Cape Keraudren Coastal Reserve, Eighty Mile Beach and Barn Hill Station. Week 14

Saturday, Jul 13, 2013 at 16:45

Member-Heather MG NSW

Monday July 8th.

Packed our morning tea, lunch and lots of water and drove to the mangrove lined creek to launch the boat as soon as the tide came in enough for us to get it in the water. It was amazing to watch how quickly this happened as it still appeared to be trickling out one minute, then the next it was filling up. As the level rose, the colour changed to a turquoise blue and it was very pretty.
We motored down the creek, keeping a lookout for markers to help us find the entrance again later, but didn’t go too far from there in the time we fished. John set up my line and baited the hook and I was soon getting bites and then landing fish, a couple of which put up a good fight and were quite sizeable. Unfortunately neither we, nor anyone else we spoke to could identify the biggest one, so after getting a photo, we put it back into the water. With all his attention to having me fish, John didn’t spend all that much time doing it himself, and didn’t really catch anything but I sure had a lot of fun.

We returned to the shore as the tide dropped, with no fish to show for our efforts and then spent more than an hour getting everything washed and re packed, the boat loaded onto the roof of the Pajero. I felt quite heat affected and thirsty despite drinking lots of water and re applied the Bushmans insect repellent when swarms of small black insects appeared again.
By the time we left the water had all but disappeared again and the mangrove roots were high and dry! John put on the generator so I could make coffee and we could recharge batteries which seem to be too power hungry for my small inverter to do the job. We left it running for a few hours and I ended up using the Induction cooker to do the dinner, to reduce the temperature in the van. We both hate the noise of the generator but it is sometimes very useful.
We aren’t sure what caused it but John’s eyes started to water and he had difficulty seeing, maybe due to aeroguard and sunscreen mixing with sweat and getting into them. He was still having problems when we went to bed and his eyes were very red.

Tuesday July 10th.
I had a lovely day walking around the place, starting with a walk out to the far point and back while John fished. He tried all day until the water disappeared, with no luck, but saw large turtles and a lot of interesting fish, some big ones chasing shoals of smaller. There were also dolphins. It was just so beautiful at high tide and I took a number of trips backwards and forwards to check on the fisherman and to take him lunch and other stuff.

Towards sunset I walked to the headland and took some photos, but despite it looking beautiful, wasn’t at all happy with my efforts.
Wednesday July 11th.
Arrived at the very busy 80 Mile Beach caravan park around 10.30 and missed out on the last powered site when the van in front claimed it! Happy to have a big flat grassed, unpowered site with water though a little shell shocked to be parked so close to so many other people after our recent campsites. It’s $34 per night for us, a reasonable charge given the popularity of the place.
The 10 kms of dirt road into the place was in good shape and we travelled over it with ease despite having the tyres up to on road pressure.
After setting up and getting a load of washing on the line, we were keen to see the famous stretch of beach. The tide was right for fishing apparently and for as far as we could see, fishermen lined the beach at regularly spaced intervals. Once a place has been claimed, I reckon that there is no way a person could leave, even for a short time, as he would lose it!

