Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fowler’s Camp (Denham) 28 – 29 October 2006

Believe it or not, it rained last night at Gladstone – we were amazed, as it is the 4th time it has rained on our trip. There was a short thunder and lightning show across the water and minimal rain, though it kept up an occasional light shower through the night. Although there hadn’t been much rain, we were conscious of the threatening clouds and the bad track we had traversed to get to the camp, so we decided to pull up stumps to be sure, however it was fine and the clouds rolled on by with a rumble of thunder. We stopped at a nearby lookout that offered stunning views over Shark Bay and the dry coastal lakes of red soil. Next stop was Hamelin Pool to look at the stromatolites, which if we hadn’t known, we would have mistaken for rocks! You access the viewing over a board walk and when you look across them they are beautiful, distinct shapes. The biology of the micro-organisms was interesting, with the cyanobacteria being one of the first life forms (3,500 million years old) which raised the earth’s O2 to 20% all those millions of years ago. Thank you micro organisms! This was also the site of another Telegraph Station and the quarrying of shell blocks to make the local buildings. The whole area is comprised of tiny shells about 5 metres deep that have cemented together. The walk out to the stromatolites and quarry was blinding from the white shells. After lunch we went onto Shell Beach, which unsurprisingly is made up of billions of these minuscule Cockle Shells. It was marvellous to walk on the beach, crunch the shells, sit on the shells and drop them through you hands. The bay was shallow and we strolled out about 500m with water up to our ankles!
We then moved up the peninsula towards Denham and to Fowlers Camp, one of four recommended free camps before the dreaded caravan parks! This turned out to be one of the most beautiful spots so far, right on a large shallow bay, with stunning marine colours reflected in its calm waters. No one else came and we thought we owned paradise. It was so relaxing we decided to stay another day. In the morning we went for a long walk along the beach to the other side of the bay and found a few really wonderful shells. Unfortunately we also found a long dead Loggerhead turtle and although he had been dead a while, his beauty was still evident. He was covered in large white bleached barnacles whose lives were also cut short. In the afternoon we relaxed, had some fresh scones and went for a swim – heaven!!
How dare someone else turn up! We have neighbours over the back a bit. Hope they keep quiet or we will have to report them to the Paradise Police!

Don't you get sick of sunsets - NO!

Gladstone 26 – 27 October 2006

Moved on for a short drive down to Gladstone and set up camp for a few days. This is a spot 6km down a dirt road to the remains of an old village on the shore of Shark Bay. Nothing remains of the old town, however there are numerous camp spots to stay, all within a stones throw of the inlet. About 8 caravans or motor homes dot the shore, well spaced out, as seen on the Four Corners program about Grey Nomads. Apparently we are not grey nomads; we do fit a category quite unsurprisingly called Baby Boomers. On Thursday we went for a row in the boat, however we could not see any signs of the dugongs or dolphins. However this is a peaceful spot, though windy. The afternoon included a 5 km walk along the north shoreline and tomorrow will be the south. Shark Bay includes Monkey Mia on the other side of this bay. It is a World Heritage site because of the special features such as the biggest sea grasses meadows (4,000sq kms) with greatest variety in the world. This also means that unique species can live here such as the dugongs (10,000 – 12,000), turtles and the dolphins. It is also unique due to the high salinity of the water which means only specialised rare fish can live here. This in turn leaves no predators for dugongs. It is also one of two places on earth where the microbes seen in fossils 3,500 million years ago still exist, continuing to make stromatolites, living fossils in the shallow waters. These are considered the earliest recorded life on earth. Whilst they are alive things are not over yet! We will see these living fossils soon at Hamelin Pool. The water is so green we are not sure if this is aquamarine. When seen next to the blue sky it is certainly like the marine commercial colours that never seem real. Keep seeing things that we thought were fake!
Took the boat out again and used the motor to get out further. Travelled over big areas of the dark patches of sea grass but disappointed not to see any dugongs. One vague brown shadow may well have been one but even if it was it was not enough to satisfy us. Hopefully we will be able to see one further around the bay. We will move on in a day or so.
Met up with a rough sort of couple here who have been on the road for 12 years. They hosted the evening drinks outside their motorhome. Fascinating to see yet another way of travelling – he even has home brew outside in its electric blanket! Can’t move on until it is bottled! He collects fossils and wowed us with his finds! A very old, elegant woman on her own came across from her campervan. She looked 80! Another old trendy couple came across, the gentleman sprouting a long grey plait. Looked like late 70’s. Said they had been married 58 years! The road offers lots of interesting meetings though the majority of time is still on your own! Which is fine by us!

