Day one. Sunday 19th April 09
Started the long haul north to the Pilbara. First mistake
was not filling up with fuel the night before departure. Arrived at the
servo to see only one vehicle at the diesel pump. Great, I'll just check the
tyres while I'm waiting. Bad call. The automatic tyre thingo wouldnít
deflate my over pressured tyres, don't ask about the over pressure I'm still
arguing with the service department. Then I look up and someone is now
queuing for the tyre thingo and two other people are queuing at the diesel
pump. Give up on the tyres and line up at the end of the queue for fuel.
Finally get back home to stuff the last minute items into
the ute and off we go. First stop Bindoon for a cuppa and a pastry from the
bakery. Drove down the service road to the front of the bakery to discover
that it is a dead end. Half a dozen motorbikes in front of the bakery and
several 4x4's opposite in the no standing zone. OK, first challenge of the
trip was to demonstrate how to do a ten point turn with trailer and not
clean up half a dozen motorbikes. I missed the bikes and eventually one of
the 4x4 owners took pity on me and offered to move his vehicle out of the
way so I could complete the ten-point turn. I relocated ourselves over the
road in the park and walked back to the now empty bakery for a refreshing
cuppa and bun.
On the road we decided that we didn't want to drive at
80km/h behind a couple of caravans so as soon as there was a passing lane we
started to pass them. What the hell possesses brain dead people being passed
to speed up from 80km/h to over 100km/h? Bloody morons should be banned from
driving. Mission eventually completed and we proceed several km up the road
to the first of half a dozen road works sections. Oh well, plenty of time to
look at the scenery and ponder why we need to slow down to 60km/h for at
least a km before the actual road works begins.
lunch in the park. A nice pleasant park in the middle of town. Starting to
get into the real bush now with people actually waving back at you as you
drive past. Must be something wrong with my speedo, I keep being passed by
road trains. Catch up with two haul pack trays on semi's which take up all
the road. We follow them into Paynes Find and decide to stop for a quick
break and to let them proceed ahead. We catch up with them a while later and
follow them into Mt Magnet. They take the right hand side of the divided
road through town so we pass them in the left lane and head onto Cue for the
night. This is where is gets interesting with a French barmaid, prickles and
First off, the
prickles. We decided to stay in the Cue Caravan Park, a typical outback
caravan park. Not to flash, but honest. We requested a non-powered site and
were offered a choice of a concrete caravan pad or a grassed area. We chose
the grass. Wrong. The grass was just a way of disguising the prickles. After
two steps I was an inch taller from all of the prickles stuck to the bottom
of my boots. Packing up should be interesting.
We we're forced
to visit the local hotel after the strenuous efforts in setting up camp and
felt obliged to sample a beverage or two. About this time strange things
started to occur. I requested a choice of beverages on offer. Somehow my
request and it's translation into French by the nubile young waitress caused
a communication malfunction to occur. Somehow we both decided that pointing
to the fridge was a more appropriate alternative. This is where the beer
bingo comes into play. Apparently if you turn your back to the customer and
rapidly point at the various beers in the fridge and if the customersí
reflexes are incredibly quick a mutually agreeable selection can be made.
Things became simpler after this as one only had to point to the empty
vessel to gain new supplies.
Day two. Monday 20th April 09
The next day
started with a serious effort in prickle removal as we unstuck the camper
from itís prickly location. We also discovered that for the windbreak around
the gas stove to be effective it needed a strong breeze from the opposite
side to the flame. It took the best part of half an hour to boil 500ml of
water for a cuppa.
Today was another
long haul with Newman as the intended destination. We passed through
Meekatharra and were to finally see what happens when you turn north (from
Wiluna) instead of south. In 1987 we arrived in WA via the Gunbarrel highway
and when we reached Meekatharra we turned south towards Perth. 21 years, two
teenage kids and very little grey hair later we we're to find out. We
discovered that, apart from the shadows being in the opposite direction than
when travelling south, there is even more of just as little and even less
Our arrival at
Newman led us to the tourist centre to discover that the rail access road
permit I was after wasn't available from here but could be obtained from Tom
Price instead. We tossed a coin and ended up at one of the two caravan parks
in town. We chose a lovely spot on the grass between the pool, camper's
kitchen and a speed hump. An interesting evening was spent in the adjacent
beer barn where food and beverages were consumed. At some ungodly hour of
the morning we found out why such an idyllic location was still available
for camping. It seems that FIFO workers in trucks loaded with unrestrained
steel bins can launch themselves, truck and steel bin into lower earth orbit
utilising the speed hump, ready for re-entry adjacent to our place of rest.
