Port Hedland to Carnarvon

Friday, Aug 14, 2009 at 19:23


Back to previous chapter - Gorgia Bore to Carawine Gorge and on to Port Hedland

A leisurely packup at Carawine Gorge, then out to the bitumen, pump up the tyres, set radio to channel 8, the standard in this part of the world where huge road trains service the mines and communication with them can keep us out of trouble. Then off towards the de Grey River for an overnight stop shortly before reaching Port Hedland where by now, hopefully, new springs are waiting for Troopy. We took the picturesque road towards Marble Bar, bypassing the town itself as we’d visited it previously, then up the Mt Goldsworthy road. A friend we’d met in the past few days had told us of a newly abandoned Troopy on this road - a possible source of parts if we needed any. (Abandoned vehicles are fairly common here and can be a valuable source of parts, especially for travellers like ourselves who had quite some doubts about the certainty of parts coming in “from the east” at short notice.) The abandoned Troopy had disappeared however, so someone else had acquired a full set of spares before we got there. Came across a partially stripped 80 series landcruiser though and salvaged a wheel nut, so the trip wasn’t entirely wasted!

Crossed the de Grey River for the first time today, not our intended stopping point but would make an excellent overnight cap – green grass, lots of water and shaded by huge River Red Gums. Late in the day we came to the de Grey again at a spot on the highway not too far from Port Hedland. Another top overnight spot, except for the fact that it is referred to in a popular book listing free campsites. Consequently, scores of caravans were in residence. Troopy, being rather more capable (and headstrong) than most vehicles, found a place to spend the night. Tomorrow – Port Hedland, and if all is well, the following day should see him with new springs.

Port Hedland and first stop the repair shop – yes, springs had arrived, would we like them fitted today? Yes, but No, the job couldn’t be finished today so we would be without our bed overnight. Tomorrow it is then. Found a spot in a caravan park in spite of knowing that they would be full up. No room for any more caravans, but our flexible trailer system was easy. Picked up a month’s worth of mail and spent most of the remainder of the day dealing with that.

The following day Troopy went to surgery at 7am and was returned to us after lunch, in time for a test run around the town. Both rear springs had been replaced so we’d retained the old unbroken one as a spare. With quite some ingenuity this was affixed under the trailer – next time we’ll be ready for a broken spring, but for now, it’s just more ballast!

Next day, a brief stop to view one of the massive ore trains then off towards Tom Price through some spectacular country.We’d planned to stop for the night near Karajini National Park, but the options being pretty limited due to a combination of recent fires and present wind, we continued on and finally found a Troopy standard sidetrack (2 rough wheel tracks leading through Spinifex and scrub, too rough for all but determined travellers) which led us to a secluded clearing that proved ideal.

Our plan was to travel to the Cape Range National Park, said to be a fabulous World Heritage area with one of the very few coral reef systems to be found on a west coast. En route we overnighted at Duck Creek, one of our best camp sites yet – access sufficiently difficult to ensure privacy, plenty of firewood, splendid white gums, sheltered from the wind.

We’d hoped for more wild flowers, but being the end of July we were probably a little early. Nevertheless we did see numerous Eremophilas

spectacular feather flowers, grevillias

and Sturts Desert Peas.

Next night was spent in the vicinity of the Cape Range National Park on the Cape Range pensinsular. Few opportunities here for bush camping as the pensinsular is partially run by the military, partially by the local council which has a rigorous “No Camping” policy. Then into Exmouth and access to the Park proper. Here we found that the 96 camp sites at the National Park could be held for up to 4 weeks by a camper, and that queueing commenced at 2am for one of the few sites vacated each day. The sites themselves were crammed together – not at all our idea of how a World Heritage area should be managed. The seas off the Park were a superb turquoise colour and in places the reef came in to the shore.Insert 978 The water was too cold to enjoy the reef without wetsuits, so we saw nothing of the reef itself. We stayed one night at a nearby caravan park and were blown away by the wind. Overall, we were disappointed by the National Park, the negative attitude of its management, and the local council’s approach to tourists.

So we headed south, and finished the day at Billie Point on Ningaloo Station. Ningaloo includes many kilometres of shoreline to the south of the National Park. For a nominal fee, campers may spend as long as they like here, and many clearly stay for long periods. Here was the same white sand and turquoise water of the National Park, without the crowding and pressures. We decided to stay there for probably a week. (It had become clear that we were running a little early for the mass displays of wildflowers we had been hoping to see (though we did see some) and that we needed to dawdle a little if we were to see them at their best. Thanks to a very flexible schedule, (ie none), we were more than content to spend time in any comfortable and beautiful place.) For the first time this trip we erected the big tent on our trailer and settled in to absorb the world around us.

Plans changed when the wind came up. Seems the local norm is for wind to start up in the early hours, strengthen until dawn then die away early afternoon. After a couple of nights we decided that enough was enough, packed up and headed south again. The coastal heathlands contained little of obvious interest, being mainly featureless country with monotonous low scrub on a sandy soil, here and there huge sand drifts; careful searching however revealed quite an array of wildflowers including some early mass displays of wattles and thryptomenes .

Overnight at Cardabia, another coastal property opened to tourists. Inexpensive, but with no facilities and currently subject to the interplay of Aboriginal v’s state bureaucracy politics. Then south again and much heartened to come across extensive areas of white everlastings – not yet tourist brochure standard, but quite impressive all the same. On to Coral Bay, a little town with a nice beach, huge caravan parks overflowing and prices to match. Off again and refuelled at the Minilya Roadhouse where we came across an adventurous Argentinian couple. They had set out on a 6 month trip to explore from Argentina to Alaska in their 1928 car. Nine years later they are still exploring in the same car, now with 4 kids born along the way. Their travel is funded entirely by sales of their books and calendars, plus any donations the travelling public may offer. Their aim - “Spark your dream”.

Further south and we stopped for the night at Miaboolya Beach, a few km north of Carnarvon. No facilities, just a sheltered space behind the frontal dunes. Great to have the place to ourselves and drift off to the sounds of the surf.. Next morning, in to Carnarvon, first viewing the extensive horticultural activity along the banks of the Gascoyne River. Although a big river, the river bed is dry; water for agriculture is pumped from below the sandy base to produce an extensive range of fruit and vegetables. We bought from roadside stalls and were very pleased with the quality and variety on offer.

From Carnarvon, east towards Gascoyne Junction in order to visit the Kennedy Range National Park. Stopped for the night at Rocky Pool, on the Gascoyne about 50 km from Carnarvon. A delightful area but being listed in “Camps 5”, heavily populated with caravans. Troopy being more off-road capable than most there, we found a pleasant spot overlooking the pool and reasonably distant from the nearest caravans and their noisy generators. We plan to remain here for a few days.

Forward to next chapter - Carnarvon to Mullewa
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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