Catching up with Helena and Mark

Published: October 20th 2016
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De Grey River bridgeDe Grey River bridgeDe Grey River bridge

Not much water here as they are in the driest season in many years.
Saturday 24th September 2016

On our way today, with an 0830hrs start after Judy had downloaded the assignments which were due last night.

The wind had swung during the night and was now a strong and gusty NE. This made for good fuel consumption once we were on the highway, although the buffeting from the side had us cut back on our speed.

The Pardoo Roadhouse was our first stop where we could not go past their famous $10 coffee and a large home-made sausage roll each for a late morning tea/early lunch. These salt laden, greasy sausage rolls were delicious!

We had intended to head to Caper Keraudren from here but after reading the negative Wikicamps' comments we had changed our minds and now drove only another 90 minutes or so to the DeGrey River rest stop, one we have been to and enjoyed before. This has now been improved with a large covered picnic area and free welcome wifi, compliments of the Royalties for Regions funding. There were very few campers here which we put down to the warm weather - we have seen this spot with a hundred campers scattered along
De Grey RiverDe Grey RiverDe Grey River

The drought has hit these animals. We have never seen it as bad as this before.
the river. But today we were able to select any spot we wanted so we walked along the river and chose a shady, flat area with views over the mostly dry river. Even though the signs say no camp fires there was evidence of many fire places. The area around the river was also extremely dry and the cattle had eaten most of the low vegetation. The cattle here looked emaciated. We later found out that the area was in a drought, which explained the poor condition of stock.

Sunday 25th September 2016

Mark and Helena contacted us and advised that they were well on their way and should catch up with us later today if we remained at the DeGrey camp. This suited us, as Judy had a number of uni assignments to mark, and was quite happy to sit outside marking with a pleasant view of the river. We were keen to have them rejoin us and hear about all their adventures in Kakadu and Darwin.

A relaxing day was had by Rags, most of it spent in the shade reading, and Judy managed to do
De Grey RiverDe Grey RiverDe Grey River

The railway across the river is now unused since the closure of Shay Gap and surrounding mines.
quite a bit of work. She didn't have as many essays to mark as she thought she might so was quickly getting through them. The Telstra signal there wasn’t strong but with the external antennae email still came in, albeit slowly. At the picnic area near the entrance to the stop the free wireless internet connection worked well allowing a limited service as long as their data limit wasn't exceeded (which happened pretty quickly for Judy).

At 1630 hrs Mark and Helena arrived and lots of stories of each group’s adventures were related. A few drinks and a meal prepared earlier by Rags and it was almost as if we had never been apart.

Monday 26th September 2016

On their way to catching up with us yesterday, Mark & Helena’s car had a blowout so it was imperative that a new tyre be bought in Port Hedland before we went much further. Luckily, most businesses in Hedland didn’t have the Queen's Birthday holiday as they had in Perth, so after a few phone calls it was ascertained that a tyre could be purchased on the Monday holiday. So
Indee StationIndee StationIndee Station

We had our sundowner here at the homestead.
it was decided to move on this morning and we all quickly packed up camp.

In Port Hedland, which was only 80 kilometres away, we shopped and refuelled while the others were having their car fixed, and then we went back to the port area to enjoy the cooling breeze there. The Information Centre there gave us some pamphlets on the Karijini area as well as a recommendation to stop at Indee Station on the way as the station owners were very friendly and there were good places to free camps along the highway.

Once Mark and Helena rejoined us we left PH for Indee station. This was voted as being a most interesting camp. The owner of the property had lived there for the past 53 years, having purchased it as a 23 year old. He and his wife were an interesting couple and as camp guests we were invited to the homestead for a ‘sundowner’, nibbles provided, BYOG. Another camping couple were also there plus a backpacker who was working at the homestead, and the station manager who joined a little later. It was most entertaining and in the couple of hours
Indee StationIndee StationIndee Station

The gate to Red Rock was a little the worse for wear!
we were there we heard about running a farm, what their lives were like, plus the usual talk at occasions such as this. We were told about the drought in the area, which was the worst the owner had experienced in all his time here. As he only had 2600 cattle here, on 500 000 acres, the cattle were still in reasonable condition and he could give them some feed. Apparently there were 25 000 cattle on DeGrey station and they weren’t being fed anything extra which helped to explain their poor state of health. Apparently, De Grey station has been reported to the RSPCA several times but nothing has changed.