Gladstone - Don't forget to shut the bloody gate!

Edaggee Camp 24 October 2006

Up early to the sounds of lots of lovely bird calls and a refreshing cool morning.
Drove off into the wind for Carnarvon. This area is a major horticultural area for WA, with all kinds of crops grown – including BANANAS! On the outskirts we encountered the banana plantations and started to get excited about our prospects of getting some! Bought our first bag of 10 for $6. Carnarvon seemed such a normal country town. After 5,000km it was strange to walk around a town that wouldn’t look out of place in any eastern state. There were old churches, shops and houses and an attractive main street leading to a harbour. Before we left we found the road where the farm stalls are and managed another two bags of banana at $4 kg! (We did eat quite a few for morning tea and lunch and our supply became low very quickly!) Also bought a huge pawpaw for $3, a bag of beans, 2 bags of ruby grapefruits and a bag of very flavoursome tomatoes. Couldn’t fit any thing else in the fridge!
Moved on to a peaceful bush camp with another beautiful sunset. A friendly Belgium woman travelling on her own enlightened us on other places she had travelled -Mongolia, Russia, China etc. She was doing it a bit differently in a little hire car that she sleeps in without a tent. She just lets the seat back and sleeps in a sleeping bag! She also does not cook. Just eats dry food! She said she had got rid of her husband, works as a postperson doing 50 km bike riding daily, and takes about 3months leave without pay to travel every year. She takes very little with her as far as we could see as the car seemed empty! Would not suit our style!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Delightful Carnarvon

Minilya Camp 23 October 2006

Parked Jimmy in the all-day car park at Coral Bay and wandered down to the beach for a snorkel. Although not as prolific as further north, we did see some reef fish and coral, especially in an area called the Lavender Patch. However the highlight of the snorkel occurred when Peter spotted a Loggerhead Turtle swimming lazily along. We followed it for about 10 minutes. Really comfortable with the snorkel and flippers and able to go a bit further and stay out longer now.
After lunch we swam in the bay which was a bit too milky, however it was still fantastic. We saw large clams, heard the parrot fish crunching the coral and swam over a huge vibrant purple coral that was like velvet - all extras we had not seen. Every time there is a different highlight. This is a very easy way to get to see a coral reef as it is so close to the shore. It is easy to see the popularity of this attraction but it so much less developed than the Barrier Reef.
Camped at a stop after a road house that wanted $21 a night to park in their back yard. We don’t need anything from them so we would rather stay away. We think in the old days (not long ago) they let people park out the front but they are becoming a bit greedy for the tourist dollar. Shame because that is not what most people want.

Coral Bay Sunrise

Coral Bay 22 October 2006

After one quick, last look at Exmouth, we set off down the road to Coral Bay. Called in to the prawn farm but it was closed. Very disappointing! We had indulged with our Swiss companions on our way in with 1kg of tiger and king prawns that were huge, fresh cooked and not frozen. Moema and Alamo left two days before to ride on into the wind that is going to be hard work for them. As they leave at 5am the wind is less ferocious. Coral Bay is at the southern edge of Ningaloo Reef and a lot more accessible and touristy. It is still only a small village consisted of a few houses and shops, two caravan parks, a hotel, 25 prominent Telstra phones (now we know where they are all going) and 1,000 unregistered quad bikes – they were everywhere and seemed to be the locals preferred method of transport. Arrived about 5pm and Moema and Alamo greeted us yet again! It had been a very windy afternoon and although it continued that way in the evening we still went for a walk along the beach. Found lots of beach alcoves out of the wind and took time out to watch the sunset on the water again. Then home to a great dinner and a glass of red.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jurabi Pt looking for turtles

