Big Odyssey

Bill & Kathy getting away from it all….

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Big Odyssey Ends…

Posted by BigOdyssey on October 8, 2013

October 7th

It is 6 months today since we left Canberra and our Big Odyssey has come to an end. This will be our last posting to the blog, until next time of course….

Here are a few stats on our journey:

Distance travelled – 28,000kms

Fuel used – no idea

Flat tyres – 2

State / territory borders crossed -9

Oil Changes – 3

New tyres on car – 4

Gas Bottle refills – about 10 (we didn’t actually keep track)

Days away – 183

Nights under a roof – 19

Nights in a tent – 2

Nights in the caravan – 162

Nights in a caravan park – 96

Nights free camping – 30

Nights in paid bush campsites – 36

Bird strikes on car- 4

Nearly hit by kangaroo / emu / cows / sheep – too many to count

Favourite place to eat – Daly Waters Pub, Beef and Barra BBQ for Kathy’s birthday

Favourite place to stay –can’t pick one, there were so many

How much did it all cost – priceless

Hope you have enjoyed reading about our travels.

Kathy & Bill

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Big Odyssey Ends…

Bill’s Haircut

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 19, 2013

Before……..

IMG_3196

                         After……….

IMG_3199

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Bill’s Haircut

West to East

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 18, 2013

Kalgoorlie to Ceduna 8th to 14th September

As I mentioned at the end of our last posting we arrived in Kalgoorlie and were pleased to have clear skies and sunshine which was a welcome change from the rain we had been having for nearly 3 weeks. We were able to take a walk around the town and see some of the grand historical buildings, see the views from a couple of lookouts and visit the museum.

 IMG_2977 - Copy

IMG_2965

IMG_2892

As we have been traveling around Australia it has been interesting to see some of the work that was done in remote places in the 1800’s and early 1900’s to build some of the essential infrastructure for our nation, and while in Kalgoorlie we had a chance to find out more about the great Goldfields Water Scheme that we mentioned in our last post. As people rushed to the goldfields in the 1890’s it was soon realised that while there was gold there was precious little fresh water. Drinking water was brought in by camel, or condensed from salty underground water. Dams like the one we saw at Karalee Rock were just not able to supply all the water needed, and water soon became worth more than gold in some places. So in 1896 an ambitious engineering scheme to bring water from Perth to the goldfields was devised to supply water needed not only for life and health but also for mining.  Completed in 1903 and with much controversy at a cost of 2.6 million pounds, 23 megalitres of water was brought daily through 566 kms of steel pipeline via a series of 8 steam-driven pumping stations to a reservoir in Kalgoorlie. Nowhere else in the world had so much water been pumped so far! The system was later extended to supply the Wheatbelt region and having been modernised and enlarged, still functions today. Below is a picture of the Mt Charlotte Reservoir which is at the end of the pipeline in Kalgoorlie.

IMG_2902

While checking out some of the sights around Kalgoorlie we also had the chance to see the biggest open cut mine in Australia, locally known as the Superpit, it is ~4km long, ~1.4km wide and ~500m deep. This mine was originally made up of a number of small mine leases clustered in an area known as the Golden Mile. For over a hundred years these small operations controlled the famous Golden Mile until the 1980’s when WA businessman Alan Bond began to buy up the individual leases to create one big company and one big pit from which gold could be extracted at far less cost. Bond’s company failed to complete the takeover but in 1989 the entire area was combined and Kalgoorlie Consolidated Gold Mines (KCMG) was formed. If you look carefully at top part of the photo of the Superpit below you will see a number of teeny tiny trucks making their way down into the pit. It’s not until you realise that each truck is actually capable of carrying 225 tonnes of rubble (which yields about 500 grams of gold) that it sort of gives scale to the size of the mine.

 IMG_2870

IMG_2879

We stayed in Kalgoorlie for 3 nights before heading off again, and a good thing it was too, as over 800 Rebels Motorcycle Club bikies descended on the town the day we left. From Kalgoorlie we drove about 200kms to Norseman which is the Western end of the Eyre Highway that takes you on one of Australia’s great road trips across the Nullarbor. As we arrived in the town we noted that one of the 2 service stations was a sea of motorbikes, so of course we went to the other servo only to find it full of police vehicles. As I said 800+ Rebels Bikies were making their annual ride into Perth and had been accompanied by a strong police presence most of the way. Fortunately we were headed east and they were headed west.

