Life's a beach... until the rains came down and the floods came up

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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia » Carnarvon
December 27th 2010
Published: January 19th 2011
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Since leaving the UK in August, we have been through quite a bit. Crazy bus rides, constant travellers tummy troubles, foul breathed camels and an overnighter in a Tibetan Hospital had all started to take their toll. We were feeling just a bit jaded and keen to get back to the Southern Hemisphere for the first time in nearly five years.

Our next stop after the Philippines was the sedate and civilised city of Perth in Western Australia.

And so the final chapter begins.

Days 1-3 – recovering in Perth

The guy at MAF is young and cheerful. He seems to be smiling a lot and calling everyone ‘Mate’. I feel confident that he will have no problem with the carved wooden bowl that Chris warned me not to buy from the Philippines. I carried the bowl for two weeks in my backpack and after all the hours it took me to choose it, I have formed an attachment to it. I am convinced that it poses no threat to the bio security of Australia and have already pictured it on our future living room table.

Unfortunately the nice young MAF guy has the ability to be nice as well as quietly assertive. He very cheerfully points out the little holes where borer mites have set up home inside my bowl. The options aren’t great. Either pay $30AUS to have it fumigated or hand it over to the MAF guy and let him incinerate it. Devastated. Bye bye, bowl. Luckily it only cost about $5NZ to buy in the first place but I still cling on to it for a few seconds too long as I hand it over. The MAF guy laughs. Ohhh Maaate…

We are greeted at the airport by a fantastic old friend who we haven’t seen in years. I pretend to have dust in my eyes at the arrival hall – it is just so great to see a familiar face again!

We are given free range of the house and spend a day washing our feral travelling clothes and eating toast and drinking tea with REAL MILK. The next day we are treated to a sight seeing tour of Perth and visit to the local beaches with the girls. One of the highlights has to be the fish and chips that we eat down by the sea. Sorry our
Happy to arrive in AustraliaHappy to arrive in AustraliaHappy to arrive in Australia

Reunited with good mates in Perth!
beloved British friends. There is much I loved about the UK but really, the fish and chips cannot compete with those in the lands-downunder. The fish is so fresh, it is nearly swimming around on the paper. It is the best meal I have had for a very, very long time.

After a fantastic few days we wave goodbye to the Perth girls and pick up our rental camper van. It is clean and efficient but completely lacking in character. We start to miss our old van that we owned in the UK and resolve to get our own van again one day in the future.

After receiving instructions about avoiding kangaroos(?!), we set off for the 900km journey up the coast to a little place called Carnarvon.

Days 4-6 Meeting the locals

The direct journey from Perth to Carnarvon is 900km of boredom. The radio can’t pick up any station and the endless games of ‘I spy’ soon have us both teetering on the edges of sanity. As the miles increase so does the temperature. Every 300km we stop to go to the toilet. The air is so hot that it feels like a giant
Water, water everywhere.Water, water everywhere.Water, water everywhere.

Locals getting about Carnarvon during the floods.
hair dryer is blowing on us. Surrounded by a vast nothingness, it actually feels kinda scary.

After a few hours I begin to read the tourism brochure about Carnarvon that I picked up from the rental company. It is filled with facts about ‘Carnarvon and the Gascoyne River Region’.

I read it quietly to myself. I read it aloud to Chris. Boredom kicks in and I read it again. We then start to play a game of ‘count the dead kangaroos lying on the side of the road’ and then start coming up theories about why they are there. (The intense heat depresses them so they wander out on to the road to commit suicide – this is possibly untrue, but who knows what goes on inside a kangaroos head?) This game too gets boring so I decide to read the ‘Carnarvon and Gascoyne River Region’ brochure once more, for old times sake.

By ten o’clock in the evening, we have managed to avoid turning marsupial into road-kill and are feeling completely exhausted. After a bit of navigation, we arrive at the Ozzie relatives, family home.

They are thrilled that we have arrived one piece and immediately crack open the beer and wine. I love the ozzie hospitality already, but am feeling a bit nervous about meeting the Ozzies for the first time. For once, I don’t know what to say. I open my mouth and suddenly facts about the ‘Carnarvon and the Gascoyne River Region’ come gashing out my mouth and I just can’t stop them… Oh yeah, the first Carnarvon tramway started operation in 1884, while the third one ceased operation in 1965. The Carnarvon Satellite Dish stopped working in April 1987, yeah, did you know it was used in tracking Halleys comet…?

There is a large chance that the ozzies think me insane at this point.