John decided he would be amongst the hopefuls tomorrow and after walking a short distance along the beach, we decided it was far too hot to be out without water and returned to the park. There was some time spent in rigging up the fishing gear, talking to other fishermen returning from the beach, and a visit to the fish cleaning table to watch people gutting, scaling and filleting threadfin salmon, some of which must have been a metre long. We also visited the shop and bought bait (frozen pilchards) and ice-creams which melted very quickly in the heat and dripped down the sides of the cone, just like when we were kids.
The van park had a market in the communal grassed space and also a band playing and the music (and vocalist) was broadcast over speakers which I found pretty hard to take as it continued for some hours and was so loud it drowned out all other sounds and made reading or most other things difficult to concentrate on. It’s probably loved by the regular, long term campers who flock to the same place for months each year, and at least most of the songs I could sing along to. And who can blame them for wanting to come back…glorious weather, great fishing, a bakery and well stocked shop, social activities, unlimited water…..
The only reliable phone signal is obtained from a high spot on the dunes between the park and the beach, although every now and then I received an email. I didn’t plug in the laptop and try the wifi mobile broadband and spent my time reading instead, as well as doing some reading on the Kimberley region which we will soon reach.
Thursday July 11th.
I started the morning at the laundry and arrived before 7am to find two machines already in use. At $2 a load and a full park, it is a very popular place.
After breakfast I went for quite a long walk up the beach and back while the tide was low and the sand hard but despite the early hour it was warm and I returned quite sweaty and hot.
John decided to give the car a bit of a wash, to get rid of some of the red dirt, and said he had four attempts but still wasn’t really happy with it.
Afterwards, he left to claim his place on the beach well before the optimum fishing time and I gave the car interior (front seats area only) a clean. I wandered down some time later to see how he was faring. He left me to hold the rod, after issuing instructions on what to do should one of those threadfin decide to take the bait, and I watched that line and spool for signs fervently while he had a toilet break. Later I took a chair, sunscreen and lunch (egg and bacon sandwiches) down and we waited patiently together. But it seemed no one was hooking anything today and well after the tide turned, he returned empty handed. We were disappointed but not really surprised as it must take a while to determine just where the best spots are to catch these fish.
John decided we didn’t need to stay a third night, although with digital TV reception here I reminded him that he would be able to watch Friday night footy (ARL) if we did. He spent the afternoon cleaning up his fishing gear.
Friday July 12th.
Today we travelled from 80 Mile Beach to Barn Hill Station, arriving here a bit after midday. We called in at Sandfire roadhouse to top up with diesel and then called in at one of the 24 hour rest areas for a toilet break. Both of the rest areas were well off the road and with good facilities, some shaded and private sites tucked in amongst trees, and we decided we would go back to the closest one and wait overnight should Barn Hill be full. The day was warm, over 30 degrees, and each time we left the air conditioned car interior we felt uncomfortable for a while until we became used to it.
The 10 kms. or so of dirt into Barn Hill was red sand and lightly corrugated and we had to travel more slowly than we would have liked because there were regular small humps on the road. Also because of the amount of traffic in both directions! There were three gates to open and close and when we finally arrived there was a line of vans waiting near the office and many more parked tightly into sites. It looked pretty horrible! Already we were having second thoughts but after I had a chat with the office staff, we did a drive around the unpowered section and found a place which would suit us at least for a couple of nights. Afterwards I realised that it is in the generator area, but that’s not bad as we can run the coffee maker and also give it a chance to run our air conditioner to see what kind of a job it does. The cost is $22 a night in this section which is very reasonable as there are amenities and water taps to a lot of the sites, although ours is not one of them and it explains why it and the others along the back row are largely vacant.
While John got busy setting up, and after the fridge had been put on, I walked back to the office to pay for two nights. It was very hot and dusty out as I meandered along the dirt tracks between the trees, and I finally had to ask for directions to the office. When I returned John was still busy outside and I did the important lunch duties which we ate under the welcome shade of the awning.
During the afternoon we took a drive to have a look around, and discovered the beautiful coast here with the red pindan earth which stretches to the ocean, a vivid contrast of colours. It made me hungry for a walk along the coast once the temperature dropped a bit.
We also checked out the fish cleaning area and saw people with large golden trevally at work, so it seems there are fish to be caught and another opportunity for John to throw a line in tomorrow when the tide is right.
This afternoon we decided on our preferred place to stay in Broome and with a phone signal of sorts, I busied myself with making some phone calls to secure a place there, also to book accommodation in Derby and a Day trip from there to the Horizontall Waterfalls towards the end of next week. It was a good move as the earliest available day was Sunday 21st, a little over a week away. I have a reasonable internet signal here which is very welcome.
Late in the afternoon we took our walk to the beach and walked around with me taking photos and John chatting to a fisherman there. With the sun getting low on the horizon it was a lovely time to view the red cliffs and the rocky outcrops which protrude from the sand. It’s a very picturesque place and many of the unpowered sites line the edge of the cliff making them very popular.

We decided to give the generator a run and used the opportunity to turn on the air con just to see that it did indeed work, for a minute or two. I also charged many appliance batteries and cooked our meal on the induction cooktop, made a few cups of coffee and just tried to boost the van batteries a little. Every other van in the place was running theirs as well and it wasn’t exactly blissful however it’s a fact of camping in many places.
Saturday July 13th.

We started the day with a lovely walk along the beaches and headlands near the campground as it’s the coolest and most pleasant time to exercise. Despite the crowds inhabiting the place, there were very few people to be seen away from the immediate vicinity of the campground and for quite a while we had the place to ourselves. It is such a beautiful piece of coast, the stretches of beach broken with colourful rocky small headlands with a backdrop of the deep red cliffs and weathered rock formations.

