A Travellerspoint blog

July 2010

13 Shark Bay - Denham, Monkey Mia & Kalbarri

overcast 20 °C

24th July
I was up early, had a quick breakfast, and headed down to the jetty to have another try at catching fish. Three hours of many nibbles and bites – but nothing to show except smelly hand and a cold body!
After lunch we all trundled off to the Ocean Park shark show. At $15 entry it was not very cheap, however, after an unpromising start with the sharks deciding not to eat the fish the keeper was providing, we were taken around the other exhibits available. A range of local fish was kept in separate tanks and we found this quite an interesting display. The local squid managed to change into various colours to ensure that it blended into it’s background as camouflage.

The one sea snake in the exhibition proved quite tame – at least as far as the keeper was concerned!
The weather remained fine and the wind finally dropped so that it was a very comfortable stay. About 4am I noted that there was a beautiful moonscape on the ocean, however as it was rather cool I headed straight to bed for a bit more sleep.

25th July
On a fabulous morning we very reluctantly departed Denham for Kalbarri, some 370 km south on the coast road. The landscape was low rolling hills which played havoc with my cruise control on the car. As we neared the crest of a low hill the engine suddenly surged as more power was added, and usually as we passed over the crest we had well and truly exceeded the control speed, and so there was a quick deceleration! It wasn’t worth the scary ride so I cut the automatic and drove normally as at least I could read what speed we were travelling at and assess the size of the next small hill. Eventually we reached the level plains again (at least for a while) and so I re-engaged the controller again.

After turning on to the Kalbarri road we were suddenly facing a completely new phenomena – arable farms with hundreds of hectares sown in wheat. The sight of bright green shoots after about 9,000 Km came as a pleasant shock. However, that was quite short-lived as we then entered the Kalbarri National Park with a drab olive green and brown plant life from horizon to horizon. We soon reached the beautiful beach resort of Kalbarri in the latter part of the afternoon and found our van park and got set up complete with awnings tied down in less than an hour. A nice cuppa was a welcome relief after a very tiring day! It was fine but turned cool as the sun set and we had a pretty cold night (at least by our standards).

26th July
We started out with getting the washing up to date and then planned the next stops to Perth. After hanging out the washing Mary & I headed off to nearby Red Bluff from whence we had a fabulous view of the coast, the sandbar and the town of Kalbarri. While enjoying the views I was most surprised when my mobile rang and it was Larry from Royal Brisbane Hospital Chaplaincy ringing for a business chat – what a strange world we live in to be able to do that simple task in such diverse locations. It was only slightly windy but it was also a bit overcast, however, we really enjoyed the spectacular views. (Photos on our blog should appear in the next day or two).

In the afternoon we headed in the other direction to visit the Wildflower facility. West Australia being renowned for its wild flowers in spring. We waited while the staff prepared their next batch of hot scones and soon were enjoying large, hot and very delicious scones with a coffee. While waiting and then while eating out on their veranda we enjoyed the beautiful bird life (mainly honey-eaters) in the nearby branches.
It took much longer than we expected to view all the variety of local wild flower plants there but we managed to take a lot of photos, and some actually came out very well.

On return I managed to book two of the next three stopovers, including the critical week in Perth so that Mary & I could do a lot of sightseeing to Freemantle and the Royal Flying Doctor base, and so that Brian could make some family appointments there.
Back at the van park I prepared a dinner of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast for dinner, before another cool evening.

27th July
At 0830 all four of us managed to cope with the cold breeze to see the local pelicans get a free feed. After about half an hour, and again no pelicans, we headed off in Brian’s car to do an 8km walk along the cliff top a few kilometres south of the town. Mary, Brian and I headed out to walk while Maureen drove back to camp with a pickup rendezvous for us at 12 noon. However, the wildflowers were everywhere, so we needed to take more photos, and we were entranced by the frequent sight of humpback whales frolicking all across the ocean. Very spectacular indeed. The pathway, although well marked, went very close to the edge of the vertical cliff face in many places, and with a serious health risk when gusts of wind hit! We got even more photos of the spectacular red and multi-coloured cliffs all the way on our walk. We noted three men who had miraculously managed to descend the cliff at one place and were busy rock fishing beside large swells crashing onto the rocks.
Because we took extra time taking photos we were an hour late at our rendezvous, and Brian in particular was very pleased when we reached the end of the walk. Altogether a most exhilarating trek.

