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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 Comments (0)

10 North West Shelf

Australia

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)

8 Kimberley to the Pilbara

sunny 28 °C

25th June
A fairly quiet day as we had to get a routine car check-up done, so Mary & I delivered the car and then walked the 2-3 Km home in the growing heat. We went for a stroll around the foreshore, however, it was not especially wonderful to view.
Brian dropped us at the BP garage to collect the car, where we were pleasantly surprised that the service was reasonably priced and everything looked good. We headed across the road to get our grocery supplies for the next leg of the journey on the morrow.

26th June
We managed a record preparation in getting ready for the trip down to Broome so we headed off. The trip down was pretty uneventful with a good road with little variation in the roadside views. Plenty of loooong straights so clicked on the cruise control to ease the burden of driving.
Arriving at the Broome vacation Village CP we noted that they were fully booked, so were grateful that we had pre-booked. However, the ‘quiet’ site that we understood was acceptable turned out to have a basic wire netting type fence alongside the main access road to the Port of Broome and many industrial areas. While reasonably quiet, after hours, especially at weekends, from very early Monday morning we were awakened by many large trucks and other business traffic. Not very happy Jan!

However, the day finished very well as Mary & I dined outside the van to witness a spectacular Full Moon rise over the bush across the road (actually the local golf club) and then to see a partial lunar eclipse was a very special highlight.

Later we tried to receive local digital TV programs, however, we could only receive three analogue channels – ABC, SBS1 and a local Aboriginal channel. The ABC reception was abysmal and reminded us of the earliest days of TV with fade-outs, loss of picture etc. Having understood that the ABC is supposed to be the major provider of emergency information in the region we were very unimpressed. The SBS was generally good and the Aboriginal station gave the best reception!

Sunday 27th June
We all headed off to church for the 9.30am service, however, I managed to turn right instead of left out of the park and that confused Brian in his car and we ended up in separate directions! We all managed to arrive in time for the start and found a small group of locals with an equal number of Grey Nomads. The service was fairly laid back but the pastor’s message was spot on. We then enjoyed a cuppa with the flock after the service.
Mary & I headed off for a bit of local sightseeing and managed to locate the prime spot for witnessing that night’s Stairway to the Moon observance. We also managed some good photos from the golf club, which has an elevated position above the flat surrounds. We then went to the port and enjoyed the walk along to jetty observing the many folk fishing.

We headed off at 5pm to obtain a premium spot for witnessing the moonlight phenomena that occurs only about three nights per month when the full moon, rising from the east (a normal event!) shines across the sand flats of Roebuck Bay, resulting in the apparent stairs to the moon. A very popular tourist attraction.

Monday 28th June
Another sunny, warm, day that we enjoyed. Mary & I went in to Chinatown, site of the old Broome’s spectacular growth as a world-wide base for mother-of-pearl shells and natural pearls. Mary managed to lose my spare sunglasses, which now makes for two losses for the trip so far!

We then journeyed over to the famous Cable Beach to check out where we had to meet the camel ride folk for Tuesday evening. The view as we reached cliff top was truly spectacular with a turquoise sea, white sandy beach, and many colourful beach umbrellas. We considered an ice-cream to cool off, but were put off by the price.
Arriving back at camp we decided on the pool as a good place to cool off. We were not wrong as it was really cold and so we didn’t tarry long there! However, we did pick up useful travel intelligence from fellow pool avoiders.

Tuesday 29th
A sunny start to the day and so I headed off to the Port Jetty for some fishing. On arriving I noted that one angler already had a large kingfish in his bag. Very encouraging!

I spent about two hours there and got many bites but only managed to land a very modest coral trout that we enjoyed for lunch. I saw quite a lot of small sharks but wasn’t able to snag any of them. However, I did see a rather scary, quiet long, yellow-brown sea-snake with a black head swim past and then dive.
On returning to camp Mary & I headed off to Chinatown in a vain attempt to locate the missing sunglasses. While filling up with petrol I managed to snap off the fuel flap, so was not happy. A quick visit to the nearby Holden car parts dealer saw a replacement ordered in from somewhere (either Darwin or Pert I suspect), for delivery on Wednesday.

A quick trip over to Cable Beach to meet up with Brian and Maureen for our sunset ‘Blue’ camel ride along the beautiful beach. However, there was a cloud bank that diminished our hopes of something special for the evening.
It took quite a while for all the ride briefing and placement of everyone with the camel upon which to ride. Finally, all seated upon our swaying stead, we headed off up along the beach on our first camel ride. It took a few minutes to get used to the slow sawing motion, and then we got to watch a partial sunset as we streamed up the beach. The staff were really helpful as they took photos (on our own cameras) as we travelled. Finally we turned around and returned to our starting point to a spectacular red partial sunset. A most enjoyable experience for us all.
After all the excitement we all decided to go out for dinner, and ended up at the Som Thai Restaurant in Chinatown. The menu items were not cheap but were really tasty, so we headed home happily worn out from the day’s excursions.

