From Kalbarri we headed out to the North West Coastal Highway and set sail for Carnarvon (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnarvon,_Western_Australia). All along the road, water was ponded in the table drains making the shoulders soft. There has been good rain in the region for a few days and evidence of this was apparent. Our first stop along the way was at the Billabong Roadhouse where we stopped for morning tea before driving on.
Next we passed the Overland Roadhouse at the junction with the highway of the road to Denham and Monkey Mia. About twenty kilometres north of the roadhouse water was across the road in two places; the initial hazard was under traffic control and vehicles were able to drive through but at the second spot the highway was completely covered and the road was closed. Traffic was being diverted through a roadside rest area with a detour of about a kilometres involved.
We called in to Worramel Roadhouse but found it too crowded and boggy to bother stopping so we drove a little further to a roadside parking area and had lunch then drove on to Carnarvon arriving in town at about 2:30pm. We drove to the caravan park and set up the caravan before driving into town to buy some groceries and other essentials.
Thursday morning was a beautiful day so we attended to a bit of maintenance on the vehicle and completed a little laundry before driving in to town to explore the One Mile Jetty (http://www.carnarvonheritage.com.au/carnarvon-one-mile-jetty.aspx). This jetty is as long as the Busselton Jetty but obviously much more money has been made available for restoration and maintenance at Busselton than at Carnarvon.
It was an interesting walk along the old jetty on a warm sunny morning and we were able to take a number of interesting photos. The Coffee Pot Train (http://www.carnarvonheritage.com.au/coffee-pot-train.aspx) takes paying passengers on a trip from the Jetty Interpretive Centre almost to the end of the jetty.
Right at the end of the jetty public access has been terminated as the structure at this juncture is obviously unsound and too dangerous for public access. In addition to the jetty, there is a lot to see at the Carnarvon Heritage Precinct (which was the original Port of Carnarvon); there are museums to explore – The Railway Station Museum and The Lighthouse Keepers Cottage Museum as well as the Shearing Hall of Fame. On this trip we only walked the jetty as we had explored the other venues previously.
After lunch we visited the shop operated by the Morel family who produce many fresh vegetables and fruits and sell these in the shop on the property. The specialty of the house is frozen fruit (such as bananas) dipped in chocolate. Since we had walked from the caravan park we decided a cold snack was in order and I had a “Pure Black Sapote no added ingredients. Covered in rich milk dipping chocolate.” While Margaret tried a “Pure Strawberry no added ingredients. Covered in rich milk dipping chocolate.” Very tasty!
Driving north from Carnarvon next day we passed through country with a sameness about it that never seemed to change – low scrub and poor type of grasses. We made reasonably good progress and passed the turnoff for Coral Bay and Exmouth just north of Minilya. Here we ran into road works that virtually went on for kilometres and it wasn’t until we reached the Lyndon River that we were able to pull up for smoko. Just north of this rest area we passed the Tropic of Cancer signifying that we were on the same latitude as Rockhampton in Queensland. The further north we travelled the more interesting the country became, firstly with low rolling sand hills then low hills and ranges.
We pushed on past the northern turnoff to Coral Bay and Exmouth and then passed the large rest area at Barradale (which is very popular with travellers) before we reached the Nanutarra Roadhouse where we would turn off for Tom Price (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Price,_Western_Australia). Here we filled up with diesel and had lunch before heading along the Wittenoom Road toward Paraburdoo (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraburdoo,_Western_Australia) and Tom Price. Along this road the country became very interesting as we moved into the Hamersley Range area and the Pilbara.
About four o’clock we pulled into the Beasley River Rest Area and camped for the night with about eight other vans and campers and two car loads of back packers who camped right on the river where they disturbed no one.
Next morning we were away bright and early and on the road to Paraburdoo; we had thought about taking the unsealed shortcut to Tom Price, but speaking to one of our fellow travellers at Beasley River (who had received advice from his brother at Tom Price that the road was very rough and unsuitable for caravans) we decided to take the longer (about 75 kms) route through Paraburdoo.
Driving into Paraburdoo we were looking at the town and I was not paying attention to where I should be going and we missed a turn and started to drive into the entry to Paraburdoo Mine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraburdoo_mine). Realizing the error of my ways I turned into a side street and attempted to reverse to head back in the right direction – unfortunately I reversed into a low post that I couldn’t see (even with the rear view camera) and wrecked the pole carrier and sustained some (what I hope is only) superficial damage to the cladding at the rear of the caravan.
Finally back on the right track (and at that time not even knowing the extent of the damage to the van – we thought we had just nudged the rear bumper) we made good time and pulled into the Tourist Park at Tom Price (http://tompricetouristpark.com.au/) at about ten o’clock. It was when we were setting up on our site that we noted the damage to the van.
