Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Leeman to Perth


End of yet another stage of this journey. The last 260km into Perth to my brother and sister-in-laws place. Although the rain had held off overnight, by the time we hit the road we catch the tail end of another squall. This is repeated throughout the mornings ride. A dark squall line appears on the horizon, but thankfully the worst is blown inland before we pass through it.

It would have been a pleasant ride except for the wind. Strong and blustery from the west, and causing the bikes to dance all over the road. The countryside is fresh and green after the winter rains. Lots of new growth and wild flowers. Many eucalypt trees in bloom.

We attempted to visit the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. However they wanted to charge us for three motorcycles. When Marco & Ursala said they'd leave one bike at the gate and share a ride into the park, one of the gatekeepers got on her high horse and said no way. Either we pay for three motorcycles or we don't get in. On principal we opt not to go in and continue on our way.

Morning coffee stop at Lancelin, where the gale force winds give Marco our barista a challenge. 

Fortunately we find a shelter on the beach front out of the wind.

Last push into Perth and one last squall to skirt and we're there. End of another section and time to relax.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kalbarri to Leeman

The weather forecast had predicted scattered showers as we headed south. This was pretty accurate as I followed the coastal route out of Kalbarri, past Hutt Lagoon there were squalls coming in off the sea. Marco & Ursala had left Kalbarri ahead of me agreeing to meet in Geraldton, and by the time I rejoined the highway at Northampton I needed to pull over and done wet weather gear. As the showers had been fairly light and had passed quickly, I made the mistake of only putting the waterproof liner in my jacket on. Bad mistake. As I approached Geraldton, the showers turned into solid rain accompanied by a strong wind. By the time I got to Geraldton, my bottom half was soaked through. I stopped for coffee before continuing to the Museum on the waterfront where we had agreed to meet. We took time out at the museum to dry off. M & U did a quick tour of the maritime section, while I added the wet weather liners to my riding pants. 

By this stage, the heavy rain had passed and the sun was shining again. As the coffee at I'd had on arrival had been so good, I took M & U back for an early lunch and more coffee.

This is the first rain we've had since leaving the Warrumbungles/Coonabarabran way back in July, a novel experience, and one we'd rather minimise as much as possible.

We had thought about camping overnight at one of the free rest areas just outside Dongara, but the forecast was predicting continuing passing showers and squalls. Sure enough another heavy shower passed through as we reached Dongara to re-fuel. Consensus was soon reached on finding a caravan park with a cabin we could use for the night. So on down the coastal route via the Indian Ocean Drive to Leeman a small fishing village with a quiet caravan park where we found a cabin for the night.

After unloading the bikes, I went for a walk down the beach and watched as yet another line of squalls came in off the ocean. I sought refuge under a beach-side shelter and waited the squall out before returning to the caravan park.

A good feed and agreement that tomorrow we continue on to my brother's place in Perth. About 250km – as long as the weather is not to bad it should be an easy run.

We are looking forward to 'chilling' in Perth for a week or so, while we wait out the impending WA school holidays, have our bikes serviced, clean our gear and catch up with family and friends. Lets hope the weather improves before we head south towards Margaret River and along the south coast to Albany and Esperance.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kalbarri Canoeing

Davo (our guide for the day) arrives at 8am driving a small 4WD bus with 10 people all up.

The drive to Kalbarri Gorge confirms that we would not have done it on the bikes. The road (about 25km each way) is badly corrugated and full of loose sand.OK on knobbly tyres on a trail bike, but not heavily laden tourers.

After visiting both viewing areas and admiring the profusion of wild flowers, we drive down a closed road to the edge of the gorge and scramble down to the river below.

A short walk along the bank brings us out at a wide pool with a high sandy beach where the canoes are parked. After a quick swim and a briefing from Davo on the does and don'ts we set off on our paddling. There is no current to speak of and the river is already starting its annual process of drying out. We have a couple of km's of river to paddle backwards and forwards on and generally enjoy the scenery. We stop on the bank under the shade of a gum tree and have a leisurely lunch as we watch other paddle backwards and forwards.

