To the North: a musical evening in Marble Bar

Today we moved from our unpowered site to a powered site. Our battery system was struggling so much that the the water pump barely worked. It was definitely time for a good charge up. We have been travelling for two weeks and this is our first night with an electric hookup. And we have water as well, rather than using our tank. It feels luxurious, though we actually don’t mind just using our off grid power system.

It was quite a warm day and we didn’t do much. Stephen took a walk to the local shop, then spent some time in the library. I washed the floor, something I had wanted to do for a while. We have a concert pad and lots of space to put things during the washing process.

In the evening we enjoyed a music session with Phil Inn. That’s not a personal name, but the name of the act. I’m not sure of his real name, but he and his wife travel around doing music gigs in a pink utility and tear drop camper. They set up the sound equipment and do concerts on their journey, fundraising for mental health. It went on for two hours, 4.30 to 6.30. I had a look at his YouTube channel, but found the live performance much more enjoyable. Many of the people at the caravan park joined and we made quite a good sized audience.

I was feeling that music is following us around as we also had a musical time with Shareem and Frederick in Port Hedland. I wonder if there will be more.

We leave here tomorrow morning for our next campsite, a veterans retreat about 80 kms from here. it is a paid camp, with some facilities, but no internet. Curiously water is not a problem in this area. They have had substantial rain recently and there are many small rivers, dry at the moment, but with some patches of water. Perhaps there is a lot of water underground. The lawns are watered for ages at a time and there are no notices up in the showers asking us to be careful about water usage.

The bush camp we are going to has drinking water, showers and washing machines, all indicating a good fresh water supply. Note to self: ask about the water.

The vehicle and truck are painted in pink, it makes them really stand out.
This shows the vehicle more clearly. The tent is at the back of the teardrop camper and provides a stage setting and good sized living space.
This is our 4Gx modem having a bit of a fit – no we really don’t have 1000 GB of data, the read out was spectacularly wrong. It corrected itself a few minutes later. Would be nice though.

We like using the 4g modem because when we share data from our phones (personal hotspot) it is quite slow, even though data is fast if using the phone. This device lets us have the best download speed possible for our iPads on whatever 4g service we have as we travel around.

I like to have at least phone and text so that family can contact us in an emergency. If we have internet as well that’s a bonus. There are still lots of gaps as we travel.

Perth/Peel are in lockdown and we are not perfectly safe even here, of course, given that there is an a Australia wide outbreak. Not high numbers, but worrying. We haven’t had lockdowns in so many cities and towns since the early days of the pandemic.

To the North: a restful day in Marble Bar

The water tank. There appears to be a good local water supply and lawns were being watered this morning after campers had left.

Today I mostly sat outside and moved washing around. Last night I packed it all on the clothes airer and that wasn’t a good idea in terms of getting it fully dry. This morning I put out the awning and strung a line which allowed me to spread some items out.

Stephen wanted to do the local heritage walk, leaving at about 11.00, but I didn’t fancy being out in the full sun, so took a pass. It was cool overnight and today has not been hot, though the breeze dropped by evening, making it feel a bit warm.

On his walk Stephen dropped into the local general store which boasts a bakery. All of the pastries had gone, but he was able to pick up a couple of very fresh and tasty muffins. We have eaten them both, half at lunchtime and half at afternoon tea. We are a bit worried that we won’t actually get hungry for our evening meal.

At around 5.00 we went on a little walk up to the water tower that we can see from the caravan park. We weren’t sure of the route to take, but fortunately ran into a local man who showed us the way. From the top we had views all around the surrounding hills.

To the North: Greetings from Marble Bar

This was, is, Stephen’s goal – to explore Marble Bar. And, we made it today from Port Hedland with only one stop. The scenery went from very boring to rather nice, with multi coloured hills, the small trees with white trunks, and lots of river crossing, occasionally with some water in the rivers, though only a slight puddle actually on the road.

Our final day in Port Hedland was very full and interesting. Stephen met up with a couple travelling in a similar van to ours at the museum on Friday. We met up at the viewing point for the Staircase to the Moon. There were various stalls and food opportunities, as well as a crowded viewing platform. I went down to the beach to try to get a good photo.