Snorkling at Turquoise Bay

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Cape Range NP 18 – 21 October 2006

Up ready to leave after a spot of banking for Laura at 8am and returned to see how the motor home and car washing was going. Yes! You can wash your vehicles here despite there being a modest water supply. We really were getting caked-on red dust, so a few layers have been taken off with the wash. Peter showed Alamo how to rinse whilst Peter used the broom, for in Switzerland they don’t wash cars that often.
With our 2 Swiss friends in tow, we went straight to the Mesa campground in the NP. This was a magnificent spot with views across to the beach and ocean and a great swimming area. We can see the ocean through the bedroom window. As soon as we settled we were down in the water. On our first day the water appeared turquoise and it was better than the photos of any beach we have seen. The colour is surreal and the sand a blinding white. We swam looking for the coral and although we found a little bit we guessed there would be a better spot close by. However, we did see beautiful fish and had a lovely swim.
Within this NP there are about 8 camping areas and no water available except for the one bore nearby to us. We called by to check it out and were thrilled to observe about 12 emus vying for a position to drink. What was so amazing was the sight of this big fluffy ball with the majority of them sitting on the ground with heads down looking like a feather mop of gigantic proportion. The kangaroos hovered back a bit waiting for their turn.
On Thursday we went down to Turquoise Bay to snorkel in the drift reef. You get in at one end of the beach and drift down to the other, admiring the coral and colourful reef fish. The coral is very good but the fish are the highlights - so colourful. It’s a bit fast but with flippers you could control your speed. The coral is so close and it is easy to swim out to, then rest and then jump back in! After Peter’s sea sick voyage to the Outer Barrier Reef, this was heaven.
On Friday we said goodbye to Alamo and Moema and headed to the north of the park to following up on some turtle sightings. While there were lots of turtles in the shallows they didn’t land on the beach. We then moved down to the Oyster Stacks, where the coral is at its closest. The coral starts about 10m out and is so close that it was unnerving going over the top. It’s best at high tide and we were in 2hrs past it - another hour and we would have missed out. We enjoyed being so close and it was easy to believe we were in a paradise. We moved back to Turquoise Bay around from the main snorkel drift reef to a perfect cove and snorkelled in calmer waters. The coral was less plentiful, but the fish were still amazing colours. Saw a few big fish but no sharks. Lots of tourists did see sharks but, although everyone assures you they are all harmless reef sharks, Heather was not convinced. Despite her plan to remain calm there was no guarantee that she wouldn’t walk on water if she saw one. Our friend John D. has always maintained that most sharks are more afraid of us and that in his encounters he hasn’t had any trouble. John’s words were worth a thousand in that water.
Back to our camp and enjoyed the company of Robyn and John who caught up again! Felt a little sad to think we may not overlap much as they are now taking it slower than us. Watched them fishing for a bit at sunset with an image better than the finest west coast postcard, and found the trail of a turtle that had come up onto the beach and made a big U turn in the sand. It was like the tracks from a big tractor about 1m wide. You could see each flip of the flipper propulsion and a great big belly drag in the centre. Went back at night to see if there was any other action but only found masses of middle size white crabs jumping everywhere. Wind has come up a bit too, but what can you say - this is the west coast. Temps have been milder around 26-27deg and we are already thinking that this might be far enough south and starting to miss the hot weather! Memory is short. A cardigan on tonight and a blanket out for the bed! Rain in Perth some 1500km away! It was so nice in the NP, that we decided to stay another day, however the wind really started to howl, making it more of an indoor day.

