Week 26 | Port Gregory to Port Denison

Day 176 – 179: Port Gregory

We are now starting week 26 of our year long journey and we have to pinch ourselves every day to remind each other how fortunate we are to be on this adventure.

Today is a rest day for Andrew and a work morning for me.  Telstra reception is very weak at Port Gregory and it’s a struggle to get anything done which is frustrating me to no end.  In the end I call it quits and decide to do some baking instead.  I’m making Mum’s fruit cake again as the last one I made was a total disaster and another batch of pickled cucumbers.  Today’s baking was a success, it also helps if you don’t substitute ingredients for the correct amounts.  Lesson learnt!  Late afternoon we take a walk to the beach and watch the whales breaching far out on the horizon.  How I wish I had a really good zoom lens to be able to capture the moment.

This morning we head off to Kalbarri for a drive to see what everyone raves about.  We certainly weren’t disappointed, it’s a beautiful seaside village bustling with tourists and every type of water sport you can think of.  We would love to come back (out of season) when the pace is a lot slower.

Chinamans Beach has a spectacular view of the ocean crashing over Oyster Reef and it’s exciting watching the boats navigating through the channel into the Murchison River.  At times the buoys are completely swamped by the waves. We walk further around to Chinaman Rock where I take a short video of the ocean, it is mesmerising.

There are quite a few other attractions that we are keen to visit along the coastline and Natural Bridge is the first stop.  A 750m walk along a meandering pathway on top of the cliff edge takes you out to a platform overlooking natural bridge.  The force of the Indian Ocean and decaying of the cliffs has sculpted the limestone rock into a bridge still attached to the coastline.

Island Rock is a short walk of 200m from the car park. It was once part of the natural shoreline but now stands solitary as a sea stack, it reminded us of the 12 apostles.

Next stop is Pot Alley and there is plenty of wow factor here. The view south from the cliff top truly captures the rugged beauty of the coastline. The cove below is hazardous with the ocean crashing against the cliffs, it’s a spectacular sight.

It’s been a great day exploring the natural attractions of Kalbarri.  The Western Australian coastline certainly has plenty of wow factor.

Another cold night in Port Gregory with temperatures going down to 9 degrees and another sleep in for us all.  I could get used to sleeping in till 8.00am especially when it’s cold.  Today is another rest day for Andrew and a bit of work for me.  He’s in charge of doing the washing today and I’ve changed the sheets over to our flanellette set.

We’ve met quite a few people over the past few days here at the park and it’s great to be distracted from time to time to have a chat.  There are plenty of Queenslanders travelling the coastline over here and the locals are giving us all sorts of information about the best places to stay and those to avoid.  Cinta wins everyone over, we have had many comments about how well behaved she is and how quiet she is.

I’m taking the drone up today to get some aerials over the beach and also some of the pink lake.  It’s been quite windy on and off all week, so today is my last chance before we leave.  A short walk from the caravan park and up a very steep hill is the water tanks that supply the village.  We head up there early and even though the wind is still a little stronger than I like I decide it’s now or never.

It’s a great flight and I get some good footage of the village and also the pink lake.  I’ve taken some aerial photographs too, so I’m feeling very confident and suggest we head down to the beachfront.  We meet our neighbours on the beach, they are mad keen fisherwoman so we head in the opposite direction so that we don’t disturb them.

The flight is going really well and I’ve got some terrific aerials of the beach and the pink lake.  I’m scooting up and down the shoreline (not going over the water though!) and all over the dunes and then my battery is getting low and the drone has told me that I’ve lost my compass.  Oh gosh, I’m trying to turn around and bring it back home and then a gust of wind crashes me into the sand dunes.  I try to recover but unfortunately the blades are spinning around in the tall grass and I’m going nowhere fast.

Andrew to the rescue!  Up the dunes he goes, I couldn’t stop laughing as he’s getting nowhere fast as well.  I’ve managed to turn the drone off and finally he reaches it and delivers it back to me.  Thank heavens it is not damaged!  It was a fun morning, now it’s back to the van to start editing the footage and post some photos to Facebook.  I hope you enjoy this short clip of some of the highlights of my flight.

Wildlife: whales, seagulls, honeyeater, laughing turtle dove, crows, kangaroos, sheep, pelicans, dead kangaroos

Day 180: Port Gregory to Mullewa

This morning we are packed up early and leaving Port Gregory by 9.00am, the temperature is 13 degrees.  A quick stop along the way at Northampton again to stock up on groceries and then we are heading to Mullewa which is about 168km away.  Mullewa is rich in both natural and cultural heritage and is well known for its abundance in wildflowers and is one of the few places in the world that the wreath flower grows.

The drive along the Chapman Valley Road was so picturesque with undulating hills and masses of crops being grown including lupin and legumes.  It was so lovely to see the countryside so green and to see water babbling through the small creeks.  Sheep and cattle were grazing in the pastures and the occasional horses where also sighted.

The Mullewa Caravan Park is seasonal and there is no caretaker here until August.  Bookings are made online or over the phone.  We’ve taken an unpowered site at $20 for the night.  It’s quite a large park with grassy sites and concrete pads.  There are a couple of drive through sites so we have taken one of those given that we are only here overnight and there is only 3 other caravans here.  The amenities are really old and when I open the coded door I feel like I have stepped back into the 60’s.  The walls are covered with tiles that have a green and brown bamboo print on them.  It’s quite wild!

After we set up we head into the information centre to find out where we can see some wildflowers.  We are well aware that it’s a bit early yet, but we are hoping that we will get to see some.  There are two walking trails so we head off to the Mullewa Bush Trail which has a scenic lookout over the township.   It’s a 2370m loop and we are assured that we will see some wildflowers along the way.

It’s only 17 degrees so it is a pleasant walk and we meet a family who is also doing the walk.  The track is a little rough and we are pleased to see a variety of bushes in flower.  We can only imagine how spectacular it will look in another 4 weeks when the season is in full swing.  There is no wreath flowers to be seen which is a bit disappointing but it was expected.  I managed to get quite a few photographs of different flowers so I was more than happy with the bush walk.

The remainder of the afternoon is spent back at the van relaxing and deciding where to next.

Wildlife: sheep, horses, cattle, hawk, crows, corellas, galahs.

Day 181: Mullewa to Mingenew

We have a bit of a travel plan in place after last nights discussion given that we now only have 10 days until we are due to arrive at our property sit in Whitby.  Our journey today is only 80km and after an overnight low of 8 degrees we enjoy a lazy start to the morning with a cuppa snuggled up in a warm bed.  By 9.50am when we are ready to depart it has warmed up to 14 degrees.  It feels good getting into the car with a temperature set at 23 degrees.

The drive down to Mingenew is picturesque as we are following the mid western region wildflower trail.  Rolling hills and pastoral lands are green as green as far as we can see.  There is plenty of wattle out along the road, the occasional banksias and every now and then some of the yellow and white everlastings.

We are staying at the Mingenew Springs Caravan Park.  It’s a small park and I’d hate to be reversing a caravan into some of these sites when they are full.  The sites are a good size but the road is very narrow.  The sign says to pick a spot and the caretaker will call at 5.00pm.  We do just that and after setting up we head to the main street to see what the township has to offer.

Andrew is disappointed that the bakery has a sign up saying they are closed for the next 3 days.  The local IGA is closed and only open for a few hours in the morning.  The pub is open and the Op shop is open.  We head for the Op shop to see if we can pick up a glass as we broke our favourite scotch glass.  Outside a few locals and their dogs are chatting so Andrew joins in while I have a good look around inside.  Bingo – we’ve scored a pre-loved glass.  No more drinking scotch out of a plastic cup and it was only $1.00!

The locals tell us that there is a polocrosse match on for the next 3 days so half the town is at the event.  There are around 500 people who live in the Mingenew district and there are 9 farms.  It’s a sleepy township with no one in sight as we drive around.

The Mingenew Hill Lookout has a great view over the township and pastoral surrounds and Depot Hill is the place to see all the wildflowers when they are in season.  We take a short drive out anyway just in case, but it is still too early for the wildflowers.  Back at the park we enjoy the rest of the afternoon sitting outside in the sun discussing the next 10 days travel plans.

Wildlife:  eagle, galahs, corellas, sheep, cattle horses, black cockatoos, No 28 parrots.

Day 182: Mingenew to Port Denison

Another cold overnight going down to 7 degrees and this morning we have the heater on in the van to warm ourselves up.  It’s going to get a lot of use during the property sit at Whitby.  We’ve taken our time getting started again today as the journey is only 57km.  We had planned on staying at Geraldton for a few days, however all the reviews on Wikicamps were not very impressive and our neighbours at Port Gregory had told us of a few thefts that week at Geraldton while they were there.  Given that info, we decided we’d stay elsewhere and take a day trip into Geraldton instead.

Port Denison is a crayfishing town and there is approx 3000 people here.  Dongara is on the other side of the Irwin River which meanders through both townships.  The Dongara Caravan Park which is situated at Port Denison is right on the beach and they offer a great deal to stay 4 nights and pay for 3.  We have a large grassy powered site for 4 nights at $29.25 per night.

After we have set up we head for a walk down to the beach.  The beachfront looks just like Port Gregory with ocean sea grass stacked up everywhere.  There are about half a dozen surfers further down the beachfront taking advantage of the waves and the breeze is fresh and salty on our faces.

Today is budget and blog day so here I am tapping away at the keyboard again while Andrew is watching the footy.

Our trip is going to be extended as we have managed to get a house sit in Tasmania for the Christmas and New Year period.  It will be the first time Andrew and I have spent Christmas alone and to be honest, we are looking forward to that this year.  All going well we’ll make it home for Mum’s 90th birthday in May.

Wildlife:  sheep, cattle, crows, galahs

Week 26 total expenses: $404.99, how we wish every week could be that good!  Somehow I think next week is going to be a little bit expensive with stocking up on food, fuel and grog!

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That’s a wrap for Week 26 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 25 | Denham to Port Gregory

Day 169 – 170: Denham

It’s an early morning alarm that we are waking up to today so that we can travel out to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins. The drive is only 25km from Denham and as we leave home and come over the hill we are greeted with another beautiful sunrise on the horizon. It’s a great time of day to be on the road.

Monkey Mia is a bustling tourist destination with prices to match and to be honest We both think that Shark Bay at Denham is far more attractive & has a lot more to offer.

Every visitor to Monkey Mia has to pay an entry fee and we are immediately given a concession rate, I keep telling Andrew it’s thanks to our grey hair. We’ve saved $10 on the park fee. All visitors are guided to the deck after entering through the gift shop, good marketing ploy.

A short introduction is given by the ranger and then we are invited to step out to the waters edge after 8.00am. There is over a hundred people here and being vertically challenged I instruct Andrew to head for the Jetty. Two rangers walk the shallows where female dolphins from two separate families come in to receive a small amount of fish. Feeding is strictly supervised by Parks & Wildlife to ensure that the dolphins behave and hunt naturally and teach their young hunting and social skills.

The young have come in with the mothers and they are squarking so it’s time to bid them farewell so they can swim out to deeper waters to nurse. It was exciting to see them in the wild in their natural environment.

This afternoon we take Cinta down to the lagoon for a swim. It’s a large lagoon that is fed by a very small stream of water from the bay. Crystal clear shallow water changes to aqua in the middle of the lagoon. Cinta is in her glory paddling around, it’s freezing cold though!

Another early start today as Andrew has booked a half day fishing trip. He’s going out with his friend Tim and they both look pretty excited when boarding the boat. It’s a lot smaller than I would like to be going out in. I’m preoccupied taking photos of sunrise as it’s putting on a lovely reflection show.