A last paddle back to our starting point followed by a more 'adventurous' route back to the top of the gorge and our bus. A good day of R & R. Tomorrow we continue south on our slow approach to Perth. The weather will determine our final destination, as the forecast is for showers. Tomorrow will tell.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Monkey Mia to Kalbarri

We're packed and ready to go by 7:30. Ranger says no dolphin feeding until later, so having had my 1 on 1 experience the day before, M & U agree that we can skip the 'circus' and head to Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites and have morning coffee. Today's destination is Kalbarri, where we plan to spend 2 nights and have a day trip into the Murchison River gorge.

Hamelin Pool / Telegraph Station is about 30km short of the main North South highway and we make good time. Sun is shining and there are signs of spring wild-flowers on the road side.

Celeste & I had visited Hamelin Pool to view the stromatolites a couple of years ago. But that was at the end of summer and it was hot, dry and dusty. The weather today is much milder, and the bush is looking fresh and full of colour, despite the depredations of feral goats.

As we are checking out the stromatolites from the viewing platform, we hear the distinctive sound of an approaching helicopter. Sure enough it's Richard & Carolyn – dropping in on their way south to Perth.

We offer them coffee and cake and adjourn back to Hamelin Telegraph station. 

I'm forced to remind Marco & Ursala that we have a fair distance to cover today, and that we need to make tracks. Contact details are exchanged and farewells made. Richard & Carolyn say they may stop off at Kalbarri, but if they do, it will be well away from the town somewhere remote in the bush.

As we progress south, there are more and more wild flowers visible on the road side. By the time we reach the Murchison River rest area, we are starting to see signs of farming, with fields of what looks like winter wheat ready for harvesting. The road into Kalbarri is through the national park and here the wild flowers are everywhere. We find a camp site in town at the caravan park and confirm our booking for tomorrows canoe trip. A 7:45am pick up so it will be an early night tonight.

Hamelin Station to Monkey Mia

A little light drizzle overnight – a reminder that we have left the dry tropics! Much cooler at night these days – there was even some ice left in the cooler bag!

Quick breakfast then off to Denham and Monkey Mia. Overcast and cool, but by the time we get to Monkey Mia the sun is breaking through. The resort is as I remember it – commercial. Lots of bus loads of tourists. Lots of backpackers and camper vans.

I wander about while M & U set up their tent. While I'm on the beach I notice a helicopter landing behind the dunes about 1/2 km further up the bay. I'm reminded of our short flight over the Bungle Bungles and how a helicopter would be a great way to see Australia.

While I'm setting up my tent and M & U go for a wander, I notice a couple (about my age) standing next to our bikes and giving them the once over. This is not uncommon, and the bikes often provide a great way to talk to complete strangers. I wander over and introduce myself. They're from Sydney and bike riders. Did you ride here I ask? No they say, we came by helicopter. We're parked just down the beach.

Amazing! Turns out that Richard and Carolyn spend their time flying into remote parts of Australia to take photographs. In fact – I've seen some of Richards work on exhibition at the National Library in Canberra.

We chat for a while and agree to meet at sundown in the pub for drinks.

An afternoon swim and as I'm watching some people down the beach pointing to some dolphins, when Marco calls and points out that we are being stalked by a dolphin and pelican in tandem. The dolphin does a 360 degree loop around me – no more than 2 metres away, and the pelican follows behind, hoping to pick up some scraps. Magic moment!

Late afternoon we adjourn to the beach side restaurant for drinks and free WiFi. The drinks are good but the WiFi is woeful! On a couch next to us two young guys are enjoying a bottle of wine and being served a plate of something that looks good. I ask them what it is. They turn out to be Jason (manager Food & Beverage) and Nick ( Assistant Manager) of the Monkey Mia Resort. It's their day off and they insist we join them . They tell us all about life working at Monkey Mia. Richard & Carolyn arrive in time for sunset. We enjoy a pleasant meal together and Richard tells us how he has ended up flying his Eurocopter helicopter around Australia's wild places taking amazing photographs.