IMG_3114

 

Crossing the Nullarbor was a long and frankly boring trip. We travelled 1400kms in 3 days from Kalgoorlie in WA to Ceduna in SA. The first 200kms of the journey from Kalgoorlie south to Norseman was uneventful. We stopped in Norseman for lunch and had a little look around the place while we waited for all the bikes and police cars to vacate the servos. We took in the view from the lookout and went for a short walk to see some wild flowers. It was interesting to discover that Norseman is home to Central Norseman Gold, a subsidiary of Western Mining Corporation which has the distinction of being Australia’s longest continuously running gold mining operation. The name Norseman was given to the gold reef (and later the township that followed) discovered there in 1894 when a prospector’s horse called ‘Hardy Norseman’ pawed up a piece of gold while tethered to a tree overnight.

 IMG_2980

IMG_2998

Beyond Norseman as you drive East there is not much to see other than long stretches of flat scrubland, in fact the name Nullarbor comes from Latin, Nullus Arbor, which literally means ‘no trees’.  Of course there is the occasional roadhouse and other small villages (you can’t call them towns) to service travellers. From Norseman we drove another 80kms east then decided to free camp for the night at a campsite called Ten Mile Rock. We spent that evening cooking up a storm as we had a few vegies and things that we needed to use up before we got to the border quarantine checkpoint. Next morning we were up bright and early to start the second leg of our trip. This was a long day of driving (we covered close to 600kms) through fairly monotonous surrounds. Kathy had the dubious fun of driving along the ‘90 Mile Straight’, which is Australia’s longest stretch of straight road, some 145.6kms long. 

 IMG_3025

At the end of this is a time zone change that we didn’t even know existed!  Instead of moving clocks the full 90min at the SA border there is a 45 min time shift at Caiguna.

 IMG_3026

As we have traveled some of the more remote highways around the country we have seen a number of Emergency Airstrips like this one which are used for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. They just have a few markings on the road and a sign and I suppose you have to hope that someone stops traffic before the plane comes in to land!

 IMG_3036

The next point of interest for us was the WA-SA border crossing where we advanced our clocks another 45 mins, it was merely a few hours since we had done this before. We arrived there fairly late in the day and drove only a short distance into SA to our overnight stop at a place called the 25k Peg. Once you get to the boarder the road begins to skirt the coastline along the top of the Great Australian Bight and there were some spectacular coastal views to see from our campsite that night and as we drove off again the following morning.

 IMG_3043

IMG_3039

Our third day of driving saw the scenery change from dry scrub to woodlands. We drove for about 120kms then made a brief stop at the Nullarbor Roadhouse for a cup of coffee (probably the second worst we have had this trip, the worst one was at Murray Bridge in SA) where we found the signboard pictured below with some info about the Nullarbor Plains that we had just come across. Another 300kms of driving with a short stop for lunch took us to our final destination at Ceduna. By this time we were tired and glad to get out of the car!

 IMG_3051

IMG_3048

So we decided to have a day with no driving and therefore stayed 2 nights in Ceduna. Being the weekend everything closed about lunch time Saturday so there wasn’t much to do. Just had to buy a bit of fruit and veg at the supermarket. I’m sure the border quarantine stations have a deal with the supermarkets, the stuff gets confiscated at the border and then we have to go and buy more at the nearest shop! We went for a long walk around the foreshore and saw what must be the smallest lighthouse we have seen so far.

 IMG_3057

IMG_3079

Eyre Peninsula 15th to 18th September

From Ceduna we made our way around the coast of the Eyre Peninsula and back up to Port Augusta. The weather turned ugly again and we didn’t do very much along the way. Sunday the 15th was our wedding anniversary so after we left Ceduna we drove about 100kms to Streaky Bay and found a lovely little café overlooking the water to have a special  lunch. From there we drove another 60kms and spent the night at a farm stay campsite, where we were buffeted by gale force winds and rain.  Along the way we found these unusual rock formations known as Murphy’s Haystacks. They just pop up in the middle of a large wheat field but are in fact eroded granite hilltops. Apparently they acquired their name from an Irish agricultural expert in 1840 who saw them from a distance and believed they were haystacks, and being on land owned by a man named Murphy they became known as Murphy’s Haystacks.

 IMG_3100

IMG_3097

IMG_3089

IMG_3086

 

On Monday the rain cleared a little and we had a couple of stops along the way as we drove to Port Lincoln. The first stop was at a place called Talia Caves. These are limestone caves that have formed right on the coast and many have eroded and collapsed. The view here was spectacular with huge crashing waves, cliffs and caves. We also stopped at a little rest area for lunch where we saw some historical drystone walling.

 IMG_3144

IMG_3135

IMG_3133

IMG_3130

IMG_3125

IMG_3153

Our stopover in Port Lincoln was brief. We arrived late in the day and stayed in a caravan park, the weather was wet and our caravan site was muddy. We stayed in and drank hot chocolate and wrote up some of this blog. Next day we made our way to Whyalla. The weather had cleared somewhat but the flies were ferocious. We had to break out the fly nets for the first time in months to keep the little buggers out of our faces. We had a little look around town as we drove up to the lookout (what that really means is we got lost), saw the decommissioned HMAS Whyalla which is on display at the tourist information centre and then decided to keep driving rather than stay.

