Perth to Darwin
27-28/3/13: We decided to get going back north again today. We pretty much drove back the way we came, onto the freeway, and right through the centre of Perth. We were aiming for a freecamp next to a river (Moore River), and we contemplating staying there pretty much for Easter. Most people we have spoken to have been saying that everywhere is booked out, so staying out at freecamps seemed like a plan. We stopped at a couple of places along the way, before finding the camp. It was good. Next to a nice clean river (which we turned into piping hot solar showers), a free bbq (unfortunately broken), and a good area to park in. We were the only ones in, but it filled up as the afternoon progressed. We set up the satellite and pretty much settled in.
The next day we just lazed about reading. During the afternoon, the Ranger turned up and told us it was only an overnight stop for 24 hours and that we needed to move on. We negotiated another night, but it scuppered our Easter plans.
29/3/13: Up early and on the road north. Good Friday today, and the roads are mental. We wanted to go to the Pinnicles which is a rock formation. Its in a National Park, so we planned to leave the dogs in the van while we looked around. As we pulled into the turn off road, a big sign advised us no dogs were allowed, including in cars, and to turn around now, or be fined. Western Australia is very welcoming! We’ve lost count of the people we chat to who say they’ll never come back. Not when the east coast is so much easier to travel, and just as nice. So we pressed on to a coastal town called Cervantes for lunch. It was packed. Lots of people having Easter break. The caravan parks were full to the brim, and they were charging $25 to be allowed to park on the grass verge outside; no power or water. We drove on.
We’d picked out a parking area at Cliff Heads North to stay the night as the book said it was set back from the road. We missed it the first time we drove past, so turned around. It is a large parking bay right on the beach, and there were quite few vans spread out up and down the beach. We found a spot and set up. Our neighbour has been here 3 weeks so here we’ll stay for a day or two. The internet is intermittent, but the satellite is good to go. The wind picks up in the afternoon, but its late 20C’s and all very pleasant. We’ll be out of water and food in a couple of days but Easter will be over by then, so it’ll be quieter and the shops will be open again.
2/4/13: With Easter behind us, and the water and food running low, we left Cliff Heads North today and headed north towards Geraldton. Before we got there we went into Port Denison which is a small coastal town. There’s a tap at the boat ramp which gives you 80 litres for 20 cents. There’s no handle on the tap, so it pays to be ready with the containers. And then on into Geraldton. We found a supermarket and did some shopping and had a quick look round. Its not a bad place at all, but we didn’t linger as towns are becoming much of a muchness.
We continued north and got as far as Coronation Beach about 25 kms up the road. We only intended stopping for lunch but ended up there for a week. The beach has far less seaweed on it than Cliff Heads, and there are reasonable toilets here. You have to pay $14 a night, but its well organised.
We had some good neighbours who parked next door. It was good chatting to people of ‘similar’ age, nutting out the problems of the world. They had a couple children who took a liking to the dogs, and the TV, and were as polite and well behaved as is possible. Most days here were the same. 30C ish all week, humid, some time spent on the beach, plus a bit of reading and TV thrown in. It was a good week.
We have bought a car back in Melbourne, and all the paperwork for that went through as well which was a relief. I owned the car several years ago, and sold it to Janine (which is how we met). Janine sold it on about 3 years ago. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a similar car for when we get back. Its AWD and turbo, and will be perfect for the twisty roads near Apollo Bay where we are looking to buy. So when I saw ‘our’ old car on the interwebs it seemed obvious. Luckily I have a splendid mate in Melbourne who did all the running around sorting it out for me. And we paid exactly half what we sold it for. Bargain.
8/4/13: We have once again run out of water and food so its time to move on. The next town up the coast is Northampton, which is a small place. We filled up with water at the Lions club park, and got some supplies at the shop. We are ultimately heading to Monkey Mia, where the dolphins pretty much come up onto the beach to be fed by humans, just as nature intended. It’s about 300 kms away from Northampton so an overnight stop is required for us to save on the driving. Its starting to warm up now, and the humidity is stifling. All of the road side stops we checked out were pretty average, so we pressed on, out onto the peninsula. There are a few ‘free’ camps on the beach on the way into Denham; you just need a permit from the Ranger. We stopped at Whalebone Bay, and rang up the number for a permit. Whilst there is no fee to camp, there is an ‘administration’ fee for answering the phone. Rather than create work for the poor Ranger, my advice would be not to trouble them.