To bed with a plan to rise early and pack up before checking out the Dolphin 'circus' at 7:45.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Coral Bay to Hamelin Station

We decide that 1 night in Coral Bay is enough. There are places we want to see before heading for Perth. Kalbarri for one.
Our initial plan was to head towards Monkey Mia and overnight at one of the free roadside rest areas. (Edaggee Rest Area). About 80 km south of Carnarvon. 

On route to Carnarvon, we cross the Tropic Of Capricorn - officially leaving the tropics. Despite a stiff breeze the weather is noticeably cooler - making for far more pleasant riding.

Carnarvon is on the banks of the Gascoyne River ( The longest river in WA and a so-called “upside down” river. It is used to irrigate land on either side allowing for crops such as bananas and tomatoes.
After a lunch stop in Carnarvon, where we had to negotiate serious road works and detours just to get to the supermarket. Fish & chips for lunch then back on the road. We reach Edaggee Rest Area by 2pm. The camp site is less than attractive. It's right next to the highway, with no shade trees, and lots of dust and rubbish. As we still have plenty of daylight we press on after the mandatory coffee brew. This time heading for Hamelin Pool at the Shark bay turn off - an extra 150km.
The countryside has a weird beauty despite its bleakness.
We make Hamelin Homestead by 4pm - a great spot for an overnight. This is an old pastoral lease that hace converted the old shearing quarters into accommodation with some camping areas close by. A good place to spend the night before heading up the peninsula towards Denham and Monkey Mia.
We discover that some of the other 'guests' staying at Hamelin are part of a wedding party. Some had flown in and landed on the homestead airstrip. others had driven up from Perth.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lighthouse Caravan Park Exmouth to Coral Bay

An easy day today – just 170 km. Trying to maximise our enjoyment of Ningaloo, we headed for Coral Bay at the southern end of the reef. Easy ride, despite the suicidal goats and stray cattle wandering across the road. Good elevated views to our left towards the east showing lots of empty space. Coral Bay is a small tourist destination. Caravan parks, a hotel/resort and a couple of shops on the edge of a small bay. The reef is just off shore and protects the bay. Easy swimming and snorkelling from the beach.

The caravan park operator gave us a nice grassed area next to the camp kitchen that is not normally used by campers. Perfect for 3 motorcycles and 2 tents. 

We are debating whether or not to have another day here or to opt for two nights at Denham/Monkey Mia on Shark Bay. Tomorrow we will decide.....

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ningaloo Daze.

So – here we are at the Ningaloo Lighthouse Caravan Park. We have decided to stay here in relative comfort rather than queue up at 7am each morning for a rationed camp site in the National Park.

Day 1:
We took a trip out on a commercial glass bottomed boat to view the reef and have a snorkel. Conditions were excellent. A slight breeze, high tide, good visibility, warm water and not to many people on the boat. This was a basic trip lasting from 10am to 1pm, including pick up and drop off from our camp site for $60. Good enough, we had about 30/40 minutes of time in the water. Lots of fish and lots of interesting coral. The boat skipper took us over some coral heads that have been core sampled and are up to 1000 years old.

Into town (Exmouth) for lunch and then a lazy afternoon. A walk up to the old lighthouse in the late afternoon. Excellent views out over the bay and down the ranges. Lots of humpback whales frolicking just offshore. In the far distance out to sea a couple of gas drilling rigs are visible.

The Exmouth peninsula is covered with defence installations. Tall antennae litter the landscape. These installations date back to the Harold Holt era when it was “All the way with LBJ”. The town of Exmouth didn't exist until the yanks built these bases.

Three course dinner and then some time on the computer uploading photos before bed.

