2017 Cairns and Northern Territory Adventure

Part 5

Well Kakadu is done and dusted.  Now on our way home.

 I loved Kakadu.  It was so different from Litchfield it would be very hard to compare them.  We spent four nights at the caravan park at Kakadu Lodge.  From there we hiked Ubirr Rock and the rock art and saw the great panorama from the top.  We didn’t stay to watch the sun set as there was way too many people and I didn’t relish the thought of walking back down in the dark.

 

We drove to the Nourlangie area and walked right around the Anbangbang Billabong – saw quite a few different birds and some agile wallabies as well as a rather large crocodile.  That afternoon we went back to do the free Ranger tour where we climbed to a lookout opposite and watched the sun set over Nourlangie Rock and the Arhem Land escarpment.

 

We went for a walk around Mamukala Billabong which has a great bird hide.  On the walk which doesn’t actually go ‘around’ the billabong but rather along part of it and then winds back through Savanah land, we got an idea of just how big the wetlands are.  They stretch as far as you can see.

 

Next day we went north again and did the Guluyambi Cultural Boat Cruise on the East Alligator River.  It was one of the best boat cruises we have done.  It is run by the aborigines and the skipper of both boats were local aborigines.  They are brothers who live in Jabiru but come from Arnhem Land.  They gave us a great insight into the area and showed us local trees and what they were used for as well as lots and lots of crocodiles.  We went a couple of kilometres (almost to the end) up the East Alligator River where we went ashore on the Arnhem Land side of the river and one of the guys gave us a demonstration of throwing their different types of spears. 

 

We moved south to the caravan park at Cooinda about 60 kilometres from Jabiru where we did the Sun Rise cruise on Yellow Waters.  Again, we saw lots of crocodiles and birds as well as some wild pigs, brumbies and in the distance a buffalo and a jabiru.  I was surprised that we did not see very many jabirus anywhere on our travels.  In fact we probably only say two or three altogether.

 

Later that day we did the one hour flight from Cooinda over Kakadu.  It was a fantastic flight – one of the best we have ever done.  We flew over the escarpment, Nourlangie Rock, the Ranger Uranium Mine, Jabiru, a whole lot of wetlands and the South Alligator River.  I couldn’t believe the number of crocodiles we could see swimming in the river when we flew over it.

 

Sadly it was then time to start the homeward trek. 

We had a night in Katherine to catch up on some grocery shopping and also a dip in the Katherine Hot Springs.  Still very nice.  The council is doing major improvements to the area – building a set of steps down from the public carpark to the hot pools and terracing the river bank with rock (in mesh).  Should look good when it is all finished.

It was then back to the Daly Waters Pub for another great meal of beef and barra and still some good entertainment.

We then spent four nights free camping and today arrived in Winton.  Tomorrow we are off to check out the dinosaur stampede.

 

All going to plan we will be home by the end of next week and another great adventure will have come to an end.

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2017 Cairns and Northern Territory Adventure

Part 4

 Leaving Litchfield we had a day and half to fill in before we were due to check into the caravan park in Darwin.  We decided on Berry Spring and set off early hoping we would be able to check into the caravan park at Berry Spring early.  Luck was on our side, so as soon as checking in was completed, we were off to the Territory Wildlife Park.  I had seen this park advertised and was in two minds whether it would be worth a visit - thinking it would be mainly crocodiles. How wrong I was!  We had a fantastic day.  We started off at the Flight Deck where they had eagles, kites, an owl, an emu and Jabiru, then the Aquarium where they show cased every type of fish and water plant from the start of the river system all the way to the ocean (a giant salt water crocodile – the only one I saw there).  Next was a the Monsoon walk (where you sat in a tin shed, kinda, and listen to thunder and a giant sprinkler came on impersonating rain.  It was very effective.  Further along the walk were bird aviaries with all different types of birds that you find in the north.  At the last aviary you walked into it at tree top height and there was a walkway that wound down to ground level.  Next (and the last we had time for) was the Nocturnal House.  It was brilliant.  It was lit up with blue lights simulating a moonlit night so all the little critters were out and about in their displays doing what they normally do every night.

 

 

Next morning we decided to go to the Berry Springs Nature Reserve.  It wasn’t until we got there that I realised it was actually the Berry Springs spring.  We had been told that these springs weren’t hot springs but there was definitely warm water coming from somewhere.  After a walk around the very well cared for gardens, with lots of barbecues and picnic tables, we decided to have a swim.  Just as well we had the caravan with us.  Then it was on to check into the caravan park at Darwin and a very busy week.

 

 Whilst in Darwin we did the Mindel Markets (twice), had the car serviced, found our way around Darwin by bus, walked around the mall and city area, checked out Stokes Hill Jetty and Cullen Bay Jetty, had a sunset cruise on the harbour, visited East Point Reserve, walked around the Botanic Gardens, visited the Australian Aviation Heritage Museum, the WWII Oil Tunnels, did the Australia’s Frontline WWII Tour, the Hop-On Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour and the RFDS – Darwin Tourist Facility as well as a full day fishing tour.

 

The day we arrived in Darwin it was NT (Northern Territory) Day – the only day of the year that Territorians can legally possess fireworks. Believe me, it was a bit noisy that night.  Because of NT Day falling on a Saturday they had a three-day festival and the Mindel Markets were open all day Sunday.  They had some really good entertainment and was not really crowded until late in the afternoon and by that time we had had a good look around.  We watched the sun set on the beach with about one thousand other people.  I thought a lot of people went down to Cable Beach in Broome to watch the sunset – that was a small crowd compared to Darwin. 

 

All the tours we did were very good.  I was a little disappointed in the Hop-On Hop-off Double Decker Bus Tour.  I think it was overpriced for what you got.  The fishing trip was great.  I couldn’t believe how calm the water was – like a mill pond.

From Darwin we headed out to Kakadu.  On the way, we stopped overnight at the Corroboree Park Tavern and Camping where we caught a shuttle bus to Corroboree Billabong for a sunset cruise.  It was great – we saw lots of different birds and a few crocodiles.  Earlier in the day we did do a Jumping Crocodile Tour on the Adelaide River but we were a bit disappointed in it.  The crocodiles we saw weren’t terribly interested in jumping for their food.  I think that, with the number of tours operating at the moment and for this time of year, the crocodiles are just too overfed and therefore not interested in food.

 

 

We now start our Kakadu adventure.

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Rob Tudor : v00003
Another fabulous post. Marvelous pics. Wish we were up there.
Tuesday, 11 July 2017 09:57
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2017 Cairns and Northern Territory Adventure

Part 3

On the return tip from Cairns we actually had sun shining at the Cardwell Lookout.

Hinchenbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout

From Charters Towers we headed due west stopping at the Prairie Hotel for lunch.  As it was quite a cool day we opted for home-made pies - delicious.  We stopped in at Hughenden at the Flinders Discovery Centre before continuing onto the Marathon Rest Area for the night.  We were kept company by a few other vans but still not a lot.

 

 

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We continued on to Richmond and the Kronosauraus Korner.  A really good museum and information centre on everything to do with dinosaurs’, especially the marine variety.  They also have a great little coffee shop.  It was then on to Julia Creek where we had a very informative tour at the “Under the Creek” centre on the Dunnart.  The Julia Creek dunnarts are too scarce for them to have one on display so instead they have a ‘fat tailed’ dunnart.  Very cute.  We then made our way out to the Oorindi Rest Area for the night.  Again, we were kept company by a few other vans but not a lot.  I was beginning to wonder where all the grey nomad were.

 

Next morning saw us arrive bright and early at the Discovery Caravan Park in Cloncurry.  Now I discovered where all the grey nomad tourists were.  It was the Cloncurry Show Holiday but for some strange reason, known only to the show committee, the show closed up at 5p.m.  A pity as we would have liked to have gone for the afternoon and night and it was also a public holiday in Cloncurry.  However, it did give us the chance to catch up on some washing and etc – you know all those mundane chores that don’t go away even when you are travelling.

 

Next stop was the Billabong at Camooweal.  When we arrived early afternoon, it was wall to wall caravans along the billabong.  Only spot we could find for the night was amongst the trees close to the bridge.  As it was only over-night, it was not too bad but a bit noisy from the trucks on the highway.

 

Next morning we set off for out drive across the Barkley Highway – a long drive.  We stopped at Soudan Bore for coffee and I was surprised at how cold the wind was when I stepped out of the car.  We camped overnight at 41 Mile Bore.  Only about 4 other campers there when we arrived and could not believe it when about a half an hour later another caravan pulled in and parked right behind us.  Such a big area and the only place they could pull up was almost on top of us.  Oh well, we seen to attract that type of people.  Needless to say, they did not get a very warm welcome.

 

Our plan was to then stop at the Newcastle Waters Rest Area on the Stuart Highway but when we arrived at about 12..30p.m. the area was packed.  As we passed, about 2kms south, we saw a couple of vans pulled into a gravel pit so we turned around and went back there.  We had a great night camped with some other people from South Australia (and about 16 other vans).  It was a huge area and everyone could find their own little spot.  I now couldn’t believe the number of vans heading north towards Darwin.

 

We set off quite early next morning as we wanted to stay overnight at the Daly Waters Hotel and wanted to make sure we got a spot in the caravan park.  We arrived mid-morning and got a good spot so spent a relaxing day there.  The caravan park and overflow area were completely full by late afternoon.  The steak and barra meal was just as good as previously and the entertainment was good also.  The first artist was Tom Maxwell whom we had quite often seen busking at Tamworth.

 

Next day saw us head further north where we stopped for the night at the King River Rest Area.  Quite a few overnighters but the area was not packed.  On our way north we called in for a swim at Bitter Springs.  Still really nice but a few too many people for our liking.

 

Our first stop next morning was the Cutta Cutta Caves.  We had bypassed these caves on our previous trip but decided to call in this time.  We were not sorry we did so.  It was a great tour and interesting caves – well worth the stop.  We stopped in Katherine to fill up with fuel and to buy a few groceries before continuing north to Pine Creek.  A nice caravan park but the town is spoilt by the number of flying foxes!  Thankfully none are actually in the caravan park but everywhere else. 

We saw a sign saying “Mine Lookout” so went to take a look expecting to look down over an open cut mine.  We weren’t expecting this…

 The Mine closed in 1995 and they have diverted the Pine Creek into the disused mine.

We had an exploration trip out to Umbrawarra Gorge.  So glad we didn’t take the caravan out there as the road was very, very bad!.  We had a walk along the creek and up to the gorge - very pretty but still a bit too cold for a swim (for us any way).  I preferred to wait until we got to the Douglas Hot Springs.

 

A short drive up the Stuart Highway brought us to the turn off for the Douglas Daly Tourist Park.  A lovely park in what seems like the middle of nowhere.  We had a nice walk/drive along the Douglas River to see the rapids and Arches.  The Arches were quite spectacular.

 

We drove the short distance out to the Douglas Hot Springs and were pleased that we had decided not to camp there.  Lots and lots of campers (the start of the month-long school holidays here in the Northern Territory may have had something to do with it).  We had a quick look at where the springs come out of the ground (at that point the water is almost boiling) and then found a spot to sit for awhile where the water was not quite so hot.  The water was very shallow so swimming was not an option.

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Litchfield National Park where we chose to stay at the Litchfield Tourist Park.  Quite a nice caravan park just outside the National Park Boundary.  We arrived at the park around lunch time on Sunday and later that afternoon there was an horrific car accident on the road through Litchfield NP and the road was closed all the next day while the police did their investigations and cleared away the debris.  We went back into Batchelor to refuel and whilst there we stopped to have a look at this castle we spotted on our way through on the previous day……

 

 

Quite a nice story to it.  A chap by the name of Bernie Havlik who had spent his childhood in Yugoslavia before coming to Australia and finally working at the Rum Jungle Uranium Mine before it closed retired to Batchelor.  He spent his time in retirement caring for the local park and became frustrated with a patch of rock in the park.  He considered it to always look unkept and was too big to dig out so he decided to build a replica of the Karlstejn Castle he remembered from childhood.  He died in 1990 and now the local community maintain the replica. 

We have seen some magnificent waterfalls:

 

 

It has been so, so busy at the most popular spots -Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and Buley Rock Holes.  I am becoming an expert at taking photos with strategically placed trees, bushes etc so that you don't see too many people in my photos.

We visited the abandoned Bamboo Creek Tin Mine and also the ruins of Blyth Homestead.  We found a couple of 4WD tracks – one leading to the Lost City.  Quite an amazing place – the eroded sandstone columns looked just like the ruins of an ancient city and some looked very much like giant stone warriors.

 

On the way to the Blyth Homestead ruins and Sandy Creek Falls we also found a couple of interesting creek crossings.  The water came up to our running boards so I was pleased we had a high clearance vehicle.

 

We have done some nice bush walks, (well, I have – someone else waited in the car a few times) mostly easy ones but one was quite difficult and led to the least spectacular waterfall.

 

The caravan park had a very photogenic windmill.  It was a great silhouette for the setting sun and also for morning smog (a mixture of smoke from the bushfires and fog).  They have been doing so much burn off since we have been in the NT that every day you can see clouds of smoke and every afternoon and evening you can see the soot settle.  Reminds me of the cane fires when I lived in Mackay.

 

It is now time to explore Darwin.

 

Hopefully I will be able to upload my this post sooner.  Most of the places we have stayed at over the last couple of weeks have only had very limited mobile service if any and no internet service.  When we checked into the Litchfield Tourist Park and enquired about mobile service I was told that ‘you are in the bush you know’.  It is only 110kms from Darwin and I was very tempted to reply that I have been in many places more remote and still had good mobile and internet service.

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Rob Tudor : v00003
Wonderful shots Phil & Kathy. Brings back some great memories.
Saturday, 01 July 2017 10:31
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The Gibb River Road – August 7th to August 21st 2014

Cockburn Ranges across the Pentecost

It was with no little trepidation that we set off from Kununurra to the turnoff to the Gibb River Road

First stop was at the eastern end for a group shot.

Then off down the road towards the Cockburn Ranges.

The bitumen didn’t last long and we stopped just past the El Questro turnoff to lower our tyre pressures to something more suitable for running on the rough stuff.  We dropped ours to 24PSI for the cruiser and 28PSI for the van.  Had no tyre problems at all.

The Cockburn Ranges are spectacular.

And the road was not too bad.

We arrived at the Pentacost River crossing.

I was the first across.

We all crossed safely and headed further south.

 

We stopped at a Photo-Op location just past Home Valley Station.  We were doing one of our routine checks on our hub temperatures when I found one of my van hubs was running hot.

The Management sorted it. We got the hub off after letting it cool down.  Turned out the brake shoes were on a little too tight.  We adjusted the brakes, bunged a little more grease in the bearings put it all back together and set off again.

We found a great camp not far further down the road that had a view over the Cockburn Ranges, the Pentecost River and the confluence of the rivers at Wyndham.  It also had decent Telstra connection, the last on the Gibb River Road.

