To the North: homeward bound

On Monday in Carnarvon we shopped, then went the space museum. There was lots to see and we spent a few hours there, with a lunch break as well. We went back to the caravan park where I sorted our washing which had been hanging on the airer at our campsite. It was a windy, partly cloudy day and we wanted to make sure we had the washing in before going out for the late afternoon/evening. Stephen had put our gas bottle in for a refill in the morning and he spent a bit of time getting it secured in the van. The sealed cabinet makes that slightly difficult, although we appreciate the safety.

Later we went to the main area of Carnarvon on the water. Cafes were closed by the time we got there, but we found a nice spot to park up for afternoon tea. In the evening we went to the nearby Carnarvon pub for a meal. We liked the atmosphere and were surprised that it was so busy on a Monday night.

Yesterday morning after packing up and filling up on water and fuel we went to the nearby indigenous cultural centre. I was appalled at the prices of some of the artwork – not so much paintings as the materials are expensive and you’ve got to cover that before charging for the painting itself, but a simple woven basket was over $400 and it couldn’t see the value in that! There was a very good exhibition on the local indidgenous history, but it seems people’s memories don’t go further back than European occupation. There is nothing about traditional culture separate from the often negative encounters with Europeans. It’s important to have this perspective, but I would like it if people remembered customs, etc. from before the occupation.

We drove about 80 kms to the Edaggee Rest Area. We were relaxing and reading our books when a man with a tag around his neck came to our door and greeted us. It was the census man! He said his area covered our camping spot and he had a form for us to fill in. Our plan had been to do it online at the next roadhouse today, but we were charmed by the idea of filling in our census form on the night as occupants of a Rest Area on the road. This morning we handed it in at the roadhouse to be collected, probably by the same man. Now, isn’t that interesting!

I had a call from Eli and Matt yesterday morning to clarify a few questions for Matt’s form. He was fairly patient as we went through things, but keen to get on to watch staff doing housework.

Today we’ve driven just over 200 kms to the Nerren Nerren Rest Area. We’ve come off the blue metal area into some bushes. As usual, the rest area is fairly packed and although we have chosen a private spot we could end up surrounded, as happened last night.

Marie sent me some photos of new equipment Mum has, an air mattress to relieve pressure and a falls monitor. For the first time she looks really comfortable lying on her bed. However, she has ‘the look’ and I now feel that I don’t want to do any more exploring, I just want to get home. We are about 230 kms north of Geraldton and should be able to get home in about four days at our normal pace of travel.

We’ve been wanting to see wildflowers and realise that we don’t need to go anywhere special to see thick beds of everlastings and other flowers as we’ve been driving through them today on both sides of the road. There are even some flowers here at the rest area. Our plan is to continue down the road to Dongara, then head inland to Mingenew and come down the central road through Moora. We are now far enough south that there are plenty of facilities for free camping the rest of the way home.

Stephen has noticed a slight swelling in the corner of his right eye, which I can see as well. It is making his eye ache. He has made an appointment to see a GP in Geraldton late tomorrow afternoon. We can spend the night in one of the free overnight places afterwards. The local weather forecast is for fine weather with cool nights. Chilly in the van, but we love to snuggle under our doona.

On the moon, thanks to green screen technology. But, why was I sticking out my tummy.

To the North: Quobba to Carnarvon

After packing up this morning we drove up to the blow holes for one last look, and to have hot donuts and coffee at the food truck! This sign, which greets you as you arrive at Quobba is the reason we didn’t go and stand next to the blowholes as other people did.

After our restful day yesterday we went for a walk along the beach in the late afternoon and were eventually chased back to the van by a heavy shower.

We are now at the Wintersun Caravan Park in Carnarvon. We want to go to the Space museum and it’s also an opportunity to do a bit of washing. We were out of water, and even though we have an unpowered site we have access to a shared water tap. We are almost at the back of the caravan park on grass.

To the North: Quobba Blowholes

We stayed last night at the Quobba Blowholes Campground and we have one more night here before heading to Carnarvon. Our experience is that it is a good idea to have a meal out in Carnarvon as the food is local and great. But, who knows if that is the case now. Anyway, we will be needing water and some washing could be done there. We are about 75 kms north of Carnarvon at the moment.

