Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Into South Australia

Week 8, 22 December 2009

I will never compain about the weather again. I have been moaning and groaning about how cool it has been and how late summer is in coming. Well, it caught up with me with a vengeance. Last Tuesday and Wednesday the temperature got up to 42degC (107.6 in the old money) with a hot north wind. Suffice it to say, I have learned my lesson and will take it as it comes. If you want to know what effects this sort of temperature has, have a look at this.
After celebrating my anniversary (12 months on the road) on Dec 13, I took off from Najada Rockhole and headed east the next day. Dropped in to Eucla to look at the ruins of the old telegraph station. I first saw this in 1979 and it doesn't seemed to have changed at all, perhaps it has stabilised.
The size of the sand dunes here is most impressive, incredible to think that this is solely the influence of the wind.
Big surprise at Eucla. Fuel was cheap!!! $1.54 for diesel, the same as Mundrabilla. Perhaps these people are waking up to the fact that we travellers talk to each other and we refuse to pay highly inflated prices.

Did the tourist thing at the border with the car in SA and the van in WA. I must stop doing that, I've done it at every border crossing, and seeing that I've now made 12 such crossings, it's getting a bit passe.
Through Eucla Border Village and into the wilds of South Oz's far west. Came across the obligatory sign designating the beginnings of the Nullarbor Plain just before Nullarbor Roadhouse. Strangest thing is - only about 5 kms down the road is a sign facing the other way denoting the easter edge??? Surely the Nullarbor is more than 5 kms wide. To be pedantic, the road doesn't traverse the Nullarbor plain anyway. The real Nullarbor is well to the North and you can only really see it from the train. I must admit that the sight of a whale in the middle of the desert is a bit of a shock, but the adjacent cliffs are one of the best spots in the whole of Oz for spotting whales on their migrations. I never get sick of the sight of these cliffs and I pull into every single lookout to have a gander.
Monday 14th Dec. Pulled into a rest area called Yalata West, 21kms west of the Yalata Roadhouse. The actual pull-off is nothing special, but there are plenty of tracks leading away to the north and about 700 metres from the road, there is an old quarry and just beyond that there are some great, shady, level spots perfect for setting up. The third test against the West Indies starts in a couple of days, so I'll rest up and listen in peace.

Wednesday 16th Dec. As I said above, the weather has changed with a vengeance. Too hot to do anything energetic, so I am just sitting around with the fan going, listening to the cricket and keeping the fluids up. The time-zone change of 2 1/2 hours in one hit is hard to take, especially being so far west of Adelaide. It is still light at 9:30 at night and the sun doesn't come up until about 7:00 am. As a consequence I am not getting to sleep until after midnight, but as long as I try and get up nice and early (local) I should get used to it in a couple of days.

Saturday 19th Dec. Weather is absolutely perfect. 28 deg. Hardly a cloud in the sky and a beautiful sea-breeze that comes in about 3:00pm. Went for a bit of a wander yesterday and today, but not much to see. The country is well-wooded with Mallee and appears to be old sandhill country which has become stabilised with vegetation. Discovered tonight from the scurryings, that I have picked up a couple of hitch-hickers of the mouse kind. I caught one, but I will have to pick up a couple of mousetraps when I get to Ceduna. Just another one of the things that I never thought to pack.

Monday 21st Dec. Checked out of Yalata West at about 08:30 and headed East. LOTS of vans on the road, but you have to expect that at this time of year. Through Yalata, where the roadhouse is boarded up, on through Nundroo and took the side-trip to Fowler's Bay. Not much here, but if you were ever looking for a sea-side location to just put your feet up and veg out, it would be hard to find a better place. More of those giant sand dunes, they look good enough to tire out the most energetic kids. The local historical society have done a great job of erecting interpretive signs all over the place.

Tuesday 22nd Dec. Booked in to the Top Tourist C/P in Ceduna for rest and refit. Get the washing done, re-stock the larder and the water containers etc. and I'll be right for another month or so. I'm heading down the West Coast of Eyre Peninsula, heading for Port Lincoln. This is all farming country and surf beaches, but seeing this is where the biggest White Pointers in the world live, I don't plan on doing much swimming. I'll be out of range for two or three weeks, so I'll catch up again then.

