Monday, June 28, 2010

Gorge – ous Karijini National Park

Karijini is one of those places that we had heard about even before we had left home, however, we thought when we left home that not many people would be here…. Once we started on the road, we began to realise that it was one of “those” places that you “have” to go. We don’t usually like to go those places because I think we are frankly becoming hermits and also because we are secretly wishing that we could see something that other people hadn’t… Anyway, we knew that we had to come here because it is the second largest National Park of WA and the word was that it had the best gorges. The word on the road was also that it was hard to get into the camp ground…these common rumours spread to stress people out, especially people like us who take hours to pack up and unpack…

Anyway, because we did the Mt Nameless drive on the way, we didn’t get to Karijini until about 4pm, and the Brieffies were already there. The (unfriendly) campground host told us we could camp at a site (apparently the only other one) another suburb away from the Brieffies, or next door to them in the “genie” (generator) site… We chose next door to them, so at least our kids could play, and I have ear plugs anyway.

It all turned out fine as the host was the strictest I have ever known and rode around on his bicycle telling everyone off for everything, so no-one used their generator more than they needed to.

Gorges, what can I say! First one we looked at was the Dales Gorge, right next to where we camped. We walked to Fortesque Falls, then up to Fern Pool where we swam in the chilly waters. It really was beautiful and peaceful. The steep walls of the gorge were incredible with the slices of colour twisting along. The huge old fig trees and paper barks stopped me in my tracks as I could not even fathom to think of their age.

The next one that we looked at was Weano Gorge which unfortunately was spoilt by the drive along the worst road in WA, yet. It was 46 km of hard corrugated road that made us all feel that the doors were going to fall off. We looked from the top and were awed at the immensity of the meeting of the 3 gorges. When we walked down to Handrail Pool, we were taken through the most incredible colour ways of rock corridors that have been worn away over the years. The kids swam through some of the pools, and walked through others. It was great to share the time with the Brieffies as it certainly made it more fun.

A bit of a Russell Coight moment

On the last day we went back through Dales Gorge and did the whole circuit, around the top, down to Circular Pool – which was the most serene and incredible waterfall pool I have ever seen – then all the way back through the gorge to Fortesque Falls up to Fern Pool ending with a swim.

We were really lucky to see the World Bentley Club as they were making their way from Perth to Darwin. We also saw the partial eclipse of the moon on our last night.

Gorged out? Not yet. Karijni is a beautiful place, however, it is very busy, and I am sure that it will only get busier, with only one camping site which does make it difficult to sit back and relax properly…

Tom Price…exceeding expectations

“I like the smell of this place, can we stay here?” from F, J & P…well, at $50 a night, probably not. Tom Price is an expensive place to stay, but we liked it anyway for a number of reasons.

It exceeded our expectations for what we thought a mining town would be. It was green and lush compared to the land around the town and the people were all very friendly, and the kids were right, it did smell nice. I think that it might have been the watered lawns and plants that did this, certainly not the red dust that surrounded.

Frank doing a bit of stitching

becoming gypsies as we try to dry out

We happened upon the Tom Price annual art show (for our anniversary) which was brilliant, and a feast for our eyes. Great to see how the surroundings are so inspirational for artists.

The rest of our anniversary was taken up with time at the hospital getting x-rays on Pete’s wrist as he had been jumped on the previous day (by a brother) and had a very sore wrist. Doctor and Radiologist saw the tiniest of lines in a bone so put him in a half plaster….blah. One cranky boy.

Pete in plaster

Some lovely friends, the Brieffies, we had met down south and again in Carnarvon met us on the 20th and we had a great reunion. We were treated out to our first kid free moment of an evening out to one of the 2 restaurants, “Half Moon Chinese Restaurant” where we had beautiful vinegar chicken. The boys obviously were very comfortable to be left with Jude and Lyndon as they barely said good-bye to us!

Sturt Desert Pea spotted by John

The next day we explored the Hamersley Gorge (at the top end of the Karijini National Park) and had our first gorge swim. Remarkable is all I can say.

