Day 58 – 31 Aug 2012 – at Carnarvon

We left Coral Bay around 8.30am. Checked to see if the photos of yesterday’s Quad Trek were in, but they were no different to the ones I took myself so we did not buy them.

The scenery along the road until we got back on to Highway 1 was once again very, very boring. Again just spinifex type grasses most of the way – no trees and very little shrubbery. Once we got back on to the Highway though the scenery was a lot better. We passed many patches of a very small bright pink/red wildflower, but I was unable to catch it in a photo. We expect we shall see more and more of this as we head further south.

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn around 10.30 – this is the fourth time we have crossed it this year!! So we are now in temperate climes. Some of the people in the caravan parks have told us they do not head south over this ‘line’ until winter is officially over – as today is the last day of winter I wonder if they will head south. We have heard that the weather is still rather cool down south. Today’s temp has been around a very pleasant 28C. There is a bit of wind blowing which helps to keep the heat away.

We arrived at Carnarvon around lunch time and once we had booked into our Park we drove in to the town to visit the tourist Info. Centre. This is the first time we felt that information was in short supply, and the people behind the desk were just doing a job and nothing else. We were sorry to hear we had arrived too late to the local Agricultural Tour of the local farms here – called ‘working plantation tour’. We both feel a little guilty that we did not know that this area (the Gasgoyne) is called the food bowl of W.A. and produces all kinds of food – bananas, grapes, watermelons, mangoes, pawpaws, citrus and stone fruit, as well as tomatoes, beans, capsicum, asparagus, sweet corn and pumpkin. Also, much of W.A.’s seafood comes from the waters off Carnarvon – prawns, scall0ps, crabs and all kinds of fish. I say ‘feel guilty’ because we have been amazed how many people we have met who did not know the Goulburn Valley was such a producer of food, and now we are just as ignorant of W.A.’s production.

We drove down to the wharf at Pelican Point, and saw some of the large trawlers in at the Port.

Fish Trawler in port

We then went to the local bakery and purchased some lunch and sat down by the sea outlet right on the shopping precinct and ate it. It is a pretty spot. The town itself was not much, and its lack of attraction made worse by all the street being closed off for major landscaping. We guess it will a lot better in a few months time.

Ian and seagulls having lunch

We decided to do our own tour of the town, and drove around the streets to see the suburbs, and then went out to a place called One Mile Jetty where there was a small train and shearers museum. We met Bruce and Linda there – once again they will not be staying at a Park in the town; choosing instead to do the ‘free parking’ on the sides of the highway somewhere south of the town. We had the chance for a small chat. We then looked at the museum, but chose not to do the walk down the One Mile Jetty. There was a tram which did the distance but we we too late to catch it. This jetty was built way back in 1897 to meet the needs of the township and to aid in the export of the wool and livestock produced in the area. Carnarvon was the first port in the world which loaded livestock on board ships for transport to markets. Once, the animal race on this jetty was the full one mile long. This jetty is no longer in use except for tourism, and of course people can fish off it.

One Mile Jetty

It remains one of the longest jetties in W.A.

There was not too much else we wanted to see, so we drove to the local IGA and stacked up on fresh fruit and bread for the next few days. Like all shopping centres, once you enter in you could be anywhere. They all look the same! But I am not complaining. We originally thought we would struggle to get the fresh food we like to eat, but have had no trouble whatsoever throughout the whole trip.

OTC Dish at Carnarvon

Right behind our caravan park is a big OTC dish – a huge communication satellite dish which, although now no longer in use, once participated in the space race and helped put man on the moon in 1969. It was also from here where Australia received its first satellite television broadcast. At the moment, local community groups are working on upgrading parts of the museum and just recently stage one of the upgrade was officially opened by Dr. Buzz Aldrin. History is so much part of the tourism trail it is good to see that communities find their special niche and do their best to develop it.