To those who read this in time - can I take this opportunity you send you my best wishes for the holiday season. See you soon.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Nullabor

Week 6 - 11 December 2009

Well, the 12-month anniversary of this trip is coming up and it seems more like 12 days than 12 months. What a blast! 12 months on the road, close to 30,000 kms covered, spent a little more than I had anticipated, but there's more where that came from - Oh! wait a minute - No there's not - I better start pulling my horns in and watching the pennies.

1st December. Did the obligatory round trip around the Esperance area, (Twilight Cove, Observatory Point, (Where's the observatory?) Pink Lake (Pink? Coul'da fooled me)
They call this the Great Ocean Drive - Hmm, that sounds familiar. Probably would have been a lot more pleasant if the weather had been better, but it was a dull, drab day and hard to get enthusiastic.

I headed out east and called in to Cape LeGrand ($11 admission JUST to enter the park and then $9 per person per night to camp - a bit steep if you ask me)and Cape Arid. Again, if the weather had been fine, I could have done a fair bit of bushwalking, but the temperature never got over 16 degC and the wind was bitingly chilly.

Came back to Condingup and spent the night in the grounds of the Recreation Centre (Free Camping)

2nd December. Up the Balladonia Track. I had checked with Dept. Environment a few days previously, and they said that the track would be open on the 1st. I headed north on what is called Parmingo Road and there were no signs saying the road was closed, so off I went. About 45 kms in, the bitumen ends and there was a sign saying "Road Closed - Track - Proceed with Caution" Seemed to be a mixed message, so I decided to proceed with caution. The road was quite good, except for a few patches of deep bulldust, but I was sitting on about 80 km/h without any trouble.

Not marked on any maps that I have, but I came across an abandoned homestead which just has a "historic site" marker on the road. I seems to have been maintained by the local historical society and is very interesting. I would have camped here, but it was very early in the day.
For the uninitiated, "double-gee's" are Caltrops or "Three-toed-jacks" a seed burr which has 4 vicious spikes set so that anyway the burr lies, one spike is always pointing up and, boy, do you know it when you step on one. The spike will go straight through the sole of a flip-flop.

A couple of interesting granite outcrops/waterholes, but otherwise just mallee and gimlet scrub.

About 60 kms south of Balladonia, you reach the border of the Shire of Esperance and immediately the road deteriorates into a bush track. Narrow, rocky and bumpy. From the look of the claypans I definitely wouldn't want to come through here when it was wet. I reckon you'd bog a duck. Only averaged about 50 km/h on this stretch. Curious what souvenirs people seem prompted to leave.
Balladonia's prices were as we have come to expect, outrageous. It beats me how they remain open, I would have thought everyone in Australia would know by now what rip-off merchants they are. $1.72/L for diesel, when I paid $1.54 500 kms further on at Mundrabilla.

Pulled up for the night at Woorlba Homestead Rest Area, about 50 kms east of Balladonia. I was first in and got the best spot with some nice midday and afternoon shade, so I will do a full setup and stay for a few days.

9th December. Ended up staying a week at Woorlba. Bottom line - couldn't be bothered packing up. Quite a nice spot - Plenty of room, toilet (no dunny paper), tables and one rather sad looking BBQ. Went for a bit of a wander a couple of times, but not much to see. Still in fairly large timber, but that will run out soon.

Ran through Caiguna, Cocklebiddy, Madura and Mundrabilla, but the Nullabor hasn't got anymore interesting than it was the last 5 or 6 times I drove across. Diesel was 1.65 at Caiguna, 1.69 at Cocklebiddy and I loaded up with 100L at Mundrabilla at 1.54. - Crazy.

11th December. I have pulled up at Najada Rockhole Rest Area, 30 kms west of Eucla. No facilities, but quite nice. I went for a wander over to the escarpment yesterday (10th) about 1.5 kms from the road, but probably 50% more than that wandering through the saltbush, 'cos there isn't a track. The rockhole is a big bite out of the front of the escarpement where water erosion has worn back to the base limestone. Easy enough to scramble up and a fantastic view from the top. I could see the sea about 10 kms south and off to the east I could just make out the sand dunes at Eucla. The weather is still pretty rotten. Only got up to 22 degC today and mostly overcast with a chilly wind.

