New Norcia then coastal camps to Greenough Rivermouth (Week 7)

Tuesday, Jun 04, 2013 at 07:54

Member-Heather MG NSW

Monday 20th May 2013 Ledge Point Big4 Tourist park.

After a quiet night during which there were showers, (but not heavy enough to know whether the leaky van has been repaired) we packed up in our bush camp in cold, cloudy conditions and arrived in New Norcia before 10AM, before the Information centre was open. We found a level place to park on the grass on the opposite of the road from the Museum/Art Gallery and put the fridge onto gas and had a quick walk around. I discovered later that it is free to park here over-night, however permission should be obtained from the Visitor centre.
First impressions of this town, which was settled by Benedictine Monks in the early 1800’s, did not disappoint. Big impressive buildings with a definite Spanish appearance lined the highway which seems to have more than its fair share of very heavy vehicles, and unfortunately runs right through the centre. There are plans to re-route the Highway in the future, as we found out during the Tour.

Having driven out of our way just to see the place I was keen for both of us to do the 2 hour guided Tour which started at 11am, and once we had bought our tickets, John retired to the warmth of the car to read the paper while I had a wander with camera in hand around the town and took some photos, and then had a look through the Museum and art gallery. The range and quality of the contemporary religious art on display there was very impressive. On my way out the door I visited the shop and spent more than $80 on packs of delicious Biscotti, chocolatti, and Nutcake baked by New Norcia bakeries. I had also intended buying some of the bread but the baker was having a holiday. Most of our goodies have been stashed away under the bed and I am hoping ‘out of sight is out of mind’ so they are still there when we return home!
While the tour was taking place, we saw B & D arrive, and around 12.30 decided to leave it and join them for lunch so they were not too inconvenienced by us. It’s one of the hazards of travelling with others I guess. But really we had had enough of the history of the place anyway, although the guide was very thorough and interesting and it was a great way to learn about the place. We visited the abbey church, old flour mill and by then were at the education centre. Despite wearing my goretex jacket I was very cold and just wanted add some extra layers to warm up.
The plan for the remainder of the day was to try to find another bush camp and have a camp fire together then continue tomorrow. However when we did pull up on one of the minor sealed roads across towards the west coast to have a look at a place which could have been suitable, not all members of the party were in agreement as it was apparently too early in the day to consider it. I knew we would regret it, but we continued and after checking out a camp (listed in the 7 Australia Wide Camps book) which was of course already filling up and very close to the road, we continued and eventually pulled into the Big4 Tourist park in Ledge Point, south of Lancelin, and a few kms off the highway. By now we had driven through showers, done a short side trip to Seabird, and also managed somehow to avoid two quite vicious storms in the vicinity and I suppose it was not just me who was feeling a little tired and fractious. Trying to consider both couples is not that easy but I guess it does teach tolerance and patience!

Ledge Point Big 4 is a lovely big spacious park with very generous sites and last night there were only two other sites occupied so it is also surprisingly and unbelievably quiet. Currently there is a special on of two nights for the price of one ($50 for two nights) powered so we decided to take advantage of this, stay for the two and see what the small town had to offer for an extra day. Hopefully the men can fish from the beach or rocks somewhere.
Although it was late-ish afternoon, I walked the 1km (each way) walk to have a look at the Indian Ocean and found it familiar so we must have called in here last time we toured the West Coast. From the lookout there was the beginning of a lovely Sunset, and along the street I found a wonderful example of a yellow flowering gum with bright red seed pods amongst the brilliant yellow spiky blooms. It was spectacular!