The areas around Carnarvon are also great tourist attractions but they are quite a distance out of the town and some require 4WD access. Maybe next time we are in this area.

The Park we are staying in is providing some entertainment tonight. There is a small concert on in what they call the ‘Shed’ (a purpose built building) and while I am typing this, Ian is enjoying the singing. It was also time I rang my Mum so I decided to do that while the time was right. The 2 hour difference in time really makes us think before we ring our family or friends.

We have perfect TV reception tonight so Ian is looking forward to seeing his beloved Hawks playing AFL tonight.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 57 – 30 Aug 2012 – still at Coral Bay

Such a quiet night – there is only one road in this town and it goes just to the end of the second Caravan Park, so there is actually no traffic at all once the sun sets. A bit like Baldwin Road!!!!

We decided that because it will be some time before we were up this way again we might as well stay another day and do some of the ‘tourist’ activities available. So while Ian went and booked us in for another night I managed to do some washing.

We then went to the info. office and booked in for 2 activities.

Our coral viewing boat

The first was around 11.00am and was a trip out over the coral reefs in a glass windowed boat. The viewing seats were below the water line and all the walls were glass windows. The coral here is not as spectacular as on the Barrier Reef because it was what they call ‘hard’ coral. It is something to do with the proximity of the coral to the beach. Here at Ningaloo Reef it is only 2 to 7 kms from shore, as compared to the 40 or so kms. in Queensland. There were patches of soft coral and they were quite a pretty color, but on the whole the coral, although spectacular in size and shape, was quite dull. However, it was a lovely morning’s trip. There were many pretty colored fish swimming in and out of the coral so that was nice to see.

I think I forgot to mention that Ningaloo Reef is where you can take a boat tour out past the reef and see the whale sharks (and swim with them although from a distance as you are not allowed withing 200 metres or so of them). This also the area where the large Manta Rays can be seen from this tour boats. Maybe next time.

At one stage the boat was stopped and we all went up on the deck and were given pellets to feed the fish. Like yesterday, the fish were mostly spangled emperor (we think they are the same ones who come to the shore at 3.30 each afternoon!!). There were other fish, but the emperors were the dominant species.

Spangled Emperor fish swimming past the sub-sea window

We then came back to shore and Ian and I just walked around the shoreline, absolutely enjoying the lovely scenery.

We then called in at the local bakery and shouted ourselves to a freshly made lamington. I have not bothered to cook cakes in our Van oven and we both felt like something sweet. It was delicious.

By the time we got back to the Van for lunch, most of our neighbours from last night were all gone. A very transient population we are.

After lunch we walked down to the beach again and saw that Bruce and Linda had parked in the parking bay there. They did not intend to stay for the night, but took the time for a quick swim (and snorkel) before moving on.

Around 4.30 we did our second activity for the day. It was a 2 hour 4WD quad bike tour over the sand dunes. This was so much fun.

All the Quad Bikes

They are dual seat bikes, so we chose to do it together. There were 7 other bikes on the tour – 14 pe0ple all up. We rode out of town – took all of 2 minutes – and then entered the sand dunes. We wove in and out of the dunes, occasionally turning out on to the magnificent beach here, and occasionally just riding between the dunes amongst the spinifex. Because Ian had driven a bike before, we were the last bike – this was so if anyone had any trouble we could stop and help. But everyone did very well and seemed to enjoy the experience.

We stopped for a short while at a place where turtles usually can be seen, but the tide was too low, so we just took photos and had a walk around.

Quad Bikes along the beach

We then started off until we got to the top of a large dune and waited to watch the sunset. Very lovely indeed. I got some lovely photos. It was a 20 minute wait so we all managed to have a good chat with the people there. Most people are surprised to learn that we are ‘homeless’, but nearly everyone says they hope they will be able to do that one day – i.e. sell up and travel!

There we a few kangaroos on the dunes amongst the spinifex which was lovely to see. There were emu prints everywhere in the sand as well, but we did not see any.