Afterwards we went back to the free camping area in the town. It was crowded, but we managed to find a spot and our friends, who came later, were able to park behind us. In our 6 metre vans we were still shorter than most cars plus caravans and fit quite nicely in the one bay.

In the morning we a plan was hatched to meet up in a pretty location in the afternoon. But, it happened that after morning tea in and open air cafe we wandered into the adjacent gallery and could hear a piano playing. It was Shareem, who in a former life was a music teacher and singer. We joined them at the piano and had some singing together, with Shareem playing the piano. It was an unexpected joy.

After wandering around the gallery we went back to our van for lunch, parked near the harbour so that we could watch the ships come in. Later, we drove out to meet with Frederick and Shereen where we sat outside. She played the uke and gave us music books so that we could have another sing a long. We also spent time talking and learning about each other. They have a strong social justice ethic and picked up from the Working Voices songs we showed them that we have that too. We discovered many similarities and understandings. They are very warm and tolerant.

Like Stephen, they are immigrants, though they came here as adults. Originally from Sri Lanka, they were working in the Middle East when they were young and that is where they met. When they wanted to find a place to live more permanently they chose Australia. They already had relatives here.

Staircase to the Moon Port Hedland Saturday night. It was slightly cloudy.

Stephen and I went back to do a second Staircase to the Moon as I wanted to try some special camera settings to see if I could get better shots. Sadly, that hasn’t really worked. When we drove back to the camping area Frederick had parked their van so that we could join them. We were sad to say goodbye this morning. They were heading slowly towards Broome, but it looks like we will be there at different dates. He and Stephen have exchanged phone numbers so we can keep in touch.

As you can see, we have opted for a caravan park here in Marble Bar. We couldn’t get a powered site, but we have all the other facilities, including a camper’s kitchen, very handy for washing up, showers so that Stephen can easily wash his hair, and washing machines so that I can easily do all the washing that has accumulated. We have booked for three nights, giving us a couple of days to explore around the area.

To the North: Port Hedland

First impressions are that Port Hedland is our distopian future. Everything is affected by the red dust. On the drive into the town there is a whole area of piles of rusted metal, tidal pools, tailings pools and a confusing road system. Houses here are covered in the dust, with everything ending up looking rust coloured.

We are close to the sea, but even the shore looked shabby at low tide. This morning we have driven into the town centre so that Stephen can go to the visitor centre and museum and I can visit the cafes. The Dome cafe has a modern section and a large section of smaller rooms in an old colonial style house. The ocean from here looks much prettier than last night near our campsite, and I can see a clean sandy beach out of the window.

When we were at the ATRA I put out some towels on the airer and linked it to the van via a couple of occy straps. When we returned to the van ants were using the occy straps as bridges to the van. Our first stop yesterday in Port Hedland was a Woolies where we picked up some Ant Rid. There are STILL ants in the van. They seem to wait until they think we are not around before coming out. They are easy to eliminate individually as they move in straight lines, but we would really like to be rid of all of them. I think we may have to empty out the van and also check underneath to find them all. Anyway, as we left the van this morning we put out some more ant rid.

Tonight we are joining the throng to see the Stairway to the Moon. There is a Pizza van and various other stalls. We came here at about 2.00pm and didn’t move as we figured that parking would get quite tight. We have seen it before, a long time ago when we drove up here in the old blue Subaru sedan.

To the North: A gallery of photos

From the last few days at the Albert Tognolini Rest Area and in Port Hedland

To the North: Newman, Albert Tognolini Rest Area and Port Hedland

Sunrise this morning at the Albert Tognolini Rest Area

We stayed two nights in Newman and two nights at the Albert Tognolini Rest Area. We have just arrived in Port Hedland and will probably have two nights here as well. This blog has been written over a couple of days.

It rained most of the day when we were in Newman. No matter, we had planned to get ready to leave for Port Hedland by doing some shopping, getting the gas cylinder filled or replaced, and filling up the diesel. We spent the day either avoiding or ignoring the rain as we went about our chores. We could only be thankful that the only rainy day occurred when we were parked on bitumen, not down a dusty track in the bush.

Stephen found a Thai cafe for our lunch, very tasty, though the surrounding were basic. Shopping after that, then a long sit in the Dome Cafe. The shopping area is fairly compact, with two sections and an IGA and a Woollies. The Dome Cafe is huge, with some nice features such as an upstairs section, a chef’s kitchen with an AGA and a reading corner with books to borrow. Stephen napped after finishing his drink.