The remainder of the day was as usual, busy with dinner and then showers and because the TV reception is very poor, we watched two more episodes of ‘The Wire’ a series we are fast becoming addicted to! Clouds cleared and we looked forward finally to good weather.
Tuesday 21st May. Ledge Point.
With clear sunny skies overhead, the four of us walked into the lookout and along the beaches then back past the only General store/PO/fuel outlet/liquor outlet in town and bought paper and bait. The other vans left the park so it was only our two lonely camps once again. I pulled the chair out into the sun and sat, immersed in Camps books and other planning material, dreaming of future places and roads to travel, hoping some at least would be dirt and a bit adventurous!
After lunch Barb, Darrel and I drove to the water then walked a couple of kms (one way) in horrible soft sloping sand to the north on a beach littered with piles of dark red seaweed. It was not all at all pleasant and my calf muscles ached as I plodded along but I knew it was good for me!
The four of us did sit around and discuss plans for the next stage of the trip and have agreed to stay overnight in Cervantes tomorrow and spend the afternoon exploring the Pinnacles, a most visually interesting place John and I went to last time. If the fishing looks good there (in Cervantes) we will stay an extra day or two.
Later in the afternoon the men left to fish off a small breakwater of rocks we had discovered and I tried to research places further north, online. The phone/internet signal appears to be quite strong however it keeps dropping out and is so slow that I mostly gave up but it’s given me time to catch p on diary entries before my memory becomes vague about what we have done and where we have been.

Wednesday 22nd May Cervantes Pinnacles caravan park $35 with pensioner discount, plus $10 key deposit.
The plan: To check into the Caravan Park in Cervantes for overnight and drive back along the Ocean drive approximately 16 kms. and re-visit the Pinnacles desert in Nambung National Park. If the fishing opportunities looked promising we would also stay a second night.
John and I filled up at the service station in Cervantes on arrival and we checked into the waterfront park by mid morning. Our end site was generous, grassed, and with a ground mat and the office staff were very friendly and welcoming. With sun shining, we were impatient to get out to the Pinnacles, where we were prepared to pay the vehicle entry fee of $11. Our annual pass however allowed us drive in free!
With water, hats and camera we set off to do the short (1.2 km) walk first and despite having seen this natural wonder previously, once again we were delighted to be able to wander freely around and between these sculptural sandstone? forms, some almost twice as high as John. With brilliant blue skies the yellow ochre and orange colours of the earth were a wonderful visual contrast and I took many photographs hoping one or two might be great ones!
On our return to the car park, we visited the Information centre and enjoyed the video presentations, wonderful photos and information about flora, fauna and geology and then did the 4 km loop drive which meanders around and between the Pinnacles and provides a different view with many opportunities to pull over and take photos as well as get out for a short walk. Because it was lunch time there few vehicles or people out and we felt as though we were the only ones there.
Driving back to Cervantes, we did one short detour off the road to view the Ocean and discovered a stretch of white sand with mounds of stinking reddish seaweed…a familiar sight by now on our way up the west Coast.
Back in the van we had a quick lunch then went for a walk along the waterfront to the main jetty, having to walk over mounds of sea weed and scramble over rocks to get there. Back along the road, we could not go past the “Lobster shack’ and purchased a Size D ($40) beauty for dinner which we though was great value. I made a heart friendly version of mornay sauce and it was delicious.
We also found our way to the General Store and had a look around the town.
John spent a couple of hours fishing from the jetty and caught loads of toads and not much else, while Darrel had similar luck fishing from his kayak so we will move on tomorrow.
We watched digital ABC TV which was great…Adam Hills Live which we love.

Thursday 23rd May Sandy Cape Recreation Area ($15 up per night)
After a cool start to the day, we packed up and were out of the park by 8.30. There was a hasty stop in Jurien Bay which has a fantastic IGA or some such Supermarket and we stocked up on fresh fruit and vegetables before continuing to Sandy Cape Rec Park which is approximately 8 kms off the Highway on dirt road.

The Northern End of the campground seemed much more open, spacious and less popular so we found a great area which accommodates both vans with space between, and set up camp for a couple of nights, just behind the dunes and beside the rustic boat launching area/ track to the beach.
On our last trip we stayed a night but didn’t choose our site wisely, or maybe didn’t get a choice of site as it gets busy and you need to be here early in the day. After paying our camp fees back up the road a km or two, the men unloaded the boat and got busy setting up the fishing gear. They were gone for most of the rest of the day and we could see them out in the small bay in front of the beach.
The water is a glorious range of blues and turquoise, fringed with white sand, somewhat marred by the seaweed. The camp ground hugs the rear of a narrow ridge of low dunes for probably 500 metres and suit all kinds of rigs. A dump point for chemical toilets is located at the Entry point and even provides containers of water to flush tanks and rinse the dump point, but I guess it also encourages people to use it rather than destroying the long drop toilets in the camp ground.
After lunch, I set off along the beach to explore the small headland and discovered a walk to a lookout which has a longish section of boardwalk and three viewing platforms where there are fabulous views over the ocean, and to the North and South, also to the East and the surrounding country with huge white sand dunes and green vegetation.

