WA - Kalbarri, Kennedy Ranges, Karijini to Kalgoorlie and many places on the way. Winter 2009

Saturday, Jun 13, 2009 at 17:18

Member-Heather MG NSW

June 10th

Yesterday we took the road north from Geraldton and turned west at Northhampton to drive along the coastal route to Kalbarri.What a wonderful feeling it was to be back on the road with the van in tow and giving passing travellers 'the wave'. We had originally thought about staying a few nights between Geraldton and here however having been held up for a couple of weeks with the car troubles we changed our mind.We arrived at Port Gregory mid morning and had a brief look out to sea. The lake near here is known as the "Pink Lake" for obvious reasons!. Theres a betacarotine factory or processing place, and a garnet mine close by. Both are on the road north out of the town.

South of Kalbarri we stopped in at a number of lookouts over the Indian Ocean to view the interesting coastal landforms - the Grandstand, Island Rock and Natural Bridge - caused by weathering of the limestone coast. The cliffs plunge into the ocean and it was a spectacular sight on a sunny day.

We decided not to do any walks around the cliff top as we were keen to get a site in a van park before lunch, not being sure just how busy this part of WA would be. Free camping is not allowed anywhere near the town and we thought it would suit us best to stay in the town so we could visit the National Park to walk, as well as visit some of the local tourist attractions. We are staying in the Top Tourist park for three nights in the centre of town and it is ok although busy. We would have been happy to have an unpowered site however were told that they arent suitable for vans - a pity really as this area is in many parks is nowhere near as busy as the powered area.

Kalbarri is a picturesque little coastal town set at the mouth of the Murchison River, and at this time not too spoiled by development. We took a walk along the river bank and watched as one of the fishing charter boats arrived back with happy people on board and some sizeable fish they had caught, then on the return walk checked out some of the shops.

Today we packed lunch and lots of water in the day packs and headed out to the National Park - around 30kms out of town (10kms bitumen and 20 dirt). We drove to' Natures Window' as we decided to do the 'Loop' walk (8 kms in length and rated 4 in difficulty) .After applying liberal amounts of insect repellant and sunscreen we set off, enjoying views over the river and gorge to both sides as we walked the first couple of hundred metres to the 'window'. This area was busy with families and others however the crowds thinned from here and we were the only people to venture further.
The first 3 kms or so were fairly easy walking along the ridge top on a well defined track. The only animals we spotted were feral goats who were so tame they could have been domestic animals! I paused to take photos and enjoy the ever changing vistas over the gorge and river. The landscape reminded us somewhat of our walks in the MacDonnell Ranges in NT two years ago - red slabs of almost horizontal rock formations and green foliage of the hardy vegetation which survives in this harsh dry place.

We descended quite gently down to the river at the end of the ridge and walked along the sandy bank - like a beach - with some big river gums growing along the water. Before long we came to a section of the walk which required us to climb or scramble up, over and along a very rocky overhung edge of the river. I am not a swimmer and to say this was a challenge is an understatement! The water was dark and of an unknown depth and I felt very nervous as I negotiated my way across, having first removed both the camera and pack.I was glad that John was patient with me and stood below and between me and the river. It took a while and a couple of attempts before I plucked up enough courage to crawl through the space but I did it and am happy that I managed to confront my fears and succeed. The alternative was to turn around and return the way we had come and I wasnt keen at all to do that!

I hoped that the most difficult part of the walk was now over and thankfully it was. From here we followed the edge of the river for a while, picking a path along the rocks and enjoying the stunning horizontally striped rock faces with occasional spiral circular patterns in hues of burnt umber, terracotta, cream, yellow ochre and more - reminiscent of contemporary abstract painting and aboriginal artwork.

We spotted more goats nimbly hopping around on the opposite almost vertical red rocky gorge wall (- they are much more agile than I! ) and continued to a sandy section where the river widened out on a bend. By this time the day was very warm and our feet were feeling tired so we sat in the shade of a tree on a rock to enjoy the sandwiches and rest a while. The simplest fillings taste so good when we have walked a distance! The three litre per person of water recommended as being necessary is pretty accurate for me as I am always very thirsty however John is a bit like a camel and can survive on very little. Luckily he is willing to carry most of my supply (along with lunch) so I can carry the important items such as the camera!

The remainder of the walk was on soft sand - a bit more tiring than walking on the rocks - before a short climb back up to rejoin the track at 'Natures Window'. The clouds provided much needed shade and made the walking a little cooler and we were back at the car just before light rain began to fall, approximately three and a half hours after we set out.
We were surprised to catch a glimpse of only one other couple on the walk in front of us and were happy about this we always enjoy the feeling of being out in nature by ourselves. (We have walked places such as to Kosciosco summit with hundreds of others and it really spoils the experience.)

On the way back to Kalbarri, we drove up to Meanarra Hill for views out over the town and surrounds. By this time we were both feeling more than a little weary (our term to describe this is the 'Warrumbungle wobbles') as we havent really done any strenuous walking since we left the Stirling Ranges some weeks ago.

We stopped at the Information centre and tried to book places on a Ocean Fishing trip for tomorrow however they need a minimum of 9 people before they will venture out to sea and we were the only two who had expressed any interest unfortunately so will have to look for somewhere further north of here to try ocean fishing. I think the weather is supposed to be ordinary anyway so maybe it is for the best!
Dinner tonight was a simple sate stir fry - quick, healthy and easy - with lots of vegetables,chicken and noodles.

11th June

Overnight the rain set in and we woke to showers and grey sky and we were pleased that we didnt have to pack up and leave.

After breakfast we put on the boots and waterproof jackets and drove the short distance to the southern outskirts of town to the 'Rainbow Jungle - Australian Parrot Breeding Centre'.

What a fabulous place this is with a big walk through aviary filled with plentiful varieties of these beautiful colourful birds.There are also numerous big caged displays with both Australian and foreign varieties including macaws. Despite rain I managed to get some reasonable photos of quite a few different parrots and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to view them so close. We spent a couple of hours there and found it well worth the entry fee. ($21 for 2 pensioners)

Afterwards we visited the Seahorse Sanctuary to take the self guided tour and view these fascinating creatures. The tour took us through the life cycle from tiny newly hatched animal to the retirees, and audio stations at each step clearly explained the stages involved and interesting facts about them and the food they require. The centre breeds seahorses for pets both for the domestic market and for export and is unique. It also breeds their food. We enjoyed this experience very much. (Cost $14 for pensioners). All up a very informative and interesting morning

Just before lunch the showers cleared briefly and we drove out to Red Bluff carpark and walked to the top of the cliff for views north over the town and cliffs to the south. The strong, chilly wind buffetted us and made holding and focussing the camera difficult.

We've spent the afternoon in the van enjoying a lazy few hours.Tomorrow we will take the road out to meet the NW Highway and find a camp for the night somewhere between here and Denham. The weather has cleared and tomorrow promises to be fine. A healthy friut cake has been baked along with a chocolate dessert).