More in a couple of weeks.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Esperance & The Bay Of Isles

Week 4 - 30th November 2009.

What a trip! The weather has been absolutely dreadful for the last two weeks.

12th Nov. Pulled in to Forrestania Plots which was an absolutely delightful campsite. It was a trial back in 1920 or so to try to develop the area for farming but failed. The campsite has some beaut Rottnest Island Pines which were planted as windbreak and they provide some great shade and shelter. The area is all heathland so it is quite dense scrub and not really suitable for rambling. Still thunderstorms every day and night, so I will stay here for a couple of days until the weather sorts itself out.

16th Nov. The weather was still lousy, but I moved on anyway. The road is is very good condition, draining well but of course it is throwing red mud all over the van. I had planned to stop at "The Breakaways" but the ground was very muddy and the sandy areas were very boggy, but the area is very picturesque and would be a very nice site in good weather. Still pouring with rain so I kept on going. Pulled into McDermid Rock which is nearly as big as Wave Rock. It has the same surf wave type formation, but not as extensive. One thing about this rain, the water cascading off the rock is very impressive. This whole trip along the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail is very well marked and signposted. Every area has information panels illustrating the attractions. The walk trails at McDermid Rock and at Disappointment Rock are well worth the wander.

20th November. Still raining although no thunderstorms and there are a couple of hours sunshine each day. I pushed on and refueled in Norseman and bought some essentials and then to Dundas Rocks which is an abandoned mining townsite 25km south of Norseman. Nothing left but the old dam. There is no trace of any of the old buildings, just signs indicating where they were. Plenty of opportunity for bushwalking, there are dozens of tracks all over the place. One thing, there are HORDES of March Flies all over the place - definitely long sleeves and trousers required around here. There is one drawback to this site as a camp. There is not one level spot in the entire area. I must have tried about 7 or 8 spots before I found one that was even approximately level. Thank heavens I bought a pair of levelling wedges when I was in Perth.

28th Nov. The weather has improved a fair bit although it is still very variable. I'm not getting much value out of the $1000 I spent on a solar panel when I was in Perth. On Wednesday (25th) the temperature got up to 39 degC during the day and by 6pm I had to put a pullover on, it got down to 7.5 degC during the night and the next day the temperature never got over 18 degC. Crazy! There have been plenty of fine spells however and lots of bush walking to do and very few travellers stopping, only about one or two a night and then not every night so I am stretching the friendship a bit by staying on.

30 Nov. Three days in Esperance to do some shopping, banking, wash the car and van etc. I spent many pleasant holidays in Esperance many years ago when I lived in Kalgoorlie, so there isn't too much that I want to do around here. Tomorrow I'm off to Cape LeGrand and Cape Arid and then up the Balladonia Track to the Eyre Highway.

I'm not sure when I will have coverage again, perhaps Balladonia in a week or so - see you soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Through The Wheatbelt

Week Two, 12th November 2009.

I stayed at Wannamal for another couple of days and then took off on Friday morning. Through to New Norcia and fuelled up ($1.26/L) and headed in a big loop north and east to a spot called Petrudor Rocks near Kalannie. This is a granite outcrop, similar to many in this area. This particular one is not as big as some of the others I have seen, but the area looked quite nice with a bit of shade, so I set up for a couple of days.

Appearances can be deceiving! This place is infested with ants - everywhere. I must remember to buy a large economy size container of baby powder to put around the van's wheels. Flies are really bad too, I've been spending most of my time inside the van, which wasn't the idea.

Took a ramble over the rock to have a look around and to get my daily exercise.
After a couple of days, I got so sick of the ants and flies I packed up and headed off. I stopped in Kalannie to pick up some bread and milk. Every single container of milk in the shop had somebody's name written on it. "Those are ordered" the girl in the shop told me, so there was no full-cream milk available for sale ( I absolutely hate that UHT stuff). I know it's only a tiny place, but you would think that they would have at least a couple of bottles of milk for passing trade.

On again through Koorda (plenty of milk), Bencubbin, and Mukinbudin heading for Baladjie Rock which was supposed to be my next stop, but when I got there, there were no extra-special campsites and the radio is forecasting severe thunderstorms for the area, so I think I'll keep going and head for Southern Cross. Baladjie is certainly worth a visit and there is a great view from the top if you walk up.