Lyn and I head back down to the beach just after 10.30 and get some morning tea from the bakery. They have a licence to print money there, the queue is out the door and the coffee and cakes are to die for. The boys dock at 12.30 and I meet them on the Jetty with anticipation of fresh fish for dinner. Only four fish come out of the esky and I have to admit I was feeling a bit disappointed as there were four guys on the trip. Andrew caught 12 snapper all undersize. At least they were biting and the thrill of reeling them in and measuring was had along with seeing dolphins and a dugong.

We’re baking a large snapper in the Ziggy tonight for the four of us. We’ve never baked a fish that large before so we’re hoping we don’t stuff it up. The alfoil is smeared with margarine, a layer of lemon slices followed by the fish. The gut is filled with more lemon slices and slivers of garlic and the top of the snapper covered with lemon slices and garlic too. Seasoned with salt and pepper it’s ready for the Ziggy. The aroma is driving us all wild, to say it was delicious is an understatement. Soft flesh, juicy flavour, mouthwatering. Winner!

Wildlife: dolphins, pelicans, seagulls, dugong.

Day 171: Denham to Hamelin Pool

I’m enjoying a later wake up call today and having my cuppa while watching the news. We are packed up by 9.30am and leaving Denham behind for a short journey down to Hamelin Pool.  It’s very pleasant travelling along at 21 degrees and we pop into Shell Bay at Wulgada on the way. Shell Bay is home to the Fragum Cockle. Over 4000 cockles live in one square metre of hypersaline water. Apparently they are up to 10 metres deep.

Further along we arrive at our park for the night at Hamelin Pool. Our journey was 104km today. The park is small and power is restricted so we take an unpowered site at $22 for the night. There is a $10 deposit required for the amenities block. The lady at the counter stresses not to drink the water due to the salt content.

After we set up we walk up the hill to view the old quarry and I take a drone flight to get some more practice before sunset. On my second flight which was far better than the first I realise when we get back to the van I forgot to press record for the video! Oh well another lesson learnt.

The stromatolites are a short drive from the park and to our surprise dogs on leads are allowed. Cinta is hesitant entering the boardwalk but continues on until we reach the area where the boardwalk diverges into a triangular area. The best time to view the stromatolites is on low tide however that’s going to be at 2.00am in the morning so we’ll give that a miss. There is plenty of schools of small fish in the shallows and also what appears to be a jellyfish. We’re not 100% sure if it is though. Small birds are nesting under the boardwalk and a brown goshawk flies onto the railing. He allows me to come quite close to take a photograph.

The clouds are really rolling in so we head back to the park so I can charge up my drone ready to come back for sunset.  Andrew manages a nana nap while I tap away at the keyboard and get some work done. Time to pack up, rug up and head back to the boardwalk for a sunset flight. Note to self; don’t forget to press record! The wow factor is exceptional as the sun begins to fall below the horizon. I’m flying back and forth, up and down and getting as much footage as I can. I need to photograph this sunset too, it’s just too pretty to miss. The reflections in the ocean are spectacular. The water looks like a sheet of ice, it’s breathtakingly beautiful. I can’t wait to get back to the park to do some editing of the drone footage.

Wildlife: dead rabbit, jellyfish, wren, mullet, garfish, crows, brown goshawk, chickens.

Day 172: Hamelin Pool to Galena Bridge

Waking up this morning to a very cloudy overcast day and I have just missed the best time to take a sunrise photograph. I could kick myself for sleeping that little bit later. I do manage a reasonable shot over the park. We are on the road by 9.15am and the winds are picking up along the way.

We are travelling 200km to a free camp at Galena Bridge on the Murchison River and we have experienced rain on the road today. A first in our 25 weeks of being on the road. The water is collecting along the highway, the ground is so hard and dry it doesn’t tolerate the water. The foliage along the highway is becoming dense and we are now seeing conifers and other trees with autumn tones appearing in their foliage. There are plenty of purple wildflowers and the occasional banksias.

There is free camping on both sides of the river, we take the southern side and secure a spot right by the fast flowing brown river. Not long after setting up the skies have opened up again, there is plenty of red mud around and I’m not looking forward to red paw prints all over the floor! It rains all afternoon. There is very little Telstra reception so I am busy writing this blog in notes tucked up on the bed.

Wildlife: eagles, sheep, swans, ducks, welcome swallow.

Day 173 – 175: Galena Bridge to Port Gregory

It rained on and off most of last night and there is plenty of puddles full of red mud all around the free camp site.  Waking up this morning it’s 7 degrees and by 9.00am when we are packed up and ready to leave it’s climbed to 11 degrees. I’m taking Cinta for her last walk before getting into the car and a young scottish backpacker in a kilt flies past me to the rivers edge and hangs it all out.  The amenities block are in the other direction and less than 200 metres from where his car is.  To top it off as we are getting into the car another young female backpacker also heads over to the river, squats and does her business.  It really is frustrating to witness and it gives everyone else who does the right thing a bad name when free camping.  We are both rugged up in the car and ready for the short drive of 110km into Port Gregory.

There is no water available for filling the van at Port Gregory so we make a stop at Northampton to fill up with water and also visit the friendly IGA to stock up on groceries.  Given that school holidays are right around the corner we have booked into the Port Gregory Caravan Park for the next 7 days.  It’s a small park with large grassy sites and concrete pads.  We’re here early so we are able to drive right through the site and are set up in no time.  The population of Port Gregory is 30 and the owner tells us that 15 live in the park.

The main attraction at Port Gregory is the Pink Lake called Hutt Lagoon which boasts a pink hue created by the presence of carotenoid-producing algae.  It’s a source of B-carotene, a food-colouring agent and source of vitamin A.  The Pink Lake is famous for fashion shoots including Lancôme’s Life is Beautiful campaign and Myer’s Jennifer Hawkins Summer collection.

Port Gregory is encircled by five kilometres of exposed coral reef and was originally developed to serve the Geraldine Leadmine.  It’s a picturesque small village also serviced by a general store.  The park is close to the beach and we take Cinta down each day for a long walk.  There has been bad weather recently along the coastline along with high tides and the beach is covered in deep ocean grasses, it just looks like truckloads of mulch has been dumped everywhere.

A short drive away is the Lynton Heritage Site; the only remaining site where it is possible to view how a convict hiring depot was laid out and functioned in the 1850’s in Western Australia.  The site has very high historic and social significance because of it’s association with convicts/ticket-of-leave men.   It was established in 1853 to provide a labour force for the Geraldine Mine and pastoral stations in the vicinity, however, was closed in 1857 because of the cost to the government to keep it running, coupled with the decline in the mining industry and many cases of sickness of the convicts.  It was staggering to see the remnants of the small confines that the convicts lived in.

Further on is the small seaside village of Horrocks.  Pretty as a picture as you drive over the hill into the village.  Crystal clear waters deepening into aqua and azure blue.  A larger village than Port Gregory with approx. 140 people swelling to full capacity during school holidays and the summer months.  We enjoyed morning tea by the beach before heading home through the countryside.  The drive back reminded us of driving through the Atherton Tablelands, lush farming areas and rolling hills.  The only difference being the wildflowers which are slowly starting to bloom.

Another week has come to a close and we are getting closer to our house sit on the southern side of Perth.

Wildlife: sheep, dead cow, galahs, cattle, horses, honey eater, laughing turtle dove, seagulls, pelicans.

Week 25 total expenses: $764.61 – great to get this weeks expenses down a little even with an experience included at $120 for the both of us.

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That’s a wrap for Week 25 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 24 | Carnarvon to Denham

Day 162 – 166: Carnarvon

It’s always great to stay in one place for longer than a couple of days.  Carnarvon is not a large township with a population of 5,542 as of the 2017 census.  The main industries here are horticulture, prawn, crab, scallop and fishing and the township is located on the Gascoyne River.

It is said to be an upside-down river, as it flows for about 120 days of the year and below the dry river bed for the remainder of the year. It is in effect a huge water storage system with the river’s aquifers lying below the desert sands.  It’s currently dry with one very small pool of water on the surface.

I’m doing some work this morning and then I’ll bake some muffins and another fruit cake.  I’ve noticed a sign in the park advising of a hairdresser on site, so I’ve booked myself in this afternoon for a hair cut.  It’s really great that the parks allow hairdressers to do a few cuts while on the road.  A bargain for me at $20.

Andrew and I are heading down to the fascine, it’s a picturesque reserve at the end of town, fringed by a palm lined pathway.  There is a safe beach for swimming with a pontoon and I think it will be a great spot to watch the sun set.  At the end of the beach is the old tramway bridge, I walk it alone as there is no way Cinta is walking on the old railway sleepers.

There is plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables available in Carnarvon and these can be found on the Fruit Loop Trail.  Around 70% of Perth’s winter vegetables are grown in this area.  We stop in at Bumbaks small farm shop to try their famous ice creams.  I chose a caramelised fig and Andrew had a tropical ice cream, it reminded me of the ice cream mum used to make with carnation milk – yum!

We’re meeting our friends at the fascine for lunch and then we’ll head down to the boat harbour tonight to catch another sunset.  The clouds have rolled in and I’m expecting it to be a fantastic sunset.  It certainly didn’t disappoint me.

Sunset at the Boat Harbour

While photographing the amazing sunset, a couple of boats and 2 car loads of blokes pull up at the filleting table.  Andrew has been chatting to them about the catch for the day and the upcoming weather conditions.  I’m busy snapping away all along the boat ramp and when I finished I wandered by and had a chat with them too.  One of the guys asked if we would like some fillets, I couldn’t believe their generosity and was not going to knock back a feed of fresh fish.  It’s Mulloway – we have never eaten that before so it’s a first for us both.  I’m sure it will be pretty good as you can’t beat fresh reef fish.  To our surprise the Mulloway was really nice, soft white flesh and apparently it can also be known as Butterfish.

Today is a quiet day as we are expecting high winds and light showers.  We’ve bought the awning in after the wind blew our portable clothes line down!  Lucky the towels where almost dry, so it’s off to the laundry I go to throw them in the dryer.

It’s a great opportunity today to do some re-organising in the van and move things that aren’t being used daily to another location.  Space is premium with two adults and a dog on board and when forced indoors for the day there needs to be room to move around freely.

We had a visit from a neighbouring child yesterday who appeared out of nowhere and immediately had Cinta in a bear hug.  She was only two and the thought of what could have happened was quite scary.  Lucky we were both outside at the time and I quickly grabbed Cinta to keep her away from the child’s face.  Next thing she was inside our van picking up Cinta’s bowl and bringing her biscuits out.  Dad turned up and apologised, but it’s a stark reality of what could happen to that small girl if she approached another dog in that fashion.  The outcome may not be the same next time.

Today we are heading out to the Blow Holes.  The journey is about 75km from Carnarvon and we’ve been told they are definitely worth the drive.  It’s a drizzly cold day again today and arriving at the Blow Holes it’s blowing a gale.  I have bought my drone thinking if I had reception I’d do a flight, but that certainly was not going to be happening today.

The ocean is crashing against the rocks, I can feel the salt spray on my face and the rain drops on my hair.  It’s so cold Andrew and Cinta are staying in the car.  The Blow Holes are spectacular spraying jets of water up to 20 metres in height.  It’s quite dangerous with many deaths being recorded here with people being swept into the ocean after being knocked over by the incoming tide and the waves crashing over the cliff face.

Further along is a camp site right on the beach, you need to be fully self contained here as there is no water.  There are toilets and 3 dump points.  It would be amazing to stay when the weather is good, but I couldn’t imagine staying here in the wild weather of the west.