12th June

Nerren Nerren Rest Area on the NW Coastal Highway (Between Kalbarri turnoff and Denham turnoff.)

The weather cleared during the night and we left Kalbarri around nine o'clock, calling into the National Park for a look at the Murchison River at Hawks Head Lookout and then Ross Graham Lookout. Both were on good sealed roads and only a few kms off the Ajana Kalbarri Road. Hawks Head had an information board which explained the formation and composition of the rocks that I have been so interested in. Apparently they are 'red and white banded layers of Tumblagooda sandstone deposited by rivers and on tidal sandflats between 450 and 480 million years ago'. And the patterns are 'banded siltstone' and 'contorted bedding'. Other interesting rocks which I had noticed on the 'Loop Walk' on Wednesday were 'fossilised burrows created by worm like animals' which created intricate patterns. It was particularly beautiful in the early morning sunshine with the rock walls of deep terracotta red and the still green water below.

On reaching the NW Coastal Highway we turned left and passed the Galena Bridge and a recommended camping place on the banks of the Murchison. It was mid morning - too early even for us to pull up for the night -and we continued north for a couple of hours until we reached Nerren Nerren rest area around midday. It is a big area with plenty of flat and open sites. Recent rain has made the red earth soft and we had to put the car into 4WD H to get it across a small drain without getting stuck. Theres a composting toilet building (three loos) which are quite ok, also a dump point and garbage bins.
We disturbed two young women who decided they would rather walk behind the trees we have camped near and they very kindly left their white tissues on the ground after they finished - about 30 metres from the toilets! Others continued to put rubbish into already full and overflowing garbage bins rather than walk a few meters to an empty one. Unbelievable! No wonder these places look like rubbish dumps and end up being closed by councils. (Maybe I am just a grumpy old woman but we never leave any trace of our campsites except for wheel marks and I wish others could do the same.)

It is our first night out of a caravan park for over three weeks and we have chosen a site as far back from the road as possible on the northern end. There would be at least another half a dozen campers here in assorted rigs, many of whom pulled in late in the afternoon. We would have pulled off the road somewhere by ourselves however the weather looked a bit 'suss' and there had been recent rain so we didnt want to get into a place where we may get bogged. Not sure what this type of country is like in the wet but it looks quite 'clayey'.

We couldnt believe our ears when we heard 'music' around 4 o'clock and on looking out the windows saw a man set up playing an organ/keyboard across the way a bit, beside his pop top van! Yes.... it IS the same old bastard who disturbed our camping in Coalseam Conservation Park a few weeks ago when he played this annoying instrument for hours on end. He is further away today or maybe the traffic is noisier than the keyboard... thank goodness! How could we be this (un)lucky?!!!
He is lucky! If he had pulled in close to us I would not have been able to hold my tongue and he would have had very sore ears tonight! I put on a cd to drown him out and we sat outside to read, have afternoon drinks and gaze into the bush behind the rest area.

All is quiet tonight apart from occasional traffic. There's little radio reception, no phone so therefore no internet and we guess no TV either. The sound of silence is very pleasant.

13th June
Booked into the Top Tourist caravan park for three nights - powered as they didnt want to give us an unpowered one for some reason! It is a busy place and apparently booked out most nights at this time of the year. We cant connect to the water tap as the only hose which was long enough (owned by the park) is a non-drinking water one and tastes foul! We will use our own tank water and fill up when we leave the park and the neighbours will have to put up with the sounds of our water pump!
We were out of the rest area before 8.30 today and set up here by 12. Refuelled in the Overlander roadhouse which has diesel at around $1.50 per litre - around 12c a litre dearer than here in town! (Maybe this is what is meant by the term 'highway robbery'!!!)
We didnt call in at any of the interesting looking places on the way as we will do that on the way back out to the highway.

This afternoon we have taken a short walk along the waterfront and checked out the jetties and shops. It is a pretty little town, set on the shores of Shark Bay - blue clear waters sparkling in the sunshine - with fishing charter and other boats tied up to the jetties and moored in the bay. The wind is strong and unpleasant so we have retreated to the interior of the van.

Good to see that the jetty has dark stains all over it - evidence of recent squid catches - as John is keen to try his luck here in the evenings. We love eating squid!

We were fascinated to see a restaurant which has been built from blocks of tiny white shells which we presume has come from 'shell beach' or somewhere else nearby here. As well, the surface in the park seems to be tiny shells. Makes a contrast to the deep red dirt we carried with us on the shadecloth mat from last nights camp.

14th June

This morning we drove the 30kms or so to Monkey Mia where we watched half a dozen dolphins come into the shore to be hand fed. It cost us $6 pp to enter the carpark and I guess the money is spent on worthwhile maintenance or something however it was a bit of a tourist 'rip - off' in our opinion. We see dolphins and whales frolicking close to the shore at home near Ulladulla in NSW so we werent all that impressed.Still, we can say we have seen the world famous dolphins now and have photos.

Monkey Mia is basically a low key resort set on the shores of shark bay with a low ridge of red rocky earth behind and across the road and we took a short walk to the top and along a track to look out over the aqua blue waters and surrounding bays. it was a pretty little place.

On the way back to Denham we turned off to Francois Peron N Pk to look around the Park visitor centre and remains of the original homestead and surrounding buildings - shearers quarters, shearing shed and yards
which date back from the 1950's. Theres even a hot tub with 24 degree water pumped out from underground. I didnt take our swimmers so we werent able to try it out - not sure how acceptable it would be for retirees to be found 'skinny dipping'. Didnt want to scare the younger ones!!!

The 5kms of dirt track is 2WD to the Homestead, and all others in the park require high clearance 4WD vehicles. Camping is permitted however no sites are accessible for caravans otherwise we would have investigated camping out there. I cant imagine how anyone ever expected this harsh dry red sandy earth to be capable of supporting sheep, but there was quite an extensive network of water pipes to provide water for them and was pumped up from underground by windmill.

We enjoyed wandering through the visitor information centre where in the front room a mural painted on the walls explains the history of the area since European invasion/arrival.There is also a display of aboriginal artwork, and naural objects collected from around the area. Through the door theres an excellent display of 'stuffed' animals, reptiles and birds found here, some of them feral, introduced animals - goat, cat, fox and rabbit.

Returned to the van for lunch then had a walk along the street to buy an icecream. It was too unpleasant to sit outside in the wind so we spent the rest of the time indoors.

15th June
Another windy day - feels like it is blowing off snow so maybe it is coming all the way from Antarctica!

We spent the morning at the 'Ocean Park' about 10kms to the south of the town - really interesting place. The young bloke leading the one hour tour ($15 pp or $13 pp for pensioners) was very knowledgeable, spoke well and only too willing to answer our questions. He led us around the aquarium tanks housing the squid and cuttlefish, lobsters, stonefish (impossible to see even up close), seasnakes, turtles, ray, fish (pink snapper, mulloway, even a big barra) and lastly sharks of different species and sizes.We watched them fed and the way they reacted was a new experience for me.John was not so willing to take the tour but he really enjoyed it and was glad we went.

