Debbie & Geoff's

Australian Safari

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Travel Blog - July 2017

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Friday 30th June – Sunday 9th July 2017

On the road again and heading to town. Carnarvon is our destination to get supplies, water and have a bit of time in a caravan park before heading bush again. We started out staying two nights but decided to sit tight as it is school holiday time and our next destination is a very popular tourist area. Carnarvon a small town and lots of people from Perth come up and stay for weeks or even months to get away from the winter chill. Again the days are lovely but the wind still has a chill factor that goes right through you.
This area leads to quite a bit of exploring and the town certainly seems to need an injection of money towards its heritage sites. A trip to One Mile Jetty just proved how run down the whole thing was. There was the Light House Keepers’ Cottage, a Railway come Shearer’s museum and the Pier. From what we were told there was only 4 volunteers that helped with the place and so much work needed to be done. The pier itself looked downright dangerous and was supposed to have a train that ran along the tracks but the whole thing was in such disrepair I doubt it was still going. We did venture out and walked the length, well at least till the part that was fenced off and crumbling into the sea. The die-hard fishermen were still out there and they climbed through a hole in the fence to cast their lines and take their chances. We did see a turtle swimming around the pylons and a lady pull up a decent sized fish, but no one else seemed to have much action.

 One Mile Jetty      End of One Mile Jetty      Old Tramway Bridge
One Mile Jetty               End of One Mile Jetty                           Old Tramway Bridge

Our next explore was down to the Old Tramway Walk Trail which took us from Town Bridge to One Mile Jetty. The land was very flat and salty but it was a nice walk though through the bush with interpretive signs along the way and we stopped for a photo at the old tramway station.

 Old Tramway Station      Quobba blow holes      Quobba coast
Old Tramway Station               Quobba blow holes                           Quobba coast

We took a drive to Quobba where we were amazed again by some blow hole action. This was a scouting mission for us to stay later on. Right on the ocean we have a choice of another station stay or at the blow holes. The station didn’t inspire us at all, compared to the last two stations, this one seemed to be lacking in character and so when we leave Carnarvon we shall head to the camp at the blow holes. But I am racing ahead of myself. The coastline at Quobba is again different. The blow holes are scattered along the coast and at any time we could have two or three jets spurting up into the sky. The rock formations were easily negotiated and pool of crystal salt formed in hollows that gave a sparkle. Further towards the campground is a wonderful swimming area that is supposed to be excellent snorkelling to see coral and fish. Though we didn’t venture in today maybe when we come back to camp we will give it a go.

 Wedge-tail Eagle      Quobba coral lagoon      Quobba blowhole
Wedge-tail Eagle, road to Quobba               Quobba coral lagoon                           Quobba blowhole

Another day trip was a visit to The Rocky Pool . The Gascoyne river also only flows a few times a year but in the Rocky Pool they have water most of the time. You can imagine what a find it would have been for stockmen to locate this pool of fresh water in the middle of a sandy river bed. The colours of the earth and rocks and contrasting with the clear blue sky was amazing. Geoff put the drone up to get some shots and give us another perspective of the area. From here we drove back towards town and visited Chinamans Pool , also part of the river that has water in it for most of the year. We did a walk up the river through a bush path till the place where the water just stops and disappears again into the sandy riverbed. Unlike Rocky Pool this area is bushy with vegetation where Rocky Pool is very sparse except along the banks.

 Rocky Pool      Geoff      Geoff & Debbie
Rocky Pool

Carnarvon is also known as a food bowl for Western Australia and the produce here did not let us down. We stopped at a farm stall and bought vegies that were in season, zucchini, pumpkin, beans, spinach and the best ever tomatoes that we have had since Greece. Only stable we had to worry about was potatoes, as we all know Geoff loves is taties. They also have a wonderful fish shop where we stocked up the freezer on local fish and prawns and locally made crab cakes which I fried and had on wraps for lunch with sweet chilli sauce, lettuce and tomato, they were delicious. We also visited the local markets that were held each Saturday, again fresh produce was sold but also homemade jams, pickles, and chutneys. Also the usual candles, knitted scarves, bed socks and homemade jewellery stalls, dotted around. Really not a bad turn out of crafty stuff and also a Tupperware stall which I did not expect to see.
Our last evening was a full moon and Geoff had been waiting for this opportunity to take some amazing photos of the satellite dish with the full moon rising. The funny thing was as he was waiting for it to get dark he actually thought that someone had put a huge spotlight on the dish. It wasn’t long till he realised it was the moon rising up. The glow from the moon was striking and he took some wonderful shots.