30th June
We put the first lot of washing on very early to avoid the usual rush, and also to try and beat the weather change. The Holden parts chap called to advise he had the replacement part so I headed into town for the replacement – which took only a few minutes to fit (after crossing his palm with $50!). The job was done promptly and cheerfully, although the paint was not identical to the rest of the car.

The weather turned cool, blustery with some light rain, which didn’t help the washing to dry very fast, however, it was dry enough to hang inside the van to air.
We all headed off the Pearl Lugger presentation on the history of pearling in the Kimberley region, by Dominic, a recent arrival from the UK. His fascinating stories held us all spell-bound for nearly an hour as he explained, with many original diving equipment exhibits to illustrate how dangerous this occupation became. Many divers, and a few others, lost their lives to diving accidents (some carefully stage-managed to get rid of a rival diver!), and also from the regular cyclones that hit the North West coast in the wet summer season.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the Japanese Cemetery where over 700 Japanese divers, including some family members, are buried covering a period of several decades until the natural mother of pearl industry, and Australian political changes, succumbed to modern circumstances.
As it was quite windy we decided to bring down the awning on the van to stop the buffeting that the van was receiving, and to save clean-up time in the morning departure. Not a very good night as some clown decided to start his heavy machinery nearby before dawn!

1st July
We packed up all our gear and were ready in good time, for a change, however, Brian and Maureen had an extra burden with all their canvas awning stowage, however, we were on the road in good time.
The blustery wind was not as bad as at first appeared and so we headed off south towards our overnight camp spot. The road journey on this sector was hardly an exciting affair as kilometre after kilometre of sameness of scenery continued to unfold. The only item of interest along the highway was the presence of some parasitic vine that was killing off a particular type of tree. All I could compare it with was Green Depression, as the host tree gradually succumbed to the attack of this parasite and died.

However, we reached the Goldwire Free Campsite without incident or dying of boredom. We met a number of fascinating fellow-travellers who all had contributions to make about places to see or stop at. One couple from Mareeba were involved with the Christian radio station there and knew a few folk that we also had had contact with from that area.

We enjoyed a peaceful, and delicious dinner that Mary had pre-prepared, and then enjoyed a time sitting in the shelter nearby in the dark chatting with Brian and Maureen while admiring, again, the massive Milky Way above us. A sound sleep was had by all.

Posted by psstevo 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors Comments (0)

7 The Kimberley region

sunny 28 °C

19th June
After completing the pack-up chores we headed south to our free overnight roadside stopover, Leycester’s Rest on the Great Northern Highway.
This was quite a large stopover place, with a basic toilet that reminded me of a Paris Youth Hostel in Paris that I stayed at in the 1960’s. Quite a few other caravanners also decided to stay in the pleasant stop with very little overnight road noise. It appeared to be the remnant of a storage depot from a few years prior when there was a massive realignment of the highway to accommodate a high-level bridge that would reduce flooding over the very old concrete bridge that it replaced.
The site was named after a young lad of about 13 who was killed close by a few years ago and the family and locals clubbed together to have it renamed as a memorial to a loved son.
The roads were now flatter with smaller trees as we weaved through the ends of ranges of red hills. Not one of the great roads to travel because of the lack of significant features.
We set up and managed a good night.

20th June
A rather cool start to the day as the wind rose with the oncoming day. Sweaters were brought out and after quick visit to the toilet block before breakfast we departed. The road views were much the same as the previous day except that we had more straight and flat roads with fewer hills interfering with our travel to Mary Pool stopover. A brief stop at Hall’s Creek for petrol and then we headed south again. We arrived at the Mary Pool stop to find a very large venue that eventually housed over 50 vans, camper trailers and motor homes – with room for another 100. And a better set of toilets!
Brian and Maureen managed to score a site under the trees and overlooking the river. Good planning! We were nearby under a shady tree and got set up quite early. We all went for a stroll over the old concrete bridge that now showed serious signs of old age, and, as for the previous site, had apparently been a work site for a major road realignment and bridge replacement – and put to very good use.

The river stroll soon revealed a pelican, two cormorants, and a spoonbill, all sitting warily on a tree stump. Coming closer we soon saw a smallish (1.4M) freshwater crocodile resting in the sun. Warily stalking it we managed to get a couple of photos to prove how brave we were! Cattle wandered the riverbank also. Many corellas nested in the trees and made quite a noise as dusk approached.
As I was on cooking duty I set up our portable camp gas cooker until Mary noticed that we had a gas leak. Checking the setup I noticed that a rubber ring inside the connection hose was fatally frayed, so dinner ended up being cooked on the inside gas cooker instead. As it was a rather cool night we stayed indoors.

