Trip to Kimberley 25 May - 24 August 2003

Monday, Apr 27, 2009 at 17:21

Member - Min (NSW)

Trip to Kimberley 25 May – 24 August 2003

25 May – Sunday – NynganNyngan Riverside Caravan Park ($20.00 en suite)
Departed Canberra 9.00 and arrived Parkes 12.30. Had lunch in town and filled with petrol at Woolies. The Dish: looked around and watched the film (should be free) and John got chatting with the woman at the desk about CSIRO. Arrived Nyngan about 5.00. Drive through site, didn’t unhitch. Courtesy lift to and from club for dinner.

26 May – Monday – Cunnamulla – Jack Tonkin Caravan Park ($16.00)
Walked to town. All services but no major supermarkets. An IGA which we didn’t go in.

27 May – Tuesday – QuilpieChannel Country Caravan Park ($16.00)
Departed Cunnamulla 9.00 for Eulo. Bought Bilby poster for Sophie and opal rock for Rachel. Thargomindah: good general store and new c’van park. Noccundra: 20k off road, nice old stone pub which is the only building! Some donga accommodation, the pub sells fuel. Eromanga: very basic, no c’van park. From Eromanga to Quilpie the country was more fertile and there was much more life about (could also have been the time of day). Quilpie: arrived 5.20, a more substantial town – it would need to be as it’s miles from anywhere.

28 May – Wednesday – Longreach – Gunnadoo Caravan Park ($19.80)
A long and interesting day. Left Quilpie at 8.00 heading for Windorah, Jundah.(a pleasant little town) and Longreach. North of Jundah was a native well about 18 inches in diameter and full of water. Further on was a sign to a scenic lookout and what a surprise! A marvellous vista over spectacular country full of colour – pinks, oranges and reds of the earth, greens and greys of the trees and grasses and browns, greys, creams and reds of the rocks (Swan Hill Lookout). The countryside changed from stony barren land to scrub to grasslands and back again. Arrived Longreach at 3.30 and got a site near the new ablutions block (thank goodness). The last two days have been in real channel country. There is evidence of the last rain in ditches by the roadside. We crossed Cooper Creek just before Jundah. Two groups of people were camped there. Nice sites but lots of flies. Got a bad crack in the windscreen sometime today.

29, 30, 31 May, 1 June – Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday – Winton – Matilda Caravan Park ($49.95 + $16.65) (TT discount)
Thursday – Shopped in Longreach, got advice on crack in windscreen (do nothing) and headed for Winton, arriving at 12.30. Plan to rest and recreate. John has had a bad back. He can only walk short distances. We are camped next to the site we had last year and next to two women with 2 dogs and one woman smokes. There is a supermarket (one of 4) about 500 metres from the c’van park. There is also a fruit and veg shop opposite the Winton Club and the fruit and veg are kept in a cold room at the front door. Had dinner at the Winton Pub in the c’van park (not good value this time) and listened to Milton Taylor again, bush poet who was very good. He is on every night during the season. Gold coin donation. A strong wind blew all day but moderated by evening.

Friday – Rested all day. There was a very strong wind blowing all day and a storm during the night.

Saturday – Planned to go to Lark Quarry but road was closed due to flooding. Noticed a very strange low black cloud all around the south-west. It grew quickly and then we had a corker of a storm.

Sunday – Lark Quarry open to 4WD but advised not to head out until late morning, in time for the 2.00 tour. The road was very slippery in places and still plenty of water to drive through but no real problem. The Quarry was well worth the trip: to see hundreds footprints of three different types of dinosaurs and try to imagine the stampede was fascinating. The scenery on the drive and at the quarry was beautiful: red earth, spinifex, mesas. 110km from Winton The drive home was much easier but the car was a mess and we had to give it a good hosing down.

2 June – Monday – BouliaBoulia Caravan Park ($15.00)
After much consideration and RACQ info we decided to go to Boulia as planned. We believed the road to be a major road-train route and although single lane bitumen, it would be necessary to get right off the road for road-trains. If the edges were soft from the rain we might be in trouble. As it happened we only passed about 10 vehicles in 355km, none of them big vehicles. Apparently the wet weather has all but stopped the road-trains, so we were lucky.
We stopped at Middleton (pop. 5) for coffee and cake and were served by the schoolteacher Margaret had heard on ‘Australia All Over’. The teacher was doing her rounds to the far-distant children and helped in the pub during ‘smoko’.
The drive was beautiful with the countryside ever changing: one minute distant jumpups, the next, mesas and buttes with their sides covered in spinifex, then Mitchell grass plains and so on. It was raining at the Cawnpore Range lookout but the formations were still amazing.
Saw camels on one property and according to the man in the pub, they are kept because they eat the new seeds out of the centre of the prickly bushes which are a menace. It’s a new way of eradicating the pest.
There were as couple of detours which the RACQ didn’t mention (and probably didn’t know about) but were not a problem. After more rain it may be a different story.
Boulia is a very small town with a wide grassy, treed centre on the main street and grassy nature strips. The Burke River is flowing well and although brown is a very pretty sight. There is one general store/supermarket. We can’t work up much enthusiasm for the Min Min Encounter. Internet is available at the library.
We hope that the downpour this afternoon has not spoilt our chances of getting out to Mt Isa tomorrow.

3,4 June – Tuesday, Wednesday – Mt Isa – Sunset Caravan Park ($36 w TT discount)
Tuesday: Left Boulia at 9.10 in bright sunshine. The scenery was a mixture and although very enjoyable, not as good as yesterday. We passed 14 vehicles in the 300 km, and some of that would have been local Dajarra traffic. The roadtrains were back today but we only passed two. Two went through Boulia last night.
Mt Isa is its usual noisy, unpleasant self and the caravan park is crowded. The shopping is limited to Kmart, Woolworths, Coles, Silly Sols, and little else. There are no restaurants, other than in clubs, motels and McDonalds, and even Pizza Hut is only takeaway. There is no shoe repairer in Mt Isa, shoes have to be sent away for repair.

Wednesday: We awoke to news this morning that several people had been burgled overnight and lost several hundred dollars. This was in closed vans, from a wallet in trouser pocket, etc. Our front bin had been tampered with but there is nothing of value there.
We shopped for odds and ends again and then headed out to Lake Moondarra to try out the kayak (sit-on-top). It was a resounding success and we didn’t fall off once.

5 June – Thursday – Barkly HomesteadBarkly Homestead Caravan Park ($22.00)
Left Mt Isa 9.30 for Camooweal and Barkly Homestead. The scenery was pleasant for most of the way, with rugged mountains past the border then vast Mitchell grassland then low eucalypt scrub. Very little chance of getting of the road because of deep ditches on each side. It is a mixture of single and two lane roadway. We got stuck behind some slow vehicles so didn’t make good time. Stopped at Soudan rest stop for lunch, along with about 8 caravans. We have a pleasant, shady site behind the roadhouse. There is a very noisy generator which I hope doesn’t go all night. It uses 500 litres of diesel every day to keep the place running. There is fuel ($1.17), a bar and dining room and the shop sells souvenirs, a very small number of groceries, drinks and ice creams.

