To the North: A decision I immediately regretted!

As visiting the rock paintings at the Burrup was relatively easy we headed out there after leaving the library. We had been a bit waylaid by a local (very vocal) who informed us of the changes he felt were for the worse in Karratha, such as moving pensioners out of the main town and moving the swimming pool, which was the centre of social life, out of town. As we drove out along the road to Dampier we could see that there were some rather posh suburbs out that way. Perhaps our man had a point, that the conveniece of moneyed newcomers counted for more than the life of long term residents.

The rock art is accessible via two boardwalks, not very long, but allowing a good view of the area. Apparently there are 10,000 plus, but we only picked up some of the more obvious ones. There were signs giving information, as much as we wanted. In the late afternoon it was a beautiful place to be, so long as you didn’t look across the way to the gas plant spewing whatever into the sky.

After we had our fill, we went to the nearby Hearson’s Cove. There were cars lined up along the edge of the dune and we realised that people were there to see the Staircase to the Moon. Lot’s of people were taking advantage of the low tide to walk out in the very shallow water. The road back to Karratha is a four lane highway and we felt somewhat confident of getting back safely after dark, so stayed for the event. Once again I tried taking photos of the Staircase and felt so frustrated that I turned the camera onto automatic. Immediately I had good shots, so obviously the computer in the camera is much cleverer than me trying out manual modes.

On Sunday morning Stephen wanted to have a shower and wash his hair at the golf club, but was told the toilet block wouldn’t open until 12.00. I gave him instructions on how to wash his hair in our little bathroom. After relaxing for the morning we set off for Dampier. We just wanted to see what it was like. On the way we went shopping at the posh supermarket (The Good Store) and spent a lot of money on very nice food. We made the fateful decision not to refill our tank and water bottles in Karratha, but were unexpectedly gifted 6 1.5 litre bottles of drinking water from a passing worker. That has been a godsend as we want to camp for an extra day and 4 days is quite a stretch.

Dampier was warm and not that interesting though we are glad we went there. It is a working port and that is really what matters. There was a market happening near the new foreshore development, but by driving along further we were able to find a parkup in the shade to have our lunch and siesta.

Our next parkup was only about 40kms south at Miaree 24 Hour Rest Area. It was there we made the decision I instantly regretted. The main parking area had a steep slope and people were finding perches around the edges to stay for the night. We found a perch a little way along the 4WD only track down to the river and ended up in a beautiful spot overlooking the river. My regret and anxiety began immediately as the only way out was by backing up the road, with the hope of being able to turn around part of the way up to take the rest of it going forwards.

Miaree Rest Area bad decision, but beautiful
Our view from Miaree RA campsite

Although it was so lovely I spent the whole night worrying about getting out. After breakfast we packed up and put our plan in motion. Stephen wanted me to back all of the way out, but I could see a ridge that I wanted to be able to take going forwards. One of the caravans moved, which gave us more room to turn around. After bottoming out by going into the wrong spot we managed to make a good turn and I drove out easily. Never again, the anxiety made it not at all worthwhile.

We don’t think we did any damage.

Driving that morning was almost like driving through gardens of beautiful wildflowers. We had a couple of stops, one at a rest area to look at flowers and one at the Fortescue Roadhouse where we shared a bacon and egg toastie and had coffees. Very good indeed.

Our next destination was our present parkup at Robe River 24 hr Rest Area. Curiously, not only do they provide two sets of toilets, one old, one new, two dump points, a number of picnic shelters but also wifi. That is really weird, especially as the internet connection on our phones is quite good. I’ve tried the internet (using a VPN of course) and it is quite fast.

Once again we have secured a spot overlooking the river, but we are on gravel and have easy access in and out. It’s so nice that we are going to stay for two nights, which is where stretching out our water becomes important. We are not as brave as a man we saw yesterday evening who walked out into the river with his soap and had a bath. This morning I walked into the water far enough to find some relatively clean water and have done some washing. As soon as it was hung out the clouds rolled in. Must be a bit left over from the south of WA. It was looking very dark for a while, but the heavy clouds have moved on and we have a mix of sunshine and clouds.