It was my birthday so we applied our skills with the camp ovens and cooked up a dinner of lamb shanks and a chocolate cake, with candles, for desert.

I thought it was an appropriate occasion to have another cigar.  A Cohiba Behike, courtesy of a Qatari Prince.  Very nice.

The Gibb wasn’t too bad, but some of the roads leading off it were pretty rugged.  This was the road to Ellenbrae Station and we’d pulled up to help a couple of guys in a Prado.  They said they’d heard a bang and then some thumping noises.  I had a look and found a blown shocker on the front driver’s side wheel.  The rest of the management agreed with the prognosis.  We told them to lower their tyre pressures and slow down a little.

Ellenbrae Station was a pleasant green spot and we stayed their for lunch.

We circled the wagons at Russ Creek that night.  A good camp spot well back from the road and nice and flat.

 

We turned right at the Kalumburu Road and headed on up to Drysdale Station.  The road was pretty rough so we kept the speed right down.

We came across an 80 Series Landcruiser abandoned and being stripped on the side of the road.  Apparently a local bloke died in it and it was left there to rot (the car not the local)

We arrived at Drysdale Station and settled in for a few days.

We arranged the vans in our “Circle the Wagons” configuration.  No power, no water, $15 per person per night.

The place was quite busy with a large number of motorcycle riders camping there.  Beer was around $8 a stubby.

The Kimberley Burger was pretty tasty, and should have been for $18 for lunch or $26 for dinner (with chips).

We cooled off in Miner’s Pool just up the road from the station.

We cooked up a side of beef in the camp oven.

For Terry and Rosemary’s Wedding Anniversary.

We thought the road out to Mitchell Falls was just a little too rough for comfort so we booked a flight.

 

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2017 Cairns and Northern Territory Adventure

Part 2

We have had a wonderful couple of weeks travelling up from Townsville to Cairns.  There is so much to see and do, from rainforests to beaches – and we didn’t get to do or see half the things I had planned.  That will have to be another trip.

We checked out some magnificent waterfalls and rainforests......

 

Crystal Creek Rock Slides

Little Crystal Creek Waterfall and Bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Creek Falls

Walk to Birthday Creek Falls

Crossing the creek on the walk to Jourama Falls

Jourama Falls

Wallaman Falls - the highest single drop falls in Australia

 Cows (and birds) have right-of-way - they were not going to get off the road for us.

The Rainforest Walk at Broadwater was beautiful. They are apparently having huge problems with feral pigs which they are finding difficult to eradicate and the pigs are doing immense damage to the forests

White Fig on the Rainforest Walk at the Broadwater Camp Grounds in the Abergrowie State Forest.

Rainforest Walk Broadwater Camp Grounds

Broadwater Creek

Murray Falls

Murray Falls swimming hole.

A beautiful Fan Palm

And some good and some not so good National Park Camp Grounds.  Broadwater Camp Grounds in the Abergrowie State Forest and the Murray Falls Camp Grounds in the Girramay National Park were excellent.  However, the camp ground at Jourmara Falls was teeming with mosquitoes and very few birds or wildlife.  The camp grounds were also spoilt by some inconsiderate campers  who had left their rubbish in plastic bags at their camp site for the scrub turkeys to rip to pieces.  

 We also had a look around Ingham, Lucinda and Tully. 

 

On the road into Ingham

Some street art in Ingham

Lucinda Jetty - used to load sugar.  Approx 2.57kms long.

Tully

We have not seen too much sunshine since we left Townsville but I keep telling myself that we are in the ‘wet tropics’.  Of course, it was raining in Tully, not surprising as it is suppose to be the wettest place in Australia.

We had a couple of days at Wongalinga (Mission Beach) looking for the elusive cassowary. No luck but we did find some nice bush walks.

 

The only cassowary we saw.

Markets at Mission Beach

Fan Palm Walk at Luciada near Mission Beach.

From Mission Beach the road took us further north and a lovely (free) camp spot at the Babinda Boulders.  It is funny how you imagine a certain place to look a particular way and when you get there it is nothing like you imagined.  Well, the Babinda Boulders was one such place for me.  They are a lot more rugged and spectacular then I had imagined.

 

The Babinda Boulders

The Babinda Boulders

The Babinda Boulders

It was only a short drive then to Cairns and a rather hectic week with parties (celebrating a 21st birthday and 50th birthday), catching up with some old and some new friends, and getting prepared for the trip across to the Northern Territory as once we leave Cairns we don’t have a planned stop of more than a few days until we reach Darwin.

 

 

Hopefully I can get this posted in the next couple of days which should see us just west of Charters Towers.

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2017 Cairns and Northern Territory Adventure

PART 1

The start of our three month trip to the Northern Territory with a few detours.

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First night's camp - Judds Lagoon at Yuleba.

Leaving home in mid-April we travelled to my sister’s property in central Queensland for two weeks where we unexpectedly carried out lots of gardening – some thanks to ex-TC Debbie and lending a helping hand.

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Ducks on a Dam

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Working dogs! Now where I am I going to sit?

This was followed by a quick trip to Mackay for an early celebration of a sister-in-law’s 70th birthday and to catch up with other relatives.

It was then onto another nephew’s place just west of Charters Towers where we spent an extra day waiting for the rain to ease in Townsville.  I swear we must have upset the weather gods at some time as this has been three out of four trips where we have been impacted by heavy rain.

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 Intently watching a video at the Bunkers on Towers Hill.                     Off to catch the school bus.

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Checking waters.

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The rain is coming.

Our first sight-seeing trip in Townsville was to the Bowling Green Bay Picnic Area where we went for a short walk to the lookout and the swimming hole.  The water was far too cold for swimming (I thought so anyway although there were a few brave souls in swimming).

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 Bowling Green Bay National Park

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Townsville from Castle Hill

Next day started with a visit to the Markets in Flinders Street before a walk from one end to the other and back along The Strand.  It really is a lovely walk along the Strand – full credit to the Townsville Council as they have done a very good job - and it was so good to see so many people out walking, running, exercising their dogs, cycling and just enjoying the beautiful weather.

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This was followed by a picturesque drive up to Mount Stuart for a view over Townsville and surrounds.

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Townsville from Mount Stuart

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On Mount Stuart

 We also went for a walk along Riverway - another great park for walking, jogging, exercising the dog and just relaxing

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Next morning, we started our exploring with a visit to Reef HQ.  Another very interesting place.  There were lots of volunteers eagerly waiting to answer any questions and at various intervals gave a little talk on different species. 

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From Reef HQ we drove up the Hervey Range where we had lunch at the Hervey Range Heritage Tearooms.  A very nice lunch and no, I did not have a ‘cat poo’ coffee.  I don’t think I would drink it even if it was free let alone pay $50 for one cup!  

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Back to Townsville and a walk around Queens Park, one of the four Botanic Gardens in Townsville.  Queens Park is the oldest and smallest.  It was a bit disappointing to see the bird aviary closed but still some lovely old trees.

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Sunbird

We did a Military Historical Tour and Scenic Tour which was an all day tour.  The Military Tour was very interesting, visiting Jezzine Barracks, the RAAF Museum, drive to Lavarack Barracks and the Black Hawk disaster memorial at the Palmetum Gardens (another of Townsville’s Botanic gardens).  I preferred the Palmetum gardens as they were a lot more tropical and had many, many different palms.  The Scenic Tour took us to Castle Hill Lookout, Jezzine Barracks (while the others on the tour visited the old fort at Jezzine Barracks we did the newly constructed boardwalk to Rowes Bay), the Port and Casino, historical buildings and the site of the future Cowboys Stadium.

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 The Old Fort - Jezzine Barracks

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Black Hawk Disaster Memorial - Palmetum

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The Palmetum Gardens

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I was surprised to see kangaroos and wallabies living in the Palmetum Gardens as it is in the middle of Townsville.

On our final day in Townsville we made a trip over to Magnetic Island.  In trying to decide the best way to see the most of the island in one day, we decided to do a half day cruise around the island.  It is not exactly ‘around’ the island but it depends on the weather which way the cruise goes.  I am pleased we decided on the cruise as it was a highlight of our time in Townsville.  Firstly we cruised past where the original jetties were and the skipper pointed out some of the different bays and rock formations, including Orchid Rock before coming back to a favourite fishing spot where everyone had a fish.  I think most people caught at least one fish but unfortunately none were big enough to keep. 

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Townsville Port

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Orchid Rocks

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Pity it was under-size.

We fed the sea eagles.......

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 and the giant Cod.

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Some were even silly enough to go snorkelling with the cod and other fish.

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We stopped at another spot where we fed the Bat fish and some juvenile black tip Reef sharks and some people also went snorkelling.

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Can you spot the whale?

We then returned to Nelly Bay and a bus trip to Picnic Bay for an ice-cream before catching the ferry back to Townsville.

 

 

 

 

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Rob Tudor : v00003
Sounds like a great trip and great photos.
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 13:52
Phil and Kathy : q01035
Thanks, Rob. I will post some further blogs as we go. It is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends while we are tra... Read More
Tuesday, 30 May 2017 19:48
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2016 Cairns Trip Part 3

After an enjoyable stop-over in Ayr it was off to Mackay where we spent a few days catching up with relatives and sightseeing.

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Both the above photos are of Mackay Harbour

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We then left the soggy north behind.  Next stop was Gracemere just south of Rockhampton for a catch-up with a nephew and his family before heading down to Rosedale (Bundaberg) for another catch-up with another nephew and his wife.  Love going to this place – the only place I know of where you get welcomed at the gate by a herd of cattle which then follow you and settle down around the van.

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We also had an enjoyable ‘cruise’ up Baffle Creek where I got some great photos of reflections and the sunset.

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Before we knew it we were home.  Only another three weeks before we head off again - just enough time to unpack, clean and repack the caravan.  Only this time, if all goes according to plan, it will be the camping gear we are packing!

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2016 Trip to Cairns Part 2

We visited the Malanda Dairy Centre Café and Museum where we had a nice lunch and a look around the museum.  A lot of reading but very interesting stories about the early pioneers and their lives.  I am glad I was not clearing the land.

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We stayed at the Lake Eacham Caravan Park which is only a small park but feels like you are camping in the middle of the rainforest.  We did the walk around Lake Eacham which was very good – we saw some large (Curtain) fig trees.

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Lake Eachem

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Large fig tree on walk around Lake Eachem

Next we did a day trip to Yungaburra where we saw the Avenue of Honour, had lunch at the pub, did the walk along the creek spotting some platypus before driving out to the ‘advertised’ Curtain Fig Tree and Gallo’s Dairy and returning to the caravan park via the backroads. There were a lot of tourists at the Curtain Fig and Gallos.

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The Curtain Fig Tree

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Part of the farmyard at Gallo's Dairy.

Next day we packed up and moved over to Granite Gorge which is about 12 kilometres west of Mareeba.  On the way over we stopped in at Atherton for the Crystal Caves.  What a collection of quartz crystals, amethyst and various other rocks and crystals collected from all over the world but especially from South America!  We easily spent about 2 hours there just walking through his displays.

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Some of the many crystals at Crystal Caves.  Unfortunately the photos don't do them justice.

Granite Gorge is a terrific camp spot. It is not overly expensive at $32 per night for a couple on a powered site.  The amenities near our camp site were very new and therefore in very good condition.  The operators are a little different but friendly and they have quite a menagerie – lizards, snakes, guinea pigs, various chooks, parrots, peacocks and ducks that constantly patrol the camp grounds all day but they were not a nuisance unless you fed them.  Just down in front of the reception area is a big flat rock where all the cute little rock wallabies come for some free tucker.  They are very quiet although a little timid but if you sit down with the food you soon have at least one or two holding your hand for some food.  We did the walk down the gorge which starts off easy but ends in a Grade 4 walk as it is over all the granite boulders, some of which have become quite slippery from all the people walking over them.  We took the easy option of returning to the camp ground via the emergency exit which is basically a dirt road up from where the walk ends.  At night all the wallabies come up around the camp grounds but you don’t usually hear them until after everyone has gone to bed.  It is really a beaut spot to kick back for awhile.

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I will hold your hand if you feed me.

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How cute is that!

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C'mon I know you have more yummies in that white packet.

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Start of the Gorge Walk.  Looks easy doesn't it?

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Dinosaur Foot Prints??? or maybe Big Foot.....

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Just follow the red markers

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The end - Whale Rock - now just the walk back.

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Duck Patrol.

We had a day sightseeing around Mareeba and spent a few hours at Coffee Works in Mareeba.  We really enjoyed Coffee Works.   When we entered we were given a little cup and you could then try as many coffees as you wished - they had four home grown coffees and at least a dozen from overseas as well as some flavoured coffees and teas as well as several different types of chocolate and liqueurs.  The coffees all tasted so different, some good - some not so good.  I think we left there on a 'high' after all the coffee and chocolates we consumed. As well, they have a Coffee Museum - bet you didn't know coffee could be so interesting.  I certainly didn't realise that there could be so many different coffee roasters, coffee grinders, coffee percolators, coffee pots and the list goes on.

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Just the start of the line up of coffee to taste.

From Granite Gorge we made our way down to Cairns where we spent a few days with our nephew and his family.  Whilst in Cairns we did the Skyrail trip up to Kuranda which was absolutely terrific (although not for anyone who suffers from vertigo).  You really do get a bird’s eye view of the rainforest. We had a good walk around Kuranda - however, we found it to be very touristy but quite nice.

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On the way up on Skyrail

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View from Skyrail

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Burkedin Falls

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On the return journey we had a carriage with a glass floor and this is the view looking through the floor.

Phil and David (and Luke) also did quite a bit of fishing but unfortunately the fish weren’t interested.  David caught one that was a keeper but we had better luck catching bait – pippis, yabbies, mullet and prawns – I thought some of the prawns were big enough to throw on the barbie but I was not allowed to.

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Obviously the fish weren't biting.

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 Casting for bait all the while keeping a keen lookout for crocs.

We had a couple of rainy nights in Cairns but the days were fine although overcast.  However, the morning we packed up to leave it just continually rained and rained and…….. – great fun especially when you have your caravan parked on someone’s front lawn strategically placed between a garden and a light post!  It continued to rain quite heavily down as far as Cardwell where we checked into a caravan park for the night.  The parks are all very busy up this way.  We firstly, tried a park (more like a bush camp – the office only opens between 3p.m. and 6p.m so you just find a spot and set up) just north of Cardwell, but it appeared all the powered sites were taken and the unpowered sites looked very wet or very overgrown.  Next we tried the one on the waterfront and they were completely booked out and we got the second last spot at the next one we tried. Quite a nice park but next to no mobile service. 

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Looking towards Hinchenbrook Island

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Cardwell Jetty

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Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial

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From Cardwell Range Lookout - Hinchenbrook Island is in the background shrouded in cloud

It did fine up for a few hours in the afternoon which gave us the opportunity to have a walk along the foreshore and the jetty.  However, we woke in the early hours of the next morning to torrential rain.  We heard that over 100ml fell that morning but fortunately it fined up in time to pack up.  We did travel through quite a bit of rain as far south as Townsville but very little since but it is still very rainy looking.  We are at Ayr tonight.