A feather duster of emus


Exmouth 17 October 2006

After all the hype, Exmouth was a forgettable town. It was established as a joint Australian/American communication base, but unlike similar towns such as Woomera, has little charm about it. Although the developers are trying to ‘Noosify’ it, it is still run down and lacking any central hub about it. Saw the excavators digging out the canals for the new development that includes a Novotel Resort, with blocks between $450 – 700,000. The only thing going for it is that it is close to Ningaloo Reef, 60km away, that is very popular with tours and campers. Maybe that will be enough, although the photos we saw of the 1999 cyclone would make anyone think twice before buying. On the way in we purchased king tiger prawns and mud crabs from a big well run prawn farm and feasted on them that evening, with Alamo and Moema.

Beasley River 16 October 2006

Drove onto Tom Price (pop 2500) early in the morning and although it was a typical mining town, they had gone to a bit of trouble to make it attractive. It was green and tidy and because of its elevation of over 1000 metres, it was so much cooler than you would expect for a town so close to Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia. Did a big shop in Coles and was amazed how fresh the shop was compared to many others in such remote places. Caught up with Robyn and John, and readied the Swiss bikes on the roof for a fast take off after our afternoon tour of the Rio Tinto’s iron ore mine. It is one of the largest mines in Oz and like all the mining areas we visited, is set for a dramatic expansion. We were in awe of the large trucks they use to carry the iron ore from the mine to the trains. They can carry 250 tonnes of ore, cost $3 million and each tyre costs $100,000! We then picked up our Swiss bike riders, Alamo and Moema, again and set off 650 km for the coast.
Settled in to a bush camp site and had a lovely evening listening to the travel stories of our companions.

Big Yella at Tom Price Mine

Tom Price RIP Camp 15 October 2006

Left Karijini National Park and enjoyed looking at the Hamersley Mountains and the colours of the rocks. Climbed up part of Mt Bruce to afford a spectacular view of the soft green countryside and across to one of the Rio Tinto iron ore mines. Watched a very long ore train pull its enormous load across to Dampier – some of the trains are over 3km long. The different ore companies nearby do not share ports or train lines and there is a current court case running for a new mining group that is trying to forcer BHP to share the line. Enjoyed lots of interesting mauve flowers again and played photographer for awhile! Moved on to find a rest area labelled RIP Lookout in our Camps book. We were not sure if it was a good omen. It turned out to be a particularly beautiful spot with 360 deg views with cairns made up of hundreds of memorial rocks painted with simple, personal messages. There was a sign inviting anyone to do the same and two paint pens available. Peter found a few rocks and we
added our own tribute to friends and family. Peter found one rock in the shape of a fish that he wrote his Dads name on. Other people came in the soft evening light and added their own messages and hung about telling us mining tales whilst drinking beer. They wrote their message on a miner’s hat. It turned out to be a special place.

Heather doing the 'shampoo add' at Circular Pool

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Karijini NP 12 – 14 October 2006