 Carnarvon satellite dish      Carnarvon satellite dish      Carnarvon satellite dish
Carnarvon satellite dish

Monday 10th – Thursday 13th July 2017

As school holidays are still in full swing we have now decided to hide out at Quobba Blow Holes camp site. This again is off the grid camping with no water or power but they do have toilets and a dump site. It is right on the coast and the sun is shining and it seems a lot warmer than Carnarvon though not that much further north. The site is owned by the council and at only $16 per night made for a nice bargain. We are located right near the beach and each day we take a lovely walk up the shore line. The sand is gritty, and you sink into it as we stroll along. Geoff tried his hand at fishing but again no fish were harmed so far in this holiday, he did manage to catch some weed though. An old fisherman actually gave us some Mulloway fish fillets as he goes fishing every evening and catches way too many for him and his wife to eat so he kindly offers it to people like us (the fishermen who don’t harm any fish).

 Beach front camp      Quobba coral lagoon      Quobba Island
Beach front camp Quobba               Looking north to Quobba                           Quobba Island and lagoon

This is the first place we have seen whales from the shore. The migration is fully on and we have been lucky enough to spot pods of these monsters swimming past and breaching in front of us. Geoff even went snorkelling in the little lagoon out the front. There is a small rocky island on the other side of the lagoon and he swam out there to have a look at the birds that were nesting there. He also had the joy of spotting a giant eagles nest that was perched on the rocks. When he first spotted the nest there were two White-bellied Sea-Eagles sitting on it, but when he investigated it closer he was disappointed to see the nest had not been used for a few years. The other birds that took his fancy were Turns and there seemed to be a nice variety for him to look at.

 Sea Eagle Quobba Island      Sunset Quobba camp      Sunset Quobba camp
Sea Eagle Quobba Island               Sunset Quobba camp                           Sunset Quobba camp

Again we met some lovely people and also some strange types. We teamed up with Sue and Mike for drinks in the evening before retiring to our vans for dinner. It is so pleasant watching the sun set over the water having a glass of wine and good conversation and heading inside as the night gets cooler and the stars shine down.

 Sunset Quobba camp      Morning Quobba camp      Whales close inshore Quobba
Sunset Quobba camp               Morning Quobba camp                           Whales close inshore Quobba

 

Friday 14h - 22 July 2017

A quick dash back for a few nights stay at Carnarvon to get a few more supplies and fill up with water and get some washing done before we made our way up to Ningaloo Reef. Our first port of call was Bullara Station which was a working cattle station. Loved this quirky camp and I think it was one of the best. We had power and bore water which is fine to cook and wash with just a slight salty taste and they do not recommend drinking it. After our arrival we took a drive through their property to the Exmouth Gulf, the tracks were sandy but no need to let the tyre pressure down so it was a bit of a cruise drive. The soil is getting redder as we travel north and where the gulf meets this property it is a great spot for fishing as there are mangroves. And where there are mangroves there are birds so Geoff was very happy with all that he spotted.

 Bullara Station      Bottle tree      Eastern Curlew
Bullara Station entry                       Bottle tree & camp kitchen                                   Eastern Curlew

 Oyster catcher      Osprey      Coral Bay
Three dozen Oysters catchers                       Osprey                                   Coral Bay

Our next day we drove to explore Coral Bay. A tiny little town that seems to be just one giant caravan park. Geoff went snorkelling and I took my first swim for the season. Now don’t forget it is still winter and the water was rather cool so it took me a while to actually submerge the body.

Back at the homestead we went for a walk amongst the red sand dunes where the sand is so fine it seeps into the shoes and leaves a lovely little pile to be shaken out when we got back. We returned in time for the evening damper night where Damper John regales stories of the station and makes a true blue damper for all of us to try. After Johns delicious damper we sat around the fire chatting to fellow travellers before retiring back to cook dinner in the van.
Our next morning was misty and Geoff raced out of the van to get some amazing shots of the landscape and farm animals. Very entertaining watching 6 sheep wander past your van while you are trying to pack up.

 Foggy morning at Ballara      Sheep in camp      Bullara Homestead gates
Foggy morning at Ballara                       Sheep in camp                                   Bullara Homestead gates

From the station to the township of Exmouth . This is famous for Ningaloo reef and swimming with the Whale Sharks. Our plan was to stay two nights to enable us the swim but unfortunately they were all booked out so we shall return later this week. We took a drive up to the top of the peninsula to the lighthouse and had some wonderful views of the coast. Stopped at where the turtles hatch but it was out of season so no baby turtles or adults for us. Then up to the lighthouse that was commissioned in 1902 and started operating in 1912.