6, 7 June – Friday, Saturday – Cape CrawfordHeartbreak Hotel Caravan Park ($40.00)
Friday: Left Barkly before 8.00 for a 376km drive to Cape Crawford. Only stopped once, to change drivers, and arrived at 12.30. The road was single lane, good in places, wavy or grooved in others, and a bit pot holed in one section. All but one other driver on the road were very careful and considerate. The odd one out raced past us, off the road, even though we were right off the road, and sprayed stones all over us. Thank God no more windscreen damage. The countryside varied between Mitchell grass plain for as far as the eye could see in any direction, to eucalypt scrub, and nearing Cape Crawford, wonderful eroded ranges.
This place is very laid back, if you want to buy a beer the barman looks at you and walks the other way. There is lovely green grass but the showers are crumby (cold shower tonight) and the only nice, clean basin was the one where the tap doesn’t work. There is a generator here but not quite as noisy as last night. Here’s hoping for a good night’s sleep.
There is a feud going on between the Heartbreak and the person running the Lost Cities tours. The Heartbreak person was very evasive when I asked about it: said they hadn’t really started up yet. It was only because a lady overhead me making enquiries at the ‘office’ and pointed me in the right direction, that we have been able to book onto a tour for tomorrow afternoon. Making a booking entailed driving 2k up the bitumen and then 8k on the Roper Bar road. I decided to do this while John set up camp. I got to within 2k of the booking office when I came over a rise and nearly ended up in the ‘Little River’. I didn’t like the look of the entry point and didn’t want to cross on my own so turned around and came back for John. We went out again and just as we were checking the crossing the tour lady came ploughing through from the other side. She told us to make ourselves a cup of coffee at the office and she would be back soon. We waited for about an hour or so (so what, this is the Territory) and she finally arrived riding on the back of her own truck while her three clients rode inside (it’s a two seater), one of them driving! They were going on a tour to Polly’s Pools and didn’t’ have a 4wd. We managed to link up with the other ladies for late tomorrow afternoon’s tour. I hope she remembers because she didn’t write anything down and didn’t want any money.
Sandra Schleter, Cape Crawford Tourism, 08 8975 9611,
When we got back we noticed that we had lost our front number plate so we went back, assuming that we’d lost it in the river. As we were paddling around someone came across from the other side. He said he had been out to Sandra’s and had seen it in the river. We couldn’t find it because the water was churned up so stood around and waited for it to settle. It was taking too long so we tried walking around in the water feeling with our feet with no luck. John decided to try again later on and there it was, battered but useable.
It’s another wonderful starry night.

Sunday: Drove to Borroloola via Carabirini Conservation Park. The walk in Carabirini was easy and very worthwhile, a taste of the Lost Cities, tall sandstone formations etched and eroded over time. There was also a lovely waterhole there with water lilies. Borroloola is not at all picturesque but, as someone said, “It’s a destination”, and being so close (109k) we wanted to have a look. It is the end of the bitumen at the Gulf and the next stop east is Wollagorang, somewhere I really want to go some day, God knows why. John saw a sign to the boat ramp and it was the only indication that a lovely part of the McArthur River was so close. We had lunch there then headed back to Cape Crawford. Our trip to the Lost Cities was to be between 3.30 and 4.00 but as we pulled in at about 2.00 our lady friends informed us that we were going NOW. Rushed around and grabbed some water and went to the loo while they were being ferried out in the chopper and then we were off. I had the front seat and it had no door. Quite a wonderful view of the Abner Range. Sandra proved to be a knowledgeable guide (Savannah Guide with sole rights to the site) and we had a lovely slow walk and a couple of hairy climbs in and out of the wonderful formations which were 30-50 metres high (John says up to 100). They were all shapes and sizes, some with funny little knobs on top.
Petrol here was $1.32 per litre, the dearest by far. At Borroloola it was $1.02.

8, 9, 10 June – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – MatarankaTerritory Manor Caravan Park ($21 ensuite) and Elsey National Park ($6pp)
Sunday: Only passed three vehicles on the road to Daly Waters (276k). We stopped for lunch at Fran’s Pies at Larrimah. Fran is a legend and her pies are good but not all that good. Fran herself is a character and came and sat with us and chatted. We, two Irish and one Canadian girl and Fran all sat one table and chatted. We were also talked into apple pie with cream and ice cream and coffee for $23) not exactly cheap, but it was worth the fun.
Mataranka has fuel, a small supermarket and a general store at the service station. There is also and internet place but we haven’t found it yet.
We went for a walk around Bitter Springs (fairly newly opened and supposedly better than the ones at the Homestead) but didn’t go in. We discovered Elsey National Park and decided to move there next day. Sunday night was at the Territory Manor with an ensuite. Big mistake. The ensuite provided no privacy and four groups were clustered around the block. John had to get up at 11.00 and ask our neighbours to be quiet. They were drunk and we could hear every word of their foul talk.
Monday: Elsey NP is delightful, quiet, spacious, right on the Roper River, and cheap. It has hot showers but as they are solar powered you need to have your shower before late afternoon.
We went for a paddle up the river to some rapids and went downstream for a little way and tethered the kayak at some swimming pontoons after practising getting on the kayak from the water. Had lunch then paddled downstream a bit further. Very pleased with our QE3.

Tuesday: Paddled downstream to some cascades, hoping to get to the falls. Although we could probably have handled the cascades, getting back would have been a problem, a long and awkward portage. The river has steep banks and it makes getting out of the water difficult and there are only a few places where it can be done at all.
Phoned Margaret and Randy tonight. All is well. Roy came home from hospital today.
11, 12, 13 June – Wednesday, Thursday, Friday – KatherineKatherine Gorge Caravan Park ($21)

Wednesday: Drove the short distance to Katherine and decided to stay at the Gorge. Katherine is quite a busy town with all facilities including Woolworths, Country Target, etc. There did not seem to be another supermarket. The campground is large and has some lovely grassy parts but the powered sites are very close together. Much better to do without power. Ablutions are clean and have hot water. Also clean laundry facilities, including dryers. Three $1 coins for washing machines. It’s a bit noisy at night with the bats, but if the lights are left on they are not such a problem. We pottered around and were impressed with the visitors centre and the grassy picnic area by the river.

Thursday: Paddled up to the end of the second gorge. It was delightful but the portage was very difficult. Coming back we took the seats off and John carried the kayak on his head for the full distance. It was much easier and quicker. We had a lazy time coming back, stopping at a sandy beach for lunch and a swim. It was about a 10k trip. We started at around 9.30 and returned by about 3.00.

Friday: Did the washing and searched for the camera before setting off for Edith Falls. Paid electricity bill and bought lunch in Katherine on the way. A couple of hundred metres along the Edith Falls road we crossed the new railway line (Alice to Darwin) and there was a train on it. It looked as if it was carrying ballast. Edith Falls is a lovely spot about 70k from Katherine. The camping area there seems very grassy and has shade trees. The picnic area is also delightful and swimming in the big plunge pool is excellent. There is a kiosk selling food, drinks and ice creams.

14 June – Saturday – Timber CreekTimber Creek Caravan Park ($18)
Had a look at Lower Level at Katherine: a very pretty spot with water flowing over a weir and then running fast through channels. Looks like fun.
It was fairly tedious travelling until we could see hills in the distance. Checked in at Timber Creek (what a dump). Drove out to Limestone Gorge over a fairly rough road. 120k round trip. Saw lots of boab trees, a calcite flow, and saw stromatolite fossils in the rillenkarren (karst) reminiscent of Chillagoe.

15, 16, 17 June – Sunday, Monday, Tuesday – Keep River National Park ($3.3 pp/pn)
Sunday: Called in to Big Horse campground (part of the Gregory NP) on the Victoria River about 10k out of Timber Creek and it would be a good option if you’re there early enough. No showers, just pit toilets. Had a look at the Gregory tree, marked by Augustus Gregory in 1856. The explorer and his party camped there for 9 months and made forays during that time.
The drive was quite lovely, with wonderful escarpments surrounding us. Arrived at Keep River NP at lunchtime. It is a wonderful place with high rock formations something like the Bungles. We look forward to investigating the area. John has set up the shower so we’ll be able to wash off the red dust. Walked to the gorge and saw the Nganalam art site with Wandjina figures etc., and big arch.