 IMG_3173

IMG_3159

 IMG_3155

We made our way a little further north to Point Lowly for an overnight camp. The weather was clear so we had a lovely walk around the area and checked out the local lighthouse and historic buildings.

IMG_3179

It seems strange to have covered so much ground and get so much closer to home in such a short time. We have really had to come to grips with the idea that our Big Odyssey will soon be coming to its end. From there we plan to make our way firstly to Adelaide, then Ballarat in Victoria to visit family and friends, before making our way home early next month. Of course we will keep you up to date with the rest of our adventures as we go but we don’t expect to have too much to write about.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on West to East

Flowers

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 14, 2013

IMG_0430

IMG_0436

IMG_0683

IMG_0699

IMG_0875

IMG_1152

IMG_1185

IMG_1199

IMG_1209

IMG_1225

IMG_1832

IMG_2016

IMG_2157

IMG_2159

IMG_2260

IMG_2372

IMG_2498

IMG_2501

IMG_2605

IMG_2745 IMG_2835

IMG_2927

IMG_2981

IMG_2982

IMG_2983

IMG_2984

IMG_2985

IMG_2986

IMG_2987

IMG_2989

IMG_2993

IMG_2994

IMG_2995

IMG_2996

IMG_3000

IMG_3004

IMG_3007

IMG_3080

IMG_2828

IMG_2763

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Flowers

Wheatbelt to Goldfields…

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 10, 2013

So we left off just a short time ago as we were on our way to Kalgoorlie.  As we drove through the Wheatbelt area towards the goldfields region we made note of how the landscape had changed and the sense of history and that encompasses the country side. We also found out that farmers can be quite creative and it is sometimes amazing what you see in the middle of nowhere!!!

 IMG_2786

For many kms of driving we could see alongside the road the great water pipeline that was built in the early 1900’s and is still in use today.  The terrain changed from lush green wheat fields to dry scrub and woodlands. This is the trail that thousands of people travelled in the 1890’s during the gold rush that followed the discovery of gold in Coolgardie in 1893 and later in Kalgoorlie. This rush was responsible for opening up the southwest of the state to farming and mining and general prosperity. The need for reliable fresh water saw one of the greatest engineering feats of the time with the development of the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme that brought water from Perth to the gold fields and later the farming regions in between. Of course before this pipeline people had to find water in other ways….

Karalee Rock & Dam  7th September

We decided to break up the trip to Kalgoorlie at a place called Karalee Rock. We chose this campsite as it was ~5km off the highway so we thought it would be nice and quiet and were not expecting anything except the usual sort of campground with some natural bushland and a pit toilet. On arrival we discovered there was a lot of history associated with the rock, and with a walking track and well documented sign boards it was an interesting visit. We had the whole place to ourselves overnight as there were no other campers.

 IMG_2848

The area has a low rainfall with infrequent heavy rain being the norm. The rock itself is a wide low granite outcrop and, similar to Wave Rock there was a need to harness its water runoff. A stone and concrete wall nearly 6km in length and up to 1 meter high was built around Karalee Rock and water was successfully captured and directed to a dam. This system is a little more complicated than Wave Rock as there was a need to transfer the water via a series of stone and iron aqueducts to the dam.  

 IMG_2821

IMG_2819

IMG_2806

Despite some dark clouds overhead and a storm looming in the distance we explored the area around our campground and found that there was a walking trail that went over and around the dam and parts of the rock. What started out as a 5 min walk to view the dam ended up as an hour long exploration, fortunately we made it back to our caravan about 10 mins before the heavens opened and a short but intense thunder storm ensued.

 

The signboards along the walk trail outlined the history of the area and we also learned about the plants and animals that live on this ‘shelf’ between the woodland and the rocky outcrop. The rock provides a series of shallow pools that are important sources of water to native animals including emus, and when water becomes scarce further inland in the dry months thousands of emus migrate to areas like this from hundreds of kms away. Emus are also a significant pest for farmers in the wheat belt and until visiting Karalee Dam we had never heard of the infamous “Emu War” of 1932 where an army detachment was deployed to try and exterminate the emus by using machine gun posts at dams where the emus would visit to drink.  Unfortunately (fortunately for the emus!!) the army lost that war!!!

 

Another well-known piece of Australian history is the Rabbit Proof Fence. As we were driving we glimpsed sections of this old historical fence still standing by the side of the road, and eventually came across some information boards that explained more about it. It was interesting to read that rabbits came to Australia in 1859 as a perceived harmless addition to hunting.  Thomas Austin, a Victorian grazier, imported 24 rabbits from England and released them on his property. By 1894 they were in plague proportion and rabbits had made their way across the Nullarbor Plain and had reached the WA border.  The situation was so serious that a Royal Commission was held into the situation in 1901. As a result 3 fences were built totalling 3,256 km and they were completed in 1907.  Not only did the fences keep out rabbits but they also kept out emus and even today when rabbits are no longer such a big problem the remaining fence serves a valuable role in protecting farmer’s livelihoods.