By the time we left that dune it was getting a little dark, so we had to put our lights on and head for home. It was a great way to see the ocean and the dunes. We believe we can call in at the shop and get a photo of the 2 of us on the bike, so we will go and enquire before we leave tomorrow.

This has been a lovely spot and we have enjoyed our stay here and we know we were lucky to get in to this Park with short notice.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 56 – 29 Aug 2012 – at Coral Bay

Went to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. Very nice indeed.

We left Exmouth around 8.45 and headed straight to Coral Bay – 150 or so kms down the road. This is not a main road but it was in excellent condition. At least a dozen Vans passed us on their way to Exmouth. Before leaving Exmouth, we pulled into the Info. Centre and Ian was able to re-fill our water tanks again – this time with good fresh water – as last night’s Park’s water was very brackish.

The scenery here is the dullest we have seen on our entire trip. Just spinifex, spinifex, spinifex – and very coastal with sand dunes etc. But we knew it would be like this as we drove close to the coast and then of course out to the coast at Coral Bay.

Coral Bay is about 13kms off the road, bitumen road all the way, and much to our surprise there is quite a small township here, with 2 caravan parks, 2 restaurants, a small shopping centre, tourist booking office for local tours. We rang from Exmouth this morning and booked in advance to this Park because we had been told that there were only unpowered sites left and they were going fairly fast, so were pleased to get a nice site with – wait for it – grass!! Green grass!!

Ocean at Coral Bay

We thought the sight of the ocean at Exmouth was amazing, but this is even nicer. This is a much safer beach with areas where children can swim and much more accessible by pathways etc. whereas at Exmouth the beach could only be accessed at certain points, and it was not a safe in our opinion swimming area.

The beach is fantastic and we walked along it for a long while. The sand is so white and the water is an amazing color. Or I should say ‘colours’. Depending on the depth the water changed from clear,to light blue, to dark blue, to deep blue. This is a large coral coast area and the coral is just metres from the beach. There were people everywhere snorkeling so they could view the coral. There are glass bottom boat tours for those who do not snorkel.

While walking along the beach we bumped into the Monsons and Tomasetti’s whom we first met at Alice Springs, and saw again at Dunmarra quite a long time ago. We talked for a while. We then stopped and talked to another couple who came from Gladstone. When Ian mentioned we were from Victoria, she said they had lived in Victoria for some time but in the Latrobe Valley. So Ian said he originally came from Longwarry. The chap then asked Ian – “Did you know the Chimelewski’s?” Well, of course he did – the Chimelewski’s were near neighbours of our Longwarry farm. This chap then said he remembers going to the dances at the Longwarry Hall. How small is this world???? We talked for ages, waiting for the 3.30pm daily fish feeding display.

This was amazing. A local chap provided some fish pellets which people could slowly throw into the water, and fish came all around our legs, to eat these pellets. They were mainly spangled emperors and would have been around 40cms or so in length. There were dozens of them. We were told just to stand still and definitely not to touch them (which would not have been hard as they were swimming in and out of our legs) and most people obeyed. The display went on for about 20 minutes or so. The little children were very excited – so were so of the big ones!!!!

Fish feeding – around Ian’s legs

We then walked up to the lookout which was just 10 minutes away. What a lovely view.

View over township of Coral Bay

People were planning on being there for sunset, but we figured we have seen quite a few sunsets over the ocean this past week or so, so just walked back to the Van. This coastline has a very long coral reef, and although where we were was calm we could see the breakers on the reef some distance out so I hope you can see the white breakers in the this next photo.

Breakers in the distance

When we arrived back, the area behind us was full of small tents – a bus load of people had pulled in. It was an off-road tour bus with 26 passengers (mostly around our age) and they were all set up for the night. I talked to a few of them. They were loving their adventure.