There is also a safe beach for swimming and we all get out to walk the beach while there is a break in the weather.  Cinta is not keen to go swimming it’s just too cold for her.  We were amazed to see a whole dead fish laying at the base of some rocks, obviously ejected from the ocean with the force of the waves.

Panorama of the safe beach

With so much cloud cover around today we head out to Babbage Island, home of the One Mile Jetty to see if I can snap some great sunset photos.  The jetty is 1,493 metres in length and was established in 1899.  It’s currently closed because it is unsafe and in disrepair.  The township is trying to raise $5 million to conduct the repairs and re-open it.  I can’t see it happening any time soon, however, I hope that it does happen as Carnarvon could certainly do with another tourist attraction.

There is a cafe and interpretive centre on the site and a short walk leads you to a bronze sculpture on the hill.  “Don’t look at the Islands” is a sculpture dedicated to the Lock Island Tragedy.  Aboriginal children were left behind after their parents were incarcerated in the early 1900’s.  It’s a very evocative sculpture and I can’t imagine how the children coped after being left behind.

Our stay at Carnarvon is almost over and tomorrow we will head off to another destination.  Today is spent tapping away at the keyboard for a few hours, washing, lunch with our friends and then grocery shopping to stock up before we head off in the morning.  Tonight the wind has picked up and it’s going to be 7 degrees.  I’m currently tucked up in bed writing this week’s blog while Andrew is watching the footy and I’ve got a short sleeved spencer on, a long sleeved spencer, a flannelette long sleeved shirt, my leggings and socks and I’m still cold…

Wildlife: sandflies, seagulls, dead rabbit, sheep, fish, pelicans, dead kangaroos, crows.

Day 167: Carnarvon to Denham

We both struggled to get out of bed this morning with the temperature plummeting to 8 degrees. Cinta has had her morning walk however she is sitting by the door still wanting to go outside. I drag her bed into a sunny position and put her doona down and she is outside in no time looking for sunshine. Within five minutes she is back waiting at the door to come inside. Her ears are freezing and her back legs are shivering in the cold. It’s going to take some time for her to get used to cold weather too.

Leaving Carnarvon at 8.30am and it has warmed up to 10 degrees. The road today is long, straight and quite boring with nothing but red dirt and salt bushes. There has been rain through the area and you can see how quickly the plains can flood as the water just doesn’t drain away through the clay surface.

We stop in at the Wooramel Roadhouse for morning tea & it’s blowing an absolute gale. We all have a quick comfort stop and have our coffee inside the van before heading off again.  Our journey today is 326km and as we are getting closer to Shark Bay the scenery is becoming more spectacular with glimpses of the aqua blue ocean and high sand dunes.

We are almost there and as we come over the hill into Shark Bay there is only one word to describe the view “Wow”.  It is absolutely stunning.  The ocean is three different shades, from crystal clear waters to aqua and then deep azure blue.  The ocean is dotted with boats everywhere and the water is right beside the roadway.  It’s a very quaint little seaside township.  We love it!

Our home for 4 nights is the Shark Bay Caravan Park, perched up on the hill.  It’s a Kui Park and we have become members so we will enjoy a 10% discount on accommodation bringing it down to $36 a night which is very reasonable considering the spectacular location.  We are extremely lucky to get 4 nights as it’s only a week away from school holidays and from Wednesday they are fully booked out.  The park has an overflow area and we have taken a site there with power and water.  The owners are a young couple who bought the park 2 years ago and are already expanding into the block next door which is currently the overflow.  Power will be connected in two weeks time, so our power cord is running to the back of the office.

This morning we are heading out to Eagle Bluff and Elephant Rock Lookouts.  To say the scenery is spectacular is an understatement.  It is gob smacking spectacular!  The short 400 metre boardwalk is perched high above the shallow waters of Henri Freycinet Harbour. There are excellent views of two small limestone islands and marine life that frequent the inshore waters. Rays, sharks, schools of fish and even turtles and dugongs can often be seen especially during summer.  We didn’t see any today, but there was plenty of bird life on the island.

Henry Freycincet Harbour

There is bit of cloud rolling in this afternoon so I suggest a drive up to another lookout to watch the sun set.  It’s not as spectacular as some we have seen in WA but every sunset is special in it’s own right.  Sometimes it pays to look to the east to see what is happening as well.

Tomorrow we are heading out to Monkey Mia to see the dolphins so make sure you don’t miss next week’s blog.

Wildlife:  sandflies, dead kangaroos, crows, sheep, goats, eagles, pelicans, seagulls.

Week 24 total expenses: $1023.30 over budget, however, Andrew is going to enjoy a fishing charter next week!

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That’s a wrap for Week 24 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 23 | Bullara Station to Carnarvon

Day 155: Bullara Station to Exmouth

It’s Andrew’s birthday today and I’ve asked him to wake me up early so we can watch the sunrise together. Half an hour before sunrise is the optimum time to get the best photographs. It’s really cold, I have leggings on & tracky daks, heat socks, a spencer, long sleeved shirt & my spray jacket with the hoodie up. I don’t know how I’ll survive winter in Perth let alone Tasmania! There are people taking sunrise photos in shorts & T-shirts.

Sunrise is another amazing display of colour in the sky. It’s a great opportunity to use the old cars as a focal point in my photos.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s very picturesque.

Time to get breakfast and get ourselves packed up and ready for morning tea before we leave. The barista coffee, scones with jam and cream are nothing short of delicious. Good old fashioned country baking.  We enjoy them on the verandah of the homestead.

We are heading for Exmouth which is a short trip of 91km. The countryside varies from wide flat plains with termite mounds to grassy fields and mountains in the distance. Purple Wild flowers are becoming predominant along the highway.

We’ve decided to go a further 30km around the top of the Cape to the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park. It’s a large park not far from the Cape Range National Park. They generate their own power so there are restrictions on what electrical equipment you can use on your site. We decide to take an unpowered site at $32 p/night as we are fully self contained.

The park has a cafe and restaurant which I was planning to take Andrew out to dinner but unfortunately they are not open until Wednesday. I’ve made another one of his favourites beef enchiladas in the Ziggy after a few celebratory drinks with our friends.  Winner!

Wildlife: corellas, galahs, sheep, cattle, seagulls, Australian bustard, rainbow bee eaters.

Day 156 – 158: Exmouth

Andrew and Tim have headed out to 5 mile beach to try their luck fishing again. I have work to be done so another morning is spent tapping away at the keyboard.

The fisherman return with empty bags, what a disappointment. They tried several spots including the marina but no luck again. We need to top up on supplies and head into Exmouth to the shops. The shopping complex is poorly designed and the parking is horrendous. There is two IGA’s right across from each other. One apparently has basic staples and the other has specialty items. I find everything we need in the specialty store.  On the way back to the park we drive up to the lighthouse and the view is amazing. Azure blue ocean as far as your eyes can see.

This afternoon we’ve met some of our neighbours. They are from Perth and have been coming to this park for the past 18 years for 3 months to escape the winter. I can’t imagine returning to the same place each year after being on the road and seeing what this vast country has to offer. There are so many spectacular places to visit and there is so much that we have yet to see.

We’ve decided to stay an extra day as I have more work to do and we haven’t had the opportunity to see the beaches. This morning we are taking a drive along the beaches of the Cape. The views are breathtaking. The ocean is crashing far out on the reef, it’s mesmerising watching the waves roll into the shoreline. I could watch the ocean all day long and never tire of the sight.

Exmouth has an art gallery which I am keen to visit. Andrew drops me off while he does the swap-n-go gas bottle. You know you are in a remote location when it’s $43 and you are used to paying $29 at home. The gallery is housed in the old Visitor Information Centre and is run by volunteers. I introduce myself to the administrator and we have a lengthy conversation about their Centre and the challenges they face with finding volunteers to keep the doors open.

Exmouth is a township of younger people, most of whom are working to support their families and Tourism is their main industry. There are some lovely artworks on display. Across the road is the Ningaloo Discovery Centre which houses the Council Chambers, Library, Visitor Information Centre, Aquarium and coffee shop. It’s an impressive new building. Morning tea is in order and Andrew has spotted his all time favourite vanilla slice. On the rating scale it’s a 9.9 from him. I can’t resist a mouthful and I’d score it an 11!

There are a couple of “big things” in Exmouth; a prawn and a whale shark. The obligatory photo is taken and sent to my son Conrad. He will appreciate both as he works on the trawlers out of Karumba and he saw a whale shark on a recent trip.

More work has come in for me so we are extending another day. This morning we are taking a drive through the Cape Range National Park. The entry fee is by vehicle; $13 which is much more reasonable than Uluru at $25 per person.

The drive through passes many beaches where camping is by permit. Most without facilities so being self contained is a must. The Milyering Information Centre is not far from the park entry point and you can book your camping or tours from the Centre. They also hire out a beach accessible wheelchair, the first I have seen, what a great idea.

We travel all the way to the end of the sealed road at Yardie Creek. The beach access is a short walk over the sand dunes and the view once again is breathtaking. I can imagine sitting here with a canvas and painting the turquoise water.

We stop at many of the beaches, each spectacular in their own right. Back at the park we pick up Cinta and take her down to Janz beach where dogs are allowed. Over the sand dunes and the tide is coming in fast. The water is crystal clear and there are at least a dozen people fishing off the beach. We head in the opposite direction so Cinta can enjoy the water, it’s cold and the current is fast. She bounds straight back to the beach. There are plenty of shells at Janz beach and lots of sea urchins in a variety of colours. Time to head home and start tapping on the keyboard.

Wildlife: 2 emus, 2 turtle, corellas, doves, galahs, seagulls.

Day 159:  Exmouth to Lyndon River

It’s time to move on again today and we are packed up by 9.00am and heading off to look at Coral Bay. There is no free camping there and only one park that takes dogs. We’ve been told the park has extremely small sights and the reviews on Wikicamps are mixed. Driving in is bedlam, narrow streets, dead ends, vehicles parked everywhere and loads of people walking the very small township. There is no place to park the van. Every inch of real estate is taken. We have just managed to turn around and have headed back out. To say I am disappointed is an understatement and at $70 for a site it seems this small town is capitalising on its assets.

Further on we have passed over the Tropic of Capricorn, just a small sign with bullet holes in it. What a shame there is no monument to mark the place.  We are free camping tonight at Lyndon River. There’s no water here. It is saddens us to see so many large river beds in this state with not a drop of water to be found.  The free camp is a  large dirt space with one toilet which is surprisingly clean for an outback drop loo.   The flies drive us inside.

Telstra reception is weak. The afternoon is spent looking through the travel magazines we picked up and reading about the next few locations we plan to visit. I’ve been chatting to a lovely kiwi guy who is heading to Exmouth to do some surfing. He wanted to meet Cinta as he recently lost his labrador border collie cross and was missing having a dog around.

Happy hour is early tonight followed by watching the sun set. There is little cloud cover so it’s not particularly exciting. Tonight’s dinner is an easy chicken stir fry and then we’ll have an early night.

The stars are amazing. Jupiter is spotted first, followed by the Southern Cross and the Milky Way is right above our van. How I wish I could take a great solar shot, it’s not an easy feat.

Wildlife: horses, corellas, galahs, doves, sheep, cattle, dead kangaroos, flies.

Day 160 – 161:  Lyndon River to Carnarvon

We have all slept in this morning and missed sunrise. There is quite a lot of cloud cover so it would have been a beauty. A cup of tea in bed is followed by bacon and eggs today and then we are packed up and on the road by 9.00am.