Hamersley Gorge

Finally on our way out of Tom Price we drove to the top of Mt Nameless (the highest road that you can access by 4wd). It took nearly 1.5 hr to go up and down. The road was very steep in a number of sections, but up at the top, we could see the ranges around, the town and the mine. I was glad to let go of the grab bar and let the circulation back into my hands once we were down…

Resting at the top of Mt Nameless

Onwards to Karijini National Park to be gorged out

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Through flooded roads to dusty ones

Approaching our first river crossing

Getting from the Ningaloo to Tom Price was an arduous task and we had “that fleeing feeling” as we crossed flooded rivers and looked at flood plains hoping for somewhere to pull up to camp (given that we had only left camp at 3.30pm!). We came to rest at Barradale rest stop at 6.30pm and pulled up between 2 caravans figuring that they wouldn’t camp on too muddier ground. It was nice to be drier.

The next day (17 June) we left off slowly after Matt fixed someone’s puncture and started someone else’s car. We had a lovely bush camp some 40 km out of Tom Price after a scary moment behind an oversized vehicle (before we remembered that we had Pete’s radio – aah, that’s what we use it for!). It was so lovely to be by ourselves in the Pilbara dirt and spinifex, to have a quiet dinner, bush shower, and not hear a single thing all night. Serenity.

Leaving our bush camp spot

We finally made it into Tom Price (with only 20 litres of diesel to spare!!!) and checked into the only caravan park to begin the drying out process…where to begin when the roof bag is a pool, clothes bags saturated, tents, mattresses, blankets…need I go on?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Getting flooded at the Ningaloo

The high tide
Star fish (that were returned to the water)
The most remarkably HUGE termite mounds

We were really well stocked for our time at the Ningaloo Reef, and on the advice on Campground Hosts from Kennedy Range, we went to Bruboodjoo Point, which was only "9 miles" up the road from Coral Bay.  Well, it was probably the worst road that we have ever travelled on.  We had to drive at about 10 km per hour, so we took nearly an hour to get there.  Just before we got there, we nearly gave up, thinking that it didn't exist, then, I walked over the hill, and saw....CARAVANS?????  How did they get in?  There was a short cut straight from the highway...if you know the GPS co-ordinates, and can tell where the unmarked track is!  Welcome to WA.

The advice that we had been given was to find a spot away from everyone else as most people coming here had been coming for 30-40 years, so we found our own little spot and made home close to the beach, and the kids were happy to run over to the beach. 

We went to sleep to the sound of the water lapping at the dunes...a little unnerving.  No-one mentioned whether or not the water came over the dunes, but then again, no-one came over to tell us that we shouldn't camp there.

The water was good enough, however, we really needed a boat to fish (or some fishing rods or both), however, the kids were happy enough to play and dig.  We have realised that as long as there is somewhere for them to dig and build, we are right. 

Negatives - no loo.  Normally we don't care, we bush camp and dig a hole, however at Ningaloo, there are different rules - here, there was a "Poo Pit" where we ("we" is a loose term, Matt is a wonderful man) had to take a bucket of the said each day.... Hooray!

I felt sick already... I got a bowl of dettol out and scrubbed everyones hands all the time and scrubbed everything, kept thinking that someone had diarrhoea...Shall I go on? 

Positives - verry cheap, and loads of space to ourselves, coverage on the phone for a change, and close to Coral Bay, and Exmouth (in WA terms - 125km).  We drove up to Exmouth for pharmacy stuff - only pharmacy in 450km range which took most of day, and cracked the exhaust on the way back... 
Matt, the bush mechanic, wired the exhaust to the chassis so we could get it welded back on at Coral Bay (by some "dude" at the caravan park???)  on a Sunday????   It was so windy at Coral Bay that we couldn't see anything in the water :(
From the lighthouse near Exmouth...being blown about

A couple of days later we went back to Exmouth to pick up the rest of the medication and check out Cape Range National Park.  The winds were HOWLING....  On the way back we encountered the wettest rain we have yet seen.  We feared for our campsite....We were right.

The boys tents were flooded and we had water on the floor in ours.  We put together what we could for the night and huddled in our tent (trying not to cry as the rain poured down).

In the morning, I checked the forecast and saw it was going to rain for the next 2 days, and we began to pack, slowly in the moist misty rain...
From our tent ....eep!

3pm we drove out and drove through flooded roads and arrived at a Roadside stop "Barradale" at 6.30pm, tired, frazzled, muddy and over it.  Ningaloo and in the ....

