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

To the North: Perth to Jibberding Rest Area

It was raining when we left and rained constantly for the first couple of hundred kilometres, then we had showers from time to time. We followed our first rule of road trips, that is, never drive past a good bakery, even if it’s a bit early for lunch. We had meat pasties and hot drinks at the Bindoon Bakehous, and decided that it was our main meal of the day. We bought a sourdough loaf and had toasted cheese and tomato sandwiches for tea, an easy option as I was tired when we arrived here at Jibberding.

Jibberding evening

Getting onto Great Northern Highway is a breeze with the by-pass on Tonkin Highway. Like being on a slingshot. Despite the heavy rain it was an easy drive.

I must have been excited about leaving as I didn’t get tired whilst we were driving. We had afternoon tea at Dalwallinu, which was also a decent break from driving. We have some apple cake made by one of my guests at the Friday movie night and it is delicious, especially as it was cold and I toasted it slightly to warm it through.

We are the only ones here in a large camping area in the reserve. One vehicle came to check it out, but it moved on.

We had many trucks passing in the night, but if I am asleep I don’t notice them. The minimum was 7, the Campervan was comfortable and we were a bit hot under our very warm doona. No difficulty managing without a heater, in other words.

This morning there was a mist and some dawn photos were necessary.

Jibberding sunrise
Jibberding sunrise
Jibberding morning mist

Merredin Songfest Blog May 2021

Day 1 – Perth to Meckering

We set off in the late morning. I had done some packing of the van on the day before and it wasn’t too difficult to get us loaded up. Our first stop was a rest area on Great Eastern Highway near Northam which has good a good view. Then on to to Meckering. We camped away from the bitumen for the first time and it was definitely quieter. We were able to watch a vehicle leading a couple of horses at a brisk pace for exercise. They went past on the way out and on the way back, and also once in the morning, but I didn’t have the camera handy at any point, of course!

We walked over to the service station for some crisps and the paper, and that was the extent of our evening walk. There was a strong wind, a bit cold, but we could easily handle it in our jackets. There was a leftover meal of Thai chicken curry for our evening meal, plus a fairly decadent icecream to have with our fruit.

Day 2 – Meckering to Merredin

In the morning it was still cloudy, though there was a red dawn early. We left Meckering at about 10.00 a.m.

We waited until we had arrived in Merredin to have our lunch. We went out to the Merredin Railway Dam camping area to check it out. We plan to stay there at least for Saturday night, perhaps Sunday night as well, although the Songfest is largely over by 12.00 on Sunday.

We called in to do a little shopping for extra salad items for the shared evening meal with MD7. Then out to the caravan park to check in and find our spot. We were parked near Cherry and she joined us for coffee after our rest. As she said, we would be busy with our choirs over the rest of the time and it was a good idea to catch up before things began.

It was already feeling hectic before we arrived at the house, but still, the sense of camaraderie made it worthwhile. There is one other ‘partner’, Lyn’s friend Steve, otherwise just the choir members. They had a little rehearsal after the shared meal, then we set off for the evening. It was a fairly casual evening of food, which was already served when we got there, a couple of songs from each choir, and some introductions and stories. The drinks were also complimentary, country hospitality at it’s best.

We stayed until the choir items were finished, then headed home to the caravan park and went to bed. It was only about 10.00 p.m., but we felt it had been a busy day.

Day 3 – Merredin

On Saturday we checked out at about 9.00 a.m. as MD7 had a rehearsal planned at the house. Whilst they got on with it I went to a cafe and relaxed a bit. There was some singing in the open near the visitors’ centre and a sound check in the afternoon. Stephen and I went out to the camping area for our lunch. We wanted to find a good place to park overnight away from the water as the choir member who was camping (Nick) said the frogs were very loud. It was such a good spot that when we arrived after the evening concert there was another camper van there as well. We managed to park in a way that didn’t block their exit, just as well because they did get away before us on Sunday morning.

The evening concert was more enjoyable than Friday night as it was a real concert and the choirs were well rehearsed. Filming was a problem as I was banished to the back of the hall. My lens wasn’t long enough to reach the stage and the microphone picked up all of the extraneous noises in the hall. Still, it’s a record of the event. I’ve recorded MD7 in a church with the camera on a tripod right in front of the choir and that worked well.

Day 4 – Merredin and Baandee Lake

In the morning MD7 were doing a ‘flash mob’ event at the local hardware store, followed by joining in a concert at a little market in the centre of town. I did some filming at both events. Then we had our reward, a BBQ back at the Tivoli Garden next to the Cummins Theatre. We spent so long talking with friends from MD7 and ex Working Voices that it was about 3.00 p.m. before we were ready to move.