We’re only travelling 160km today which gets us into Carnarvon by 11.00am.  Driving in along the highway makes us feel like we are back home.  Banana Plantations adorn the highway, they don’t look as healthy as the ones back home and they are planted very close together.  I can’t wait to try a banana from the local food stalls along the roadside as I haven’t had a decent banana since we left Mission Beach.

Carnarvon is a caravanning hotspot with 7 parks here, 6 of which accept pets.  We’ve checked them all out on Wikicamps and have decided to stay at the Capricorn Caravan Park which is the furthest out of town, but they have very good reviews.  They also have a stay 7 pay for 6 deal which brings down the weekly rate to $31.72 per night for a powered site.  Perfect.

The park offers a full week of events from happy hour, bingo, pizza nights, camp oven dinners and bowling.  After booking in and getting all the info on the area, we are met by Colin who takes us around to our site and guides Andrew in with ease.  We are set up in no time.  A visit to Woolies and BWS is needed to stock up on supplies and grog.  It’s an expensive shopping trip.

The wind has picked up this afternoon and after discussions with our neighbours we decide to take the awning back in as rain is also expected.  We have seen very little rain, nothing more than light drizzle since we left Mission Beach.

During the night the rain is pouring down and we are both up closing the vents and windows.  Carnarvon received 35ml of rain overnight.  Apparently the most they have received at once in over 5 years.  There are quite a few puddles around the park.  The ground is hard clay and there is nowhere for it to run off.

With rain and wind predicted for the day we are stuck inside the caravan, which is something most unusual for us to experience.  A trip to have a look around the township is needed to break up the day.  Carnarvon has quite a bit of street art and it’s the perfect time to photograph it on a Sunday when there is little traffic parked in the streets.

Tonight is State of Origin only two words required: Go Queensland!

Wildlife: flies, dead kangaroos, crows, hawks, seagulls, corellas, galahs.

Week 23 total expenses:  $946.17, we have had a couple of big fuel and grocery expenses this week.  Let’s hope staying in the one place for the week will help to get that figure down a bit next week.

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That’s a wrap for Week 23 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 22 | Dampier to Bullara Station

Day 148 – 149: Dampier

Last night the port was lit up like a Christmas tree and the sunset wasn’t too bad either. I strolled along the beach taking it all in and happily snapping away on my camera.

It was chilly overnight dropping down to 11 degrees and it’s hard to drag yourself out of bed in the morning. We are heading into Karratha this morning to have a look around. It’s only about 20km from Dampier and on the way we detour into the North West Gulf Gas Project Visitor Centre. It’s closed on Mondays so we’ll have to come back tomorrow. Hearson cove on the Burrup Peninsular is not far so we drive out to see what is there. Wow, it is really picturesque. The dark tide line is visible on the rugged hill and the beach is covered in millions of tiny shells. The colours in the hill are reflecting along the shoreline in the cove, this is where the stairway to the moon happens on low tide and full moon. I’m hoping we will experience this at some point while we are travelling the western Australian coastline.

Karratha is quite an impressive town growing quickly with infrastructure to attract workers to live in the area. The buildings are modern and there are new housing developments popping up everywhere. There is a large Arts Precinct which houses a library and theatrette and currently has aboriginal artworks on display in the foyers. The staff at the Visitor Centre are really helpful and there is a lookout above the centre which provides a view over the whole township.

Andrew and Tim are going fishing this afternoon, it’s the first time the fishing rods will have a workout for this whole trip. They are fishing off the beach and after a few hours come home with 1 bream. Tim caught it and as it’s not big enough to feed us all Lyn is going to have it for her lunch tomorrow.

Tonight is roast night as Tim and Lyn will head off in the morning. The clouds have rolled in so I quickly put the roast veggies in the turbo oven & head across the road to the beach. Sunset certainly does not disappoint me tonight. The sky is a waft of colour, golden yellow, grey and bright pink. The smell of the roast beef is calling. Andrew has basted it in Bugsy’s tomato relish and it’s looking absolutely delicious. Dinner is a winner with us all.

Panorama sunset

I’m calling in for our monthly board meeting today and given that we are now in Western Australia it’s an early start for me to be ready by 7.30am. On the positive side the meeting is over by 9.30am which gives me plenty of time to go fishing with Andrew later today. I haven’t been fishing since I was a child travelling with Mum and Dad in the bush country. A storm has blown in and it’s not looking good but within half an hour it has passed and we head down to the beachfront to fish off the rocks.

Andrew is baiting my line and casting out for me (that’s my type of fishing companion), within a few casts I have a good bite. “Yank your line quick” he shouts you’ve got a fish. I am beside myself as I feel the fish taking the line. “Reel him in” he says, I’m pretty excited at this point as I bring my first fish into the shallow waters. He is well and truely hooked on my line, “go and grab a rag he shouts”.  Out of the water I run jumping with excitement. “What is it?” I ask, it looks like a grunter, it’s going to have to go back it’s under size. Oh damn, quick I need a photo of my first catch, off I run back to the rocks to get my camera. That was the excitement for the day. There were plenty more bites and only one other fish caught by myself, he had a black spot and was no bigger than my bait!

There is plenty of bird life at the park and each day the friendly corellas fly in and allow you to feed them by hand.  Andrew is in his glory as he loves any type of wildlife.

The shower of rain has bought in cooler weather so we are tucked up in bed tonight catching up on some Netflix shows.

Wildlife: corellas, minor birds, seagulls, galahs.

Day 150: Dampier to Onslow

We are leaving Dampier this morning at 9.00am and it’s only 16 degrees outside after a chilly 11 degrees last night. We’re heading for Onslow which is 82km off the highway. We’ve passed several quarries and mine sites on our journey today. Termite mounds are prolific and the road in is long straight and boring.

Wildlife: crows, wild budgerigars, corellas, dead kangaroos, dead cows, cattle.

Day 151 – 153: Onslow

Onslow is home to a salt mine and gas plant, there is little to do around the township. The population is just under 900 and there is a pub, beach club resort, 2 caravan parks, supermarket, chemist, hospital and a few other services.

The Oceanview Caravan Park is situated on Front Beach and run by the local council.

Ocean View Caravan Park, Onslow

Several sites are situated along the beachfront, ours is just across a mere 20 metres away from the rock wall.

Andrew and Tim are keen to try the fishing out and head out to 4 mile beach early in the morning. After a lovely sleep in I head down to the beach with Cinta for a walk. In the distance I see the guys fishing off the beach.  They’ve had no luck this morning, no doubt they’ll be back at it again this afternoon.

I take the opportunity to do a bit of cleaning in the van. Red dirt gets into absolutely everything. With Cinta on board I am constantly sweeping the floor as I can’t stand the dirt under my feet. This afternoon is spent catching up on some work and then I plan to make a lasagne and try out the cooking process in the Ziggy. Andrew loves lasagne and it is a real winner so it will be on the menu again!

Andrew is taking me for a drive out to 4 mile beach this morning as there is another small beach that is covered in shells. I thought Hearson Cove at Dampier had a lot of shells but this beach is impressive. The shells are about 12 inches deep and there are some large ones amongst them. Some of them are glistening in the sunlight and when I look closer they almost resemble the mother of pearl shell. They would make an amazing wind chime.

We are walking several times a day on the beach. The water is really cold and Cinta is only going in up to her belly. It’s also quite rocky when the tide is out, something she is not used to.

Andrew and Tim are fishing again this afternoon off the beach, still no luck. Cinta and I walk down at sunset and capture some great shots. The sky is pastel pink and blue, it looks spectacular against the rock wall.

Another lazy start to the day before tapping away on the keyboard again. I have to keep reminding myself of the positive benefits of working on the road as the negative benefits are beginning to overwhelm me this morning. It’s been a long day so a beach walk is needed to put things back into perspective. I’m sure happy hour will help too.

Clouds are starting to roll in and Andrew, Cinta and I head out along the boardwalk to enjoy the magnificent show that the sun setting is putting on display tonight. This is why we love being on the road.

Wildlife: seagulls, corellas, honey eaters, doves, crabs.

Day 154: Bullara Station Stay

Its time to move on again and leaving Onslow this morning it’s 19 degrees at 9.00am. We are heading for a Station Stay at Bullara. The countryside varies this morning from wide open flat surfaces to rocky outcrops and flat plateaus. It never ceases to amaze us how different the scenery can be from one day to the next.

Bullara Station is a third generation property sprawled over a quarter of a million acres. The 1.2km road from the highway is graded dirt. Tonight is camp fire roast night but they are fully booked out so we are very disappointed. Barista coffee and scones with jam and cream are on every morning from 8.30, we immediately decide we are having morning tea before we leave in the morning.

A late lunch and early happy hour are the order of the day. We’ve walked around the site and there are plenty of fire pits and lots of old rusted out machinery and tools from generations gone by. The outback shower is open air and very rustic, run by the donkey.  It’s really quirky, I love it.

The sun has set at 5.45pm with a magnificent display of cloud cover. Golden yellow tones turn into bright pink and then burnt orange and red. I never tire of a good sunset. I’m certain that sunrise will be just as spectacular. I’ve asked Andrew to wake me up, I don’t want to miss it.  The temperature is dropping and whilst it is going down to 11 degrees it feels a lot colder.

You’ll have to wait until next weeks blog to see how the sunrise looks!

Panorama sunset

Here’s a short video of my drone practice today.  I hope you enjoy it.

Wildlife: 2 emus, dead kangaroos, cattle, crows, hawks, eagle, kangaroos, sheep.

Week 22 total expenses:  $714.47, pleased that the expenses are slowing creeping down.

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That’s a wrap for Week 22 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 21 | Broome to Dampier

Day 141 – 142: Broome

Last night was spent at Cable Beach watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean. The beach was busy with 4WD’s parked, deck chairs, children running and playing in the sand. Two camel trains slowly passed us by at sunset and made for the iconic Broome photo opportunity. Cinta was in her happy place lyeing on the sand and we toasted to onward journeys and long lasting memories.

Waking up in Broome after a chilly night dropping to 11 degrees. The winds have picked up and it’s looking like they will steadily increase throughout the day. Andrew decides to bring the awning in.

There is a public holiday today for WA day and there is not a lot open apart from the cafes and tourist outlets. We have had to extend our stay by another night as the work I was expecting to complete today is not going to be ready until tomorrow.

The photo opportunities at the Jetty are calling. The cruise ship has departed and we are all keen to feel the sand between our toes again. We still find the colour of the sand being so dark quite strange after the beautiful clear sand on the beaches at home. The black grains form interesting patterns along the shoreline. The tide is out which allows us to wander under the Jetty for some photos. Further along the beach are more interesting rock formations and I’m in photographic heaven again. My iPhone and camera are bursting with images, I’m going to have to spend some time to get them uploaded to my google drive and sorted into albums.

Back at the park we meet our new neighbours from Port Lincoln and their dog Marlee. We chat about our travels, they have just come through from Port Headland and tell us how boring the trip from there to Broome is. Something to look forward to on Wednesday.

Another cool night dropping to 12 degrees and the wind is blowing a gale again today. I’m at the keyboard by 8.30 ready for a big day of work. Andrew is tasked with finding someone to fix our water leak in the pipe near the front of the van. The patch job at Alice Springs has failed and we’ve been dealing with the leak for quite some time now not being able to buy a replacement part or find a repairer to fix it.

The Visitor Information Centre has sent the details of a repairer to us and he’s agreed to come at 4.00pm. How lucky could we be. It’s 4.30pm and no word. We are chatting with the neighbours and talking about tradies and discussing how we are loosing faith about having our leak fixed today when Ron calls and says he is on his way.