Stephen caved to doing a swap for a new gas bottle after trying hard to find a place that would refill our existing bottle. We have two and had switched to the second bottle, but we don’t like being without a backup. So much depends on gas.

Then it was back to the Tourist Info. Car park. We chose a different spot, with only one side available for parking, which made me feel somewhat safer. A caravan tried to take off the side mirror in the other spot, fortunately the mirror won and I can’t even see any damage.

The rubbish removal truck arrived early and woke us up. I went across to the Muzz Buzz, which does a brisk morning trade with travellers and workers in the town for a coffee, taking my mug. This was my second morning and I knew to ask for a two shot flat white as the previous morning’s coffee had tasted like coffee flavoured milk, much too weak.

After breakfast we got busy at the dump point which has two taps, one for non potable water with a hose for the dump point, and one labelled potable water. There are no drinking water options until Port Hedland so we filled up everything we had.

After the cloudy day our batteries were very low and showing a flashing light. I ran the engine to get them slightly charged. But the sunshine yesterday and today, as well as the driving, has done a good job of getting them full again.

We had a lovely drive through the much improved landscape (after all the mulga), similar to inside Karrijini. After some stops for roadworks we arrived at the Albert Tognolini Rest Area. It is a beautiful place, with lots of camping places on different levels. We were lucky to get a superb spot overlooking the hills and valley. I went a bit mad with the camera yesterday, but feel content to just enjoy the scenery this evening.

When I was out walking yesterday evening I spoke with some people who said that the 4WD part of the camping area went all the way up the hill. This morning we actually walked all the way up to the top camp. I am amazed that we could do it as we are not particularly fit. Part of the incentive for me was the promise of a Telstra signal so that I could let Matt know we would have our FaceTime session tomorrow night rather than tonight. There is no signal here. Auski Roadhouse has a signal, but is not the ideal place to stay. We feel that we haven’t actually missed going into Karrijini as where we are is so beautiful, with the same flora as in the park.

We thought of going to Auski Roadhouse to do washing, but after successfully getting all our washing done on our first night in Newman there is no other reason to stay there. We paid $5.00 and I used two washing machines and the dryer for that money. As well, we had a nice meal in the pub.

It has been hard to manage without heating in the van. If we go away in winter next year we really need to have a solution, either to replace our gas hot water system with a combined heater/hot water system or install a diesel heater. The heater would only need to be on for a short time to warm this little van.

Last night we sat and watched a movie that I had previously downloaded. I did get to sit in the driver’s seat and Stephen in the passenger seat so we were side by side. I have two lapdogs and we were actually quite comfortable.

After two nights at the Albert Tognolini Rest Area (with no phone signal) today we drove to Port Hedland. We have chosen to stay at a free camping area in the town. It looks rather like a caravan park, but no hookups and no exorbitant cost. There is a dump point and potable water available in nearby.

This evening we walked along the beach to the Water Tower, then home to cook tea and have a FaceTime call with Matt. It was lovely to chat with him. Joseph, who helped him with the call, said that he was watching one of our home movies when we called.

It’s quite noisy here, but we don’t mind. Even the contrast with our beautiful campsite of the past couple of days doesn’t bother us. We like the contrast – it’s all part of the adventure. The internet is a bit slow unfortunately, we hoped that we would have fast internet here in a town. Which is why there is only one photo with today’s blog.

To the North: Newman at last

It feels like we’ve been on the road for ages. We spent last night at Gascoyne Middle Rest Area, a fairly undistinguished place to camp, but very quiet. I did a bit of hand washing as I wasn’t sure when we would access a washing machine and it was fairly dry by the morning.

We are a bit over being so cold at night and looking forward to getting to the coast in a few days.

Tonight is our first paid campsite at the Visitor Centre in Newman. No power, toilets are locked overnight and we didn’t want to pay a deposit for a key on top of the $10 for the night. A caravan park is being constructed, but isn’t expected to be ready until July.

The good news is that we can dump our toilet and get drinking water here, but in the morning after 9.00 am when the staff are here to give us the key. It’s free, but they keep control.