Monday: A wet day spent at the camp. The temperature dropped to 14.5 at lunchtime. Started to clear late afternoon. John reattached the number plate. The lights ran out early so it was an early night.

Tuesday: Beautiful day. After pancakes and honey for breakfast we set out for the 6.5k loop walk from our camp ground (Jarrnarm). It was a lovely walk with a good lookout and wonderful ‘beehive’ formations similar to the Bungles. John had difficulty with his knee and had to keep resting. We have to use all our fruit, veg, nuts and honey before the border.

18 June – Wednesday – Argyle Caravan Park ($20)
Called in to the other camp ground and M did the 2k loop walk. A beautiful walk with marvellous rock formations all around. Also saw the stone hide for catching hawks built by a local Aboriginal man.
The quarantine checkpoint is very thorough.
Decided to come into Argyle as the drive was supposed to be scenic – and it was. We were able to get on a cruise for this afternoon so stayed the night. The ablutions leave much to be desired.
The cruise was magic and the sky and the colours were superb at sunset, when we were on an island drinking wine and having nibblies.
Had catfish (silver cobbler) at the pub for dinner. Nice texture but not a great deal of flavour.
Had a nice yarn to two other couples as we waited until it was late enough to go to bed! It’s hard getting used to the time change.

19-25 June – Thursday-Wednesday – Kona Caravan Park ($22 per day, 7th night free)
Awoke early and got moving. It is John’s 65th birthday. Sailed close to the wind re fuel as we decided not to get any at Argyle. A picturesque drive into Kununurra through the Carr Boyd Range. Kununurra is a strange town, modern, but not in one mall, a bit spread around. A good IGA and Coles supermarkets and Target Country. All other services including a couple of internet facilities.
We are pleased with our site at Kona. We are not too far from the ablutions and only about 50m from the Lake Kununurra. As we were registering Joe and Wilma Grigg from Echuca (who we had met yesterday at Argyle) were ahead of us and suggested we try for a site nearby. The people at the desk overheard and obliged. We have decided to stay here for a week. We settled in today, did some shopping and sussed out the place. There are enormous farms of sugar, melons, and other crops that we can’t discern. This evening the lake looked magnificent at sunset, with a lone canoer completing the scene. We met ‘George’ as we gazed at the lake. George is a very big, fat, freshie who hangs around the shoreline looking for handouts. He has about one third of his lower jaw missing.
Wilma, Joe and their son, Peter (visiting from Darwin) joined us for bubbly, beer and nibblies to celebrate John’s birthday and then we had steak (specially cut by the butcher), fresh asparagus, field mushrooms, onions, spuds, salad, a bottle of Goundrey cabernet merlot, coffee and Sara Lee. Couldn’t have done better in a fancy restaurant, and we didn’t have to drive home.

Friday: Drove to Wyndham via the Grotto where we met some people who had just come through the GRR. They seemed sensible and along with the other info we are collecting it seems a goer. They commented that they had been put off going to Cape Leveque because people say it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. We might be satisfied with just going up to Beagle Bay church.
The Bastion is a big hill overlooking Wyndham with the most incredible views out over the Cambridge Gulf and all the big rivers flowing out. The main town, what there is of it, is separate from the port area. There is a supermarket (?), fuel (cheap) a wonderful bakery (which we didn’t visit) and that’s about it. We had lunch at the Afghan cemetery.
We went to Margloo Billabong, part of Parry Lagoons on the way back. It is a beautiful place with waterlilies and an elevated walkway to a hide for watching the prolific bird life. After that we eventually found our way to Parry Creek Road for an interesting and remote drive where there are some lovely campsites along the Ord River. The road didn’t even have grids so we had to open and close three gates. We came upon a sign to Black Rock Falls and followed it thinking it would be just another pleasant place. It was a high black wall, with a pool and a sandy beach at the bottom. It would be a raging torrent in the wet. Eventually we came to Ivanhoe Crossing which was to take us on to the bitumen and back into town within a few kilometres but the crossing was long, running far too fast, and we couldn’t even see the whole of it as it was curved, with greenery obscuring our view. Fortunately there was another turnoff just back a little way to the Victoria Highway and all was well.

Saturday: Decided to go to the Info Centre to clarify how we go about seeing the Bungles and Mitchell Falls. We ended up booking two nights at a Kimberley Wilderness Adventures Safari Camp at the Bungles. For $99 pppn we get a twin bedded tent with comfortable beds, dinner and breakfast and hot showers. We also booked a flight with Alligator Airways to the Cambridge Gulf, Kalumburu, Mitchell Falls, Drysdale River Station, etc. tomorrow. The only problem is that we have to be ready at 5.30!!!
Went for a paddle on Lake Kununurra from the c’van park this afternoon and saw Jesus birds (Jacana) walking on the waterlily pads. It was lovely just sitting on the QE3 as the sun went down and the land, sky and water changed into beautiful colours.

Sunday: Learnt how to set the alarm on the mobile so no worries waking up in time. It’s not really a problem anyway because the place is jumping from around 5.00, probably because it gets dark at 5.00, and also because so many people have come from the east and have not yet adjusted to WA time.
The flight was a tremendous experience in many ways. The plane was tiny, seating five passengers but thank God there were only four of us and John sat up front and I sat down the back, with the tiny back seat (meant for two) all to myself. This was just as well because I would have been a raving lunatic within half an hour as, once again, claustrophobia nearly overwhelmed me. After about ¾ hour I felt pretty much OK although being at the back I copped the worst of the tight banking. We passed over the Cambridge Gulf north of Wyndham, including Adolphus Island, and the big rivers converging there, then up the coast, over the Berkeley River, the dry King George Falls, the Bush Camp Faraway Bay, across Cape Londonderry and the old Pago Mission and landed at Kalumburu which is an Aboriginal settlement. We visited the church (Benedictines) and had morning tea under a tree in the grounds of the mission. On the other side of the airfield we saw some WWII US aircraft wrecks. The mission was mistakenly bombed in 1943 with 86 craters in the town and 100 on the airfield. A number of people were killed including 5 Aboriginal children. The bombing was meant for Truscott Airfield about 50k away.
We then crossed the most wonderful coastline, the sea changing colours of blues and greens, and studded with islands. There were sandy beaches, cliff lines and mudflats. At Osborne Island there is a pearl farm and several boats were moored there. We then headed over the Mitchell Plateau to majestic Mitchell Falls and did several circuits. We could see the helicopters buzzing around as they transported people from the falls back to the camp ground. It was then on to the Drysdale River Station for lunch, on the way we saw much of the Kalumburu Road which we would have to drive if we decide to go to the Mitchell Plateau.
We had a long lunch break (at 10.30 or so!) and consumed the most enormous burgers I have ever seen, and some chips. We wondered how we would cope if the trip home was bumpy. We were also taken out to see the Drysdale River, which was a beautiful spot, but with a sign saying ‘no camping’. We piled into the plane again for the last leg, over the Drysdale, Durack, Pentecost and King Rivers, El Questro Station, including Emma Falls, the beautiful Cockburn Range, the Erskine Range and the Ord River Irrigation Area back at Kununurra. What a day.
John suffered with is leg, the left one this time for some reason, but seemed to recover OK. We were both very tired and I had a headache. John cooked toasted sandwiches and we had an early night.