We also discovered that this process takes place, with short periods of
respite, over a period of several hours.
Day three. Tuesday 21st April 09
We spent part of
the morning looking around Newman and shopping for several items we had
forgotten. We asked at the tourist info centre about some of the 4x4 tracks
on the way to Karijini and if we could get there with the camper trailer. We
were told that it wasn't possible. Seeking a second opinion, we asked at the
local 4x4 shop over the road. Bingo! A much more learned response saw us
headed to Weeli Wolli Springs. It was a bit rough in places and slow but no
real problem. Nice little spot and the the amount of water coming from the
spring was amazing.
A return down the
same track saw us back on the bitumen for the run into Karijini. We arrived
at Dales Gorge and were directed to our sardine tin camping matchbox by the
camp hosts. Why the hell do our National Parks people jam campers in like
sardines? In parks the size of some European countries is space a problem?
Isn't one of the reasons people go into the bush, to get away from it all?
And a last rant, can people leave the bloody DVD, boom box, radio and TV at
home or at least turn them off before midnight?
It was still a
little hot and the flies were a tad sticky and persistent. They headed to
bed around dusk to be replaced by other flying insects around the light.
After a quick reposition of the light, dinner was prepared and a couple of
refreshing cold beverages were consumed. We watched a couple of the local
dingos walking through the camps looking for a quick feed. We'd been warned
not to leave anything edible outside. Including boots!
Day four. Wednesday 22nd April 09
morning we loaded up with water and headed off to the gorges. We looked down
onto Circular Pool and then headed down to the pool for a refreshing dip. We
arrived to find several backpackers already enjoying the pool. Europe must
only have old people and young men left there. Everywhere we went seemed to
be full of female European backpackers in bikini's.
We moved down
through Dales Gorge to Fortescue Falls and another countries worth of bikini
backpackers. Fern Pool was a fitting finale to the gorge walk. It was still
hot and the flies were becoming annoying. We went for a quick drive to the
visitors centre to look around. It was very interesting. Then we noticed
that it had started to rain. Problem was we had left the windows open on the
camper, which was 10km away. Bugger! We jumped into the Ute and drove back
to camp in fairly heavy rain to find it was just lightly spitting. We closed
the windows and drove back through the rain to the visitors centre to finish
Day five. Thursday 23rd April 09
We packed up
early the next morning and visited Kalamina Falls on the way to Joffre Falls
and then onto Oxer Lookout. We then hiked down to Weano Gorge and into
Handrail Pool. Funnily enough it was also inhabited by bikini backpackers.
We then went to Hancock Gorge and waded and swam to Kermitís Pool. We only
passed some bikini backpackers this time though. Interestingly they always
seemed to be 2 to 3 bikini backpackers for every male backpacker. We decided
to drive to Tom Price instead of camping at the eco retreat.
At the caravan
park the couple in front of us had an interesting discussion with the
reception staff as they tried to convince them that they had prebooked
accommodation for themselves and their dog. The minor point that the park
doesn't accept dogs seemed to be of minimal concern. They departed soon
after. Another nice neat park.
Day six. Friday 24th April 09
Next morning we
had a look around town and topped up with more supplies and our rail access
road permit before heading off to Millstream. We checked out Hamersley Gorge
at the Western end of Karijini and it was also worth the effort with some
lovely rock formations and several beautiful rock pools. We then headed to
Millstream Chichester National Park via the railway access road and see
several of the ore trains. We were intending to stay at Snake Creek campsite
and check out Python Pool the next morning.
campsite was pretty much a small car park than a nice place to stay so we
dropped into Python Pool on our way back to the Millstream side of the park.
With hindsight it probably wasnít a real good idea as it was just on dusk.
The combination of dust, setting sun and potential furry speed humps made it
an interesting journey. It was dark by the time we arrived and we found the
first entrance to Crossing Pool was still closed due to water damage earlier
in the year. We started to set up camp at the new camping ground near the
main Homestead come Visitors Centre. The ranger stopped by to collect the
camping fees while we were getting dinner cooked. Not as many campers as at
Karijini but the campsites were just as small and close together. Sigh!
