News History: 28 May 2013 - 16 April 2013:                 To Return to Latest News - CLICK HERE

28 May 2013

Three days on the road and we are 1,800 kms / 1,000 miles nearer to Cairns, but still about 1,200 kms / 700 miles to go. Its a long way!

We called in at the famous Daly Waters pub in the Northern Territory on Sunday and then stayed at the Banka Banka Station (cattle farm). The pub had some fantastic things left behind by previous customers.

From Banka Banka, we drove south and had a quick look at Tennant Creek, an aboriginal town, but we didn't find it quite as bad as some people had warned us. It was then a long drive out of the Northern Territory and in to Queensland.

On arriving in Queensland, you are warned to put your clocks forward 5 years and 30 minutes, though the speed limit drops from 130 km/h to 110 km/h, so things are obviously slower in Queensland!

An overnight stop at the Camooweal Roadhouse and then on to Mount Isa. It was just a quick stop there for more supplies as they have good supermarkets and fuel. But no pork pies could be found. Mount Isa itself a big mining town, so there wasn't really anything new for us to look at.

We've now driven up the rather remote Burke Development Road and are staying at the Burke and Wills Roadhouse.

Daly Waters Pub

Queensland Border

Burke & Wills Roadhouse Caravan 'Park'

25 May 2013

We spent the day looking around Katherine and stocking up on supplies before the big push to Cairns. The museum was interesting in Katherine, especially the history of the Russians that were originally brought in to build the railway later trying to farm peanuts.

Peanut Cleaner

Peanut Inspection Belt (couldn't find the Garlate Holdings nameplate)

24 May 2013

Two great days in Kakadu National Park, though the humidity and the millions of mosquitoes have been rather unpleasant. We visited here last September on a weekend away from Sydney, so there really wasn't anything new for us to see, but it was interesting looking at the difference in the landscape between now (start of the dry season) and September (end of the dry season). The aboriginal rock art is stunning in Kakadu.

We came back down to Katherine via Edith Falls, which are pretty, but not as spectacular as they used to be before the big wet season in 2011 washed away a lot of the rock cliffs that the water used to tumble down.

Where to from here? We've been trying to decided where to go to now from Katherine. We have considered driving 1,300 kms/850 miles south to Alice Springs and then on to Ayers Rock and Kings Canyon. This would then mean coming back 1,200 kms/800 miles to Tennant Creek before we can head across to Queensland. As we've already been to Ayers Rock, we've now decided against this. We are 'just' going to ahead over to Queensland coast and up to Cairns. This is a drive of 3,000 kms / 1,800 miles from here with very little in between again. Think I better change the oil again before we leave Katherine!

Some of the Rock Art in Kakadu

Kakadu Wetlands

Swimming at Edith Falls

22 May 2013

Today, we are leaving Litchfield National Park and driving out to Kakadu. We went to Kakadu last September, so we are looking forward to going back and having more time there. On the way, we will pass through the funnily named town of Humpty Doo. Famous for its pub, but I don't think it will be open when we pass through.

This means we are now heading south from Darwin, a bit sad really - almost like we have turned to start the final leg of the trip.

Nice Caravan Park at Litchfield

The Big Croc at Humpty Doo

21 May 2013

We had to get up very early because the registration (road tax in UK) is due soon on the campervan and we had to get safety inspection done (MOT in UK) by somebody certified in the Northern Territory. We could perhaps have waited until Queensland time wise, but their inspections are much tougher, so better to get it done before we left Darwin. Anyway, the guy that we found and his backstreet garage only did inspections between 7AM - 8AM (i.e. under cover of darkness!) Needless to say the old camper passed with flying colours and we now have the inspection certificate ready to send off to the NSW Roads Dept. once we get to Katherine.

We continued the day by driving to Lichfield National Park. Once we got about 70 kms/50 miles in to the park, I thought we had an issue with a front wheel bearing. Its a long story, but on Monday, we had a new tyre put on the right-hand side wheel in Darwin. Firstly, the tyre fitters (who also offered mechanical repairs) tried to rip me off by quoting and charging for a Michelin, but fitting some rubbish make. I spotted it before we left and got them to change it. They also said that the front wheel bearings needed changing, which I said I very much doubted as I had only done them just before we started the trip 7 months ago! There was a little bit of movement in the bearings, but as they are double taper roller, you need that to allow for the heat expansion after heavy braking.

