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Published: July 28th 2008
We have scored a two week contract at Marble Bar school to assist the teachers in using technology in the curriculum to enhance learning. Rather than being flown there and staying at the rather primitive motel there as Rags did earlier in the year, we have negotiated with the school to allow us to travel there with our caravan and stay at the caravan park. This has allowed us to plan around the times we have to be there, taking a week or so to travel the 1800 kms there and maybe longer to return. This will give us plenty of time to see much of the country in between.
We left at about 1300 on Sunday, 20th July,a beautiful, fine winter's day. Our first stop was at Bullsbrook, about 20kms north of Perth, allowing us to check the caravan and ensure that all was ok. We have found that the draft from oncoming trucks is such that the extension rear-vision mirror gets slapped flat against the car. Rags knew about this from the previous trip but the packing of cardboard in the gap no longer makes a difference. This will need some work before we go much further.
The old and the new! We visited the museum at Payne's Find Battery. It was great. Judy found out what a gold battery does!
At the top of Bindoon Hill (which the Jeep climbed with ease) we stopped for a bite to eat and a rest. From here we continued through New Norcia, Dalwalinu, stopping at Wubin to fuel up. We were fairly pleased to only need 51 litres of diesel for the 280 kms we had travelled considering the hilly country and our speed of about 95 kph. Tomorrow the road is flatter and we intend trying speeds of between 85-90 kph to compare.
We stopped for the night at Jibberding Rock, a bush camp about 23 kms north of Wubin at 1700. After a celebratory champagne and some food we read for a few hours (and Judy 'played' with her iPhone) before calling it a day at about 2030. We had a late night last night at a most enjoyable “Christmas in July” with local friends and need a good night's sleep!
Monday 21st July 2008
It was very cold when we awoke at about 0700 so we stayed in bed until 0730 under our warm blankets. After breakfast we had a hot shower, what luxury to have this in the van!
On the road at about 0930 and
Elaine at Payne's Find
A real colourful character!
our first stop was Paynes Find, 120kms up the road. Here we went to the old Battery where rich ore is crushed and the gold extracted using a large sheet of copper on which mercury is spread, the gold forming an amalgam which is then scraped off, the mercury removed by distillation leaving the gold. All of this was explained to us by the owner of the battery, Elaine Taylor, the only female owner of such a facility in Australia. Before learning of her name Rags asked if there were any Taylors still in Paynes Find. It turns out that Elaine is the daughter of Alf Taylor someone who Rags met when he was 7 or 8 years old at Narndee Station where he lived whilst his father did some building there. Rags has fond memories of Alf as he used to take him kangaroo shooting as well as let him listen to his C&W records in the shearers' quarters after work. Small world!
From here we continued to Mount Magnet where Judy re-acquainted herself with the school principal there. After having a tour of the school and some afternoon tea with her we set off for 'The Granites”,
Payne's Find Battery
The only Battery in Australia run by a woman.
a spectacular rock formation with white chalk pits and caves. All the literature we had read recommended this as an overnight camping spot but a sign at the entrance made it clear that no camping was allowed.
We continued therefore, for another 100 kms or so to Lake Nallan, 20 kms north of Cue. We were a little disappointed we couldn't stop at Cue but it was nearly dark when we arrived. After setting up the van for the night ( so much easier and quicker than camping) we had a few nibbles and refreshments, before cooking a delicious chicken stirfry.
The temperature fell quickly after 2000 and a comfortable warm bed and a book was appreciated by both of us.
Tuesday 22nd July
Once again we arose at 0730, this time to a very chilly morning, ice had formed on our windscreen. After a walk around part of Lake Nallan, where we met a group on their way to Mt Augustus, and saw a couple of units very settled in, we left the beautiful scenery determined to return at a later date.
After breakfast and a hot shower we were on our way
at 0930 to our first stop, Meekatharra, 96 kms further north. Here we drove around the town and after refuelling, were quite happy to move on. Two of our friends spent a couple of years there in the early 70s and we're sure nothing much has changed since then.
Except for a stop for lunch, we drove 516 kms today, besides Meeka there were only a couple of roadhouses to pass by before we reached the mining town of Newman. We were both surprised at the number of Wedge-tailed eagles we saw today, most feasting on one of our animal emblems, the kangaroo, who had become road-kill. Years ago, Rags remembers it as being rare to see these magnificent birds, but since they became protected they have flourished.
After the many kilometres of low scrub and red dirt it was an eye-opener to see the green of Newman. We quickly settled into the caravan park, where we had a bbq dinner and a celebratory drink (again!) whilst batteries were being recharged and our water tanks replenished.
Wednesday 23rd July
Had a great day today, everything seemed to click. We awoke to car doors slamming and moving off
at 0630. These were the workers off for a 0700 start. We rolled over and Rags got up at about 0730, Judy sometime later.