 IMG_2796

The Rabbit Proof Fence is today called the State Barrier Fence and  provides a barrier to the emus entering the wheat belt area where they would otherwise cause significant damage to crops and pastures.  Can you believe that in 1976 over 100,000 emus had gathered along the northern section of the fence in their quest to find food and water, and in 1994 more than 40,000 gathered along the eastern section? It is extraordinary really to think about all the resources that have been directed towards containing and eradicating these pests over the past 120 years!!

 IMG_2802

IMG_2798

So we eventually arrived in Kalgoorlie a couple of days ago. The weather has been great and we have been exploring the town. Our next update will tell you more…..

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Wheatbelt to Goldfields…

The Big Odyssey gets an extension………..

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 10, 2013

So here we are still thousands of kilometers from the East Coast and no clear end in sight for our Big Odyssey.  We were initially planning to be home by the beginning of September, but we are presently in Kalgoorlie and still have to cross the Nullabour and visit family in Adelaide and Ballarat before heading home. Looks like October may be a more realistic timeframe at this stage.

We arrived in Fremantle about three weeks ago and as I mentioned in our last posting the weather had turned fairly bleak. We stayed there for a few days and managed to catch up with some friends that we know there. Unfortunately we encountered lots of rain and wind – sometimes up to gale force- for most of this time and only in the last 2 days have we had some warm sunny weather again. As you can imagine wet weather does limit some of the things you can do and it was a bit disappointing as we made our way further south from Fremantle to Bunbury, Margaret River and the great Southern Forests not to be able to take full advantage of the great scenery, beaches, walking tracks and bush camping spots in this region.

(Fremantle) Coogee Beach 21st to 26th August

Since the weather wasn’t great we spent much of our time indoors either in the caravan or doing other stuff. As I mentioned we caught up with one friend for lunch then spent an afternoon in Perth City, but as we had seen the sights there before we mainly did some retail therapy. After that we checked out the sights around the city of Fremantle, caught up with some other friends for dinner, and visited the Maritime Museum in Fremantle city.  The history in the museum was amazing, they have part of the wreck of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia (about one sixth of the total hull) which sank after running aground in 1629.  Amazingly, a section of the hull was preserved by its cargo of stone blocks which lay on top of a section of the hull and protected it for centuries until the site was discovered in 1972.  The conservation efforts took several years to complete and the part hull is now on display as shown below.

IMG_2396

The common history and shared cultural heritage of the Netherlands and Australia is demonstrated by the pewter plate pictured below, which was found in the wreckage of the Batavia. In 1616 the Batavia visited the west coast of Australia and to commemorate this visit the captain erected an engraved pewter plate on a wooden post. This is the first recorded European landfall on this coast. Eighty years later another Dutch ship found the original plate and replaced it with  a new one detailing both visits and took the original back to Amsterdam. So anyway, the plate displayed in the museum now was never flattened or engrave with text to record a historic event, however it was given to WA by the Dutch ambassador in 2011 to symbolise a new chapter in the shared cultural heritage between our two countries.

 IMG_2406

We were fortunate to have some good weather for most of the day on Saturday and spent a pleasant few hours exploring the Swan Valley which was only an hours’ drive away. This area is historically significant as it was settled in the nineteenth century when farmers found it difficult to find land near the banks of the Swan River in the city. It is still an important food and wine region and has some lovely restaurants, cafes, fresh produce and wineries to taste and explore. While there did a short walking tour of the township of Guildford which was the third major town to be established in the Swan River Colony (after Perth and Fremantle) in the mid 1800’s.  At one time it was the largest town in WA and has many old historical buildings to see and signboards detailing the towns history. One thing we found interesting  was the controversy surrounding the railway line that came through the town in the early 1900’s.  It was decided to place the rail line through the centre of the township and this effectively split the town in two.  From what we read there were few people who supported it but the bureaucrats got their way!!

 IMG_2376

Bunbury 27th & 28th August

After leaving Fremantle we headed south again. The weather became even worse and we spent a bit more time than usual in the caravan or under cover over the next couple of weeks, we even had to turn on the heater quite a few times! A far cry from the hot humid weather we left behind up north. We stayed a couple of nights in Bunbury but didn’t do much while there other than drive to the lookout and take a few pictures.  They have a light house that is quite an eye catcher!!

