To the North: the Land of the Boabs

Willarie Roadhouse

When the electrical work was complete we rather enjoyed sorting out the storage area under the bed. We made some discoveries, including a mouldy, damp floor mat, now binned, as we sorted through our stuff. The good news is that we have been able to store our portable solar panel under the bed, something we were worried about.

Stephen has been worrying about weight, so we found a weighbridge near the electricians and weighed our van, including with us in it. We are 90 kilos under, and had some ‘discussion’ about whether to get fuel before setting out for Derby.

At Roebuck Roadhouse we filled up the tank, the. Stephen ordered a full breakfast. No need for us to go on a diet after all!

Fortunately he agreed to share it with me.

Afterwards, we drove about 20 kms down the road to find a shady park up for a rest. Then we shared the driving from that point on. We saw Frederick and Sherenes’ van at one of the 24hr rest areas on the way, but did not disturb them. They will arrive in Derby tomorrow morning and we will see them at an Indigenous festival in the afternoon/evening.

The rest of the drive was interesting with lots of boabs and river crossings, and a couple with single file bridges. There are lots of signs warning about crocs, but we didn’t see any. The danger on the road is wandering cattle and we drove rather slowly keeping watch. It is easy on these roads for cars to pass us.

We’ve ended up at the more expensive caravan park. But it’s nice with large shady sites. We are near two ablution/laundry blocks. This caravan park is in the town and we can walk to shops, etc. We are powered which means we can get these new batteries fully topped off a few times before our next free camping.

The evening was warm, but it cooled off by about 9.00 pm which means it is still very comfortable for sleeping.

By 7.00 am this morning I had put the washing on.

To the North: are we in England?

You would think so by the number of roundabouts. We are doing a lot of driving around and the traffic isn’t too bad, but we are getting dizzy😀

After another night at the free Surf Lifesaving Club camping Area we decided on a rest day. Stephen still had a headache. Of course, no rest day is complete without a visit to the dump point, filling up with water and getting fresh supplies because our fridge is now being fully powered. Stephen even managed a Museum in the afternoon.

We are meeting with Frederick and Sherene at various places and we spent the day at Town Beach with a view of the sea on their suggestion. In the evening we had a FaceTime with Matt and enjoyed actually seeing him. He finds us a bit boring I think, but fortunately Hidde was there as well.

This morning we arrived at the electrician’s at 9.00 am as instructed. Roger arranged for Bob to do the final step of connecting our 240 v charger as it needs to be done by someone qualified. We’ve been here 45 minutes so far. Waiting for Bob. He got us to unload our stuff from the back so that he has easy access. Roger spent all day Tuesday leaning in over the bed. It would have been nice for him to have had the better access. Bob supplied a big tarp for our stuff as we didn’t have anything large enough.

Sunset at Town Beach
Tide out at Town Beach
Japanese Memorial
Stephen studies a plaque.
Near our van at Town Beach. It has a beautiful park and children’s playground.
Including bike ramps.
Our overnight park up at Surf Lifesaving Club
Our main electrical setup. The second battery and inverter are in the bottom of our pantry.

To the North: we’ve reached Broome

We’ve been managing our lack of power quite well. If we wait until about 9.00 a.m. we can turn on the 12volt system and use the water pump. By then we are getting enough solar power to run it. Amazingly this ‘overflow’ section of the caravan has a water tap for each campsite, which means we don’t have to use our water pump as we have the water hooked up. Even so, this morning at about 7.30 a.m. the battery was flashing a warning. Only the fridge was on and I turned it off for about an hour to let the solar catch up. We are getting lots of solar power now as we have no shade, all good.

We are still finding evenings get chilly, even here near the beach. There has been a strong, cool wind during the day for the past few days and even when the sun is high it helps to keep things cool. It also makes it comfortable to sleep and we are still using our doona at night.

On our last evening at Meentheena we walked up the nearby hill for the sunset, then joined the rest of the campers around the fire for the Ode. Again, we enjoyed chatting with other campers before heading off to our van to have tea.

In the morning we were packed and ready to leave by about 10.00 a.m. It was a beautiful drive to Marble Bar for essentials. A little shopping, fuel and water. I checked out the dump point but it was full to overflowing. It is the only local dump point as the caravan park doesn’t have one. Although the Marble Bar Races were cancelled because of the lockdown (couldn’t get staff) a lot of people had already arrived and the town was busy. Race goers had been allowed to camp and use the portable toilets at the race track and some of them had joined us at Meentheena, which is how we knew the story. I think this meant just too much strain on the dump point.

For our next overnight we stopped at the Des Streckfuss Rest Area. There were three vans and one truck also staying the night there. The dump point was very handy and although there was no water supplied for washing down it was fairly clean. Exasperatingly as we were leaving I used it again and some idiot had put a plastic bottle down there, which will almost certainly block it. Why oh why would someone do that!

Yesterday morning we travelled about 280kms to reach the 80 mile Beach Caravan Park. It was our first opportunity to camp at the beach and we were able to near the waves at night when the wind wasn’t as strong. It feels great to be travelling so far north. I haven’t been up this way since quite early in our marriage when we had the old blue Subaru sedan. Stephen came this way when he took a Greyhound trip around Australia, but even that was at least 20 years ago. I’m interested to see Broome again even though we know it will be very busy with tourists. But, we are too.

Our roast dinner Sunday night was excellent. Everything well cooked, the vegetables looking a good colour, etc. We ended up with three deserts, so shared the two that were different and saved the rest for the next day (now yesterday).

