Exmouth to Kununurra

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May 16th 2009
Published: May 28th 2009
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Pardoo BeachPardoo BeachPardoo Beach

Low tide
From Warroora station we headed north to Port Hedland, and had a look around before continuing on to Karratha. Some of the names brought back memories from when I lived in Hedland but a lot had changed visually and I didn’t remember too much about the place. I had an opportunity to go back to some boilermaking courtesy of a contact from Pat (from the coral bay weeks), but decided we had only 5 weeks before getting to Nhulunbuy and although we could have used the income we were tied by a timeframe and working would have squeezed us a bit tight, so we moved on.
There was only one place to stay in Karratha that accepted dogs and it was full, however luckily for us Kym’s good friend Wes had a house there as he worked as a Prison officer at the Roebourne prison. Unfortunately he was in Perth on holidays but was kind enough to let us set the camper up in his backyard! We had a look around Karratha and Dampier and visited the Burrup peninsula gas plant and Hearson cove where I used to work and live years ago. We also managed to pick up a second spare alloy wheel and tyre (from the local 4wd shop) for our anticipated Gibb river road trek for a bargain $600! (The alloy alone from Toyota is $930!) From here we moved only a little way to Point Samson, where we had a few beers at the tavern and tasted (what was supposed to be) the best fish and chips - the place has new managers and don’t bother with the fish and chips anymore =(, although it was a nice spot to have a relaxing beer. We spent one lunchtime fishing from Cossack with the locals before heading off to the next dog friendly place up the coast - Pardoo station. Different from Warroora and Ningaloo station, where you camped well away from the homestead - Pardoo had a kind of caravan park set up near the homestead, with a kiosk and a restaurant. We picked a site way down the back and spent a few days exploring the beach and surrounds. The beach was a half hours drive and is very tidal here so you need to time your beach visit if you want to swim or fish with the high tide; otherwise you have to walk for hundreds of metres to get to the water. I managed to catch dinner (a nice pan size Queenfish - which was delicious despite all reports it was not good to eat) and we spent a few relaxing days here until an incident with Sheba and a local jackeroo meant we left at dawn the very next morning......and headed to Barn Hill, about 150km south of Broome. Barn Hill had a similar caravan park setup but was much more primitive than Pardoo, although the beach was walking distance down a rich red rock hillside. The beach had quite a slope to it so even at low tide you didn’t have to walk so far for a swim. Along this stretch of coast were some remarkable rock formations that made for nice viewing on the walks we took.
Broome was next on the Itinerary and again we were very fortunate to be able to set up the camper at Stew and Deb’s place - some more good friends of Kyms. It was great to have a place close to town to restock and get the car’s 40k service done and it had been a long time since we had seen Stew so was a great opportunity to catch up on old times. We spent a couple of afternoons on Cable beach watching the fabled sunset and quite a few nights enjoying our hosts fantastic hospitality. At the end of the week we all packed our camp gear up and drove north to Menari beach, about 70km up the Dampier peninsula north of Broome. We set camp right on the beach, which required a good deal of consideration as we arrived at low tide, and it was a full moon and therefore large spring tides were current, the tide would rise 9.6 metres! The weather was perfect with only ultra mild winds and about 26-34temp range. Stu, Harry and I took the dinghy out fishing and picked up a few trevally using soft plastic lures, enough for dinner at least! We all had a great time in a magic place, interrupted only once by a passing vehicle and nobody else around for miles! We would definitely go back and camp here again.
We returned from Menari for one last night at Stew and Debs to setup for the next part of our trip - the Gibb River road from Derby to Kununurra. First
Pinnacle rocksPinnacle rocksPinnacle rocks