Clouds this morning – because I did some washing!
Across the road from where we are staying. Some people have driven over to this side to have a bit more space and privacy. It was very packed here last night, but as our sliding door faces the river and we have a shade over the dining room window we feel quite private here.

To the North: Karratha

Here is a little slideshow of photos from the Peawah River Rest Area.

To the North: Peawah River Rest Area and on to Karratha

We had an easy drive to the rest area yesterday once we left the Great Northern Highway. We are now travelling on the North West Coastal Highway. The scenery has changed gradually with lots of wildflowers, mostly white and yellow so far, though increasing mauve as well.

The Peawah River was completely dry and after resting through the hot afternoon we found the evening cool enough for a walk along the river bed. We had friendly chats with neighbours and only the noise of trucks on the Highway was a distraction from the very pleasant surroundings.

We set up camp with the awning facing the sun, which gave us shade on both sides of the van. The awning supports a washing line and all of our washing was dry by late afternoon.

We also set up our portable solar panel and by shifting it around we were able to almost fully charge the batteries by the time we left today.

There was a crew setting up at the rest area, this morning starting around 10.00 am. We think it may have been a film crew, but they wouldn’t say. It was very elaborate with chairs set out, about 15 cars and utes and a generator. They said they would only be there for two hours.

We enjoyed our drive this morning and had lunch at Roebourne. We found a shady spot to park, but it still got hot in the afternoon. We decided to go to see Cossack at about 3:00 pm and realised when we got there that we had made the fundamental tourist mistake of arriving after everything was closed. We didn’t stay long and drove in the late afternoon to Karratha. We arrived here very tired and took the easy option of staying at the country club overflow parking. It’s $10 per night and fairly central and convenient.

Looks messy, but all the RVs are in neat rows. the backdrop of the hills makes the setting nicer than you’d expect.
Having a drink at the country club, membership for visitors is $5.
Golf is the main business of the country club.

Tomorrow when I have more energy I will process the photos from the Peawah Rest Area.

To the North: arrived in Port Hedland yesterday

Useful tip: if you are wanting to stay cool whilst taking a lunch stop, sit in the front seats with engine and air conditioning, make tuna sandwiches with frozen bread and eat them sitting in the cool. Perfect! That’s what we did on Tuesday.

Marie rang me after the Hospice care meeting for Mum. Apparently she slept through it. Mum is now on the road, allowed to do whatever she wishes, eat and drink if she wishes, but no forcing, and they will try another medication to help her with overnight agitation. At the moment she sleeps during the day, but can be agitated and restless at night. It’s all reassuring, but still emotional. I’ve let the family know.

We stayed Tuesday night at the De Grey Rest Area, arriving late in the day when it was cooler. The bird life is amazing, with little flocks of budgies going all over the place. The night was pleasantly cool.

On arriving here in Port Hedland, we checked in at the hospital and I was reassured that a funny dent in my right thigh wasn’t a blood clot, then went to Macdonalds where there was deep shade. We were planning to look for a nice cafe, but it was closed, so we ended up at the McCafe. Good coffee and very cheap. Stephen went off to a nearby gallery whilst I read a book, then we went shopping. Afterwards it was easiest to go to MacDonalds for lunch where we had a boring and healthy lunch.

Pretty Pool was a good destination for the rest of the afternoon. We had been there with Frederick and Sherine, so knew it was a good spot. There we met a pilot (or pirate?), living in a van. He told us we could stay the night there without problems. So, we did. He left early to take up his piloting duties (or heading off to his pirate ship), but we had a station wagon and small van still there. In the station wagon were a couple of young people camping.