We unhitched from the van and had a tour of Newman. Judy knocked on the door of her step-brother Jeff, but he was either asleep or at work. We drove to the lookout over the town, returning to do a little bit if shopping at the Woolworths store. After refuelling at the BP station (if you want service or cleanliness give it a big miss) we returned to hitch up the van. We had an early 1130 lunch and were on our way.
About 200kms further and we were in Karijini National Park. We accidentally drove into the quiet “overflow” camp area and not until we left it, after unhitching the van did we realise what it was. No problem, the aboriginal ranger at the Visitor Centre allowed us to pay for 2 nights even though it is meant for overnight only.
As Dales Gorge was nearby we drove in and walked down to Fortescue Falls where many foreign young people were admiring the scenery, all from the Backpacker bus in the carpark.
From here we walked the 30 min trek to Circular Pool. The light here was too poor to take good photos, early morning would be much better.
Back at the campsite we found that many more people had arrived. Next to us were 4 older people, New Zealanders we found out later, in a small people mover with 2 small tents and minimal equipment. They told us they had been touring like that for the last 4 months, from Brisbane to Coral Bay, they now moving south before flying home in a month's time. We are travelling in luxury!
Thursday 24th July
It was cold this morning, the New Zealanders telling us it reached -3 degrees and was presently 0 degrees.
After breakfast we left the van and set off to explore some more gorges. About 30kms up the reasonable gravel road to Kalimina Gorge there was a warning on the dashboard that the RH back tyre pressure was low. We used our new electric pump to boost the pressure but by the time we got to the gorge parking area the warning was repeated. The spare as then fitted with only a few expletives uttered
The first gorge we visited.
The lookout above the gorge showed a beautiful pool and lots of green vegetation. This encouraged us to climb down with our backpack full with lunch, fruit and water. After checking out the pool we set off downstream with the towering cliffs on both sides. The path was fairly easy and we passed by a deep pool until eventually reaching the end pool which had a small arch on one side.
We had lunch near the deep pool, but even though we were quite warm when we stopped, after washing our hands in the icy water, all thoughts of a dip disappeared!
We then continued to the Joffre Falls lookout, very spectacular from a distance, if we hadn't walked through the previous gorge we may have been tempted here. Instead we continued to Knox Lookout once again a spectacular view. The walk to the bottom of this was classed as one for experienced and well-prepared walkers- we didn't feel up to it today!
As Judy is fighting something off and not feeling 100% we returned to the van where, after a nice hot shower, we had a read and a 'nanny nap'.
By about 1700
We walked the full distance of this gorge (about 3km) and by that time Judy was ready for a rest.
the campground started filling up, with tents, vans and a couple of very luxurious mobile homes. The New Zealanders joined us for a drink and talk before they went off for their dinner. As their gaslight isn't working they go to bed early.
We had a vegetable omelette to us e some of our defrosted vegetables and eggs. Delicious!
Friday and Saturday 25-26th July
These two days were spent mainly travelling, firstly to Port Hedland where after booking into the caravan park near the airport we found the Beaurepairs outlet and on finding out that they don't make 17 inch tubes we had to buy a new tyre. A little haggling and we got it for the same price we were quoted in Perth, including balance and fitting.
We drove around Hedland, Cooke Point and South Hedland, stopping to shop for a few things at Woolworths. Nothing we saw changed Rags' mind on how he felt about Hedland all those years ago! It would probably be ok once you lived there and fitted into the community.
We arrived in Marble Bar just before lunch after a leisurely morning and fairly sedate drive. Several caravans booked
into the caravan park before us, not many spaces being left. The manager was expecting us as when I said we had a booking she knew who I was without asking. We were given a bay at the back of the park where we wouldn't be disturbed too much by vans coming and leaving.
Judy was given a quick tour of the town and on noticing that the Principals house was open we went and introduced ourselves to Carol Mills. We met her partner, David, the principal of Nullagine school and before we knew it we had been employed for another week there after finishing here, with the offer of another couple of weeks at the end of the year. We'll see!
The evening meal was had in the communal BBQ area where we spent the evening talking to a group of people who had just come in after a 4 week trek through the Rundell National Park.
Sunday 27th July
Today we saw the nearby attractions of Chinaman's Pool, the Bar, Flying Fox Lookout and the Comet Mine Museum. We enjoyed sighting many birds, there being a couple of pelicans, ducks, and other waterbirds feeding at Chinaman's
as well as a large flock of Sacred Ibis. In the scrub near the bar we noticed Spinifex Pigeons, Kingfishers, the usual flocks of pink & grey galahs, as well as a few others we didn't recognise. Next time we go out there we'll take our bird book with us.
A lazy afternoon reading and snoozing followed, the temperature up in the high 20s. We were told by our neighbour that it was raining in Perth. Won't be a late night tonight, we are expected at school in the morning just after 0730 as school runs from 0800 to 1400.
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