Maybe that explained the gunfire we heard yesterday, many shots spread over most of the day.

Tuesday 27th September 2016

We had an early start this morning as we wanted to visit Red Rock before departing. Rags wouldn't go if it meant unhitching the van but Mark graciously offered to do this so, after breakfast, we all piled into his car and drove through the property, past lines of wrecked vehicles, vehicle parts, tyres, damaged portable buildings and other accumulated cast-offs
Crash MemorialCrash MemorialCrash Memorial

M.M.A. Flight 1750 crashed here on December 31st 1968 killing all on board.
of the last 50 years or so, to Red Rock. Red Rock is a decent sized monolith which reminded us of a miniature Uluru, standing out in the river flood plain. It is located about 10 kilometres from the camp ground and is quite an interesting feature in its own right with Aboriginal etchings in parts of the rock.

We found a waterhole here and on the other side from the track, a large accumulation of aboriginal etchings in the rock. The view from the top of the rock was worth seeing, a range on one side with the plain coming past the rock on to the highway. The latter had quad-trailer ore trucks driving up and down it, up to 8 at a time could be seen travelling either to or from Port Hedland.

Next stop was to the memorial where a Viscount plane had crashed at the station in December 1968 killing all 26 on board, including the four flight crew. Rags thought he could vaguely remember when this happened as he had been in teacher's college and one of his classmates had a sister who was an air hostess. As fate
Red RockRed RockRed Rock

This rock looked like a mini Uluru and had views all over Indee Station.
would have it, she had swapped her shift for some reason, or it would have been her on this ill-fated plane.

On our return to the camp we hitched up and set off on our way. Reaching the highway we slotted between some of the aforementioned trucks and traveled at about 90kph with them until reaching Murtjina (Auski Roadhouse) where they turned off. Helena couldn’t get over the red dust everywhere, over the buildings and vegetation, making all the trees look like red trees! Welcome to the Pilbara.

After lunch we set off again until reaching Karijini, where we first went to the Visitor's Centre. Here we paid for our camp sites and explored the exhibits in the centre. We had finished exploring the exhibits and, as it was getting late, we decided to make our way to the campsite and get set up. It was just as well that we did this as they were almost full. We were able to earmark the last two sites that were together in the same loop (Warlu) for us and the Holtons. Once they had arrived and we had set up camps, we drove

Handrail Pool, named for obvious reasons. You had to walk down into the gorge and along the riverbed before climbing down into the pool.
to nearby Dales Gorge where we climbed down over 200 stairs to Fortescue Falls. We were told it was better swimming at Fern Pool so after a short (300m) trek we could reward ourselves with a refreshing swim in this oasis.

Wednesday 28th September 2016

We decided we'd need at least another day without the van/camper in tow so we extended our stay here before we all headed out in the Jeep towards Weano Gorge which was some 60 kilometres along a corrugated dirt road where we were rewarded with some amazing views of the steep sided gorges before we decided to tackle the 1.5km return Handrail Pool trail in Weano Gorge. This began as a fairly easy walk but became a little challenging with climbing involved to get down into Handrail Pool including steep cliffs and narrow walking passages. But, true to its name of Handrail Pool, there is a strong metal handrail that helped us do the last bit of climbing down to the pool. And of course, Rags was there to give Judy a hand with the last bit! We had hardly warmed up by the time we arrived and noone was inclined
Handrail PoolHandrail PoolHandrail Pool

Whilst we were having a quiet rest here a large group of families joined us.
to swim, especially as we could hear hordes of children coming our way. When the hordes finally arrived we watched them make the final descent and asked one if it was a school group, only to be told that it was five families holidaying together. Helena counted the children and informed us that on average they had five children each!