It was possibly the worst night we’ve had, humid and still. I took charge of the fan and insisted that we keep it on using 12volt power when it ran out of battery. Of course, it didn’t affect the battery levels at all!

This morning was lovely, with the tide in and showing us what they meant by calling it a pool.

We used the tap near the toilets to put water into our tank last night using our big water container and a funnel. Four containers brought the level up to 75%, easy. It was the first time we used our plumbers key as well. if we hadn’t we would have had to go to the designated free camping area which we call ‘the compound’ because it is near the official free water tap.

When we filled up this morning we went back to the race track water source, not wanting to abuse the system. There is a dump point there as well. We have fresh fruit and salads, a nearly full fuel tank, and 30 litres of drinking water. We are ready for the journey to the Peawah Rest Area about 100kms on the road to Karratha.

Oh, I forgot, we stopped at the nearby shopping area and I did a load of washing. Some of it is hung around the van, the rest we can put out on the clothes airer when we reach Peawah RA.

To the North: the Road to Port Hedland

This morning we left our beautiful site at the Barn Hill Caravan Park and drove about 200 kms to Sandfire Roadhouse. It is only $20 per night for an unpowered site and we were able to choose a spot in deep shade. We are feeling very happy because for the first time our battery levels went into float, well above 14 just on solar and charging whilst driving. We think the good solar energy of the previous two days, has had this result. Of course, as we found before whether on power or not, the batteries go down to about 13.3 after sunset and I know from the battery management app we had on power that this is considered a safe level. Staying very high could result in damage.

We had pizza for tea on our first night at BH station and a live music session from a very good young singer. Mostly ballads and country and western, but she sang for over two hours without repeats, which is quite something. If we wished for anything, it would have been for her to drop the country and western style for a song or two so that we could really hear what her voice is like.

The pizzas are cooked at the ‘homestead’ and ferried over to the social area at regular intervals. Our was booked for 6.45 and arrived on time. It was exceptionally tasty, with a crisp crust. The next day we had coffee and a vanilla slice at the cafe, not the best we’ve ever had, but we had been for a long walk on the beach and it was very welcome. The internet was best around the cafe area, but our second campsite was fairly close by and sometimes we had good internet and sometimes nothing at all.

In the afternoons it was quite hot in the sun, but we sat outside in the shade with a cool breeze and it was relaxing and comfortable. We took a walk to a nearby lookout on Sunday morning, as well as booking our tickets for the Nanga Music Festival.

We had our Facetime session with Matt at 4.00 p.m. on Sunday and we were able to see him fairly clearly. We used the open air toilets (private with walls but no roof) and Stephen also had a shower there. As we had water I showered in our tiny bathroom. I have a method that works and leaves me feeling clean and shiny.

Later on Sunday evening we went for a walk so that I could photograph the interesting rock formations at sunset.

Tomorrow morning at 9.30 a.m. there is to be a meeting with the hospice team for them to assess how Mum is doing. We will stick around to hear from Marie about the outcome and can make the decision about a fast or slow drive home. We are still about 2,000 kms from Perth.

To the North: Barn Hill Caravan Park

Stephen had his injection as expected. He does not appear to have had any reaction from it. We refuelled and had the tyre pressure checked. Once again we had a different opinion about the best tyre pressure and now have 70rear65front. Who knows what is correct? We then went to the laundromat at Town Beach and I did one load of washing. It was going to get busy there with an afternoon market and we really felt like we wanted to be in shade for the afternoon. In the end we returned to the Surf Lifesaving Club car park and found some semi shade. It was very humid and although we had our washing on the airer outside for rest of the day it didn’t get dry.

In the evening we went for a walk along the beach. Although we didn’t get the iconic shot of camels, we were able to see them returning to the path up from the beach. They had to wait for ages for all the 4WD vehicles to leave the beach and it seemed wrong that they didn’t have right of way.