On the way here to Quobba we spent a night at the Lyndon River Rest Area (Thursday night) and we are pretty sure we have stopped there on the previous trip to have lunch. We were fortunate enough to get a spot on the river bank (no water in the river) due to being small enough to squeeze between two caravans. There were lots of caravans staying the night and they all left by about 9.15 a.m. We left at about 10.00 and were pleased when we went to the dump point to find that there was still some water in the water containers left by Main Roads so we could rinse our toilet cassette. We have noticed these water containers at dump points before, but they have always been empty.

There was a little rain overnight and today we have ‘sunny spells’, with a very strong wind which is rocking the van. We had already decided to have today as a writing day and it suits us to rest up and just do some short walks locally. There are good hybrid flushing toilets here and although they are supposed to be for day use and we are supposed to use our chemical toilet, we are making use of them for some purposes.

The instructions were to arrive, find a spot to camp, then go online to book your camping. It’s $8.00 per person per night, with a pensioner concession, so $32 for the two nights. We have an ocean view through the windscreen of the van and as the sun is behind us we can leave it open all day to enjoy the view. There is a reef and island protecting this section of the beach from the huge waves, which makes it suitable for swimming in good weather.

After Carnarvon the plan is to visit Kalbarri, then Geraldton, then head inland to see wildflowers. We still have about three weeks before we a due back in Perth.

We didn’t go up close to the blowholes as the first thing we saw on arrival was a huge sign warning about killer king waves.

To the North: Tom Price, Parrabadu and back on the road

Our unpowered site at the Tom Price Caravan Park

So, why did we go to Tom Price if it wasn’t to go to Karijini? It was because the drive through the Hammersley Ranges is very beautiful. We took the route through Paraburdoo because we didn’t want to tackle the 60kms of gravel road taking the shortcut. However, we’ve since been told that the gravel road is quite good, unlike the gravel roads in Karijini.

We enjoyed two different 24hr rest areas on the way in and on the way out. Our site at the Tom Price Caravan Park was nice, there is a good view of Mt Nameless nearby. We tried to find the familiar pathway up the hill at sunset, but it has become overgrown. After taking another route we were able to find the path coming down the hill.

Sequence of overnight stays: Nanuatarra, Beasley RA, Cheela Downs, Mt Sheila RA, Tom Price (2 nights), Parraburdoo, House Creek RA.

Our stay at Cheela Downs Station Stay was good , without being spectacular. We had coffee and cake at the cafe on arrival, then were shown to our site. There was no shade, but the day was cloudy and windy so it didn’t matter. We had spent the night before at the Beasley Rest Area, which was lovely, but lots of bugs in the van after dark. Cheela Downs is only about 2kms away, but on the other side of the road and there were no bugs.

The link above is for a slideshow of photos from the past few days.

We celebrated Stephen’s birthday by having a meal in the evening, a two course dinner with a glass of wine. We chatted with the camp hosts over the meal.

We had run out of fresh food and needed to shop or we might have stayed another night. A bonus was that our water problem seemed to be fixed!

Our last night in the area was at Paraburdoo where I was able to get my second COVID jab. The caravan park there is very stark, but at $25 per night with free washing machines and dryers we didn’t complain.

Yesterday morning we got fuel and did some more shopping to stock up for a few nights as the next town is Carnarvon. We changed our minds about Exmouth as we didn’t really have a good reason to go and it’s very expensive to stay there. Instead we are headed for the Quobba Blowholes campground north of Carnarvon.

We enjoyed our last evening at the House Creek Rest Area about 70 kms from Nanutarra. we had a family with children staying near to us and the kids were playing an imaginary game which was very entertaining. Their parents were trying to hush them and we hoped they’d speak a bit louder so we could follow the story. We had a chat with the parents and they seemed a very nice family.

House Creek Rest Area

We were told there was a possibility of a lockdown in Perth, so checked the news when we arrived at Nanutarra this morning. Fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be enough of a threat for it to happen.

One of the views last night
It was warm when we arrived and we sat outside until it was cool.

To the North: the plumbers of Parrabadu have all pissed off to Perth

And won’t be back until Wednesday. Stephen therefore rang a plumber in Tom Price and we can see him Monday. When I took the cover off our water inlet it looks like any other plumbing device and shouldn’t present any problems for a plumber.