Went to town to buy a few things and tried to purchase new piping for the pole carrier but no luck there. There were a couple of old flexible cutting boards in the van (previously used as dust excluders) and Margaret had another in the kitchen cupboard. We taped up the rear panel damage to keep dirt and water out then worked on the pole carrier with the cutting boards and gaffer tape – good enough to get us home – fingers crossed. Fortunately we were able to make an insurance claim on line and will sort out proper repairs when we get back to the Sunshine Coast.
We had booked a bus tour to see Karijini National Park (http://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/park/karijini) and had intended to move on to Dales Gorge Campground in the National Park to catch up on anything the tour did not cover. Sunday morning the bus from Lestok Tours (http://www.lestoktours.com.au/) arrived to pick us up at 7:30am and with one other coupe we headed for the Karijini Eco Retreat (http://www.karijiniecoretreat.com.au/ ) where we were to collect a third couple.
As they do, the bus driver asked us where we were from and as it turned out he was also from the Sunshine Coast and lived not far from where we used to live. He and his wife decided to “run away” when their adult children left home and he took the job in Tom Price where his wife is to join him; they plan to stay for five to eight years before formally retiring back to the east.
Along the way to the National Park we drove past the entrance to the Marandoo Mine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marandoo_mine) and Mt Bruce (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Bruce_%28Western_Australia%29), the second highest peak in Western Australia. We then entered the park at the western entrance and drove to the Eco Retreat along a good stretch of bitumen road before hitting the gravel for three kilometres before reaching the Retreat.
Our Karijini Tour took us from the Eco Retreat, where we had collected a couple from Belgium, firstly to Oxer Lookout overlooking Junction Pool where Hancock Gorge, Joffre Gorge, Knox Gorge, Weano Gorge, and Red Gorge all converge. The views from the two lookouts are quite spectacular and we took many photos.
Next we went to the Weano Gorge day use area and descended about one hundred steps down into the gorge where we then had morning tea. As we were heading down into the gorge we were passed by a group of canyoneers complete with inflated rubber truck inner tubes who were to float along the stream at the base of the gorge then descend via ladders into Handrail Pool then travel along the stream to Hancock Gorge where they would eventually emerge back at the parking area – not for the feint hearted.
We walked along the gorge for a short distance before facing the task of ascending the one hundred steps we had come down. Great aerobic exercise and good stretch of the legs on the way back up to the bus.
Next we skirted back around the Eco Retreat and headed for Joffre Falls – the view from the lookout here is also quite spectacular. From the Eco Retreat side of the gorge there is a track that takes you down into the bottom of the gorge providing access to a pool in which people swim.
From Joffre Falls we moved on to Knox Gorge for a view from the lookout then backtracked to the Banjima Road to travel the twenty eight kilometres to the Karijini Visitor Centre (http://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/site/karijini-visitor-centre).
We bought a few things then re-joined the bus for a twelve kilometre drive (all bitumen) to the Dales Gorge day use area where we ate a very sumptuous lunch provided by the tour company.
The VC building is of a unique design in the shape of a goanna travelling through the country and is constructed of steel to be as fire resistant as is possible.
After lunch we walked to the lookout for a view of Circular Pool in Dales Gorge. The view from the lookout is breathtaking and the pool is a popular swimming spot with a track along the bottom of the gorge leading to the pool.
Next we took a short drive and descended the many steps down to Fortescue Falls; another beautiful site and popular with swimmers.
From the falls it is not far along a quite good track to Fern Pool which is a lovely swimming spot popular with hikers. When we were there it was also popular with flying foxes and a small colony had taken roost in the trees immediately about the boardwalk near the pool.
After climbing out of the gorge (more aerobic exercise and leg stretching) we boarded the bus for the drive back, firstly to the Eco Retreat to deposit the Belgium tourists then back to Tom Price where we arrived at about 4:30pm. We had seen so much in the day from the comfort of the air-conditioned bus that we decided not to move to Dales Campground as there was little else for us to see in Karijini so we decided to drive on to Port Hedland the next day.
We packed up and were on the road just after eight the next morning and travelled along Karijini Drive to the junction with the Great Northern Highway. Not long before reaching Munjina Gorge (which straddles the highway) we encountered two haul trucks being carried along the highway on the back of large semi-trailers. These vehicles were each 8 metres wide and took up the whole of the roadway forcing oncoming traffic to the side of the road while they passed. Our intention had been to stop at Auski Roadhouse for morning tea but we arrived to find it a very dusty place with all the road trains going in and out that we travelled a few kilometres further on and pulled into a roadside rest area instead.
There is a lot of heavy traffic on this section of road including many road trains of four trailers in length. When you encounter one of these behemoths you need to sit behind them until an opportunity arises to pass or they pull over to let you by. Some of these don’t waste any time in travel and we were passed by one towing four tankers at about one hundred kilometres an hour – we used the CB Radio to assist him to move by. Our progress was good and we reached our destination – Black Rock Tourist Park (http://www.blackrocktouristpark.com.au/) in South Hedland by mid-afternoon.
Our time in Port Hedland will be spent quietly – washing, repacking, re-provisioning and the like before we move further north to Broome, Derby and Kununurra.