We spent one night here, and the sunset and views were great. It got pretty windy, but that was a welcome relief from the heat.
9/4/13: We left Whalebone Bay, and drove into Denham. We bought a ¼ of a tank of diesel – it was being rationed by the only service station in town, and booked into a campsite that took dogs. Our intention was to stay one night, but we have booked in for four. Its nice enough, with good views of Shark Bay. We’ve done our washing, and a few bits and bobs, but there’s absolutely nothing to do in town.
Denham’s water comes from a desalination plant so it tastes weird. There are several windmills in the area too. Still amazed that in a ‘World Heritage Site’ you can’t walk a dog along the beach, but you can erect multiple useless bird chompers to stuff up the coastal view.
The weather is miserable. Hot, sunny, and very humid. Even at night, when the temperature drops into the 20’s, and the wind gets up, your clothes are permanently sticky and wet. We’ll leave on Friday, and head out to Monkey Mia. Hopefully the weather will cool down a bit by then.
12/4/13: We left Denham today to drive out to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. The tourist bumf says they feed 3 times every morning between 9am and midday, so we got there at 10.15am and paid our entry into the ‘resort’. We’d missed the first two feedings and as it turned out there wasn’t a third. The dolphins come in of their own accord, and 5 of them get fed about 25% of their daily fish needs to encourage them to still be wild. Obviously no one had told them we were coming which was frustrating.
The weather is still very hot (40C ish) and very humid. We decided to stay at Monkey Mia and sit in the sea. We popped back to the van for lunch, and when we walked back to the beach we saw three dolphins swimming away. Typical. You just can’t get good dolphins anymore. It was a nice day though. We swam a bit, and wandered onto the jetty to watch the fish and the turtles. We decided that we’d come back tomorrow. Our entry ticket is good for another day as we missed the feeding. We drove back to Denham, and then out further, back to one of the ‘free’ camps with an admin fee. We stayed at Fowlers Beach. It is very windy at the moment, so we watched a bit of TV, and took the dish down before bed in case it blew away. There were 5 or 6 other campers in, and we set our alarm for 6.30 am to get us back to Monkey Mia in good time.
14/4/13: We woke up early today, and tried to be quiet as it was so early. When we opened the doors, everyone had already gone! We drove back to the dolphins, and stood on the beach with the other 70 odd people and waited. About 15 dolphins turned up and swam about waiting to be fed. It was pretty good. Selected people (read 18 year old back packers in bikinis), were chosen by the ‘feeders’ to hand feed the dolphins. Somehow, Janine managed to push the chosen ones aside, and muscled her way to the front, and got to feed a dolphin. I was happy to stay on the beach consoling those that missed out.
After having a coffee, we left Monkey Mia to head north. We are aiming to be in Coral Bay on the 18th to watch someone we met do a gig in the pub there. We have booked a night in the caravan park for the night. Tonight we stayed at a road side stop. It is boiling hot, windy, and the flies are a nightmare. They crawl under your sun glasses and fiddle around in your eyes, distracting you while their mates get up your nose. Our new fans are certainly paying their way!
15/4/13: We set off again today in the hot humid weather, and drove on to Warroora Station which is a wilderness campsite. Most of it is 4wd access only, but 14 mile beach is doable in our van. The road in is heavily corrugated and nearly shook the van to bits, but it was worth it. We have set up camp on the beach (after getting bogged in the soft sand and digging ourselves out). It’s too windy for flies which is good, but its still very hot. The caretaker here reckons there’s a cyclone offshore causing the winds and humidity. Hopefully it’ll cool off once that passes.
We are paid up here ($15 a night) for four nights. So far all we’ve done is swim, sit in the shade, and swim some more. Our batteries are getting more of a workout than normal. Between sunset and dawn, we are using about 75 aH or 25% of our battery, which is a lot more than usual, but the fridge is on more often, and we’re running 3 fans 24/7, plus the TV etc. The solar panels are keeping up though, and we are back to full each evening.
18/4/13: Today we decided to leave our beach camp, and head to Coral Bay. It is still well over 35C, and the humidity is still in the 90%’s. Its almost unbearable; swimming in the sea gives momentary relief, and then its back to misery. All our stuff is wet and salty and sticky, so we are staying in a caravan park tonight to do some washing and clean up a bit. Because we have dogs, we have been shoved at the back of the site with the other lepers. Talk about hemmed in! We did our chores, locked the dogs in the van, and went to the Ningaloo Reef Resort for a meal and beer. Our fellow traveller, Johnny, is playing a gig there so we wanted to see that too.