Day seven. Saturday 25th April 09
Still a fair bit
of water damage from the earlier rains but we had a good look around and
walked around as much of the park as we could. Driving around the back way
to look at Crossing Pool and stopping at Deep Reach Pool on the way out of
the park. Our initial plan was to spend the night at Pannawonica but we
arrived early in the afternoon and decided to keep going and see what
happens. We ended up at Nannaturra roadhouse where we encountered lamb
shanks, AC/DC and the ping pong balls. It was a typical outback roadhouse
where it is the people you meet that make or break your visit. In our case
we scored with the people and the food.
We were greeted
on arrival by a reverse Mohawk on a tattooed lad to the sound of AC/DC at
full volume. We werenít sure how to take all this but he was polite and
accommodating when we booked in. After setting up the camper I decided to
get some fuel, which our attendant did to the tune of even more AC/DC. We
had a chat about AC/DC and he turned out to be quite a fan. It seemed
strange talking to someone who wasn't even born when you first listened to
AC/DC yourself. The joys of age I suppose.
The head cook
(and driver) decided that someone else should provide sustenance this night
so we ended up in the roadhouse with a lovely dinner of lamb shanks. I
suspect that they were from a rather large lamb. Lovely, meaty and very
tender. Very nice they were.
Oh, I nearly forgot
about the ping-pong balls. I commented to the caravan receptionist/ fuel
attendant/ waiter and AC/DC fan that he seemed to do everything around here.
I wondered if he also cooked dinner? His reply was that he wasn't the cook
but he did do everything else except for the dance with the ping-pong balls!
With thoughts of Asian nightclubs in mind I decided not to pursue this
comment any further.
Day eight. Sunday 26th April 09
It was an all
bitumen run into Exmouth the next day. We did notice that there seemed to be
vast amounts of not much at all adjacent to the road. We went into Charles
Knife Gorge, which was very impressive. Thinking that a nice feed of prawns
from the Kailas brothers factory on the way into town would be a good idea
only to find they were closed on Sundays. Ended up slumming it in Brumbies
Bakery with a pie, coffee and a real vanilla slice, bliss.
Had dinner in the
Italian restaurant next to the caravan park that night. For some unknown
reason I was convinced to take a walk around the block after dinner. I never
knew Exmouth had such a large block to walk around. Several eternities later
we arrived back at our camp for a well-deserved rest.
Day nine. Monday 27th April 09
With my legs only
just recovered from their extensive work out the night before we started
with a quick backtrack to visit Shothole Canyon where we saw some goats
clambering around the edge of the canyon. We waited for the emus to grant us
access to their private road so we could continue to the canyon proper.
Back through town
to check out the North West Cape where we observed various sea critters that
we think were dugongs feeding on the seaweed. Proceeding down the east coast
of the cape we spent some time in the visitors centre. Another excellent
setup with lots of interesting information about the park to look at. Went
for the walk along the top of Yardie creek and kept finding the bushes full
of Black footed wallabies.
Headed back to
Vlamingh lighthouse to watch the sunset. It was an interesting drive back
with lots of furry creatures checking out the passing traffic with some even
pondering a career as a hood ornament. Pulled up at the lighthouse to find
the people everywhere talking on mobile phones. Seems it is the spot to get
mobile reception on the East coast.
Then we got to
observe the mentality of some members of the human race. This particular
clown weaved through all of the parked cars, around the Armco to pull up in
front all of other people set up to watch the sunset. This rocket scientist
then got himself and family standing up in front of everyone and we all got
to watch the flashing lights as he hit the remote locking on and off every
30 seconds as he unloaded his car. Must be something to be proud of being
this considerate of others.
The sunset wasnít
much but we did get to see the lights on the oil rigs twinkling on the
horizon. Headed back to camp for some leftover chicken Korma for dinner and
another relaxed sleep.
Day ten. Tuesday 28th April 09
Next day we
headed back into Exmouth to restock. Strangely there are two supermarkets in
town, both IGA's and both within 100 ft of each. Weird. Then the worst thing
in the world happened. We went into the bottle shop to make sure we didn't
dehydrate and there was no beer! Lots of empty shelves though. Not sure if
it was closing down or what, but luckily the drive throughs in the pub could
supply the vital fluids needed.