Three nights in Southern Cross and it looks like the worst of the weather has gone, so I headed for Hyden via Marvel Loch. Great gravel road, looks like a good short cut if you're coming from the east from the G E Hwy to the Great Southern without going further in towards Perth.

I'm heading out on the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail, heading across to Norseman and I am planning to stop at the Forrestania Plots (whatever that is) tonight. I'll be out of range for a while, so see you next week.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Seconds out, - Round Two

Week One, 4th November 2009

As Willie Nelson says - On The Road Again. I'm off on the second leg of my travels around this big, brown, beautiful country. This time, I will be travelling a lot slower, with many more stops along the way and hopefully, spending several nights at each stop rather than the one-night stops so common in my last circuit. I imagine that it will be two years this time before I return to Perth.

Well, I spent a pleasant two weeks in Perth, getting a lot of house-keeping issues out of the way, re-registered the van, had the van and the Kia serviced, filed my (final?) tax return, got some new specs and re-stocked the pantry and freezer. I've learned some important lessons while on the road, and not the least important was the make up of food stocks. I ended up after ten months with several items I originally packed untouched, whereas some things I ran out of all the time. Quite a different cross-section this time.

I called in to see some of my former work colleagues and I copped quite a razzing for turning up as brown as a berry at this time of year while they were all still in their winter plumage. Suck it up, Guys.

I was hoping to head straight for the south coast of WA, but summer is a little tardy in coming in this year. Still quite cool during the days and chilly at nights with typical winter pattern weather, cold fronts sweeping across the south-west and still plenty of showers around. What I have done is headed north for a couple of weeks to wait until the summer pattern comes in with big high-pressure systems sitting in the Bight.

I'm currently at Wannamal (population 4) about 30kms north of Bindoon and I'm going to make a big north-easterly loop through the wheatbelt and will come out about Southern Cross and then head down to Hyden. I'm looking forward to an area about which I have heard a lot of good things, but have never visited and that is the road from Hyden to Norseman called the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. I also hope to make a side trip up to an area called Cave Hill and then down to the south coast. That should take me about three or four weeks and hopefully, summer will be here by then.

I promise faithfully to keep the blog updated a lot better than I have in the past. See you soon.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 308 – 16 Oct 09

Home Again! 10 months on the road and to tell the truth it seems more like 10 days.

I was concerned when I started out that this may have been a bad idea because I may have got bored, but at this point there has been no sign of boredom. My added-up distance only shows about 22,000 km, but I have actually covered about 27,000, so I have obviously done a fair amount of side-trips and driving hither and yon. Time to do a fair bit of housework. Re-stock the freezer, re-register and service the van and vehicle, do my tax (for the last time) for 2008-2009 etc.

I’m going to stay in Perth for about two weeks and then head for the south coast of WA and over to the Eyre and Yorke peninsulas. From now on, I’m going to take things a lot slower. I intend to only do 60-70 km’s between stops, where there are things to see and stay at least three days at each spot instead of overnighting as I did at the start of the trip. In the first month I travelled nearly 6,000 km compared to only 1,500 in the tenth month. Much more relaxing. 35°C today, Winter’s Over.

Well, that;s the end of my first circumnavigation. I'll see you again when I take off for the next circuit.

Day 304 – 12 Oct 09

Down through Geraldton, where I fuelled up and on towards Mullewa. The campsite Don told me about was a little hard to find because Camps 5 doesn’t say which road to take to get to the camp. Eventually noticed a sign to “Pioneer Well” at the corner of the Yuna road and an indicator down a bush track. Track in is pretty rough and looks like it would flood badly after rain, but quite a pleasant site. Only one other vehicle in when I got there but tons of room. No real big trees but reasonable shade. Plenty of firewood around, but technically illegal in WA to light a campfire after 1st October. There are still lots of wildflowers around - these are some sort of Everlasting.
I went down and had a look at the well which gives the site its name. It's amazing to see the quality of the storework which they use to line the well. I wonder whether we even have the skills today to build something like this without mortar.