From here we ventured to Oxer Lookout which gave us unsurpassed views out over the junction of Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre gorges. We could see the tiers of banded iron formation that tower over a pool at the bottom of the gorge. At another stop we looked at the view from Joffre Lookout and we could see people below who had done longer walks here but none of us were inclined to take of the Joffre Waterfall walk which would take at least two hours. So from here we headed back with a stop at the Karijini Eco Retreat where Mark purchased a book about the geology of national parks (and we all used the facilities!).

Back at the camp we all had a much needed rest (except Judy who worked). We had good intentions of another walk but this didn't come to fruition...

Thursday 29th September 2016

The decision of the evening before was to start early and do the Circular Pool to Fortescue Fall walk and then come back and hitch up and be on our way. But after Rags had an early chat with Mark and Helena he returned and announced to Judy that we would hitch up and park our van/camper at the car park so we weren't time limited for this walk which was estimated to take 3 hours on the Karijini information we had. This track links one end of the gorge to the other. The first part of the trail was a steep, rough track that descended into the gorge from near the Three Ways lookout. Judy was glad she didn't have to go back up that one! From here it was about 500 metres back to Circular Pool before we had to retrace our steps and hike to the other end of the gorge. It was fun negotiating the bottom of the gorge which was rough in places but easy walking in others. There were great trail markers to keep us going the right way

This town has been restored but most shops are now closed.
but even so we managed to miss these once and had to backtrack! At Fortescue Falls we had to cross from one side of the gorge to the other before climbing those 200 steps to get to the top again. Then we returned along the easier track along the Gorge Rim track to the car park. Rags went ahead and had coffee waiting when we returned.

A lot of driving was done after this and we reached Newman after lunch. Here we stopped for shopping, fuel and water. We had to ask at the Visitor's Centre about water which we needed to fill the tanks in the van but luckily it could be had here for a gold coin donation. Before leaving Newman we drove up to Radio Hill Lookout so Mark and Helena could enjoy the panoramic views of the town of Newman, the mine and surrounding landscape.

We stopped the night in a very large gravel pit south of the tropic of Capricorn. This was a huge spot well back from the main road which minimised the noise of the road trains during the night. It would have been hard to find but we had the
Cue HotelCue HotelCue Hotel

The stories the bar there could tell!
gps points from our trusty Wikicamps and so found the turnoff without a problem!

Friday 30th September 2016

Today was a day of driving. Our first stop was Kumarina Roadhouse and we later stopped in Meekatharra to explore their old buildings and have a walk down the main street.

About 100 kilometres south of Meekatharra is Lake Nallan which was to be our camp site for tonight. This is usually a dry lake but it is a nature reserve and has lots of space around it where one can camp for up to 48 hours. There are no toilets but there are rubbish bins. We enjoyed camping near a field of low - growing pink wildflowers which we think are called Parakeelya. Mark went off on a wander and arrived back with some old pieces from the railway line which used to run near here.

Saturday 1st October 2016

Cue, also known as Queen of the Murchison, was our first stop this morning as we were only about 20 kilometres away. This was a beautiful old town but it is almost a ghost town now with many of the shops empty.

We camped behind the bushes to keep out of the strong winds. This area is known for it's Wreathe Flower.
It seems the primary school is active in decorating the town and we saw many art works in evidence that featured Cue's history. Here Rags and I spotted a dump point and water so we filled up before continuing. Mark and Helena went on ahead - or so we thought - they apparently found a cemetery to waylay them!

At Mt Magnet we looked for Mark and Helena before stopping at the only fuel station in town. Here we spotted the hamburgers at the roadhouse and as we had been hankering for one we decided to have an early lunch while we waited for Mark and Helena. They arrived and joined us for coffee. The hamburgers were delicious!

