Saturday, October 17, 2009
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
I continued on to Miarree Poole on
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 . 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.
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 when they decided to play Grand Theft Auto or something similar. Gave it until just past and couldn’t take any more and went and banged on the bus and gave them an opinion.
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.
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
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
Limited vacancies, but got into Black Rock in
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
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
Two nights at
Had some lunch and decided to push on through to Barnett. I tell you what, you see some amazing things out here in the bush. I hadn't gone more than 5 km's from the Kalumburu turnoff and there, on the side of the road, was a couple of (I presume) backpackers having their "wicked" van being winched onto a tilt-tray truck. First, I wonder who told the poor buggers they could do the Gibb in a crappy van, and second I tried to do a mental calculation of how much it was going to cost to carry the van through to Derby. I got to about $20,000 and gave up.
I hadn't gone more than 2 or 3 km's further when I spotted the strangest traveller I have seen this whole trip. According to people I spoke to later, his name is Klaus and he has been wandering around the area for many years. I admire his initiative, but I think he could pack some washing powder in that van, he was absolutely filthy, and I think the camels smelled better than did Klaus.
Just before Mt. Barnett, I made a side trip where a sign indicated “Barnett Gorge 3 kms.” That’s not far, I thought. Took me half an hour. The track was really, really rutted. I spent most of my time with one wheel on the centre hump and the other in the scrub. It would appear to be not maintained at all, and after a wet season, it resembles a creek bed rather than a track. Anyway, finally got the 3 km and pulled into a parking area and spent half an hour wandering around a pretty scabby creek. There was a rock wall about 2 metres high on one side of the creek so I supposed that was the “gorge”. Note to Travellers: There is a gorge, but it is a further two km on. A sign would be a nice thing or a correction to the original sign. The gorge is FIVE kms from the road. So I missed it. Oh well, something for the next trip.
When I got back to the main road, I noticed I was down to a quarter tank, so I thought I’d fill up from the jerry’s. A kindly 4wd pulled up and asked if I was OK, and I explained that I was just topping up. He asked me If I new that
Stopped at Galvin’s Gorge, and, while it was very picturesque, there was not a great deal of water flowing, so I’m glad I didn’t make the trek up to the Mitchell. There were hordes of red-tailed Black Cockatoos and a beaut water monitor chilling out.
The road from the Kalunburu Turnoff to
Drove through to
The road between Pentecost and Durack was reasonably good. A lot less washaways, so I was able to sit on 80kmh and even out the corrugations. Arrived at Durack and, as advised, camped on the East bank overlooking the river. The crossing itself was just a mudhole, but downstream the river was full and wide. We’re still fairly close to the coast at the crossing, so, even though there were no signs warning of crocodiles, I didn’t bother with swimming – I’ll leave that until later on.
Firewood was very scarce close to the camp areas, but I went for a walk along the river for a couple of kms and found plenty further away. Only trouble is, it takes me three hours to collect enough firewood to burn for two hours. Hardly seems fair somehow.
Somebody mentioned that diesel prices were lower in Wyndham than Kununurra, so I took a punt and planned on refuelling in Wyndham. Just as well - 25c a litre cheaper! I filled the tank and the jerry’s so I should have enough to get me to Derby without filling up on the Gibb, unless I decide to go up to the Mitchell Plateau.
Pulled up tonight on a roadside rest area overlooking the
This place hasn’t changed at all, although it’s only 6 or 7 years since I’ve been here. From what I understand there has actually been quite a change with the closure of the sugar mill and subsequent shutting down of the sugar cane plantations, but the difference is not noticeable in town.
Stayed at the Hidden Valley C.P. as I did last time. I looked for a Top Tourist park and noticed on the website that there are hardly any in the
While you're in Kununurra, don't miss Hidden Valley unless you're going to visit the Bungle Bungles. The rocky prominences are exactly the same structure as the bungles but only 10% of the size. Also while I consider rock climbing to be the province of raving lunatics, I do like having a "scramble" up rock features like this.Important Note: If you are travelling south from here, DON'T buy fuel in Kununurra, take a small side trip via Wyndham (which is worth a visit anyway) and buy your fuel there at least 25c and sometimes 35c less than Kununurra.
Had another small break at Timber Creek. Just past the town is a road leading to a lookout. It is well worth the visit. There is a great view from the top of the ridge. Note: there is a 4WD track leading onwards from the lookout, but I found out the hard way that it doesn't go anywhere, so give it a miss.
Stopped at a roadside rest area called Saddle Rock (for obvious reasons). A very picturesque campsite, but again, crowded as hell by about or so. I know some of these travellers can get a bit up themselves, but this guy wanders over at or so, with his glass of chardonnay in his hand and asked how long I was going to run the generator. It’s half-past five, mind you. I told him that I intended to run it until about and you would have thought I said ! Gee, he said, can’t you shut it down now? We’d like to watch the sun go down in peace. I felt like telling him to go and take a running jump, but managed to restrain myself.
The weather was very pleasant, being dry season, although there were a couple of humid days towards the end of my fortnight’s stay. I got a chance to get out-and-about a bit during the time, but I left the “touristy” things for another time. It has been school holidays while I have been here and everywhere is jam-packed. The locals get a double dose of holidays because of the weather. Every
Headed down the Stuart to Katherine and ran into a fellow Grey Nomad working as a checkout chick in Woolies. I was on the way and it was late in the day, but took the time to say hello.
Camped tonight at a roadside rest area called Limestone Creek. One thing I have noticed about the rest areas in the NT, they are very well maintained. They often have toilets and water tanks and the contractors even drop off a load of chopped firewood when they come in to empty the bins. However, as a result they are very popular with travellers and if you don’t get in early, you don’t get in. In general the rest areas are a lot smaller in area than some of the WA ones, but there are still 40 or 50 vehicles a night try to cram in. At one area, the vehicles were packed so tight that people couldn’t put their awnings up. I have got into the habit of taking off fairly early in the mornings and only travelling 150 – 200 kms, so that I get to the next area by midday or so which gives a chance of getting a nice site.