Day 305 – 13 Oct 09

Weather’s a bit better, although still a bit chilly at night. Got down to 8°C overnight. Bloody Flies! No blowflies, but lots and lots of little bushflies. I reckon I’m getting my daily exercise just waving my arms around. Went for a wander today up to the top of a nearby rocky outcrop. Great view across the salt lakes and over the wheatfields beyond. It’s fairly dry at the moment, but it would be glorious in winter with water in the lake and the fields green. Took a walk across the salt lake just to have a sticky beak. It appears that the land owners have planted an “orchard” of mallee gums on the edge of the lake. Probably as a means of salt control – why didn’t they just leave the original trees in the first place?

Day 306 – 14 Oct 09

Don and Xena pulled in this morning. Boy! That bloke could talk underwater with a mouthful of marbles (look who’s talking) must have something to do with travelling alone. He’s going on to Mt. Magnet and then south so I probably won’t see him again. Went for a walk today down to the abandoned school site and across the stone path across the salt lake to the old railway siding.

The station building appears to be a sort of historical display, but it was locked up so I could only get a glimpse of the inside. The building seems to be a long way from the rail line, but I think that the dirt road in front between the line and the building may have originally been a siding going by the shape and alignment of the road. The stone path is amazing.

I am guessing that it was built about 1920 or so and the amount of work to just go back and forth carrying rocks is astonishing. Today we would bulldoze or concrete the path in a couple of days, or spend 20 million dollars to build a boardwalk.

Day 302 – 10 Oct 09

I spent 2 weeks at back at Lyndon River and then headed down to Carnarvon again. I'll spend a couple of days here to replenish water and do some washing for the final legs to Perth.

Down through Overlander and Billabong. I must have done this stretch about 10 or 12 times, so not much along here that interests me. Did Denham, Monkey Mia and Steep Point with Hamish a couple of years ago. Pulled in to a Roadside Rest Area called Nerren Nerren. As are so many of the WA rest stops, it is huge - you could put 50 vans in here without trying. Toilets, bins and fireplaces, but as usual, no water.

Thursday went for a walk south along the fenceline for about 3-4 km. Fence parallels the highway. I saw a faint track leading into the scrub so went for a wander. Appears to have been a bush camp of some sort in the past - maybe a road construction gang or similar. Piles of broken beer bottles everywhere.

Friday went for a walk north along the fenceline for about 3-4 km. I could see a sand-ridge about 2 km off to the west so went for a wander. Fairly easy going through the mallee, but got very scrubby closer to the ridge and then Banksia scrub on the ridgeline. Couldn't see anything from the top of the ridge so back to the fence and back to camp. Still windy every day especially the sea-breeze in the evening. Met a bloke called Don who’s travelling solo with his dog Xena which is the biggest Golden Labrador I’ve ever seen. I think it may be crossed with something else. He says he’s been on the road for 7 years and I would say he’s about 70. Gave me a tip for a good campsite just out of Mullewa which suits my schedule.

Day 284 – 22 Sep 09

Left Lyndon River on Wednesday heading for Carnarvon. Had to wait until about midday to avoid the worst of the wind which is blowing from the south. It’s a very strong breeze so I can only imagine what it does to fuel consumption. Got to Carnarvon and found a top tourist CP for a change so booked in for a week to get the extra discount. When you add the normal 10% member discount to the “pay for 6 days stay 7” that works out to a 23% discount for the week which to my way of thinking is a good deal.

What a strange place Carnarvon is. I have been here many times, but never stayed before. There is a Woolworths supermarket, and like all the others, they give you a fuel discount voucher on your docket – But there is no Woolies Caltex fuel depot. There is a Coles Express fuel stop – but no Coles supermarket. I spent about 30 minutes looking for a Westpac bank before discovering that there wasn’t one (or a NAB either). I always had a mental picture of Carnarvon as being a fairly large centre with all facilities, but it is actually quite basic. Hell of a lot of new building going on, however.

I’ve been here a week and I’m heading back north again for a while. It's just too flamin' cold this far south and it's still raining down in Perth so I have headed back north to Lyndon River for a few days. Spring seems to be a bit late coming in this year. From memory, it's usually warming up in Perth by now.