Anyway, what I think they had done was to pull off the cover that is over the split pin and castle nut on the wheel hub and put it loosely inside the Toyota wheel trim. (To get it off normally needs a hammer and chisel, so it hadn't just fell off). Therefore when you drive slowly its loose and creates a rattling noise from the wheel.  Out in Litchfield, I heard this noise and wrongly concluded that we did have a wheel bearing problem. I decided to turn around and drive back to the nearest town. I wasn't too concerned as although we where in a very remote area, I do have a new spare bearing assembly with me, that would have been a pain to fit in this heat, but at least we wouldn't be stranded. Once we got to the town, I quickly realised that it was the loose cover making the noise at that the bearing are fine. Naughty tyre shop, I think.

After the 140 kms round trip to confirm the bearing was OK, back out at Litchfield it was a very beautiful place. The freshwater waterfalls and swimming holes are just magnificent and a really nice way to cool off as the heat and humidity is almost unbearable. The park rangers do their best to keep crocodiles out of the the swimming areas, so you are pretty safe to swim. We stayed the night at the very nice Litchfield Tourist Park, just outside the National Park boundary. Considering some of the bad caravan parks that we have had, its worth noting that this one was very good and they only charged $20 for an unpowered site.

Litchfield Waterfalls

Swimming at Litchfield

More Waterfalls at Litchfield...

20 May 2013

There was no sign of our fridge being ready at the repairers in the morning, so we went and visited the Darwin aircraft museum. It really is excellently done and has some great displays - even an American B52 bomber! There was a good range of other things like old civilian and military aircraft, displays on the WWII bombing of Darwin and the Australian's involvement in Vietnam.

We had good news in the afternoon - the parts had a arrived for the fridge and it was fixed, so we went and picked it up and then for our weekly shop to stock it back up. The guys seem to have done a great job on the fridge and the new power supply they fitted is certainly more modern and supposedly energy efficient. Cold beer again!

B52 Towers Over Everything

Aircraft Grave Yard (One on the right looks like an Aer Lingus Shorts 360)

19 May 2013

We've had a great weekend in Darwin. The hotel was perfect. In a great location near the lagoon, modern and with fantastic air-conditioning. I probably took too much advantage of the Happy Hour(s) at the Irish Pub on Friday night, but its hard not to in 35 heat and $4.50 a pint!

On Saturday, we went down the old World War II fuel storage tunnels that were built after Darwin was heavily bombed by the Japanese in 1942, but the tunnels were never actually used. They had been cut out of the solid rock cliffs like long horizontal mine shafts and then steel lined. Apparently it was all done 'by hand' so it must have been quite a task.

On Saturday night, we ate at the Stokes Hill Wharf, which is the old wharf shed out on the pier that has been converted in to lots of cheap eateries with a shared dinning area overlooking Darwin Harbour. Its quite fantastic and really great that its low cost eating options so everyone can enjoy. In Sydney or Melbourne these would all be high class restaurants full of show-offs.

There was also an Italian Festival Day on on the Parliament Lawns on Saturday with Italian food, beer, wine and entertainment. We enjoyed a good hour round there.

On Sunday, we went in to the parliament building of the Northern Territory, which is freely open to visitors. Its a fine building with a real tropical colonial but modern feel. Its also free and well air-conditioned for a break from the heat!

We really like Darwin (we were here last September too) it has a more friendly feel to it, everything is close together and as yet hasn't been priced extortionately. If we could cope with the heat, humidity and the long wet season, it would be a place we could live.

Inside One of the Oil Storage Tunnels

The Italian Festival on the Parliament Lawns

View From Our Hotel Across the Wharf & Lagoon

17 May 2013

Yesterday, we decided to head straight to Darwin to try to buy a new fridge, as we thought with ours being 16 years old, it would be the best option. However, nobody in Darwin has our style of fridge in stock. It uses a very efficient compressor motor to allow it to run for long periods off the battery, and although it doesn't have the option to run on gas, its actually much more expensive than a three way fridge as it turns out...probably around $1,700 - 1,100 for a new one! However, we were recommend a company that could fix ours and so we went to see them. It looks like it is just the power supply board that has gone and the compressor is OK, so they can get a new board and fit it for $500. still a fair sum, but better than the alternative. They were hoping to get it done for this afternoon, but at the time of writing this, they haven't called yet, so lets hope for Monday.