Over the next few days we start to blend into the ozzie’s life. They take us to visit some plantations where we are treated to a life time supply of mangos before climbing up the previously mentioned satellite dish. We are force fed at every opportunity – cooked breakfasts, ‘help yourself to whatever you want’ lunches and huge dinners are the norm. We spend a glorious day snorkelling at The Sanctuary – a stunning little lagoon with crystal clear waters and beautiful fish, as
Real fish and chips.Real fish and chips.Real fish and chips.

Okay, fush and chups. But it was good. Sooo good.
well as checking out ‘The Blowholes’, an amazing piece of coastline north of the town.

The temperature is horrific. It is so hot it makes me even dizzier than usual. By the second day it reaches 44.6 degrees and hits a record temperature for December. Even the locals are staggering under the heat and saying that it is actually hotter than usual for this time of year. Lucky us.

Days 6-9 Heading North to Exmouth and Coral Bay

We wave goodbye to the ozzies for awhile and head another 400km up the coast to Exmouth. The road is incredibly boring and the heat intense. The highlight of the drive is the tropic of Capricorn sign (where we pose like fools and nearly pass out with the heat) and the giant termite mounds that dot the landscape.

On the way up to Exmouth we stop at the utterly beautiful and deserted, Coral Bay and wonder briefly if there is any point heading further up north to Exmouth. After a quick wander about, we decide to press on and continue to further up north.
During our time in Exmouth we discover possibly the worst thing about Australia. Sorry all Australians, but the flies in this part of the world are pure evil. Chris reckons they are like mini Satan’s with wings. They land on us incessantly. They buzz around our head and land in our eyes, crawl up our noses and try to penetrate the brain via our ears. At one stage I become so angry and can be seen running across the campsite with a towel over my head, screaming “GET AWAY, GET AWAY, GET AWAY, WHHHHY? What do you WANT from me?!?!?!”

We make an effort to get in touch with other wildlife in the area too. Under the cover of darkness, we wander down to the beach and are lucky enough to spot a huge loggerhead turtle laying her eggs in the sand. We snorkel at Turquoise Bay and see amazing tropical fish swimming around in the crystal clear waters of the Indian Sea. We even spot a huge (about 3 metres) shovel nosed ray cruise within meters of us, which I mistake for a man eater. I now possibly hold the Turquoise Bay record for the quickest exit from the water. Ten minutes later we see another large shark cruise on by. I declare the waters ‘shark infested’ and will only go into waist deep for the rest of the day.

Despite the flies and the intense heat, we are having a good time.

Just then the park ranger ducks his head into the camper and warns that a tropical cyclone is on its way.


Days 9-12 The ozzies take shelter

The ozzies stick to their pre-arranged plan and decide to journey north to meet us in Exmouth. After one night, the cyclone warning has turned into a warning for extremely heavy rain and we begin to feel just a little bit nervous.
We head South now and start to wonder how bad the rain will be – flooding is predicted but Chris and I still can even comprehend how a dry place like Western Australia could possibly flood.

By the time we get to Coral Bay, we get a taste for heavy rain and the way floods occur in Australia. Quite simply, the rains come down and the floods come up. Within a day, the rain worsens, roads are shut and we are trapped in Coral Bay.

We listen to news reports of what
The long, long road through the outbackThe long, long road through the outbackThe long, long road through the outback

Not much in the way of scenery...
is happening in Carnarvon – things aren’t looking so good. After awhile, the rain stops and the sun comes out in Coral Bay. It is a bit windy and the water is not as beautiful as is usually is but we spend the time lying in the sun and swimming in the sea. It is hard to believe that further inland and South, the area is becoming a disaster zone.
After a few days, the road back to Carnarvon opens for a few hours and we make a bee-line South. It is a tense and scary drive. We drive in a convoy through the worst of it and have to be towed through the deepest sections. After hours of driving we come to the Gascoyne River and see the first flood waters heading towards the town. The locals are sandbagging low-lying plantations and we are warned to fill the van up with petrol, even though we have over half a tank left. The ozzies are in the know.

By the following day, the petrol station is underwater.

Days 12-17 Hanging in Carnarvon

During the night, the flood-waters travel down the Gascoyne towards the town. By the early
Beautiful Coral BayBeautiful Coral BayBeautiful Coral Bay

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
hours, they breech the levy banks that protect the area. Emergency shelters are set up in the town hall and about 200 people bunk down on the floor. People living in rural areas are plucked from their homes by helicopters and cattle and kangaroos are washed away in the floods. Parts of the town are deep in brown water and there are reports of the waters reaching roof height, a few hours east of the town. Food runs low in the supermarkets and the fruit and vege section is empty apart from a few sad old carrots.
Now we are worried. The roads to the North and South of Carnarvon are shut and slowly we begin to realise there is no way in the world we are going to be continuing the holiday and visiting Monkey Mia and Shark Bay on our way back south. Another day passes and then we realise that we won’t be getting home for Christmas Eve either.