We had planned to go back to Meckering for the night, but I was tired so we drove about 40 kms to Baandee Lake. It’s the usual rather bleak looking salt lake, but I had a nice evening walk before cooking us a light meal of lentil patties and some veggies. There were flushing toilets, but the toilet block was old and grotty, which was off putting.

The most interesting thing was that on the drive into the lake there was a large colony of rabbits. They were dear little things and had burrows on both sides of the road. Stephen was able to take a little bit of video on his phone, but they were quite wary of us and kept diving down.

And here is a little slide show, with a photo of the MD7 group with Stephen, and some morning shots at Baandee Lake.

Day 5 – home

We set off at about 10.00 a.m. and were home by 3.00 p.m. We had lunch in Mundaring where we bought some bread and rolls as well as a pastie, pie and apple slice. We also had a bit of a rest.

Fairbridge Festival 2021

My plan is to talk about some of the highlights of our Festival experience, rather than going into details.

Thursday 8th April – to Pinjarra Overnight Free Camping

The reason to stay in Pinjarra overnight was to be close to Fairbridge so we could join the queue in the morning to wait for the gates to open. We enjoyed an evening walk over the road bridge and back along the footbridge before our evening meal.

Friday 9th April – to Fairbridge to queue up at 7.10 a.m.

In the morning we had cups of tea and a small hot cross bun each before going to the dump point and heading to Fairbridge. I’d forgotten to bring Panadol so we stopped at the service station on the way to see what they had. Stephen also picked up a loaf of bread which was very useful over the weekend.

We arrived at 7.10 am and there was already a queue for the opening at 9.00 am. I had breakfast and a coffee as we waited.

There was a bit of a delay in opening the gates, but we were able to choose a good camping spot with some morning shade. This also proved to be a good spot in sheltering us somewhat from high winds on Friday evening.

As usual, we felt unsure what to go to see at the beginning of the festival, it takes a day and a half to get into the rhythm. The major highlight was the wind. We went to Manja, the big tent for the evening concert. The wind was making the tent groan and the stage lights move backwards and forwards. I was pretty scared and persuaded Stephen to move closer to one of the exits. Another problem was that between the sounds inside the tent and noise from the other big venue we couldn’t really hear much of the concert.

I only felt vindicated for being so anxious the next day when people told us that the tent was evacuated. Apparently it took ages to get everyone out. Amazing that I seemed to be the only person there who was worried.

Saturday 10th April – Fairbridge

Saturday was warm and sunny and we alternated between time in the larger venues and the Clubhouse and loft. There were limits on numbers at the smaller venues and we decided to give up on joining queues, just seek out other places to be.

Sunday 11th April – Fairbridge

We got up early Sunday morning to go to the chapel for the Singing the Spirit concert. We knew there would be a queue so Stephen left ahead of me to line up. It had rained a lot in the night and we dodged showers getting there. I bought some breakfast to save time and had to sit outside under shelter as we weren’t allowed to take food and coffee into the venue. Singing the Spirit is a variety concert, which is why it’s interesting.

After the concert we headed back to the van and had lunch. Much of the field was under water and it was quite a business avoiding mud and puddles. There is only one road in and out of the field and we could see that it was getting very churned up and muddy.

Many campers pack up on Sunday and whilst having our lunch in the comfort of the van we watched our neighbours packing up a camper trailer and Campervan. There was heavy, driving rain the whole time and they appeared to have decided to ignore it, opening doors and hatches whilst the rain poured in and only one was wearing a rain coat. I just hope they couldn’t see us!

A highlight of the afternoon was a singing workshop where we were able to join the other singers in almost perfecting The Parting Glass. I shared a short video of this on Facebook. It was taken by one of the organisers. Iris is the name of the group.

One of our favourite acts was a husband and wife duo performing songs whilst they entertained us sending up themselves and German culture. They were one of the very few non Western Australian acts and had come from Germany to Sydney, undergone quarantine there, the they drove to Western Australia. We liked them for not taking themselves seriously at all.

The husband is Australian and it reinforces my feeling that Australians complaining about being ‘stranded’ overseas are missing something. People with Australian citizenship and their partners appear to have little difficulty coming here to visit.