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Carnarvon, take 2...

Two new tyres, a little lighter in the pocket…another farmers market, another deluge (they still say that it doesn’t rain in Carnarvon) and restock in food for at least two weeks (we are getting better at it all the time.

Matt’s 40th birthday was spent pretty much under the cover of the camp kitchen as the rain was so heavy and continuous that there was nothing else to do and nowhere else to go. We were thankful that we were at least here and not stuck somewhere where we could only retreat to the innards of our tent. Our tent leaked for the first time and we slept huddled in the middle…

A nice bloke Mike helped Matt do his first oil change with Frank helping as we hit 10,000 km since leaving Melbourne.

We were at a caravan park (as before) called Wintersun, which had filled in the last 2 weeks with the older folk who move up north for 3 months here. It even has a bowling green and they have “sundowners”. Our children were a little too noisy this time round…Grin and bear it…Love the outdoors, caravan parks, well…prepare ourselves and car for the next part of the journey up to the Ningaloo Reef.

(sorry, I didn't take any pic's it was too wet, and I forgot)

All Good Plans

Well I guess you could say we were christened on the WA roads…about 8km past Cobra station, on a really shaley road – one shredded tyre and one punctured tyre on the trailer – which to do first.

First one took 20 min, next 30 min, then no spares left. Time to change plans.

Decided to go back through Kennedy Ranges where we knew there would be other people in case we had other problems (did I mention that the battery connections had also come loose? and that we left the 3 fishing rods on the ground where we changed the tyres as well?...not a particularly good day).

Final destination was also changed to Carnarvon as we knew that we would not be able to get 2 new tyres in Coral Bay. That’s life on the road in WA. At least we would get a bunch of fresh fruit and vege!

Only saw 2 other cars on the road that day…felt a little vulnerable with our low supplies.

It was nice to be greeted by familiar faces at Kennedy Ranges and some friends, Maus and Brigitta who we had met at Cape Peron.

Mt Augustus (Burringurrah)….The Big Rock

We were somewhat limited in our ability as a family to do all of the walks to the lookouts and in particular the summit (12km – class 4 & 5) due to John’s bad foot (see Kennedy entry). Incredible rock engravings, or petroglyphs as they are called.

The rock is different to Uluru in that it actually has vegetation on it (and a bunch less people) – even though they say it hasn’t rained here for 4 years!

Frank, Pete and Matt attempted the summit on one days, however, Peter got giddy near the top, so they had to return to base. Second day Frank and Matt made it. They were gone for the entire day (fairly long hot days at base camp). A huge achievement for them.

At a waterhole called Cattle Pool, we saw a bevy of birds (we have become quite the twitchers since leaving).

Then at Flinstone Rock we sawy the most incredible petroglyph in a cave up really close….until Pete spotted a snake up really close! Then we fled.

A remarkable place (yet again) with the most magnificent sunrises and sunsets (that only seemed to get better as the days went by).

We fell in love with the red dirt and the rock, and were driven out due to having 2 nights worth of food left and 20 l of drinking water….

Time to get back to a town and restock.

We decided on a dirt road through the stations with an overnight stop beside the road with final destination …Coral Bay.

Road to Mt Augustus

We travelled on the same day from Kennedy Ranges to Mt Augustus as another family we had just met from Melbourne, the Delany’s, doing their annual 2 month trip. Our kids gelled straight away so they had a bunch of fun on the walks together at Kennedy. It was a great drive through some really dusty roads and dry creek beds past hollow cattle, white rock on top of the red dirt making it look like snow, then changing to red/brown rocks on top of the red dirt. The dust was the finest dust that we have driven through yet.

We past one creek bed and were surprised to actually see water. Stopped and saw black swans (which of course moved to the other end of the waterhole at the commotion of the kids).

Finally we way the beauty of this enormous reddy-purply-green rock rising up. Mt Augustus. The largest rock in the world. We had arrived. All a little shaken, dusty, however, we were in awe. We felt like were in the middle of nowhere. “outback Resort” is a loose term, however, it was aright up our alley – bush camping, campfires, great hosts (Lou and Beryl), red dirt, great views, but with a toilet, shower and a laundry where they only charged $5 for as many loads as you needed to do! Incredible!!! We watched the sunset and the full moon rise. Does it get better than this?