Sunday, 23 September 2012

23 Sept - 1 October 2012 - Karijini National Park, Tom Price

We ummed and arred about going to Karijini NP as it involved an extra 500km round trip.  In the end we decided to go and had 5 nights in the park.  The 250km drive from Port Hedland to the park was interesting as the road had been closed for a day due to bushfires so there was a buildup of vehicles.  We passed (in opposite directions) over 100 Triple B roadtrains carrying equipment from Newman Mine and there were even more travelling in our direction. 

There were dozens of these oversized roadtrains carrying prefabricated mine components.

Karijini NP, on first appearances, is scrubby and uninteresting looking, but it hid some of the best gorges we’ve come across.  We did so much walking we were all in bed and asleep by 8.30pm and on our final night we were all in bed by 7.30pm!  Unheard of for me.

Kate's grown so much on this trip!

Fortesque Falls

Unusual wave patterns in the rocks.

Fortesque falls and swimming hole were beautiful - just a brief steep walk in and out.

On our final day, we went to ‘Kermit’s Pool’ which involved a steep descent into a gorge, a scramble along the gorge floor crossing backwards and forwards over the water, then a swim or some impromptu abseiling through a narrow gorge (Larry and Kate swam while Elizabeth and I managed to cling precariously to the wall), then a scramble down a small waterfall, over some boulders, then do the spider walk (walk with legs spread apart on each side of a narrow section of the gorge), then arrive at this lovely little pool called Kermit’s Pool.  What an adventure getting there!  Larry gave us all a fright by slipping off one of the walls and landing heavily in the water but he was OK.  On the way back I decided to swim the gorge section.  We all agreed it was a top day out but combined with the other gorge walks and swimming we had done over the previous 4 days, we were all knackered, hence the early night!  Karijini is a top national park, and yet again, proves that to get the most out of the park you have to be active.  You need to be physically capable to undertake the walks and swims - this is not a national park to be left until you have dodgy knees, ankles or hips!

The start of the walk. First you had to get down to the water.

I was trying not to get wet but swam this section on the return journey.

If you didn't want to swim parts of the walk, this was your alternative!

Our destination - Kermit's Pool.  The walk did continue but you needed ropes and hard hats.  Not
items we normally carry in our daypacks!

Chilling out on the return journey.

We did make a detour into Tom Price, the iron ore town and did the mine tour.  It was interesting, but I think we’ve done enough mine tours now – bauxite at Weipa (Q), uranium at Roxby Downs (SA) and now iron ore at Tom Price (WA).  I do intend for us to do the Port tour at Dampier though, just so we can see the final part of the process, but then that’s it for mine tours!! I don't think I'll get any complaints from Elizabeth and Kate who think mine tours are one big yawn after the first 10 minutes or so.
Hard hats and safety glasses.  At least we didn't need long pants and collared shirts
like some other tours.

The General Mine Manager at Tom Price is a woman who began as a truck driver!

Just one of many, many, large trucks we saw working at the mine.
The main ore body almost exhausted.  There are plenty of other deposits within the mine lease area.
8 bay vehicle maintenance shed.  There are two men standing in front (centre) of this dump truck.
We never saw a single vehicle this colour at the mine site! All the processing equipment is
also painted yellow or orange and the only time you see the colour is after a downpour.
Elizabeth had her 11th birthday while we were in the park.  I made a double tiered cake with melted dark and white chocolate mixed with cream as the icing, and about $40 worth of Lindt chocolates on top!  While it was Qld school holidays, it wasn't for WA, so the park didn't have a lot of kids.  I think she was really feeling not having the usual family members around to celebrate.  Anyway, during one of the gorge swims she met two girls from Adelaide and they and their mum came over for afternoon tea and to share the cake.  It felt a bit like rent-a-crowd, but made the occasion a bit merrier for her.  Her main gift was a Kindle so hopefully that will solve our constant challenge of having enough books for her to read.  When we left the park and finally got reception (about 1 km out from Auski roadhouse), she had 8 messages from family. 

Given we weren't having a party, I'm not sure why we decided to make these rice puff balls. Made
with rice bubbles and nutella, they tasted like chocolate crackles.  The girls were very excited
about having nutella for the first time.


After leaving the national park, we decided to spend a night at the caravan park attached to the Auski roadhouse about 70km away.  In the last 12 months over 30 caravan sites have been converted to a demountable accommodation camp for approx 200 workers.  They have all their meals in the restaurant at the roadhouse and travel by bus over 100km each way to their mine.  Must be a mine field of a different type for the roadhouse owners! 

Old mine truck tyres used as insulation around the generator shed at Auski roadhouse.

We were desperate to clean the car, van, do washing, mop the floor etc. The red dirt of the Kimberly and Pilbara is driving us all crazy. Clothes are dirty as soon as you put them on and don’t let me get started about dirty feet!!! 
Travel tip:  Unpowered camping is available at Dales campground ($18 for 4 of us), it has clean toilets but no showers but you can swim every day at nearby Fortesque Falls.  One section is set aside for campers with generators. You can pay for camping at either the Information Centre or with the camp hosts based at Dales. You can't book ahead. The other gorges (Weano, Hammersley) are an easy day trip from Dales.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

22 September 2012 - Port Hedland

Arrived in Port Hedland on a Saturday and not much seemed to be happening.  Even the tourist office was closed.  To make navigating around the town easier we offloaded the van opposite the police station down in the port area. 