This is a lovely relaxed spot and we certainly would recommend it.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 55 – 28 Aug 2012 – at Exmouth

Left Nanutarra around 8.45am and travelled non-stop until we reached Exmouth. The scenery was quite arid in most places. It was not far from the ocean and there were no tall trees and things looked rather windswept. We were surprised at the amount of sand dunes, spaced well apart, but very frequent. Many of them were quite bare.

The main vegetation continues to be spinifex with scrubby trees. It is apparently sheep country (although we only saw the odd number or two, sitting under the shade of termite mounds) because the tourist info. signs said “Wool Wagon Path Trail 1,120 kms’ although we know nothing about why it is called this.

Exmouth is situated with the Exmouth Gulf on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. The coastline is protected somewhat by a coral reef and it is a very pretty spot indeed.

Ocean view at Exmouth

Our first sight of the sea was on the east side at a place called Learmonth, but this is a RAAF base and not accessible to the general public so we had to wait until we actually reach Exmouth before the beach was accessible although the sea could be seen for most of the trip in to the town. The ocean was a most beautiful deep blue.

Seeing this RAAF base and then seeing that just outside of Exmouth is a large Naval Radio Communication Transmission complex (large radio masts everywhere) made us realise that the north of Australia certainly is well protected by our defence forces.

We booked into a Park 20 kms north of the town of Exmouth and situated right below a hill with a lighthouse. It is quite picturesque and our Van is only 50 metres from the ocean, but we are actually unable to see the ocean because of the large sand dunes, but we can hear the waves.

We drove to the top of the hill at the lighthouse and the view was lovely. We then drove along the westernside of this peninsula up to the beginning of the National Park. We pulled in at various driveways on the beaches and saw some people fishing, some people wind-surfing (the wind was so strong we felt they were rather courageous), looked at a turtle nest bay (although no eggs until November onwards), and then drove back into the town to have a good look at it.

There was a huge marina with the most magnificent boats moored. There were also some very flash homes right on the ocean, or next to man-made canals. Very nice indeed. Exmouth is really only just a tourist destination with several resort type facilities, and Van Parks, but also OYO holiday units. We checked the prices of these and they were around $400,00 to well over $800,000 for these units. There were some of the nicer homes for rent and these were up to $3,250 per week.!!!! That’s a lot of money even if there were a few families renting it out.

There was only a small shopping centre though. Surprisingly enough there were 2 IGA stores just metres apart – we wonder why?

As it was Ian’s birthday today we bought fish and chips for tea.

Enjoying his ‘birthday’ tea

It was delicious. We sat outside the van to eat them, but the wind was still up and it was almost too cool to stay outside. While Ian was on the phone just after tea he saw a kookaburra catch a small 2ft long snake just behind the Van next to ours. Linda had called in then and so the three of us watched the kookaburra for some time. We did not see whether or not he consumed it all, but he had certainly killed the snake. Thank goodness.

Again – no photos because the internet reception is too poor. Will add them when we can.

To type tonight’s blog we have had to drive up the top of the Lighthouse Hill just to get enough reception. You will have to excuse any mistakes as the fingers cannot see in the dark. The things we do!!

Will leave here tomorrow but will stay along the coast. Hope to get in to Coral Bay – but it depends whether there are sites available or. Bruce and Linda will be staying another night.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 54 – 27 Aug 2012 – At Nanutarra

(29th Aug – can finally add photos)

Another lovely quiet night. We had booked into the Rio Tinto Mine Tour for 10.30am so had time to chat to our neighbours after breakfast. They were retired orchardists from the Adelaide Hills. We had a mutual interest in dairying as their daughter and son-in-law had recently starting dairying for the first time just a few months ago after leasing a farm in S.A. milking 150 cows.

We also took the time to refill one of our gas cylinders before leaving the Park. This Park was certainly one of the nicest in outlook with green lawns in most of the parking spots. It was also very open with spacious room for each Van.