Up early for us and gone about 8.00am - though our new travelling companions (Alamo and Moema) are used to getting up at 3.30am and setting off at 5.00am. The scenery became more hilly and pretty as we got closer to the NP. We also started to see quite a few varieties of pink wild flowers. The country is like a soft water colour painting and the spinifex softly touching the edges of all the colour patches and the hills and mountains are yielding greens, mauves, yellows and oranges. At sunset it is even softer. It is perhaps the prettiest landscape of the hot arid lands. One information board wrote that it was like a multicoloured carpet laid on the ground. The diversity of plants is amazing and this is reciprocated at night, with a fruit salad of insects getting in to the kitchen sink where we stunned by the number of different creepy-crawlies - hardly two of anything the same and so many sizes. Dingoes are also around and it was wonderful to hear their wild howls chorusing in the night. Whilst sitting out in the evening we saw a very large one move quickly behind the car a few times. We have been warned that they take your shoes or anything left outside!
Next morning, we climbed down 200m of rocky stairs to get to Fortescue Falls and a beautiful pool below it. It was a magic moment of course and so rewarding. Another 10 mins along the gorge was a big pool shaded by paperbarks and masses of ferns. The water was an unusual blue/green and lots of little fish dashing about. Couldn’t resist another dip and in Heather went. Felt a little soft nip and decided that might be enough. Whilst climbing out another unexpected nip to the arch of the foot sent the knee upward at 100kms and hit the wooden platform, resulting in a bruise of significance for a week!
On Friday we drove to the other side of the park to see more of the really spectacular gorges. We enjoyed Three Way Gorge lookout, Weano Gorge where we had a lovely swim, Joffre Falls, which was an incredible deep, narrow, straight-sided gorge. A Celtic cross stood by this amazing lookout commemorating the recovery of an SES volunteer who was swept to his death in a flash flood whilst rescuing a tourist in 2004. It was a scary place just to look down into with no way out. The car has proven to be a fabulous way of getting into these special places.
On Saturday hiked down to Circular Pool, at the end of Dales Gorge. The pool was at the bottom of a 200m drop and necessitated clambering over enormous blocks of ironstone. When we finally got there, we saw soaring cliffs reaching up to a diminutive lookout. The water was cold but did not put us off and we enjoyed splashing around the pool and playing under the waterfalls. It was very special and yet another “shampoo add” came to mind. The water spilling out of the rocks near the bottom created a platform of ferns and a natural shower. The greatest surprise was the pleasantly warm temperature of the water. Everyone was having a ball, as the pool was shared with a small bus load of European backpackers who were really letting their hair down jumping off the ledges. We leapt in where the kids had been jumping and it was Heather’s first big jump since her miss-spent youth. Certainly cleared her sinuses unexpectedly.
Rather than climb up the very steep rock face, we opted to walk along the gorge to the Fortescue Falls knowing the walk up there to be half the steepness and height and we would have a final swim at the end. This turned out to be a terrific decision and we had a lovely shady walk along the creek with dragonflies of many colours (red, green, aqua, blue and a few plain ones thrown in), surprisingly few birds and heaps of lizards. The highlight was a mysterious loud rustling of leaves that did not stop. When approached we found a huge, rusty brown (iron ore coloured) goanna taking his time to walk by. We watched for a few minutes until he made a lightning bolt strike on a lizard and came back near us to swallow it by slow gulps and holding his head up high. It was really fantastic. We saw the most beautiful blue rocks we had ever seen in the gorge and after close examination of the growth of blue on the edge realised it was blue asbestos! It was no surprise as the notorious Wittenoom Asbestos mine is about 50k away – now abandoned as far as we know.
Enjoyed the company of a couple (Robyn and John) we have met a few times who are currently following the same path as us, on a similar time frame. I tell them they are our only friends when they turn up. It is nice to see a familiar face occasionally and have a bit of a laugh.

Auski Roadhouse 11 October 2006

Met up with the Swiss bike riders again and offered them a lift because we were going inland to Karijini National Park and that is a long, hot detour. They were tired from their 2,000km ride from Darwin and happily jumped at our offer. From Broome to here it has been quite monotonous and very hot and we were pleased to help make their trip a bit easier. They do have to go to Melbourne yet but said they were not going to ride across the Nullarbor! We all settled at a roadhouse that was very forgettable and noisy because of the big generator going all night.

Karijini NP - Fortescue Falls

Port Headland 7 – 10 October 2006

In the morning, we watched the tide come in. What had been a large mudflat with a few rocks sticking out quickly filled up with sparkling blue water. We watched fishermen launch boats next to a sign warning of the dangers in the water – crocs, sharks, sea snakes, stingrays, stone fish and stingers. No chance of a swim here!
On to Port Headland which we were told was a nothing - guess what, they are right! It’s like taking a holiday in Port Kembla but with lots of orange Pilbra dust that has ground into everything to make a hazy-brown landscape. The wharves create a bit of interest and contrast but the set-up is huge industrial scene. Went on a tour of the BHP iron ore loading setup and were amazed at the rail systems. Trains come in about 6 – 8 times a day from Newman about 3kms long with hundreds of ore trucks. They actually have a record haul of 7.2kms train with only one driver.
They incongruously produce masses of salt nearby and the spectacular pyramids of white are a blinding sight - probably the prettiest thing in Port Headland. It takes about two years to dehydrate sea water into salt. About 2% of it is for domestic purpose, the rest for industry. We stayed at the nearby settlement of South Headland about 15km away, where the majority of the population live, however it felt like a combination of Penrith South and Walgett. Thank goodness there was a pool at the park and $2 washing machines (they are usually $3 each!) Paid a fortune to get the air conditioner fixed yet again. Expensive due to “difficult research”. Nice guy ripping off tourists!