The road into the 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park is 9 kms of corrugations that were much too deep to go fast over. For most of the way we went at about 12kms an hour. This was having consideration for all of the internal furniture as well as the van components.

We plan to see if we can stay at the Seventh Day Adventist campground in Broome. It doesn’t take bookings and like this caravan park says it will accommodate everyone who needs to stay even if it is without power or water hookups. We shall see. Another place to stay is outside of the place where we are going to have our batteries checked. If there is no security around it would be very handy for the next morning at 9.00 a.m. when they open up.

We have to be close to Broome until the 12th for Stephen’s vaccination shot. That will be 12 weeks from his first shot and he booked it before we left. I haven’t worried about booking mine. I’m not sure where we will be two weeks after the 12th, which is when mine is due. I can always ask at a local medical centre and if the answer is ‘no’ then it will have to wait until later in the trip.

Update from Broome

We arrrived in Broome yesterday at about 3.30 p.m. after what was a long distance for us, about 380 kms. We shared the driving equally, which worked out well as neither of us was particularly tired at the end of the day. We went to the Seventh Day adventist overflow, but they were full. He recommend the place where we ended up. The dump point was at the Visitor Centre. It was very busy, but Stephen was able to pick up some brochures.

In the end we found free camping at the Surf Lifesaving Club on Cable Beach. Talk about a great option for the night! We also met up with our friends Frederick and Sherene who just happened to be staying there as well. They were in Broome for an extra night and it was quite by chance. Frederick had some advice for upgrading our system and we have followed that advice, plus the input from Roger at AllVolts here in Broome.

We have two new lithium batteries, are having a setup for using an external solar panel, and having a new battery charger installed that is suitable for lithium. We will need to come back to have an electrican finalise the setup, at a time to be determined.

Even here in Broome, about four hundred kilometres north of 80 Mile Beach, the evening became quite chilly. We went for a sunset walk along the boardwalk overlooking the beach and I regretted not bringing a jacket. Stephen had a jumper on, but he is always prepared. Of course, the cool overnight temperature helps us to sleep.

Today has been quite warm, especially as we had the van parked in the sun for most of the installation, but there has been a pleasant breeze all day, which has been comfortable in the shade, if not in the sun.

Stephen rang the hospital to confirm his appointment next week and the hospital could find no record of his appointment. We looked it up, and it was definitely there, so he rang back again just to make sure they agreed with our findings. We can then plan our tours, etc. around the appointment.

So far we like Broome even though we have spent most of the day getting our batteries replaced and various bits and peices installed. We need to restock our fridge and plan the rest of our time in this area.

This morning we relocated to the next carpark (which is one of the rules with the free camping) with Frederick and Sherene and caught up with their plans. They are going to an event in Derby on Friday night and we are thinking of joining them there.

When we tried to contact Matt last night the internet was down. It turned out later it was just one part of the van and if we had known we could have had a Facetime session with him. Stephen rang him anyway for a chat and we will catch up on Wednesday night for a Facetime. Hopefully!!

To the North: we’ve only come for the Sunday roast

We’ve arrived at the 80 mile beach caravan park and they have a Sunday roast and desert meal on offer tomorrow night. As we booked in this evening we placed our order as well, so as to not miss out. We couldn’t get a powered site, nor an unpowered site, so we are in the overflow section, it’s very nice and right next to the beach although there is a sand hill between us and the view.

Stephen was very unlucky today. Just as he took over to drive in the afternoon there came a weird beeping sound. It got worse, with a secondary sound as well. Eventually we worked out that it was nothing to do with the van, just the UHF radio. Once we switched off we were OK. He rarely drives the van, so it was really disconcerting as we thought he’d touched a wrong button or something.

More news about the last couple of days will come in a follow up post. We are staying here two nights and I should have time to do some writing. The internet is slow and won’t load even one photo.

To the North: Meentheena Veteran’s Retreat

We left the Marble Bar Caravan Park yesterday morning. After emptying the toilet and doing some shopping in the general store we headed out to Meentheena. Most of the way was on a good bitumen road though the beautiful scenery here.

Our camp hosts are lovely, very friendly and we feel well taken care of. They have rain water and solar power at the campers kitchen and accommodation, an old twin tub which we can use for $2.00 a load. There are lots of places to camp around the main section, plus a couple of bush camps near the river.

We joined the nightly gathering around the campfire last night. At 6.00 pm one of the veterans said the oath, so we felt very much part of the community.

There are some vintage car enthusiasts visiting with their beautifully restored cars. Apparently they are quite tough and able to handle difficult gravel roads. We chatted mainly with a couple whose husband was formerly a teacher and heard stories from his teaching days.

This morning we had a problem with the batteries going flat as soon as we switched on the 12volt. We had lots of water in bottles, so had to heat water on the stove for our washes as we couldn’t use the water pump. It now seems to have resolved as we are getting lots of solar, but we have booked in at a 12volt specialist in Broome to have the batteries checked. This problem started in Newman and we’ve been fine since, though the batteries really needed the good charge up we had on our last night in Marble Bar.

We have a small lithium power station we can use as backup for charging our devices, but we don’t want to have this problem with the main system for the rest of our trip.

This morning our host took us out to look at both campsites and we had a walk along the river whilst he cleaned the toilet.

We have good 3G access here at the main area, there is none at the bush camps.

Update: I’ve just removed the photos from this post so it will upload. Sorry.

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.