Monday: Had a look at Kelly’s Knob lookout over the town and then went for a walk in the Mirima NP (Hidden Valley), very pleasant, but a small park. The landforms are similar to the Keep River. There were signs giving the names of some of the trees and shrubs and what the Aboriginal people use them for. It was good to put names to some of the trees we had been seeing for several days now.
Had a look at a couple of galleries, one of which (i.e. Aboriginal art) was very good. I’d like to go back when the artists are at work.
Took the QE3 for another dip before sunset and stayed out to see the lovely colour show again. People seem quite interested in our little pride and joy.

Tuesday: Visited Zebra Rock Gallery. It was disappointing as they had the rock but didn’t know what to do with it.
Had our last paddle on Lake Kununurra and took our wine with us to drink at sunset.

Wednesday: Picked up Rachel’s bracelet from ‘Top RockZ’ and posted it off.
Prepared for Purnululu.

26-27 June – Thursday & Friday – Purnululu Safari Camp ($99 pppn)
Put the trailer in storage at Kona and drove to Bungles. The road in from the Highway is monstrous but we and the car managed it well. We were happy with our Safari camp, made more attractive by the Jimmy and Julianne, the hosts.
Went to Cathedral Gorge by Jimmy’s short cut and got bogged in the sand. John calmly dug us out and we made it through.
What a magical sight the domes are as you approach. The walk into the Gorge is very pleasant and the end is a beautiful, serene amphitheatre with very high walls.
Friday: Slept very well: a cold night. Went to Echidna Chasm timed to be there at about 11.30 when the sun shines down the walls, and Froghole which were both spectacular and not too difficult walking and went back for another look at the beehives and to do the Domes walk. Another lovely dinner with good company.

28 June – Saturday – Kununurra – Kona Caravan Park ($22)
The drive out of Purnululu was no worse than going in. We left on a full stomach, after a good night’s sleep. Stopped at Doon Doon for lunch. Retrieved the trailer at Kona, set up camp, then went shopping. Tuckerbox (IGA) has a good butcher and sells small packs of frozen chicken, pork fillet, mince, etc. but you have to ask. He is very obliging. Did the washing. Tried to book into Safari Camp at Mitchell Plateau. Couldn’t raise them by phone (later discovered they had trouble with their 1800 number for several days).

29 June – Sunday – Ellenbrae Station ($10pppn)
Left Kununurra feeling a bit nervous. Enjoyed the drive, especially around the Cockburn Range and Pentecost River, even though the road was very rough and corrugated. Stopped at Ellenbrae, which was disappointing, not scenic, and had weird zippered doors on the toilets (and your feet stick out). As soon as we made camp I noticed the battery was missing off the trailer. It was there at lunchtime the other side of Rollies Jumpup. John set off immediately to look for it. While he was gone I realised we didn’t get the washing off the line at Kona.
John returned after an hour: no luck. We decided we’d go back to K. at first light.
Spent a miserable evening with terrible plague of small beetles, but realised we indeed fortunate to have food on the table and to be safe and together.

30 June – Monday – Gibb River on Kulumburu Road (bush camp)
Left at 6.00 to return to Kununurra to retrieve washing, get more gas and a bit of shopping. Returned at 1.45, packed up (decided we couldn’t handle the beetles another night) and drove to Gibb River, our first bush camp, it was bliss. I was able to look up at the stars from my pillow.

1-3 July – Tuesday-Thursday – King Edward River (NP, no charge)
A wonderful dawn chorus. Journey from Gibb River continued very rough. Arrived at Drysdale River Station to refuel (149.7 cents) and discovered our tent poles had fallen out along the road. Dumped the trailer and went in search. Met someone at the gate and asked if they’d seen any and they had all 7 of the large ones. Asked others on the way out to the road and one person had 1 small one. From that info we knew the other one had to be more than 8 k back. Found it about 11k out. Didn’t find the lid. The road from Drysdale, 100k, was atrocious, with deep corrugations being the worst problem. One patch of deep sand on top of a hill was a bit of a shock. Very pleased with the way the car pulled the trailer and the way the trailer rides.
This camp is delightful with wonderful swimming in the river right in front of us.

Wednesday: Took QE3 up the river for about 1½ k. Paul and Fiona (who found out poles back at Drysdale) took it for a paddle and were hooked. Joy, the camp host, got the details and is determined to buy one.

Thursday: Swam, paddled and walked. Saw the Aboriginal art near the river: wonderful Wandjina figures under a small, low overhang, among many other figures in the area.

4 July – Friday – Mitchell Falls (NP, no charge)
Left the trailer at KERiver and set out for Mitchell Falls with just the tent, sleeping mats and foam underlay. It took a bit of organising to ensure we had all we needed simply to sleep the night and have lunch, dinner, breakfast and another lunch. A horrendous drive from KERiver. I folded the foam underlay and put it on the seat which made a huge difference to my back.
Booked a taxi helicopter back from the falls then set out on the walk. It was very hot but was worthwhile when we saw the beautiful swimming hole at the top of the falls. Walked around a bit further so that we could see the whole of the falls then headed back for another swim. John tripped as he entered the water and hurt his wrist but fortunately it was not too bad. The chopper trip back to the camp ground was excellent as we were given a good commentary and had a good look at the falls from the air.
We did not sleep well at all. The Thermarests are too short and too narrow. We listened to the dingoes howl all night. Sometimes they were very close in which case they sounded scary but when they’re further away it’s almost a romantic sound.

5 July – Saturday – King Edward River (NP, no charge)
Walked back out to Mertons Falls to see Aboriginal art beside the falls. It was a large overhang with many figures, some faint and others more recent. Headed back to KERand had lunch at a lovely site overlooking a valley. Then stopped close to the KER camp to see more Aboriginal art including beautifully clear Bradshaws. None of these sites are signposted, you have to ask directions from the camp hosts. Returned to camp, swam and reorganised to resume the GRR tomorrow.

6-7 July – Sunday & Monday – Manning River Gorge ($10 pppn)
Said goodbye to Fiona and Paul and called into Drysdale to refuel and had another of their ‘the lot’ hamburgers and chips. The road had not improved!
Called into Mt Barnett Roadhouse to pay our fees for Manning Gorge. It has a good store, laundry and toilets. We were surprised at how crowded Manning Gorge was, but it’s school holidays for two weeks. We would like to find a little place to hole up in until they are over but our supplies of gas, and certain foods are running low.
The campsite has flushing toilets and a nice new ablutions block which is only open from 6am to 5.30pm, then it’s back to pit toilets which were acceptable in this case.
I discovered that the knives had worn two holes in the insert in the cutlery draw due to the vibration of the road. Wondered what the white powder was!

Monday: Walked to gorge in heat of the day. It was a hard walk due to rocky, undulating country. The gorge was beautiful with a waterfall falling to a large pool. We swam downstream from the falls and had it all to ourselves.

8,9,10,11 July – Tuesday-Friday – Old Mornington Wilderness Camp ($10 pppn)
Did washing, refuelled, shopped and refilled water tank at Mt Barnett Roadhouse then left for Old Mornington. GR Road was quite bad in places. Road into Old Mornington was very good except for a few short rocky or corrugated patches and dry river crossings. The last 25k was slow going due to rocky surface, winding road and river crossings, one of which was wet.
This is a peaceful camp with flushing toilets and hot showers provided by donkey heater. We had an excellent dinner in the restaurant with great company and conversation.