Day 2:
Today we hired some snorkels and fins from the caravan park. A ride down the Cape Range NP coast road, stopping at various places that had been recommended as good beaches to access the reef from.
High tide was midday, so we went all the way down to Yardie Creek for coffee and a (very) early lunch.

Of all the spots we'd reconnoitred on the way down, South Mandu Beach looked the best. Easy access from the car park to the beach, easy access from the beach to the coral and not another person in view. Also as we'd 'checked' the location out earlier in the morning, we sighted a couple of small reef sharks chasing bait fish down the channel between the beach and the coral. They dashed about at a great rate, scattering bait fish in all directions. Sharks mmmm

There is an 'Eco' camp site ( )just behind the dunes, with swank looking safari tents etc., but it appeared deserted.

The person who had advised us to try South Mandu, had indicated that at high tide, the current runs parallel to the beach, from south to north and that the best way to snorkel, was to walk south along the beach and then drift back with the current.

This worked like a charm. We managed two 'trips' of about 20 minutes each, before having a rest. Then a final trip as the tide was turning and we'd had enough of being out in the sun. 

Floating along in the current about a metre above the coral was like being in a low flying aircraft zooming over some alien landscape. Magic! Lots of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. Ditto the coral. This was a fitting compliment to the boat trip of the previous day.
Tired but content we headed back to camp to shower and prepare for dinner tonight. To late Marco & Ursala remember that they'd left their swimming togs back at the beach. It was a long ride back for Marco. I promised not to start the beers until his return.

Tomorrow its south to Coral Bay.

House Creek Rest area to Exmouth / Ningaloo

After our hardship camp site at House Creek, we were looking forward to the Nanutarra Roadhouse. Perhaps a second breakfast - scrambled eggs on toast and coffee? Thoughts like this spurred us on as we set off to cover the 60 km to the main highway. A pleasant ride through the fresh morning air. Nanutarra Roadhouse was a great disappointment. Anywhere that puts bars on their washbasins to prevent you from filling your water bottle is clearly a place to be avoided. Scrambled Eggs on toast? That'll be $15.75 please! Forget it!
So we limit ourselves to filling up with the most expensive fuel to date – almost $2.00 a litre – and press on towards Exmouth. Our destination for today.

The countryside again slowly change as we approach the coast. Scrubby savannah, gives way to red sand dunes, gives way to flat coastal scrub. As we hit the Exmouth peninsular road and turn north again, the temperature is climbing into the now customary high 30's. However, as we approach Exmouth, a breeze springs up and the temperature plunges to very pleasant 26 degrees! What bliss!

We arrive at the visitors centre and are advised that all the national park camp sites are full and that if we want to camp there, we will have to front up at 7am in the morning and queue for any that become available overnight. Crazy! We opt instead for a commercial caravan park right at the tip of the Exmouth peninsular just below the old lighthouse. After 3 nights in Karijini + another dusty night at the House Creek rest area hot showers and a camp kitchen with refrigeration and power are an attractive option – even if it costs us $40 a night.

We are planning to spend a few days here, hopefully get to see the Ningaloo reef and maybe do some snorkeling.

Karijini NP to House Creek Rest Area


The ride out from Karijini via Paraburdoo is great. A totally amazing landscape. Ancient eroded mountain ranges that run from horizon to horizon. A landscape that has been stripped to it's very bones. Clearly saturated in iron ore and no doubt other valuable minerals. The only signs of human activity are the mine camps, the railways and the road trains hauling heavy mining equipment. All of these human signs are lost in the immensity of the Pilbara.

Athough we had been told that the supermarket in Paraburdoo would be open on a Sunday, we arrive to find it closed. We have to make do with the limited supplies we find at the petrol station. We pause only for morning coffee before pressing on. Our goal is a free camp site / rest area some 60 km short of Nanutarra Roadhouse on the North West Coastal highway. This is a distance of over 300km, and as we start to loose altitude, the temperature increases. We stop for a brief lunch and press on into the hot afternoon.

