After spending a day in Carnarvon where I shopped, fuelled up, gassed up, visited the Visitors Centre, updated my blog and then relaxed by the cooling breeze of the Indian Ocean, I headed eastward towards Gascoyne Junction. As it was late in the day and I had no hope of reaching my destination by sundown, I found a gravel pit about 100km out of Gascoyne to stop for the night. Obviously no facilities but certainly peace and quiet. Very little traffic on this, the Carnarvon-Mullewa Road and I was far enough the road to not hear anything anyway. It was a stinking hot night and sleep didn’t come until well past midnight so a sleep in was easy in the relative cool of the early morning.
At Gascoyne Junction I checked emails and made a couple of phone calls while I still had reception. Gascoyne Junction is . well, just a junction and with not a great deal to see I headed to my destination and first tick off my bucket list, Kennedy Range. The lady at the Information Centre in Carnarvon to me it was about a 3 hour trip. It is 166km from Carnarvon to Gascoyne Junction and then another 60km to Kennedy Range. The Gascoyne/Kennedy Range part took me 2 and a half hours on its own. The road from Carnarvon to Gascoyne is newly sealed and an excellent road to travel on. Just north of Gascoyne it turn to dirt with plenty of heavy corrugations and as Rhonda doesn’t do corrugations well we plodded along at 20km or under for most of the way. Arrived just in time to experience the first proper rain of my trip. It started at 3pm and didn’t let up until after 5am the next morning. It wasn’t heavy but it was steady. As I lay awake listening to the rain on the roof of my bus I started to wonder if we had had enough to make some of the creeks and water courses I had crossed on the way in now impassable. Visions of last years return trip from the floods in Broome were at the front of my mind. Do I head straight back out while I still can? Or will the rain stop and it will be bone dry again in a couple of days? I stayed and it was well worth it. Further details of Kennedy Ranges can be found at the post “Bucket List #1”.
After 2 nights at Kennedy Range and 2 more on the road out, I finally made it back to Gascoyne thanks to a couple of locals and then on to back to Carnarvon. I decided I needed a treat so booked into the Outback Oasis Caravan Park. Very welcoming and a great park where I got to choose my site. Was fairly quiet here but good facilities. Next day I made a visit to the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum. (See post Bucket List #2). I also drove the “Fruit Loop” which is an ingeniously name for a self drive tour around part of the fruit and vegetable growing area close to Carnarvon. The some 9km drive takes you along the north and south banks of the Gascoyne River. It is staggering to look at this mighty wide river, currently just a dry flat bed, and try to imagine it in full flood. Of course a number of the farmers offer their produce for sale along the way. I also had a wander around the pioneer cemetery. Sadly the graves are very neglected and I am surprised they haven’t cleaned up the block a bit better. Spent the afternoon down on the foreshore updating the blog and enjoying the breeze without flies! Its a bit of a haven for backpackers in vans during the day. Not sure where they all disperse to at night.
After an evening enjoying the hospitality of the Carnarvon Lions Club I was invited to camp outside their Den overnight. Their Den, a shire facility is in the compound of the Carnarvon Airport. Luckily planes don’t fly around the clock here like they do in Perth. As it was it was pretty bright outside with all the floodlighting. Next morning I headed north to Coral Bay.
Coral Bay is one of my top two favourite holiday destinations in WA and although it is school holidays, I still wanted to pop in even for just a day. It hasn’t changed at all in the intervening years. It is still a magical place. Had a walk along the bay shoreline and then up to the lookout before embarking on a long beach walk towards Mauds Landing to the north. Coral Bay always reminds me of Broome – my other favourite place. Very laid back and time tends to have very little meaning to the day.
After Coral Bay I had a couple of Rest Area stops on the way to Onslow. I have an old friend who has some units in Onslow and he goes up there quite often so I was hoping to maybe catch up with him there. Alas not to be. I rang him and he was still in Perth and not going up until May. I will be long gone by then but we did have a nice chat on the phone and caught up on all the news. This was my first time to Onslow and I have it on my bucket list (see post Bucket List #3).
I spent 2 nights in Onslow before calling out to Old Onslow on the way out. I also went down to Mindaroo Station on the Ashburton River. Mindaroo is one of the old original stations in the area and is now owned by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest (Fortesque Metals Group) after buying back the farm a few years ago. Up until about 1998 it was in the Forrest Family but then sold to outside interests when the financial strains became too much. Twiggy grew up as a child on Mindaroo.