So we've made our way to Darwin. We have decided to stay in a city centre hotel tonight and tomorrow night because its nice to get a break in a proper bed, have air-conditioning and to give us a good base to explore the city. Today, we went to the old jail in Darwin that closed about 20 years ago. It was interesting to see how it was quite open and different in design to what we have seen elsewhere. I guess this mainly comes from trying to confine people in tropical heat and humidity.

Inside the Prison

Prison Ablutions Block


15 May 2013

We spent the night at a nice caravan site in Katherine. As we need to come back down this way after Darwin, we decided to just have a quick look at the Katherine Gorge National Park today and then do the other things in the area on the way back down.

The Katherine Gorge area was nice and we went on a long walk up to some of the lookouts, but to see the main gorge you need to go on quite expensive boat trips. As we've already seen plenty of other gorges over the last month or so, we've decide to give the boat tours here a miss.

We drove north from Katherine, detouring to the old World War II airstrip at a place called Fenton. It was used for the heavy American bombers that were based in the area. You could just let yourself in and look around, there wasn't any buildings left, but the runway is very good condition considering it was last used 70 years ago, and there's a few old aircraft parts around the fields.

In the evening we set ourselves up a at a lovely designated free camp at a place called Robin Falls. We were a bit surprised to find ourselves the only ones camping there and we prefer not to be like this at these remote spots - safety in numbers! But it looked right enough. Anyway, just after dark a big four-wheel drive pulled up in the adjacent camping bay full of drunk Aboriginals. Luckily, I don't think they realised we were there. They put on some very loud music and started drinking, we sensed there would be trouble and so we threw everything in the campervan, pulled the roof down and shot out to the main road. As we got there, another load were just arriving.

It wasn't too far to drive in to the village of Adelaide River, where we were able to stay on a proper caravan site. However, in our haste to move, some how the tap in the sink has come on whilst we were driving and with the plug being in the sink, it has overflowed down the back of the fridge and blown the fridge up. Aaahhh not what we want in 34C heat!

No Swimming Today

The Start of Katherine Gorge

Old Runway at Fenton

The Camp Five Minutes Before the Aborigines Arrived


13 May 2013

We've had a couple of nights in Kununurra and a day out to Wyndham - about the furthest north town in Western Australia. Saturday night was good in Kununurra as there was an open air concert on in the town with a range of aboriginal singers and dancers, but the headline act of Jessica Mauboy.

The drive out on Sunday to Wyndham was good as there's an excellent lookout over five major rivers and some really spectacular boab trees. We have seen the boabs for about the last 300kms and they really are unusual and interesting shapes.

Today, after filling up our cupboards at the Coles supermarket in Kununurra, we drove out to the massive Lake Argyll and its dam. From there we have left Weston Australia behind and crossed the boarder in to the Northern Territory. We are just going to free camp tonight at a roadside stop. There's already a few caravaners here and providing there's no troublemakers come later, it should be a good night for free.

We've enjoyed our time in Western Australia, we would have stayed longer if the weather had been better when we started out down in Esperance and Albany. We've seen some fantastic things - Bungle Bungles, Ningaloo Reef, Esperance beaches, the huge Karri trees of the south-western corner, Margret River and Perth itself.  We've met some lovely people, but also seen a quite selfish, aggressive and self-important nature to many of the people we have encountered in the later stages. Whether this comes from a bit of an arrogance from the mining incomes, the need to make every moment count when they get out of the mining camps without regard for others or something else, I don't know, I'm not a psychiatrist! But its certainly a (not particular pleasant) nature and a way of behaving that we have not encountered anywhere else in Australia.