Stephen checked with the nearby hotel and whilst we are having a meal there tonight we can do our washing for $5.00. Stephen plans to have a free shower at a service station tomorrow when we fuel up. Getting a gas tank filled may not be possible and we may have to pay for a swap.

Also on the cards for tomorrow is to do some shopping in preparation for heading up to Port Hedland. The Great Northern Highway runs past Karijini and we can’t make up our minds about going into the park, so have shelved that decision until tomorrow.

The driving on the past couple of days has been a bit tedious, but getting towards Newman the landscape and vegetation have become more interesting.

To the North: Lake Nallan to Meekatharra

We finished off our time in Cue with a walk along the Main Street to admire the lovely old buildings. We had hot drinks at a bed and breakfast cafe and did a small amount of shopping at a service station (there was no supermarket there). Separately we had considered overnighting at a nearby lake, Lake Nallan, and that is where we headed for the night.

There is a gravel road into the campground/picnic area. By taking the risk of driving over a stony road we were able to secure the best possible park up on the lake. Altogether, there were five vans staying there overnight and we were on the furtherest spot. The lake has birdlife, including a flock of swans in the distance. And, just to make sure we didn’t pine for trucks, we could see them passing on the far side of the lake.

After sunset we could see the Milky Way, despite all of the ambient light from Cue and the moon. The Evening Star(Venus) was reflected on the surface of the lake.

Our overnight was the coldest yet, with a light breeze helping to make it seem even colder. But, with the fresh clear air and sun to warm the van in the morning we found it invigorating.

Today we have driven about 80kms to Meekatharra, where we did some chores (dumping, shopping and filling up with fresh water) and Stephen went to the Tourist Info. Centre and Museum and art gallery. At the Visitor Centre he was recommended Peace Gorge as a good place to stay overnight. It is also recommended on Wikicamps. I thought we would drive another 100 kms or so to park for the night and had to readjust my thinking.

Peace Gorge has interesting rock formations and there are quite a few vans here, fairly well spaced out so we can have a bit of privacy. We took a walk on arrival to get a feel for the place.

To the North: Checking in from Cue

We drove about another 300 kms yesterday, with a coffee and fuel stop at Paynes Find and a bit longer stop in Mt Magnet as Stephen wanted to go to the Visitor Centre there. We had planned to continue driving and overnight in Cue, but it was getting late in the day and I was able to find a good camping area about 20 kms up the road, rather than driving 80kms to Cue so close to sunset.

The camping area was called Old Wyngangoo Parking Area. We had a couple of trucks staying overnight there as well, plus one caravan which we didn’t actually see until the morning, so it must have come in late. The trucks kept their engines going, but it was a constant sound that didn’t bother us overnight. The camping area is huge, with lots of roads in and quite dry. We didn’t go as far back as we could have gone and the presence of the trucks was a bit reassuring as camping all by ourselves might be a bit spooky. The trucks stayed in the main pull off area and we thus kept out of each others’ way.

We had another cold night, but less moist than our first night which made it more comfortable sleeping under our warm doona. Oddly, we don’t seem to mind a bit of cold (I think it went down to 6 degrees). I got quite hot when cooking our tea (spaghetti, vegetarian mince, vegetables, canned tomato and tomato paste) in the single large pan. We have two meals left over.

We got away at about 10.00 a.m. this morning and have driven to Cue where we’ve filled up with water, emptied our toilet, and Stephen is off to the Visitor Centre here whilst I am writing. The day is sunny but there is a nippy wind. It’s good for parking in the sun so we get good solar power.

I rang Matt last night as Glenda had let us know that he had been running a temp and she called a locum to see him Monday night. Although his temperature was normal he actually looks a bit unwell. Still, I know that Glenda and the staff will monitor him and let us know if we need to head back.

So far our overnight parkups have had good internet, so we are not suffering from withdrawal symptoms. We haven’t had any more rain, but there is still some standing water beside the road which suggests there has been a lot of rain recently.

In this van we travel at 100kms an hour, which I think is our limit, and we haven’t had any caravans passing us, just some heading south or parked up in the towns. It appears that we won’t have any difficulty finding camping areas until we reach the more touristy areas further north as most people must be travelling up the coast road rather than going inland like us.

From yesterday morning.
from yesterday evening.
This morning.
from yesterday morning