IMG_2407

As we made our way south we couldn’t  pass up the opportunity to stop for coffee and take a walk along the Busselton Jetty (even though we have done this before). This Jetty is the longest one in Western Australia and even though the weather was a bit overcast and rained a little we stilled walked the full length of the jetty. We didn’t stay in Busselton but continued further down the coast to Margaret River.

IMG_2428

Margaret River 29th to 31st August

The Margaret River Valley is a well-known food and wine region in Western Australia. We stayed at a really lovely farm stay called Big Valley Campsite and were very happy there for a few nights surrounded by rolling green paddocks and sheep. I would highly recommend this to anyone staying in the valley. It was surprising to find out that this area has a number of limestone caves that are open to the public. We visited the Mammoth Cave which was a self guided tour.  The cave has many fascinating chambers and even has a fossilized jaw bone from an extinct giant wombat that lived over 44,000 years ago.

IMG_2430

IMG_2440

IMG_2470

IMG_2444

There was also a walk around outside the cave through some forest and along a creek, but is was a little tricky with some water obstacles to navigate!!

IMG_2507

There are lots of yummy things to eat in the Margaret River region…from chocolate factories, jam factories, olive farms where they manufacture olive products etc etc.  The fish tank shown below is made of chocolate!! What else can you do but stay indoors as much as possible and find a warm cafe with a bowl of hot soup or pasta on a cold rainy day?

IMG_2388

We visited the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse and it was interesting to read how life was when the lighthouse was fully functional and how technology has changed things forever.  In the early days, four lighthouse keepers (and their families) lived on site to man the lighthouse roster.  Over time is was decided that costs could be reduced by having only three lighthouse keepers but now it is unmanned and someone gets an automated text if something fails!!!

IMG_2529

Cape Leeuwin is also where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.

IMG_2536

We also found an odd Lighthouse ambassador on site keeping a lookout for trouble!!

IMG_2533

Pemberton 1st to 3rd September

As you drive further south you enter the region known as the great southern forests. There are 3 main National Parks there with forests of giant Karri trees and a wealth of other plants that make it an internationally recognized biodiversity hot spot. The land was once cleared here for farming and for timber but is now protected. In some places the Karri forest has regenerated and the trees are still considered “young” even though they are 100 years old and  50 metres tall!

IMG_2527

We spent some time driving the Karri Forest Explorer Trail which goes through the Pemberton Region. Along this route there are three very tall trees that the public can climb.  They have been used as fire lookouts in the summer for several decades and range from ~50m to 70m in height.  To look at they don’t seem very safe (if they were in the eastern states I’m not sure they would be open to the public but over in WA they seem to have different standards when it comes to the public and OH&S!!).  Anyway, Bill decided to give them a shot and after some initial hesitation he climbed the Gloucester Tree, the Bicentennial Tree and the Diamond Tree.  The view from that high was fantastic but given the need to focus on the climb and not worry about a large camera, the photo we have for you was taken from Kathy’s phone.

IMG_2663

20130902_151853

IMG_2579

IMG_2622

There is a lot of natural beauty in the forests with streams, creeks and waterfalls. The trees are incredible to look at due to their size and height. We were able to do a couple of short bushwalks and have a picnic of sorts but the weather was pretty ordinary. I think if we come back to this part of WA we will do it in late spring rather than late winter next time.

IMG_2681

IMG_2617

IMG_2597

Albany  4th & 5th September

After Pemberton we drove around the southern corner of WA and headed east across to Albany where we stayed for a couple of nights. We were fortunate to have at least a few hours of good weather there on Thursday morning and were able to go for a long walk along the trail around the headland of Middleton Bay. It was nice to see some sunshine and stretch our legs after spending so much time indoors. Unfortunately we didn’t even take a good photo while we were there.

Wave Rock  6th September

After we left Albany we made our way north to Hyden which is approximately half way to Kalgoorlie in the heart of the WA wheatbelt.  Hyden is located within a few kms of Wave Rock which is a giant granite intrusion that is around 120 million years old. Its shape lent itself to building a dam wall across the rock and this provides reliable water storage for the town.  The rock provides almost 30 hectares of catchment area and along with almost 3 km of stone wall to capture and direct runoff the man made dam is kept full.

IMG_2762

The wave formation at wave rock has nothing to do with the ocean and was formed due to erosion.  Its colours come from black and orange algal remains. It stretches for 100 meters and is 15 meters high.

IMG_2716

Another interesting feature at Wave Rock is the Hippo’s yawn.

IMG_2738

We only stayed the one night in Hyden, and since we had had a long day of driving to get there from Albany (about 400kms), didn’t do anything besides the short walk along one edge of the rock to see the wave and the hippo. We were now heading northeast towards Kalgoorlie (still another 600 kms away) and were up bright and early the next morning and on our way soon after. As this has been a long update we will leave off here and continue on with another posting very soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Big Odyssey gets an extension………..

