Ningaloo south to Steep Point

Monday, Aug 03, 2015 at 20:53

Navigator 1 (NSW)

Saturday 18th July Monday 3rd August

Our mission now was to enjoy the coast of WA south of Ningaloo, to revisit favourite places and to explore new ones especially Steep Point, the most westerly point on the Australian mainland.
From Ningaloo Station we travelled south down the coastal track joining Ningaloo and Cardabia Stations. It was in good condition and the low bushes, with fresh growth resulting from recent rains, made it not so scratchy for the truck.

Many short tracks branched off over the dune to the coast. One led us to a high spot right at the water’s edge. As always in WA, ‘windy always’, we had wind but the truck was used as a wind shield. This was perfect! No other campers, sun, blue skies, sand and the Indian Ocean.
For 3 days and nights we soaked up our very special spot. We walked on the beach, had dips in the ocean, enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner on the cliff and admired the spectacular sunrises and sunsets.






After a visit to Coral Bay for water and a quick look around we headed further south to Carnarvon making an overnight stop at Lyndon River Rest Area.
On our 2009 visit we just called into Carnarvon for fuel and supplies but this time, we decided to explore the area.
We read that Carnarvon is situated at the only point of the Australian coastline where the central desert reaches out to the sea.

We drove around the plantations on the fertile river delta of the mighty Gascoyne River and purchased produce from several growers. The river is unusual in that the water sits unseen below the riverbed in underground reserves protected from evaporation by the sand. Periodically the river flows visibly after heavy rains.

After exploring the town itself and the boat harbour we went out to the Heritage Precinct to see One Mile Jetty which was built so that livestock and wool could be exported to Fremantle and essential goods for the town could be imported. We learnt that Carnarvon was the first port in WA which loaded livestock on board ships for transport to markets.

The jetty once boasted an animal race the length of the jetty along which the sheep and cattle were driven from holding yards to the ships. The jetty transport system ceased in 1966 when the state ships stopped calling but this does not stop visitors today from walking the length of the jetty or taking a ride on the Coffee Pot Train as we did. The cost was $5 per head to walk along the jetty and $10 per head on the little train. Money raised is put back into restoration of the wharf.
On our next visit we will walk the 2.5km old tramway route that linked the jetty with the town, visit the lighthouse Keepers Cottage Museum and Carnarvon’s OTC dish, an Earth Tracking Station that was built in conjunction with NASA in 1966 as a satellite communications and tracking station. The station was involved in the Apollo space missions. Today it is the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum.





On the northern side of the Gascoyne River a track led out to Quobba Point. Although the seas were relatively flat, the swell resulted in a great show at the blowholes.
Further north was Quobba Station, very popular with the fishermen, The HMAS Sydney 11 Memorial cairn, the salt loading facility at Cape Cuvier, Red Bluff and Gnaraloo Station.
The HMAS Sydney 11 memorial is in memory of the greatest single Australian maritime loss of lives during WW11. Every November 19th a memorial service is held at this site. Red Bluff beach and 17mile beach were the landing sites of two of the German HSK Kormoran life boats carrying survivors.
To see the salt loading facility was my mission but of course, we found that it was not open to the public.
The coastal track was heavily corrugated and when I said, ‘Let’s continue to Red Bluff

Just a little further north from the haul road into the salt loading facility we took a short track to the coast and BINGO, we were on the cliff top looking straight back at the loading facility. Salt poured from the conveyor belt onto a huge stock pile and a bull dozer pushed it around.
We had a glorious sunset and an impressive view of the loading facility lit up for the evening. As usual with mining, it is a 24hr day operation.

The Dampier Salt Mine is situated close by on Lake MacLeod and produces both salt and gypsum. This large coastal lake covers 2,072 square kilometres, is 110kms long, 40km wide and is only separated from the ocean by coastal dunes.

In the morning I walked carefully to the cliff edge and down below, strewn along the rocks, was wreckage from a ship. Study of my Oziexplorer maps indicated that it was the wreck of the Korean Star that had come to grief in a cyclone in May 21st 1988.

In the morning we walked down the track that led to the wreckage and explored the rusting remains. Amazingly enough, there was no information board about this disaster. Thank goodness for the internet!
We were hopeful that a bulk ship would arrive before we left to load salt, but no such luck.






With Carnarvon done until next time we continued south. Our next stop was Gladstone Bay which had come highly recommended by Exploroz members. This coastal area was once part of Yadinga Station but is nowcontrolled by CALM.
Like Carnarvon’s One Mile Jetty, Gladstone also had a small port facility constructed in 1910 for transporting supplies by boat between local pastoral stations and Perth.
‘The Gladestone jetty remains the most substantial wool-lightering structure on the Western Australian coast. The 287 metre long stone causeway lead from a wool-store shed, the footings of which can still be seen today, to a 77 metre long timber jetty.’
Today the jetty provides a resting place for cormorants, pelicans, sea gulls and pacific gulls. Fishermen venture to the end of the wharf in hope of catching something big but we observed that the most successful fishermen were using nets.
Each day ten to twenty travellers came in. Three nights at $5.50 p/p, p/n was a bargain. Apart from water front sites we were provided with flushing toilets, fire wood and water, suitable only for washing.




Finally our next stop was to be Steep Point!



The Steep Point Ranger advised us that rain was forecast later in the day and Useless Loop Road would close. It was go immediately or wait several days.

Useless Loop Road was well maintained due to the mining activity at Useless Loop but as soon as this road turned north we were into the NP and the sandy track leading to Steep Point – in total a 3 hr trip.
The 6 beach campsites at Shelter Bay were all occupied so for 2 nights we stayed out on the cliffs at Steep Point. The views were amazing! Only 4km across South Passage was Dirk Hartog Is. We were looking across to the point where, back in 2009, we were looking across in the opposite direction.
From the cliff tops we watched fishermen head out to the open sea in their little boats and the endless procession on whales on their migration north.






After our second night we headed back to our beach campsite for a further 2 nights but we found it had not been vacated. Rain the previous night resulted in the closure of Useless Loop Road – campers had to stay put. No one in, no one out. Fortunately for us campers at Scavengers camp site had vacated the previous night so we slotted in.
We were right on the beach only meters from the high tide mark. Wow! Although the wind was up the sun was out and we had a glorious day soaking up the view.






At 3.00pm the road was again open for those who wanted to leave. Around 6.00pm more campers came in.
On the morning of our last day we had a thunderstorm and rain squalls all day. Rain had also fallen south of the park so, once again, the road was closed.





The Ranger advised that we would we would have to stay for two more days, free of charge. What a
bugger!


The outback calls
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