The rest area is in a dry creek bed. Plenty of shade, but no water and very dusty. The talc like red dust of the Pilbara that gets into everything. Still – lots of bird life and a three legged goanna keep us amused until the sun sets.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Karijni NP - the best and the worst of Australia

An interesting evening spent with Celso & Ines – (their English is basic, but my Portuguese is non-existent) – I discover that Celso is doing post doctoral work at Curtin University in chemical engineering. Something to do with using natural fibres in tyres. We had agreed that in the morning we would do one of the gorge walks before they resume their journey and set off towards the coast.

Karijini has a number of gorges that cut through the landscape. The gorges close to Dale's camp are easily accessible and we have a great walk – first along the rim, then descending down to the creek bed and following it back upstream to the swimming holes.
As we climb out of the gorge and commence the walk back to the camp site, I hear the familiar sound of Marco's VStrom. Marco & Ursala have finally caught up!

After bidding Celso & Ines farewell and agreeing to catch up when we get to Perth, I head back down to the swimming hole with Marco and Ursala. We spend the afternoon in the cool of the gorge, swimming at will and commenting on the attitude of the visitors who pass by. 

There are 3 distinct types. Gen 'X' travelers and backpackers. Usually Europeans – lots of French and Germans – in camper vans and cars. Grey nomads in caravans and large mobile homes. Then there are the "Miners" – single males from the local mine camps.

The Gen 'X' travellers are out to have a good time. They appear to travel in groups and set up camp together. Most are OK, but some are totally oblivious to the environment they find themselves in. Twice we caught young French girls using shampoo to wash their hair in one of the pools. This particular pool is of special significance to the local indigenous people, and has signposts asking visitors to treat it with respect. When we confronted one of the French girls about using shampoo, her response was to say “But it's OK. The shampoo is organic!”. I asked her if she would be happy to wash her hair in Notre Dame Cathedral? She just looked blank. Marco wondered if she would object in swimming in his urine - after all it is also organic!.

As I say – totally oblivious to the the significance of place.

The other disappointment was the attitude of the miners who turn up over the weekend for R & R. They travel in packs and are loud, usually drunk, foul mouthed and totally insensitive to their surroundings or the other visitors to the park. They arrive in mine vehicles, complete with eskies full of beer and proceed to trash the place. The local camp hosts tell us that it is a growing problem and park authorities are trying to have them banned. Single loud drunk males, with to much money and nothing better to do on their days off than treat a world heritage site as if it were a trash heap.

Still – in a couple of hundred thousand years (blink of an eye in this part of the world) it will be like we humans were never here. The landscape will endure.

Karijini. A great place to experience the majesty of the Pilbara – just avoid the weekends.

PS - The visitors centre is also worth a visit. Amazing rusting iron architecture - perfect for the landscape!

80 Mile Beach to Karijini NP


80 Mile Beach has been a stand out on this trip. Unique location, and far from the madding crowd. Despite it's beauty, a memorial in the park reminds us that in the late 1800's 20 odd pearl luggers were wrecked on it's shores during a cyclone with over 120 lives lost.

YAES (Yet Another Early Start), means that I get to see Venus and the waxing moon in the dawn sky. A rare treat especially for someone who is well known as a 'late' riser!

Today was a long and lonely ride (600+ km). Port Hedland was avoided, as the highway bypasses the port. Lots of activity, machinery everywhere and road-works and construction attesting to the impact of mining in this area. Port Hedland is one of the primary export points for iron ore mined down in the Pilbara. Lots of 'temporary' accommodation camps, heaps of mine vehicles (Toyota are doing well out of all this activity), and dust everywhere. I'm forced to stop in South Hedland for fuel and supplies, before pressing on.

Heading south towards the Pilbara there are lots of road trains carrying heavy equipment heading north. The road although initially flat and boring starts to climb and eventually the temperature drops from 38 down to a more manageable 35 as the road climbs into the Hamersley Range and we reach 750+ metres.