Wednesday: A lay day doing nothing but reading and staring into space.
Thursday: Bird watching at 7.00 then out to Dimond Gorge. A rough road but well worth the trip. John carried QE3 to a little launching place and we paddled the gorge. A lovely relaxing time. Had lunch at the car (we’re down to crackers and Vegemite now) and went back for another paddle and a swim at a little sandy beach.
Friday: Went to Sir John Gorge which is different to Dimond. We were the first there and the reflections on the water were perfect. The trip out was much more difficult with one dry creek crossing being very tricky. Vic Widman would have been proud of us! On the way back we decided to go to Cadjeput, the turn off to which is on the way to Dimond Gorge. It turned out to be a beautiful long waterhole on the Fitzroy with a small sandy beach that we could drive right up to so decided to put QE3 in for another dip. Another lazy paddle and even made it through a rocky barrier to explore the next waterhole. On our return some people were extremely interested in the boat (once again). I think we’ve made about five definite sales for Sevylor on this trip.
This morning we ran out of gas on the fridge so connected up the stove bottle to it. What with petrol and gas being so low we may head for Derby instead of doing Bell Gorge and Windjana at this stage.
We had another lovely dinner at the restaurant and, once again, good company.

12-13 July – Saturday & Sunday – Derby – West Kimberley Lodge ($22)
Left Mornington at 7.40 without breakfast and arrived in Derby at approx. 1.30, with a stop at Imintji where we were led to believe we could get gas. No luck, so had a pasty and drink of flavoured milk and continued to Derby. The road was corrugated in sections but nowhere nearly as bad as further back. Imintji is a store owned by a local Aboriginal community. I was fascinated by the signs around the place in Aboriginal English, e.g. ‘This fridge bin buggerup’. There were lots of health signs about e.g. when to see the health worker, healthy foods to eat each day including ‘tinned food that the health mob have put a tick on’; and for dog owners, “don’t sleep with your dog’, ‘don’t walk where your dog has been to the toilet’, etc.
The drive was much more scenic than most of the rest of the GRR, due to the King Leopold Range. Arrived in Derby with one can of fuel and 2 litres in the tank. We followed the sign to the caravan park, which we understood was the only one in Derby, and not much chop. We were delighted to find that this small park is only a few months old and is well set up for our needs. Had excellent fish and chip dinner at the wharf.

Sunday: Nothing except the supermarkets (Woolies and Foodland) is open here on Sunday, even the places that say they are! We are having a lazy day, catching up and resting. The concentration required to drive the bad roads, by both driver and passenger, is very tiring. Went to see the tide coming in and again at high tide. (11 metre tides here). Phoned Margaret. Sausage sizzle at the caravan park for dinner which was good fun, and a singer who was good but went on too long. Everyone introduced themselves and said briefly where they came from and where they were headed. There must be no one left in Victoria! Most people planned to be home by Christmas, others will get home when they get there, and others just keep travelling and have no home.

14,15 July – Monday & Tuesday – Fitzroy CrossingFitzroy River Lodge ($23)
Did some shopping, including getting a new lid for the tent pole tube, and headed for Fitzroy Crossing on the bitumen; a new experience. Made a booking for the Aboriginal led tour of Geikie Gorge which includes lunch. There is only one other person on the tour. We have to be at the Gorge by 7.45 in the morning.
Checked emails at the library which has ½ hour slots (no charge) from 2.00 onwards but you must book earlier in the day at the tourist bureau (same building).
There is one large Aboriginal owned supermarket in the town which seems to have a wide range of goods including fresh fruit and veg (expensive). There is also the post office and newsagency run by a sourpuss within the supermarket. Another store sells clothing and shoes and there is a hospital.
This caravan park is large and has many shady, grassy sites including drive-throughs, which we are on. Within the site there is also a motel, safari tents, a bar which sells counter meals and take away alcohol if you are in-house, and a restaurant. There is no pub in Fitzroy Crossing that we could see, and no drunks. (It's out of town>)

Tuesday: Had to be at Geikie Gorge for our tour with Darngku Heritage Cruises, an Aboriginal company run by the Bundana people of this region. We had a wonderful experience both in seeing the gorge from both the boat and by climbing through a narrow area in the rock face to the top. This was a travel route used from ancient times. AJ, our guide, talked for nearly the whole time we were on the tour about the gorge, how his people had, and still, used the gorge and their beliefs regarding how certain things came to be. He never used the term ‘dreamtime’. He also took us to a beautiful pool formed by a spring. I (the only woman present) was firmly requested not to touch the water under any circumstances. There was an aura about this place. We were asked that when people see our photo of this place and ask what it is to just tell them it is a beautiful pool, and not to pass on the story of the place. I think the practical reason is so that mistakes are not made in the retelling. The story should only be told by certain Bundana people. We learnt about hunting methods, bush medicine, animal tracks, customs and the social system, which is very complex. He made comparisons with our ways and theirs which made a lot of sense. It was also evident that certain practices have been abandoned because in today’s world they are no longer appropriate and are unacceptably risky.
We saw a large number of crocodiles (freshies) and birds on our return after a lovely lunch in the bush, prepared by his father, William. We finished lunch with tea, coffee and damper with Golden Syrup. A great experience. The only other person on our tour was an artist from Adelaide who said he would send us some of his digital photos.

16, 17 July – Wednesday, Thursday –Windjana Gorge NP ($9pppn)
The road to Tunnel Creek was not as bad as expected, probably due to the grader we encountered a few kilometres from the highway turnoff. Still some rough bits and corrugations and one wet river crossing but no problems.
Tunnel Creek was a bit tricky to get into, climbing over rocks and along logs, but once inside it was easy going. Quite an experience. The water was not much more than knee deep, and only in places. There is a roof cave-in about half way and a peaceful scene at the end with a little creek running out of the tunnel.
We arrived at Windjana Gorge at lunchtime. The campground has a wonderful backdrop of the gorge walls, and after setting up went for a look at the beginning of the gorge with a view to having a paddle. There were a large number of crocs and we wondered if they would be affected. When the ranger came around to collect the fees he said no craft were permitted because it scared the crocs for several weeks.
There were flushing toilets (plenty) and cold showers which are not problem in this heat.

Thursday: Had a slow walk up a spectacular gorge, stopping often to watch the crocs and birds – a lovely relaxing day.

18-20 July – Friday, Saturday, Sunday – Bell Gorge Conservation Park – ($9pppn or 3 nights for 2)
Had some good surface on the GRR until we passed the grader, then it was typical GRR until the Bell Gorge turnoff. The Bell Gorge road was terrible. There were no tags at Silent Grove so we set up camp there but as we had just finished setting up someone came along and put a tag back. John quickly grabbed it before the poor woman reading the sign had a chance to know what was happening. We had Grevillia Grove site with our own private creek access and a flushing toilet which we shared with the site next door (although they never used it!?). We were able to give QE3 a dip each day which was beautiful, with the still water and perfect reflections. It was only about 500 metres but well worthwhile. There were little tortoises that gathered around when we went to the water’s edge. They must be looking for handouts.
We went down to the gorge on Saturday and Sunday. Only about 20 minutes slow walk to the top of the falls and then about 10 minutes climb down. Lovely swimming.
Dingoes howl at night, and cute little bettongs (I think) scratch around in the bush close by the camp.
John’s back continues to be troublesome in the mornings and his spine/shoulder is a problem. He has not driven the car for several days.