 Vlamingh Head      Vlamingh Lighthouse      13 US Spy Radio Towers
Vlamingh Head                       Vlamingh Lighthouse                                   13 US Spy Radio Towers

The town of Exmouth came about due to the USA having a big hole in their communications network for the Cold War. Exmouth bridged the gap and the town was born. The thirteen radio towers were installed in the 1960’s and the town was created to service the families that were relocated here.
This small town is also the first time I have ever seen a family of Emus using an actual road crossing in the middle of town. I was so dumbfounded that I didn’t have time to grab the camera to take a photo. Later in the van park we were also visited by an inquisitive emu who seems to take an afternoon stroll around to check out any tasty morsels that might be available.

 Emu in Caravan Park      Cape Range      Local Osprey
Emu in Caravan Park                       Cape Range                                   Local Osprey

From the town of Exmouth we were booked into Cape Range National Park, staying at the Osprey campsite. We have three nights here and as it is such a popular camp site we have to move each day to a new location. Starting at site 8 then move to site 45 then back the other end to site 10. On our first day in the park we stayed around the camp. We met up with our friends Sue and Mike who we met up with at Quobba Blow Hole and Geoff went fishing with them down to the beach. Still no fish have been harmed in this trip but we are still trying. The next day after moving the van to its next site we went to Mandu Mandu Gorge We did the walk which takes you down the dry river bed where the base has white, pink and salmon smooth pebbles, the walls of the gorge are orange and red and offer a striking contrast. From the river bed we climb up the gorge till we are walking on the ridge and following the track back to the car park. I made it in one piece and took a few pictures to prove it. This was a class 4 walk and I hate class 4! As all my friends know I am just not a very good rock climber and being the cluts that I am it certainly takes the enjoyment out of a walk when I can’t enjoy the scenery as I am too busy watching where I put my feet.

 Osprey Camp Ground      Osprey Camp Ground      Sunset out van window
Osprey Camp Ground                       Osprey Camp Ground                                   Sunset out van window

From there we visited Turquoise Bay and Geoff donned his wet suit and went for a swim. Then bay certainly lived up to its name as the colour of the water was beautiful. That afternoon we drove to another gorge which was known to be home to Black Footed Rock Wallabies and we were not disappointed. We watched one that was on the floor of the gorge and then I heard a few pebbles tumble down, turning around there were two more wallabies peering down at me from the rock wall.

 Sundown drinks      Spinafex Pigeon      Rock Wallabie
Sundown drinks                       Spinafex Pigeon                                   Rock Wallabie throwing stones

On our third day we headed to Yardie Creek . As this is tidal it is the only gorge in the range that has permanent water. They have a little boat trip that goes up the creek but we decided to stretch our legs and do the walk along the path. It is a lovely area and again the colours of the gorge walls was breathtaking. That afternoon headed in the other direction and visited the information and interpretive centre. They have a very good display and we spent quite a bit of time there before heading towards the Mangrove area. We strolled out to the bird hide, but the birds were hiding so that was a bit disappointing.

 Yardie Creek      Yardie Creek      Mandu Mandu George
Yardie Creek                       Yardie Creek                                   Mandu Mandu George

 Wedge-tail Eagle      Yardie Creek      White-wing Farywren
Wedge-tail Eagle                       Wedge-tail Eagle                                   White-wing Farywren

At this camp we have a camp host who look after the camp. Clean drop loos and there was also garbage bins. Each night there was a 5pm sun downer where we got together and have a chat with fellow campers also a few drinks with Mick and Sue did not go astray and we hope to meet them again along the track as they are also heading north.

Sunday 23rd July

Back to Exmouth, Geoff had booked to do a swim with the Whale Sharks the next day. Leaving Exmouth at 7am he was picked up outside the park and headed back to Cape Range where the boats depart. On board they have a marine biologist and a camera person among the crew. A plane is used as a spotter and after about one hour at sea the first whale shark was spotted. The spotter plane guides the boat into contact with the whale shark. When feeding (the sharks eat plankton and other micro-organisms, not people) they swim just below the surface. Wearing wetsuits, goggle, snorkel and flippers they were lined up on the back of the boat in two groups ready to slip into the water. Lucky for Geoff they only had 11 people on the boat usually there is 20, so they dived in small groups and got to spend more time with the sharks. The first whale shark was about 8 meters long not big for a whale shark. There was another boat that shared the spotter plane, this means one boat had its swimmers in the water and the other boats lined up at safe distance in front, with each boat taking turns. Geoff did about 10 swims with this shark. There is strict controls put on the boat operators, they have a National Parks Satellite Tracking device on board and have to enter everything that happens, when they leave port, when they drop swimmers, when they pickup the swimmers, when they have lunch and snorkel over the reef. They have to photograph the sharks and sent all this to Parks every day, very controlled Eco Tourism.