There was  a lot of public art around Port Hedland and these were located where we left the van for the day.

Port Headland exists to support the mines in the area and has a massive port for iron ore to be shipped overseas. The tourist office had a list of ship arrivals and departures on an outside noticeboard and from that we could glean that a large bulk carrier was due to depart the port in an hour so, so we headed to the port area.  From our vantage point, we could only see 4 bulk carriers, the other 30 odd were out of sight elsewhere in the port and we could count 7 bulk carriers parked outside the port awaiting the high tide to enter the port.  The ships we could see were massive and we could also see the conveyor belt loading the ships, moving from right to left filling each section of the ship.  After waiting ages, a number of tug boats started to gather around the ‘Magnificent’ a ship bound for Korea. The tugs guided the massive ship out of port and into the harbour.  It was quite a sight. 

Once the tugs started gathering we knew a ship was finally about to leave.  The 'Magnificent' is in the background on the left. The mound of orange looking stuff in between the two ships is the iron ore stockpile.

Biggest boats I've ever seen.

Taking the anti-smoking message very seriously.  This sign was about 3 storeys high!

At the mouth of the harbour, 5 tug boats needed and an Australian skipper would be at the wheel of the ship until safely in deep water.

The town is built on the coast and there is some effort going into beautifying the area with parks and new recreation areas.  BHP is the main ore supplier and judging by the signs everywhere, they are making an effort to make the place more liveable.  One odd sight we saw was at the BHP headquarters.  The entrance to the building has this large, green, perfectly manicured lawn with metal sculptures of farm animals made from recycled pieces of machinery.  There was a sheep, cow, goat, chicken, rabbit etc.  You had to wonder if it was a tongue in cheek display - all these farm animals grazing on this fertile grass on the front lawn of a company who makes its money by digging up the ground and never enabling anything to graze there ever again.  I could see the irony, but I’m not sure that was the intention!

Hard hats had been placed on about a dozen ant hills on the entrance to the town.

The rest of the afternoon was spent getting groceries, discovering that you can’t buy take away alcohol on Sundays and gawking at the real estate prices in estate agents windows - 2 bed units (1980's style) start from $1700 per WEEK, 3 bedroom houses from $2500 and newer style 4 bed 2 bath houses start close to $3000 per week.  Single rooms to let in share houses start at $300 per week plus expenses.  Unbelievable.
We then went back to hitch up the van from the front of the police station.   The van parks were full of mine workers and  therefore very expensive, so we camped the night in the cemetery carpark, which was set back off the road.  At least we had quiet neighbours for the night!

Travel tip: There is no dump point in Port Hedland! The nearest one is at the truck stop just after the turn off to Karijini, about 35km from Port Headland.  You can get water from service stations as usual. Coles and Woolies open 7 days.

Monday, 17 September 2012

17-21 September 2012 - Cape Keraudren

Came to stay overnight at Cape Keraudren Recreation Reserve, 170km north Port Headland but stayed 5 nights instead.  After driving in about 15km on a gravel road off the highway we came to this huge coastal area with a number of bush camping areas, all on the ocean or on a tidal creek.  There was loads of space and signs even ask campers to keep at least 12m between campsites. 

View from our van. During low tide, all that water would disappear.
Low tide

Self explanatory!  There are still a few remants of the fence visible as you wander around the area.

As it was turtle nesting season during our visits, there were also some sharks and crocs around, so we didn’t do any swimming in the open beach. Larry tried his hand at fishing just out from where we were camped.

Larry spent hours fishing.

The area has huge tides which meant rock pools became exposed which were safe for snorkeling so the girls tried out their new snorkeling gear. The low tides also exposed an underwater garden of coral, huge clams that spurt water when you touch them and a lot of different  types of seaweed.  Those reef shoes we'd been carting around the country finally got some use.

About to try out their new snorkelling gear.  The WA coast from here south is renowned for its clear waters and great snorkelling.  Except for the odd white pointer and rogue croc!

Now these giant clams were funky.  Up to a foot wide and if you touched it gently with your foot, it would shoot out a jet of water, so we learned not to lean over it at the same time!

Weird holey ground.  Hate to think what animals lived in each hole.  There were large areas of this stuff which made for challenging walking as you had to watch every step.

It was a chilled out, lazy couple of days and excellent value at $15 per night (2A + 2C). Maximum stay is 3 months and judging by some of the camps, I’d say that’s exactly how long some grey nomads stay for.   
Travel Tips: Three of the camping areas have clean drop toilets and two camping areas have dump points.   Midgies are bad in the mornings if there is a low tide and no breeze.  Mossie coils helped.   Full internet reception. The Ranger drove around every morning to collect fees.  There is untreated water available at the Rangers house or you can get treated water at nearby Pardoo Roadhouse for a RFDS donation.The home-made sausage rolls at Pardoo Roadhouse were pricey ($6) but excellent!