We arrived back to camp for a very late snack and an easy afternoon uploading our many photos and deleting the small number that turned out less than great. For dinner we went to the local fish and chip shop for a feed and ate it on the seats outside while enjoying yet another Indian Ocean sunset! However, it turned quite cold as we walked home for an easy evening.

Posted by psstevo 04:49 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

12 Carnarvon and Denham (Shark Bay World Heritage Park)

semi-overcast 21 °C

17th July
We departed Exmouth for Coral Bay, a journey that would involve retracing our steps back to the North Coast Highway, however, we decided to stop at the fisheries shop enroute to restock on the prawns!
The journey was quite uneventful and so we arrived at Coral Bay for the one night. We managed to get setup in time for a quick ride around the few sights there, and then Maureen, Brian and Mary decided to watch the fish feeding ‘show’ at the nearby beach. I didn’t bother as I had spent many hours feeding fish, who didn’t respond to my bait enough to actually get caught! The weather was windy and overcast and so we decided that as the weather on Sunday was more of the same to head on south to Carnarvon. It was a pity as, on a warm sunny day, there was plenty of snorkelling available on the Ningaloo Reef that came very close to the shore.

The peaceful evening was broken by a bunch of alcohol affected old chooks cackling away until very late, and another van had a crying baby, so departure was eagerly looked forward to the next morning!

18th July
Off we set with the intention of having a free site stop that night, but, when we reached it it was open to every wind and dust-storm, so we decided to make straight for Carnarvon.
The trip was normal with long flat roads that never seemed to end and familiar shrubby landscape, punctuated with quite strong cross-winds again.

We decided to then try for the Point Quobba cheap van site but, as it was very exposed to the strong winds decided against that also. However, we did take a few photos of the very interesting blow hole that resulted from the big waves and wind that day. Very spectacular indeed! We then headed up a dirt road and found a memorial to the HMAS Sydney’s sinking in 1942 by the German raider ‘Kormorant’. The 600+ crew on the Sydney perished and many German seamen also that fateful day. This is not the ‘official’ memorial that is further south near Geraldton but one raised by private groups.

Another significant salt works lay along the way, as we journey back along the side road to rejoin the highway.
We arrived in Carnarvon to find that our chosen (but not booked) van site was full! A quick U-turn and we managed to obtain the last two sites at the Carnarvon Big4 Plantation Village CP. It didn’t take us long to get set up and ready for a break.
During the night we were ‘serenaded’ by a rooster from the property next door!

19th July
A slightly late start before we headed back up the road to check out the famous fresh vegetable farms in the district, located on the banks of the 764 Km long Gascoyne River. A real curiosity of the Gascoyne River is that, as we drove over the bridge approaching the town, we observed that the river bed had no water flowing through it. Apparently the dry season river flows underground to the nearby sea.

Anyway, we looked at one or two possible vegetable places and finally decided on one we had seen featured on a caravan DVD a while ago. The Bumback family have done serious market research and now had a very tidy and professional business running. We bought a range of real farm-fresh vegetables at prices way below Woolworths or Coles, and the quality was superb. I bought a mango smoothie that was the best that I have ever had!
We then checked out one or two other properties for ‘missing’ vegetables but couldn’t find what we needed.
A quick trip to see the old OTC NASA tracking dish, now in retirement was interesting.

I drove us all down to the famous ‘one-mile long jetty’ that juts way out into the ocean. No sooner had we arrived and checked for the next trip of the ‘coffee train’ than we were told that stronger winds had arrived that made the trip unsafe. So we headed back to town to buy some urgent medical supplies for Brian. Mary managed to spend $35 on one small item that we needed, but justified the many other purchases by noting the special bargain prices valid that day!

As the weather continued bleak we headed home after a hot coffee at the coffee shop and spent the night quietly. Some light rain fell during the night, but it did not stop our friendly rooster from challenging his rival down the road very frequently!

20th July
The light rain ceased fairly soon after daylight leaving us with a windy and cool day that gradually cleared. My email and a follow-up phone call to Avan in Melbourne about our van electrics system brought the usual big business zero response.
Brian and Maureen, keen to ensure that they had the ‘coffee pot’ train ride on the jetty headed off early to catch the first run. We managed to get there in time for the 1100 trip in a cold breeze. Quite interesting on this famous old jetty built about 1897 to export sheep and other farm produce.
The adjacent Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage in the historical precinct also had some interesting material. Chief of the exhibits was a most unusual chain pump that was used to bring water to the surface for the stock to drink.
Back home for lunch and time to upload the hundreds of photos and create new folders to keep track of everything!
Slept infrequently - thank you Mr Rooster!

