we travelled as fast as we could along a completely unknown road, and avoiding the growing number of kangaroos that were still out and about in the dark. We arrived at the Ranger Station and joined the queue and noted that Brian, without their van, was in the queue ahead of as at place number 5 or 6. We waited patiently as the dawn finally approached and finally, at about 0800 the ranger appeared and we all waited anxiously for the results. Soon she reappeared and told the first two people that they were ‘in’ and then told the rest of us that we could “come back tomorrow” if we liked. The chap who was third in the queue was the most disappointed as he had been there since 0300!

Brian headed back to a nearby caravan park and we followed him and managed to obtain two unpowered sites at the Yardie Homestead CP. The old Yardie Homestead had been the headquarters for a large cattle station but a large part had apparently become a portion of the Cape Range National Park that also incorporated the famous Ningaloo Reef.

We set up and I drove the four of us back towards Exmouth to visit the nearby Vlaming Lighthouse perched on a high point of the peninsular. (The lighthouse was named after a Dutch explorer of the region in the 1600’s). It was a perfect day with little wind (what a lovely change!), and the view of the reef was simply breathtaking. We could also see several offshore oil and gas platforms, and with the aid of binoculars we counted about seven or eight platforms with their distinctive gas flares.

From the lighthouse vantage point we could clearly see the significant Harold E Holt ‘Communications Centre’ used by a joint Australian USA defence force organisation, apparently to ‘communicate’ with allied nuclear submarines and other vessels operating in the Indian Ocean.

Prior to visiting a nearby beach to see what remained of the SS Mildura, a vessel that ran aground on the shore rocks in 1907, Mary and Maureen scoured the beach area for even more shells or rocks or whatever(!) to add to their rapidly growing collection. A rather weary but very satisfied group of four headed back to camp for dinner.
As it became dark Mary turned on the van lights to finish dinner preparations only to find out that our large battery was almost out of power, so we had to turn off the van lights and finish the cooking almost in the dark with only a small rechargeable battery light to work by. So, we ended up without battery power for four nights, including no power for the water pump. Fortunately we had plenty of safe drinking water that was obtained from a nearby tap.

12th July
We tried to book a powered site in nearby Coral Bay but, due to the July school holidays everything was booked out for another week.
Brian drove us the 70 Km south to Yardie Creek, a part of the National Park. Fortunately it was all sealed so we enjoyed the journey. There we enjoyed a rather difficult rocky (very) walk overlooking the Yardie Gorge. However, it was increasingly windy and as the track deteriorated we turned back. We did enjoy the sight of the 4WD vehicles awaiting the ebbing tidal creek level to drop sufficiently for them to cross over.

We also visited the National Park visitor centre where one could buy a range of appropriate park memorabilia – so Mary did! Actually I think that we all bought something as the items were reasonably priced and also interesting.
We returned to camp and had a pretty early dinner to be tidied up before dark. Another stunning sunset! Noisy neighbours meant a lack of sleep and this was not helped by a decision to pull the van awning in at 2300 as the wind was increasing and it was making a bit of noise.

13th July

I managed to obtain one night’s site at Coral Bay, and two nights back at Exmouth for the Thursday night, so we all would have opportunity to literally recharge our van batteries.

Today I drove us all back down to Yardie Creek to enjoy their lunchtime one hour cruise up the gorge. While even windier than previously we did enjoy the trip and saw small rock wallabies (a rather rare animal) and several bird species. We made the compulsory visit to a beach or two so that our supply of shells could be added to!
As we approached the camp site late that afternoon we saw some emus at the entrance so we had to stop and take photographs of them. As we had no power we sat outside and had a competition on how many satellites we could see that night. A record number of eight were observed. At the same time we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and the stars increasing until the whole, magnificent, Milky Way was gradually revealed. What a wonderful creation we have to enjoy.

14th July
Today we spent reading, relaxing and chatting! No, we didn’t celebrate Bastille Day but we did manage a siesta. Brian had decided to take down all his awnings to stop them from incurring possible damage should the wind rise further, and also to speed up his departure the next day.

15th July
A leisurely start to packing up to move back to Exmouth still saw us departing in plenty of time to arrive at the earliest available time of 1000.
It was so much easier travelling back along the same road upon which we had raced on the previous Sunday morning. No kangaroos to be wary of and only light traffic to contend with, so we arrived right at 1000 and got established quickly. I quickly set up the battery recharger that we had to kick-start our power supply. Normally it took about 24 hours to get everything up to full power.

Mary and I decided to walk the short distance into the town centre to buy stamps and post a large number of postcards, and were taken by surprise when a large emu wandered out of the gate of the local school (it still being school holidays) and strolled onto the busy street in front of the local traffic. We managed to encourage it back into the school yard to join its three mates who were enjoying the spectacle.

Mary prepared the vegetables and I cooked outside on our little gas camp cooker. What would we have done without bit the previous nights!
I managed to clear most of my emails before 1900 as the Park was showing a DVD of Charlotte’s Web that evening so we then headed off for some light entertainment!
Mary managed to clear her emails before bedtime. Oh the joy of electric lights!

16th July
We had arranged for Brian to drive us to two canyons on the Eastern side of the Cape Range National Park, and so we headed south from Exmouth to see whether the camping DVD of the area was worthwhile. We turned up the rough gravel road to Shothole Canyon, named after the vain attempts, some years ago, to find oil there. It was a quite interesting trip into the canyon and we had morning tea at the end of the trail. The clouds had looked increasingly threatening as we had headed into the canyon, but the sun soon cleared them away so that the sunlight highlighted the multi-layered rocks structure that looked extremely fragile.

The next was a few kilometres south to the Charles Knife canyon drive. What a thrill to find that the road was sealed and so travelling was very easy. However, as we approached to higher reaches suddenly it became a rough gravel road that edged very close to the canyon precipices. I was not especially happy going further but we did while noting possible photo stops for the return journey.

We passed the weather radar station and headed further into this Grand Canyon-like arid hill country. We noted a picnic spot where we could stop for lunch after completing the full length of roadway available. The last kilometre was on an extremely rough road, even a for a 4WD vehicle, to see a Lancer street car had somehow managed to reach the end of the road. Some photos and we turned back for a picnic lunch under some shady trees, shortly to be joined by a couple, also from Brisbane, who then sat down to enjoy a large portion of fresh prawns obtained from the fishery at the road turnoff! How our cheese sandwiches seemed inadequate after that!

The journey back down the canyon heights was fairly slow as it would be all too easy to skid and disappear over the unsafe cliffs into oblivion. We all managed to obtain some good photos, so we returned to ‘ground level’ safely, and immediately headed for the fishery for some prawns. As we approached the entrance gate we were surprised to see about a dozen emus strolling through the grass alongside the road. Another photo opportunity was taken before buying plenty of fresh local prawns for a special treat for dinner.
On returning to camp Mary and Maureen drove off to the small shopping centre to obtain fresh supplies for the next few days.
Altogether a most interesting day was had by all.

Posted by psstevo 04:26 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors

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