Later, as it warmed up, I spent lots of time uploading and editing photos and writing up my journal as a word document so that the next time we have a strong internet signal I can copy and paste into blogs. We also made long phone calls to family as our month runs out in a few days and there was still more than $300 credit to use or lose.
We turned on the generator early afternoon and ran it out of fuel, happy to discover that it successfully ran the air conditioner and dropped the temperature rapidly while running in eco mode. It is one of the reasons we carry the thing so in a place where generators are not despised, we thought it appropriate to test it out thoroughly.
John decided it was ‘too hot to fish’ on the beach, probably because everyone he spoke to said that there weren’t any fish being hooked there. Instead he lay on the bed and read for hours, happy that I had bought 6 new books on the kindle less than a week ago!
Sunday July 14th.
Our pack up ran smoothly and we joined the throng of vehicles leaving the station well before 9am. The lower tyre pressure and having driven the road once seemed to make the ride so much more comfortable. With signage to ‘shut the gate’ despite others being behind us, we did what we were told and then at the junction stopped to use the compressor and reinflate the tyres once again. During our ten minutes or so there the traffic to and from the Station was continual.
It was an easy run to Broome although there were road works in progress almost continually from the time we left the Highway. The temperature climbed as we travelled and by the time we reached Broome it was mid thirties. Once in the town, we searched for a place to dump the toilet, eventually locating the only public point in Roebuck Bay Caravan Park where we had to find a place to park outside, visit the office, and be given permission to carry it some distance to do the job. It wasn’t a pleasant job in the heat apparently!
On our way out of town, John decided to try to buy a carton of beer and pulled into what we thought was the parking area for a Pub, discovering instead it was the Mercure Hotel! He left the engine running (and air con on) while he investigated as to whether the bottle shop was open, to be told that he had to use the ‘drive through’ for it to be legal for them to sell him alcohol. Eventually, once he had brought the attendant out to prove that we would not fit under the ‘drive through’ barriers, he returned triumphantly to the car and we were able to at last head for our reserved camp space at the Broome Bird Observatory out of town along the ‘unsealed Crab Creek Road’.
Having only reinflated the tyres earlier in the day, John decided to wait to see what the road was like before he stopped to let air out, howver after the first km decided he should brave the heat and just do it as the red sandy road was already quite hard and corrugated. By now the temperature was 35 degrees and quite uncomfortable and we were both just keen to arrive and get set up.
Despite us only having 15 kms of dirt road, it took ages and the last 6 kms was very rough with sand and corrugations, no matter what speed we travelled at or which part of the road we tried! Already we were having misgivings about not having booked somewhere powered but hoped that being close to the water on Roebuck Bay the campground would at least have a cooling breeze! How wrong we were to be about that!
When we saw the sign for the Bird Observatory we felt like cheering! I visited the office, paid for our campsite ($15 per person a night) and we were directed to what we were told was the biggest site, only to find it already occupied! Back I went to the office in the heat and eventually we were told it was ok to park in the one beside. This took some doing as there was a very problematic diagonal tree trunk which missed scraping our van by centimetres and it was a very tight squeeze to park without doing any damage. The sites are obviously not really suitable for full height vans and the campground has a tight turning circle and lots of low overhanging trees so we will have to be extremely careful when leaving here!
Swarms of hungry mosquitoes attacked every cm of bare skin as soon as we left the vehicles, and copious quantities of repellent was required.
Our first priority was to get the fridge running on gas as it was already 35 degrees inside the van. Both of us were by now sweating like pigs and pretty short tempered but just got on with the job of getting set up. With the fridge side of the van in full sun, we were parked in the worst possible position, so the small shadecloth awning was one of John’s first jobs once unhitched. We also drank glasses of cold water from the fridge, thankful of the two litre jug I’ve been keeping in there for the past few weeks.
The rest of our day was spent trying to avoid the worst of the heat, and the mosquitoes, with John staying indoors with the fan on, and me outside under the awning where a breeze occasionally ruffled the trees around us and made the beads of sweat on skin feel cooler slightly. We couldn’t wait until sunset but it was close to dawn the following morning before the van started to feel comfortably cool again.
We had a shower at the amenities late afternoon, re applied aeroguard tropical, and I braved the outdoors to cook our stir fry on the gas cooktop but our bodies ran with rivulets of sweat when we sat indoors to eat it! How I longed for a campground where it was ok to use the generator to run the air con! It’s going to be a very long three days here.
In cooler weather it would be a lovely place to stay out of town, surrounded by many birds, and with good facilities – hot showers, flushing toilets, a shade house camp kitchen/dining room, a couple of short walks and with access to the Bay only a very short walk away.

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