What a relief, you don’t realise how inconvenient it is to not be able to have water running freely when you want it. It’s meant that each time we need water in a caravan park we have had to go outside to the tap and turn it on and then back out when we have finished to turn the water supply back off again.  We could leave it permanently on but it is such a waste of water dripping out through the leak we just can’t justify doing that when some communities are so desperate for water. Within half an hour and $105 later we have a new pipe and water is flowing freely again. It’s the simple things in life that make a happy wife!

You can never have too many sunset or pet photos; right?

Wildlife: galahs, cattle, crows, dead kangaroos, camels.

Day 143: Broome to Sandfire Roadhouse

After a cool overnight in Broome (11 degrees) we are packed up and ready to start heading south by 8.30am. It’s a pleasant 18 degrees and the cross winds are quite strong this morning. We are heading for the Sandfire Roadhouse which is about half way between Broome and Port Headland. We are hoping to be there mid afternoon so that I can do some more work.

I have to say that the Telstra reception has been extremely good whilst we have been travelling through Western Australia. The Northern Territory had the worst reception for the trip to date, with long stretches were there was no reception at all.

The neighbours were right, the road is long, straight and boring. I’m catching up on my blog today.

We arrive at the roadhouse just after lunch and set up on our unpowered site.  It’s $20 for a spot on the red dirt.  There is not much here, just a roadhouse.  I’ve spent some time doing some work and finishing off last weeks blog post.  Spaghetti bolognaise is on the menu tonight and then an early night for us both.

Wildlife: galahs, cattle, crows, dead kangaroos, camels, peacock, geese

Day 144: Sandfire Roadhouse to Port Hedland

Heading out from the Sandfire Roadhouse it’s 19 degrees and the winds are blowing a gale. The journey today will be another long boring stretch of road.

We’re counting caravans for something to do and after 1 1/2 hours on the road we have seen 65 caravans heading north. We’re not counting 4WD’s with rooftop tents either. The season is in full swing and we’re glad we are going in the opposite direction given the wind situation. Our fuel consumption will be a lot better than those travelling north.

The roadside sign says Welcome to the Pilbara Region, another area we are keen to explore.

Arriving in Port Hedland just on 1.00pm the caravan count is 125 for 4 1/2 hours on the road. We have found a lot of travellers are like us and pull up around lunch time at their destination.  Plenty of time to set up, rest up and get ready for happy hour!

We are staying at the free camp at the race track. Self contained vans can stay for 72 hours. There is a dump point, toilets and the parking area is large with a few shade trees and plenty of red dirt.  There is about 60 vans here tonight and we’ve seen some fantastic set ups, but check out the rig below.  Behind the truck is a jet ski and the small car at the side actually drives into the back of the rig.  We can’t begin to imagine the cost of the fuel bill to run this set up but it certainly looks impressive and no wonder they are taking advantage of a free camp.

Wildlife: peacocks, geese, camel, cattle, 2 dead cows, finches, falcon

Day 145 – 146: Port Hedland

The winter woolies came out last night as the wind was blowing a gale and the chill factor was just too much for me.  It was a cold night and this morning we are having our cuppa in bed rugged up and watching the news.  We haven’t really watched a lot of TV since we’ve been travelling and to be honest we haven’t missed it either.  We do tend to watch netflix when we have reception.

This morning we are taking a drive into the Visitor Information Centre to get a map on the street art around the town.  There isn’t much to see around this mining town.  There are a lot of shops that are closed and a lot of accommodation that looks deserted and unkept.  We can see why the township is offering a free camp for 72 hours.  They need to attract tourists and keep them here to spend some money.  The street art is in the laneways and some of it is difficult to photograph because of the locations.  It is such a shame that the artwork is not in more visually attractive areas of the township.

The stairway to the moon can also be viewed in Port Hedland but we are here at the wrong time of the month so we won’t be seeing it this time round.  Port Hedland is one of the world’s largest and busiest working harbours.  They transport hundreds of millions of tonnes of cargo each year.  We counted 17 ships on the horizon lined up to come into port to take on cargo.

Today we head out for a walk along the beachfront. Cyclone Veronica ravaged Port Hedland in late March and evidence of the destruction is visible along the whole coastline.

We stop to chat to two local guys who tell us about the beachfront park lands being completely under salt water. Most of the palm trees, shrubs and frangipani are dead. The paved pathways and some of the shelters are fenced off with security fencing and the sand dunes are all under re-vegetation. It brings back stark memories of the devastation at Mission Beach after Cyclone Yasi in 2011.

This afternoon is spent relaxing, I have my gel pens out and colour a postcard. I very rarely have time for being arty, it’s something I thought I would be doing all the time. I miss being able to be creative. I find myself telling Andrew that the next time we do another lap I won’t be working.

The clouds are rolling in this afternoon which means we could be in for a great sunset over the Indian Ocean. Happy Hour is bought forward and then we walk up to the top of the hill to watch the sun go down. As we were leaving the racetrack a gyro-copter is taking off and travels along the coastline down to the port. I’m eagerly awaiting his return to capture some video as he flies above us at the lookout. I’m waving madly while I’m filming him on my iPhone, here’s a short clip of him flying right above us.

The sunset wasn’t as spectacular as some we have seen, but each is special in it’s own right.

Wildlife: eagles, finches, budgerigar, seagulls, ibis, finches, budgerigars, honey eaters.

Day 147: Port Hedland to Dampier

Yesterday was very low cloud cover and last night we almost ran out of solar power. There was a light shower during the night and we are hoping that the red dirt has not turned to mud this morning. Cinta is off colour again today, she hasn’t come to greet me in bed like she usually does. Yesterday she vomited three times so we are not sure if she picked something up during our walk.

We’re packed up early and heading out at 8.00am. Taking the opportunity to fill our water tanks and use the dump point before heading off for Dampier. The turf club free camp is a great facility and we are thankful for 3 nights free camping.

We’ve been keeping in touch with our friends Lyn and Tim and they are at Dampier so we are going to head there for three nights to catch up with them again.  The Dampier Transit Park is a great small park, just the way we like it.  At $35 per night for a powered site, it’s a reasonable price.  We have a great site with a view of the Indian Ocean and the Port and we have some shade too.

Wildlife: horses, falcon, 3 dead cows, crow, corellas, minor birds, ibis

For those of you who are interested to see exactly how much it costs to be on the road, here are some of our statistics so far:

Days on the road: 147 (it only feels like we left yesterday…)

Kilometers travelled:  15,120

Cost of fuel: $2939.68; most expensive $2.049 at Erldunda, cheapest $1.289 at Miles

No of free camps: 44; we thought we would be doing a lot more free camping!

Cost of groceries: $3,679.24 (shame we have to eat)

Cost of washing: $97 (mainly sheets and towels, everything else is done in the bucket)

Eating out: $1,768.80 (OMG)

Alcohol: $677.40 (a requirement for happy hour, well that’s our excuse anyway)

Experiences: $2774.61 (Horizontal Falls was the most expensive but the best!)

There are a lot of areas that we could reduce our costs, so that will be a challenge over the coming months.

Week 21 total expenses:  $870.80 I’d still like to get this figure a lot lower, however, the extraordinary expense of $105 was necessary to fix our water pipe.

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That’s a wrap for Week 21 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 20 | Derby to Broome

Day 134 – 138: Derby

We are in Derby until Friday of this week. It’s great to have a seven night stay so that we can sit back and relax a little. This morning we head into town to the Visitor Information Centre as I saw a picture of the bright orange boab sculptures and I wanted to see them for myself. It’s a great Centre with lots of really bright coloured souvenirs and a large TV showing videos of all the attractions around Derby. The orange boabs are a real centrepiece.

Looking for a morning tea stop we discover the quirky Jila Gallery Cafe. Our friend Leanne would love this cafe, we immediately thought of her when we sat down on our red chairs. There is a small selection of fresh homemade cakes and cheesecake. The apple crumble and custard cake looks absolutely amazing and of course the Baileys cheesecake. Both did not disappoint.

Located at the jetty is the Centenary Pavilion.  It tells of the geography and history of King Sound and the Port of Derby. The Pavilion features a colourful 28sqm mosaic tile floor depicting facets of life in the district.  It was very difficult to photograph and this panorama doesn’t really do it justice.

Centenary Pavillion Mosaic

The clouds are rolling in today and I’m very excited as that usually makes for a brilliant sunset. We head out to the Jetty just before 5.00pm. The tide is coming in fast as Derby has some of the highest tides in the world. There are people everywhere fishing on the Jetty. As the sun sets the sky turns to a brilliant burnt orange hue. I cant help myself capturing the silhouette figures of the fisherman.

We order Barramundi and chips from the Jetty cafe but end up taking them home as we were driven away by the mosquitoes and sand flies.

This morning we take a drive out to the wetlands. We weren’t sure what to expect. It wasn’t terribly exciting. A very small fenced off area beside the waste management ponds. The wildlife all take off as we enter, there is obviously not a lot of visitors to these wetlands.

Derby wetlands

Heading back into town we decide to stop at the Norval Gallery. We are greeted at the door by a lovely lady who tells us to make sure that we watch the video. The Gallery is in a building that resembles an aircraft hangar and is packed with artworks from floor to ceiling. The fifteen minute video is about the life of Mark Norval, resident artist and gallery owner.

He was a teacher dedicated to the indigenous communities and fell into deep depression after several young indigenous suicides. He was hospitalised for eighteen months and his art was his saviour. He came to Derby and started teaching the indigenous people to paint. His gallery is a place where the indigenous people can come and paint and he sells their art for them. The works are amazing, so bright, colourful, telling the stories of their culture, sold and shipped all over the world. I bought some A5 postcards and while I was waiting to pay, Mark was quickly sketching the woman beside me who had just bought a copy of his book. She explained it was her birthday the next day, he asked her name and wrote a special birthday message with the portrait sketch. She was overwhelmed and couldn’t thank him enough.

The afternoon is spent doing some baking. I’ve made the cucumber pickles again and Mum’s fruit cake. I’ve never made a boiled fruit cake in a silicone container before let alone in the turbo oven. It’s turned out really great and tastes just like I remember.

The clouds have rolled in en masse this afternoon so another trip to the Jetty has been planned for this afternoon. The Jetty is a hive of activity with tourists and locals arriving for the sunset. Rugs, drinks and nibbles are spread out everywhere and iPhones and cameras are busy capturing the ever changing half hour spectacle of the fiery hues of sunset.

Derby Jetty sunset

Another day has dawned and Andrew is having his first round of golf for the trip. He bought a small carry bag before leaving for his favourite clubs & they have been sitting on the floor in the back of the car since we left home. Finally he can get them out. I chose not to go with him as it’s time he had some time to himself to wander the course and enjoy the peace and serenity. It’s an eleven hole course apparently, I’m not into golf so that means nothing to me. Two holes are over 500m so they were long holes and good exercise. He enjoyed his game and chatted to the greens man when he was done.

This morning we are heading out to the Horizontal Falls by seaplane. We are picked up at the caravan park at 8.00am and taken out to the Derby airport. Our pilot welcomes everyone and gives a safety debrief before allocating us to the seaplanes. We are all given name tags with the seaplane number & then asked to sign the safety waiver form.

Out on the tarmac we are all given our life jackets and then place all carry luggage into the under carriage. The plane carries 14 passengers and we are 2 short for our trip. It’s quite a confined space & I’m lucky to have no one beside me so there is plenty of room. I’m very excited as it’s my very first seaplane flight. There is a bit of turbulence taking off as the wind has picked up in Derby today. The view below is spectacular as we fly out over the mudflats. The creeks, rivers and mangroves make interesting patterns from above, I’m immediately thinking of what they would like like on canvas.