We left the park and took a drive further south to Eagle Bluff, walked around the headland taking photographs lookinh for rays and other marine life in the clear water below. We could see the shore across Shark Bay towards Useless Loop. The wind up there was so cold and strong I had to put on the goretex jacket.

Came back to the van for lunch and to do laundry as we are leaving in the morning.
The wind seems to have abated a little this evening. John went down to the jetty after dinner and tried to catch a squid however has arrived back empty handed!

16th June
Gladstone Camp.
On the road back to the NWC Highway, we called in at Nanga Bay which had a rustic looking van park and was very quiet and then stopped at Shell Beach to take photos and walk around on the tiny white cochina shells which form the 'beach'. The shells are metres in depth and have formed a hard compacted undulating surface.
A couple of kms south of the Gladstone turn we drove up to the lookout at White Bluff for views over the surrounding country.
The 6kms or so of dirt track into the campground was mostly ok however would become very boggy with any rain. There were sections with corrugations, not too rough if driven over around 60kph.

The camping area is a big open area along the shore with plenty of room. Very shallow water here, not suitable for fishing except from a boat and the jetty has no decking much so would make fishing from it a bit precarious! Two long drop toilets. Garbage bins and $1 pp per night - honesty box.
We camped a long distance from other campers in this popular place and enjoyed a campfire as the sun set over the water. Had a walk along the water to the jetty and then via the campground tracks back to the van during the afternoon. There is plenty of space to find a camp however most of the rigs were set up closer together. The night was cool (temp inside the van 7.5 d around 7am) and very quiet.
A good place to stay overnight or a couple of days we thought however there were people who looked as though they had been here for weeks.Not sure what there would be to do besides walking the same stretches of beach every day.
We have had problems with another gas bottle leaking - an older one again - and have to get to Carnarvon to get the second bottle filled as it ran out as I was heating the water for showers and washing dishes after dinner.

17th June
Rocky Pool (55kms east of carnarvon on the Gascoyne Junction Road).
Bought diesel at the roadhouse at Wooramel at $1.50 pl.

Arrived in Carnarvon before midday and took a drive through the town centre. It looks quite tropical with big palm trees and much greenery and bouganvilleas in bloom. Also banana plantations and other crops along the road edges into the town. It seems strange to see bananas growing on flat land after visiting Coffs Harbour where they are grown on very steep hillsides.

John attended to gas and diesel (under $1.40pl) while I shopped for groceries, to save time. Lunched in the van opposite the IGA supermarket in a flat dirt parking area. We will return to here after we have been out in the 'bush' for a few days and before we go further north.

We have kept the leaky cylinder of gas and will use it with the top taped until it runs out. The other bottle has been refilled and is in use for the moment.

We arrived here at Rocky Pool early in the afternoon and after driving around for a while found a great little flat site overlooking the waterhole and dry river bed with its own makeshift fireplace. We turned left at the intersection at the pool to find it, driving a few hundred metres from the most popular camping area. I am glad to have a copy of 'Priceless Campsites of WA' - the Northern one - as it provides lots of information about the sites.

The afternoon was warm and we sat under the awning, read the 'Australian' newspaper ($3.40 usually $1.30) had coffee and rested for a while, looking over the water. There is a plentiful variety of birds here - a pelican, stilts, crows, butcherbirds, cormorant, greater egret, hawk, willy-wag-tail...

Before we lit the fire, we took a walk around the pool - along the rocky, sometimes sandy banks across the dry river bed and back following some of the many animal tracks. There must be some huge floods through here as there were great tree limbs and other debris stuck high in trees where it has been washed down by the force of the water. Where we are camped would sometimes be under water - hard to imagine when it is reduced to a few pools.

We saw a goat and kid, as well as evidence of many others goats, plus rabbits and roos. After dark a herd of cattle came trotting past us to drink and then returned watching us warily as they went.

We had a beautiful campfire and meal in the camp oven. A thick vegetable,bean and lentil stew topped with scone/damper, which we ate by firelight. The night was still and clear - glorious stars and milky way - and no human sounds other than ourselves. These are my favourite places to camp.

When we arrived I had no NextG signal on the phone however tonight there is enough to make phonecalls and I managed to connect to the internet and receive emails (using the high gain antennae) which is amazing.
Have told one of our girls our expected movements for the next couple of days in case of emergencies.

18th June
Kennedy Range National Park.

Today we turned left when we left Rocky Pool and travelled approximately 130 kms east to Gascoyne Junction. We were peasantly surprised to find that all but 30kms has been sealed and was good road. The other 30 kms varied between smooth to some with corrugations but wasnt bad provided we drove to the conditions. It appears as though the entire section will soon all be bitumen which will make this trip able to be undertaken during or following wet weather. Currently the roads are closed after rain to prevent further damage to the dirt surface.

We bought diesel in Gascoyne Junction and I took photos of the service station and the Pub which adjoins it. We stopped at the Information bay to read about the area and were soon on the dirt road heading North to Kennedy Range - approximately 47 kms to the turn into the N Pk road. The road crosses the Gascoyne River on the northern edge of the town - a series of connected and bumpy cement culverts - and there were one or two small pools of water and vast areas of sand in the river bed. It would be an awesome sight to see this in flood. There was a line marked half way up the walls of the Service Station where the water level had reached in a previous flood.

The dirt road was basically quite OK until the turn off into the Park from where it became rocky, corrugated and bumpy for sections.(12 kms in all). John stopped and dropped the tyre pressure on the Navara which seemed to make very little difference to the ride - or maybe the road just deteriorated a bit! We drove past red sand hills dotted with spinifex, mallee and other vegetation reminiscent of the SW corner of Qld that we visited last Winter, also the central Australian landscape. It experiences a desert climate.

The Range was clearly visible for most of the trip north from Gascoyne Junction - rising out of the flat landscape (the Lyons River Valley plain) around for some 75kms in length and 25 kms in width. It is an eroded plateau located just south of the tropic of Capricorn and is about 200 kms from the coast.

It is a very impressive setting and backdrop to the campground as the 100metre tall sandstone weathered and rocky cliffs are only a couple of hundred metres from the camp. The cliffs are 'dissected by steep sided canyons which have running streams after rain' ( quote from the Information pamphlet produced by CALM).

We arrived at the campground to find volunteer hosts, a couple who look to be in their late 60's - Richard and Margaret from Perth - who stay for 6 weeks each winter and look after it, cleaning the pit loo and organising the communal fire. Richard suggested a site suitable for our van van and handed us park information and campground rules. There is one other small van here and a couple of tents, and since we arrived another larger van has pulled in near us.