Boab Tree in Wyndham

From the Wyndham Lookout

Lake Argyll

Bye-bye Western Australia

10 May 2013

The Bungle Bungles - Purnululu National Park

What a fabulous day we have had! We woke at 6AM to get ready to be picked up by off-road bus at 7AM to take us in to the Bungle Bungles. The Bungle Bungles are the most amazing rock formations way out the the Kimberley region of Weston Australia. They where only discovered by the outside world in 1983, so that gives you an idea just how remote they are. The rock was formed about 360 million years ago and is sandstone, but of different colours caused by bacteria colouring some parts of the rock black. At the southern end of the the range, the hills have worn away to create fantastic dome shapes and a huge gorge (Cathedral Gorge). At the northern end, the weathering is different and here there are shear chasms (Echidna Chasm is the most accessible).

The bus took two hours to get in to the park entrance from the caravan site, along a very rough unsealed road that included about seven creek crossings. From the park entrance it was another half hour drive south to the domes area, where we were given morning tea before setting off on the walk to the lookout, through the domes and on to the massive Cathedral Gorge. We returned to the bus about 12.30 and were provided with a nice lunch. Then we drove about an hour to the Echidna Chasm. It took a good 40 minutes to walk in to the Chasm as the floor is a very loose dry river bed. The effort as worth it. The height of the chasm walls and tightness of the gap at the bottom was one of the most wonderful things we have ever seen.

We left the Chasm about 3PM and it took about 2 hours to drive back to the caravan site, where we had a bushman's supper consisting of soup, damper bread and a stew washed down with a few beers. It truly was one of the most spectacular things we have ever seen in the world and are so glad we made the effort to go.

There is a full album of the photos here.

I have tried to give you an idea of just how big and deep the gorge and chasm are by uploading a video to YouTube that you can watch by following this link.

The Bus to the Bungle Bungles

The Domes

Cathedral Gorge

Echidna Chasm

9 May 2013

We left Broome at 7.00AM yesterday morning to try to get some of the drive done without the heat being too bad. By 1.00PM we had driven the 400 kms/240 miles to Fitzroy Crossing, where we checked in to a caravan site...the wrong one as it later turned out compared to where we actually wanted to stay, it was a bit rough but it was alright in the end for one night. We drove out of town in to the Geikie Gorge National Park area, where the rangers run a boat tour to see the rock gorges from the water. With the heat (though the humidity has dropped considerably) and the good price of $30 each for the hour's tour, we decided to go on it.

The boat tour was very good. The cliff rock formations were very tall and sculpted. Its hard to imagine that during the wet season and up to just a few weeks ago, the water runs through this part of the Fitzroy River up to where the white stops on the rock - and often higher in flood events. We also saw several small fresh water crocodiles and some lovely birds, a couple of photos are below and I have put a full album of the Geikie Gorge photo here.

Today, we have driven another 400 kms/240 miles out through Halls Creek and on to the Bungle Bungles. Both Fitzroy Crossing and Halls Creek are quite aboriginal areas and with that brings alcohol problems and disorder. We certainly locked the van when filling up with petrol! Lin wanted to get some wine in Halls Creek. Cask/Box wine sales have been restricted now since Port Hedland, because this apparently is the main thing the aboriginals like to get drunk on. Mostly that means no casks bigger than 2 litres and only being offered for sale between 11AM - 2PM.

We couldn't find the bottle shop at Halls Creek, but I saw one of the aboriginal locals walking down the road with a crate of beer on his shoulders and he kindly gave me directions. However, when we got there, we were disappointed to find that the shop only sold light beer. It is illegal for them to sell anything stronger than 2.7% alcohol to anyone in this town. That's not good news. I just hope we have enough beer and wine left to get us through the next two/three nights as we hope we should be able to get some when we get to Kununurra, the town almost on the boarder with the Northern Territory. If not, I have a bottle of 12 year old Glenlivet Single Malt in reserve that might have to get opened.

Anyway, tomorrow we have paid out big time ($250 each!) to do a full day tour in to the Bungle Bungles by 4x4 off-road truck/bus. Its probably the most expensive thing we will do on this trip, but there is probably no chance that we will ever come back to this area and its impossible to fly in to from elsewhere in Australia, so we thought we better get it off the Bucket List whilst we are here. By the way, the Bungle Bungles are a unique range of honeycomb shaped rocks that are supposed to be on a par with Ayres Rock - so lets wait and see. I've wanted to go ever since seeing Neighbours on TV in the 1980's when there was a storyline about Helen Daniels going to the Bungle Bungles...