21st June
The shortest day of the year dawned with a very cool and gusty wind that had us all getting out those sweaters again! We headed off a bit early and wondered why Brian and Maureen were so long catching us up. As we stopped to try our UHF radio they arrived and advised that they had had some trouble getting all their van secured. We headed south with a brisk and cool tailwind that seemed to also come from both sides at times, and stopped a bleak rocky outcrop for morning tea in the now even more cool and gusty wind. A hot coffee soon helped and we jumped into our cars and continued our journey to the famous Fitzroy Crossing for a couple for nights. Long straight roads and low trees and millions of ant hills on flat plains were the day’s sightseeing experience. However, we did see one eagle hurriedly leaving his roadside meal, and then a couple of brolgas flying across in front of us.

Arriving at Fitzroy Crossing we found the Crossing Caravan Park and booked in to find ample powered sites among many mature trees and even some actual grass! We were soon set up and, after lunch, headed into the main township (pop 1500?) to find that the only store in town had been broken into and was closed for the day. We found solace in a very welcome ice-cream from the local Shell Roadhouse, and then headed back to camp for a peaceful night. We were not disappointed and slept well, apart from some vehicles moving about the park very late at night.
This establishment is apparently run by local Aboriginal folk who were most welcoming.

22nd June
We headed out to the Geikie Gorge National Park for a bushwalk to be followed by a one hour river cruise. Once again we had the cool blustery wind to start the day, but that soon dropped and we ended up walking in a pleasant warm day. Fascinating sandstone rock formations with black upper rocks and white low ones illustrated the range of wet season floods. In fact the rather bizarre turret formations of the black topped rocks looked as if they had been in the Lord of the Rings series.

The river cruise was a pleasant one of one hour during which we saw the obligatory freshwater crocs and a goanna.
Mary had intended to buy a T shirt after the cruise, but the staff had gone for lunch and everything was closed up. Too bad that they lost a lot of business as others also hoped to buy after the cruise finished. However, we met a lovely young family with an eight year old boy with Angelmans Syndrome, and we had a lovely chat over lunch. Mum, dad and three boys in a camper-trailer and having a great time travelling through the outback. I am sure that the kids got a real education as they travelled.
Arrived back at camp after filling up at the local Shell station to find that a large motor-home had parked in front of us leaving a very small opening for us to connect the van up for departure in the morning.

23rd June
After another quiet night we started departure preparations when the lady from the motor-home advised that they were leaving very soon, and so we managed to get hooked up without any problems and set out for Derby, about 260 Kms southeast.
The journey was uneventful with very long straight sections of good quality road all the way through to the Derby turnoff. Vast numbers of termite mounds looking as if they had been the victims of some small child’s play-dough attack! Increasing numbers of boab trees also became apparent.
We arrived in Derby at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park at about noon and managed to score adjacent sites in a very pleasant tree lined setting. One of the best van parks so far with well maintained facilities and not at all noisy.

After setting up we had headed out to find a garage to have my car’s 90’000Km service check done and were fortunate to get a booking for the Friday afternoon – just before departure for Broome on Saturday. We tried to buy a replacement gas hose for our two-burner cooker, but to no avail so will have to cook inside until we get to Broome where we expect a larger tourist centre will be able to provide the specific part.
Had dinner and then watched a travel video for the next leg of our trip. We all felt tired afterwards so headed off to get a good night’s sleep.

24th June
Mary was up before 6am to grab a washing machine to catch up on the growing pile of washing. The two loads were soon on the line and had all basically dried by morning tea. We do love this tropical climate! Time for that coffee and then we headed off to see the Boab Prison Tree, nearby, then to Frosty’s Pool (a ‘swimming pool about 3m square that a corporal made during their time serving the area in WWII), then Mary had to see the Royal Flying Doctor Service for possible souvenirs before we headed to the Derby Jetty to see the tide come in. Weird, eh? However, the vast sand flats from the Fitzroy River system cause huge tidal flows that affect local shipping. Saw an interesting Thai restaurant at the Jetty so we decided that we had earned a treat and booked in for 5pm to enjoy the famous sunset, then followed by dinner. Life is so tough on the road!
Well, just finished afternoon tea and now have to get a haircut – the first in about eight weeks, so can’t complain.
Haircut complete and just in time for us to pile into our car and head for the Point Restaurant at the famous Derby Jetty to watch the sunset and to eat. Arrived just in time to take heaps of spectacular photos and then to eat a sumptuous meal at very reasonable prices. Yes, there should be more day like this, but the budget and waistline urge constraint!

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

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