Our next stop was Yalgoo. We pulled up with Mark and Helena behind us to take a photo of the town sign and then we slowly made our way through the town to the lookout thinking Mark and Helena would follow but we could find no sign of them here so we backtracked and couldn't even find them at the hotel - Mark has a fascination with old hotels. So we drove towards Pindar which had been the next destination

We were a little late for the wildflowers but there were still some to be seen
for the Wreathe Flowers which are on a dirt road just north of Pindar. Here we stopped in a car park after first sussing out their overnight stop. Here we got chatting with Jim and Ann who had just been out to see the Wreathe Flowers and thought they remembered seeing a camper like the Holton's on their way out. Eventually, the Holton's arrived and as it was nearing 5pm we decided to call it a night as it had been very windy all day and the overnight stop at Pindar had some protection from the wind.

So we pulled up here with Jim and Ann and we all had drinks in our van before dinner.

Sunday 2nd October 2016

Coalseam Conservation Park was our destination for today but our first stop was in Mullewa. Here we saw they had a bushwalk so it was decided to do the 2 and a half kilometre bush walk before leaving. Once we found the start on the other side of the railway line it was easy to follow and had several interpretive signs which helped us understand the plant species as well as something about the history.

On the way back to the car Rags spotted the only hotel in town offered a roast lunch so he asked Mark and Helena if they were interested and they were so after they had found a dump/water point, they joined us there for lunch. There wasn't much atmosphere in the pub, with the television volume set up so high that conversation was almost impossible. Such a shame, as we couldn't see anyone who was even watching it! The roast was passable.

So now we were back on track for Coalseam. This park is renowned for its spectacular spring wildflower displays but we are a little late and the walks here were dominated by late flowering acacias.

Coalseam Conservation Park is one of the few areas where black coal can be seen at the Earth’s surface. It is also the site of the first coal mining in Western Australia. One of the walks took us to the Irwin River bed where we could see the local rock exposing a striking cross-section of sedimentary layers, one of which is coal. We also found evidence here of marine fossils as this was once under the sea.

From here
North Cliff HeadNorth Cliff HeadNorth Cliff Head

Beautiful 72 hour campsite sheltered by the cliffs.
we drove to Mingenew for a brief stop before heading toward Cliff Head. This is one of our favourite spots and we hoped Mark and Helena would like it too. It has recently been upgraded with a new toilet block. It allows 72hour camping. We camped right on the edge of the beach with views of the waves and the Cliff Head Oil Platform out at sea. The smell of the coast was wonderful!

Monday 3rd October 2016

After a walk along the beach and coffee enjoying the views we left Mark and Helena and headed for home stopping at Cervantes for morning coffee and Moore River Rest Stop on the way home. One surprising and pleasurable thing happened at our coffee stop. We were in the van washing our cups when we heard a voice outside. When we went to investigate we found Steve, our daughter's boyfriend who was on his way to Port Denison with his two daughters. He had been told to look out for us and lo and behold we were just waiting for him at the side of the road! We wouldn't have had a clue if we had passed him
 De Grey Bridge  De Grey Bridge De Grey Bridge

We enjoyed an evening walk up to and on the bridge to watch the sun set.
on the road as we wouldn't recognise his vehicle.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


North Cliff HeadNorth Cliff Head
North Cliff Head

This private jetty has a sign warning you off. Is of little use as the ocean now only laps at the end of it at high tide.

Interesting little town between Mt Magnet and the coast.

20th October 2016
De Grey River bridge

De Grey River bridge
Awesome!! Is it made by Wood?
20th October 2016
De Grey River bridge

De Grey bridge construction
I'm no expert but I think it's steel and concrete. Judy
20th October 2016

Trip of a lifetime
I so much enjoyed reading your blog in one go tonight and feel privilege being part of it. Unforgettable trip of a lifetime with wonderful friends. Thanks for the good times xxx
21st October 2016

Thanks for the memories. :-)
24th October 2016

Western Australia
Enjoyed the the beaten path.

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