After paying for our tickets for the Mine Tour we were all issued with safety glasses and hard hats. These are compulsory wear whenever anyone enters a mine site.

Ian checking up on our shares in Rio Tinto!

Our driver was a very good guide giving very clear commentary as we started off and continued to do so for the entire tour. We were visiting the mine close to Tom Price but Rio Tinto have 10 mine sites in this area.

On entering the mine site we stopped to look at a repair shop – the vehicles in there were those large TONKA TOYS. In fitting with the size of the vehicles, the building was massive.

We then continued on to the actual mine site where our bus drove on the roads open to small traffic (mine cars etc.) and criss-crossed the large roads used by the huge mine vehicles – dump trucks etc. Our bus stopped a few times so we could see the size of these vehicles as they passed by. Ian was green with envy – he really would have liked to have a drive in one (he and all the other men on the bus I guess).

Janese beside a HUGE mechanical shovel

One interesting fact we were told was that these trucks have huge diesel motors which power generators and the wheels are actually driven by electric motors.

We were pleased to see that those large wide loads which we were stuck behind the other day were at this mine. They are the first delivery of a trial of Chinese made dump trucks.

We then drove to a viewing site which overlooked the open cut mine – up to 500 metres down. It looked amazing. It is impossible to describe the immensity of this operation. The whole time we were at the viewing platform there were large dump trucks passing by all the time. The operation is 24/7. The drivers are 60% men and 40% women. The bus driver joking said it was because of the women drivers that the roads were so wide!!!

Mine site traffic

We then drove to the two large crushers which prepared the ore for stockpiling and ultimate loading on to rail wagons. One crushed top grade ore and the other was lower grade ore.

The trains on which this ore is loaded are unbelievable. They are pulled by 3 engines with a total horsepower of 13,200. The length of the train is 2.5kms long, and pulls up to 230 wagons. When fully loaded it carries 26,500 tonne of ore. Depending on which method the wagons are loaded it can take over 4 hours to load. This is a conveyor method. The other method (tunnel method) is 1hour and 20 mins. Unloading at the port it can take about 50 minutes.

All Rio Tinto ore goes to the port at Dampier and then transported mostly to China. When China no longer wants it (or can afford it), the driver said India is waiting in line.

(BHP ore from Newman nearby is railed to Port Hedland).

At one stage our Bus driver sought permission to enter a special site, and we could hear the ‘O.K’ from the controller. We were then told that this voice came from Perth and that some of the major work on this mine, loading etc., was all done by someone in Perth. There is plan for the future to have driverless trains and driverless dump trucks. The mind boggles!!

It was a great tour and well worth the money – $28 ea.

We then got back to our Van and left Tom Price. We arrived at Paraburdoo around lunch time and stopped at a roadside stop for lunch. This town was also a surprise – green lawns outside the homes. We know this area is extremely HOT in the summer but it looked pleasant this time of the year.

It was another 280kms until we could get back to Highway No.1 to continue our trip south.

Once again the scenery was different. Sometimes amazingly beautiful, sometimes very dry and uninviting. But always interesting.

At one stage we could see rising dust ahead and we came upon a cattle muster. There must have been hundreds and hundreds of head of cattle (all ages from very young, to large bulls) and they were running about 50m from the road alongside a fence, but the road side of the fence – but at no time did any of them run out on to the road.

Part of the large muster taking place

We saw a couple of utes with farmers near by and there was a light plane banking this way and that, although we know he could not possibly be herding them – perhaps he was letting the men on the ground know where other parts of the herd were. Anyway it was very interesting to see it all.

We arrived at a little roadside stop called Nanutarra where there was a small caravan park at the back and booked in there for the night. $25 with power so we thought that was ok. as we thought we would not get a powered site.