After we parked John went inside the van to check the levels and discovered that the freezer door had opened somewhere along the trip and a couple of items had travelled on the floor! No real dramas though and the spilt food was easily cleaned up thank goodness. I think maybe I hadn't latched the door securely before we left, not sure. Will be more careful when we leave!

We had a late lunch after a bit of a chat to Richard who is collecting data for CALM for a survey about visitors to the park.

The afternoon was spent doing the walk to the summit of the escarpment - not overly strenuous as the track followed the gorge up a gentle slope in most places. It took around one and a half hours walking at a comfortable pace with me stopping to take frequent photos.We were rewarded with great views out over the Lyons River Valley Plain and the campground below. Our van looked like a tiny white mark amongst the trees.

Before dark we gathered at the communal fireplace to sit around and yarn for an hour or so before we returned for dinner in the van, showers and to do the dishes. The weather cooled enough for me to put tracky pants and fleece jacket on as theres a cool breeze blowing.

19th June
Kennedy Range N Pk
Set out after breakfast in bright sunshine to walk to Drapers Gorge (Class 4) 2km 2hrs return. It was a leisurely walk and not difficult so I dont know how these walks are rated. The fock formations are really interesting and we would like to have had more geological information on the Parks pamphlet. There are 'egg like' rocks, with layers inside and hollow centres, of variable size. The exterior shell is very dark brown in colour and it looks almost metallic. Some look to have been squashed and others broken and are lying around at the base of the cliffs in bleep tered pieces. There's also pale lava like rock, smooth and pock - marked from weathering by water, and honeycombed formations on the gorge walls in a ochre shades.

We returned to the camp for coffee and to sit under the awning in the shade to read for a while before lunch. The day is warm in the sun but a wind keeps blowing across - gusty and variable from very light to strong which keeps it cool enough.

This afternoon we walked from the camp to Honeycomb gorge - a few kms along the road from here and about a 600 metre walk from the carpark. We could have driven but relished the chance to do more walking, and there is always so much more detail to be seen when on foot. The honeycombed wall of the cliff was spectacular and well worth seeing - different from this mornings walk. We took photos of one another standing at the base to show the size and scale of the place. The return walk took a couple of hours all up and we spotted a family of wedge tailed eagles squarking and circling the cliff top near the campground. They are the most majestic of birds.

As the afternoon wore on, the clouds replaced the sun and the wind increased. Before dark, around 5pm we even had a few brief showers which blew across almost horizontally from the south west. We wonder how much rain it would take to close the roads here and whether there is likely to be more on the way. There's no real way of knowing as the radio only works intermittently in the evenings and theres no phone or internet here without satellite. The hosts do have a satellite phone supplied by CALM in case of emergencieshowever so we are not truly isolated.

We have decided to stay tomorrow night and complete the remaining walk to Temple Gorge in the morning. We passed on a shower this evening, instead having an all over wash, in case we really are here for a few more days. Would hate to have used all the clean water for washing! The stars are bright and shining now so don't think this will be a problem however stranger things have happened!!.

20th June

Clear skies and bright sunshine greeted us.This morning we completed the walk up to Temple Gorge - to see more spectacular rock formations and honeycombing in deep terracotta red colour. We spied a couple of roos or euros high up on the gorge walls only because their movements dislodged rocks which clattered down the hillsides.The walk (Class 3 and 4) 2km and 2hrs return took us up the gorge floor and over large boulders and was another view of this beautiful part of WA.

Returning to the camp, we had an early lunch and decided to do the escarpment walk a second time to see if the phone worked from the top. Lissy (one of our twin daughters) is flying out of Sydney tonight for a couple of months overseas travels in Europe and we wanted to say goodbye. No luck however - theres not much to the east of here for many hundreds of Kms and no signal at Gascoyne Junction around 60 kms south so we didnt really expect it. It was also another excuse to get to the top to view the country again one last time.

The rest of the afternoon has been occupied by my printing some postcards off to send to friends and family when we get back to Carnarvon on Monday. The little Canon Selphy printer works well enough connected to the inverter. Meanwhile John has helped a neighbour to get his vehicle started. After much trial and error the problem was found to be a very flat battery which was rectified by charging it with his generator for an hour or so. For a while ther it seemed as though the sattelite phone would have to be used.

I prepared our dinner of chicken and vegetable satay with rice before we went across to join our fellow campers at the fire tonight which turned out to be a good idea as we sat around until nearly 8pm swapping stories. There have been some very interesting people here - all of us like to go to similar places and we have gained so much valuable information from one another about future destinations. I wish we could stay another few days here and feel that it will be one of my favourite memories of WA, however tomorrow we must pack up and move on. There is so much more to see.

21st June
Packed up and left the camp around 9am after bidding our hosts farewell and giving them some vegetables to help keep them going until they get supplies later in the week. We pulled back into Rocky Pool around lunch time and drove into the same camp as we left on Wednesday. The pile of firewood was just as we left it and we used it tonight to cook our meal of 'osso bucco camp oven style'. I havent has any success with getting phone or internet signal here this time however we will be in Carnarvon tomorrow and can catch up on news then.

Just after I had prepared lunch and set it on the table, a small whirlwind like a mini ' twister' came down the hill and through the van and we had food and all other surfaces coated with a layer of dust. It took us some time to clean up both inside and out. We decided the dust wouldnt kill us and added a crunchy texture to the meal!

Have spent a relaxing afternoon sitting around the camp and resting our feet after our few days of walks. Unfortunately other campers have dropped toilet and tissue paper plus human excreta and garbage around the area and it is not as pleasant as it should be. Not sure why anyone would stay here and do this however maybe the local council could provide a toilet or two and garbage bins which may alleviate the problem. Alternatively they could put up a 'No Camping' sign which would be tragic.
The travelling population needs some education in this regard I reckon.

I have also had much photo editing and organising to do as I took so many photos in the Kennedy Range, so was happy to have an hour or two to do this. It would be a huge task if I was unable to download and do this along the way. Havent caught up on any news of the outside world yet.

22nd June
A busy day! We were in town by mid morning and checked into Marloo Caravan Park - a place for retirees and seniors which wa recommeded to us by the hosts at the campground in Kennedy Range. We feel like teenagers here and there is a page of rules so maybe the oldies get a bit unruly at times! Anyway, it had good clean amenities and I have done three loads of very dirty laundry, washed the van floor and wiped the red dust from the surfaces inside.

We did a big grocery shop after lunch which will see us through for the next few weeks as far as packaged, dried and canned foods go. Also did a drive to some of the small stalls in the market gardens and bought fresh vegetables.The packing away of all this took some time and energy but it fits neatly and tightly so will travel well enough.

I also bought a very small external HD to back up my photos and files to replace the backups I have been doing on DVD's for the past 18 months. The DVD's were starting to accumulate because I have been taking so many photos so this will be a more compact method of backup.