Days 17-20 The long road home

The ozzies are fantastic. They look after us in everyway possible and make our stay an enjoyable one. They even hold a mini Christmas for us and treat
Chris taking a dip at Coral BayChris taking a dip at Coral BayChris taking a dip at Coral Bay

Shame it was a bit windy, it's usually even prettier than this!
us to an amazing sea food dinner. Everyday we phone the MainRoads company to find out when the roads will open. The road south has been so damaged that even when the waters recede, the road stays shut. The campervan company is getting twitchy and family in New Zealand are gutted that we will be away for our fifth Christmas in a row.

By Christmas Eve we stock the van up with litres and litres of water and bid the ozzies a sad farewell. While it is not something we want to do, we decide to head north to join a main highway that runs inland. This loop route back to Perth takes us through the hottest places we have even been to and is 2300km long.

Christmas doesn’t happen for us this year. Christmas Eve is spent driving – Christmas Eve dinner consists of chicken from a tin and pot noodles. Christmas dinner is tinned fish on dry cruskits. We drive, we drive and we drive….

When we finally reach Perth on Boxing Day, we are shattered and so grateful to be picked up by one of the lovely Perth girls and her dad. They take

Warned Rodderick not to go roaming about in the outback by himself...
us to their place where we help polish off the Christmas leftovers and take a nice long shower.
Qantas is fantastic about getting us on another flight and by evening we are waving teary eyed to the Perth girls as they drop us, and the faithful backpacks off at the airport.

Just under five years of travel is nearly over and we are about to return to New Zealand for the first time since 2006. What could possibly go wrong?

Day 21ish One more step along the world we go…

We sit onboard our aeroplane and wait for take off. After awhile we begin to wonder if there is going to be a hold up. Quarter of an hour later the Captain apologises. They have just had a bit of ‘technical difficulties’ but ‘no worries, it’s all sorted now’ and we will ‘take off shortly’. Woohoo!

Four and a half hours later the lights in the cabin come on and the Captain bids the passengers good morning. He thanks us for flying Qantas and announces that we are about 30 minutes away from Sydney.

A slight murmur goes through the cabin. Confused, Chris
He's behind you!He's behind you!He's behind you!

Chris hiding from the local terrorist at the camp ground.
and I look at each other. ‘Shouldn’t we be landing in Brisbane?’
‘Oh yes’ apologises the Captain. It appears that the technical difficultly has returned in the form of a lost APS system. I wonder what that is for a moment before the Captain announces that it is ‘nothing to worry about, just a bit like loosing the sat nav in your car’. Since the weather is too bad to land in Brisbane without it, we are diverted to Sydney where it is marginally better. It appears that Queensland is now having a bit of bad weather and flooding is predicted…

So this is our final blog entry. Yes, after a missed connection, a few hours delay and a lost backpack, we did make it home to New Zealand safely. Certainly the saying ‘better late than never’ is true in this case.

Since leaving New Zealand in 2006, we have been blessed with so many great experiences. The United Kingdom was kind to us and we will never forget all the fantastic people we have meet along the way.

Now we are back in the place we called home for the first 25 years
of our life, and ready to embark on the next stage of our life and hopefully, start exploring our own country. Look out for a few more blogs about the ‘Land of the long white cloud’ in the years to come.

haere rā

Thanks for reading!

Anna Chris (and Rodderick!)

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Getting arty in the backyardGetting arty in the backyard
Getting arty in the backyard

Entertaining myself during the floods
Floods are rubbish.Floods are rubbish.
Floods are rubbish.

This area is usually completely dry.

19th January 2011

Home sweet home!
Thank you for taking us along on your travels! Great blogs and wonderful photos!
19th January 2011

LOL love your blog - lots of memories of THAT stupidly long boring road and wonderful Ningaloo...and flooded out roads :) I personally think roos are suicidal too...why wait 4 hours for a car to come along in the middle of nowhere and jump out infront of it to certain death? stupid marsupials! Glad you enjoyed your trip.
27th January 2011

Home Sweet Home
Blimey...just when we thought your adventures couldn't get any more...well, adventurous! We are so plased to hear that you are back safely. Hopefully see you very soon in the S.H! xxx
6th June 2011

loved your adventures!!!
We did our big trip 17yrs ago now and reading your blog bought back lots of happy memmories.we now live in Perth and just happened to be on that red eye flight on boxing day to Brisbane that ended up in Sydney !!................ It's a small world??? Have fun on your next adventure wherever it may be x
28th September 2011

You two inspired me!
I am going to use your trip as a guide to explore the world. Thank you so much for sharing!

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