Shark Bay and Beyond 11th to 21st August

Posted by BigOdyssey on September 1, 2013

It has been a while since our last post I know, but that’s because we have been having such a good time. After our relaxing sojourn at 14 Mile Beach where we left off last time we travelled south to Carnarvon for a few days, then toured through parts of the Shark Bay Marine Park, ventured to the most western point of mainland Australia, watched dolphins frolic, had an audience with HRH Prince Leonard and wandered through a desert before travelling further south to Fremantle and the Margaret River region….

Carnarvon 11th to 13th August

We certainly enjoyed our time at 14 Mile Beach but after a week needed to get back to civilisation to resupply, do the washing and have a real shower. Our first destination was Carnarvon which is a small coastal community on the mouth of the Gascoyne River about 900 kms north of Perth. The river delta and the warm climate there make this an ideal area for growing fruit and vegetables and most of Western Australia’s fresh produce come from this region during the winter months. When we were traveling through the northern parts of the country we heard many comments about the wet season not being so wet this year and it seems that Carnarvon has felt this with lower rainfall and a poor harvest. All the same we saw plenty of roadside stalls with fresh produce for sale, unfortunately it wasn’t really all that cheap. The only thing we ended up buying was some truly delicious strawberries, but a small tray with 9 medium sized strawberries cost $3.40 which made them 38 cents each!!  There wasn’t all that much to see or do in Carnarvon, but there was the One Mile Jetty, OCT Dish, heritage museum and the old light house keeper’s cottage to explore. We went shopping, had the car serviced and because the whole place seemed to shut down from Saturday lunchtime until Monday morning we only managed to get one decent cup of coffee while we were there.  

The One Mile Jetty is one of the longest in Western Australia (I think Busselton is the only one longer) and is a bit run down as it was built in 1897 – to transport wool and livestock from the region down to Freemantle.  We walked out to the end of the jetty and it was so windy we were worried we might end up in the drink!

 IMG_2001

One of the first things you notice when driving into Carnarvon is the OCT communications satellite dish. This dish and surrounding buildings were built in 1966 (a very good year) and helped put man on the moon in 1969! It was from here that Australia also received its first international satellite TV broadcast (the satellite was in an unstable orbit and due to crash so someone thought it would be a good idea to transmit something as there was nothing else going on!!) and also helped track Halley’s Comet in 1987. The dish is no longer in operation but the site has been converted into a museum and was opened by Buzz Aldrin himself a few years ago.

 IMG_2018

In the Heritage Museum we read an article about a shearer who received an award for shearing more than one million sheep in his career.  Bill’s father was a shearer and he thinks this is amazing!!

 IMG_1997

There is a small blow hole on the coast a little north of Carnarvon and this is close to where a number of survivors from the German Raider HSK Kormoran were washed ashore (a little more discussion on this in the Geraldton section).

 IMG_2020

IMG_2027

IMG_2068

Hamelin Pool and Steep Point 14th & 15th August

After we left Carnarvon we made our way south into the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. Shark Bay is one of only a handful of special regions in the world to meet all the criteria for World Heritage Listing. The bay is home to an extensive range of rare and interesting marine life, as well as rare plants, animals and birds. There is a diverse marine ecology of coral, hypersaline communities, mangroves and seagrass not seen anywhere else in Australia. It has some of the most rugged and beautiful coastline we have ever seen. If you are not sure where Shark Bay is have a look at a map of Australia and note the little fingers that stick out from the middle of the West Australian coast. The finger that sticks out furthest is Steep Point and the Peron Peninsula is in the middle, there are several small bays and inlets around these peninsulas and the coast of the mainland and together these all make up Shark Bay.

Hamelin Station is at the southern end of the bay. We based ourselves there for 2 nights and from there we were able to view some unusual marine life and trek to the western most point of Australia. The Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool are colonies of micro-organisms that look like rocky lumps and thrive in the extreme salinity of the bay. The bacteria trap sand and other particles which form hard limestone rocks with a thin outer layer of microbes. These living rocks were likely the first type of life on earth and paved the way for air breathing plants and animals to evolve 550 million years ago. Today there are only 2 places in the whole world where Stromatolites are found and the other place is the Bahamas!

 IMG_2081

IMG_2084

The trip out to Steep Point –the Western most point on the Australian mainland- was quite an adventure. It is only accessible by 4WD and involved driving for about 50kms over soft sandy tracks through the sand dunes around the southern side of Shark Bay. Once there, there are some great camping spots along the nearby beaches and some truly spectacular coast line and fields of wild flowers to see.