Tonight we used the hour between 5 and 6 to make phonecalls to family for the first time in about a week and it was very good to catch up on the news and to hear their voices.
Dinner was a very quick and easy red curry stirfry with lots of fresh local vegetables and lean mince - hot enough to make the lips burn! Followed this with caramelsied (Carnarvon) bananas with WA honey and icecream.

27th June - Saturday
Have had two nights in the Top Tourist van park here ($31.50 with TT discount of 10%) and will spend two more nights.

We left carnarvon on Thursday expecting to find a place at one of the stations on the coast between there and here however due to rain a couple of days previously, the dirt roads were closed. So we kept driving.

Called in at Coral Bay around lunch time and it was so busy we turned around and stopped a short way out of town to have lunch in the van so didnt even get a look at the water. The parking areas were full of vans and other long vehicles and there was no where to park that we could see.

I phoned ahead to Exmouth as I was concerned we would arrive here and not be able to stay anywhere overnight and was told to just turn up and there would be a space. This park gets busy as of 1st July.
Overnight free camping isnt permitted in this shire so I'm not ure what would happen if there weren't any spaces left anywhere.

The landscape was much like parts of the Nullarbor we thought - flat with low bushy shrubs. We pulled over to take photos of one another posing near the tall lumpy sculptural termite mounds which protruded from the land. They resemble huge deep redish brown garlic bulbs.

As we approached Exmouth the low Cape Range was visible on the left - and we returned to it yesterday to walk and drive above and through the gorges.
Exmouth is situated at the end of the Cape - on low lying and flat land- with a small compact shopping centre. As yet we havent explored past this but intend doing a drive to the West section of the Cape Range National Park today to investigate a place to stay if we get lucky, as well as to do a walk or two.

We have been told that we should get out to the gates of the park around 7am and wait in a queue until 8am when it opens and hope someone vacates a site which is suitable for us. We dont need to or want to stay in the generator areas so not sure whether that makes it harder or easier to get a place - may know more after we visit the Information centre there. If it is so busy we dont know whether we even want to stay there - may give up and go elsewhere which is such a disappointment as we have come so far to see the area. Maybe there needs to be a limit of 5 nights for camping there to make it more available for tourists from interstate to get in.

It seems that almost all the occupants of the van parks here are from WA too - and they stay for weeks or months to excape the colder weather to the south. Makes it hard to get more than a night if travellers come to town in July or August which are the peak months. Not good for travellers as they dont stop and spend money in the town. Just my opinion I guess. A similar problem occurs on Nth NSW coast and in Qld where people book the year ahead for a site during winter.Anyway....

On friday 26th, we took a drive to the south back to the National Park road into Charles Knife Gorge, some 11 kms in length. The first section was sealed and took us up onto the range for great views over the coast and also into the gorge - quite spectacular. Further on the gravel road narrowed and at the turn to the lookout and walk we did, became rough, bumpy, wet in a couple of places and narrow more like a 4WD track.

We parked and discovered the loop Badjirrajirra walk was 8kms in length. We hadn't packed lunch or much water however luckily had 50 litres in the car, and the hydrapack so we filled it before setting out and threw in a couple of pieces of fruit.
The track took us across the top of the escarpment and around to a lookout over the Shothole Canyon through country resembling that of the MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia - spinifex, low jade coloured shrubs, and red rocky earth.

Rocky patches had interesting circular weathered holes and there was a warning about 'sink holes' in the area and to keep to the track. Many rocks sounded hollow when we walked over them too.
When we arrived at the lookout there we people below who had driven in and I had to 'coo-ee' them, much to John's embarrassment! The views were excellent.

Walking was hot as there was little shade but we completed it in under three hours and returned to the car to the welcome air conditioner! I must have drunk at least 3 litres of water while walking so was glad we had taken more than the two bottles we had started out with.

On the return journey I took more photos of the gorge from the roadside and then we drove into the Shothole Canyon for a view from the valley floor. It was even more beautiful than the views from the walk and equalls any others we have seen in Oz. It was well worth the 11 km drive, even though we were both hungry and keen to have lunch!

The remainder of the day was fully occupied - lunch, then a drive into have a look at the shops. Exmouth has two well stocked IGA supermarkets as well as a host of other shops all in a compact area.
I also baked a fruit cake, made a moussaka for tonights dinner and my version of Asian chicken, corn and noodles for last nights dinner.

As well, we used the whole hour between 5 and 6 to make phone calls - checking up on the family news: ultrasounds (only one baby), grandsons flu (not Swine!), Coffs H family.....
Also had a long conversation with Ginny who is devastated having been handed a letter to cease trading at the restaurant in one week because she sought legal advice about signing a lease and was advised by a solicitor not to sign unless it was amended to be fairer to her. The letter is the result of her telling the landlord this, after she has gone to the expense of getting a liquor licence and advertising, paying for the business name etc. Very upsetting as she has put her heart and soul into the place and was beginning to build up a good business with the locals.
We have told her she is better off out of there with landlords like that and that there will be another opportunity! We hope we are correct.

Around 8.30 I finally sat down to relax. We have fantastic TV reception here and enjoyed ABC Friday night - Silent Witness - for the first time in weeks, and in digital.

Today was a busy one, as we drove into the National Park, stopping at the Visitor centre for information before proceeding to drive through to Yardie Creek at the southern end. This is around 90 kms one way and sealed road all the way. Here we did a short walk - around 750 metres in length - which took us up along the Northern edge for views into the water filled gorge and coastline beyond. This involved climbing up and down a couple of crumbling very short steep rocky sections and we were glad that we had worn our boots insead of thongs that we saw some young blokes in. The clouds which had brought morning misty showers to the area began to clear and the day was surprisingly warm while we were doing any walking.

The gorge walls were big red rocky blocks which rose from the waters depths and a couple of canoeists made ripples as they paddled silently towards the river mouth. We were mindful of the warnings signposted along the edge and kept well back. It seemed weird to be looking at clear turquoise ocean and water filled gorge to the west when the surrounding landscape is that of a desert - spotted with clumps of spinifex.

On returning to the car, we drove to Turquoise Bay and lunched at one of the shaded picnic tables, with views over the water and almost white sand.

Afterwards we drove the few kms north and turned east onto the rough track which took us to the start of the 'Mandu Mandu Gorge' walk. After re filling water bottles we set out along the creek floor over quite large white and pale grey rocks worn smooth by weathering over the many centuries. It was not too easy and we had to watch our step so as to not do any ankle injuries. We walked at a sedate pace.
The gorge walls rose steadily and in one place there were close to a dozen feral goats nimbly hopping around on the ledges only metres from us. Apart from birds - mainly butcher birds - these were the only animals we saw on the walks.
It was interesting to see that the floor of the gorge is quite heavily wooded with sizeable trees as I guess theres not too much heavy rain around these parts to wash them away.
After maybe a kilometre or so the track took us up steeply and I was reduced to using hands as well as feet to steady myself as I climbed. I paused frequently to get my breath and ensured that every footstep was onto a secure rock or ledge so I didnt have any falls.
From this point there were great views back to the ocean. We took care as we walked around the edge then down and up several times as we crossed gullies which channel any water into the gorge. Parts of the track were very uneven with loose pebbles and rocks. I took my time, as well as photographs, and John waited patiently for me on the next rise to catch up. Many of my photos feature his back as he strides off!