Stop at the Munjina Roadhouse for fuel before entering Karijini NP. As I'm filling up, another bike (a small 250cc cruiser) with a couple on board. Celso and Ines are Brazilians, 4 months in Australia, and their first time out of Perth. They'd looked at a map, and decided to ride up to Port Hedland via the inland route, and then back down the coast. Their bike has a range of about 250km on a tank, so they are forced to carry spare fuel in a plastic bottle. They are on a steep learning curve about travelling in OZ and after I talk to them about conditions further north and what a hole Port Hedland is, I persuade them to come with me to Karijini for the night and then to head to the coast via Paraburdoo.

Dale's camp ground in Karijini is 'basic'. No water, little shade and just a long drop. The ground is hard, shattered rock and sand with evidence of iron ore everywhere. In some places the iron ore has weathered down to a grey metallic dust that looks for all the world like metal filings. We set up camp and then head down to the gorge for a swim. In WA, many national park camp sites are manned by 'hosts'. Volunteers who spend weeks, sometimes months looking after the camp sites during the season. Our hosts are very helpful and tell us the best places to go if we want a cool swim out of the sun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Broome to 80 Mile Beach.

The stretch of road between Broom and Port Hedland is 600 km of nothing. The Sandfire Roadhouse is about 323 km along this road and 45 km before the turn off to 80 Mile beach caravan park. We make good time – Sandfire for refuel and a drink. Temperature is already 36 degrees and the wind has picked up and swung round from a tail wind to one that buffets us from the side. Ken and I confer and as we've made good time consider pushing on to Port Hedland. The compromise is to have a look at the 80 Mile Beach caravan park – it's only 9km off the highway – then make the call about staying or pushing on.

The road down to the beach is undulating but straight, corrugated and pockmarked with hidden holes full of fine red sand. In a word Gnarley! The temptation to handle the corrugations at speed is soon overcome by the experience of hitting a pocket of deep fine dust and almost coming unstuck. Slow and steady standing up on the pegs does it.

The approach to the beach is through flat scrub country that holds little promise. However as we top the last rise and get our first view of the ocean we know we've come to the right place.

The caravan park is tucked behind the dunes with direct access to 80 Mile Beach. An endless stretch of flat white coral and shell sand. The camp site itself is a little oasis. Grassy areas and plenty of shade trees. Clearly they have access to a fresh water source just below the surface. Although there are still quite a few people here, they are for the most part fishermen who come here for the season. Many spend 3 to 6 months here, just fishing from the beach. Apart from ourselves there are not to many overnighters. As we are setting up our tents, one of the neighbours is heading to the beach with his fishing gear. In jest we tell him to bring us back some fresh fish.

Down to the beach for an afternoon swim and back to camp for tea and a yarn. As we're sitting there thinking about what to do for dinner, our neighbour re-appears with fresh fish! Easy decision - barbecued fish for dinner!

Sun sets quickly and we are left with a sky full of stars. We've left the smoke of the fires behind us in Broome so the sky is clear over head. Ken will be pushing on tomorrow but I'm in no rush. In the morning I'll decide whether or not to linger for another night before heading on. That will give M and U an extra day to catch up.

Slack day at 80 Mile Beach.

Easy decision to make. The night was cool – down to 14 degrees, so a good nights sleep was had by all. I suspect the scotch helped as well.

Slow breakfast with Ken as he packs up to go. We may catch up with him in Perth if we get there before he leaves. He is planning to spend a couple of weeks down there with one of his sons.

I spend the day reading, hiding in the shade, swimming, eating, drinking cool drinks eating ice cream and talking to some of the residents.
Todays topic is fishing....

As the afternoon wears on the new arrivals for the day start appearing. Today more people arrive than leave, so the camp site is a bit more crowded.