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Main Street of Ayr

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2016 Trip to Cairns

 

It’s look like we have left the south-east corner of Qld just in time to miss the cold weather.  So far, heading north we have had a few cold mornings, one in particular at Monto when there was frost all around including on top of the van, but beautiful fine days.

 

 We left home late June with our first stop at Gayndah, then Monto, Clermont and Charters Towers visiting relatives all along the way.

 

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On the farm at Gayndah.

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Sunset at Monto.

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We have passed the sign to the Bunyip Hole on the road many times - now I have finally got to see it.

 

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Tyler had grown big enough to ride his motor bike in the few days before our visit to their place at Charters Towers so there was big excitement. Of course both boys had to show off their riding skills.

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All country kids have to swing on the gates.

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When we left Charters Towers we travelled through a few showers but not enough to wash the dust off the car or caravan and had an overnight stop at the caravan park at Greenvale.  Quite a nice little caravan park with friendly operators and well priced.  Of course being country music fans we had to have a drink at the Three Rivers Hotel made famous by Stan Coster (and Slim Dusty).

 

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It was then onto Milla Milla on the Atherton Tablelands. 

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What a contrast to the dry dusty roads we had been travelling.  Everywhere you look around the landscape is so lush and green. 

 

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There is some picture postcard scenery around this area.

 

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Taken from the Milla Milla Lookout

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From Crawford's Lookout

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A Buffalo Diary herd

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Windy Hill Turbines.

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Milla Milla Falls

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Zillie Falls

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Elinjaa Falls

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Mungalli Falls

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Pepina Falls

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Malanda Falls

We did the Mamu Tree Top Walk yesterday.  This was the fourth tree top walk we have done (having previously walked the ones in Tasmania, Otway Ranges, Victoria and in Western Australia).  Surprisingly they have all been very different.

 

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The tower which we climbed - it is not for anyone even a little bit scared of heights.

We have not yet spotted a Cassowary in the wild but today we were fortunate to see a Tree Kangaroo when we visited the Nerada Tree Estates. 

 

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The Nerada Tea Planation

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Tree Kangaroo

Now for a close-up

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Tomorrow we leave Milla Milla and will probably go to the Lake Eachem Caravan Park.  We have found that most of the caravan parks in this area are fully booked this week-end – probably because of it being the last week-end of the school holidays and also the Malanda Show is on. 

 

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Weeks 25, 26 & 27 (And Final)

Whilst in Victoria Harbour we had to go on the horse drawn tram across to Granite Island. 

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After catching the tram across to Granite Island we went for the walk around the island and then caught the next tram back.  The horses are so quiet and well trained – I think they could do it by themselves.

 

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Next day we had booked on a boat cruise on the Coorong and Lake Alexandrina, however the cruise was cancelled because the forecast was for heavy rain, 90 kilometre hour winds, thunder and lightning.  Although it was quite windy all day the rain and storms failed to arrive.  It was very disappointing.  Instead we went on a drive to Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island and Strathalbyn.

 

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Ingalallia Falls

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Cape Jervis with Kangaroo Island in the background.

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Bridge to Hindmarsh Island

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Mouth of the Murray River

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Lake Alexandrina

We then detoured up to Monarto Open Plains Zoo. 

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Meerkat

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Black Rhino

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Hyena

We walked around part of the zoo and then as storms were threatening we caught the Zu-Shuttle around the rest of it.  It was not as good as I was expecting – they did not seem to have many animals but then they may have had more that were out in back areas and not on public display.  We have now seen all three ‘open plains’ zoos, Dubbo, Werribee and Monarto and I would have to rate them in that order.  As the storms closed in I managed to get a photo of the water spout which went west of Monarto but only from the window of the bus.

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There were reports of a lot of hail but we managed to miss it.  It did look very black but we only received light rain which continued for most of the night.

 

At this stage we still had not decided which way we would travel home but decided to go down to Bordertown and cross the border near there and make our way up to Swan Hill as I wanted to see the Pioneer Settlement there.

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Now I know where Santa gets his six white boomers from.

 

We stopped in Bordertown for lunch and I made sure that I had used up (or cooked) all our fruit and vegies only to find that there was no quarantine stop at the border (in either direction).  We had a free camp on the border – it was also right on the highway and there was a continuous flow of heavy vehicles all night.  Not a good night’s sleep!

 

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Afternoon fog

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Next we stopped in Kaniva for a walk around town.  They also have a wildlife park similar to Bordertown but no white kangaroos (well none that we saw anyway).  They also have lots of brightly coloured sheep in the main street.

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Then it was onto Nhill where we again stopped for a coffee and walk around town.

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Nhill has a memorial to the heavy horse.

 

We made our overnight stop at a little town called Minyip.  Those of you who can remember a TV series called ‘The Flying Doctors’ may know this little town as ‘Coopers Crossing’ as this was where it was filmed.  They still have a sign on the pub and also Emma’s Garage (which is now a café).

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They have built a great little caravan park there.  Only $10 per night for a powered site (there are about 8 or 10 powered sites) with good toilets (2) and a shower (all unisex) as well as a disabled toilet and shower – you pay by an honesty box or contact the caretaker.  They also have covered barbecues, playground and a walking track (with some exercise stops) around a wetland area where there were hundreds (well, it sounded like hundreds) of frogs- sounded like at least two different species.

We then took the back roads to Swan Hill somehow managing to miss all the little towns expect for Donald where we did not stop as it was quite early in the day.  The showers and storms had now cleared away.  It looked like some of the places did get quite a decent drop of rain but it has been very, very dry.

 

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Murray River

At Swan Hill we stayed at the Pental Island Caravan Park which is on a farm about five kilometres out of the township and is right on the banks of the Murray River.  The Murray was quite high and flowing quite rapidly so I think they must have be releasing water into the system.  The caravan park was really nice – beautiful green lawns and gardens and a walk along the banks of the Murray.

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While at Swan Hill we made time to go and see the Swan Hill Pioneer Settlement which was really good.  It is not terribly big but it was good to see that they had so many of their old tractors and farm machinery working and we spent some time speaking with a young enthusiastic blacksmith (he was telling us that next year he should become a fully qualified blacksmith) who was making a coal shovel. They also had some vintage cars driving around which you could go for a drive in, an old time band playing, a horse drawn wagon which you could also go for a ride on (all included in your admission ticket) and a Paddle Steamer which you could go on.

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From Swan Hill we travelled up to Bourke via Hay. 

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Murrumbidgee River, Hay

I wanted to go to Bourke to specifically go on the Paddle Steamer on the Darling River.  However, that Paddle Steamer only operates during the winter months and stopped cruising about three weeks before we arrived.  I am not sure why they don’t still operate it at least once or twice a week.  I know the tourist numbers aren’t as great now as they are in the winter months but there were still quite a few people about and we were talking to some in the caravan park (Kidman Camp which incidentally is very nice) who did what we had done i.e. specifically went to Bourke for the Paddle Steamer.

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Darling River, Kidman Camp Caravan Park

 

We then continued north to Cullamulla and then turned east. 

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Whilst at Cullamulla we had a chat to this fellow in the park.

 

 

We had a nice stop at Bollon on the banks of Wallam Creek.  They have made a nice flat area to park your RV next to the creek as well as a path along the creek where they have taps, seats, fireplaces and picnic tables.  At one end of the camping area is the cemetery and there are toilets there for the campers use as well.  They also have toilets and showers up in the main street.  It is a free camp but they do ask for donations to help maintain the area which I think is fair enough.

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There had been lots of storms and showers after leaving Cullamulla and there was lots of water beside the road as evidenced in the above photo.

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Yes, another great western sunset.

 

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Our next stop was the Nindigully Hotel.  We had stayed here some years ago and it was a nice spot .  It still is a nice spot but they have now put bollards along the river so people can’t camp too close to it (a good idea) with a concrete path along the river.  They have also put a new toilet block and still have the toilets (and showers) behind the pub for the campers use.  They have levelled an area up near the hotel to park but there is very little shade.  It doesn’t quite have the same atmosphere though.

 

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We then had an overnight stop at Yelarbon (still a great camp area) then we detoured back down into New South Wales to make our way across to the Gibraltar National Park to meet up with some friends before heading home on Saturday.

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We have had showers and storms every day since we left Burke and the countryside, especially in northern New South Wales, has been a picture.  Once we neared Glen Innes the weather turned cold and I had to unpack our winter clothes which I thought I could safely pack away.

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More wildflowers - we found these on the way to Gibraltar National Park.

The first night at Gibraltar National Park we camped at the Boundary Falls Camping Grounds – it is a beautiful spot.  We only walked to the Boundary Falls.  The lookout is right at the picnic area but to get to the bottom of the falls is only 400 metres but is all steps down and then back up.  We had a big storm that afternoon and then it rained on and off all night. 

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Boundary Falls

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Boundary Falls Camping Grounds (after the thunder storm)

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When we were camped at Boundary Falls we were lucky enough to see two (2) lyrebirds but one disappeared into the scrub too quickly for me to get a photo of both.

 

Next morning we moved over to the Mulligan’s Camping Grounds where we met up with some friends for a couple of days before heading home.

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Mulligan's Hut

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The view from Raspberry Lookout

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These little red-neck wallabys were frequent visitors around camp.  They weren't tame but were not scare of you either.

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Dandahra Creek

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On the walk to the Needles.

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The Gibraltar Waratah

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The Needles

We only had time to do one walk at Mulligan’s so we chose the Needles Walk which was 6 kilometres but quite an easy walk.  There was only one steep hill and it was a little rocky on the way down to the ‘Look Down’.

This will be my last blog for this trip as we are home on Saturday.  Then it will be a big job unpacking everything and cleaning the caravan up before planning our next trip.

I hope you have all enjoyed reading about our travels.

 

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Weeks 23 and 24

We have now completed the long drive from Norsemen to Ceduna.  There was not a lot to see on the West Australia part of the Eyre Highway.  We had a few free camps (Rest Areas) on the way across.  They have been good camp sites –most of them have had plenty of room for quite a few RVs without being parked on top of each other and those that we have stopped at that have had facilities (i.e. toilets and dump points) have been good.  I had heard that all these facilities were overused and to be avoided if possible.  There doesn’t appear to be as many people travelling now.  There have been anywhere from three to about 10 RV’s at each stop and even the Caravan Park we stayed at in Ceduna was pretty near empty the first night and probably still less than half full the second night.

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Harms Lake Rest Area -Free Camp

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 On the way across from Norsemen we stopped at the Madura Lookout – I hadn’t realised that there was a high limestone plateau that ran quite a way along the route.

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Mandura Pass

We also stopped at Eucla (we stayed overnight in the caravan park) to have a look at the Old Telegraph Station.  There is not too much of it left anymore.  It was quite a nice little caravan park for the remote location.

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Once we crossed the border into South Australia we stopped at the Lookouts across the Great Australian Bight.  There are only three Lookouts now.  There were many more tracks from the highway down to the cliffs but they have all been closed off and you have to go to the three official Lookouts where they have built paths etc.  I can remember last time we crossed the Nullarbor (although that was about 30 years ago) at some of the Lookouts you could see the cliffs going in both directions.  Now, if you stay within the boundaries, you can only see the cliffs in one direction.  I think they have spoilt it a bit

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View from Lookout 2

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View from Lookout 1

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We also called in to the Head of the Bight Whale Watching Centre.  Of course the whales had all headed off south about two weeks before but it is quite interesting and they have built good board-walks and Lookouts/viewing platforms there.  It would be a great place to see the whales when they are about.

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Head of the Bight

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Gathering of Windmills - Penong.  The only place the locals could get water was from a shallow underground water supply but each person had to put down their own bore with a windmill to pump the water.

We had a couple of days in Ceduna.  Phil wanted to get the Toyota serviced and I needed to get the washing done (again) – it is a never ending chore.  We thought Ceduna was quite a nice little town.  We went to one of the oyster farms and bought some fresh oysters - $10 for a dozen (containing 14) schucked – not bad value and they were delicious.

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Ceduna Jetty

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McKenzie's Ruins - McKenzie was one of the first settlers in the area.  His farm was at Denial Bay just a little west of Ceduna and he had quite a large complex.  At the time the port was at Denial Bay but fell into disrepair when the more favourable port of Ceduna was opened.

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Ceduna Port

We then went looking for some unusual rocks – firstly to Murphy’s Haystacks and then Pildappa Rock.  .

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Murphy's Haystacks

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Murphy's Haystacks

They were both good – I actually think Pildappa Rock is more interesting than Wave Rock and much less commercialised.  It came up very hot, very windy and flies galore that day which made it very unpleasant.  

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Pildappa Rock

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Pildappa Rock

We camped at the Apex Park in Minnipa that night and there were lots of storms with thunder and lightning around.  We didn’t get any rain and we heard next morning that some fires were started by lightning strikes a little further south so I don’t think there was too much rain anywhere.

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Toilets at the Apex Park - not very subtle

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Statute of the Australian Farmer at Wudinna

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The Big Galah at Kimba

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We have made it half way home

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Metal statutes of Edward John Eyre and black-tracker Wyllie at Whites Knob Lookout at Kimba.

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Iron Ore Mine at Iron Knob

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Another sunset - this one is at the free camp at the junction of the Lincoln and Eyre Highways.  It was extremely windy.

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After all the times we have travelled on a very straight, flat road where it looks like the road disappears off the end of the world we finally found it.

It was then onto Eudunda just north of Adelaide to visit some friends from our cruise before heading into Adelaide where we stayed with some more friends (from Qantas days) - Phil and Rose. Whilst in Adelaide Phil very kindly drove us all around Adelaide sight-seeing; we took a free bus into the city for lunch and a walk around the Botanical Gardens; went for walks along Hendley Beach  and photographed the sunset at the jetty; went up to Mt Lofty (Summit Lookout) and through the Adelaide Hills and had an authentic German lunch at Hahndorf as well as a walk through the quaint little town.  The lunch was so big we asked for a ‘doggie bag’ and the sausages we took home were enough for our dinner and breakfast next morning!  We also took the opportunity to catch up with some other friends who live in Adelaide and who we have not seen for some 30 years.  It was really great catching up and remembering old times.

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Hendley Beach

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Adelaide Botanical Gardens

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A Rose between two thorns - eh...I mean Phils

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The Roses were beautiful in the Botanical Gardens as well as everywhere around Adelaide and all the places we have travelled through since leaving Port Augusta.  

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Some of the South Australia University buildings - they have some lovely old stone buildings.