Geikie Gorge

7 May 2013

We've had a good couple of day in Broome, but we will probably move on tomorrow. There isn't a lot to do for 'free' in the way of entertainment. After visiting the beach and a looking round the small town centre everything else is really organised tours starting at $100 each for whatever you want to do. There's plenty of them, camel rides, seaplane trips, fishing charters, hovercraft rides, etc, etc...if we were here on holiday, it would be great, but on a budget they are a bit hard to justify.

The good news was that we got the new windscreen fitted on the campervan this afternoon, no problem. It only took about 20 minutes and as its not a glue bonded in screen, we could drive again straight away.

Bad news for us is that the weather continues to be 38C in the day and 26C at night with almost 100% humidity. We can hardly cope and neither can the fridge in the campervan. I think we will have to rethink our shopping with less fresh food and more tins in the short term otherwise stuff will be going off. Yesterday, I went to the barbers and got them to shave my head to a number 2 all over to try to survive better!

Think We Will Leave Swimming For Today

Camels on Cable Beach

Sunset at Cable Beach

Broome Headland

5 May 2013

From Karijini, we drove north back to the coast and the dusty, busy mining export town of Port Headland. It was pretty grimy and unpleasant, but we managed to get some food supplies and I bought oil and an air filter to service the campervan again. We stayed at the only 'touristy' caravan park in town, as the others where all given over to mine workers' accommodation. The site we stayed at was quite nice but charged a whopping $54/night. Much higher than we have ever paid anywhere! 

We only stayed the one night in Port Hedland before making the hot drive up the coast about 350 kms/220 miles to Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park. Its a very remote area and the only caravan park to make to an actual place name on a map of Australia, such is the lack of anything else around here. The only saving grace is that the road trains (huge trucks) carrying the ore from the mines along the highway appear to have stopped as we have got a bit further north.

However, on the drive up, a stray stone thrown up by a large motorhome coming the other way hit our windscreen and has put a nice big split right across it. So it looks like we will have to get the screen replaced as soon as we can.

It was a nice stay at Eighty Mile Beach. The caravan site was down a rough 10 kms/6 mile unsealed road, but when you get there has lots of nice grass, shade, 24 hour electricity from diesel generators and its just over a sand due to a great fishing beach. Speaking of which, I finally caught something big! I caught a black tip shark about 2 1/2 feet or 0.75 metres long! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me and as Lin wouldn't have eaten it, we gave it away to another angler, who said he thinks they are quite tasty.

We left Eighty Mile Beach early on Sunday morning to try to beat the heat a bit on the drive. Its 38C (100F) during the day at the moment and still about 24C at night. Its rather uncomfortable driving when you are sat on top of the engine and the heat starts to come through! The air-conditioning works well, but we try very hard not to have it on as it takes so much power off the engine. The camper engine itself is taking the heat very well. It doesn't have an electronic fan on the radiator, rather a mechanical belt drive off the water pump. However, it has a fluid coupling that is supposed to increase the speed of the fan as the engine gets hotter. It certainly seems to be working very well. Never really going above 85C. We can monitor the temperature very well, as I fitted a digital temperature gauge before we left Sydney, so we can see exactly the engine temp, rather than relying on the standard gauge that never move off the centre spot until its too late.

After five hours drive, broken by just one roadhouse (petrol station) on the way, we arrived in Broome and managed to get on to the Cable Beach Caravan Park no problem. Though at $47/night its another one that's rather above our budget. At the moment the site is quiet, but this is another one that in a month's time will be completely booked out.

We are going to stay in Broome now for a few days and see what there is to do. We especially want to see and/or go on the famous camels on Cable Beach.

Road Train Filling Up and Sandfire Roadhouse. Only Three Trailers, the Mine Ones Had Four!

Eighty Mile Beach

1 May 2013

We drove about 110 kms east of Tom Price out to Karijini National Park. We bush camped here last night (no power or water and just a shared long drop toilet) and are staying again tonight. Karijini is famous for its spectacular gorges cut through the red and at times almost black ironstone rock. Unfortunately for us, we can really only get to one area of the park as the roads are too rough for our campervan to get to the others. But we have had a great day walking the Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool and Circular Pool gorge areas. Its probably the most spectacular and impressive area that we have seen so far on the whole trip.

