The Pilbara - Out to the Coral Coast via Paraburdoo and Nanutarra (and the $16 Platinum Burger!)

Sunday, Jun 04, 2006 at 00:00

Mick O

Sunday 4th June
Tom PriceExmouth WA

A funny thing happened to me last night. There I was trying to catch brother Scott back in Victoria before his “Milo Time”, which is usually around 9.30 p.m. Anytime after this and he’s almost incoherent being Milo drunk and falling asleep on his couch. Anyway, I went to lean on the bullbar and it moved a good 15 cm. The main holding bolts had vibrated loose thus, knowing we had a big days drive ahead of us this day, I was out of bed and under the front of the Nissan at 6.30 a.m. I also found that the front bash plate had lost the odd screw or two so replaced that while I was there.

Our plan to get away early worked well and we were fully packed, showered and on the road by 8.30 a.m. We opted on the south route via Paraburdoo. It was a fantastic drive with vistas and scenery that you just couldn’t do justice too with a mere photo. The country side west of Paraburdoo in particular was just spectacular with high rugged ranges and wide creeks, all with plenty of water in them. We noticed a very strange thing in that these ranges were covered with a golden coloured spinifex that had a long grass like stem. When you tried to focus on the hillsides, everything looked blurry due to the makeup and light on the spinifex. It was very unnerving and would give you a headache if you stared intently enough trying to unblur things.

I think the drive west from Paraburdoo along the Munjina Road will have to be added to my list of favourite drives in Australia. It is quite amazing and I found many areas that I just wanted to pull off and explore. Set the tent up and stay a while. We had a morning tea break about 10.30 after I nearly skittled a large perenti that had waddled nonchalantly out onto the bitumen.

It was decided to push on to Nanutarra Road House and the intersection of the Northern Highway for lunch. We duly arrived about 12.30. A roadhouse lunch seemed the order of the day but on perusing the menu board in the shabby roadhouse, I had to have smelling salts waved under the nose. No this may seem unbelievable but it’s true. Hamburger, with the lot , a mighty $15.95. Now this isn’t the sit down affair with plate, salad and fries on the side. This is strictly take-away. You know, wrapped in white paper and shoved in the ubiquitous brown paper bag. Sixteen bloody bucks! You can #*@#%> shove that where the sun don’t shine thanks you very much! Bad enough that diesel, the staple of life here out west was a buck 90 per litre. Not even the damnable French have the temerity to charge that sort of cash for grub on their home bloody soil and that’s really saying something! Just to add a tad more credibility to the burger side of things, a few more prices from the same board. Mrs Mac’s pie - $5.50 (or six bucks with sauce!). Standard fried dimmy - $2.80 each. Is it just me or is this ridiculous. I mean we’re on highway 1, the National highway and only 200 km from bloody Carnarvon and 300 km from Karratha! Even a starving Bourke and Wills would’ve walked out of this joint in disgust! Enough said, we drove a hundred metres and had a lovely lunch of tuna and bits on biscuits by the Ashburton River.

We were on the Northern by 1.00 p.m. to complete the final 260 km to Exmouth. No more mountain ranges, only the monotony of rolling sand dunes. Made a nice change to be crossing them on a bitumen road though. 114 kays south of the Ashburton there’s a shortcut that heads due west onto the peninsular that holds Carnarvon. Here the land flattens to the windswept saltbush covered plains that we’ve long grown to associate with the West Oz coast. The tallest things here are the termite mounds and there’s plenty of them. The road in passes by the Learmonth R.A.A.F. base and like so many things out west, it appears to be purely a “Seasonal” air force base. It was all locked up and no one was home. Obviously only open when the Air Marshall want’s to get his tan up!

There’s something funny about Exmouth town. It’s got a real feral feel to it when you drive in and in later conversation all four of us felt the same sense of unease about the place when we arrived. To my mind, the place capitalises on a captive tourist industry surrounding Ningaloo without ever bothering to expend on infrastructure or spending a cent on maintaining or improving the amenity of the area. Everything had a shoddy, half completed feel about it if that makes sense to you. We checked in to the local Top Tourist Caravan Park. Same vibes here to. There were a lot of semi permanents, ie; the pensioners travelling up for Perth for the winter. You could tell they reserved the same sections of the park every year and looked down upon interlopers who might encroach upon gods waiting ground, even if just for a single night. Come sunset, the senate would convene. This was usually a corum of individuals sitting around a chosen caravan annex drinking sherry or Cold Duck. Oxygen bottles never more than an outreached hand away. The only problem to my mind is that there were at least 17 “senates” in operation that we saw. It wasn’t hard to imagine just how easily boundaries could be trespassed here and all out blue rinse “turf war” taking over!

It was a big drive today of over 600 km. In fact the biggest drive of any day since we left. Everyone was knackered so we decided on going out for dinner, thus the local pub restaurant was chosen. A sound decision to although the “Seasonal” prices on the meals were again spectacular. (Steak - $32. Calamari main - $28. I rest my case). Early to bed too. The weather had closed in. It’ll rain for sure.

It did…….!


''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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