The whole of Coral Bay that the tourist gets to see is run down and of the ‘70’s. The ‘Resort’ looks like Council flats, and the majority of the ‘locals’ don’t seem too out of place. We had a good night though, watched the music, and chatted to Johnny/Sal/family which was nice. Everyone was soaked in sweat despite being outside, and it was another warm night in the van.
19/4/13: We were all for heading off early today, but we were persuaded last night that its worth going out onto the reef for a look see. Jano’s not much good in the water, so we considered glass bottomed boats etc, but due to price constraints, we decided Jan could learn to be good in the water. The reef is in two parts. You walk into the sea, where it stays crystal clear and about knee deep for 50 metres or so. Then it drops off and there is maybe 3-400 metres of reef heading out to sea. This bit is full of corals and fish of the exotic varieties. Beyond that, there is another reef with breaking waves, and the sea / reef proper starts where the whale sharks live.
We hired some flippers and snorkels, and waded out to the first reef. Once we had our sea legs, it was great. The corals are pretty big and ‘iceberg lettuce like’, and the fish are everywhere. It was much easier once we went with the current and not against it. We stayed out for a couple of hours, before celebrating with a Magnum Ego. Unfortunately, our camera isn’t waterproof, so you’ll have to take our word for it. (There's a couple of photos from the internet which aren't mine, but not sure who's they are / copyright etc. Just in case!)
We left Coral Bay after lunch and drove up to Exmouth to get some food. It was a long boring drive, especially knowing we would have to half of it again on the way back off the peninsula. We shopped, and left. There is nowhere to camp with dogs, so got back out onto the highway north, and stopped at Barradale Rest stop for the night.
20/4/13: We didn’t want to drive too far today, as Survivor is on at 3.30pm! So we just headed 200 kilometres or so up the road, and stopped at another road stop, next to a river. It was a nice enough place but we are going Bodmin with the heat. We both pretty much don’t want to be here at the moment. The temperature is about 10C above average for the year, but it’s the humidity that’s the killer. The weather forecast says its pretty much the same for at least a week. Unfortunately, we couldn’t be further from home if we tried! We checked on google, and its at least 6,500 kms home from here. So here we will sit and melt.
21-22/4/13: – More driving today. We are in the Pilbara region which is all mining based – iron ore and gas mainly I think. Parts of the landscape are quite desert like, and then there are some mountainous areas. And interdispersed amongst all that, are mines. The ground is very red from the iron, and most of the mining equipment is made of iron and rusty, so it blends in pretty well. We drove into Karatha which is a medium sized town pretty much all revolving around mining. Every other vehicle on the road is a mining 4wd. We got some water, diesel, and food, and then pressed on.
We stopped by another river tonight, and this one had some water in it. We cooked lamb chops, and mine may have been a little too rare causing rumblings. I couldn’t face driving, or being Janine’s passenger for that matter, so we stayed two nights. Just sitting in front of the fans. Moaning.
23/4/13: Feeling a bit better today so we moved on. We have decided to just keep driving. It’s cooler, and gets us away from the heat. We thought we’d timed our run north to coincide with the dry season, but I think we are a little early. The locals are all moaning about the humidity too, so maybe nature got it wrong. Probably more likely.
We did a few kilometres today, and found ourselves in Port Hedland. Another mining town, but a bit bigger than Karatha. We filled up again, and went to the supermarket. We had a look round, and saw the port where the coal / ore leaves the country. Its quite industrial, but pleasant. The inhabitants seem to either work in the mines or they don’t. So they have money or they don’t. We kept driving, and eventually found another free roadstop. We set up the telly, had tea, and an early night in front of the fans.
24-25/4/13: Our aim today is to get to Broome and pay for a caravan park so we can get to the beach. We did most of the driving yesterday, so only 250 kms to do this morning. There’s only one park that takes dogs, and it gets average reviews but we have no choice. We found it to be ok, but there are rules written up on notices everwhere, stating what you can and can’t do. The staff were pretty snotty too. But there’s a beach!
We defrosted the fridge, and got set up and just relaxed for the rest of the day. We have banged into a couple we met in Margaret River, so we had beers with them.
The overnight temperature isn’t getting below 27C, so its pretty hard getting comfortable, and the fridge is on 24hours straight, and frosting up almost daily. But it’s still cold, and the freezer is still frozen.