The pretty tough walk down into the gorge took about 4 hours return, not including stopping off to swim in the lovely freshwater pools and under the waterfalls. I think we will sleep well tonight after the exercise! Speaking of which, last night was quite a spectacular star filled sky as there is no artificial light and the sky was completely clear. We can tell we are sort of in the desert now, as the temperature was 34C during the day, but dropped to a very chilly 12C overnight and we had to get our big sleeping bags out again.

I've put a full album of Karijini photos here

Looking Down in to Circular Pool - Notice The Swimmers At The Bottom

Me, Disobeying the Warning Signs and Jumping in to the Water at Circular Pool

Fortescue Falls

The Gorge From On Top

We've Found Another Thing In Australia To Kill You

29 April 2013

Yesterday, we drove the 600 kms/420 miles or so from Exmouth inland through to the Pilbara region and the iron ore mining town of Tom Price. It was a pretty remote road, we only passed one petrol station the whole drive. No houses, shops or anything else. As we got near Tom Price, the scenery turned quite hilly and then almost mountainous. The earth is a most deep rice red colour. The town is named after the American geologist who discovered the iron ore deposited here in the 1960's. The town solely exists for the Rio Tinto mine. Many of the workers live here, though there are also a large number of contractors that fly in and fly out. The town has a Coles supermarket (only grocery store in town) that we can only think is subsidised in someway by the mine operators, since the prices where the same as you would pay in any normal Coles in the city....despite the food having to be trucked or flown about 1,500 kms / 900 miles to get here.

This morning, we went on a bus tour of the huge Rio Tinto iron ore mine. It really was on an amazing scale. The tour bus was allowed to go in to the mining area (which is open cut) and drive alongside the huge dump trucks, weighing over 400 tonnes when fully loaded. We also got to drive around the outside of the crushing and refining works, vehicle repair bays and the train loading system. The trains are 2 1/2 kms long and each carry about $3.5M worth of iron ore to be exported mainly to China.

I've put a full album of the mine site photos here

400 Tonne Dump Truck

Just One of the Eight Or So Mining Areas at Tom Price

Conveyors to the Grading Shed

Train Loading - Each Train Carriage Below Has 138 Tonnes In It

27 April 2013

We arrived in Exmouth on ANZAC Day morning (25th April), we wanted to find a pub or club playing the traditional ANZAC Day betting game of Two Up. ANZAC Day being Australia's sort of Remembrance Day. Its a bit different than UK...its a public holiday with sombre memorial services in the morning followed by having a drink or three to remember the fallen in the afternoon At the third attempt and a long walk around Exmouth we found an ex-services club in full swing. In the end we had a great afternoon, with two US servicemen involved at the near by solar observatory. We needed the April 26th to recover!

Today, we drove out to the Cape Range National Park at the northern part of Ningaloo Reef, via the Harold Holt Naval Base and the huge USA Very Low Frequency radio communications base. The base is used by the Americans to communicate with their nuclear submarines and the reason that Exmouth as a town exists. I think calling it the 'Harold Holt Naval' base is quite funny in away, since Harold Holt was the Australian Prime Minister that mysteriously drowned off a south Melbourne beach in the 1960's. His body was never found. There's also a swimming pool in Melbourne named in his honour.

The National Park itself was very picturesque, though I think we've been a bit spoilt with already seeing and snorkelling the southern part of the reef, that there wasn't really much new for us to see.

I think we will be glad to leave Exmouth tomorrow. Its not the prettiest town and the caravan site is certainly not worth the $48/night they are charging ($6/night more than we have ever paid anywhere).

View from Cape Range Lighthouse

Gorge at the National Park

Termite Mounds Line The Road to Exmouth

24 April 2013

We've decided to extend our stay in Coral Bay by a couple of days. Whilst the two caravan sites are extremely busy with school holidays, for a change we have been very lucky and got a nice quiet site on the edge of the park away from all the screaming kids. Once they all go out to the beach for the day, the park is very peaceful.