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Adelaide from the lookout at the Summit of Mt Lofty

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Our Three Sausages lunch

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Sunset at Hendley Jetty

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Port Adelaide

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More of Port Adelaide

It came time to say good-bye to our friends and Adelaide and we are now in Victor Harbour arriving here late this morning.  We did our usual visit to the Information Centre before jumping on the Cockle Steam Train to Goolwa.  It only runs on Sundays and Wednesday unless it is school holidays or high season.  We only had enough time in Goolwa to go for a quick walk around their markets before hopping back on the train for the return journey.  It was quite good as part of the track runs along the ocean front but it only takes about 30 minutes so is not a very long journey. 

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The Cockle Train

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Victor Harbour

We are here for the next couple of days before turning north and home.

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Weeks 21 and 22

We have had the wettest, coldest and windiest day in a long, long while and it happened to be the day we left Albany for the Castle Rock Skywalk in the Porongurup National Park.  The forecast was for showers, strong winds and colder conditions and they weren’t wrong.  When we left Albany is was quite nice but getting very overcast, windy and instead of warming up it was getting colder.  We arrived at the carpark at the start of the walk to Castle Rock at about 9.00 a.m. and thought we might be lucky and get the walk finished before the weather set in too much.  So we decided to take our rain coats and rug up a bit more than we would normally when going bush walking.  It was a really nice walk although it was 1.2 kilometres and all up hill.

 

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Just push it a little bit further and it should be just the right spot.  Hang on .... eh, maybe a bit to the right.

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Looking up at the Sky Walk on top of Castle Rock.

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Making it to the Sky Walk Platform

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And look how far down it is!!!!

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What a view - except for the rain coming.

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Wildflowers on the walk.

We got to the lookout and the Skywalk without getting wet and decided to climb up to the skywalk before the rain came.  We just managed it!  It was blowing a gale and freezing up on the skywalk and we could see the rain coming so I quickly took some photos before climbing back down.  Just when I reached the bottom we got our first shower – only light, thankfully,  and we managed to shelter under the rock before starting off back down to the carpark.

 We did have to get our rain coats out on the return walk but we only had a couple of showers.  We then left for the Moing Spring Camp Grounds in the Stirling Ranges.  Just after we arrived we had a torrential down pour with cyclonic winds which thankfully only lasted about 15 to 20 minutes.  We managed to get the van parked and set up without getting wet but it turned into a very wet and cold afternoon.  Time to unpack the gas heater – I have not been so cold since Ballarat in August last year!!  Next morning it was 3 degrees outside and only 7 in the van.

Would you believe only three days later and about 200 kilometres further north it was so hot we nearly put the air conditioner on.

We had a good look around the Stirling Ranges although we didn’t do any of the walks as they were all climbing to the top of one of the mountains and Phil had had enough of walking for a few days.

Below are some of the wildflowers we saw in the Stirling Ranges.

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They have some weird and wonderful plants and flower here.

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I wouldn't exactly call this one a (wild)flower .

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A rather strange looking grass tree at Bluff Knob

 

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Cats Paw

 

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It was then up to Wave Rock.  It was a nice drive mostly through wheat country and many salt lakes.

We came across this out-of-place Dutch Windmill.  I am not sure of the story behind it but it was a property advertised as a B & B.

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Lake Grace North

We went through Lake Grace and it was on a very big day for the little town.  This years's AFL Brownlow Medalist comes from Lake Grace and he was coming back to town with his medal.  When we drove in we wondered what the huge crowd (apparently they came by bus from near and far) was down at the sporting field until I remembered hearing abut it on the radio.

We took the route to Wave Rock via Kulin because I had heard about the Tin Horse Highway and I wanted to see it.  There are some very talented and imaginative people in this world.

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All the sculptures are made out of 44 gallon drums or bits of scrap iron or metal found lying around the farms.  The Tin Horse Highway runs from the bush Race Track to Kulin which is 14 kiolmetres. I think I walked most of that 14 kilometres as my driver was getting sick and tired of stopping especially as we had the caravan attached.  Lucky it was a quite highway and there were usually good pull off areas.

We called into Hyden for a coffee and also a look at their art work.

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Actually it was quite good too.  It was all done by locals and told the history of Hyden.

We stayed out at the Wave Rock Caravan Park which was not very good especially for the price.  They put us on a site that obviously had been one site that they have now split into two – it may be okay for two small motorhomes but definitely not for two caravans.  Neither us nor the bloke next to us could put our awning out even half way and it was probably lucky the other bloke parked a bit further back than we did or I reckon he would have had trouble opening his caravan door and getting in.  What made us all cranky about it was that there were about five other powered sites of a reasonable size vacant that night.  They don’t seem to like anyone who only stays one night and doesn’t pre-book.

Anyway, Wave Rock was really interesting.  We did the walk to Hippo’s Yawn and took the wrong way back and ended up walking up over the rock- good exercise.

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Magic Lake.  It is part of the Wave Rock complex and claimed to be much saltier then the Dead Sea (??)

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Phippo's Yawn

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View from the top of Wave Rock

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Trying to surf Wave Rock - as you do. (Actually I was trying very hard not to fall face first down Wave Rock)

We also went out to Mulka’s Cave and the Humps – we did both walks out there.

 

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Mulka's Cave 

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Inside Mulka's Cave

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The walk over the top of the Humps

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The walk around the bottom of the Humps

We then went south again and had a night at Stokes Inlet in the National Park Camp Ground.  We did a good walk there 2.8 kilometres one way but it was mostly flat.  There were not as many wildflowers as I was expecting but it was still a pretty walk although the weather wasn’t very good again.  It was very overcast and certainly a little chillier the few days prior.  The camp ground was really nice.

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Finally, red Kangaroo's Paw (in the wild) and

b2ap3_thumbnail_2632-Black-Kangaroo-Paw.JPGThe Black Kangaroo's Paw

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The sign reads"No Vehicles Beyond this Point" - do you really have to be told?

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Stoke's Inlet - another inlet that is only open to the sea when there has been a big flood and the river has washed away the sand bar.

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There were many of these Zamia trees at Stokes National Park and some were massive - they must be very,very old.

We then went onto Esperance.  It is a very nice little town.  The first afternoon there we did their Great Ocean Drive which took us all along the beaches and headlands west of the town and also the Pink Lake which was not very pink.  They have had a lot of overcast, rainy weather recently and for the lake to turn pink (i.e for the algae to be able to grow) they need lots of sunshine.  The beaches were certainly pretty but the water looked cold.  We stopped in at all the lookouts.  We saw a seal at one of the beaches but we haven’t seen any whales for a while.  I think it is probably too late for the whales now.

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The Pink Lake - that wasn't very pink.

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West Beach

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Blue Haven Beach (this was where we saw the seal surfing)

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Eleven Mile Beach

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We did a full day out at Cape Le Grande National Park. We had planned on staying out there for at least one night but they are rebuilding the camp grounds and it is in an awful mess at the moment. Part of the camp ground is still open but everyone is very squashed in.  It will be nice when it is finished – it looks like they are putting in heaps of individual campsites.  It is a very pretty National Park and I would expect in summertime it gets very busy.  The beaches are certainly nice but they had a lot of dead sea grass washed up on them when we were there.

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Le Grande Beach

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Hell Fire Bay

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Cape Le Grande National Park

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Frenchmen's Peak

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Whistling Rock

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Lucky Bay

On the way out to Cape Le Grande National Park we happened upon Stonehenge.  Not the real one but a full size replica.  Of course we had to call in for a look.  All the rock was quarried from across the road to the property where it is nowsituated.  There is a bit of a story to it.  Apparently some fellow down in Albany wanted to build it and had ordered all the stone but then went broke before he could get started.  These people didn’t want to see such beautiful stone leave the district so decided that they would buy the stone and build Stonehenge themselves.  It is really good – I think I like it better than the original in England.  I am not sure if it has something to do with the one in England being four thousand years old and in pieces and this one is only four years old and still intact.

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It was then time to head north again. 

On the way we passed through Grass Patch.  It had a lovely town sign, war memorial statues in town with plenty of off-road parking and picnic tables but no public toilets and was otherwise not a very nice looking little town.

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Bromus Lake just south of Norsemen.  It is also a free camp - there are a lot of free camps in the Goldfield areas and quite good camps too.

We stopped for a quick look around Norsemen and lunch.  We didn't spend too much time there as we will be back before starting across the Nullarbor and if we missed seeing anything we can stop off then.

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Wish I had a horse like Norsemen that could go out and find a gold nugget for me.

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Storm clouds (the storm didn't eventuate) at Lake Cowan Rest Area (Free Camp).  It was only a dry salt lake.

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I think this cheeky little fellow has been fed a few times from a caravan door.  He even called out to you and would take food from your hand.  Naughty Phil!!

We passed through Coolgardie –it is looking very run down and oh, so quiet.  Very few shops open and the only people around were about five or six lots of RVers.  The only real shop open was ‘The Markets’ which was a second-hand shop but they had a lot of second-hand books and were doing a very good business with them as nearly everyone went into the shop and came out with a bag of books.  It is a pity it is getting so rundown as they have some lovely old buildings there.

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Another odd coloured salt lake - this one was yellow/green.

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Main Street in Coolgardie

Next was Kalgoorlie – again we just stopped for a quick look. We wanted to go out to have a look at the Super Pit and went into the Information Centre for some information about the roads.  We were helped by an extremely helpful, obviously, local young lady.  It was certainly a pleasure after dealing with some of the Information Centres up north.  She advised us if we went out to the Super Pit at 12.45p.m. we would be in time to see the next blast so that is what we did.  It was quite interesting and we were pleased that we took her advise. 

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Some grand old hotels in Kalgoorlie - The New York

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The exchange

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The Super Pit - before the explosion

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The Super Pit - after the explosion

We then headed further north to Lake Ballard.  Lake Ballard is a large salt lake basically in the middle of nowhere. An artist, Sir Antony Gormley was commissioned 2003 by the Festival of Perth to create some sculpture as part of their Arts Festival and he chose to placed them around Lake Ballard.

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They are all based on locals from the Menzies area.  There were originally 51 but now there are only 49 and if you walked around to find them all you would spend hours and walk almost all over the lake.  We only did some and walked for about an hour.  There are camp grounds at the lake, free and with pit toilets and picnic tables. It is a lovely spot but probably very hot in summer time.

Our next stop was at a little place called Menzies – about one and a half hours drive north of Kalgoorlie.  Nothing there except for one pub which doubles as the general store, Council Office and the Tourist Information Centre which looks after the bookings for the caravan park (which incidentally is just behind the Tourist Information Centre).  It has only recently been put in by the Council and is very nice but again would be very hot in summer.

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 Entry to Menzies

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The Council Offices - always a grand building

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The Main Street of Menzies- as you can see it is very busy!

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They had these cut out sculptures dotted around the town - actually they had two sets - one told the story of the early white settlers and the other was stories from some of the aboriginal inhabitants about how they dealt with the changes brought about by the gold rushes and white settlement.

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We did a drive up to another little place, Kookynie and which they call the ‘living ghost town’.  It was quite interesting but none of the original buildings are left except for one pub and a couple of other buildings that are now private homes.

 

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Near Kookynie is the Niagara Dam build in 1897.  We had a look around and did the Dam Wall walk which was interesting.  They also have a free camp grounds out there as well but it looks very hot.

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Time to head south to Norsemen and then across the Nullarbor.  We expect to take about 5 or 6 days to cross the Nullarbor and in that time we will probably be out of mobile phone range.  We plan on stopping and seeing everything (or most things) on the way across.

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Weeks 19 & 20

After saying good-bye to our friends in Perth we hit the road again heading back north-east to New Norcia –a Benedictine Monk Monastery.  It was a very interesting spot.  We did the town (it is not actually a town although there is a main highway through the middle of the settlement) tour and then had a look through the Museum and Art Gallery.  They have some very remarkable paintings dating back to the 15th and 16th century.  I couldn’t quite get over the size and style of the buildings. 

 

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The abbey is behind this wall.

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The Girls Boarding School

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One of the paintings in the Art Gallery

Both the girl’s boarding school and the boy’s boarding school had their own chapel as well as the convent and then there was the main church.

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The buildings are all still in quite good condition and are used as much as possible which is good to see.

 We had quite a nice dinner at the hotel.

 

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The Hotel

As the school holidays were about to start we by passed Perth and went straight down to Bunbury hoping to see the south-west corner before the school holidays got into full swing.  We had a couple of days in Bunbury and did a few drives around that area but there is not a lot to see, however, I needed to catch up on some washing (which seems never ending).

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The King Jarrah

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The Tuart Forest - I was expecting a much bigger forest

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We came across this fence which had a great number of stuffed toys hanging onit.e

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The stone fruit trees are all starting to flower.  We have not seen as many wildflowers down here in the south west corner - certainly not the variety we have seen further north.

We then made for Busselton and after finding a reasonable priced caravan park booked in for three days.  Unfortunately it was a long week-end as well as the start of school holidays so most of the caravan park fees doubled and some even higher. 

After arriving in Busselton we checked out the jetty and did the tram ride and the Underwater Observatory.  The Underwater Observatory was really good.

 

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Busselton Jetty

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and Busselton Jetty train

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Taken from the Underwater Observatory

We then spent two very big days seeing everything in the Busselton/Margaret River area.  There are many, many wineries, cheese factories, chocolate places, olive groves etc so takes some time to get around just a few of them.  As well there is Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin lighthouses, lookouts and caves.

 Friday we firstly called into the Chocolate factory....

 

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Chocolate bath salts???

and the Providores store and winery.  They had so much chocolate products – chocolate soap and even chocolate bath salts (I am not sure how that works).

Then the Providores store had so many different jams, chutneys, sauces, both desert and savoury, olive oils and vinegars.  As well as lots of different curry powders, muesli and seasonings.  They did not have a big variety of wine and I didn’t care for their reds too much but they did have a couple of nice white wines. Their Sambarinas (chocolate liqueurs) were all quite nice. Yum.

 Then we called into Cowaramup (otherwise known as ‘Cow Town’) where there are lots of dairy cows and calves all along the main street and in their park.

 

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As well as the black and white cows they also have the ‘Roast on a Pole’ golden cow in the park.  Quite a sight.

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Art in Margaret River (township)

By then we were starting to run out of time so we went straight to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse.  We did the self-guided walk around the lighthouse precinct which was quite interesting.

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They even have a 'pirate' cow at Leeuwin Lighthouse

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The Water Wheel which has calcified and now appears to be made out of stone

b2ap3_thumbnail_0028.JPGOn the way back to Busselton we took a tourist drive through the Boranup Karri Forest and saw some very large (and tall) Karri trees.

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We also called into a couple of little coastal settlements.

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We arrived back at the caravan park at about 7p.m. and luckily we had eaten so much during the day we didn’t feel like much dinner.

Next day was another big day starting off with a trip to the Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse.  It is a much smaller lighthouse and precinct and after a walk around the grounds we did the walk to the Whale lookout.

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We saw a number of whales but most were quite a way off shore.

 

 From the same lookout we also a large rock with a lot of fur seals lazing around.  It was a bit far off to get a photo of them.

 

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Look closely - there are lots of seals of the rock above.