Later in the day I also walked North along the beach to the rocky headland where the high water level prevented me from exploring any further. We carried chairs to the tops of the dune in front of the vans and watched the sun sinking over the water, the men returning, and then dusk with its pink and blue skies and a glorious almost full moon rising over the campground. Of course the camera was out and used frequently!
John anchored the tinny as best he could at the southern end of the beach and worried about it surviving the tides in the night. He checked it twice before we went to sleep around 10.30 and then early the following morning before we set off for a walk to the east over the dunes, and thought it was ok. On our return however he could see it was close to being overturned, still with motor attached, and he and Darrel made a very hasty trip in the car to the boat ramp, to try to recover it. They said it was almost full of water, close to turning over and only just managed to save it. The anchor had almost come adrift and we are lucky to still have it…he should have trusted his instincts and pulled it out, but they were hoping to spend another day fishing. As it turned out, the wind was much stronger and too windy to fish safely.
Our dune walk was great fun, following the ridges to get to the highest point, then sliding down the steep side on our bottoms to find a track through the prickly, sharp shrubs to the coast to the north and back along sandy tracks and beach. We did find some wonderful, secluded bush camps which would suit camper trailers and tenters.
Barb and I walked to the lookout and returned from the beach to the South, following a sandy 4WD track back to the campground.
With the men occupied cleaning the boat, re loading it then washing all the gear we stayed around the camp for a few hours. Have met a lovely couple from Hobart who pulled in alongside us the previous night, and we seem to just get along really well with an easy, relaxed conversation. John re packed the Pajero completely and we will carry the boat fuel tank and seats from now on so if the other two want to go their separate ways we wil still be able to use the boat.
During the afternoon, I did a third walk to the lookout, accompanying John who wanted to see it so I feel as though we are getting a considerable amount of exercise, which might counter balance the chocolate I have been indulging in most days.

Saturday and Sunday May 25th & 26th Greenough Rivermouth Caravan Park
$30 powered site.

We stayed here four years ago for three weeks while waiting for repairs to our 4WD at the time. It is approximately 10 kms south of Geraldton and this time the reason for choosing it in preference to a park in town this time was so the men could fish in the river and also along the beach and headlands. We paid for two nights.
We arrived in bright sunshine and warm temperatures and I made a decision to do all the dirty laundry while we were getting set up. Then it was a drive to town to visit BCF and then Woolworths to stock up on food and other supplies for the next part of our journey.
My day was filled with chores and John and Darrel spent a few hours fishing from the beach, with little success. There are big tides and rough seas and the water level in the river seems very high, with a small amount actually dribbling over to the ocean.
Sunday… the men put the kayak in the river, took lunch and were gone for much of the day. I did a short walk over to the river and sand dunes but there were so many unrestrained big dogs as well as quad bikes and other vehicles it was not too inviting to walk for long. I also found the whole atmosphere of the van park pretty depressing and wondered how we had managed to stay here for three plus weeks last time. I guess it was because we had no other option! There are many old rigs and decrepit cabins with permanent residents, small yappy dogs….not really my ideal place! However the park amenities are good, with clean shower/toilets and big roomy laundry with plenty of machines, lots of clothesline space and a good camp kitchen. The manager is bright and friendly…so it could be worse and I am just hard to please!
Anyway I did waste a bit of the day online, checking out road conditions and sending emails to visitor centres further up the coast, asking about obtaining drinking water and the like. And I planned an itinerary for us for the next four weeks to go inland and explore the dirt roads, and small towns, and then go back to the coast a couple of times and gave a copy to Darrel and Barb as they are going to stick to the bitumen roads and coast. I have found visitor information to be a very big help with prompt replies to emails and lots of tourist information.
There is drinking water to fill our van tanks (at a price) in Denham, also in Carnarvon and Exmouth should we need it.
And today is the end of week 7 already.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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