Then it was a couple of rest areas on the way to Tom Price and Karijini National Park. I hadn’t put Karijini on my bucket list as I hadn’t planned on going inland on this section of the trip but after seeing Kennedy Range I decided to change tack. Being school holidays it was pretty busy but WOW what an amazing experience. I had a few days in the area and everything they say about Karijini is true and more. It is truly a spectacular place to visit. I walked all the gorges that I was able to access and a couple that I didn’t think I would be capable of. Each walk is different and challenging but the reward takes your breath away at times. My favourite at Dales Gorge was Fern Pool where you can swim right up to and under a waterfall. Fortescue Falls was another great swimming opportunity. The water was very cool which was a welcome relief after hiking the length of the gorge floor. At Weano Gorge there are a couple of challenging extensions, one to Handrail Pool and the other to Kermits Pool. Kermits Pool in particular was special. The colours from the suns reflection in the early morning (and I imagine in the late afternoon as well) across the differing shades of rock just bring the gorges alive and it is natural beauty. I wasn’t real good at English at school but I am sure the word gorgeous must be derived from the word gorge.
I took the opportunity t drive around both Paraburdoo and Tom Price townships. Both are mining towns and although both date back to the 1970’s, both are extremely neat and tidy towns. Although there are many houses vacant, they are not boarded up like some towns in the Pilbara, and their grounds are kept neat and tidy. In Tom Price I tried to find the house that I stayed at when I visited the town 30 years ago. Daryl, a friend from my Lismore NSW days, worked for HI (Hammersley Iron) as it was known then, now Rio Tinto. He and his wife Diane and family were in Tom Price for about 5 years before returning back east to NSW. I went there twice. The first time must have been the first year I moved to Perth when I flew up to Paraburdoo. Daryl was late picking me up and at that time the airport was a tin shed and when the plane had come and gone, the shed was locked up and I was kicked out into the heat and up until this trip, had never experienced so many goddam flies. And bull ants. It was an uncomfortable hour until my mate arrived. The 2nd trip Josh (my eldest son) was only 6 months old. It was Easter and we drove up for the break. Up overnight Friday straight from work and arriving about 9am. Nowadays 2 hours straight driving is more than enough for one day.
After Karijini I had a couple of nights on the way up to Port Hedland. There are hundres of road trains utilising this inland route and with several mines in the area (not the big boys, they have their own railways), there is an endless stream of 2, 3, 4 and 5 trailers behind each truck. Around Auski Roadhouse (on the north eastern edge of Karijini) the hills are numerous as you make your way out of the Hammersley Ranges. Heading north it was interesting that after a while you come over a hill and suddenly the landscape changes and there is green everywhere. Obviously the product of plenty of rain from recent cyclone. Things change instantly. Then suddenly back to dry and barren again. One of the joys of travelling is the subtle and sometimes sudden, but ever changing landscape.
Having travelled so far from the forested area of the South West, through the concrete jungle that is the Perth metropolitan area, up into the farming Midlands and across to the Turquoise Coast and the Coral Coast, up through the Gascoyne area and now into the Pilbara, each geographical area has its unique character. Each has a richness that makes you take notice and say “I can see why you would want to live here”.
In my previous trips up to Broome I never really had the time to dawdle along and appreciate the landscape. You saw it, you noticed it, you wondered at it, but it is not until you can throw off the constraints of clock watching that it all clicks into place. When I was at High School I studied Geography instead of History. I remember the odd geography excursion but I only recall it as a means of getting out of the classroom for a day. What I am seeing here now is the lessons that we didn’t have. Learning, but living that learning. I see kids travelling with their parents, some fulltime travellers, and that is where the education comes to life.
Just short of Port Hedland was my very first Station Stay. Indee Station is only about 60km south of Port Hedland so a good place to stop and prop before hitting the Iron Ore capital. Indee has just reopened access after Cyclone Veronica wreaked havoc on the area. They received 25 inches of rain in 3 days. The owner Colin told me it was the most rain he had experienced in over 50 years of living on the station. The track in is about 9km off the Great Northern Highway but mostly good sand/dirt. Providing hot showers was a welcome relief after my time at Karijini. The hosts were amicable people and they have a happy hour everyday at 5.30pm in the homestead. Although I was the only visitor that night, I was made very welcome and enjoyed listening and learning about life on the station. Being a Pastoral Lease they don’t actually own the land so their stock numbers are at the mercy of the government of the day. Colin, aged 80 and his wife Betty, not far behind, were both very vocal bout what they thought of the government and in particular the Agricultural Minister.
A lot of new places and experiences on this leg of the trip. I feel very fortunate to be doing what I am doing. I look back to when the kids were little and in those early days I worked 2 jobs. Then the long hours of contracting and subcontracting and then the crazy 24/7 of running a chauffeur car business and now. Well now I think I finally have that work life balance thing operating perfectly.