While in the park we also called in at a few of the non generator camp grounds so we could decide whether we wanted to try to get a site. Have found a couple of different ones which look interesting and now have to be patient in the morning to see whether firstly there are any vacancies and secondly whether we are close to the front of the queue and manage to get one of them. If not, we will turn around and head out of town. At least we have seen much of the park and wont feel as though coming to Exmouth and the North West Cape was a waste of time.

We returned to the van around 3.30 and had a lazy remainder of the day. I was so glad that dinner was prepared and all I had to do was light the oven and wait for it to heat. We both had tired feet and were glad to rest them. Enjoyed an hour of TV again last night watching 'New Tricks'. TV reception is one of the good things about staying in a town I guess although I much prefer the bush camps.

28th June

We are staying in town until tomorrow when we will pack up early and leave as we are hoping to get a site in the National Park for a few nights. Today is a rest day to get laundry done and basically just laze around.

29th June.
Onslow Caravan Park.

Packed up early and were outside the DEC office in Exmouth by 8.15 to enquire as to vacant sites at Cape Range. We were told they were all allocated to people waiting outside the gates so we turned right and left town. The sky was black and stormy and we drove through showers for much of the trip to Nanutarra Roadhouse. We pulled in and ate lunch in the van with the door closed to escape the biting wind and rain. Bought some diesel despite the price - $1,67 I think!

We continued past the Karijini turn off and decided to drive to Onslow for a look at the free camp at three mile which we thought may be a good place to spend a few days and try some fishing. Onslow is off the NWC Highway about 80 kms but it was new territory. The landscape was mostly flat with low vegetation except for near (sometimes) creeks and one rocky small hill looked promising as a camp for overnight however there was already a van tucked around the side off the road and we thought we had better not impinge on their territory! We would be upset if someone else did it to us.
The turnoff to Old Onslow is around 17 kms east of town however because of the wet weather and dirt, was closed so we had no option other than to continue through to Onslow and pay for a night in a caravan park in town). By this time it was around 4pm and we were sick of travelling. The town park was preferable to the other one a couple of kms out of town and we paid $30 for a site. We took a drive through the park a couple of kms out of town and still arent sure whether we saw the Office. Whatever...it looked to be full of workers and even uglier than the park we stayed in which had ancient and very basic amenities. Positives were having TV phone and wireless internet signals I guess!
The main industry in town appeared to be a salt mine and each side of the road close to Onslow there were waterways edged with white salt crystals.

30th June
An early start saw us back on the road and headed towards Tom Price and Karijini which involved us back tracking some 120kms. We stopped and took a couple of photos of the huge bulbous termite mounds - deep red in colour, very wide in girth and resembling massively obese and misshaped bodies! Some were meters high and dominated the landscape as the vegetation was low and sparse. I also photographedwildflowers - a yellow hakea (cork tree) and another two yellow and purple in colour which I am yet to identify.
We turned towards Karijini near Mount Murray and I revelled in the landscape of the Pilbara ranges - red rocky spinifex dotted mesas rising from the plains. The cloud muted the colours of the landscape and I took photographs from the moving car which are surprisingly focussed (sports setting) and give a great view of the passing vista.
We stopped for a quick lunch in a P area near a hill and I was able to take a close look at the rocks which are compacted horizontal layers, quite geometrical in appearance. The clouds thinned and sun was surprisingly warm - a welcome change!
Keen to get to an overnight stop, we kept moving and called in at the service station in Paraburdoo for diesel before continuing to Halfway creek between there and Tom Price. There were three or four other vehicles set up in a confined space and the track off the road was short, quite steep and rocky. We parked at the bottom and had a look around, decided could probably park on the river pebbles below the rest area and drove over the rocky, bumpy surface to reverse into a relatively flat space not too close to others. John had to dig out holes to drop the top side wheels in and we eventually got level but were parked in such a position that we couldnt simply drive out of though as we had to avoid tree limbs. I knew John would stress all night about whether he could tow the van out of here but I felt sure that in 4WD L the Navara would do it easily.
Anyway we set up the basics and another van pulled in below us right on the river bed and we sat around talking until the cool and dark sent us indoors.
We had an easy dinner - meant to include beef in the stirfry however on closer examination the beef turned out to be sliced ham so it was stirfried vegetables and plenty of steamed rice instead!
We were tired after a long day so got the washing up done, had an all over wash and retired early for the night.

1st July
Karijini National Park - Dales campground.

John slept badly - worried about getting out of course - and he disturbed me. We were up early and packed up before 8. The drive out of camp was fine - and the car didnt even work hard pulling us out and onto the highway.
Although we had bought diesel at Paraburdoo we couldnt get the 2 X 20 litre containers full as the nozzle was too big so we had to drive into Tom Price to the first Service station and top up there before continuing to Karijini - over 100kms in total. Each time a caravan or motor home overtook us we thought it was one less chance of getting a site in the National Park however when we arrived mid morning we were pleasantly surprised.
I think the generator 'loop' would be in higher demand than the others and there was certainly a steady hum of the noise from there drifting across the camping ground during the aftenoon and overnight.
There are campground hosts to take the fees (for us $9 per night) and allocate sites and they were friendly and happy to deal with.
We have a site very close to two others in a non generator area and discovered a camper trailer next door and tent in the site the other side of it. We met the couple in the camper - an interesting pair around our age from Bulladelah NSW - when they arrived back from a days driving and walking and spent a couple of hours sitting together and swapping stories until the cold drove us inside around dark. They have done some very adventurous travels over the years to places we would never be able to tow the van to and are looking to move up to a caravan for comfort and ease of setting up.
Most of the other sites at least in this loop (Bungarra) are single ones with a distance and small trees between, and the clean long drop loos are spaced around the loop so theres one not too far away.

After lunch we set out for a walk to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool, a short distance from the campground and accessible by a track from the entrance. There are excellent views into the gorge from the start of the walk and the track falls quite steeply down to the top of the falls via metal steps and railing at the top and then natural rocky steps with a series of metal posts and a rather insubstantial fence. I didnt find it difficult but paused to look at the view and to take photographs while the sun shone down onto the falls and the pools below - very scenic.
There were many young people swimming and noisily enjoying the water at the base of the falls and others climbing all over the rocks which are conveniently very regular and geometrical in composition - layers which appear as though they have been cut by machinery like pavers in places. Obviously a high school excursion!