Day 277 – 15 Sep 09

Left Miarree Pool on Thursday morning and headed south again. Just south of Nanutarra Roadhouse I spotted something that would spoil anyone's holiday trip.
The accident had obviously just happened, because there was a copy of the previous days paper at the site (also, nobody had had time to steal the wheels). There were skid marks on the road, so I'm assuming that the driver swerved to avoid an animal on the road. The positions of the Land Rover Discovery and the caravan facing back in the direction they had come from would indicate that the accident happened at quite some speed.
I stopped for a few days at Lyndon River Rest Area just north of Minilya Roadhouse. Found a really nice spot with shade from some giant River Red Gums. Toilets but no other facilities except barbecues. No water in the river at this time of the year, and it is really hard walking through the river sand because it is so soft.

Thousands (and I’m not exaggerating) of Corellas in the trees and what a racket they make when they’re roosting at sundown. I’ve been set up here for a couple of days and there are a pair of magpies, I think a mother and a juvenile by the colours, although the juvenile is bigger than the adult. They come right up to the van to get the moths which were attracted by the light the night before and they have become so confident that they walk straight underneath my chair while I’m sitting there.

Just for a contrast, there are a pair of pigeons of some kind (the ones with the tuft of feathers sticking straight up on top of their heads – (I call them “punk pigeons”) and they come pecking around on the green mat near my feet each evening. It’s great to be in an area where the wildlife obviously don’t feel threatened by humans.

Day 271– 09 Sep 09

I left Yule River on Monday Morning heading for Karratha. Weather is warm, dry and clear. Went via Whim Creek and Roebourne, but as the T-shirt says, been there, done that. Stopped in Karratha and did some shopping. Had to buy a new power supply for the Laptop. Honda had a “Father’s Day special on Generators so I bought one Got about $250 off. I was hoping there was a book-exchange in town as I’m running out of reading materials but no luck. I intended to stay for a couple of days in CP, but no room at the inn. Karratha CP was full, as was the Transit Camp at Dampier. Big4 in Karratha had powered sites for $44 a night so I gave them a miss – That’s just highway robbery.

I continued on to Miarree Poole on
Maitland River only 18 km’s from the Karratha Roadhouse. Great area, plenty of water in pool, ideal for swimming. Very uneven surface and limited campsites with shade. Lovely down on the river’s edge, but VERY steep, bumpy dirt tracks up and down. Would probably make it but would rather not embarrass myself.

It has been blowing a gale all day, every day. It keeps the flies away, but it is really annoying. Did some washing by hand, just shorts – what a pain in the bum! That is why I wanted to stop in a CP in Karratha – to do the washing. School holidays are coming up I believe, so it may pay to charge up the phone and book ahead if I want to stay in a CP, especially getting down into the Gascoyne. I went for a walk around the area and found several nice little spots which would be good for secluded hide-aways for future visits. Reinforces my previous observations about taking one's time looking around the area before setting up. Climbed to the top of a nearby hill and had a great view of the surrounding area. Desolate to some, I guess, but I love this sort of wide-open country.

Bloody Backpackers! French guy and two girls in a Falcon S/Wagon with a tent. Jabbering and yelling (Stoned?) after 11:00 pm. What’s with these French? I have run out of books. This is a serious problem, will have to find a book exchange or I’m gonna go nuts!. Bought a new radio in Karratha, but not a lot on ABC regional radio up this way.

Day 267 – 05 Sep 09

Today I drove from Pt. Hedland to Yule River. Good Campsite, lots of level shady areas. Very popular, lots of vans and M/Homes each night. Lots of 5th Wheelers for some reason. Not much water in pools, plenty of firewood, but had to go 400 metres to collect.

Spent a little time walking up and down the river, but not a lot to see. Running the motor of the Kia to top up the batteries. Doesn’t seem to make much more noise than the generator did, but the ScanGuage says that it’s using 4-5 l/h which could work out a bit expensive in the long run.

I have observed that there seem to be a fair number of families with young (school-age) children on the road. Questioned one couple who said they were home-schooling. I wonder how prevalent this actually is.

Tonight two or three French guys in a Coaster pulled up next to my camp. They spent about two hours trying to get their generator started. All OK until about 11:00 pm when they decided to play Grand Theft Auto or something similar. Gave it until just past midnight and couldn’t take any more and went and banged on the bus and gave them an opinion.