 IMG_2103

IMG_2102

IMG_2166

IMG_2106

IMG_2135

IMG_2185

IMG_2157

IMG_2159

IMG_2169

IMG_2184

Monkey Mia 16th and 17th August

Our next stop in Shark Bay was at the Monkey Mia Resort. This was a little caravan park which is part of the resort and is just 2 minutes walk from the famous Monkey Mia dolphin reserve where we were able to see the wild dolphins come in to shore to frolic around and be hand fed. The dolphins come in to the beach alone or in small pods up to a dozen at time and swim around, but only get fed a maximum of 3 fish each and only 2 or 3 times each morning between 8am and midday. The rest of the time they are left to hunt and socialise naturally. The resort lounge bar is just a few steps from the beach of the dolphin interaction area and we spent a couple of pleasant afternoons dolphin watching while sitting by the bar in deck chairs with a few drinks and a good book to help pass the time.

 IMG_2207

IMG_2219

IMG_2222

 

Hutt River Province 18th August

After we left Shark Bay we made our way further south to the Principality of Hutt River which covers an area of about 75 km2. There is an amazing story about how Hutt River Provence came into existence which you can read at www.principality-hutt-river.com . The journey began when the WA State Government stated they were going to take land from the owner (Leonard Casley, a wheat farmer) without compensation so he decided to secede from Australia on 21 April 1970.  I am not sure who his legal adviser was but they have done a great job over many years!!  At one point he declared war on Australia and three days later he declared a cease fire and was then recognised as an undefeated Government.  As an undefeated Government he was then able to join the Commonwealth and this has meant that the Australian Government cannot really interfere with him any more as they must respect his sovereignty and Commonwealth countries cannot go invading other Commonwealth countries.  After visiting the Government Offices and having our passports inspected and stamped, we toured the great nation’s capitol and decided to stay the night.  Bill had the special privilege of an audience with His Royal Highness Prince Leonard and a photo opportunity as shown below.

 IMG_2287

 Cliff Head to Coogee Beach 19th to 21st August

After our overnight stay at Hutt River Province we made our way south to Northampton to collect some mail, then to Geraldton for some fuel and supplies, and a quick stop at the HMAS Sydney II Memorial, then overnighted at a free camping spot along the coast.  The memorial is quite spectacular and pays tribute to the 645 Australian sailors who lost their lives in battle with the German Raider HSK Kormoran off the coast of Western Australia on 19 November 1941.   Even after all this time there is still significant mystery about what actually happened and why there were no Australian survivors while some of the Germans made it to shore.  The sunken wrecks of both vessels were not located until 2008 when the same company that located the Titanic was invited to undertake an extensive search around the area where the wrecks were thought to be.  The wrecks are located ~200km west of Steep Point at a depth of ~2,500m.

 IMG_2298

Next morning we got off to an early start and made our way along the coast road to the Nambung National Park. This is home to the Pinnacles Desert. These unusual rock formations have been sculptured by acidic ground water beneath the sand dunes and eventually exposed by erosion. We had a pleasant walk around the reserve then made our way to our overnight stop at Two Rocks. This part of the coast is only about 100kms north of Perth and we were taken by the number of housing developments and the obvious population growth in the area.  It seems everyone over here wants to live near the water!

 IMG_2323

IMG_2353

IMG_2366

IMG_2369

So on Wednesday 21st August we finally made arrived in Fremantle. We have seen the sights of Perth before so decided to stay somewhere out of the city.  The weather has really changed as we have travelled south and we have had to adjust to cooler days, cold nights and actual rainL When we arrived here we encountered our first touch of wet weather in over 3 months –  we hardly recognise the car and caravan without their coating of red dust and mud. Bill had to put on a pair of jeans for the first time since about May and our warm jackets have had to come out of storage as well. Anyway this has been a long posting so we will leave it there and send another update soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Shark Bay and Beyond 11th to 21st August

Pilbara and Coral Coast: July 29th to August 8th

Posted by BigOdyssey on August 7, 2013

When we left off our last posting we were camped on the beach at Cape Keraudren. We stayed there 4 nights altogether and spent the time relaxing, walking on the beach and Bill got out the fishing rod – but alas no fish for dinner. We haven’t done much since then although we have traveled about 800 kms south altogether. We stayed a few nights at Karratha and a couple of free camp spots on the way south, did a little sight-seeing, and are now spending a week camped on 14 Mile Beach near Coral Bay doing very little. We want to make the most of the warm weather and sunshine while we can because we know it won’t last too long once we head further south (at the moment it currently gets down to a not so chilly 9oC overnight which is great!!).

After departing the Cape we decided to make our way to Port Hedland but couldn’t get anywhere to stay there as our preferred caravan park was full. Port Hedland is only a small town and supports the Pilbara Region mining industry and the offshore gas operations along the coast. The port is now the highest tonnage port in Australia. Frankly we didn’t think much of the place, it was dusty and difficult to get around with the van, there was little parking and not much to attract visitors. Since accommodation for tourists was so limited (because of high demand by the mining workers) we only stayed a couple of hours to get supplies and fuel before heading off again. We only took a couple of photos while we were there; here is one of them showing a bunch of boats waiting off shore to use the port.