Barn Hill beach
stop was the May River crossing, not far along the Gibb. We set camp in the middle of the riverbed - it was dry, and we were totally bombarded by insects - mainly little moths. I had to set a fluoro lamp some metres away from the camper to act as a decoy just so we could get in and out of the camper! The road itself was not as corrugated or rough as we had expected, however we travelled at about 80kmh with tyre pressures down just below 30psi which helped smooth out a lot of the bumps. There were a lot of small creeks to ford and the most common sign along the Gibb was the ‘Floodway’ sign followed by a large dip to the floodway, a small watercourse to cross, and then a steep rise up the road level again. The countryside was quite dry, and extremely dusty!! Even so soon after the wet but it seemed like a mini spring was in place, as many of the trees were in flower and quite a few smaller plants had flowers on them also.
Some of the more famous places to visit along the Gibb river road were National parks, and as it was still quite warm Kym and I decided to avoid these and just stay where we could with the dogs. Next stop was the Charnley river station, where we spent a few days visiting the stations swimming holes. The road into the station was considerably worse than the main road, not having being graded by the council yet, with a couple of creek crossings deeper than the doorsills. The first swimming hole we visited one was a series of pools called Donkey pool, but as we crested the rocks to the third pool (the one recommended by the station managers) Kym saw a 2m croc basking in the sun so we backtracked to the 2nd pool for dip to cool off and a swim for the dogs. She wasn’t sure if it was a salty or a freshwater croc, but either of them would have the dogs for lunch!!
Next day we spent at Grevillea gorge, which you can’t access unless you are staying on the station. The track out to the gorge gave our now rather worn tyres a considerable workout, having to crawl over many very sharp rocky sections. Apparently this gorge rates up there with Bell gorge, one of the more popular (National Park) gorges on the Gibb river road. It was a bit interesting getting the dogs down to the swimming area, the first obstacle was a 10ft ladder, then many large stone faces to pass the dogs down from ledge to ledge. They seemed to understand the danger and were very well behaved and quite still all the way down (and back up!!). The gorge was magnificent, with a large ledge just under the water level to help you slowly ease oneself into the somewhat chilly water! There was a waterfall cascading into the gorge and plenty of shade to get out of the sun. There were more swimming pools further along the creek, but we were more than content to spend a very relaxing day by the water at this gorge.
Next planned stop was Ellenbrae station, but we pitched camp at an unmarked billabong we spotted along the way. The place was littered with weeds (which later turned out to be Rosellas!) and it was a little eerie hearing dingos howling their chorus at 3am with no one else around. Along the way to this stop we visited
Stew, Deb and meStew, Deb and meStew, Deb and me

Sunset time, Cable beach
both the Adcock and Galvans gorges. The Adcock didn’t have great access for swimming, but had a very picturesque approach. Galvans was a delightful swimming hole about a 1km walk from the main road. We all had a cooling dip and a look around before heading back off on the dusty Gibb river road. There are magnificent boab trees everywhere along the road, as well as hawks of all descriptions - including many sightings of the Australia's largest living bird of prey - the wedgetail eagle. Did I mention the dust? By golly there is now dust everywhere I expected it to get but almost everywhere else too...every single surface has a coating of ultra fine red powder now.
We had intended to spend the last evening on the Gibb at Home Valley station, which had luxuriously grassed campsites and an outdoor bar, but decided to push on to Kununurra and stop there for a few nights instead. To get to the end of the Gibb we explored up to the El Questro station, which although allows campers with dogs to stay, will not allow you to take your best friends to any of the swimming holes or attractions on
Fishermen returnFishermen returnFishermen return

Menari beach, north of broome
the station. We also crossed both the Durack river and the fabled Pentecost river which were the longest water crossings, but not very deep thankfully.
The Gibb river road was a very stony and dusty road, with many delightful places to stop. We think we were fortunate to travel this stretch early in the season as the condition of the road was good, and there was not a great deal of traffic to contend with.
Next update will be Kununurra and into the Northern Territory!

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


Hugh and HarryHugh and Harry
Hugh and Harry

Stew and Deb's boys, sunset at Menari beach
Queen Victoria's HeadQueen Victoria's Head
Queen Victoria's Head

Gibb River road
Donkey PoolDonkey Pool
Donkey Pool

Charnley River Station
Kym at Donkey PoolKym at Donkey Pool
Kym at Donkey Pool

Charnley River Station
Grevillea GorgeGrevillea Gorge
Grevillea Gorge

Charnley River Station

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