 Geoff swimming with Whale Shark      Geoff swimming with Whale Shark       Geoff swimming with Whale Shark
Geoff swimming with Whale Shark

 Geoff swimming with Whale Shark      Geoff swimming with Whale Shark       Geoff swimming with Whale Shark
Geoff swimming with Whale Shark

There were a few other boats that had moved into the area and their spotter plane noticed a smaller whale shark further away so his boat left and headed to the next spot. As they arrived there was a pod of Humpback Whales with calves some very young cursing along so this was an added bonus. This next whale shark was somewhat smaller which turned out better it was easier to keep up after 10 swims with the other shark.

 Ningaloo reef      Geoff swimming with Whale Shark       Geoff swimming with Whale Shark
Ningaloo reef

The day was a huge success as he also saw dugongs and dolphins with small young. By the end of the afternoon he had been lucky enough to have had 15 swims and was buggered by the time the last swim came around.

Sunday 25rd July

Time to move off the coast and head towards Karijini National Park. We had thought of stopping for 2 nights free camp along the way as it was 700 km distance to drive, but our first day we travelled further than we originally planned and stayed in a lovely free camp near Mt Stuart. The scenery changes as we travel inland, wildflowers abundant by the side of the road, the soil is red then brown from the iron ore and we suddenly realise that we have trees. The mountains are green with slashes of red where the rock is exposed. The pale green grasses are spinifex which is spikey but the softest green colour and some of the hills looked like they were blurry from the vertical stripes caused by the spinifex.

 Quail under the van      Wild flower 'Mulla Mulla'      Wild flower
Quail under the van                       Wild flower 'Mulla Mulla'                                   Wild flower

Sunday 26rd July – Saturday 29th July 2017

Next afternoon we made it to Karijini National Park which is just east of Tom Price. The park was full but we were able to stay at the overflow which was perfect for us. We head off to Dales Gorge Camp Ground first thing in the morning. After setting up we took the day to explore Dales Gorge with a walk along the rim of the gorge before venturing down to the waterfall and then to Fern pool. The wild flowers in this park are just beautiful, purple, white and yellow create the carpet of colour that leads us to the gorge.

 Wild flower      Wild flower      Wild flower
Wild flowers

 Debbie and anthill      Circular pool      Four Ways Lookout
Debbie a checking a chunk of Iron Ore                       Circular pool                       Four Ways Lookout

It is so hard to describe the rock formation of the walls of the gorge. The colours for a start are orange and red with blue asbestos shot through some of the formations. They have vertical layers that have been fractured from pressure and you can pull out small fragments like a jigsaw puzzle but hope the whole cliff didn’t come tumbling down. Large sections seemed to have cracked away from the main wall and just tower there, looking like large Lego blocks. The gorge is cool around the waterfall and we watched the people swimming and sun bathing before heading to the Fern Pool. This was another oasis and you were asked not to jump into the pool but use the steps in respect to this being a sacred site.

 Wild-flowers      Wild-flowers      Fortescue Falls
Wild-flowers

 Gorge wall layers      Gorge wall layers      Fortescue Falls
Gorge wall layers                       Gorge wall layers                       Fortescue Falls

Our next adventure took us to another Gorge and we decided to drive a loop with sealed road to start 85 km and come back via the shorter dirt road 32 km. The first stop was Weano Gorge The lookout showed where 4 gorges intersected and after our view we decided to take the walk down to the gorge. Rock steps led us down and again we just marvelled at the wonderful rock walls, the formations of the rock itself and the floor of the gorge where a small stream slowly moved its way along. It would be frightening to be here when a flash flood occurs as there is no quick escape and they have had fatalities in the gorge. We headed further up the gorge along the track (Grade 4) which got narrow in some instance and made for interesting walking trying not to get wet in the creek. Eventually the track started to climb and it was not long before we made our way back to the rim and car park.

 Fern pool      Weano Gorge      Weano Gorge
Fern pool                       Weano Gorge                       Weano Gorge

 Weano Gorge       Four Ways Lookout      Four Ways Lookout
Weano Gorge                       Four Ways Lookout                       Four Ways Lookout

Next stop was a lookout into Joffre Falls. Though the falls were only trickling into the pool below the rock formations did not let us down and you could just imagine what it would be like to see them in full flow after a heavy rain. Then it was time to head home along the dirt corrugated road and with red dust flying and the car jumping it reminded me of last year when we were up the top end (Cape York) and the vegetation on one side of the road had a red tinge due to the prevailing winds blowing the dust over everything.