As we walked along the beach we saw a couple of women guarding a turtle. They had rung the turtle rescue service as it was alive, just exhausted. When we got back to that spot after walking further along the beach we saw someone carrying the turtle up the beach. We also saw some jellyfish stranded along the shore as it was low tide.

After the balmy, humid evening a strong breeze came in and our washing actually dried by the time we were ready for bed.

When we took our walk we put the airer inside the van straddled between the bathroom and kitchen. We couldn’t have lived in the van with it that way, but it worked to safely move the van into the camping section of the carpark.

In the late afternoon I had a call from Regis from the RN to say that Mum was ‘declining’ – and did we want her taken to hospital. She has been spending a lot of time in bed and isn’t eating or drinking very much. After consulting with Marie, it was decided that we would wait until the morning when Marie could visit and talk with the clinical manager. Despite our being consulted multiple times, it apparently has not been documented that Mum does not want an intervention, but wants to die naturally at ‘home’ in her own room.

Yesterday morning when Stephen and I were doing chores in the middle of town (with good phone reception) we had a three way conversation and reinforced that hospital is not a good idea for Mum. She has been there a couple of times after falls and really hates it, just wants to be back in familiar surrounds. It has been decided to have a meeting with an external hospice organisation on Tuesday to decide if she really is ‘declining’, or just having another low point, from which she will recover. This has happened before and I told all the family, then she recovered.

Marie found her quite alert and able to help make the decision about hospital (a definite ‘no’), but we asked that they bathe her in bed if she doesn’t want to get up and generally make sure she isn’t lying in wet sheets half the morning, which has happened at least once that we know of.

Stephen and I then had to make a decision whether to continue northwards or start to make our way south again. There didn’t seem to be a special urgency, though we are waiting on a GP and hospice evaluation. But our friends Frederick and Sherine will no longer be in Kununurra when we get there as their plans had to change, which removed one incentive. I am finding the heat in the afternoons very trying and have some heat rash. It was a relief to get back to the milder weather at Broome when we returned from Derby. Although it feels a bit whimpish to give up, we have reason.

The nice thing is that we have five weeks to make our way slowly home, rather than going 1000kms further and perhaps having to rush back. One of Stephen’s former colleagues had recommended Barn Hill Caravan Park, which is part of a station, and on the road between Broome and Port Hedland, as a place to stay. We are paying $30 per night for an unpowered site. We arrived late in the day and just parked up temporarily for the night, but this morning have moved to an ocean view site with water hookup. We’ve also booked another night, giving us three nights in total.

We went for a walk this morning. It is a beautiful spot, with red cliffs and rocky outcrops at low tide. We walked along to some stone monuments carved by the water, very interesting. There is another walk we can do tomorrow morning. I only took iphone photos yesterday at sunset and I’m looking forward to getting some photos of the sunset with my camera.

It’s very busy here. There is a cafe, small shop, a bowling green, regular yoga sessions and they have games evenings as well. We ordered pizza for tonight and there is going to be a live music show which we will attend after the sunset. The powered sites are very close together and we feel we have a bit more space where we are, as well as having an ocean view.

The showers and toilets are rustic style, open to the sky. Everyone seems to know to put the toilet seats down when not in use without the owner having to put up signs. They have lots of artesian water which is replenished every wet season. This morning our next door neighbour was washing his car and I borrowed his sprayer to give our roof top solar panel a bit of a wash down. We’ve also put out our extenal panel for the first time.

We have patchy internet and I’ve just uploaded one photo of the rock formations we came across on our walk along the beach this morning. I had to make the size really small, but that works for the web.

To the North: lazy days in Broom

It’s Thursday morning and Stephen is at the hospital getting his second jab. I’ve been processing photos from yesterday, including a morning walk and afternoon and evening at beautiful Gantheaume Point. When we arrived on Tuesday late afternoon it was so humid that our windscreen was fogging up on the inside and the outside, fortunately at different times. We had a takeaway Chinese meal before heading back to the camp at Cable Beach.