21 July – Monday – DerbyDerby Entrance Caravan Park ($24pn)
The drive from Bell Gorge was very good as we met the grader again somewhere in the King Leopold Range so the road from there was excellent. We were disappointed that the caravan park we had stayed in before was full and had to come to this one. It is big and we are close to the people on one side and behind. Did the washing, including the quilt which was filthy. It all dried in a couple of hours. It was extremely hot today. Went to some dump for dinner. Will try to get in to Broome tomorrow. They don’t take bookings. Tried to get the car in for service (60,000) but can’t get it done for a week. Decided to get it done at Port Headland.

22-24 July – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – BroomeBroome PCYC ($20pn) (Overflow)
I drove from Derby because John’s shoulder/back is still bad. We tried one c’van park where they tried to show us a site which would be available for Friday!. We went to the Information Centre where we were directed to the Police Citizens Youth Club, which sets up their grounds as an overflow caravan park during peak times. We are happy here as we have a powered site, showers and toilets and we’re across the road from Town Beach. The sites are reasonable but the parking is a bit tight. We visited the old part of town today, i.e. Chinatown where there are some interesting shops and galleries, including one in particular (Geko) that has some wonderful modern Aboriginal art. The artist working there at present does some beautiful work. We took our books and went on to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Had a chat with a young Aboriginal woman about the dead turtle on the rocks. Her mother was fishing nearby and using ribbon fish for bait, which they consider too bony to eat.
It was a very hot day and we were glad of every breath of wind. Later on the wind became a gale and we had a disturbed night because of it. We were worried about the coconuts falling.

Wednesday: John decided it was time to see a doctor about his upper back pain. Made an appointment for 10.45 tomorrow. Put the 6 films in for processing. Went out to the Port, where I bought fresh mullet for dinner, and Gathnaume Point to see the dinosaur footprints but they were under water – can only be seen at very low tide. The wind continues today. Went to beautiful Cable Beach with turquoise sea, had coffee, then booked onto a Willies Creek Pearl tour. Had a look at Coconut Well on the way to the pearl farm. A lovely wild beach.
The pearl tour was very interesting and included afternoon tea and a boat ride out to see the long lines i.e. the seeded oysters hanging in the sea. We were told about the three types of pearls farmed at Willies: cultured, mabe (half pearls) and keshi (solid nacre, but random shape, from old oysters). All have their own beauty and use. We nearly missed out on the boat trip because of the wind. It would have been the first time in six years that they had not been able to get out.
Picked up the photos. I was a bit disappointed because the processing and printing was Konica and the same problem arose as with Fuji processing: the blues predominate and the reds are drained, so all our lovely red cliffs and hills are drained of their colour and the water shots, e.g. Ivanhoe Crossing, are ridiculously blue.
The mullet was very good, done with green onions, a little fresh ginger and baby capers, potatoes, carrots, very fresh silverbeet, grilled mushrooms, and Sauvignon Blanc.

The wind is rising again: hope it’s not going to be another bad night.
Thursday: A very windy night, not much sleep. Also went to the museum which was interesting, with a marvellous collection of shells and, of course, much emphasis on the pearl industry. John went to the doctor who said is condition is a classic case, probably caused by the fall he had in the city before we left home. He went to a physio who gave him some tips on posture, stretching, etc. Hope it does the trick. Sat above Cable Beach and put some of the photos in an album, did some shopping and came back and did some sorting out back at the camp.
The wind has abated somewhat but I’m not holding my breath.
We will be happy to return to Broome one day and see some of the sights around the Dampier Peninsular.

25 July – Friday – Port SmithPort Smith Caravan Park ($22pn)
A beautiful day. No wind. John still not driving. The road south from Broome is flat, flat, flat and boring. Decided to check out Port Smith – what a gem. The powered sites can use any appliances, unlike some places where their power is generated on-site and is limited. There is a beautiful, big lagoon 600m from the c’van park which we could drive right to. We put QE3 in and had a wonderful time exploring out as far as the sea channel and around the nooks and crannies closer in. Definitely a place to come back to, maybe even throw in a line. Good ablutions, pleasant people and a good little shop. There is also a bird park with lush gardens a short distance down the road to the beach. The road in is 20k long and good firm sand.

26 July – Saturday – Eighty Mile BeachEighty Mile Beach Caravan Park ($16.50pn without power)
Again, the drive continues flat. All the powered sites were taken so we took an unpowered site and got one near the entrance to the beach, and also close to the barbeques, ablutions and laundry. The 10km road in was okay but some lengthy corrugations. Some people thought is was terrible but I guess we are now used to corrugations, although I never want see any every again. After we set up and looked at the beach which was lovely, a bit like Cable Beach, turquoise, shallow and a long way to get to the water, we decided to have a drive along the beach, it was good fun and the first time we have done any beach driving. It’s one of those ‘been there, done that’ places. There is no reason for us to go back, unlike Port Smith.

27 July – Sunday – Pardoo Station ($18.50pn)
Flat country again: the Great Sandy Desert is enormous. We intended to have a look at Cape Keraudran but there were signs saying that it was $10 entry, so we decided to give it a miss. The drive in to Pardoo Station is 13k of good road. The power is limited to lights, radios, breadmakers(!) and other ‘light’ appliances. According to John the men’s showers are acceptable but I found the women’s showers grotty, with nowhere to hang anything. The loos are OK. There is soft red dirt everywhere (what’s new?)
We went for a drive on the station roads out to the coast. It was amazing – islands, mangroves, oysters, red rock and seething ocean. Went to a couple of other sites where the sea was ½ hour’s walk away across the sand flats. Also went to the tidal creek which was quite a sight, and probably very different a high tide. It may also be prime croc territory, even this far south. This is a very different place.
John’s back is still a problem, but he gets relief from neck stretching. I’ll give him a noose for Christmas.
28-29 July – Monday, Tuesday – Port Headland – South Headland Caravan Park ($22pn)
The drive to Headland was mostly flat and mostly behind a road train but as he was travelling almost as fast as I wanted to go it really didn’t matter. I had been warned that Port Headland was a dump and it is. Everything is coated with reddish brown dust. I wonder what people’s lungs are like. I think there may be some nicer areas, e.g. the area where we tried to get into a caravan park which was full at 11.00am. We ended up in South Headland which is also a dump. We looked for somewhere to have a simple meal tonight (not fast food) but couldn’t find anywhere. No clubs, no hotels. Ended up with pizza. Did some shopping to prepare for Karijini NP and emptied the car for the service tomorrow.
There seems to be a bikies gathering here. They are having quite a party in the camp kitchen.
John’s neck was very bad today. I hope I haven’t stretched it too hard.

Tuesday: John has had a sore throat for a day or so and now seems to have a cold. He went early this morning to get the car serviced, which showed up a problem which we hope will be fixed with a wheel alignment tomorrow morning.
We changed our plan for the next few days. We will go to Exmouth rather than to Karijini. This will give us more time on the bitumen and is probably a more economical (km wise) way of doing things. It will also allow us to go to Roebourne, Point Samson, Karratha, Dampier and the Burrup Peninsula and also Newman. We will miss Carnarvon and Shark Bay but I think we would have run out of time anyway. They can wait for another day.
Getting the car serviced has been a good reason to give the car a clean out and re-organise things.
We finally found a place to eat which was not fast food. It was The Lodge which we must have passed a number of times going to and from the shops. We had a very good buffet meal there tonight.
The creep up from us who had his radio going all Monday night went ranting and swearing around the place around midnight. Rather alarming.