Heading south to
Coral Bay we passed through some more vast quantities of nothing apart from
anthills. Must be doing a good job of ant farming around here. After a chat
to the local water toy hire shop near the beach we worked out that
snorkelling wasn't going to be very practical for someone wearing glasses
nor for those graced with facial hair. Back to option 2. Happy hour at the
pub. Itís very relaxing observing the vagaries of ones fellow humans when
cheaper booze is on offer for a limited period.
Day eleven. Wednesday 29th April 09
Next morning we
substituted a glass bottomed canoe for the snorkels and masks and paddled
out to check on the coral before the wind came in. Well worth the effort.
tonight was Gascoyne Junction via Manilya roadhouse and then following the
back roads via Lyndon. Time was against us a bit but we did manage to make a
quick side trip into the Kennedy Range National Park to check out the gorges
before we continued into Gascoyne Junction.
Why are the roads
in national parks so bloody corrugated? Saw a total of two vehicles once we
left the North West Hwy. A grader and a ute. Pretty lonely country. We
pulled into the Junction just on dusk. Set ourselves up in the council
caravan park and headed to the pub to be sociable. Lovely home made
hamburgers from the pub for dinner and some interesting local conversations.
We navigated back to camp in the dark ok and settled in for a good nights
rest. At some stage of the early hours we were woken up by footsteps
creeping around the camper. This was then followed by chomping noises. After
imagining what was going on for a while the dulcet bellows of a cow was
added to the entertainment. Bloody cows were after the only green grass for
Day twelve. Thursday 30th April 09
Next morning saw
us heading south to Murchison settlement. Surprised ourselves when we
arrived at Bilung Pool for lunch. It was certainly unexpected to find such a
waterhole in this country. We must be approaching civilisation as we passed
at least three vehicles today. Most impressed with the setup at Murchison. A
nice Oasis. Decided to stay here for the night. Checked out the museum
behind the shire offices, worth the effort.
Had a chat to the
locals and the story about some previous visitors who complained about the
generator noise at night. They reckoned that the council should relocate the
generator or build noise walls. Not sure what some people expect about
country facilities but I suppose if they are upset and don't come back it'll
keep it nice for the rest of us.
Nearly forgot the
pet roo. It turned up around dinnertime and headed onto the lawn near the
clothesline behind the roadhouse. It followed the owner out to be hand fed.
It was fairly tame and didn't seem concerned about people at all. It did
make the night time visit to the dunny interesting, as you had to walk
around it in the dark.
Day thirteen. Friday 1st May 09
Helped a fellow
traveller change a tyre. Wheel nuts done up with a rattle gun, vehicle
nearly off the jack as he tried to undo the wheel nuts and then he released
that he hadnít jacked the vehicle high enough to fit the unflat tyre on.
Should get a new badge for my scout hat after this good deed.
Checked out the
Coalstream Reserve on the way today and will have to go back during the
wildflower season to see it at itís best. We ended up at Carnamah for the
night in another neat tidy caravan park. Had a lovely dinner in the local
pub. Don't let the puke green paint job on the pub put you off.
fourteen. Saturday 2nd May 09
Just a run down
the back stuff today as we headed home. The final meal of the trip saw us
having lunch at the bakery in Bindoon before the last hour back home. Parked
over the road from the bakery this time so there was no need for a another
twenty point turn.
Facts figures and thoughts.
All up we did
nearly 5000km in 13 days. Spent ~$900 on fuel. Fuel economy decreased by
~10% from normal, so the camper cost ~$100 extra to tow for the trip. Better
than setting up a tent for thirteen nights and it didnít stop us getting
anywhere we wanted to.
non-powered sites when staying in caravan parks ( ~$4/night less than
powered sites ). 10 nights @ $4 night = $40 saved by having own power. We
would have needed some sort of power for the other three nights anyway.
Travelled on dirt
roads at ~80-90km/h depending upon surface and condition.
doesnít have fancy springs or shock absorbers, just leaf springs with
greaseable shackles. Even on the worse corrugations it handled well and
didnít pogo or bounce around. It has a short drawbar and while the front and
guards on the camper are pretty well shot blasted I havenít found a single
stone chip on the back of the ute. Maybe the advantage of a long tow bar
when reversing means youíll need a stone guard?