The pilot takes us for a loop over the Horizontal Falls before landing and I’m madly clicking away on my camera. They are spectacular.

Landing on the water is smooth and everyone claps as we motor over to the pontoon. We are met by the jet boat driver and taken to the top deck for refreshments & a safety talk about the jet boat ride. We head off after a very short break as the tide is right for the run through. There are two sections to the falls, the first is a 20m gap and the second is a 7.5m gap. The tide is coming in fast. It’s an excillerating ride through. We do several runs before heading into the second section. The tide is running at 12 knots and the 3 x 300 horse power engines push us through with ease. We cruise around while hearing all about the history & future of the falls before taking another couple of run throughs before heading back for morning tea.

Another group flies in from Broome and they are quickly taken out on the jetboats too. Morning tea is fruit cake & biscuits and tea and coffee or cold drinks. Next up is feeding the sharks and the opportunity to swim in the shark enclosure. We’re not fans of sharks so Andrew goes down to watch the feeding & I stay up in the top deck to take some good photos. There are about 6 sharks that come in for the feed, mostly tawny nurse sharks and a bull shark and a couple of bat fish. They are being fed bread and fresh barramundi.

Next up is a cruise in the jet boat along Cyclone Creek. This is where all the pontoons and boats are moored in the wet season. In a sheltered bay is the overnight stay pontoon which also houses all the supplies and fuel for all the pontoons and boats. All the supplies and fuel come in by boat. Further along the creek in another sheltered bay is the pontoon that all the fishing and helicopter charters run from. We travel further along the creek through heavy mangrove country in search of crocs but there is none to be seen today.

Back at the pontoon it’s time for lunch and we can smell the fresh barramundi cooking on the bbq as we dock. The bread rolls are just out of the oven and there is plenty of salad as well. We spend some time chatting to two cattle farmers from Boonah. There is another group of six travellers from the Gold Coast. It’s amazing how many Queenslanders we have met on this trip so far. We are always willing to tell them all about our piece of paradise back home.

Lunch is over and it’s time for one last jet boat ride as the tide is going back out. It’s a real thrill and this time we spend time in the 7.5m gap to get some up close shots of the tide forcing its way through that tiny gap. For safety reasons the jet boat will only go through the falls in up to 1m tides, any higher than that and the risk is far too great due to the force of the water flow.  Here’s a short clip of the ride.

It’s now 1.20pm and we are back on the seaplane for a 40 minute scenic flight at low levels back to Derby. The scenery is breathtaking from the air and the photo opportunities are endless.

This experience has been the highlight of our trip so far. The whole day was run like clockwork and the tour operator and staff where extremely professional, friendly and courteous to all tour guests. We couldn’t recommend this experience enough and would do it again!

Andrew is up early today, the battery in the fire alarm has been beeping for some time. I managed to sleep through it which is unusual for me. Our neighbour asks if Cinta was in the caravan while we did our tour yesterday. She was quiet as a mouse, not a bark out of her. She knows the caravan is her home now and when we leave her inside she goes to sleep and waits for us to return. It’s a different story if we are all outside and another dog tries to come into our camp, she’ll let them know this is her territory.

Our neighbours are Grant and Linda aka My Aussie Travel Guide. We immediately strike up conversation and are talking everything tourism and travel. They left the corporate life behind in 2011 and have been travelling ever since. We would love to spend more time with them but we are both heading off this morning so we have exchanged contacts and hopefully will cross paths again during our travels.

Day 139-140: Broome

Our journey today is 254km and in the distance we see a pilot vehicle approaching.  There is something really large behind him and Andrew slows right down to pull off the road.  It is an extremely large haulpak, obviously heading for a mine site somewhere.

We arrive at the Tarangau Caravan Park just after lunch time. This is the most expensive park we have stayed at throughout our travels. $52 per night plus a $2 per night fee for Cinta. We have booked in for three nights as I have a work day on Monday. We’ve got a large grassy site which Andrew reverses into with ease. We are all set up in no time. Cable Beach is about a 15 minute walk away, however we take a drive into town to get our bearings and to pick up some supplies.

We have been told that the courthouse Markets are a must do. We are lucky to find a park close to the market right beside the prison! We’re hoping the car will be safe here. The market is buzzing with people and there is a great range of stalls with bright and colourful displays of artworks, clothing and jewellery. There isn’t any fresh fruit and vegetables which is disappointing, however there is a few food stalls. There is an amazing watercolour artist Tom Montgomery painting his latest works.  I can’t help but admire the works. The smell of coffee is wafting and we can’t resist lining up for one. It was a 15 minute wait but it was worth it.

Next up is a visit to Chinatown. Most of the shops are open and there is plenty of food outlets all overflowing with people enjoying what’s on offer. The Broome Art Gallery is quite different. Artist and Owner James Down captures the colour intensity of Broome and the Kimberley’s. A lot of the artworks have then been printed onto tourist items such as stubby coolers, drink bottles, mouse pads, postcards and the list goes on. The gallery is abuzz with people picking up colourful mementoes of their visit to the West Coast.

 

Town Beach is our next stop and I can’t get out of the car quick enough when I see the azure blue ocean. It is mesmerising. There are kite surfers everywhere gliding along the ocean and wind gusts take them soaring through the air. We’ve missed the feeling of the sand between our toes and the salty smell of the ocean. Cinta makes a b-line straight for the water too. Mangroves are close to the shore line as we walk further along the beach and the rock formations are colourful hues of ochre and burnt orange. Amazing formations carved by the Indian Ocean and the strong winds along the coastline over thousands of years.

This is picturesque Broome, it’s everything we imagined and more.

Town Beach – Broome

Wildlife: corellas, ibis, parrots, peacocks, galahs, ducks, seagulls, wild cat, sharks, 3 dead cows, eagles, crows, pelicans.

Week 20 total expenses:  $842.35 under budget, however, if this journey is going to go beyond a year, we need to work hard at getting our expenses down.

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That’s a wrap for Week 20 of the Lap of the Map, stay tuned for more on Broome next week!

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 19 | Lake Argyle to Derby

Day 127: Lake Argyle to Kununurra

It’s 29 degrees at 8.45am as we leave Lake Argyle.  We fell in love with the lake, the staff are so friendly.  Customer service is the most outstanding that we have seen on our journey so far.  They know how to do tourism right!

Our journey today is only 69km, we arrive at the Lakeside Kununurra Resort just after morning tea. We’ve got a lakeside site with another amazing view.

After setting up Andrew is tasked with doing the shopping while I catch up on some work. It’s now 4.00pm. Drinks time has been moved forward an hour as the sun is now setting at 5.00pm. We are both struggling with the early sunsets.

Sitting back with drinks and nibbles overlooking the lake, the sunset is absolutely beautiful. From blue & white cloudy skies to pastel pink, purple and yellow hues. It certainly did not disappoint.

Sunset at Lake Kununurra

Wildlife: Jabiru, falcon, willy wagtails, terns, purple swan hen, ducks, ibis.

Day 128-129: Kununurra

There’s more work to be done today so the morning is spent tapping away at the keyboard and making a few calls.

After lunch we take a short drive out to the infamous Ivanhoe Crossing. We are not adventurous enough to drive over it, we abide by the warning signs. The crossing is flowing quite fast and there are plenty of signs warning of the crocodiles.

This afternoon is spent indoors as the temperature rises to 35 degrees. Time for me to finish last weeks blog. It’s a big commitment writing a blog every week. Much bigger than I ever imagined. The week can easily get away from you if you don’t keep up to date each day. And then choosing the photos to post as well. As Andrew often says to me; just make a decision Arian!

Today we head out to the Sandalwood Factory and The Hoochery. Both are on the same road just 16km out of town. We’ve never been to a sandalwood factory before so we weren’t sure what to expect. It really is just a retail showroom with a coffee shop and a room that shows a video about the history of sandalwood. There are many products on display and most are reasonably priced.

Next up is the Hoochery. Famous for “rum from the middle of nowhere” created using traditional, inefficient and labour-intensive methods. It just looks like an old tin shed when you pull up in the car park. Open the glass door and what a surprise. You feel like you are entering a saloon bar from a John Wayne movie set. There are wagon wheels hanging from the ceiling with lights and fans attached. The building inside is all corrugated iron and timber with loads of memorabilia from early farming days.

We can just imagine “Spike” standing at the bar serving up his rum. He was a real visionary, originally a seed farmer he diversified creating WA’s oldest continually operating legal still. We are the only two doing the tour today so it’s very personalised and very informative. There is nothing high tech here it’s all very labour intensive! We taste quite a few rums in the barrel room and then taste a new product; mango balsamic vinegar which is currently being tested. It is going to be a winner in our view.

It’s worthwhile to take a walk around Celebrity Tree Park.  Opened in 1984 celebrities such as John Farnham, HRH Princess Anne and Harry Butler have all planted trees here. There is a boat ramp and walking pontoon that overlooks Lake Kununurra.

Tonight is our last night in Kununurra and we have sunset drinks by the lake again. There is no cloud around so the sunset is not nearly as spectacular as two nights ago. We enjoy a few drinks with other caravanners chatting about their and our adventures.

Wildlife: snake, jabiru, purple swamp hen, kangaroos, kingfishers, plovers, Willy wagtails, terns, pigeons, lorikeets, jacana, pelican, ducks, egrets.

Day 130: Kununurra to Spring Creek

Leaving Kununurra at 9.00am the temperature is rising to 31 degrees already, it’s going to be another hot day. We are travelling 252km today as we continue to head towards the west coast.

Tonight’s stop is at a free camp at Spring Creek. There is no water in the creek. There are two levels to this site. The lower level is already full of vans so we park up the top of the gravel by the shade of a small gum tree. WikiCamps tells us that a lot of people leave there vans here & drive into the Bungle Bungles. We are not doing them on this trip as there is nowhere to leave Cinta and we do not feel comfortable to leave the van at the free camp. There will always be another trip at another time!

It was a lovely cool night at 19 degrees.

Wildlife: black cockatoos, purple swamp hen, ibis, galahs, cattle, horses.

Day 131: Spring Creek to Ngumbun Cliff

Leaving Spring Creek this morning it is already 26 degrees at 7.30am. Our body clocks are still trying to get used to the change in time zones. With the sun setting at 5.00pm we are eating earlier & going to bed earlier when free camping. Which means getting up earlier.

We are heading for another free camp somewhere between Halls Creek and Fitzroy Crossing. The scenery changes every day. The grasses along the highway are constantly changing from wheat colours to rust and burnt orange tones. Boabs are aplenty and some have lost there foliage and are full of fruit. Red soil, ant hills and mountain ranges of rugged rock. The creeks and river systems are all dry, such a shame to see.  We see many eagles feasting on carcasses and not leaving until the very last moment as we pass.

I can’t believe that we are in the middle of nowhere in WA and I have Telstra reception on my phone.  I’m bored today, so I’m busy chatting on messenger with my scrabble group ladies (who I really miss).  I had to send a selfie to them to show them just how relaxed we really are!

Mary Pool was recommended as a great spot to free camp, however we are travelling further today to the Ngumban Cliff Rest Area which is 299km. That’s a big day for us.

We see something in the distance. It’s another bike rider. As we approach I grab my phone to get a snap of the intrepid traveller. There is an eagle soaring above and it swoops down. Andrew has slowed right down as we pass, to our amazement it is a woman! We are astounded, so many questions come to mind. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to chat to this traveller to get a first hand experience of their journey.

After our early start we arrive at the Ngumban Cliff just after lunch. We park up and take a walk around the cliff site. There are no trees, just shade from the picnic table areas. We park right out on the furthest point to take full advantage of the sunset. The clouds have rolled in today so I’m expecting something pretty amazing.

