Monday, November 15, 2010

On the road again

(17-23 October)

Like déjà vu, we leave Broome again and until we passed our accident location 96km from town, we were a little apprehensive about the drive. After passing that point, dark skid marks still evident, we let out our sigh of relief. Yes, we are truly well on our way now.

We have re-kitted ourselves in a replacement car and camper trailer – this time a Hyundai Terracan, a robust diesel 4WD tugger, though a little more squashed than previously, and with an off-road camper trailer of the canvas tent variety. We spent a final frustrating hour or so packing our gear in the trailer and on the car’s roof, still leaving a few things behind, BUT we were on our way!

Our first destination/port of call was Eighty Mile Beach, located about 300km from Broome along what must be one of most dullest roads ever travelled – flat, with nothing of interest to divert your attention apart from endless tracts of Spinifex and mulga as far as the eye could see – more of this was to be our pleasure until we reached Port Hedland.

The Eighty Mile Beach caravan park itself is set 15km off the highway down a dirt road, but located behind the beach dunes. We pitch the camper for the night, our first in the new set-up, juggling what to unpack and what to lay out ready for bunking-in. We catch a glimpse of the sunset over the beach as we dine and then settle in for the night.

The next morning, we take a last look at this long beach – the beach that goes on as far as the eye can see in both directions. Our plan for the day is to drive and get beyond Port Hedland as the notion of hanging around a mining port strangely doesn’t hold much appeal. Apart from the mound of salt about 100metres high, there is not much of interest for us here so we stay long enough to fuel up and fill any remaining space in the car with necessary groceries.

We were looking forward to some free-camping and had ear-marked a couple of roadside rest areas as potential camp sites for the night. Having missed one, we find another and labour over an ‘ideal’ location. As we start to set-up camp, I try bashing a tent peg into the ground which proved to be as tough as the iron ore in the hills around here, so without any dynamite to tenderise the rocky ground, we pack and head off again, into the fast receding sun, gunning for another 100km to reach Roebourne, the next town and hopefully a caravan park.

Roebourne – well we make it as darkness sets in and we get a plot in the caravan park, which we discover in the morning to be well populated by mine workers as there is a local (rental) housing shortage. Oddly enough, we stay two nights, recovering from the previous day’s long drive (some 500km) and to take in some of the local sights – namely Port Samson and Cossack. The former is merely a holiday/retiree hamlet overlooking a small beach and bay – tranquil enough and bursting full of life, not.

Cossack is quite another story for it is also devoid of life but more so as it is no more than a ghost town. A handful of beautifully restored stone buildings make for what was once a bustling pearling town with shops, boarding houses and Japanese brothels – yet abandoned since the 1950s. Interesting to visit if you ever venture this way.

Continuing the journey south, we refuel and stock up in Karratha, another mining town that holds little interest for the tribe. We by-pass Dampier, its sister town and head towards Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef.

We stay at the Vlamingh Lighthouse Caravan Park just on the fringes of the Cape Range National Park – originally wanting to camp in the NP, we arrive again as sun dips beyond the horizon, so opt for the comforts of a caravan park. Needless to say, given its location, it was perfect for us to venture into Cape Range and visit the beautiful Ningaloo Reef.

The place that took our fancy for two days was Turquoise Bay – one of those rare places that not only lives up to its name, but is also a great place to snorkel over the reef – a great new experience for the tribe! They loved it – seeing the array of colourful reef fish blew them away – the excitement on their faces was beyond the joy any toy could bring them. Their favourite was the tiny electric blue fish.

The temptation would have been to stay longer so we could spend more days at Turquoise Bay, however we had to move on so off to Carnarvon we drive, where we were greeted (since leaving the Qld coast) by our first sightings of many fruit and veg plantations – like an oasis for our eyes after the dry shrubs, Spinifex and mulga we had experienced for the past 1000+kms.

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