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From Sugarloaf Lookout

We called into Eagle Bay Olives on the way back to Dunsborough and got some more goodies.  We stopped for lunch in Dunsborough and finished lunch off with an ice-cream from Simmo’s Ice Creamery which is about 5 or 6 kilometres out of Dunsborough.  It is a lovely spot especially for kids and their ice-cream was pretty good too.

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We then made our way to Lake Cave where we did the tour of the cave which entailed walking down many, many, many steps and of course what goes down must come up!  I am glad Phil didn’t know about the stairs before we went on the tour but it was well worth it.  On the first part of the tour you actually walk down into a huge cavern created some 500+ years ago when the roof of the original cave collapsed (looks like a huge crater) before you walk down more stairs and enter the actual cave.  The stalagmites and stalactites were spectacular.  I thought I had seen brilliant caves but although this one was only small it was well worth seeing.

 

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After leaving the caves we had just enough time to get to the Blackwood Meadery (five minutes before closing time).  I thought we would be rushed but in the end I wasn’t sure if we were ever going to get away.  The bloke liked to chat and was interesting to talk to about his different meads.  The meads were very nice and of course we couldn’t come away empty handed. Again it was dark by the time we got back to the caravan.  The countryside in this area is very pretty – reminds me very much of the Maleny area or Gold Coast Hinterland.

 Phew!  What a couple of days.

Our next stop was at the Big Brook Arboretum Camp area just outside Pemberton.  It was a really nice camp area set in some very large Karri trees. It was pretty packed being school holidays and the long week-end,  so we were lucky to get a spot.

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Big Arboretum Camp Grounds

On the way from Busselton we called into see the Beedleup Falls.

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Then it was onto The Valley of the Giants and the Tree Top Walk and the walk around the Ancient Trees.  It was really interesting seeing all the old tingle trees.

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We also went for a drive out to the Circular Pool.  It was a lovely drive until we reached the river and I am not sure if the GPS was mistaken and thought the picnic grounds Phil had entered were on the opposite side of the river to where they are or if it thought we could just drive across the river which although there was a road going across it  was quite deep and flowing very swiftly.  Oh well - just another little adventure.  Once we backtracked a few kilometres and found the main road again and then followed the paper map and my directions we did come to the right picnic grounds and carpark for Circular Pool.b2ap3_thumbnail_2295-Country-Scene-Near-Walpole.JPG

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Frankland River 

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Mmmh...... I think that looks a bit too deep to cross

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Circular Pool 

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Yellow Kangaroo paw

We then spent a couple of days in Denmark where Phil spent his birthday.  We went to a winery for lunch for his birthday which was really nice – good food and lovely view.  We went and visited some rather interesting beaches as well as a couple of drives up into the mountains. b2ap3_thumbnail_2318-Swiss-Annies-Chocolates.JPGGardens at Annie's Chocolate Lounge.  It was really nice (so was the chocolate) and they had the story of chocolate on wooden boards around the garden.

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Greens Pool

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Elephant Rocks

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Entering Elephant Cove

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Elephant Cove

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Madfish Beach.  Notice the waves are coming in both directions -no wonder the fish are mad!

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Waterfall Beach

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Denmark

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Wilson Inlet - Denmark is on the opposite side o the inlet

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Ocean Beach

We have been in Albany for the last couple of days.  We spent nearly a full day up at the Heritage Precinct where they have the National ANZAC Centre which has some really good displays on the First World War.  The Australian and New Zealand troops going to the first World War left from the port here and they have been having big centenary services here and doing a lot of upgrades of the war memorials.  We had a look through the Whale Centre which was formerly the last whaling station to close in Australia.  It was interesting.  We also went and had a look at the coast where there are blowholes (not really working when we were there).  There was another road into some rock formations known as the Natural Bridge and the Gap which are at the same place as the lighthouse but the road in and that area was closed to the public as they are building new lookouts.  There were a few other look outs which we went to.  It is quite a spectacular coast line as in places the granite rock goes right down to sea level.

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Stony Hill Lookout

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From Stony Hill Lookout

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Whale World. Cheynes IV the last whaling ship that operated here.

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Heritage Precinct - Part of the Fort originally build in the 1800's.

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Part of the Museum dedicated to the Light Horse - at the Heritage and Old Fort Precinct

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Mt Clarence - Monument to the Desert Mounted Corps

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Beach near the blowholes

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The famous Albany Dog Rock

The caravan park where we are staying at the moment is managed by Queenslanders and this afternoon they invited all the Queensland guests over to watch the Grand Final on their deck.  It was really good to get together and watch a great game of football.  Glad to see the Cowboys won. They seem to have put all the Queenslanders in a little area on our own.  As well as us there are a couple from Kilcoy and two couples from Kingaroy. 

Tomorrow we head off on new adventures up to the Stirling Ranges. The weather has been really good (so everyone keeps telling us - warm and mostly sunny) but it sounds like that might all change tomorrow.  There has been some pretty strong winds and the wind has come up again now - maximum top temperature forecast for tomorrow is 16 degrees.  The coldest we have had all year.

 

 

 

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Weeks 17 & 18

After leaving Kalbarri we decided to call in and visit Prince Leonard’s at his principality of Hutt River. 

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We spent a couple of very interesting hours there having a look around.  On arrival (there were a few people seem to arrive at about the same time)  Prince Leonard came out to greet everyone and explain a little bit about his secession and independence from Australia 1970.  He then hopped behind the counter in the Post Office and checked and stamped Passports and issued Visas.  He is quite amazing for his age (he told us that he is 90).

 

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We passed Hutt Lagoon (or Pink Lake) – it did look quite pink when we passed but unfortunately there was nowhere to stop to take a picture.  We also stopped in at the ruins of the Convict Labour Hire Centre at Port Gregory.  They have restored (rebuilt) one of the buildings and have signs on the other ruins explaining what was originally there.  We also called up to Lynton House which is on Lynton Station (next door to the ruins) to have a look.  It was the first home built in the area and has been left to go to ruin over the years but is now slowly being restored (rebuilt).

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I think their prevailing winds over here come from the south east by the looks of these trees.  We saw a few like this.

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We stopped in at Northampton and as it was getting late we thought we might stay the night there but after finding out that the caravan park (which looked very, very basic) was $35 a night and that it was due to the complaints from the caravan park owner that the rest area (24 hour free camp) was closed down we continued onto Geraldton.  We had a very quick walk around Northampton as there are quite a few historical building there.  We found a lovely caravan park at Drummond Cove which was only $30 a night.  There were a few things in Geraldton which we wanted to see so we immediately set off to see if we could see all that afternoon although the people in the caravan park were happy for us to have a late check-out.

We firstly went out to:- 

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The Moore Point Lighthouse – quite pretty painted red and white.  The beach was quite nice too although it was windy and cold.

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St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral designed by Monsignor Hawes – I liked this cathedral as it was very basic and simplistic and not overly ornate like some cathedrals.  I am not sure about the orange and white stripes - that was a bit different.

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The HMAS Sydney Memorial.  This would be one of the best war memorials I have ever visited.  It was just on sun down when we arrived and I am not sure if that added to the atmosphere but it was very poignant.  It is very well designed with the 645 seagulls representing each of the sailors lost when the HMAS Sydney was sunk depicted in both the main memorial and also the Pool of Remembrance.  I also liked how they had the GPS co-ordinates displayed in the Pool of Remembrance, the bronze statue of the woman looking out to sea (in the exact direction to where the HMAS Sydney lay at the bottom of the ocean) and the stele representing the ship’s bow. 

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We called into Greenough and had a walk around their historical village.  It was well worth the walk around and some of the buildings are still used for various activities. 

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Phil checking out the Magistrate's desk

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The Catholic Church

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From there we took a detour inland (east) looking for the quite rare wreath flower as well as viewing many other wild flowers. 

  Along the way we came across a wind farm – we counted at least 80 wind turbines. 

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Mumbida Wind Farm.  It looked really pretty with the purple flowers, green grass and white turbines.  The purple flowers looked a lot like 'Patterson's Curse' so the farmer probably didn't think it looked very pretty.

They had a stop where you were right under one of the wind turbines and they had a blade on the ground.  You don’t realise how big they are until you are that close.  I am not sure why so many people complain about the noise as they were turning quite well the day we were there and unless you were right underneath them there was very little noise.

Some of the little towns we passed through are on what is called the ‘Painted Highway’ and most have murals painted on the walls of buildings, bus shelters etc or they have sculptures depicting early life in these little places.  It was really interesting and took up quite a bit of time having a look at everything.

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Mingenew

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Church of St Joseph - Perenjori (Designed by Monsignor Hawes)

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Moora

We eventually found the wreath flower and were very pleased that we did eventually find it.  It is a very different plant (and flower).

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I don't think I have ever seen so many BLUE flowers

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Donkey Orchid

We then made our way back to the coast and onto Cervantes to see the Pinnacles. 

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More Stromatolites at Lake Thetis

We were a bit disappointed in the Pinnacles as both of us had thought (or imagined) that they were just off the beach and were in bare sand dunes.  We were surprised at the amount of vegetation around the pinnacles and that they were a kilometres or so inland.  However, we had a good drive around them and took lots of photos. 

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 We have still been seeing heaps of wild flowers:

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These ones looked nice and fluffy but when you touched them they were like wire - a true bottle brush!!

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A Cowslip Orchid

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Cat's Paw

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It was then down to Perth and surrounds.  We have spent the last week with a couple of new friends we met on our cruise in the Kimberley, staying with them on their farm and their house in Mindarie (a suburb in Perth).  Michael very kindly took us driving all along the foreshore and the Swan River as well as up to Kings Park.

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King's Park

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Eternal Flame and War Memorial

We had a day over at Rottnest Island.  We caught the bus around the island and then did the Oliver Hill and Tram Tour. 

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We made our way into the city another day (actually I think it was south Perth) where we caught the ferry across the river to the Bell Tower.  We did the Bell Tower tour which was really interesting especially as one of the bell ringers was still there and showed us how the bells were rung and let us have a go.  They are rebuilding the whole area around the Bell Tower and it is all a construction site and a complete mess.

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The Bell Tower

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Ringing the Bells of St Martin of the Fields

We also had a day down at Fremantle where we ran out of time to see everything.  We did the hop-on hop-off Tram (it is a bus that looks like a tram) Tour which takes you around to the most historic sites and you can hop off and takes photos or do the tours but we didn’t have time to do any of the tours.  We had intended to do the Maritime Museum Tour but they seem to have so much there I think you would need at least 3 to 4 hours to see it properly.  Depending on how our time goes we may call back into Fremantle to see the Maritime Museum.

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 Town Hall & Clock Tower - Fremantle

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The rats are big in Fremantle

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The Old Fremantle Jail

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Any AC/DC fans?  Statue of Bon Scott.

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High Street, Fremantle.  Many if these fine old building are now part of the University of Notre Dame and were bequeathed to the university.

We are not sure if we are going to head east to the Central and South Wheat belt districts or continue down along the coast next – bearing in mind that the school holidays start here next Friday.  Decisions, decisions………………

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Hope this ...

Hope this works as it is my third attempt to add my map photos.
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Ray and Barb : v00587
Can't find the photos Wayne
Friday, 11 September 2015 19:03
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Weeks 15 and 16

We went on a glass bottom boat cruise on the Ningaloo Reef.  The day was really calm so it was good to be out on the water even if only for an hour.  The cruise was really good – we saw lots of coral although not a lot of colours as well as

 

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a clam

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and a Leopard Shark.

As well as lots of different colourful fish.  It was really hard to take photos through the glass asthere were lots of reflections

The coral certainly wasn’t as colourful as we saw on the Great Barrier Reef but then we were probably very spoilt seeing the coral we did when we did our cruise around the Whitsunday Islands.

Phil also had the chance to go fishing two afternoons.  The first afternoon he hooked something that took off for Indonesia.  We didn’t see what it was but it gave him a thrill for a while.  He could stop it and when he tried to reel it in, it just took off again.  Eventually it got rid of the hook – at least he didn’t lose any fishing gear.  Unfortunately that was the only thing he caught.

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We did find some coral close to shore that your could walk around at low tide.  The coral was not terribly good but we did see some strange little crabs.

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That is a 'hairy' crab in the middle of this picture.

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We saw this daddy emu and his chicks (there were actually seven but I couldn't get them all in one picture) just outside the caravan park where we were staying.

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Next was Coral Bay.  There is not a lot at Coral Bay but it does have a beautiful beach.  It even enticed me in for a swim but it was a bit cold.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they feed the fish (Spangled Emperor) off the beach.  A bit like feeding dolphins but everyone is given a few bits to throw in the water.  It was great.  I was standing about knee deep in the water and these big fish were just swimming casually around and in between my feet and around my legs.

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It is so great to have the opportunity to interact with wildlife like that.  Unfortunately the Western Australian DEC is trying to stop it.  It would be a real shame if they stopped it as it is great education for people as before the parks staff started the feeding people were just feeding the fish bread and whatever.  It is a conservation area so just along that beach there is no fishing allowed and the fish are not afraid of people.

We then had a couple of days camping at Point Quobba – another fantastic place. 

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The Point Quobba Lighthouse - it was under going maintenance when we were there and you could not go up to it.

We could have spent a week or more there.  The camps are right on the beach and are controlled by the local council (but you need to be fully self-sufficient as there is no water and the only toilets are at the day use area and are locked at night) who has caretakers onsite during the busy months (and it was only $8 per person per night - a bit different to the prices in the Kimberly district). 

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Even though the ocean was calm the blow holes were great shooting lots of water and spray way up in the air.  Just around the point from the blowholes is an island (it looks like at really low tide you may be able to walk across) which looked to be a real bird haven by the number of birds we could see.  The point is quite rocky and at times there are many, many little tropical fish (as well as a few big ones) swimming in close to the rocks.  Then south along the beach is a coral garden.  At low tide you can walk out around the coral (it was all sandy in between the coral so was easy to walk) and we though the coral here was far better than the coral we saw on Ningaloo Reef.  There certainly was much more coloured coral.

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A (bright) blue Starfish

We did a day trip up to Red Bluff (a bit of fiction as it is not red at all).  We called into the HMAS Sydney monument (it seems like every little place along the coast here now has a memorial or monument for the HMAS Sydney). 

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We saw lots of goats on the way up to Red Bluff – I am not sure if they were all feral or if some are farmed but I saw some of the biggest goats I have ever seen and the horns on some of the billies were massive.

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At one spot where we called into to have a look at the waves breaking on the rocks we saw at least a dozen dolphins surfing in the waves.  They would surf in on the wave and one or two of them would do big back flips out the back of the wave.  Unfortunately they only rode about three or four waves before disappearing further down the beach but I did manage one photo.

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We were able to walk right out to the point (where there were quite a few surfers) and on the way out we saw some whales and this time a couple of them were closer into shore then we had previously seen.  I managed to get one photo.

 

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Red Bluff

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Another goat we saw out at Red Bluff.  It was lying down in the shade of a rock and jumped up in front of Phil - I am not sure which one got the biggest fright.