We continued the short distance to Fern Pool past huge fig trees with roots clinging to the rocks at the gorge edge, and noisy bickering fruit bats hanging upside down high in the trees above us.
Here the same school group were enjoying swinging from a rope into the water - with an accompanying sceam each time! I spoke to a man obviously a teacher with the students and found out they were from Perth and in year 10, around 14 years old! They were having a great time but he didnt look so comfortable!

Retracing our steps to the top, we decided to walk the loop along the escarpment of Dales Gorge back to the campground with views into it along the way, and also into Circular Pool. I also took photos of various wildflowers and trees, The white barked snappy gums are beautiful.
Dinner tonight was a bolognese sauce with pasta which required little energy, and we enjoyed a hot shower before bed. The evening was cool outside and we had a great nights sleep without sounds of traffic.

2nd July.

I was out of bed around 7 this morning - late for me!
Spent time on the laptop editing photographs before breakfast and around 9 we set off to walk to Dales Gorge Carpark so we could complete the Circular Pool and gorge floor walk through to Fortescue falls. The descent into the gorge was steep but not difficult as I took it slowly and carefully. At the base we turned left and walked the short rocky track to Circular Pool for spectacular scenes of this greenery fringed pool with water seeping out of the sandstone cliffs and running down the rocks into the green-blue water below. The contrasting jade green of the vegetation against the deep red rocks is just beautiful. In places the track crossed the wet rocks and we took care not to slip.
I took many photos around the pool and we enjoyed the tranquillity and beauty of the area before retracing out steps back to the track to the start of the gorge walk. In most places this was an easy one, however we did have to use steping stones to cross the water and squeeze around the edge a couple of times. There was deep looking water all along the way - also a couple of small waterfalls, pools and big trees, grasses and other vegetation growing along the base.
We reached the base of Fortescue falls where I took photos before and crossing to the opposite side over stepping stones conveniently placed to prevent us from getting wet boots. There were a few slippery wet stones to access before we could climb up the rocks to the right side of the falls - and maidenhair and other ferns growing over the rocks in the dripping dampness.
Today the falls were quieter - no school students - so we walked to Fern Pool and then up to the top of the gorge, to the van and arrived back here in around three hours.

We have spent a leisurely afternoon indoors as there is a very chill wind blowing and the day is overcast making outdoors very unpleasant unless expending some energy. We both wore our Goretex jackets while walking and I didnt really feel hot at any stage of the morning, so winter even makes herself felt here. We checked the input on the solar and were surprised to find 2 amps going in even though it is so cloudy. Also the batteries were reading 13.8 so we dont have any problems staying unpowered unlike last year.

John has done his good deed for the day - helped 3 young girls set up three small tents next door. The ground is so hard that it is almost impossible to drive tent pegs into it.

3rd July

A cloudy and cool morning with the cold wind still blowing however I enjoyed my breakfast outside, enjoying views into the spinifex and small trees beside our campsite.
After breakfast I packed lunch and a thermos and we set out firstly for the Visitors Centre where I collected information on the walks. The amenities were crowded and messy as other campers seem to use it as a dump for their rubbish. The campground here is full and the overflow campground, close to the visitors centre is busy so we were lucky to have arrived here when we did.

We headed out along Banjima Drive onto the red dirt with wonderful vistas across to the mountains - gentle shades of jade and grey greens of the vegetation contrasting with the deep red of the rocks and earth.
Turned and drove to Joffre Falls which are spectacular viewed from the lookout and the walk. These falls drop down over the escarpment to a narrow gorge into a green pool below and are very impressive.
We were horrified to see people casually wandering around right at the top stepping around on what appeared to be the edge however when we followed the marked trail we discovered that it is quite safe to cross over and continue along on the opposite side. The walk to the base of the falls is steep and involved climbing down big rocks however wasn't difficult until the last maybe 10 metres when John made the decision not to go any further in case I froze or slipped! Falling onto those rocks would be fatal! The rocks are so horizontally positioned they provide natural series of steps in many places.
I am not sure whether I could have made it however agreed with him and we retraced our steps slowly, pausing for breath!
The views were fantastic as it was and I guess it is better to be cautious in a situation like this.
Back to the car for a quick morning tea then a drive to Knox Lookout and on to Weano Recreation Area some 40 kms or more from Dales where we are staying.
By this stage it was lunch time so we ate sitting in the car. I was very happy to have a hot coffee and felt refreshed for the afternoons activities.

Hancocks Gorge walk involved a short steep 135 metres to a ladder down into the gorge and 'Kermit's Pool'. The track followed the gorge which contained pools of clear shallow water and we continued only while it was easy to do. It was very scenic and we turned around when it appeared to veer over the rocks above the water to more challenging territory!
We were back at the top in around half an hour and on to Weano Gorge and Handrail Pool. Turning right we were only able to go around 50 metres before the markers disappeared into the water. This meant having to remove boots and get wet feet which we werent keen to do so we took photos and turned. It appeared that the other walkers all went over the rocks and around this however we did the sensible thing, walked the length of the gorge and up in a loop back to the carpark, an easier option! I managed to photograph some of the flowers which are in bloom.
It was around 4 pm when we returned to the van for coffee and a relaxing evening inside. Outside grew ever greyer and cooler but we enjoyed a hot shower, damper and watched DVDs in bed - not such a difficult life really!!!

4th July
Clouds cleared after a wet night in which we managed to catch maybe 25 litres of water off the awning. Today was a rest day around the campground so I decided to use the time to wash dirty clothes and then bake a loaf of bread to have ready for lunch. On last years trip to Qld I made almost all of our bread and should be doing it again as it tastes so much better than anything I can buy.
We took a stroll around other loops in the camping ground and returned to the van for a day spent largely sitting around and reading, just enjoying the setting.
I am beginning to miss very much being able to phone the girls and catch up on news, also having internet and email!
Not missing TV as we have been watching episodes of 'The Sopranoes' each evening and can get radio news from 6pm.
We will have to stay a night or two in Newman when we leave just so we can make phonecalls.

6th July
The drive from Karajini to Newman was very scenic with mountains and hills rising from the landscape. We were away before 9am and stopped briefly at a roadside rest area at Mt Robinson which would make a great overnight place. It had a clean toilet and is a bit off the road, also great views. However it was too early in the day for us to stop.

7th July
Gascoyne River free camp on NW Highway (No 576 WA Camps 5)

Staying overnight along the nearly dry river banks of the Gascoyne south of Kumerina Roadhouse and 190 kms north of Meekatharra. Yesterday we left Newman after one night in a caravan park. We managed to get all the chores done the afternoon before and it was such a noisy night becaue of mine workers coming and going that we were woken very early. Sounded as though there were hundreds of vehicles leaving the park!

I am listening to the roadtrains rumbling along the Highway as I write but they didnt disturb us during the night.