Surprise, surprise, the lady in the van next to us came from Mudgegonga originally and had also lived in Myrtleford. When Ian said he had boarded in Myrtleford for 12 months while with the NAB and then said his landlady was a Mrs. Teakle, this lady said her father was great friends with Teakle family. What a small world. (Her maiden name was Hanna – this info. is for Pauline C. as she came from Mudgegonga and just may recognise the name). They had a good long chat.

Weather has warmed up a little – 33C today, but once again   the evenings are very nice.

Hope to get to Exmouth tomorrow.

Still lots to see and lots to do.

Love to all, Janese and Ian

Day 53 – 26 Aug 2012 – at Tom Price

Last night was probably the quietest night we have had on our trip. Our Park was way out in the bush, and once the sun set, like bats returning to their caves, everybody just went into their tents/campervans/caravans – pulled the blinds and you would not know there was another person around let alone 60 or so people.

We woke to the sound of lovely birds singing in the bush. Very peaceful indeed.

We left around 9.00am. The Highway we were on was called the Karanjini Drive. Once again we were amazed at the lovely scenery.

Scenery on road to Tom Price

Our general opinion before leaving Victoria was that these places would look rather dry and desolate, but we could never have been more incorrect. We weaved our way in and around rocky hills/mountains and each turn seemed to show another lovely view. The vegetation is mostly spinifex covering on the ground with different types of gum trees and wattles above. These gum trees are not very tall, but some of them with their stark white bark against the red of the rocky escarpements were just beautiful. There are many more wildflowers out now but they are hard to get a photo of unless we stop and because we presume we will see more and more of these sights we will wait until then to get a good photo.

At one stage we had to pass through a cutting – it was quite steep up and down, but only for a few kms. but certainly was a lovely view.

Tom Price is only 110kms or so from Dales Gorge so it was an easy day today. We booked in at a lovely caravan park here. There is grass around most of the sites so it is rather pleasant so we are pleased with the spot. We noticed Bruce and Linda were parked here too so we have caught up with them again,although tomorrow Bruce is going on the 8.30 am mine tour, whilst we were only able to book on the 10.30 am tour,, so they will go ahead of us again.

I was glad to get to some power and water as I was getting desperate to get our washing done. There was also a chance to wash the car but Ian managed to fill in his day talking to a few people and did not get the time to do it in the end. The Landcruiser does need a good clean, but we are not the only ones with with a dirty car so we do not feel different. We are beginning to notice that most people now have Landcruisers pulling their vans so I couldn’t resist taking a photo of them just down from our vehicle.

All the Landcruisers

We drove into the town to the Info Centre and booked a tour to the Rio Tinto Mine tomorow – a chance to see our shares at work! We could not get the earliest tour but were able to get the 10.30am tour. It should be very interesting.

On the way into town there is a huge Rio Tinto Dump Truck on display so we got some very good photos. Although I presume we will see bigger and better ones tomorrow at the actual Mine. Briefly some – statistics Tare weight 98 tonne GVM 248 tonne Diameter of wheels 2.9 metres and they estimate that during its working life of 12 years it carted 23 million tonne of ore. Photos do not really do justice to the size of these vehicles.

Ian beside large Dump Truck

We then drove around the town to have a look at what the town was like. We were very impressed with the town. The houses were very nice and quite modern. Most of the houses had green lawns outside – water seems to be no issue up here. There were areas where new subdivisions were going in. We presume, because all the houses were similar, they may be Mine Houses.

We then filled up with fuel – being careful it was diesel!!!! and then Ian wanted to go to the top of Mount Nameless near here.It is the highest mountain accessible 4WD in W.A. Too much for me – I do not enjoy these rough and windy roads but Ian enjoyed himself. The view was okay, but it was getting a little dark so it was a little hazy.

View from Mount Nameless

We took the opportunity today to skype the children and grandchildren. It was lovely. I do miss them so much and although enjoying the trip am glad we are on the back stretch to home – mind you we don’t know where ‘home’ is!!!

Love to all, Janese and Ian