We had an overnight stop at Carnarvon mainly to stock up on food again.  We went for a walk out on the jetty.  Our original plans were to catch the tram one way, walk the other way and have fish ‘n chips at the café for dinner.  When we got to the jetty at about 3.45p.m. we found the tram stopped running and the café closed at 3p.m.  We still had an enjoyable walk out and back on the jetty which in places is very badly in need of some repair/rebuilding.

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We stayed two nights at the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park not to be confused with the Hamelin Station Camp Grounds.  It was a nice little spot – the caravan park was only small but we also got a tour of the old Telegraph Station.  It is walking distance to the Stromatolites – they are so interesting. 

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Stromatolites- the oldest form of life on earth.

There is also a quarry from where the shell bricks have been cut for some of the early buildings in the district - now apparently they can only cut bricks for restoration work. 

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From Hamelin Pool we also did a day (a very long day) trip out to Steep Point – the most westerly point of mainland Australia. 

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It was very windy.

The wildflowers were absolutely amazing.  We stopped so many times to look at new flowers (well ones we hadn’t seen before) and to take photographs we did not get back to the caravan park until about 7.30p.m. that night. 

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Sand dunes on the way to Steep Point

We went to see the blow holes at False Entrance which were quite hard to find before continuing on through the sand dunes, down past the Rangers Station to Steep Point.

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Not a wise move to stand between two blow holes.

 

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Steep Point Lighthouse

From Steep Point we continued up the eastern/southern side to the Thunder Cave Blowholes. 

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What a scary experience – you walk out to see the blowholes and when a wave comes in all you can hear is – well, thunder, underneath you and then air hissing out of the rocks all around before the water/spray comes up out of the blowhole. 

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The Zuytdorp Cliffs

The road, from basically when you entered the National Park, was horrendous. The road consisted of corrugations and dugout holes (caused by idiot people who don’t let their tyres down and don’t know how to drive on sandy tracks) where the track was sandy and the remainder was over rocks (limestone rocks which have very sharp edges so you really had to stick to the track –if you could see the track) and in parts the track was only a few metres off a cliff with a drop of about 200 to 300 feet to rocks and ocean below.

 

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The sun setting over the sand dunes.

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On the way into Denham

Our next move was to Denham – what a great little town. 

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I found a terrific little shop.  It is the newsagent, clothing store, gift shop, post office, chemist and jeweller all in the one small shop and was staffed by three delightfully friendly women and the chemist who was equally as friendly.  They were rebuilding the jetty while we were there but the town had a very clean, neat and tidy appearance and the people were friendly. 

We went to the Aquarium which we found very interesting. They had some of the fish in aquariums and others just in large tanks which you could stand beside and look in.  They continually had a Marine Biologist going from tank to tank explaining about the fish in each tank.  You went on a tour but just joined in or dropped out whenever it suited you.

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Stone Fish

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We had a day out in the Francois Peron National Park.  There were no where nearly as many wildflowers there as there was along the road to Steep Point but the scenery, especially from Skipjack Point was very impressive.  

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Skipjack Point Lighthouse - They do seem to have strange lighthouses over here – they look like they are missing their tops.

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From the lookout at Skipjack Point we watched a dolphin just causally swimming around

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0275.JPGWe also saw a large sting ray and Phil says he saw a shark (but no one else saw it).  On the return trip to Denham we called into the Peron Homestead for a quick walk around the heritage walk. 

 

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 Cape Peron

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The road to Cape Peron

Next morning we got up early and went across to Money Mia for the dolphin feeding.  Only one dolphin came in while we were there –

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we could see quite a few off shore feeding.  From all comments we heard, there is ever only one or two dolphins come in to be fed and the morning we were there the one that came in did not come in until about 8.30a.m.  I think Monkey Mia is very, very overrated and people who go there especially for a wild dolphin experience must come away very disappointed.

The most interesting part of the morning was watching the dolphin and the pelican/s arguing over who was going to get fed,

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and the staff trying to persuade the pelican/s to leave the beach.....

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So continuing south – we are now at Kalbarri.  It is getting colder, especially at night and early morning as we get further south. 

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We stopped at the Nerren Nerren Rest Area overnight and it was like camping in a (native) botanical garden.

What a change a day makes. We had a shower of rain last night and it was very overcast all day today – haven’t had that kind of weather for months.  Driving south today we came over a hill and left what looked more like desert country with no (large) trees into wheat fields that stretched for miles and trees!!  Some people have said the drive south from the Kimberly is a very boring drive but we have found it to be interesting, I think, due to the many wildflowers that are now blooming.

The wildflowers on the drive into Kalbarri today had to be seen to believed.  We are starting to see a whole lot of new ones again.  Everywhere you looked was wildflowers.  I took too many photos (as usual) but a few of my favourites are:

 

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Lambswool

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Kangaroo's Paw

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Murchinson Rose (I will have to learn the names of the rest)

We drove down along all the coastal lookouts this afternoon and again saw lots of whales travelling south but quite a way out to sea.  The scenery was quite spectacular again. 

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Natural Bridge

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Island Stack

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Tomorrow we are off to do the gorges and lookouts in the National Park before heading south again on Monday.

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Weeks 13 and 14

We took the turnoff into Marble Bar and soon after I began to wonder if I had made the right decision to make a detour of some 300 kilometres return to visit Marble Bar for the sole purpose of being able to say I have been to the hottest place in Australia.  However, once we had reached the Doolena Gorge area the scenery became quite spectacular – very red rocky hills covered in green spinifex.

 

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Reminded me a lot of the Flinders Ranges and MacDonald Ranges.

Marble Bar itself was quite a surprise as well.  A very neat and well kept looking little town with these great carvings on the way into town.

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Be warned though if you are planning to go to Marble Bar make sure you have sufficient provisions with you as there is no supermarket as such.  There is the ‘roadhouse’ which sells fuel, take-away food, groceries and also incorporates the post office.  However when we were there the shelves were very, very bare and when Phil went to order a beef sausage, onion and egg toastie (the closest they advertised to a hamburger) they were out of the ingredients.  There is one pub, the Ironclad

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at which we were going to have lunch until we discovered their restaurant prices!!  There is also a Bistro which we were told was closed for some repairs while the owner was away.

After a good look around Marble Bar with a visit to the Comet Gold Mine (Museum), Jasper Rock area (where you could collect a piece of Jasper), Chinaman Pool

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and Marble Bar Pool (you can easily see why they named it Marble Bar – it is all Jasper Rock)

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we went into Port Hedland where we picked up a new lock for our door which was mailed over to us.  We had intended to stay at the free camp at the Turf Club only to discover that it had been closed.  Oh well, another expensive caravan park.  This one was not too bad though – only $35 for a powered site but a very old park with small sites and very basic amenities.

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This was the Catholic church.  They tell a story about the cross on the church.  The builder had a short ladder and could only just reach where the cross was to be nailed.  He nailed it up but it fell down.  He nailed it up again, but it fell down.  The third time, just before he nailed it, he looked up to the heavens and called out 'If it falls down again you can put it up'.  The cross is still there.

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Wildflowers at the Flying Fox Lookout

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Marble Bar from the Water Tank Lookout

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The new door lock proved to be a bit more difficult to install than we were led to believe but a call to a friendly locksmith soon had the problem sorted.  So then it was off to see the sights of Port Hedland.  We stopped at the lookout to see the Rio Tinto Salt Mine.

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Any one for some salt?

 

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One of the many Iron Ore trains

Next we went to the Fincune Island lookout – it is where you can see the big ships coming into port but we had just missed the last one.  

We also had to find a hardware store to buy a new smoke alarm.  There are only two in Port Hedland and the one we needed was in South Hedland, of course. South Hedland looks to be a new development with a large Aquatic Centre, skate park, stadium with football field and net ball courts, a good sized shopping centre with a Kmart (I am not sure what other shops as Phil quickly drove past it) and learning/training facilities.  It all looks very new and shiny with landscaped streets and gardens.

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We went on the Seafarers Harbour Cruise later in the afternoon.  The Seafarers is an interesting organisation.  This one in Port Hedland comes under the umbrella of the Church of England but does have other religious ministers there but they offer their services to anyone   It caters for the sailors on the big iron ore carriers when they are in port by providing the opportunity for them to come ashore(they have a boat that goes out to the ships and picks them up and then returns them – this is the boat we went on) where they organise shopping trips and provide internet services etc.  They have a coffee shop/bar area and a couple of rooms with pool or billiard tables for the sailors as well.  It was interesting getting up close to the big ore carriers.  They are massive.

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It was then another detour east to the Karijini National Park.  On the way we had a great free camp at Albert Tognolini Lookout area.  There are quite a few camp areas along a ridge with great views down over the Munjina East Gorge.  It was very scenic with the red, red soil, green spinifex and white trunked snappy gums and many wild flowers.

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All along this section of the road the wildflowers were absolutely amazing.  It was like driving through God’s cottage garden.  Everywhere you looked was a maze of flowers of every shade of pink and purple that you could imagine together with some white and yellow ones and with the amazing back drop of the red stony soil and green spinifex.  We even saw quite a lot of Sturt’s Desert Pea – the first time we had seen it growing in the wild.

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We got into Karajini (Dales Gorge Camping Area) quite early so had no trouble getting a site.  They have camp hosts there in the busy times checking people in and out and allotting site numbers – very well organised.

 

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Fortescue Falls

We walked down to the bottom of Fortescue Falls and then decided to walk along the gorge floor to the other end (Circular Pool) then climb back up to the top and do the walk along the rim back to the carpark at Fortescue Falls.  It was quite a good walk and I am glad we did it that way as the climb back up was much harder (cement steps and/or steps cut into the gorge wall or just climb the cliff) than the walk down at Fortescue Falls end (good cement steps and brand new iron steps and walk way).

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Dales Gorge

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The walk down into Dales Gorge at Fortescue Falls

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Circular Pool

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Phil next to a large termite mound

Next day we drove to the other gorges starting at Kalaminia Gorge, we didn’t walk down to the bottom as it did not look very inviting,

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then Joffre Gorge – quite amazing with the terrace walls.  We didn’t climb down this one either as the climb down was down the cliff wall (no actual track – just markers) and when you got to the bottom there was just a swimming hole.  We watched some people climbing down and it looked hard.

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I am not sure if you can pick out the people climbing down but that is the walk down into Joffre Gorge

Next was Junction and Oxer Lookouts which look down over the meeting of Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Joffre Gorge, Knox Gorge and Wittennoon Gorge.  There was some sort of walk down into Hancock Gorge and we did hear people down there but it came with all sorts of warnings so we decided to give it a miss as well.  These gorges were all quite different to what I was expecting.  They are not gorges formed between mountains but more like creeks/rivers eroded very deeply.

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From there we drove up to Mt Bruce (Western Australia’s second highest mountain) and climbed part of the way up to where we had a good view of the Marandoo Iron Ore Mine. 

Again there was just masses of wildflowers.

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Mount Bruce

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Phil with some people we met up with from Monto and Toowoomba

The following day we went over to Tom Price, again quite a nice little mining town.  I was amazed at how green both Tom Price and Marble Bar were.

After look around Tom Price we went out to Hamersley Gorge which was my pick of the gorges.  Very different to the other gorges.

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More wildflowers at a lookout on the way to Tom Price

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Hamersley Gorge

We climbed down to the bottom. The climb started off on very well made steps (looks to be recently made), then deteriorates to concrete steps that gradually get worse the further down you went to eventually you walk over the rocks, some of which are very smooth and slippery even when dry.

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It was well worth the walk down as the scenery and the rock formations are incredible.  The buckle in the rocks was caused many millions of years ago when two continents collided.  It must have been some crash!

 

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See the 'yellow' dot to the right of the photo - that is the path.

After Hamersley Gorge we completed a round trip by going through Wittenoon back to the Great Northern Highway and finally back to Dales Gorge.  There is not much left at Wittenoon although it did look like a couple of houses were lived in.  There is still erected, about 10 kilometres either side of Wittenoon, warning signs saying that you are entering an asbestos area and should wear breathing apparatus and protective clothing.

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Wittenoon

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I'm glad we didn't meet this bloke on a narrow road!

Hopefully we won’t see too much more dust.  I am not sure if we will ever get all the red dirt off the car or caravan. Even Phil is complaining about the red dust.

 

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Sunrise at Dales Gorge - yes I was up that early

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We arrived in Karratha and checked into the Karratha Caravan Park.  Green lawn at last!!

 

One of the batteries in the caravan had packed it in so Phil was off battery shopping while I caught up on some washing and caravan cleaning.

 We went out to Murujug National Park on the Burrup Peninsula to see the aboriginal petroglyphs.  I couldn’t believe the number.  The rocks were amazing too – it just looked like they had been dumped there.  When you looked at the rocks you would see one petroglyph and then the more you looked the more you saw.

 

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Of course being so close to Dampier we had to call out to see the Red Dog Statue 

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and we also went for a drive along the waterfront.  Dampier has quite a big port, loading iron ore and salt.  It looks a very old town.  We counted at least eight three storey blocks of units that look abandoned.  There are a lot of new houses in Karratha all with the big boy toys parked in the drive ways.  A typical mining town.

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Dampier Port

Rio Tinto has big salt pans here and along the road some people have used their imagination and created artwork in the salt.

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We also called out to Woodside’s North West Oil and Gas Information Centre which is at their facility on the Burrup Peninsula.  It is mind blowing reading about the oil and gas rigs out in the ocean and how they process the oil and gas.  Just their plant which you can see from the Information Centre seemed to be one big mass of pipes.

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We travelled out to Port Samson and Cossack as well.

Cossack, which is at the mouth of the Harding River, was the original port in this area servicing Pearl Luggers and general goods.  Cossack was all but destroyed by a cyclone in 1898 and was rebuilt but the port silted up and they then built a long jetty at Port Samson.  So that spelt the end for poor old Cossack.

 

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After the cyclone in 1898 they commenced rebuilding the buildings at Cossack in stone and some have now been restored as a historical site.  From Port Samson you could see Cape Lambert where they have built a very long jetty, 2.7 kilometres, from which more iron ore is loaded for export. 

When you see the amount of iron ore being exported from here and the amount of coal being exported from Queensland you begin to wonder if there is going to be anything of Australia left soon.

 

We arrived in Exmouth on Saturday and immediately set about exploring the Cape Range (National Park).  Exmouth is not what I was expecting – although I am not quite sure what I was expecting – but it so very flat and barren looking and hardly any trees even in the town.  I think I was expecting more of a little seaside village but although it is close to the ocean it is set back from the beach a little.  There are a few houses now being built close to the shore.  It is very spread out and hardly any shopping centre.  It has an IGA and an IGA Express almost side by side.  It has big sporting fields and a nice park and swimming centre.  Even in the centre and older part of the town what trees there are look like they have only been planted for a few years and are still very small.