30 July-6 August – Wednesday-Thursday – Karratha – Balmoral Holiday Park ($23pn)
Wednesday 30th: The best laid plans… Instead of having a wheel alignment we discovered we had a bent wheel strut. I could not face another night in Port Headland, let alone a week, so we headed for Karratha and will have the job done here next Wednesday afternoon. We were very lucky to get in here as everywhere up and down the coast is booked out. Thought we would have to go into the overflow part until a site became available. At least we will be able to go for day trips around here and hopefully may even be able to swim. It is not a disaster but will rob us of a few days, that’s all.
John’s cold seems better today and his back is improving but it would not be wise to drive until it’s better. I am not having any problem doing all the driving but I haven’t had to handle more than about 250km in a day.

Thursday 31st : Pottered around Karratha today. There is a modern shopping mall with Woolies, Coles, K-Mart, and lots of other small shops. Woolies is far better than Coles for fruit, veg and meat. Checked out the beach, which is really a fishing spot as it is rocky. There are lots of playing fields and other facilities for the residents. Again, we found the Information Centre useless.

Friday 1 Aug: Went to Dampier today. It is a beautiful place, a small town (but has a Woolies), probably heavily subsidised by Woodside and Dampier Salt. The water is the same beautiful aqua green/blue we have become used to, and it is rocky. We drove out on the Burrup Peninsula to Hearsons Cove where we had lunch on the beach. We also spent some time looking for the Aboriginal engravings, of which there are supposed to be 10,000. We only found two, and they were not where they were supposed to be! We then went to the Liquid Natural Gas visitors’ centre and watched a film on the project. It helped to convey something of the size of the operation. We asked there about the engravings and were provided with a map which we followed but still without luck. Very disappointing.

Saturday 2 Aug: John’s back is still no good so he decided to stay around the camp all day. I finally gave in and got my hair done which gave me a lift. It had been looking terrible for weeks. Went to Mass. As we finished dinner we got talking to some people, Annie and Ken, and they left after 10.00, so it was a quick wash up, shower and bed. We have missed the chats with fellow travellers as this caravan park, apart from the overflow section, is mainly for long-term residents: not permanents, but people who have come to work here for anything from a month to three years. People are coming and going every other day. Maybe it’s time for contracts to expire.

Sunday 3 Aug: Went to Point Samson and Cossack for the day. Point Samson very pleasant little holiday spot and also a favourite for fishing (amateur and commercial), with a couple of beaches and lots of craggy rocks. There is also a very long jetty at Point Lambert nearby.
Cossack is a ghost town with some fine buildings that have been restored. It used to be the main port but around the turn of the century it became silted up and the port moved to Point Samson.
The battery on the car is giving some concern. John’s working on it.

Monday 4 Aug: Went back to the Burrup to find the engravings and had some luck this time. Once the site is found, the figures stand out the more you look at the mountains of tumbled rocks which constitute the art gallery. It is amazing that in 27,000 years these rocks have stayed in place. They are not big: they range in size from about 30cm cubed to about 10 times that size. They are similar to those at Black Mountain, but not nearly as big.

Tuesday 5 Aug: There seems to be some improvement in John’s back at last. Problems with starting the car occasionally, but the battery seemed OK when checked. Went to Cleaverville today. It’s about half way to Roebourne. It was a surprise. The road in is fairly corrugated. There are lots of camp sites strung along the coast. There is a boat launching place at the far north end where an estuary flows out. Whilst there are no toilets or showers, there are a couple of dump points and large garbage collection points is several places. It is a lovely coastline with several beaches, mostly rocky.

Wednesday 6 Aug: It’s been an expensive day. More problems with starting the car: definitely the battery, there goes $160. This one has a 2 year guarantee and has a higher something-or-other. Finally got the strut replaced, another $717. Nissan refused to do the job on warranty. We’ll have a go when we get back on the basis that there was no damage to any other part of the suspension or tyres and we have done nothing rougher than their advertisements show, and we are not hoons and undertook a driving course specifically designed for our type of vehicle. We know what the vehicle is capable of and we drove accordingly and with care.
Booked for Exmouth, could only get one night on a powered site.

7 August – Thursday – ExmouthNingaloo Caravan Park ($23.40pn with Top Tourist disc)
Glad to leave Karratha at last. The drive to Exmouth was a pleasure. The scenery changed constantly. There was very little hint of habitation anywhere except for Nanutarra Roadhouse, a distance of 540km. Exmouth is a nothing town, and the c’van park was huge and very ordinary although it’s a 4 star. There are two small supermarkets in town and we could only find one service station. The Tourist Info was only interested in selling tours.
Drove out to the lighthouse, past the Harold E Holt communications base with its huge array of towers. The lighthouse afforded wonderful views. Had a good dinner in the tavern opposite the Tourist Info.

8-10 August – Fri, Sat, Sun – Cape Range National Park – Yardie Creek Campsite ($10pn)
8th Friday: Got a shock when John thought he saw a sign saying no campsites available before we turned toward the NP. No problem, at the gate there is a list of the campsites and the number of vacancies. We had a few choices but chose Yardie Creek, which is the furthest, because we wanted to paddle up the creek. Pleased with this place, there are 8 sites here, some of the others are nothing more than a little rocky space with room for only a couple of small tents, others are bigger than this and suitable for caravans. There is no water available in the park except for some bore water near the entrance which is not fit for drinking.
We have just a low dune between us and the beach. We can sit up in bed and look at the water with the reef in the distance. The shower tent has been set up a little way away so as not to spoil our view.
Went for a wander around close by and then drove up to the visitors centre, watched a very good video on reef life, then checked out some places, including Turquoise Bay, the favourite snorkelling beach.
When we arrived there was only a light breeze but during the afternoon it blew up very strongly and we were buffeted all night.

9th Saturday: Still windy but went for a walk along the beach, had an early lunch then paddled up Yardie Creek. It is not very far, maybe 2km, but a lovely paddle, even with a stiff breeze. Read on the beach for a while and watched the sea pound over the reef, which is some distance from here.
Cloud had gathered alarmingly by 5pm.

10th Sunday: Had a ball snorkelling at Turquoise Bay. I did three runs of the drift snorkel which was lovely. Not a lot of spectacular coral but lots of different fish and a turtle. The current is strong and I was a bit tentative about going too far out towards the reef. In future I would be more confident as I feel I can fin as well as ever, but I like my own fins. Had lunch on the beach and went back for a shower.
The wind picked up and the clouds rolled in and we had a corker of a night with heavy rain squalls and tremendous winds.

11,12 August – Monday, Tuesday – Tom PriceTom Price Caravan Park ($23pn)
11th Monday: Despite the winds still blowing hard it was not very cold when we left. There were showers all day but we managed to get packed up without rain. It was a slow, careful drive into Exmouth because of the roos. Did some shopping, returned the fins, refuelled and set off hoping to stop in one of the 24hr stops but we were concerned about getting bogged and it would have been hopeless trying to cook in the wind and rain so we headed for Paraburdoo, as it was sealed all the way and we believed there was a caravan park there – not so, so had to drive the extra 80km to Tom Price. We arrived after dark and very tired. Got set up and went to town for dinner. I got the bleep s because my steak was overdone! Another 4 star caravan park – what a joke.

12th Tuesday: Stayed in bed late after a very cold night. Mine tours were cancelled this morning so went to ‘town’, did some emailing and made an appointment to see the doctor to get a new Vioxx script. Chatted to people around the park and set off for the doctor (who charged $45 to write a prescription) and a mine tour for John at 3.30. We returned to find our site cramped by people on either side. The weather has cleared. Cold night again – thank God for the heater.