We sampled various types of food, but nothing really wonderful except some chips that I bought as a snack which stayed crisp till the end and were definitely the best we’ve had. We also enjoyed some masala chai at the Beatles concert with Bernard Carney. Stephen had said he didn’t want to end up going, but it was the nicest venue and our German duo turned up as guest artists. We had wanted a cider, but one bar was very crowded and the other had run out of cider. The chai turned out to be a highlight,

Monday 12th Aprilback to Pinjarra for dump point and breakfast at the Dome

By Monday morning much of the water had drained away, though it highlighted how muddy and deeply rutted the road was. We got ready to leave quickly to avoid being the last out. Stephen walked ahead of the van to stop peacocks or peahens coming onto the road. I didn’t want to stop and risk being bogged. Stephen kept walking ahead until after I drove around a corner and onto the main field. He missed seeing the van slipping and sliding around the corner and said ‘well, that wasn’t as bad as we thought’. I wish he had turned around!

We went back to Pinjarra, which is about 5 kms away, and stopped off at the dump point before going to the Dome for breakfast. A lovely way to finish off.

Summing up

As I’ve been writing lots of other details about our experience have come to mind. We caught up with Eversley for a while on Saturday and she came back to the van with us for a cup of tea and a rest. We saw lots of people we know, but mostly just in passing as we moved between different venues.

It was pretty amazing that the organisers were able to set up such a full programme in the circumstances. They hadn’t skimped on the children’s activities and I gather there were still the special youth concerts as well. There wasn’t much social distancing so we can only hope that we didn’t have anyone infectious attending. Most of the musical acts were Western Australian, but we have so many talented people here that it wasn’t a problem.

They took a risk that we would have a sudden lockdown as well. Still, here in WA that has only happened once. Our closed borders and quarantine system are working to keep us safe. Even the delayed vaccine rollout really only affects people who need to go overseas for family reasons. The rest of us as making the most of holidaying in our own country.

3 nights at Pinaroo Point

Last week we decided to take a mini break at Pinaroo Point, leaving on Thursday. We weren’t sure how we would go with wearing masks outside, but we are mostly used to it, just don’t always remember!

During the week we received word that Stephen’s cousin had died and the funeral would be held at Pinaroo Cemetary on Thursday. It fitted in with our plans. The funeral was held at the same place as her husband’s, not that long ago it seems. For the family it was difficult because one of their siblings had died first, then the father, then the mother. I felt quite sad afterwards and it meant the early part of our stay here was tinged with sorrow. If it was like that for me, who only went to two of the three funerals, I could only imagine how bad it was for the immediate family who were losing close family members.

Anyway, we have stayed. Yesterday and today we went swimming soon after breakfast and I have had cold showers, washing my hair, in the ablutions block here at Pinaroo Point. That was good yesterday when they had just been cleaned, not quite as nice this morning with some graffiti and rubbish left. There was an interesting large stick insect type creature in the shower cubicle as well, but it didn’t move at all, thank goodness.

We really enjoyed the swims and this morning’s was really lovely as we had left it late enough for there to be other swimmers as well, which made us feel safer. Until I put on my snorkel and found there were small jellyfish in the water. Another swimmer, who was covered neck to toe in black with mask and snorkel, also noticed them. Although I went back in briefly it did make me cautious. Lots of people stayed in the water and didn’t report stings.

On Friday morning we packed up and drove to Mullaloo Beach where we had morning tea at the Dome and lunch in the van. Then we drove back to Pinaroo Point and tried to find some shade. The shade didn’t actually come our way, but as it wasn’t hot we were comfortable enough. I cooked up a one pot meal of mince, various vegetables and rice. There are two meals left over from the cookup..

Today (Saturday) the morning has been hot, but there is a sea breeze now (at 12.00) and a bit of cloud. Also, we are parked under a peppermint tree where we have a bit of shade. We noticed yesterday that this spot had some shade all afternoon and when it was vacated late yesterday we moved in. We are still getting some solar, enough for me to dry my hair anyway. There is also a bit of cloud coming in.

The cloud meant we had some colourful sunset photos. After an evening walk we took a rug down to the beach to enjoy the show. Still wearing masks as the deadline was just after midnight.

It was a warm, still night and we used the fan to make it more comfortable.

Our final day was Sunday. It was cloudy and I didn’t fancy swimming as there were likely to be stingers in the water again. I just had a paddle. We packed up and drove home at around 10.00 a.m. The temperature was forecast to be 36 degrees even at the beach and we were glad in a way that the weather was against us staying longer as we had to get home for other things. Stephen had a rehearsal in the early afternoon and Matt was coming to visit in the evening.

Three nights and two days at the beach were definitely worth it. We felt very healthy and relaxed when we arrived home, although Stephen had to get ready for his rehearsal after helping with unpacking.