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.

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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!