We are all set up and we meet a couple from Millmerran. They had worked in the Bungle Bungles for some years and are now retired. We enjoy swapping travel stories.

The cliffs are so picturesque and we spot our first wild flowers, Bachelors Buttons. My favourite colour too. Out on the cliff face there are what appear to be wild lavender. The colour is almost finished.

I wasn’t planning on doing any work today but something has come in and we have reception, so out comes the laptop. Happy hour is calling me early today at 3.00pm. Who could refuse that offer… it’s now 4.30pm and we have moved over to the picnic tables to take full advantage of the sunset. We are chatting away to some other grey nomads telling them about the bike lady and would you believe it she rides right in to the shelter!

This is an OMG moment. We get to meet this mysterious traveller. There are a million questions we want to ask. Her name is Marielle, just like Arielle from Frozen but with an “m” she says. Marielle is from Sweden and is on her 105th day riding around Australia. She has our full attention.

How much water do you carry? A 10 litre napsack & two bottles on the front of the bike. What type of food do you carry? Breakfast is the same every day; oats. Snacks for during the daytime; nuts & dried fruit. Dinner is beans and corn chips and a banana for tomorrow.

Marielle quickly sets up her tent before sunset. It broke 3 days ago so she needs to tie it to the pole. Out comes a blow up mattress like an egg carton & she hand pumps it up. The sun is setting quickly so I offer to take her photo with her bike. On comes the red shirt, helmet & shoes. The photo is done so I ask if we could have a selfie. She is very obliging. We exchange social media channels to follow each other’s journies. I offer her more water for tomorrow’s journey as there is no water available at the free camp. Marielle is very thankful so I take her to the van to get the water & show her inside. She politely asks if she can wash her hands so I offer her soap and she explains what a treat! It was the least we could do!

We say goodnight & offer to take some action shots on the bike when we pass her in the morning. We will slow right down and toot the horn before approaching so she knows it’s us.

The sun set is amazing, it almost looks like the sky is on fire.

Wildlife: Dead kangaroos, crows, wild budgerigars, finches, horses, eagles.

Day 132: Ngumban Cliff to Derby

Andrew is up early and bids farewell to Marielle at 6.02am. We are keen to see how far she will travel before we pass her on the road today.

We head off at 7.45am this morning & see Marielle in the distance at 8.20am, 50km from the cliffs.

We slow right down, toot the horn and I begin snapping her. We drive alongside for a short distance while I’m photographing her. There is a good headwind so she is making great time today. She plans to stop about 100km past Fitzroy Crossing. We bid her farewell & wish her a safe journey.

I messaged the photos to Marielle through Instagram and she was ever so thankful for the action shots!  Marielle rode 175km today in the heat – she is a remarkable woman.  Her goal will be complete in 2 more days with only 300km to do.  Go Marielle!!

Bachelor buttons are prolific all along the highway today.  We are making good time and arrive in Derby just after lunch.  We plan to stay at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park for 4 nights on a powered site as the temperatures are going to be in the mid 30’s over the next few days.  This is a very large park with 285 sites and it is the only park now in town.  Ian the Manager is a real character and makes the checking in process quite comical.

After we are all set up we take a drive around town to get our bearings. Derby has Australia’s highest tides and one of the highest in the world being 11.8m.  Derby is located on the tidal mud flats on the edge of the King Sound and has a population of around 4500 people.

We head back home and I am tasked with getting us booked onto the Horizontal Falls Seaplane tour.  Another experience to tick off our bucket list.  Getting close to the “season” it pays to start booking ahead as we are unable to do the flight until the following Friday.  I immediately take the seats.  It’s not cheap at $1576.61 for the two of us for a 6 hour trip.  The cost includes the Marine Park Fee and a credit card fee.  I’ll be writing about this experience in next week’s blog.

I head back to reception to extend our booking by a further 3 days and are delighted that Ian gives me a deal for the whole week.

Wildlife: Dead kangaroos, crows, hawks, eagles, wild budgerigar, horses, cattle.

Day 133: Derby

Last night was another very pleasant 19 degrees.  We’re expecting a top today of 37.  In the coming week the temperatures are expected to decrease each day.  The bonus is that the nights will all be under 20 degrees.  It’s time to do the shopping and then head out to do some exploring.

A short distance from town is the Prison Boab Tree (I know another boab tree photo!)  This is a site of significance (from its reputed use as a rest point for police and escorted Aboriginal prisoners en-route to Derby).  The site is now protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972.  It’s an amazing tree.  The sun is shining on the eastern side of the tree and the colour is pewter, it really is a sight to see.

In the same location is Myalls Bore & Cattle Trough built in 1916/17 and later extended to a length of 120m to water over 500 bullocks at one time.  Today, water is pumped into the trough from the windmill.

We will be exploring more of Derby over the coming week, so make sure you look out for next week’s blog.  I hope you are enjoying reading about our travels.

Wildlife:  Peacocks, corellas, parrots, bats.

Week 19 total expenses:  $2331.41 over budget but 2 extraordinary expenses this week on tours; $28 for the Hoochery Distillery Tour and $1576.61 for the Horizontal Falls Seaplane Tour.  I’ll be talking about that in next week’s blog!

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That’s a wrap for Week 19 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 18 | Darwin to Lake Argyle

Day 120: Darwin

Our last day in Darwin and it’s a work day for me before we begin to head south and then make our way over to the West. Andrew is tasked with getting the van ready again for another travel day and doing the last minute running around for supplies.

We recently joined Aussie House Sitters and have today been accepted to do a house sit for 9 weeks just south of Perth at Whitby. We are both very excited and appreciative of the opportunity to look after a lovely rural property.

Wildlife: Horses, corellas, frilly lizard.

Day 121: Darwin to Bachelor

The military exercise was in full swing last night with hornets buzzing around up until 10pm. We’ve had a slow start to our day and the van is already to go.

We’re heading for Bachelor which is the gateway to the Litchfield National Park on the recommendation of new friends Tim and Lyn. It’s a short journey today of 84km and we are checking into the Bachelor Holiday Park before lunch time. We have a lovely unpowered site nestled in the rainforest and at $27 a night we are happy with that.

After setting up we have a quick lunch then head out to the Florence Falls. There is a couple of walking tracks to see the falls and I see a sign that says 430m. Great, let’s head that way. Then there’s another sign saying 135 steps down to the waterfall. Oh well let’s do it, we’re committed to the walk now! Going down was the easy part. I was dreading having to climb back up all those steps. The reward at the bottom is spectacular with an amazing swimming hole right under the two cascading waterfalls. There is a bus load of people swimming and I can’t resist getting in as well. The water is quite cold, but after the steps down to see it, there was no way that I wasn’t getting in.

Heading back up the staircase I am struggling and feeling every muscle in my legs. I stop several times before reaching the top. I am so unfit!

The next stop is Buley Rockhole. There are several small cascades and rock pools. There are people everywhere swimming and diving into the rock pools. You can also walk from here along the creek bed to the Florence Falls. The round trip is about 3.2km. After doing the staircase at the falls I wasn’t walking any further than I had to.

The Magnetic Termite Mounds are intriguing. They are all aligned North to South. This ensures that there is always an area within the mound that stays at an optimum temperature. They are also built on seasonally flooded black soil plains. Unlike the Cathedral Termite that builds its nest in well drained soils. Their nests can be up to 5m high.

Wildlife: cattle, horses, dead pig, sheep, lorikeets, galahs, cockatoos, blue eyed honey eaters.

Day 122:  Tolmer Falls & Wangi Falls

We head off early this morning to the Litchfield National Park to find the Wangi & Tolmer Falls. WikiCamps tells us that Wangi Falls are closed to swimming due to crocodiles being present. Apparently there is a cafe out there so we decide that morning tea is in order.

The falls are about 68km from Bachelor and travelling through the Litchfield National Park there are signs that the rangers are conducting controlled burn offs. The park is smouldering and there is evidence of new growth from earlier burns.

Arriving at Wangi we take the short walk down to the falls to find a group of people entering the plunge pool. They are from a tour bus and there’s lots of chatter and laughter about the recent crocodile sightings. I’m now really disappointed that we didn’t throw our swimmers in! The falls cascade over sandstone cliffs off the plateau into the plunge pool which is surrounded by pandanus palms and rainforest. It’s so beautiful and the water looks so inviting.

There is a short 450m walk to a viewing platform so we head off in anticipation of a spectacular view of the falls. The mosquitoes are bad and we’ve left the spray in the car so the walk is brisk up the hill. Then Andrew spots the metal staircase. Oh no, I’m praying there is not another 135 stairs like yesterday. Our calves haven’t recovered from the Florence Falls walk.

We climb the staircase, about 50 we think. There was no way I was counting them. We reach the top and there is no view to the waterfall. We are in the canopy of the rainforest. A selfie is in order and then we head back down. Our legs are killing us. After all the photos are taken of the waterfall we head for the cafe – closed! Oh well you can’t help bad luck!

Next stop is the Tolmer Falls. From the car park is a 500m return walk to a viewing platform which gives you a panoramic view of the Valley. The lookout walk is 800m return and the view from the platform which overhangs the cliff is amazing. Tolmer Gorge has been closed to the public since the 1990’s to protect the Orange leaf nosed bat & Ghost bats that inhabit the caves.

Our favourite falls in the Litchfield National Park were the Florence Falls and our favourite plunge pool was at the Wangi Falls. Whilst Litchfield National Park is impressive we can’t help but think about how lucky we are to live in a World Heritage listed rainforest area back at Mission Beach. Our rainforest and waterfalls are still the best we have ever seen on our journey so far.

Every day at the park the owners feed the birds.  It’s a spectacular sight to see.

Wildlife: Rabbit, kangaroos, hawk, galahs, cockatoos, lorikeets, dead snake, blue faced honey eaters.

Day 123: Bachelor to Vince Connolly Limestone Creek

It’s time to leave our lovely rainforest setting and head back through Katherine and then west on the Victoria Highway for Western Australia.

Morning tea is in the park at Pine Creek. We have 2 inquisitive blue faced honey eaters join us at the park table. We give them some fruit cake and biscuits which they quickly devour. We meet a couple travelling from Sydney who are heading in the same direction as us. Andrew has bought my attention to the slogan on the back of their pop top: The Love Shack, heading down the highway. I love it! One of my favourite songs!  I can’t get it out of my head now…

There are dark plumes of smoke ahead after leaving Pine Creek and it’s evident we are going to be coming close to a bush fire. The flames are burning right alongside the highway and you can feel the heat coming through the air vents as we travel. It’s a surreal feeling and we both hope that we will soon be far away from the fires. The bush is burning all the way to the Cullen River. We don’t know if it is a controlled burn or if it is just a bush fire out of control.

We arrive at the Vince Connolly Limestone Creek free camp and there is no one else here so we have the pick of the camp site. There isn’t much shade so we park out in the sun and take advantage of charging up our solar panels. Within 10 minutes another 3 vans pull into the campsite.

We meet a couple from NSW heading for Broome. They were at the same park at Bachelor last night and tell us of their adventures. He is doing an online course to become a marriage celebrant & has to do a mock ceremony so he approached two couples at the park and married one of them. Apparently they were in tears at the mock wedding! Shame we missed it. The other couple are from Cardwell and heading to the Kimberley’s. It’s amazing how many people we meet from Queensland.

Free camping in the great outdoors

It’s 36 degrees outside so it’s very hot getting set up. The afternoon is spent sitting by the caravan in the little shade that we have. Time for some sketching and colouring in. I’m almost relieved that there is no reception as it is a good chance to digitally detox!