 

When you are driving into Exmouth the Cape Range does not look all that big but once you drive up onto or into it is quite high.  The first road we took being the Charles Knife Gorge Road goes up and over the range and you look down into all these gorges which are very steep and rocky and bare. 

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The second road, Shothole Canyon Road goes up the bottom of one of the gorges.  It was very good as each gave a different perspective of the gorges.  The road along the bottom of the gorge was very rough as it was mainly along a creek bed.

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I have been saying that after doing some of the bush walks over here I am starting to feel like a mountain goat.  Well, I spotted a real one on our drive through Cape Range.

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Sunday morning saw us visiting the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse. 

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It was very windy and quite cold at the lighthouse but you could see for a long way.  We counted five oil rigs on the horizon and also briefly saw some whales well off shore.  Actually today we saw more wildlife then we have anywhere else on this trip.

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Next we went to Yardie Creek.  They do have a cruise that goes up the gorge but it does not go very far.  We did the walk which gave a good view of the gorge and most of the walk was quite easy.  We then called into quite a few of the beaches – all very nice and quite different.  The reef (Ningaloo) is quite close to the beach and in some places almost comes up to the beach.

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There were a lot of people snorkelling, fishing and swimming   Being Sunday I think all the locals were over there.  They claim all the National Park Camps are full but when we had a drive around we saw about 5 or 6 empty spaces and we did not go into all the camp areas. 

And, of course we found some new wildflowers. I did expect there to be more here in the National Park.

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We are here in Exmouth for two nights, then going across to the other side to the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park probably for one night before continuing south.

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Weeks 11 and 12

We are now back from our cruise aboard the Kimberley Xplorer and we had a great eight days cruising.  It was quite different to what I was expecting.  The distances between the sights was much greater then I was expecting and the tides did not make landing on or getting off the beach very easy.  It was low tide early morning and late afternoon when we really needed it to be high tide early morning and late afternoon.  It was also full moon, something none of us considered when we were booking the trip but at full moon the tides are the highest and lowest i.e. the high tide is 9 to 10 metres and drops to about 3 to 4 metres.  That is a lot of water rushing around and made fishing a little difficult.

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Our crew - Greg the Skipper, Jodie our cook and Scotty our deckie.

 

We set off leaving Derby port at about 9.30/10.00 a.m Wednesday morning.

 

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On the way to our first night's  (and second) camp, which was on a beach in Cone Bay we passed the Cone Bay Barramundi Fish Farm.

 

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 Marooned on the beach – now which way do we go?  After taking in the tents, swags etc and the first lot of passengers the tide had gone out too far to land on the beach in front of our camp so we had to be dropped off around the corner.

 

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The final landing party.

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Collecting oysters as we walked around the point to our camp on the beach.  They were truly delicious.  I don’t think I have ever had such large, tasty oysters and you could not get them any fresher.

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Jodie setting up her beach kitchen as the sun set and the moon rose.

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And the camp fire was lit as we watched the sun set over the Indian Ocean.

 Next morning as we waited for the tide to come in far enough to get the dinghy on the beach we watched a crocodile casually cruising past our beach – convincing everyone not to go for an early morning dip.  After boarding the big boat again we headed off for some fishing at Razor Rocks.

 

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After a few fish were caught and we were not getting any more bites we wound in the fishing lines and set off across the waters to Banicoat Island for a swim.

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The water was very clear but to be on the safe side we were advised to not to go any deeper than waist deep (at that depth you could see what was in the water – always on the lookout for sharks and crocodiles). A lovely spot. 

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 We anchored on the eastern side for a swim but you could walk across the sand dunes to the western side in about five minutes.

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We were surrounded by all these fish – whiting, mullet and bream which would swim very, very close if you stood still for a few moments.

After our swim we tried another spot closer to camp to fish but the tide was running too quickly so we were taken back to our camp on the beach before the tide went out too far.

 

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We watched the full moon rise behind our camp –quite impressive rising up behind the rocks and boab tree and the sun set off the beach.  The moon was extremely bright –lying in our tents at night it was like a very bright light shining.  It made it a bit difficult to sleep as our tents were not more than mosquito nets.

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Next morning we needed to roll up our swags and pack up camp and take everything back to the boat.  We then cruised through Whirlpool Pass – a narrow ‘S’ shaped passage.  The scenery was great and we also had a few more whirlpools to travel through.

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We called into an isolated camp ‘Silver Gull’(in the eighties a couple of alternate lifestylers squatted on this piece of land which is owned by the water commission and built a camp which now consists of a makeshift house, helicopter landing pad, quite an impressive garden, and a couple of cement water tanks).  Nearby is a hot spring which they have piped into one of these cement tanks where you can swim (more appropriately sit).  They have also built a small gift shop where they sell T-shirts, stubby holders etc.  The wife died last year and there is now another couple caretaking the property and it appears that the water commission may now evict them.  Our boat filled up with fresh water there and quite a number of yachties and fishermen use these facilities if they are in need of assistance.

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A loo with a view at Silver Gull

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There are some amazing rock formations around this area.

 

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 Koolan Island (Mine)

Nearby are Cockatoo Island and Koolan Island both of which are (or were) mined for iron ore.  Apparently the iron ore on these islands is of very high quality.  I understand that presently both mines have closed.  Koolan Island had mined down to ground level and then continued on mining deeper and recently the sea wall (separating the sea from the mine) collapsed and filled the mine with water around the same time as the price for iron ore fell.  They have now stopped production and it is not known if they will start back up again.

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The collapsed sea wall.

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Greg then put his foot down and we sped up to the Horizontal Falls hoping that we would arrive in time to do the Horizontal Falls ride in the afternoon as the tide was low and the ride would be more exciting.  We made it in time and had to wait about 20 to 30 minutes for the boat to come to pick us up for our ride.  While waiting a Tawny Nosed shark came up to our boat and Scotty hand fed it some squid (the fishermen/women were not too impressed with him feeding their bait to a shark) from the back of our boat.

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It was then off the big boat for our ride through the Horizontal Falls.  What a great ride.  It was a bit difficult to take photos as I was too busy hanging on.  It was too dangerous to go through the second opening but we went up to it for a look.  It was great fun – I would do it again for sure.

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We then went to a nice safe anchorage for the night and again watched the moon rise. 

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Our first night on the boat.  The swags consisted of two double swags and the rest were singles.  We were lucky enough to get one of the double swags as it meant we got the luxury accommodation on the boat.  The people with the single swags either slept on the floor downstairs or on steel bed frames up on the top where we were.  We had the extra cushions.

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The moon was still up at sun rise the next morning.

We rolled up our swags and set off for our next beach camp at Raft Point. 

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Because of the tides we dropped off Scotty (and one of the passengers who did not want to go for a walk) and the swags and tents to set up camp while the rest of us stayed aboard the boat and went around the corner for a walk to an aboriginal art site.  It was not a long walk but it was pretty steep.

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 Raft Point

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On the walk up to the aboriginal rock art we encountered a Racing goanna.

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You will notice that some of the art work looks new (and bright).  The local aboriginal people have now started to touch up and redo some of the art as it is fading and eroding and thus disappearing.

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Of course we had to collect some fire wood on the way back to the boat. 

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It was then back on the Kimberley Xplorer for the short trip back to our camp for the night.

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Raft Point Camp

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Of course we again went collecting oysters – only this time they were nowhere as big as those collected at Cone Bay.

This amazing rock formation was just out from our camp on the beach and in the late afternoon sun it looked just like the ruins of an old castle.

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Jodie in her outdoor kitchen again.  She cooked up some great meals in pretty primitive conditions.

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Again we watched the moon rise.  Talk about a big bright Kimberley moon!

 

Next morning we had breakfast on the beach and while we were waiting for the tide to rise enough to get the dinghy ashore some of us went for a walk (climb) up the rocks where we spied an osprey’s nest.  It is not nesting season but there were two ospreys there.

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We spent the day cruising and fishing up to and at the Three Rivers – not really rivers just an inlet that splits three ways.  We only caught a few fish again as the tide was running too fast. 

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the one that didn't get away.

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Scotty cleaning the catch.

So it was back to the beach before the tide went out too far.

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Hello …. What’s that I see on our beach?

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Yes, it was a crocodile – actually there were two but the first dinghy landing scared the other one into the water.  Definitely no swimming this afternoon or beach walks.  They cruised around in front of the camp for a while but we were camped far enough back from the beach for them not to come near us, thankfully.

Next morning it was roll up the swags again and wait for the tide to come in far enough to land the dinghy and get everyone and everything back on board the Kimberley Xplorer.  That was our last night camping on the beach.  The next two nights were planned to stay on the boat.

 

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All packed and ready just waiting for the tide.

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After boarding the Kimberley Xplorer we went up to the Sale River – our most northerly point.  It was quite amazing up the river.  We cruised up as far as we could in the big boat and then got into the dinghies and went further up almost to where the water goes from salt to fresh.  We then went for a short walk through some rainforest (the only rainforest we saw) to a little creek where there were some small water falls.  We were able to have a cool off in the pools there.  They were not much deeper than about knee deep.  There were no crocodiles there but back down in the river there were.  Some who did not want to do the walk did some fishing but didn’t catch anything.  Part of the Sale River are like going through a gorge with high red cliffs on either side.

 

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It was then back on the Kimberley Xplorer and off to another safe anchorage and another look at the sun setting.

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Next morning was an early start as we wanted to be at the Montgomery Reef about an hour before low tide.  What a sight!!  Montgomery Reef covers an area of approximately 400 square miles most of which is covered at high tide and exposed at low tide.

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There is a channel through the reef and we took the big boat up as far as we could before boarding the dinghies again and going up as far as was safe to do so.  This time only three plus the driver went in each dinghy so that we could all get a good look at the reef.  At first it just looks like rocks and mud but when you get closer it is all coral.  There is not much colour in the parts that are constantly exposed to the sunlight but you could see deeper down some brilliantly coloured coral.

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It was amazing to look at the reef towering above us in the dinghy and to realise that at high tide the whole reef is under water!  As the tide goes out there are all these rivers as the water drains off the reef.  These cause huge swirls and fierce currents that could easier tip a boat over.

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Reluctantly we had to go back to the boat and let the next lot of passengers have a look.  We also saw many turtles there (mainly green backs but there are also some leather backs as well).  While waiting on the boat we also saw this Stokes Sea Snake.

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Cruising through the more open waters we also saw humpback whales but none very close and they didn’t hang around the surface for long.

After the excitement of seeing Montgomery Reef the rest of the day was pretty quiet.  We actually cruised most of the day back towards Derby.  A south easterly wind had come up which made is a bit rough in the open waters. 

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We did call into a beautiful white silica sand beach for a quick swim before going to a safe anchorage at the Inland Sea – an area where you pass through a small passage which opens out to quite a large sheltered area.  Unfortunately the wind came up again during the night and blew things about a bit including the dinghy against the boat so the crew were up securing it up out of the water.

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Of course there was one last sunset from the boat

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Next day we returned to Derby.

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About to go through Hells Gate again.

We spent another day in Derby restocking the fridge and cupboards and washing.  They had markets Thursday night which we went to for a look.  It was mostly food stalls so we had dinner there.  They weren’t bad markets for a small town.

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Some wild flowers along the road.

Friday we set off for the next leg of our adventure.  We spent Friday night in a free camp and Saturday we came onto Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park.  Beautiful caravan park (in the middle of nowhere) and beautiful beach. 

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Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park - these are the unpowered sites and the newer section.

Lots of shells to collect and Phil tried fishing but could only manage to hook two sting rays. 

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At least he was happy he caught something.  There were lots of people fishing but we didn’t see too many fish being caught.  It is so nice here at Eighty Mile Beach I wish we could stay for a few weeks but we must keep going.

 

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Western Australia Trip - Week 10

After some retail therapy Monday morning we went on the 2.00 p.m. tour of the Willie Creek Pearl Farm.  Again we found it very interesting. 

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The pearl sitting in the oyster shell after it was removed.

 

At the conclusion of the tour they showed us the end result and allowed some to try on the jewellery.  The necklace I tried on was one of the cheaper ones, only $3,500 – probably the most expensive item of jewellery I will ever wear.  It was made up of irregular shaped pearls which is what decreased it value.

 

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We then went for a drive up to check out a couple of free camps further north at Barred Creek and Quondong Point.  There is a road which links Barred Creek and Quondong Point which was really a 4WD track and obviously not used too often. However, the road back from Quondong Point to Marani Road and Cape Leveque Road was not too bad so we decided that we would go up to Quondong Point for a couple of nights.

The time we spent in Broome the weather was very, very windy.  The nights and mornings were quite cool but the days were warm to hot.

We did not have much planned for Tuesday so took our time in getting organised only to get in the car to go out to discover a flat battery.  They always seem to have the knack of going flat when you least expect it.  At least we were at the caravan park and not in an isolated place.  A phone call to RACQ has the matter under control but we spent another couple of hours sitting around waiting.

 

Quondong Point turned out to be very nice.  We managed to get a camp stop right on the cliff overlooking the beach.  There were quite a few camps and I think most of them were ignoring the supposedly 72 hour camping limit as they looked like they had been there for some time and were not moving anywhere soon.  We saw whales which were a little way out and a bit hard to see without binoculars and one afternoon we had some dolphins playing in quite close to the beach.

b2ap3_thumbnail_0934-Quondong-Point-View-from-front-of-caravan.JPG The view from our caravan door at Quondong Point

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Looking South from our camp site - Quondong Point

We came back to Broome or more appropriately the Broome’s Gateway Caravan Park which is about 20 kilometres east of Broome.  We came back there as we could leave our van there while we went up to Middle Lagoon and Cape Leveque for only $7 per night.  It is also much cheaper than the caravan parks in Broome but the only drawback is there are no powered sites.

It is quite ironic that the Broome Council does not provide any freedom or budget camps near Broome and resents having to allow the three overflow camps to operate in the busiest times but the information bay on the way into Broome is completely packed with backpacker cars and vans every night and obviously a blind eye is turned to them.  I would hate to call into the information bay as there are no toilet facilities there so one can only imagine the stench and mess that would be there.  Welcome to Broome!!

We had been told that Middle Lagoon was really nice but we found it to be only average.  The beaches were nice but the camp grounds were pretty ordinary and the road in was horrendous.  We had two nights at Middle Lagoon where Phil tried to catch a fish.  Well he was mildly successful – he caught two long toms of reasonable size but he considers them to be too bony to eat so it was catch and release.

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The road into Middle Lagoon - glad we weren't towing the caravan.

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Middle Lagoon

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The second bay at Middle Lagoon

We stopped in at Beagle Bay on the way to Cape Leveque.  It looks a well cared for community with lawns and well maintained buildings and yards.  The Scared Heart Church is really spectacular.

 

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The altar is inlaid with Mother of Pearl

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The Cape Leveque Road.  We have since heard that the Government have approved the sealing of the Cape Leveque Road and the Gibb River Road.  I think it will change the whole Cape Leveque area and probably not for the better.