Marco texts that tyres are sorted and that they will leave Broome tomorrow morning at sparrow's fart. That's my plan as well. On to Port Hedland and then south to Karijini National Park.

PS -it's Marco's birthday today. Happy birthday old timer. 64 years old....

When I get older losing my hair, many years from now........

Broome Rest Day.

The plan had been to fit a new rear tyre to Ursala's bike. This had been arranged from Darwin and was ready. Only problem was that now her front tyre was showing serious signs of uneven wear and as there was no tyre suitable in Broome, it would have to be shipped in – a two day delay!

We spend the morning wandering around 'Chinatown' – the touristy part of broom. Lots of shops selling pearls and aboriginal art. While I was parking my motorcycle in the shade another bike (Triumph Tiger) pulls up for a chat. The rider – Ken, is an Aussie resident in New Zealand who is also doing a circuit of OZ. He's just finished doing the Gibb River road and has taken the day off to recover. He ends up in the same caravan park as us.

Afternoon is passed sitting in the shade and swimming in the pool in the caravan park. I've arranged to catch up with Tom N, who has just started a new job based in Broome with the Kimberley Land Council. Marco & Ursala have dinner with Ken at a local Thai restaurant. After Tom & I have a couple of ales at a local watering hole, he takes me back to his house for a home cooked meal. Coral Trout!
Tom is clearly happy with his new job, and excited about the future. I hope his enthusiasm lasts and that things work out for him.

I've decided to abandon M & U while they wait for the tyre and head south with Ken. So I don't linger at Tom's place. Early to bed and have agreed with Ken where we should head for tomorrow.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fitzroy Crossing to Broome + Fireworks

Up at 5:30am. The sun comes up early in this part of the world!
 On the road by 7:30 with the promise of a hot day to come. Ellendale rest area (90km west of Fitzroy) for morning coffee break. A recently upgraded test area with an elevated position in an otherwise flat and featureless landscape.
The local crested pigeons have worked out that when you operate the water pump on the dunny, a small amount of water leaks from the holding tank providing them with a drink! Who said pigeons were stupid?
Onwards we press. Past the turn off to Derby and stop at Willare Roadhouse for fuel and liquid refreshment. We contemplate stopping here for the day, but its only 10:30. So we agree to push on to Broome, aiming at a rest area 60km further for an early lunch.
Temperature has now reached 36 degrees and there is lots of smoke in the air. The fires that were reported yesterday burning around Broome are obviously still active.
I somehow miss the agreed rest area and although the others stop, they pause only to wet their 'T' shrts before chasing me down the road. Eventually we meet at the Roebuck Roadhouse at the Broome turn off. Bushfires are all around and the air is thick with smoke. We are informed that they are thinking of closing the road again – just as they had yesterday. Not wanting to wait out the fire front at the Roadhouse, we speed on to Broome.
We seek refuge in an air-conditioned shopping centre near Broome airport for lunch before heading for the caravan park at Cable Beach. As we are checking in the locals tell us that it is the last day of the Shinju Matsuri festival (Festival of the Pearl) , and that there will be music, dancing dragons, food and fireworks on the beach tonight. Just for us!
Set up camp, have a swim, then head down to Cable Beach to join the festivities. We have reached the Indian Ocean!
 Super sunset courtesy of the bushfires, Laksa, ice cream and fireworks to end the day. Nice one!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fitzroy River and Geikie Gorge

The national Parks people run cruises in the gorge and we decided to take the early one at 8am.

Good choice. It was still cool on the river and there were hardly any passengers. Bout 10 people all up including the 3 of us. A short cruise up stream through the gorge. Spectacular limestone cliffs showing the 'high-water' marks of the seasonal flooding. The ranger was informative and easy going. Pointing out lots of interesting stuff, including the fresh water crocs that even this early in the day were already leaving the water to sun themselves on convenient rock ledges under the limestone cliffs, or on the sandy banks on the river bends.