This morning we walked up a hill behind the caravan park and took in the views. It was worth the little bit of effort. We had a nice meal at the cafe last night, lasagne and salad followed by a kind of cheesecake slice, served with a glass of wine. We chatted with the camp hosts, who were on their day off, and learned a little bit about them.

Yesterday was so windy that we weren’t expecting the wind to drop entirely after sunset. It was a bit of an uncomfortable night, very humid with a little rain and no breeze. This morning on our walk it was cloudy, but we enjoyed it. We probably would have stayed there a couple of nights if we hadn’t basically run out of fresh food.

Today we’ve drive about 140 kms, first to Parrabadu for shopping and a rest, then to just outside Tom Price in a parking bay on the road to Karijini. It was an incredibly beautiful drive through the ranges. We’ve chosen our park up for tonight based on a level spot that is easy to get to, has a good Telstra signal, and has views of the ranges all around. There is still some cloud about, but the sun is out and it is really lovely here. Noisy with traffic, but lovely.

We have booked two nights at the Tom Price Caravan Park to use up the credit left over from my previous booking. We can decide each day if we want to go into the Karijini park, based on whether our water problem can be fixed easily and quickly. The plan is to head back out towards Nanutarra and then go to Exmouth, but we will decide on Tuesday, based on how my mother is tracking. At least we now feel we can get home fairly quickly if we need to.

To the North: recirculating water system – patent pending!

Recirculating water system

We had a pleasant night at Nanutarra, with power and water hook up. As the water is non-potable we noticed that other people didn’t hook up to water. On the drive to the Beasley Rest Area (which is on the road to Tom Price and Karrijini) we noticed that we were losing water from our water hook up device. It is a pressure limiter and appears to have been damaged during our stay at Nanutarra. We were losing the water from our tank. Now, this does seem a bit strange as we are not sure of the connection between our water tank and this connector for outside water. However, it is possible that once we use the water pump and have water circulating in the system it can leak out.

A temporary solution, which got us to our overnight spot, was to use blu tac. We don’t appear to have anything on board that would otherwise block it. Of course, once we arrived here the water was seeping through. First we hooked up the hose and captured the water in a 5 litre bottle, which we then poured back into the tank. Then we thought of a different plan, to actually hook the hose between the two water points so that any leaking water would go straight into the water tank. Hence our new recirculating system.

Solutions are to get to a hardware store (at Tom Price?) and find some sort of stopper for the inlet point. Then wait until we hit a large town (Carnarvon) and look for someone to repair/replace the point for us. The other solution would be to bypass the water tank altogether and just use water containers for all of our water. We already carry drinking water, but would need a couple more 10 litre containers.

We shall see.

We used ant sand around the van as we could see little ants coming in for the water. Stephen hooked the hose up away from the ground as a precaution.

Otherwise, we enjoyed Nanutarra especially as you can walk over to the bridge and take photos underneath and from the footbridge at sunset. There was someone flying a drone there and he managed to fly it under the two bridges, quite skillful. He showed us what it looked like from above.

We stopped at Caitie and Adrian’s Rest Area for morning tea yesterday -the House River Rest Area. We enjoyed walking around after our coffee. The views on this drive are quite wonderful and we stopped further on so that I could attempt to get a good photo.

One of the marvellous views on the road.

Then we arrived at this Rest Area, the Beasley. It has been very peaceful. Not many vans overnight and we found a nice spot on gravel away from the main area. We were the first to arrive and were grateful that no one else wanted to park near to us.

We booked an overnight and evening meal at Cheela Downs Station Stay, which is very close to here. They advertise coffee and cake at their café as well. Checkin is 2.00 p.m. and our plan is to stay here until the café opens, we assume at about 10.00 a.m. We can then hang around until they let us go to our camping spot. We have opted for power and water (and the water is potable) as reviews of this place said that the unpowered spots don’t have any shade or nice views. This is a special place and although it is now the day after Stephen’s birthday, this is the way he chooses to celebrate turning 78.

Mind you, it’s getting cooler and having shade is not such an issue. It’s also been partly cloudy for the last couple of days.

10.30 a.m. We arrived at Cheela Downs Station Stay and were able to go directly to our campsite. There is no shade on our site, but we do have a grassed area at the rear. Stephen raised our water problem at Reception and she suggested that we talk with the station mechanic as it may need a new O ring or something, which he could fix. She said she will ask the mechanic if he will come to our site when he has time.

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.