Arriving at Thomas River - Cape Arid NP

Wednesday, Oct 09, 2013 at 01:00

Member - LG__ (WA)

Leaving Peak Charles we made our way down to Esperance to catch up with relatives nearby and replenish our stocks of water and food, ready for our [self sufficient] trip out to Cape Arid National Park.

We went to the visitors centre to get the latest information regarding road conditions in the park and were told 'we've had so much rain in the last few months Cape Arid is closed'. Hmmm... last time I had checked some of the roads were indeed closed, but not the whole park! We went up the road to the local DEC office and enquired there.

They confirmed that while some roads were closed, the campsites at Thomas River, Seal and Poison Creek and Jorndee were still open, but the beach at Poison Creek was closed due to a shark attack. Not a problem, we had no intention of swimming until the temperature hit at least 40°C.

While there we purchased an Annual All Parks Pass to cover us for the rest of our current journey and the rest of the year's trips, picked up a 'keep Australia beautiful' pack containing different sized rubbish bags as well as long tongs and gloves, and bought some Western Ground Parrot postcards to send our latest travel plans to those back home.

We spent some time using the laundromat, sightseeing around Esperance itself and visiting the shops for supplies. We stayed at a hotel for the night and thoroughly enjoyed hot showers and flushing loos.
The next morning we woke up to heavy steady rain and a few expletives were uttered!

We headed out of town after lunch, a bit apprehensive as the rain was still coming down rather heavy. We came across a roadside board listing which roads were open and closed in both Cape Le Grand NP and Cape Arid NP. Rangers contact details were included so we rang the Cape Arid ranger to get the latest information 'from the horses mouth' just in case things had changed overnight. Although Thomas River campground is usually 2WD access, it HAD been an unusually wet winter. Better safe than sorry!

"The roads to Thomas River are fine if you take care going through any standing water. Come on out!" the Ranger said, after we confirmed we had a 4WD vehicle. So we continued up the bitumen Fisheries Road to the gravel Tagon Road...

Eventually we arrived at Thomas River campgrounds with the rain still coming down in a steady drizzle.
We did a lap around the DPaW campground up on the hill but decided it was too exposed for us. All the sites seemed to have big puddles in the middle of them, right where we would normally place the tent. You can't have camp/cooking fires or animals at the DPaW campground.

Although DPaW manage the Shire campground, and the entrance sign to the national park indicated no animals, it was still possible to have campfires and dogs on leads when we were there. This could have changed since then.

The fees for the Shire campground used to be $2 but have increased to the same rate as the DPaW campground so there is no advantage costwise. I don't recall the full price but concession rate was $6.60 per person per night for either campground.

The main advantage the Shire campground has for us tenters is the sites are a bit bigger, well spaced, and the paperbark trees and large sand dune between the river and the ocean offer plenty of protection from the wind. Perfect for multiple tents on one site, like our neighbours who had 4 tents set up to accomodate all the kids they had brought out for school holidays.

We picked a suitable site which had a reasonably dry patch in the back corner for our tent and still left plenty of room if other people came in later in the day. With the rain still coming down it was getting to the stage where some of the sites were completely waterlogged.

We set up the awning to make a cup of hot coffee while waiting for the rain to ease off (as it was predicted to do by late afternoon)... and came to the conclusion that there was going to be no 'easing off' anytime soon and decided to set up the tent before the patch of ground we'd picked out became any soggier.

Once the tent and beds were set up, we changed into warm dry clothes and became happier little campers :)
I must say I now love those little emergency ponchos and large umbrellas :D

Things did eventually get better and by evening we set up the kitchen and LED light strips and spent a pleasant time eating a hot meal while listening to the surf absolutely hammering the shoreline not far away.

By the next morning the sun was shining brightly, most of the water had drained from the campground tracks and it was promising to be a glorious day!

Life IS Good! No matter how much manure you have to deal with - it's all just fertiliser ;)
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