We spent the afternoon over at the beach ourselves yesterday. I was snorkelling for about 3 hours. Its great to walk along the beach, swim out about 30 metres and then just float back on the current parallel to the beach looking at all the huge coral and tropical fish. It really is impressive, its hard coral rather than the soft coral that you get on the Great Barrier Reef, some of it must be 3 metres high. The fish range from small electric blue shoals to very large snapper. I haven't seen any sharks or turtles yet, but they are around.

Last night it was 'Happy Hour' at the Ningaloo Reef Resort, which is adjacent to our hotel. Jugs of beer were (only!) $13 so it drew a good crowd. I tried to book a trip out on a snorkelling boat to the outer reef today, but they are all full. Maybe I can do it in Exmouth when we move on there.

Coral Bay Beach

I haven't got an underwater camera, but found these pictures on the net from Coral Bay to give and idea of what it looks like snorkelling...

22 April 2013

On Saturday morning we drove on from Carnarvon about 70 kms to Point Quobba. The road at first was the main highway, then there is a branch off that leads the 50 kms or so to the sea. Its an unusually good sealed road as it also leads to the Rio Tinto Salt Mine. At Point Quobba, there is a bush camp run by the local council with just long drop toilets, no water or showers etc, but at just $5.50 a night and right on the beach its a very good spot....that would be if it hadn't been for the wind. Normally at night around here, the sea breeze from during the day drops away, but for the two nights we spent here it increased to what felt like gale force! We had to try to sleep with the pop-top down, but still it was impossible with the howling wind and constant rocking of the van.

The saving grace was that the snorkelling was just incredible. In front of the camping area is a fishing free zone called 'The Aquarium'. Its only about 1 metre deep right the way out and full of coral and the most amazing reef fish, star fish, clams and all sorts of other things. A bit further down the shore are the Quobba Blowholes, these were in full force yesterday thanks to the high winds and quite spectacular.

Today we drove on about 250 kms to Coral Bay - heart of the Ningaloo Reef. On the way, we past over the line of the Tropic of Capricorn, so I guess we can say we are in the tropics now! We managed to get in a caravan park at Coral Bay for two nights. Its very busy because its childrens' school holidays. We are so glad that we stocked up with food in Carnarvon as the price of the stuff in the 'supermarket' here was just laughable; Pataks Curry Sauce $9.30 - normally about $4, 1 litre long life milk $2.85 - normally $1, etc, etc! The petrol is also pretty expensive around here now at about $1.75 - $1.85 per litre.

'The Aquarium'


Tropic of Capricorn

19 April 2013

Our second day in Monkey Mia turned out to be not that great, the unpowered camp area had been completely over booked and all the campervans ended up with less than 1.5 mtrs of space between them! That just really compounded our feeling that the operators/owners have a long way to go to get up to the standard of what a 'resort' should be.

On Tuesday, we moved on to Denham, filling up with drinking water at the council desalination plant. It was quite interesting, they had a special area for dispensing not only desalinated, but also reverse osmosis water for tourists! You put $1 in the pump and got 15 litres. It was good to fill up the campervan's 50 litre water tank with pure drinking water as many of the caravan sites recently have only had bore water (tastes very salty) or still rather salt desalinated water.

Denham itself wasn't much, but the family of emus walking down the main street was cute to see and they also have the most westerly pub in Australia. We already visited the most southerly in Southport, Tasmania, so perhaps we need to try to make all four corners.

The last three days have been spent in Carnarvon. The town's main industry now is plantation with tropic fruits, tomatoes and bananas, but its claim to fame is that it was used extensively by NASA and later the European Space Agency to track the Apollo missions, moon landings and satellite launches. They have a collection of dishes and receivers up on the hills at the back of town. There was also supposed to be USA nuclear missile/submarine tracking and communications stations here, but these have now gone.

They have just opened a little museum about the tracking stations and the volunteers have obviously worked very hard to make something out of it. One interesting thing they had was a NASA mobile laser range and speed finder, that would bounce laser off satellites to get tracing information. (Just like current police laser speed cameras). But what was fascinating was that it was really just as they left it. Inside the control module, the drawers and cupboards were still full of old valves and spare parts.

Emu Family in Denham

Campervan Under the OTC Dish

NASA Mobile Laser Range Finder

One Mile Jetty at Carnarvon

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