We chose a place close to the river where there are still pools of water so had some great views of birds before dark - a pair of brown falcons which are nesting here, a pair of No 28? (Port Lincoln) parrots and many others. I managed to get a couple of photos of the parrots finally. At that time there was only another van some 100 metres away however closer to dark there were a number of others who arrived and set up not too far from us so our night isnt as peaceful as it could have been. The closest, a very noisy neighbour has lit a fire using green wood which he broke from branches of small trees and which smoked badly and blew in our direction. Anyway....such is life!
We enjoyed a campfire meal and sat around until after dark as light misty showers and cloud have given way to clear starry skies and what must be close to full moon.
I was surprised to find there is mobile phone and weak internet signal here after dark as there was none when I checked the phone earlier this afternoon.

Yesterday we intended to buy diesel at Kumerina however they are out of it until tonight when the tanker arrives. We had an extra 20 litres which we think will get us through to Meekatharra - just - so we decided to continue! If we find we are getting short closer to there, we will unhitch the van and I will stay with it while John drives in to fill up. There's a rest area at 25 Mile (40 kms) north so we should be ok.
A couple of travellers inclusing one at Kumerina roadhouse offered us 20 litres but John declined for varoius reasons - wrong sized pourer etc...so hope we dont get caught short!!! Guess who will get the blame!
Before we left I took pics of a couple of western Bower birds (at least thats what we think they are) who hopped around the campsite looking for food. They are different from the ones we have at home.

8th July
Lake Nallan 20kms north of Cue. (No 570 WA Camps 5)
We managed to get to Meekatharra without mishap as we 'hitched' a ride along in the slip stream of a road train for some 100kms!
There were many oversize vehicles on this stretch of road and we had to keep slowing down and pulling over, in some cases even stopping to let them pass.

Found a private little site tucked in behind some small trees and facing the lake (water is hidden by the wall) well off the road and set up camp around lunch time. We had a short walk around to collect some firewood during the afternoon and once again enjoyed dinner cooked in the camp oven - 'middle eastern' lamb shanks with barley with a damper. It is a cloudy night and threatening to rain but we should have no trouble getting out of here if it does. It appears as though the local council is trying to block off much of this area for camping with bulldozed ridges of dirt and we saw a NO CAMPING sign further down from where we are. Hope we arent breaking any rules however someone else stayed here last night as there are still warm coles in the fireplace.

The traffic noise is loud enough but hopefully wont stop us from sleeping.

9th July and 10th July
Peter Denny Lookout rest stop on the road between Sandstone and Leinster (No 349 WA Camps 5)

This area has picnic tables and seats and garbage bins and quite a large area both ends to get in behind the small trees to park as far from the road as possible. We arrived during the early afternoon having driven in rain and wind for much of the day from Cue. The lookout is fenced off as the edges seem crumbly and I guess it also prevents vehicles from accidently driving too far and over the edge. Quite a pretty place though.

Cue was a picturesque little town with many old historic buildings dating from its heyday as a thriving gold mining centre. We stopped and took a stroll around, taking photos up and down the street.
Continued through to the Granites, a series of crumbling low colourful mesas and rocky piles of granite - where we detoured off the road the short distance and pulled up to take photos and wander around. Despite the very short climb to the top, there were extensive views over the surrounding very flat country.
From here it was 5 kms to Mt Magnet where we refuelled and turned east towards Sandstone.
There are only two designated rest places along this road between Mt Magnet and Leinster and the first one we looked at had very limited opportunities to park out of sight of the road and far enough off it for our liking. There was another van there and we called over to check that they were OK as the vehicle bonnet was up and he was working at the rear of it. No problems as it turned out but glad we asked.

It was lunch time however we drove on, intending to stop in Sandstone to eat. John drove through the 'main street' and kept going so.... we didnt get to see much of this tiny place! Hope we didnt miss much.
The lookout is maybe 30 kms east of Sandstone so we were very happy that there was plenty of space here and we had a choice of places to park as there was no one else here.
It has been wet and windy, very cool for much of the time here however towards evening yesterday the clouds cleared and we have had a clear cold night. Skies are blue and the sun is out today. Great news!!
We filled in the last couple of days reading, writing....

July 13th.

Kalgoorlie/Boulder Top Tourist caravan park.
We have been in the park for two nights now and intend staying another two before we set out for the Nullarbor on Wednesday.
On saturday we had a long drive, partly because the recent rain caused some of the local roads to be closed and we couldnt get onto the dir to access the camping places we had planned.
We stopped briefly in Leinster to buy diesel then in Leonora to get the weekend newspaper.
Spent a couple of hours at Gwalia a former mining town which we found quite fascinating, wandering around the museum and then Hoover House. This residence is still very impressive and is now used as a B & B. We were able to look into the open cut mine which is still operational and the museum and historical precinct teeters on its edge.
We lunched in the carpark and then continued, intending to stay at Niagara dam which involved a bit of dirt road. As far as we could tell from the signage near the highway, the road was closed so we turned around and drove on, through Menzies which looked to be a really lovely little place, to Kalgoorlie.

By the time we had booked in and set up it was dark and the first appliance I turned on (after the fridge) was the reverse cycle air con.

The little fan heater has been running during the night for the past two nights as it is somewhat quieter for us and the neighbours than the aircon and very effective. We have been very warm and cozy and it will be interesting to see how the 'Kovea Little Sun' gas/propane heater works for us when we are unpowered across the Nullarbor and beyond on the trip back to the East Coast. We have bought extra canisters and plan to run it for an hour or so morning and night just to get the interior of the van warm. Will be mindful of the importance of adequate ventilation.

Yesterday was such a lazy day for us both. We read, watched TV and basically stayed inside the van for muh of the day as it was not particularly sunny and the wind is bitterly cold.

Today we have had a set of BF Goodrich A/T tyres fitted to the Navara, followed by a wheel balance and alignment. Also grocery shopped, swapped books, and wandered around the town. I now have a big boiler of pea and ham soup bubbling away on the cook top for lunches later in the week.

We have decided that we are now experiencing Winter 2009 for the first time and had best get used to cold weather from here. My winter woolies and thermals have been located and are at the ready.

Tomorrow the Navara has its 65,000 km service and we do fervently hope that it is only that which is required! Dont want any repeats of Geraldton!

15th July

This will be my last entry in WA as we are leaving for Norseman then off to the east this morning. I know I will have to put the brakes on the driver in our car as once he gets pointed towards home he will just be keen to keep going!
I feel a bit sad to be leaving with so many places yet to be explored but we will be back in a year or two, family and health permitting.

We tested out the gas heater yesterday and it should be excellent for the cold evenings and mornings for an hour or two - seems to put out a hot of heat - so we shouldnt have problems with the cold or any wet weather along the way. That will make free camping a lot more pleasant in Winter in both the Flinders Ranges SA and through western NSW before we finally reach the coast and milder weather.

Miraculously the car service was just that and all seems to be working well thank goodness.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt. John Muir
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