Kooljaman at Cape Leveque was one of the best spots we have been to.  It is well worth the money and the road to get there.  The people are friendly and it is one of the few places where the camp grounds looked better in real life than on the internet photos.  We had booked a beach shelter which was right on the beach and the scenery was magnificent. 

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'Ongoe' our beach shelter

 

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Looking out from our beach shelter

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Looking north from our beach shelter

We were on the eastern side of the cape so we could watch the sun rise over water (just like on the east coast of Australia).  Just a short drive (or a walk) you were on the western side of the cape and could watch the sun set over water and sit and marvel at the beautiful red cliffs.  I think they are just as good if not better than Rainbow Beach or the coloured sands on Fraser Island.  You cannot walk around the top of the cliffs as they are a scared site but after viewing them from the bottom I doubt you could walk around the top anyway because they look very fragile.

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Sun Rise

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0963.JPG The western beach at Cape Leveque

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The Cape Leveque Lighthouse.  It still operates - all automatic of course but is situated in the camp grounds.

We went swimming (yes, even I went in the water) – it was beautiful.  We had two nights at Kooljaman but we could have stayed forever. 

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Swimming at Cape Leveque.

We went for a drive up to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm and also One Arm Point.  Just north of One Arm Point is a lookout ‘Round Rock Lookout’ where you can watch the second fastest tide in the world run out (or in).  I have never seen water moving so fast. 

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The rushing tide from Round Rock Lookout.

Unfortunately after two days we had to face the dreaded Cape Leveque Road and return to our caravan at Broome’s Gateway Caravan Park.  We needed a day to catch up on some shopping and washing.  We also had a visit to Malcolm Douglas Wildlife Park.  It is only open from 2.00pm. to 5.00p.m. each day.  They do a crocodile feeding and tour at 3.00p.m. which goes for at least an hour so it does not give you very much time to walk around and see the other crocodiles and the many birds which they have in big aviaries.  It was very interesting as they go into a lot of details about the crocodiles and they also have some fresh water crocodiles and some American alligators to demonstrate the difference between the species.  They certainly have some big crocodiles– most of which were captured because they had become a menace in populated areas around the north west.

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Well this one wasn't very big ...... 

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...........but these ones were.

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I finally got to go for my camel ride on Cable Beach. 

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 It was good although I wouldn’t call it exciting but it was something I wanted to do for sometime.  Phil couldn’t go as they have a weight restriction of 95 kilos so he was the photographer for me.

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We now go back to Derby and we leave on our cruise next Wednesday.

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Western Australia Trip Weeks 8 and 9

 

Monday morning we went to see the sights of Derby.  First up we went out to the Prison Boab Tree

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Derby Prison Boab Tree

and Myall Trough.

b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0345.JPG Myall Trough - it could water 500 head of cattle at the one time.

We drove  to the Joonjoo Botanical Gardens but they looked very dry and dusty and as it was very hot we decided to give them a miss.  Likewise with the wastewater wetlands.  Again it did not look inviting and seemed a bit of a mish mash with little goat track roads going in every direction.  We went to see the ‘Dinner Tree’ instead and decided to go back there to watch the sunset.

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Phil doing his exercises half way along the walk to the Derby jetty.

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The Main Road through Derby.

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These little fellows were camped in a tree next to our caravan in the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park, Derby

Tuesday was spent re-organising the back of the truck and packing up our camping gear.  Then Wednesday morning we set off from Derby on the Gibb River Road bound for Windjana Gorge.  We arrived around lunchtime and after obtaining our camping permit (self-registration) we set up camp and had a relaxing afternoon. I am glad we arrived early as by late afternoon the camp ground was getting packed out.  It was interesting watching people pull in and set up camp.  The Windjana Gorge Camp Ground with the backdrop of the Napier Ranges is lovely.

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The facilities are quite good also but not nearly enough with the number of people staying.  It was the first week of the Northern Territory’s school holidays and a few people we spoke to from WA had taken their kids out of school a week early.

 First thing next morning we went down to Tunnel Creek – about half an hour’s drive down a rough road.  The Gibb River Road was good, even excellent in some parts, but with a few rough patches.  However, every side road we took was incredibly rough!  Definitely 4WD. 

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The road to Tunnel Creek

We did the walk through Tunnel Creek which was great.  We had to wade through some water but it was not quite up to my knees in the deepest parts – I was expecting it to be deeper.  In the first part the water was icy cold and you could feel the wind whistling through the tunnel but in the second part the water was warmer and no wind.  In the second part there were quite a few stalactite type of formations so you had to keep stopping and shining your torch around and on the ceiling.  We saw a couple of micro-bats and some people claim they saw a fresh water crocodile but we didn’t see it. 

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 Entrance to Tunnel Creek

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There is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Now we have to go back the way we came.

We were back at camp by lunch time so we then went for a walk down to Windjana Gorge – only about five minutes walk from the camp grounds.

Windjana Gorge is part of the Napier Ranges.  360 Million years ago when this area was part of the ocean the Napier Ranges were a Great Barrier Reef.  Since then the ocean has disappeared and erosion has helped create these magnificent high limestone (coral) cliffs.  When you stand back and look at the cliffs it is just like looking at a reef.  The cliffs are so high that when you walk beneath them they make you feel very small and insignificant.

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 Entry to Windjana Gorge

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Windjana Gorge

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Fossil of a seashell in the wall at Windjana Gorge

There was a mud island in the middle of the Lenard River, which cuts through the Napier Range to form Windjana Gorge, and this island was just littered with fresh water crocodiles.  We stopped counting when we reach 50.

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We were speaking to a ranger later that afternoon who was telling us that they did a count of the number of fresh water crocodiles a couple of weeks earlier and they counted 162 just in this one small area of the river.  A bit further on, the water in the river crosses over to the other side and we walked across a sand bank and all along the edge of the water, lying in the sun were more crocodiles. They weren’t scared of people at all.  Usually fresh water crocodiles are very timid and disappear as soon as they spot you. These ones didn’t and you could walk up to within about three or four feet from them and they didn’t move.  Mind you, no one was game to go swimming!

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 There were some very dirty cockatoos at Windjana Gorge - I am not sure how they came to be so grubby.

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Kimberley Moon

Next morning we did the Savannah Walk which took about half an hour and basically goes from the camp grounds across to the cliffs, then along the bottom of the cliffs and returns to the camp ground via the start of the walk into the gorge.  We then did the gorge walk, or all that you could do.  Apparently the last west season caused a lot of erosion damage and now they have an infestation of weeds so the walk ends abruptly about one kilometre short of the end of the gorge.  The walk was not too bad except it was mostly soft sand.  The exercise was good.

I am convinced every bush walk in the Kimberley is through soft sand, scrambling up a mountain or climbing down a cliff, all without a maintained track.  And of course, what goes up must come down and vice versa.  We have not found one circuit track, so you must come back the way you went.  So we have had some interesting experiences and have been keeping fit.

 

 After reluctantly leaving Windjana Gorge our next stop was the camp grounds at Silent Grove(and Bell Gorge).  The camp ground at Silent Grove is much the same as the one at Windjana Gorge but without the view.  After setting up camp we drove on to Bells Gorge and Falls.  The National Parks website says it is an easy walk to the top of the falls – well I would hate to do one of their hard walks!!  The first part was down a hill/slope strewn with rocks so you had to watch and be careful every step of the way, then the last part was along a rocky creek.  It was very nice at the top of the falls once you got there but to get to the bottom of the falls (where most people were swimming) you had to find a way across the creek then scale a mountain, although not very big one, which is made up of mostly very smooth (and slippery) rock, then find your way down a cliff.  I am still debating if the view of the waterfall from the bottom, although very good, was worth the effort to get there.

 

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The walk down to the bottom of the Bell Falls

 

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Bell Falls
From Silent Grove we went up to Manning Gorge Camp Ground.  This is on aboriginal land and is run by the local community.  However, they have a caretaker looking after it.  It is quite expensive at $20 per night per person.  There are no powered sites and it is just a bush camp.  They have a small amenities block of three toilets (septics) and showers for each of the men’s and women’s.  There is only a small hot water system (so most people had a cold shower) and when the generator goes off at about nine o’clock at night so does everything else including flushing the toilets.  It was totally inadequate for the number of people there the night we stayed.  There would have been in excess of 100 people camping as it was school holidays.

 

 As it was late morning when we arrived at the Manning Gorge Camp Ground we decided to leave the walk to the Manning Gorge until next morning when we would get up early and do it in the cool.  There were signs up saying it was approximately a three hour walk return and very hot.  We then went for a drive up to the Mt Barnett Gorge.  Again quite an adventure to successfully complete the walk.  From the carpark, where some people were setting up camp, we crossed a dry creek bed then came to another area where people had been camping (illegally??) and there were paths leading off in every direction.  We took one which led a short way down to the river/waterhole but you could go no further.  So we then retraced our steps and found another path and just as we started off we met some other people who told us to follow the piles of rocks or cairns.  So we did this and eventually came to a rocky outcrop where a long way below we could see a beautiful water hole and a bit further up the river you could see where there would have been a waterfall if there had been a proper wet season.  There were people below us swimming but as the walk had been difficult and did not look like it was going to get any easier, we decided not to try to find our way down and so returned to the car.

 

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Walk to Mt Barnett Gorge

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Mt Barnett Gorge

The walk next morning to the Manning Gorge became quite an adventure.  We were told to go on the walk you had to firstly swim across the river.  Okay that ruled me out.  Then we were told there was a boat on a pully system to get across the river if you did not want to or could not swim.  Great.  We got up early to go for the walk and as we were about to leave camp the caretaker came along and said if we were going on the walk we would need to swim the river as the boat had or had been sunk (either way it was at the bottom of the river).  So we went for a walk down to the river to have a look.  By this stage the caretaker had salvaged the boat.  However, the weld down the back of the boat had split from people constantly hitting the rock on the opposite bank.  It was not going to be back in service that day.  We decided to pack up camp and start to make our way back to Derby. Just as we had finished packing up camp the caretaker came along again, very excited, telling us that ‘some old fellow who had been there previously had found a path across the river where you didn’t even have to get your feet wet’.  That sounded a much better option to swimming across so off we set following some other people.  After about twenty minutes we eventually found the way across the river and back to the start of the track.  The walk was about three kilometres up rocky hills/mountains and down again but we eventually came to a beautiful water hole and falls.  Then the tricky bit started – getting down the rocks to the falls area.  It was not easy especially for people with short legs.  Phil enjoyed a swim there – it was a very, very deep hole and quite cold - before we made our way back to camp.

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The Boat

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The walk to Manning Gorge

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Manning Gorge Waterfall

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Walked all this way - may as well have a swim.

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Manning Gorge

As we were running a bit later than expected we called into the Mt Barnett Roadhouse for lunch.  We had heard the food was good there and it did not disappoint.  Our plan was to stop at Galvan and Adcock Gorges on the way back to Derby.  We stopped at Galvan which is only one kilometre off the road.  The easiest and shortest walk we have done in a long time.  When we reached the end there was only a trickle of water going over the falls and lots of people.  On the way back to the car we were speaking with another tourist who said they had just come from Adcock Gorge and it was very similar and no more water going over the falls so after our expedition earlier in the day we gave the Adcock Gorge a miss.  We stopped the night at a good free camp at March Fly Glen.  It is in the middle of the Leopold Ranges and surrounded by high sand stone cliffs made up of what looks like white and red blocks.  Quite spectacular especially at sunset or sunrise. 

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Galvan Gorge

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Water Monitor - found on the way to Galvan Gorge

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King Leopold Ranges

Next day it was back to Derby and cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.  It is so dry and very, very dusty over here.  I am starting to long for some lawn or even just green grass.  I am not sure if the car and caravan will ever be clean again.  It is no use washing them at the moment as they would be just as dirty again in a day or so.

 

 b2ap3_thumbnail_DSC_0388.JPGAnother sunset from Derby Jetty

Last Wednesday night we had some showers and Thursday morning we awoke to a very overcast day and had some more showers during the morning.  It did fine up in the afternoon although it was still quite overcast.  The first rain we have seen since before leaving home.

When we returned from the Gibb River Road the Derby Festival was in full swing – not that much was happening but on Thursday evening the Mowanjum Arts Centre were holding their Cultural Dance Festival.  We had heard that it was one of the largest aboriginal dance festivals in Australia.  In the afternoon they had had some didgeridoo playing and painting workshops but we did not go out that early.  The dancing was interesting but I was expecting quite a few more dancers.  All the young boys did a few dances but the girls, even though they were all in costumes didn’t do any.  Some of the children put on a puppet show rather than dance which was quite interesting.  In the other dances they performed there were only one to six dancers.  It was a good evening and finished about 7.30 – 8.00p.m.  It was very family orientated.

 

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The Mowanjum Cultural Dance Festival

Next morning we said good-bye to Derby for awhile and set off to Broome.  We had an overnight stop at a free camp on the way over as we have about 7 days to fill in somewhere before we go on our cruise.  It was right on the highway and a bit noisy with trucks going past most of the night.

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It was my turn to meet part of the welcoming committee at Nillibubbica Rest Area (overnight stop) 

We were lucky enough to get a spot at the Broome Caravan Park. They have an area where the sites are not numbered so they don’t take any bookings for that area - it is ‘first in best dressed’.  I had rung all the caravan parks the afternoon before and the Broome Caravan Park advised that if we were here by about 9.30 – 10.00a.m. we should be able to get a site.  The only drawback is the park is right next door to the speedway and Motor Cross was on Sunday afternoon.  That didn’t worry us as the wind was blowing from the south and took the noise and dust away from us.

 

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Our first glimpse of the Indian Ocean at Broome

We must be the unluckiest people at getting the most rude, unfriendly and unhelpful staff at the Tourism Information Centres (that is putting it very nicely about the woman we encountered at the Broome Tourist Information Centre) or maybe the majority of their staff are rude, unfriendly and unhelpful.  The only Information Centre we have been to where all the staff was good was Derby.  Everywhere else we have been in Broome so far the staff in the shops have been more than helpful and friendly – even the women in the Chemist shop and we weren’t even buying anything just asking for directions.

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Gantheaume Point

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Lighthouse at Gantheaume Point

 

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Sunset at Gantheaume Point

We have had a look around Chinatown, Town Beach and watched the sunset from Gantheaume Point and Cable Beach.  Gantheaume Point is quite amazing with all the different rock formations and we found our first lighthouse for this trip.  It has two sea eagle nests on it – the higher one taking up the whole area.  I could not believe the number of 4WD’s and people down on Cable Beach watching the sunset. We have also been to the Luggers’ tour/museum. It was much more interesting than I was expecting. I even got Phil to the Markets this morning!  They were not terribly big but quite good.

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Pearl Luggers Museum

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AND  sunset on Cable Beach

We are here in Broome for the next few days before we again head off camping up the Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque.

 

AND of course a Boab Tree for this week is:

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A Boab by the Sea

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Neil : q00113
Thank you for taking the time to share your trip.
Monday, 13 July 2015 09:46
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