The next day we walked to the beach. Its 2-3 kilometres away, which is quite far in these conditions. Clive was almost dead on arrival at the sands, so we carried him into the water and dunked him for an hour. He doesn’t like going in, and won’t go on his own, but he wasn’t arguing today. The lifesaving club has the tide times etc, and it said the sea temperature is 30C. No wonder it felt warm! You literally walk in and can’t tell you’re in. We spent half a day there, and then walked home; straight into the showers. We just put our bags down, and walked in fully clothed and turned on the cold tap. Survivor and fish and chips tonight. And a sweaty bed.
Tomorrow we are going up the cost a bit with our chums to a free beach camp.
26/4/13 - 6/5/13: As planned, we headed to a free beach camp at Quandong with Cookie and Deb, and two of their granddaughters (Ellie and Ruby). We found the perfect spot, right next to the beach, and set up.
The weather is still hot, but the humidity has been much lower here. And there is a breeze, so its all been much better. Our days have been the same each day. Get up, breakfast, swim, lunch, swim, beer, dinner, bed. The sun is out every day, and the routine is set.
The only ocassional change is beauty treatments for the ladies. I've treated Jan to a haircut and colour. It does look a bit hat like, but you should have seen it before. Ellie and Ruby treated Jan and Deb to massages, and then all had facials. Cookie and I did manly things like drink beer.
We'll be here for another couple of days, and then we're going back into Broome for a night to do washing and restock. The girls have gone home, and we'll travel with Cookie / Deb for a while until we turn north for Darwin.
8/5/13: As planned, we left Quandong and headed into the caravan park in Broome for the night. Last time we were here, there were only a handful of vans in, but this time it was nearly full. All the old people from Perth getting away for winter. We did our washing, filled up, and had an early night.
9-10/5/13: An early start today; on the road by 9am. We are heading for Darwin in the next few days, and we had our eyes on a free camp at Mary Pool about 500 kms away. So pretty much a day of driving. The countryside is quite nice, but still a long day.
There’s not much to stop at, other than fuel which we did at Fitzroy Crossing. We got to Mary Pool early afternoon, and set up for Survivor! Mary Pool is on the Mary River, and it’s a nice spot. We will stay two nights, and have a rest. Not much to do here anyway, so we spent the time walking the dogs and sitting around.
11/5/13: Another big drive today. We drove through Halls Creek, and on to Kununurra, stopping for fuel at both. This is the Kimberley area, which quite hilly and picturesque. Unfortunately our camera broke today, and the spare was broken too, so not much in the photo department. The Northern Territory border is just east of Kunanura, so we had to put the clocks forward an hour and a half, losing a bit of day. Luckily the speed limit went up from 110 kmh to 130 kmh, so we should make the time back! We spent the night at Saddle Creek rest areas, which was nice enough. I managed to fix up the camera – a bit of grit was in the lens stopping it from opening.
12/5/13: More driving. We drove east through Timber Creek, and on to Victoria River. The countryside beyond this got even nicer, with large hills and outcrops, surrounding the Victoria River. We didn’t stop anywhere, and kept driving to Katherine. Katherine is a small country town, but seemed to have a good vibe. We emptied the toilet there. We all decided to just keep driving north towards Darwin, as it was still hot and humid. We eventually got to a free camp at Bridge Creek at about 6.30. It was almost dark, and I was just about sick of driving. But the camp is free.
13-16/5/13: Today we made it to Darwin. It was a short drive due to yesterday’s efforts. We are going to stay at the Robbie Robbins reserve, which is an equestrian centre that takes vans inbetween events. Apparently Darwin’s campgrounds are a bit dodgy so this is a good choice. $35 a night, but there’s power and water and good showers.
Cookie and Deb were nice enough to drive us around Darwin to see the sights, and we had lunch out for a change. Darwin is quite a new town, having been blown away by a cyclone in the 1970’s. I couldn’t live here – too humid and hot. We had a good look around, and went to the Crocoseum, which is crocodiles kept in tanks on the main street. It was interesting. Some of the crocs weigh 900 kgs and are 90 years old. Apparently the males keep growing until they die, and can live upto 150 years.
The rest of the week was spent washing vans, and generally relaxing. On our last night we went to the markets and for another look around town.
And then time to head south and home to winter in Melbourne.
I’ll start a new page for that, which is here.