Day 258 – 27 Aug 09

Drove from Goldwire Rest Area to the De Grey River campsite. I’ve been looking forward to this for several years as I had a mind’s-eye picture of the campsite and several people have said it was a good spot. I thought I was being smart by going past the main area and heading for the rail-bridge. So was everybody else. The place was packed. One advantage of the small van is that I can get into spots which a full-sized van couldn’t manage, so I managed to get a good spot overlooking the river.

It has been quite windy for a couple of days now. Someone said that that is normal for the area at this time of the year – I hope not, it’s quite annoying.

Some surprises on the road. I was looking forward to getting to Sandfire to get some fresh milk. The roadhouse burned down three years ago it seems and there was a very limited range of product available. Glad I filled the jerry cans, though, diesel was almost $2 a litre. Stopped at Pardoo but they had no fresh milk either so just stretched the legs and took off again.

Day 262 – 31 Aug 09

I took off from De Grey River this morning and decided to take a side trip to try to find Red Hill which I visited many, many years ago when I was in the army and I thought it would be nice to visit some of the places I had been to previously. Turned left off the bitumen and tried to find Pippingarra Road. Interesting structures just off bitumen. Appeared to be some sort of revetment but no clues as to origins. Obviously known to locals, appears to be a rubbish tip for area.

I missed the turn-off and followed a truck which I presumed was going to Pippingarra Minesite, but after 30 kms I worked out something was wrong. Checked on NATMAP and found I was on Port Hedland-Wittenoom Road. Quite a good gravel road actually. Back-tracked using NATMAP (should have done that in the first place) and found the turn-off. Got about 1 km in and came to what was obviously the bed of Beebingarra Creek. Surface looked OK so in I went and BOOM! Down to the axles in soft, dry sand. Tried letting down the tyres, but too far down already. Jacked up each corner and back-filled to get the belly off the sand, unhitched and drove out to some firm ground and turned around. Drove back past the van and used the snatch-strap around the rear bumper of the van to pull the van out backwards. Re-hitched and finally got out after 4 hours. NOT FUN! After that, decided to take a couple of days in CP to recover.

Limited vacancies, but got into Black Rock in South Hedland. Plenty of vacant sites, but all full of branches from recent tree-pruning. Ended up on the far side of the site on crushed blue-metal with power, but no water to sites. Had to fill 4 jerry cans and lug them back to the van.

Day 256 – 25 Aug 09

Drove from Broome to Goldwire Rest Area. Toilets, picnic area barbecues and bins, but no water. Plenty of firewood within easy walking distance. Very large area, but only low trees for shade.

Generator has finally given up the ghost. It will start and run, but with no Oomph. As soon as I plug the power lead in, it dies immediately. I imagine it could be fixed, but seeing it only cost $250 brand-new, it wouldn’t be cost-effective. I’ll buy a Honda when I get to Perth.

Day 252 – 21 Aug 09

Spent a few days in Broome. I tell you what, this has to be the most over-rated place in Australia. Half a day is quite enough to see everything the place has to offer unless you use it as a basecamp to explore the general area. People rave about Cable Beach – It’s a beach, and quite frankly I’ve seen a hell of a lot better.

Chinatown is worth a few hours walking around and rubber-necking, but do it very early in the morning before the hordes of tourists descend. The Japanese cemetery is a must but as for the rest – give me the bush anytime. Prices are pretty reasonable too – NOT.

Day 246 - 15 Aug 09

March Fly Glen was absolutely delightful. Wonderful scenery, plenty of shade, a nice little creek, great weather, what more could one ask. Perhaps I could have done without the tourist buses full of Chinese or German tourists pulling in for lunch every day, or the dickheads who have to hit the ford in the creek at 90kmh just to make a big splash. I am astounded at the amount of traffic on the road. I bothered to count one day, and between 10 am and 6 pm, there were 83 vehicles went through. When you consider that there is now a commuter bus service along the Gibb, I reckon this place is getting way too civilised.

Five days at March Fly Glen (there aren’t any March Flies there incidentally) wasn’t near enough, but I’m tonguing for some fresh milk and I’m getting low on booze, so I need to head for civilization. Next trip on this road needs a bit more planning, freeze some bread and milk and take enough booze for a couple of months. The road from March Fly to the bitumen was excellent. Big stretches of bitumen across the floodplains, extensive roadworks in the vicinity of Lennard River and the rest was very good gravel road.