Published: June 18th 2012June 18th 2012
Thank goodness for our differences; this blog will probably define where we sit in the big picture.
Gascoyne Junction is a small village of about 7 or 8 houses, a caravan park of sorts – mainly for the local work force, and the Shire Offices (Upper Gascoyne) which also doubles and the local roadhouse. They sell fuel and other items needed by travellers and locals alike, and given that they are at least 145 kms from anywhere else, that is probably appropriate. The reference to the Shire Offices is important as the road from Carnarvon to GJ was undoubtedly the best (smoothest) we have been on all trip. Before arriving at GJ our intention was to leave the van there and do day trips to the gorges of the Kennedy Ranges.
After checking in at the caravan park, - read dirt patch- at a cost of $30/night for a powered site which had very little to justify itself, we decided that one night would be sufficient! After a hasty lunch we headed off for the ranges. The road was not sign-posted and Marg was pointing out that the ranges were getting further away the
further we went, however Geoff was convinced (rightly) that we were on the right road. The turn-off into the gorges is about 45 kms North of GJ, and although it is all gravel the road easily coped with a sustained 90 – 100 kms/hr and we were there in short order. There are three main gorges to view and the vehicle tracks lead to spots very close to each location; two were relatively short walks in and the other indicated that it involved a 2 hr walk and we eliminated that one. These gorges were certainly different from others we had seen before and we were pleased that we had made the effort to get out there.
Back in Carnarvon the next day, we stocked up on things we would need for the next adventure. The day started poorly with ‘nuisance’ rain falling as we were trying to hitch up the van (an exercise that takes about 20 mins). We had debated spending some time at Ningaloo Station, a 23,000 hectare strip that runs along the coast just north of Coral Bay and finishes at Yardie Creek which is where Cape range National Park starts. Ningaloo station
runs sheep and goats just along the extreme coastal fringe. We headed onto the Ningaloo Station Road and were met by a couple in a ute who indicated that the road was “rough, very rough”. Undaunted (well one of us still wanted to go ahead) we let the tyres down and took off. How long could 30 kms take? How about 90 minutes? We checked in at the homestead and, armed with a mud map of the camping area, headed for the designated site which was another 15 kms further north and naturally another 45 minutes. It was getting late and dark when we arrived and the campsite ran for about 1 km along amongst the sand dunes, making the mud map nearly useless, but we did get very close to the site on our first attempt. Unfortunately, we decided to try another track onto the beach and very quickly found ourselves bogged in the soft sand with a 3 tonne caravan doing its best to emulate an anchor. Helpful advice delivered no result, and Geoff swallowed his pride and accepted a tow out of the sand (as it turned out, it was not the first time the chap had
Turqoise Bay - Cape Range
And there are fish to be caught as well.
towed someone out that day.) By now, it was all but totally dark and the search for the correct site was not looking like providing a result. We pulled into a site that has scrub touching both sides of the van so that we could barely get in or out and settled in for the evening in not very good humour. One of us needed a vodka and tonic and the other two cans of beer! Geoff was roused out of a very deep sleep very early (make that 7 am) and after walking around in the drizzle for half an hour looking at alternative sites the decision was made to leave and head north to the more civilised/organised Cape Range. But before we could get started, we spent at least half an hour putting a bit more air in the tyres which were almost pancake flat. Then we trundled back to the homestead very slowly. At times our speedo failed to show any speed, so slowly were we creeping along. The road was really horrendous. It was 12.30 by the time we got back out to the highway and then it took an hour and a half to
put more air in the tyres. We eventually had lunch at 3pm just outside Exmouth. That was two days of hard grind moving at snail’s pace and having teeth rattled, boobs flying around wildly, car and caravan squeaking and groaning and absolutely no pleasure AT ALL. That place is off the list of places to go for ever. It is important to understand that there are 5 separate camp locations along the coast, and the one we went to had approx. 100 sites amongst the sand dunes with roughly 75 – 80% occupied by long term visitors – many of them Victorians. This is a place that offers little other than the experience of being totally self sufficient, in a remote area where people call each other over the two-way radio to go fishing or for drinks. They love it; it didn’t suit us…this time.