It's clear that during the wet a tremendous volume of water flows down these Kimberly rivers. Apparently it is not unusual for Fitzroy Crossing to become Fitzroy island for weeks at a time as they township is cut off on both sides by floodwaters.

Back on shore by 9:00pm and back to the Fitzroy Lodge via the supermarket. A lazy day catching up with washing, blogging and reading. Radio reports of bush fires in the Broome area closing the road, so we will have to see what tomorrow brings. It's almost 400km from here to Broome, so we may stop 2/3rd of the way there. Depending on whether or not we can find a camp site that meets our standards!

Purnululu to Fitzroy Crossing

Up super early as we have a 6am chopper flight.
Only half an hour. It takes us 10 minutes in the chopper to cover the distance it took a couple of hours in the bus. What a vista, as we fly east into the rising sun.

A quick circuit over the southern part of the Bungle Bungles Plateau puts yesterdays walks into perspective as we look down on the eroded plateau that dissolves into the dome country on the south western corner.

Fantastic unhindered views in all directions, but all to soon its time to head back to the camp. This time taking a route that tracks over the Ord river bed, we are shown how to spot cattle, as Chris the pilot explains how they use choppers to muster the cattle, flushing them out of remote corners and driving them down hill and down stream to the mustering points.

A quick circuit over the camp and we're back on Terra Firma.

Time to pack the bikes and hit the road. Sad farewells to Celeste & Lesley who are heading back to Kununurra and Darwin.
90km to Halls Creek, re-fuel and coffee then we hit the road west.

There are a couple of 'free' camp sites along the route, but as the temperature climbs to 38 degrees, we end up covering the 300km from Halls Creek to Fitzroy Crossing and the Fitzroy Lodge caravan park. $15 per night per person, but shady and grassed tent sites, a pool and all facilities. In this weather we are happy to spend the money and avoid a hot dusty, dry and shadeless camp site at the side of the road.

In fact the camp site is so pleasant we decide to spend two nights here, and do a day trip up to Geikie Gorge to have a look at the Devonian Limestone reef that has been cut by the Fitzroy River.,com_hotproperty/task,view/id,43/

A Spectacular day in Purnululu NP.

Up at dawn and after a quick breakfast we board the 4WD Bus that is to take the 5 of us plus another 20 odd people for an organised 'tour'. This is a full day trip with expected time back in camp of about 5:30pm. In time for a prepared dinner. Morning tea, lunch and dinner are all included in the tour.
The road into the park is basic – parts have been recently graded, but the corrugations are still pretty bad. It's about 50km into the visitors centre, but the road winds through some pretty rough country, with lots of twist and turns and steep climbs and descents into the creek and river beds. A couple of creek crossings may have been a challenge on the bikes but otherwise I'm sure I could have made it OK on the Yamaha. Still – we're happy to let Peter (our tour leader and driver) take full responsibility for ensuring a safe and (reasonably) comfortable trip, as we will be spending a good few hours driving into as well as out of the park. Our trip will incorporate both a look at the southern end of the Bungle Bungle range (with it's famous 'Beehive' dome formations), as well as the northern section where the Echidna Chasm is located.
A brief stop at the visitors centre before we head to the southern end of the park and Piccaninny Creek parking area. A quick morning tea, then we have until 12:15 (lunch) to wander around and check out the sites.

Piccaninny Lookout:

Cathedral Gorge:

The Domes:

Lunch and then back on the bus for the drive up to the northern section of the park and Echidna Chasm.

An astonishing landscape - littered with images that speak of seriously deep time. No photograph or words can come close to capturing the wonder of this place.

A bunch of weary but happy campers get back on the bus for the long slow drive back to camp.I find myself sitting next to Chris - one of the chopper pilots - who although he has flown over this place many times - has just made his first visit on foot. He tells us that it's just as amazing from the air. Celeste, Lesley & I immediately decide that we will do the chopper flight fist thing in the morning. Seems only fitting!