We've been doing lots of reading during the school hols.  Love this photo showing the old and the new - Larry with a regular book, Kate with the netbook, reading an e-book.

 AYear 6 English text, Somewhere around the Corner (Jackie French) has been read by all of us!

Monday, 10 September 2012

10-14 September 2012 - Cape Leveque

Once we arrived in WA, we kept hearing about Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque. At the time, we didn't even know where it was located.  Turns out that the whole of the area north of Broome is the Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque is at the peak.

After 2 weeks in Broome, we packed up the camping gear, did a grocery shop and headed off (without the van).  Oddly the first 80km of the road is corrugated gravel, while the remaining 115 km to the top is sealed.  I suspect this might be a deliberate ploy to keep visitor numbers manageable. The road really isn't suitable for caravans, so at best you'd have a camper trailer, or like us, a tent.

Our first stop was an area called Middle Lagoon campground.  The location was just gorgeous, sheltered bays, shallow safe swimming and beautiful sunsets.  However the campground itself was grotty and grubby so we only stayed 2 nights.

Elizabeth chilling out at Middle Lagoon.

A long 17 km back to the main road and we were on the sealed stretch to Cape Leveque.  Here we camped at Kooljaman campground.  It was much nicer than Middle Lagoon, we had a great waterfront site but it was pricey.  It also had a nice restaurant and coffee shop.  Very civilised. Once the tent was up we were all dripping in sweat so headed to the swimming beach which was disappointing as it had lots of rocks covered in oyster shells.  We found better swimming at the fishing beach a bit further on.  Larry is quite comfortable driving on the beach now, so we can access more places now.  

Views from our campsite at Koolijamon

Larry fishing during sunset. We still find it such a treat to see the sun set over water.
The next day we decided to get in the car and explore the Cape a bit more.  First stop was Cygnet Bay Pearls.  We didn't do the tour as we'd already done two in Broome, but it had a nice pearl showroom (oh how I wish I could afford to splash out on some big pearl earrings!).  It did have a funky little coffee shop with good coffee and the biggest slice of chocolate cake I've every seen - we all shared it and had plenty!  Cygnet Bay is a working pearl farm so there were big piles of mother of pearl shells, buoys and farm equipment everywhere.  

Piles of pearl shells at Cygnet Bay pearl farm.

Piles of obsolete pearl buoys.

We told Elizabeth and Kate we were visiting One Arm Point, where everyone only had one arm - a right arm and a left arm.  They didn't get it at all and then quizzed us when we got there and saw that everyone had two arms!   Internet reception was available, so we found a beach and Elizabeth set up the mini (netbook) and logged into her Japanese lesson (via Cairns distance ed).  Larry and Kate decided to have a swim in a small bay.  Then we noticed the grey nurse sharks, which Larry insisted were harmless.  Still, he did keep an eye on them and they both backed out when a big one swam towards them!  
Elizabeth logging in to her Japanese lesson.

Larry keeping an eye on five grey nurse sharks sharing the bay with him.

Close up of some of them!
We had 3 nights at Kooljaman and wished we had come directly here.  We could see dolphins and whales off the coast. We also met a lovely family from Perth, the Greenways, with three kids, Charlotte, Olivier and Thomas so E & K were happy to have kids to play with.

On the way back to Broome, we called into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Beagle Bay.  It was lovely, whitewashed, with a mother of pearl alter, window frames and decorations. Gold coin donation entry.  This church features in the opening scene of the movie Bran Nue Day.  We found a good spot to have lunch under the trees of the church.  Having been to the Sisters of St John of God museum in Broome, it was great to see Beagle Bay.  Back in 1908, 9 nuns from Ireland arrived here to establish a mission.  It's hard to imagine what they must have thought - going from Ireland to north Australia.  And they arrived in January wearing their full woolen nun habits!!!  They must have thought they'd been punished and gone to hell.  However, they went on to have a huge influence on the well being of the peninsula.
Alter made entirely from mother of pearl

Sacred Heart Church, Beagle Bay

Another alter decorated with mother of pearl

Each window surround was different but still used whole mother of pearl shells.
You can't gain access to the beach from here and generally the Aboriginal communities were not overly welcoming with signs saying ‘locals only’ everywhere.  I guess they are sick of sticky beaks!  This is the part of WA where a hugh gas plant is being proposed.  Driving around Broome, there are plenty of 'No Gas' posters and signs and petititions to sign.  I can see why.  It really is pristine, it's amazing that anyone would even contemplate an industrial facility of that scale.  Somehow I suspect that 'people power' will win the day on this one, but from what we've been told, the fight is far from over.

Travel Tip: There is a well stocked store at One Arm Point for groceries.  During the peak season, all the camping areas on the Peninsula get booked out, so book through the Broome Visitors Centre to make sure you have somewhere to stay. If you are a church goer, it would be great to time your visit for a weekend so you could go to Mass at Beagle Bay.

It's always good to get back the comfort of 'The Mothership' after a camping trip!