13, 14 August – Wednesday, Thursday – Karajini NP ($10pn)
13th Wednesday: Shopped and headed for the Dales Gorge end of Karajini which was only about 100km. Stopped by the impressive Visitor Centre then to our site in Dingo loop at Dales. The camp it well set out with several loops containing about 10 or more sites with plenty of toilets and free gas barbeques and cooking rings in the centre of each loop. From comments to us it is much better than the newer Savannah camp. The other advantage is that it is within walking distance of the gorge whereas Savannah is about 10km away.
We walked to the lookout above Circular Pool. WOW! What an introduction!
The moon looked spectacular as it rose from ground-level: a bright creamy ball. Mars is very bright. Some people had a small telescope and John had a look. Settled down to a bitterly cold night, and no heater but at least John has his woolly hat.

14th Thursday: Went to Kalimna Falls, Joffre Falls, Knox, then to Oxer and Junction Lookouts where Weano, Hancock, Red and Joffre Gorges all come together. All too much to appreciate in one day. We need to come back another time when the weather is warmer at night and spend some time here walking in the gorges. We only went into Kalimna and Weano (Handrail Pool). Another very cold night, but this time I was ready for it.
We had originally planned to spend three nights here but the cold and various aches and pains beat us.

15, 16 August – Friday, Saturday – Newman – Dearloves Caravan Park ($18pn with Snrs disc)
15th Friday: Packed up and visited Dales Gorge again, this time to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. There were steep steps down and then a walk along to Fern Pool which was not at all cold (John differs). Glad we spent the time to do it.
The drive to Newman was very scenic, with wonderful hills and wildflowers all the way. Did the washing and checked emails. Went to the Info and found that all the places we had hoped to visit are about 1½ hours each way drive away. Booked onto a mine tour at 8.30 tomorrow.
There is a ‘Fortescue Festival’ here this week-end, with drag racing, speedway burnout competition, best car stereo (DB) competition, etc. Oh dear. Hope we can find somewhere to get away from it tomorrow. A very noisy night courtesy the locals. There is a tavern very close to the c’van park and they spend a lot of time on the grass around the area.
The town has all facilities including a Woolworths, the only supermarket. There are a huge number of liquor outlets for the size of the population. Cold night.

16th Saturday: Up and about early for the mine tour (BHP Mt Whaleback). Very informative and the mine is impressive in its size. This particular mine has an extremely good safety record. The ore is very high grade (68.?) and is mixed with other lower grade ore to acquire a standard.
Went for a drive to Ophthalmia Dam. It was hard to find and when we did, a big disappointment. Spend the rest of the afternoon reading. Thought we’d be in for a very noisy night but it was very quiet. Quite a mild night compared to the last week or so.

17 August – Sunday – MeekatharraMeekatharra Caravan Park ($17.50pn)
A mostly pleasant drive with lots of wild flowers. Nothing along the way except a roadhouse. We expect lots of roadtrains through here tonight. There is not much here, a small Woolworths and one other shop that is part supermarket and part clothing store. There is no tourist bureau. The caravan park is basic but with clean ablutions and laundry. It is also attached to a service station and has a shop. We sleep well, undisturbed by traffic.

18-19 August – Monday, Tuesday – Kalgoorlie – Kalgoorlie Accommodation Village ($20.70pn TT disc)
18th Monday: Arrived after a long drive – 720km, 180 of which was good dirt. Lots of wildflowers along the way. Lots of mines along the way, too. Called into Leinster to get lunch – very much a company mining town. The c’van park here is good with clean, modern facilities including a camp kitchen all of which are only a few metres from us. Went out for dinner at DeBenales Tavern and had lamb shanks served in a camp oven full to the brim. The weather forecast is grim with rain, hail, wind and cold, from the south west extending to Eucla in the east and the goldfields in the north. This will be followed by a similar front. Sounds like a quick trip home.

19th Tuesday: Didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. Went for a walk around Boulder – not very pleasant except for a couple of interesting buildings. Moved on to Kalgoorlie and was impressed by what is now the post office among other things and some other attractive old buildings. Had a look at the museum which was good then went in search of a meat pie. Witnessed a horrible fight in the arcade and only just got past without getting caught up in it (white people).
Kalgoorlie is a big town with all facilities including Woolworths, Woolies servo, Coles, K-Mart.
Had a thunder storm and rain this afternoon and it was still raining and thundering at 5.30. Cooked in the camp kitchen tonight and had a lovely evening with a couple from Victoria, Mick and Pauline.

20 August – Wednesday – Cocklebiddy – Cocklebiddy Roadhouse ($18pn)
The day was cloudy and cold all day and very strong winds. The scenery was not very interesting apart from some shallow lakes near Norseman where we stopped for some shopping. The town has a roundabout with ingenious figures of camels made from corrugated iron all around it.
Stopped at Cocklebiddy at about 5.00 in cold strong winds and a caravan park with lakes of water near all the vacant power poles. Set up at an odd angle and went to the restaurant for dinner. We couldn’t face having a shower under the conditions and settled down to sleep with the wind still shaking the tent and the generator roaring away. Both slept very well!

21 August – Thursday – Nullabor – Nullabor Roadhouse ($17pn +$1 for shower hot water)
Left without breakfast, just coffee in the ss cups. The day was windy but moderated gradually throughout the day, and the sky cleared. It was a wonderful drive, especially along the Baxter Cliffs to our left and the Bunda Cliffs on our right. The Bunda Cliffs are very unstable and care is needed near the edges, especially in high winds. We stopped at nearly all the lookouts, but one in particular gave a marvellous view to the East.
The roadhouse is quite good, as these places go, and the landscape here is surreal, with no trees apart for one or two pathetic specimens in the far distance. Sunset was wonderful, with the sun sinking into the land, just as it does in the sea. The wind has dropped completely and it is cold. The generator is some distance away.
We have to get rid of all our fruit and veg before we reach the quarantine station at Ceduna tomorrow.

22 August – Friday – WudinnaGawler Ranges Caravan Park ($17?pn w. seniors disc)
Headed for the Head of Bight to see the Southern Right whales. There were about 7 mothers and 7 calves and were in close to the viewing area. We had a wonderful time watching them but only stayed about an hour due to the blustery winds. The charge is $6 for seniors. Worth every cent. Had a good lunch at Nundroo Roadhouse, passed inspection at the quarantine gate, bought oysters at Jim’s and proceeded to Wudinna. There is a good restaurant attached to the motel and caravan park. We ate in the restaurant. There is a supermarket and a good bakery in the town.

23 August – Saturday – RenmarkRiverbend Caravan Park (Paringa) ($?)
Another cold, blustery day with rain varying from a few fine drops to hail accompanied by gale force winds. We got away fairly early but couldn’t make Clare in time for the butcher to get saltbush lamb. Went to Medika Gallery (Ian Roberts) in Blyth for pictures for Chris’s birthday. Ian opened the gallery early for us as he normally opens at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Reached Renmark after a difficult drive from Burra where the storm hit badly and the lighting on the road after the rain made it hard to see. This caravan park is very nice, better than the bigger one called Riverfront. It would be nice to come back here and put the QE3 in the river. Nice grassed sites.
Had to cook inside because of the weather.

24 August – Sunday – Wamboin
Left at 6.00 a.m. and drove all day with rain on and off, very cold and windy. Arrived to find both Cath & Randy and Michele & Chris both with blackouts. Randy very concerned about the aquarium.
In a howling gale opened the trailer at Michele’s to get things out and had to fight to get it closed again.

John 'n' Min
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