Note for Tony & Jane (and any others planning a visit to Cape Range): the rules have changed and it is now possible to book sites online – a good thing you might say… Not having this knowledge, Geoff headed out without the caravan to the ranger’s gate and arrived at 6.50
Ghost gums and red earth
Free camp spot between Exmouth and Tom Price
am to find that he was 5th
car in the line! Not a good start, and it got worse. He did secure 2 nights at a site called “Osprey”, which was 36 kms further down the coast, but the rules are that you have to pay the camp host to secure the site, and that meant driving all the way down to make the payment and then straight out again to collect the van and Marg. He had travelled 170 kms before even getting the caravan behind him and then another 86 km back to the site at Osprey! The good news however is that once you are ‘in’, it is possible for the camp hosts to horse trade sites and we were exceedingly fortunate to get into “Ned’s” camp where we paid for 5 nights. The online booking process has caused a lot of comment with some seeing it as a great idea, and others saying it is just too difficult to manage e.g. if you want to book into a site for say 2 weeks and one of the days has already been booked, then the attempted booking is rejected as having no availability. It is hoped that
Ute at Tom Price
It carries 225 tonnes of ore!
they sort that out and provide the appropriate feedback in those circumstances.
Cape Range N.P. is a lovely spot, made especially nice by being able to snorkel over coral from the beach at a lot of sites, and there are lots of fish to be caught. Yes, Geoff finally caught fish, and they were legal (although he does play by the rule that “on the line is in” for one of them). The camp hosts at Neds are a lovely old couple aged 86 for him and older for her, but sharp as a pin and very meticulous; we were advised that they could be a bit grumpy, but that has not really been the case. They have been camp hosts at Cape Range for 36 years, and don’t look like stopping any time soon. They advise everyone about the happy hour, held every day at 5.30 pm and it is a great opportunity to meet all the fellow travellers; we have even got travellers from the ocean at our happy hour here, as there is a very nice Fountaine Pajout ocean going catamaran at anchor just off our beach and they pop in every evening for
Open cut iron ore mine at Tom Price
The black is actually worthless shale, its the red stuff they want - about 26 million tonnes a year!
drinkies. I guess you can only talk to the sea turtles for so long…
Today we had a big expedition into Exmouth to do washing at a laundromat, empty the toot, fill a 10 litre container with town water as there is none out here and our tanks are getting low, shop for food, get fuel and go to bank. We also managed to call family and friends and catch up, get rid of about 200 messages in our Outlook inbox that were totally all rubbish. Where are all your emails to us telling us what you are doing? We’d love to hear from you. The greater part of the day was gone by the time we got back, but Marg still managed to go for a swim. The water is so warm, it’s irresistible.
Time travels too quickly and on Saturday (16/6/120 we have moved on, firstly to a lovely free camp between Exmouth and Tom Price and on Sunday into Tom Price. For our readers overseas, Tom Price is a place about 700 kms east from the W.A coast, about half way up. Americans should Google Thomas Moore Price. He was instrumental in the discovery of iron ore here and unfortunately for him dies about two hours after being told that it had been discovered in huge quantities. It is a town built to service the Rio Tinto iron ore mine (formerly Hamersley Iron) and is a relatively small place in the scheme of things although it does boast a Coles store and Liquorland.
The trip in here really bought us through the iconic Australian outback landscape with the landscapes that are associated with Albert Namatjira’s paintings. We camped amongst the svelte ghost gums with their sensual ash white limbs, drove through endless kilometres of stunted mulga carrying on a life and death struggle in the waterless gibber plains, and every corner revealed a range of blue/mauve hills in the distance. As we got closer, the hills appeared more reddish brushed with frosty lime stubble, an effect created by the Spinifex growing all over them. And all around the ground turned from orange/red to dark red and in some of the hills even a sienna/burgundy colour. The image of the ghost gums with their toes in the dry river beds, stark against the red earth and pale, pale blue sky is nothing short of breath-taking. (Geoff turned poetic.)
That’s all for this one folks.