Port Headland Nightlife

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cape Keraudren 6 October 2006

As we were leaving in the morning, we had a chat with another couple who had just pulled up in a motorhome. They built it from scratch and proudly showed off the features. They were totally committed and had sold their home. They were on their way to Qld for Christmas. Seems they have darted back and forward across Oz for years. Tried to get to the coast and gave up after 9k on one road because it was too corrugated and sandy. Found another nice place with a superior road that was much better maintained and shorter. Beautiful big bay with a huge tide that amazed us with the distance it went out. The exposure of the flats created a staircase to the sunset and a staircase to the moon set at 5am which we thought was magic. Kangaroos around early and large numbers of little quails dust bathing and fossicking around our door. Little did we know until next day that the sandflies had also had a feast.


Stanley Camp 5 October 2006

Left Broome for still more sunny days south! The weather reminds us that we have had only three days with rain since we left Kiama 6 months ago! The country appears flat with coastal vegetation, though very much drier - hot and sunny to say the least. Stopped to help a young English couple on road in old ford van with a ‘split’ in their radiator hose, however sadly for them it was shattered beyond help. It reminded us that this area is remote as they were half way to nowhere (still 2,000km from Perth). We helped a bit with encouragement and saw a truck pull up, so hopefully they got a lift to Broome 200k away. It would be nice to think that was all that was wrong but we doubted it and wondered if this would be the end of their adventures - so glad we have a reliable vehicle. Found a bush stop with a few others and enjoyed a lovely bush camp with the perfect sunset, a cooler night, a wood bbq and lots of birds. Met a Swiss couple that we passed earlier on the road riding from Darwin to Perth. Much admiration for such a feat. Seems quite a few Europeans do it.

Heather enjoying the Broome sunset

Broome 4 October 2006

Heather arrived back to Broome to 33deg and really felt the difference. After complaining that Melbourne was cold it seemed surreal. It was great to catch up with the family and friends in Kiama. The flight over Australia only took about 4 hours to place you in another world. From the air you can not imagine driving through it all as it looks so isolated and inhospitable. There seems to be thousands of salt lakes and continuous sand dunes. Flew over Alice, the East and West McDonnell Ranges and Uluru and it was difficult to comprehend them from the air after seeing them close up. Both images are true - the remoteness and aridness from the air and the intimate beauty of all the plants and animals close up.
Celebrated Heather’s return with a meal out at the only restaurant with a view of the sunset over the water. It will take a bit to get back to our relaxed travelling lifestyle!

Pearl Farm at Beagle Bay

Beagle Bay church

Beagle Bay 22 September – 3 October 2006

Peter here, flying solo while Heather is away. I decided to get a job at a pearl farm on the Dampier Peninsular (about 150km north of Broome) as I want to see more of the country and also have a closer look at an Aboriginal community. The road north was all dirt (or sand) and got progressively rougher and narrower the further I drove. The Arrow Pearl Farm is a big enterprise and employs up to 30 people. My job is to paint the staff accommodation. As well as your wage, you get free board and lodgings, including laundry. As there is nothing to spend your money on out here, most people save quite a bit of money, which to be honest is the only reason they can get staff to stay. By working long hours for 13 days, I was able to finish painting all the accommodation before I left, in need of a holiday! Also drove up to the local Aboriginal community to have a look at their local church. This is well known as it is entirely decorated with pearl shells – a remarkable sight.