21st July
Mary & I headed for the Woolworth store for fresh supplies and the bank to pay for them. Not much else that afternoon as we all just put our feet up and read books or just rested.

22nd July
Our usual journey with cross-winds and scrubby trees along the lengthy journey to Denham in the World Heritage Shark Bay park. We did see a number of emus and many feral goats. Apparently the feral goats not only eat up the grass that is destined for the local sheep, but cause erosion because of the appetites. The feral goats are worth $60 alive or $35 dead – so it would be a worthwhile business for the right person as there are certainly many goats along the highway.

We nearly suffered the same mishap as Brian a few days previously, when we came unexpectedly upon a flock of galahs feeding on the road. Several toots on the car horn managed to avoid a major road-kill event. As we neared Denham, our destination, we came through endless boring scrubby trees to finally see some spectacular sea views. We pulled in at one beautiful spot and unpacked the table and chairs, got out the lunch box and lay back enjoying a priceless view! Not every day brings such joy, but they are diamonds among the many stones. I saw a rare white-wing wren among the bushes, which was exciting. Meanwhile certain others went searching for shells – again.
We checked in and after some shuffling of sites for us we were allocated two beachfront sites. Or so we thought, however, after I had set us up on our million dollar view site the park manager came along and insisted that we were in a no-site area reserved for the daily rubbish collection truck. Very unhappily we resited the van behind some trees that at least provided some shelter from the wind. In doing the moving I managed to back into an obscured tree branch and ding a couple of spots on the back of the car. Not happy Jan!

We then all went on a beach walk to calm down. A beautiful sunset again in the most westerly town in Australia helped to make this a very pleasant spot to be.
Unfortunately our cooker (not the cook!) hadn’t functioned properly so that meal was postponed for 24 hours and we had hot soup instead.

23rd July
Managed to book in two sites in Kalbarri for next stop, however, everywhere was full or almost, but finally successful. Brian then drove us out to the Francois Peron National Park, however, we managed to get some great photos along the way of Little Lagoon. We arrived at the Peron Homestead after a dusty dirt road trip of about 4km. A very interesting place with old shearing sheds, a historical display, a hot pool (40C) and numerous other fascinating items to see. We decided to take lunch a bit early as we had missed our morning tea break (life is so hard when you are travelling) and set up in a nice shelter to eat. Brian decided to rest his legs in the hot pool to help with the discomfort in his left leg.

He returned to our table to advise that there was an adult emu with several chicks walking towards a close by pool of water. We turned to see a number of adult emus, and then a large emu with some chicks come to drink. The adult emu with the chicks then became very aggressive with another adult and the dust flew as they settled the score. Soon after we noted several more adult emus come to the pool to drink, and after they had moved off two adult emus came, and one walked into the pond until only its neck and head were above water! Never had anyone present seen this phenomenon before. Soon the other emu joined and they were almost sinking from view before they rose up and shook themselves several times before again becoming almost submerged. One of the emus then lay on its back and started splashing its legs around, looking just like a backstroke swimmer. Everyone present looked on in astonishment at these antics.

We finished lunch and looked at the rest of the exhibits before heading towards Monkey Mia. As we travelled down the dirt road Brian suddenly jammed on the brakes and called out ‘snake!’ There, beside us and moving quickly up the bank was a venomous red-bellied black snake. As we stopped to take a photo, a ‘cowboy’ in a 4WD flew past us in a cloud of dust and ran over the snakes tail, fortunately for the snake the road was deep in dust and so no apparent damage occurred. We managed to get a couple of quick snaps before angry snake disappeared into the brush.

The road to Monkey Mia was fairly boring and when we got to the entrance we were confronted with a $6 entry fee. We managed to confuse the lady taking the fee that we were on a very quick visit and it was already too late to see their primary feature, the dolphins. We got in for free, had an ice-cream, a look around, and as we leaving in the car we saw several dolphins just a few meters away swimming peacefully away.

Sadly, the day ended on a very sad note with a phone call advising us of the death of Mary's 96 year old aunt in England.

