Burton’s – Waves, beaches and tin horses – Part 4 Orleans Bay Jan 20-26

Sunday, Feb 03, 2013 at 21:30

Mike & Amanda


You must keep Orleans Bay a secret. If you plan to visit we can’t tell you about it! You know how it goes “if we tell you we will have to kill you!” It is WA’s best kept secret and we jealously guard it. Even now you may have to book a spot 12 months ahead!

We headed out from Stokes into the glorious January sunshine, azure blue skies and the temperature heading up to the expected 35 degrees C. With our renewed confidence, the boggy sand presented no challenge, ahh what a place, all of the things we strive for when camping and 4WDriving…remoteness, no people, peace and quietness, pristine bush and beaches and some almost challenging tracks. Jeff and Pat followed us as we clambered down the slopes towards Springdale Road we temporarily pumped up the muddies to highway pressures..I wish I had one of the new dual ARB compressors…..Jeff and Pat pumped up all 4 of their wheels in the time it took me to do my fronts! They kindly started on the trailer tyres whilst I laboured with the Cruiser’s rear BFGs.

We drove into Esperance - a wonderful relaxed regional centre right on the coast. The Orleans Bay fish charter boat wasn’t available due to repairs so Pat, Jeff and Julie had planned to take a charter out of Esperance. We drove around showing them the place, let them organise the final details for the charter as well as stock up on booze, food and other essentials. There was one obligatory stop at Bunnings to pick up a gas adaptor…you know the story, intended to buy one thing and blew the credit card and needed an extra trailer to carry it all home…LOL. Home made rolls on the foreshore was the piece de la’resistance before heading towards the Duke.

It only a short drive to the Duke and alas no real dirt (yet) but that will be made up with stacks of beach driving. This was the first time that we would be camping with friends and associates, an unusual situation for us loners. Pat and Jeff, fresh from our Kimberley sojourn together wanted to join us and continue the adventure, Jeff also being very keen to wet a line or three. Julie was the unexpected pommie visitor and most welcome mossie and sand fly distractor. Chris and Tanya with their daughters Lucy and Abigail were renting a donga (they were friends from the kid’s primary school). Chris is an avid outdoorsman and was looking forward to this first time visit I think. Terry, wife and friend, an associate from a company I do business with unexpectedly would be their the same time in a hired camper trailer. Should be quite and interesting group….for us loners LOL.

No further dash alarms had recurred so there was some hope that the problem was a random one-of…we’ll see….

We drove the main gates and parked before visiting the reception/shop and saying g’day to Guy after 12 months..all good, booking confirmed, the best campsite in the place, Jeff and Pat next to us and good weather predicted. We obtained out BBQ key (hire the BBQ and the wood is free), grabbed our electronic gate pass and obeyed the 8km/hr rule into the site. The site we like and try and get every year is secret…we just can’t tell you where it is as it’s the best! The only problem is that it is very difficult to back into. This year proved no exception. The current residents of the park have a habit of parking their boats, fourbies and other big boys toys all over the place further restricting access. During the tedious back and forth reversing procedure the damn safari snorkel got jagged by a trees branch, punctured it before ripping the self tappers out of the Cruiser’s body…external locus of control…it was all my fault not the damn tree…just another job to fix!

Finally back in, the wonderful Oddy erected, Amanda and I set about removing the quick overnight awning and installing the full annex roof. This is a manoeuvre we rarely tackle, it only gets installed when we stay in one place over a week – very rarely. End walls, full roof and guy ropes – we know the weather down here can be fickle with frightening storms in seconds, gone in minutes…

Jack and Julie put up their tiny tents under the scrub tucked away, we put up clothes lines, unlocked a barbie and wheeled it down, collected a couple of barrows of fire wood and finally cracked a Corona or three!

Let me tell you more of this place. It is generally populated by local cockies on a well earned break. As such they are friendly, polite and know how to have a good time! As the Christmas period moves on towards rowdy Australia Day we note more town people turning up together with Kalgoorlie Boulder residents looking for some sea and surf, a rare commodity in their part of the world. At this time the boom boxes get a little louder and the quad bikes, trail bikes and jet skis turn up. After all what do farmers want with these work implements away from the farm…so you see timing is everything!

The Park is old…that is what we like. It is a remnant of the 50s, with few rules except enjoy yourself ones and respect others. It is clean and well managed but don’t come here if you are looking for 5 star stuff because that is not what it is about. There are old tennis courts, a play ground, hiding spots and cubbies for the kids. It is routine to see and hear gangs of excited young kids skidding their bikes around in packs relishing the twilight and the freedom away from domineering adults! The showers are old, but clean – Jack gives them a rating of 8 for pressure and 9 for hot water, bloody good! But like anyplace, location is everything. If you end up in the wrong place, next to the wrong crowd, life could be hell – that is why I’m not telling you where WE camp!

We had one of the above kids crash into a car at high speed – no brakes and no helmet, racing around a blind corner/ jump. Lucky Pat is a St John ambo volunteer and Tanya is an ER nurse. Pat, Tanya and Amanda looked after the kid, stabilising his neck and peering into his no responsive pupils until the ambulance arrived…he was fortunately OK and returned back to paradise the same evening…another valuable lesson for our kids.