 Joffre Falls       Karijini      Iron ore
Joffre Falls                       Karijini National Park                      Black is Iron Ore

 Wild Flowers       Wild Flowers      Wild Flowers
Western Australian Wild Flowers

Our third day was a drive to visit Tom Price. The town itself is tiny and really I did not think it warrants that much attention. But if you weren’t camping out in the park it was a good place to base yourself to do a day trip and also do a mine tour of the Rio Tinto Mine.

 Brown Falcon       Strange Lookout      Dales Camp
Brown Falcon                       Strange Lookout                       Dales Camp

During the drive we stopped at two lookouts, the first being Mount Bruce which is the second tallest peak in W.A., The lookout gave us great views of Marandoo Mine site which commenced in 1994. Again the scenery is breathtaking looking out towards the red of the mine and watching one of the longest trains being pulled along. Geoff worked out it had over 300 empty cars being towed towards the mine just waiting for the ore to be loaded in.
Another lookout was a bit strange. There was no sign pointing towards it and when you reached the lookout itself the circular rocks were all painted with memorials we have seen this before on sea break walls and it is quite interesting reading the names and dates written down. I am not sure if I class this as graffiti and I always wonder who was the first to think it is a good idea for a remembrance.

Sunday 30th July – Monday 31st July 2017

Time for us to move again and our first night is at Port Hedland. We decided to camp at the South Hedland Golf Club as it was reasonably priced compared to the van parks and none of them got very good write ups in WikiCamps. This was a stop to restock the van with supplies and water before heading further up the coast. Some vans parked in the parking lot but we decided to go out the back to where the workers trucks were and hook up to power and water. They gave you a key into the back door of the club so you could use the amenities. The next morning Geoff noticed something in the grass and upon realising it was two snakes he ran back and got me and his camera to take some pretty exciting shots. We were told that they were King Brown snakes (Mulga Snake) , two males that were fighting, typical male, and not a single female in sight. After they had finished their tiff they untangled and slithered away, you should have seen how quick all of us spectators moved back when they untangled.

 Brown Snakes      Brown Snakes      Brown Snakes
King Brown Snakes (Mulga Snakes)

After our shopping expedition we were on the road again for another station stay. Pardoo Station is another cattle station that has made a major investment in tourism. They had over 100 power and water camp sights, plus donga accommodation for workers. It is also close to the coast and it seems lots of people stay here to go fishing.
Next day was quite a big drive up to Barn Hill Station where we will stay for 5 nights. What amazed us was the amount of vans that were heading south. We stopped at the Sandfire roadhouse to fill up our fuel tank and there were at least 15 vans in the cue waiting for the diesel pump, they were all heading south. After topping up we arrived at Barn Hill late in the afternoon and set ourselves up. < br/> This station is right on the beach, again a cattle station, and has 86 km of coast line. Unlike Pardoo , who is owned by a Singapore company, this station is owned by Alf and Maria Grey who purchased the property in 1960. It runs 8000 head of Brahman Cattle and the station is called Thangoo.
The Western Australia wind has not left us and our first night was very gusty and we watched the gum trees through the skylight hoping they would not drop their branches on us. The next morning was still very windy but it abated by the afternoon for us to go exploring up Barn Hill where there is a historical marker left by Alexander Forrest during his expedition to the Kimberley in 1879. The view from the top was beautiful as you can survey the land across the bush and down to the sea.

 Barn Hill Station Camp      Alexander Forrest Marker      Barn Hill Station Coast
Barn Hill Station Camp                       Alexander Forrest Marker                       Barn Hill Station Coast

We then headed off the track, ducking under the electric fence and made our way to the coast and the amazing rock formation that Geoff spotted from the hill. The colours again of the sandstone show all the vibrancy we have come to love. The rocks on the ground were something different that we had not come across. They were shiny, smooth and dark brown in colour, when you cracked it open there was sand inside. It was like an egg shell, but thicker and in some the sand inside was set hard whilst others the sand just poured out. They reminded us of the Thunder Eggs but instead of crystal we had sand.

 Thunder Eggs      Thunder Eggs      Thunder Eggs
Thunder Eggs

 Thunder Eggs      Thunder Eggs      Thunder Eggs
Thunder Eggs

 

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