Posted by psstevo 05:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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 Comments (0)

10 North West Shelf


semi-overcast 21 °C

6th July
Today we headed off to see the massive North West Shelf project at Dampier, a small town on the coast further up the Burrup Peninsular than Karratha. Their information centre had a good display and video of the size of this joint venture between many of the oil and gas giants in the world. The magnitude of this project is not visible to outsiders as security is, not surprisingly, a major concern. Most of the LPG/LNG is exported but some is piped to Perth, nearly 2000 km away.

Needless to say the wind kept us in a permanent leaning position!
Dampier also has a significant salt export project that employs a number of people locally. The crumpled rocks in the area, and the massively long ore trains all combined to impress with how important this area is to Australia’s economy.

On returning to the van Mary discovered that we had sprung a leak in the food compartment above the sink, certainly as a result of the heavy rain in Port Hedland. However, we could not find the source so will have to try and cover all possibilities to avoid a similar problem when we next hit rain.
It was interesting to note that the many houses and other facilities in Karratha were all built with steel and cyclone proofed, even the local hospital was bunkered down with protective earthworks.

7th July
Today we headed further south planning to stop at the Robe River free site. The scenery was varied but mainly low Spinifex and red soil and rocks. The combination of the green/light brown Spinifex clumps was a very nice contrast with the very strong red rock colours and it resulted in a more pleasant ‘matt’ finish to the landscape.

We passed a sad sight where a large number of corellas had been hit by a large vehicle and there were bits of bloodied feathers over a wide area of the road. Not a kangaroo or cattle road-kill this time.

We arrived at the Robe River site which was located on the banks of what would normally be a significant sized river, but which now only consisted of a large billabong adjacent to the road bridge. River gums and a few other, smaller trees made it a quite pleasant place to overnight. We walked up the stony riverbed for some way with Mary and Maureen collecting various coloured rocks that had previously been washed down in last wet season’s floods. How much extra weight will this add to our van I wonder? But wait there is more in the days ahead!
Anyway, we enjoyed the massive Corella flocks and other wild birds frequenting the river system, and a surprisingly peaceful night considering our closeness to the highway.

8th & 9th July
Today our destination is the small coastal town of Onslow, probably better known to the rest of Australia as a likely target of seasonal cyclones. It is actually a pleasant town some 80 Kms from Highway 1, but well worth the visit. It is famous for having both Sunrise and Sunset beaches, adjacent to one another and from which one can see the sunrise, over the estuary, in the morning, and then see it set just a few meters west see the sunset over the Indian Ocean. It is also famous for the good fishing, although I only managed one nice fish but too small to share among four people! Very windy, especially as the van park is right at the high tide mark.

The approach to the township was quite a grim picture as it was very windy and overcast, and the increasingly smaller, greyer, landscape all added to some sense of gloom and doom. We decided to stay for two nights instead of the original one, with the intention of visiting the old Onslow township that was closed in 1927 because the Ashburton River was silting very badly. The whole township was then moved to its present site. Unfortunately there must have been a little rain overnight and the road was closed, so we enjoyed the long boardwalk along the beach-line. What a surprise that we now have a supply of shells collected along the way to add to the coloured stones. There was a salt conveyor belt some hundreds of meters out to sea on which the local salt is loaded onto the ship offshore for export.

10th July
We set out from Onslow, with the surrounding countryside looking much more pleasant in the warm sunlight, intending to spend the night at a free roadside stop about 3 hours south of Onslow at the junction of the road to Exmouth. However, when we arrived there we found that Main Roads had tar-sealed the roadway and turned into a bus transfer location, leaving almost nowhere to park for the night. We then headed up the side road to Exmouth with a view to trying any other free sites, but nothing was suitable, so, after frantically trying to find a reliable mobile phone service, Brian managed to get us one of the last spots at a van park in Exmouth. After travelling some 402 Km we managed to get parked in an un-powered site, As it turned out this was not a good idea. The plan was to leave very early, that is about 0500, to race around the 40 Km to get into the queue for a cheap Cape Range National Park camp site. After dinner we re-connected the van and car ready for a racing start, but it was not to turn out so idyllically!

Posted by psstevo 05:46 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors Comments (0)

9 Pilbara - Port Hedland, Karratha and beyond

rain 20 °C

2nd July
Left the campsite about 8.15am and headed off south on the Great Northern Highway towards our planned stop at Pardoo Roadhouse some 305 Km south towards Port Hedland.