Apart from ‘housekeeping’ (shopping, emptying and refilling tanks) we haven’t done very much. Yesterday morning we took a short walk along the path near the Cable Beach car park and I was trying to capture leaves, flowers and cobwebs with dew along the way. The morning was cool, but very humid.

At lunchtime we arrived at Gantheaume Point and were fortunate that the sea fog which we noticed at Cable Beach was still hanging around. It made for more interesting photos than we would usually get in the middle of the day. We stayed until sunset, just to see what the brochures were talking about, and that was very beautiful as well. The fog completely cleared during the afternoon and we were hot in the van.

Back at Cable Beach the Surf Lifesaving Club had a van selling Balinese food. We ordered a couple of meals and by the time we had eaten it was about 6.50 p.m. We rang Matt but it was a busy time for staff and no one picked up. I’ve contacted him this morning and had a bit of chat with him, with support from Eli. They are thinking of picking up a map so he can see where we are. I’m not sure if he is into map reading, but it would be good to learn.

About a week ago I managed to damage the side panel of the bench seating area. I applied some superglue, not expecting to get a good result, but it seems to be working and we are back to using the bench seat, which is a blessing. Although it is annoying to get into past the table leg it is the only seat where I reach to put my feet on the floor when sitting.

These are some photos from our morning walk. I wasn’t using a macro lens, just the kit lens that comes with the Sony A7c.

To the North: we’re baking in the van

We spent the night at the Nillibubbica Rest Area which is on the Great Northern Highway between the Derby turnoff and Broome. It is a big area and there were about 15 Rvs of various types here last night.

We tried for a shady spot which didn’t work out that well for shade and even less for privacy as a caravan of three RVs looped around two sides of our van. Fortunately, they were nice people and overnight we felt secure enough to leave our sliding door open with just the screen door in place.

By ‘baking’ I literally mean baking as in using the Omnia stovetop oven to bake some muffins. This morning we took advantage of the changeover time to move our van into a spot which has shade all day. We are not getting much solar and if we weren’t planning to drive to Broome after lunch we would put out our external solar panel. But our batteries are on about 80% and we are not doing very much, just using the fan and doing a bit of charging of our multiple devices.

The muffin recipe today is 3/4 cup of self raising flour, 3/4 cup of yogurt, one egg, baking powder, turmeric, salt, vanilla, sultanas, coconut and wheat germ, at guessed quantities, not measured. I used a bit of olive oil to make the mixture moist enough for cooking. I’ve baked these muffins in the omnia oven before and they make a very nice snack at morning or afternoon tea. As we’ve already had morning tea of coffee and ryvitas with vegemite these should be good for the afternoon.

I have two silicon inserts for the Omnia, one for muffins and one just round. I’ve seen people do nice baked potatoes by this method and that’s something we’ve yet to try.

It is presently 32 degrees in the van, but there is a slight breeze and we have the fan, so not too uncomfortable. Stephen is using the time to research the science of lithium batteries.

We will get a Victron BMV-712 when we return to Perth which will allow us to actually assess battery levels and output. At the moment I am using a chart to gauge percentages, a different one to the one used for our AGM batteries as the required battery volts are quite different. the movement through volt levels is very slight and my chart doesn’t give all the possibilities, but is helpful as a guide.

This rest area does have quite good internet and I was even able to talk with NDIS about Matt’s travel allowance. They claim it wasn’t paid because they didn’t have his bank details, but I am sure they had them, but just didn’t put it into the system. He is now owed over a year of back payment and I’ll be checking his account to see if/when it happens.

We can also watch YouTube and do our other social media stuff.

At about 2.00 pm it was really hot in the van and we followed through with our plan B to drive back to Broome. It is definitely cooler here. We will stay for two nights, then Stephen has the jab on Thursday, so we will stay Thursday night in case he has a reaction, then head north again on Friday.

We have things we can do here and the time won’t be wasted.