Today’s travel was 262km, quite a big day for us. There will be a few more of those as we head towards the border and over to the coast of Western Australia.

Did I mention the flies are back?

Purple lilly

Wildlife: Rabbits, cockatoos, lorikeets, galahs, horses, cattle, jabiru, black cockatoos, dead pig, blue faced honey eaters, crows.

Day 124: Vince Connolly Limestone Creek to Saddle Creek

Leaving the free camp this morning it’s 25 degrees at 8am. It’s an early start as we were awake before sunrise. Last night we were visited by a herd of cattle feeding in the bush right beside the van, it scared the living daylights out of us at first. We were both sitting on the bed peering out the windows trying to see what was going on.

I’ve started to write my blog each day in Notes on my iPhone and then I can either cut and paste it into my blog site or I can email it to myself and then do the cut and paste to the site on my laptop. It gives me something to do while we are travelling as I don’t need to be connected to the internet.

As usual Andrew is at the wheel. I’ve driven about 170km for the whole trip so far & we have now clocked up over 12,000km. The Victoria Highway is a little rough around the edges compared to the Stuart Highway.

The road trains are out in full force and today one is “up our date” as Andrew describes it. He doesn’t have a load on and finally goes past. He’s wandering all over the road for quite a few kilometres.

What is it with trucks today! Another has just passed us “like a bat of hell” says Andrew and then is wandering into the right hand lane. About a kilometre up the road he puts his breaks on and pulls off the side of the road. He’s got a container & a 4WD Ute on board and one of the straps around the Ute has come loose. Let’s hope that’s all the truck experiences we have today.

The landscape is dry, red dirt, spindly grasses, ant hills and dry creeks. The clouds look like big balls of cotton wool.

And then we enter the Victoria River Region and the escarpment almost immediately changes to rolling Rocky Mountain ranges and plateaus. The colours in the rock face range from deep rust to burnt orange and black. The sun shining on them is intensifying the hues.

We pull into the free camp at Saddle Creek just after lunch time and there are several vans & motorhomes here already. It’s only 60km to the Western Australia border and everyone is talking about what you can and can’t take over the border.

There are two motorhomes parked beside us, both ladies travelling solo. One is heading back home to Perth and the other has come across from Tassie. I admire their sense of adventure and tenacity to be travelling this vast countryside on their own.

The afternoon is spent outside with fly nets on. Andrew is reading and I decide to try to sketch the blue faced honey eater who joined us for morning tea yesterday.

We also meet a couple from Lennox Head who have travelled different areas of Australia over the years. We watch the sun set with them and the moon rising over the rugged cliffs. It’s an amazing site.

With a few veggies on board I decide to grate them all up and make some veggie fritters to go with our steak. I don’t have any bread crumbs so I use some bread and an egg to bind the mix. I manage to get them into a pattie and start frying them off. They just weren’t holding together. The taste is ok, Andrew quickly reassures me and says we are having a Masterchef dinner of deconstructed veggie fritters!

Today’s travel was 281km.

Did I mention the flies?

Wildlife: crows, cattle, dead kangaroos, wild budgerigar, horses, 2 dead cows, doves, galahs.

Day 125:  Saddle Creek to Lake Argyle

I’ve had a restless night, something was biting me. It felt like ants. We also had a vehicle come into the camp site very late during the night shining their headlights. The occupants had been drinking and pulled in to use the toilets and leave their beer cans behind. Some people have no respect for camp sites that provide free facilities for travellers and that’s all I’ll say about that!

We woke up to an infestation of ants in the caravan. Out came the spray and we almost choked ourselves on the fumes. The pantry was emptied and everything wiped over, surface spray all over everything again and the caravan mopped out. An unwelcome start to the day but the benefit of an unexpected caravan clean in the middle of nowhere.

We are now on the road and heading for the border. It’s 31 degrees at 9.00am.  The border is only 60km away.  We pull into checkpoint charlie fully expecting to be here for some time.  The boot is up and the caravan open, within 5 minutes we are on our way again.

A further 41km takes us into Lake Argyle.  The scenery is spectacular and I’m busy snapping photos all the way.  On arrival we wait in the queue to enter the park.  I make my way to reception to pay the fees and then we are met by the parking attendant who rides her bike in front of us to our site.  She then proceeds to tell Andrew not to stress and starts instructing him on how to back into the site.  Within no time we are set up and ready to explore all that the Lake has to offer.

Lake Argyle panorama

You simply can not go past the infinity pool, perched on the cliff face.  It’s known as the most spectacular pool in the Kimberley.  We certainly agree, the view is breathtaking.  We take a drive across the Ord River Dam wall, it is an engineering master piece sitting on a fault line between Darwin and the Great Sandy Desert.

The resident musician is Steve Case and he’s playing on the grassed area of the cliff face in the afternoon.  Cinta is allowed to come too, so we take some drinks, nibblies and treats for Cinta and sit back, relax and enjoy the tunes from our era as the sun sets and the moon rises over the cliff face.  We continue on to the beer garden and have an amazing meal of crispy skin salmon and of course Andrew has parmigiana.  Steve plays more tunes and we enjoy quite a few more drinks.  I finally feel like I am on a holiday.  There is no work happening this weekend!

Wildlife:  Brown snake, crocodiles, sea eagles, pelicans, cormorants.

Day 126: 19/05 Lake Argyle

We have booked the lake sunset cruise and head out at 2.00pm for 4 hours cruising the lake.  The cruise also includes a swim.  While it is very tempting we both decide that we are not going in the water.  We have seen the size of the crocs along the banks while cruising and we just can’t do it.  A croc is a croc in our view and not to be trusted, even though they are freshies.

The skies decide to open up and a heavy rain cloud appears behind the cliff faces and then the rain comes.  The guides tell us that it is quite rare to experience a beautiful sunny start and then to experience rainfall on the cruise.  We all get soaked, what an experience.  Then there is a spectacular rainbow.  We stop in a secluded bay to watch the sun set while enjoying drinks and a cheese platter.  This is the life. Where to next?

It’s been a big week this past week, with lots of amazing destinations.  We are ever so thankful that we are able to experience all that Australia has to offer.  It truely is a remarkable country.

Wildlife: brown snake, crocodiles, comorants, sea eagles, pelican, cormorants.

Week 18 total expenses:  $851.57 – not too bad considering the cruise cost of $90 each (seniors discount).

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That’s a wrap for Week 18 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!

Week 17 | Adelaide River to Darwin

Day 113: Adelaide River to Darwin

After a slow start to the morning we head off to Darwin, only 112km away and check into the Robbie Robins Reserve.  As we turn into the street I notice the Don Dale Detention Centre on the left hand side of the road.  It’s a Detention Centre for male and female juvenile deliquents.  There are 4 gates into the reserve & we are met by Sonja at gate 3.  There is a small office and Sonja explains that the reserve is an Equestrian Centre and the speed limit is 5km and you must give way to horses.

It’s a lovely big lush green grassy area and caravans are all along the back fence.  There are both powered and unpowered sites and at $37 a night for power and water it’s about as cheap as you will find in Darwin.  The washing machines are free of charge which is an added bonus.  There are no frills here, no swimming pool, camp kitchen or playgrounds for children.  It’s perfect for us under the big shady trees.

Wildlife:  Hawks, cattle, eagles

Day 114-119: Darwin

There are a lot of things to do this week while in Darwin.  Cinta is due her annual vaccinations so we’ll need to find a vet.  The car is due for it’s 30,000km service and is booked into Ford, unfortunately they couldn’t give us a loan car for the day so that means we’ll be stuck at home when that happens.  We need to find somewhere to buy some new wheel chocks for the caravan as the two we have, have cracked and split when we’ve used them on gravel surfaces.  The wire support to the outdoor table on the side of the caravan has broken, so Andrew will have to come up with a solution to that.

The wind is blowing an absolute gale today and overhead there is an impressive array of aircraft flying around.   I’ve checked with my favourite internet source Google and Exercise Diamond Storm 2019 is currently taking place between Darwin and Tindal up to 29th May.  It’s an Air Warfare Instructor Course and involves military personnel from the United States and Australia.

Some of the aircraft involved from the States are: F-15C Eagle and B-52 Stratofortress Bomber; and the US Marine Corp MV-22 Osprey and AH-1Z Viper.  RAAF aircraft participating in the exercise include the F/A-18A/B Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Hawk 127, AP-3C Orion, P-8A Poseidon, C-17A Globemaster, KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport, E-7A Wedgetail and C-130J Hercules. It’s going to be a very noisy week!

We are fortunate to have good friends Daryl and Jenny Caesar who have been living in Darwin for quite a few years now and they are picking us up to take us down to the Stokes Hill Wharf for a sunset dinner.  It’s so beautiful sitting on the wharf in the cool breeze watching all the boats sailing in the harbour and the seagulls flying about.  There are so many choices for dinner at the wharf and of course seafood and Thai is on my hit list.

A ‘must do’ in Darwin is the Mindil Beach Market and Daryl and Jenny are keen to take us down to experience it.  Everyone knows how much we love our food and we are in foodie heaven.  There is every nationality you can think of at the market.  I love that you can take a deck chair and your drinks and just find a patch of grass and enjoy the evening.  I decide to try something totally different that I have never had before. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake based on cabbage and vegetables and it is delicious!  Apparently the sunsets are amazing at Mindil Beach, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be the night we were there…

Jenny recommends that we visit the Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Facility at Stokes Hill Wharf.  It is another ‘must do’ in our books.  They also offer discounts on admission for Seniors, it’s $22 each.  The facility has two iconic Territory stories in the one location.  The story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.
There are two 20 minute movies to watch; the life size hologram of John Flynn the Founder of the Flying Doctor Service tells his story of the birth and growth of the RFDS and the life size hologram of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant who was the Commanding Officer of the USS William B Preston narrates his own version of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.  The movies are well narrated and very informative.
Modern technology through Virtual Reality transports you back to Darwin Harbour of 1942.  You are at the original Stokes Hill Wharf, standing on the deck of the Neptuna as it is bombed to the point of it exploding and sinking as well as sitting on the wing of an American Kitty Hawk, engaging in a dogfight with the Japanese Zero’s.  The staff tell you to swivel on your chair and move your head up and down and around to experience the full reality of the movie. It’s an incredible experience and at times I felt a little motion sickness and had to close my eyes before refocusing.

Botanical Gardens are a favourite of ours to wander around and enjoy the sheer beauty of nature’s flora.  The George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens are situated on 42 hectares and are over 130 years old, surviving World War II and Cyclone Tracy.  There is a lovely plant house with tropical orchids and bromeliads, a waterfall in the rainforest, fountains, children’s playground and several themed walks.  Dogs are allowed, so Cinta enjoys a morning out with us too.  I just love how the mosaic is created on the footpath, it reminds me of a necklace.

We take a walk around State Square and view Darwin’s Parliament House which opened in 1994.  Across the road is Government House which is set on 13,000 square metres of hillside gardens.  It is pretty as a picture with it’s white picket fence.  There is a short video on the government website which takes you on a tour through the house, it’s worth having a look at.

I managed to wake up in time for a sunrise this week and it did not disappoint.  We’ve had a great week in Darwin, however we will be looking forward to moving on again next week as we make our way back to Katherine and then head for Western Australia.

Wildlife:  Kookaburras, plovers, ibis, horses, peacocks, black cockatoos.

Week 17 total expenses:  $2177.16 – well over double our budget!  Some extraordinary expenses this week with a car service at $810.20 & Cinta’s annual vaccinations at $125.  Luckily we’ve had quite a few weeks under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 17 of the Lap of the Map.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!