When you arrive you get a great hand drawn mud map of the area. The Park is basically nestled on a peninsular with beaches and rocks all around. The day usually begins with a walk to the beach, maybe a run and an early morning swim. Once a lazy breakfast has been consumed, books or magazines perused, copious amounts of fresh coffee guzzled..and in our case fresh bread, the smells wafting in the breeze….mmmm. When we know we are going to stay for a few days with power we bring THE BREADMAKER. The problem here was we experienced problems. The damn bread wasn’t rising properly. Eventually problem solvered! One – it needs to be out of the breeze and in a semi warm environment. Two – don’t put it inside the camper trailer to do this and the wobbly floor upsets the dough! Three – be careful with filtered water. Four – try it on the ground, under a table surrounded with a pegged up tarp to discourage the breeze and DON’T let anyone touch it…phew…eventually we got some nice, but very dense bread.. one piece with jam and you were set for several days…LOL.

Back to Orleans….next is loading up the Cruiser with boogie boards, drink, food, towels, diving gear and fishing rods. The map takes you to a series of roads or tracks that always lead to a beach. Wharton beach is a winner, great waves, azure blue water, squeaky sand, fishing off the rocks or diving for abalone…phew, what a place. Get their early, back up to the dunes, set up the annexe, pull out the chairs and relax. This entertainment can last for several hours every day until you are either burnt to a crisp, intoxicated or just plain worn out! Let me tell you those waves are energy absorbing.

We all had new boogie boards for Christmas and Jack also received a two man (or boy) inflatable boat that he was trembling with excitement to try. The kids also got a new skim board each which allows them to be towed along the surfline frictionless at high speed. What they don’t tell you on the packet is the toll it takes on the tow-er (usually me!). We bought wet suits as last year taught us that several hours in the not too warm Southern Ocean is very energy sapping and the lack of ozone layer can cause interesting red peeling layers on exposed dermis. Bring plenty of 30++ sunblock….I currently resemble some aged peeling reptile…needless to say a good hat in mandatory especially when follicly challenged! Kate was a demon in the water, usually first in and last out, she lived up to her reputation as an energy bunny and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Jack was not quite himself. He had a great time, trying out his boat, boarding with the rest of us but somewhat subdued. We later found out that one of the big baby teeth had been abscessed and infected for sometime with no word of complaint from the boy. This must have been debilitating and was no doubt the main root cause to a persistent hacking cough he developed. On return and a visit to the dentist he was immediately back to his lively cheerful self! Amanda looked after us all, cooking on the Oddy stove for all of us as well as Pat and Jeff..she maintained it was just easier for her and besides we had the facilities…I’m still not convinced of this, however what a champion! She was in the waves with the best of them, her already sensitive neck bruised and battered by the force of the waves. Julie from England seemed to have a great time. She soldiered on, completely out of her native environment…after all it was -3 degrees C when she left and temperatures peaked in high 30s every day on the beach! It is not easy to join a tight nit family group, somewhat set in their ways and feel relaxed….she did a great job….even though she is a smoker…..aghh! Kate soon had Julie collecting her butts into plastic bags and smoking far away down wind!

The drives take you everywhere to places where people are not. Drive the complete beach to Big Wharton, across the tidal flats and some boggy stuff to Victoria Harbour and other hidden coves. Another day drive the difficult tracks up around the back of Mount Belches – some of these are perilous and can deposit you on beaches with no escape! Prepare to have the paintwork scratch and the underside dinged! We saw emus and roos, the birds endlessly chirping, kookaburras, cockies and fairy wrens cavorting under the taps searching for a free bath!

The Cruiser behaved impeccably through these trying times – the 2” lift, OME shockies and big muddies lowered to 22 psi meant we had little trouble wherever we ventures. The only obstacle for this set up is its sheer size on narrow tracks and sometimes its weight especially with 5 people on board….although the big 4.7 V8 petrol motor soon had most challenges sorted.

The end of the day is always special! Returning to the camp, we unloaded the Cruiser of its beach thingiesm, powdery white sand all over the leather and carpets. A race to the welcome blistering hot showers to wash off the salt and sand, leaving a lazy blanket of lethargy as we stagger back to the King Goanna chairs for a welcome beer or wine, a good book in hand. Soon the steel fire was lit, a warming, welcoming atmosphere enveloping the camp site and dusk falls…the birds announcing to all the end of the day as the cool air descends…bbq or salt and vinegar chips, Monkey Bay NZ Sauvignon blanc or a Corona. Chris and Tanya regularly turned up to make it a meeting of friends. Chris would entertain the kids using a snatch block and ropes to abseil them up the trees around the camp…or cook curly damper on a stick in the fire…the kids loved it and I must say the curly damper and home made jam was rather tasty….

We did have one spectacular rain storm, thunder, noise and a semi flood. On the road above our site, kids were paddling a canoe in the huge puddles! Jeff and Pat were somewhat downstream so had some flooding, but lucky for us the heavy Australian Off Road canvas kept us snug and dry…I don’t really mid a little rain as long as it stays warm!

All good things must come to an end…the end of our week came far too quickly..tomorrow we pack up and head off to Wave Rock and the Tin Horse Highway….
Mike & Amanda
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