Another day of fairly boring driving along long straights and welcomed the morning tea break along the way. Near the end of the trip we passed through the western edge of the Great Sandy Desert, which was even more desolate. We had to fill up with petrol at the Sandfire Roadhouse where we paid almost $100 for less than a tank of Unleaded! However, at least our ULP pump was working while the poor 4WD diesel-powered crowd had to wait forever while 44 gallon drums of diesel were refuelled with a small gravity-fed hose! There was a great queue waiting, somewhat patiently while the boss remedied the situation. Further down the road we saw a fuel tanker racing north towards the roadhouse, so I guess that help was on its way at last!

The names of many places along this highway are quiet fascinating and I understand that Sandfire was named after petrol somehow poured onto the sandy area nearby and caught fire. The present building there actually has major burn damage to some parts of the structure, so perhaps this one is true.
Arrived at Pardoo Roadhouse for lunch and managed to quickly get settled into a quite pleasant spot with some real grass! A reasonable spot for a pleasant break on a long journey.

3rd July
A beautiful sunrise, along with a cool breeze and we were ready for another day of driving on a good road with interminable flat plains of Spinifex grass and low scrubby trees, including the Green Depressions parasite attacks.
Our arrival at Port Hedland was uneventful, except that the weather turned cold and promised rain before long. The Port Hedland Caravan Park left a lot to be desired as it was in a quite dilapidated state with most facilities well past their use-by date. However, we managed to obtain a reasonable shower so felt better.

In the distance we could see two massive piles of pure white – bulk salt being stored for export near to the port.
In the afternoon we all went in our car to the main township of Port Hedland as it is one of the major commodities ports in the world. Primarily bulk iron ore to Asia and elsewhere, as well as the salt and cattle, I believe. We observed a large ore ship being pulled away from the storage area and towed out to the shipping channel by four large tugboats.

The town was basically closed to all business – not even a coffee shop open. Mary insisted on visiting the Seafarer’s place as they had a souvenir shop – and they did a bit more business that afternoon!
That evening it actually did start raining and that kept us all awake to some extent.

4th July
We headed off to the Baptist church in nearby South Hedland, the residential suburb for the port, in the pouring rain. When we got there we found that most of the congregation and the pastor had all gone on school holidays! However, the local Church of Christ minister had ‘volunteered’ to speak that morning and had brought along an Aboriginal & Torres Strait trio to lead the singing. Wow, they sure knew how to sing! A good service, followed by a welcome coffee and cake with the flock in this ungodly town. We left in the pouring rain to collect some supplies for our next few nights, and then found our way back to the camp site.
Steady rain throughout the night meant that sleep was at a premium that night.

5th July
We awoke to a dry morning and so getting ready for departure was much easier for Brian and Maureen with their canvas top van. After breakfast we headed sort of south towards Karratha, our next stopover.
We had a blustery side wind for most of the journey, however, we managed OK.

We decided to have a morning tea stop at the Whim Creek pub as it was about halfway to Karratha. What we saw was an old building with ‘character’ in the way of many outback Australian stopping places, miles from anywhere. We decided to have a coffee and cake to warm up on this cold morning, and in doing so we were greatly entertained with all the memorabilia on the pub walls. It appears that the original was located there to service a copper mine in the late 1800’s. Some years ago the pub was demolished in a massive cyclone and the owners and staff managed to survive, intact, by hiding in a large shipping container held down with several drums full of concrete for ballast! Anyone travelling this road should stop and enjoy the hospitality and history.

While we drank our coffee we overhead a couple speaking of an incident with their caravan that required it to be towed up to Port Hedland. A few minutes down the road we saw why. A wheel had sheared off at the lugs and the van and headed off the road and was poised about a rocky outcrop. A stark reminder to check the van wheel nuts every 1,000 Km!

There were plenty of road trains along this highway, which, in windy conditions, made for a challenging journey.
After some confusion over that evening’s stopover, we managed to secure a couple of nights in Karratha at the Balmoral CP. Our part of the park was brand new and even the toilets and wash-house facilities had hardly been used. What a joy after the Port Hedland fiasco. However, we very exposed to the continuous winds which was only beneficial when drying the washing!

Among the unique features were the anchor bolts required to tie down caravans in the event of a cyclone! Scary thought. Anyway, Mary managed to trip over a bolt and badly scraped her knee and toes.

Posted by psstevo 05:19 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors Comments (0)

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