 Port Hedland

 Our next planned stop was Karratha which was too far to drive to that day so we stopped overnight at a little free camping spot at West Peawah River. We are always amazed at the number of campers who do the same thing and there must be thousands of travellers camping in designated free camping areas all around the country every night. The more popular ones of course have something going for them like a nice view or fireplaces and a toilet always makes a camp area popular. This one had only a few shady trees but we were there early enough to get a good spot for the night, and got off to an early start the next morning.

Karratha 30th July to 1st August

Karratha is on the Pilbara Coast which was first discovered by Europeans in 1628. The region wasn’t settled until the late 1800’s and was first used as pastoral land before the discovery of gold and eventually other minerals. The whole region is now one of the richest and most important resource areas in the country and generates about 25% of the national economy through exports, taxes and royalties. This section of the Pilbara Coast encompasses the towns of Karratha, Dampier and Roebourne  which are on the Burrup Peninsular and the Dampier Archipelago offshore. Karratha is the major service town for the region and supports the mining and industry facilities producing salt, iron ore, copper, fertilisers and natural gas. Some of the world’s largest privately owned railways are located here. The cost of housing is really high here because land is in such demand and average incomes are quite high. A typical 4 bedroom home can cost close to $1M.

We only had 3 nights in Karratha and we wanted to find out about the mining operations in the area so we spent one morning driving around the area doing our own thing and the second morning on a guided tour of the Rio Tinto port operations.

The Burrup Penisular is home to the North West Shelf Venture which is an oil and natural gas operation that supplies the Karratha Gas Plant. This venture is Australia’s largest oil and gas development project and accounts for over 40% of Australia’s production making up 1% of Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  They have a great visitors centre and you can drive around the outside of the plant.IMG_1839

The Karratha Gas Plant is quite a sight to behold with large metal constructions, flaming gas vents, partially buried gas holding tanks and the beautiful coastline as a backdrop. Ships with huge tanks come to be filled with liquid natural gas (LNG) for export to other countries and a gas pipeline runs all the way to Perth to supply most of Western Australia’s gas needs.

Karratha Gas Plant

IMG_1806

IMG_1836

After seeing the visitors centre we checked some of the local natural attractions and drove to Withnall Bay and Hearsons Cove, spotted some native flora and then drove to the township of Dampier.IMG_1821

IMG_1832

Dampier was built in the 1960’s to support the mining industry and was the first port in the region. Nowadays it houses port operations for Dampier Salt, Pilbara Iron and Woodside Energy.  Of course it is also the home of the famous Red Dog who was one of the region’s best known and loved travellers. There are numerous books and even a movie about Red Dog!

RedDog

IMG_1848

Our visit to the Rio Tinto port operations the next day was also very interesting. As we were going onto company property we had to wear a long sleeved shirt, long pants and covered shoes. They even had us wear safety glasses at a couple of the places where we got off the bus! We got to see the iron ore being brought into the port by train from the mines further inland, and watched as they unloaded the train carts and then transport the ore on huge long conveyor belts to the stockpiles near the docks ready to be loaded and shipped out. The whole thing looks like one big meccano set and is quite noisy and dusty so they have a lot of environmental monitoring and spray water around to keep the dust down.

IMG_1870

IMG_1872

IMG_1869

IMG_1887

After all that excitement we spent the rest of our time in Karratha relaxing and doing the usual domestic chores (needed to wash some clothes and the bed linen) as well as a bit of retail therapy (tried to get a haircut but couldn’t get an appointment). We resupplied and headed off for our next destination on Friday 2nd August.

Warroora (pronounced warra) Station:  3rd to 10th August

After an overnight stop at a camp area off the highway at the Yannarie River (which was dry) where we were serenaded by cows and cockatoos at sunset and sunrise we made our way to a wilderness camp on the Coral Coast that we had heard about from a fellow traveller.  Warroora is a family run sheep and cattle station which has 51kms of Ningaloo Reef coastline as its western boundary. The station provides access to the Ningaloo Marine Park and camping is allowed in a number of locations. To camp here you have to be totally self-sufficient with your own water, food, fuel, chemical toilet and of course bait. There are no facilities provided and the nearest shopping (which is only a convenience store at the caravan park anyway) is at Coral Bay, which is about a 30min drive from our campsite, or Exmouth which is 150kms north. They do however have a rubbish tip and a toilet dump point which is better than some of the bush camps we have stayed at. And there is a spot (called Telstra Hill) on top of one of the sand dunes that you can drive too, to get phone and internet reception.  We were fortunate that there was a vacant campsite right on the beach and so we are camped only 20meters from the water’s edge where we are lulled to sleep at night by the gentle crashing of the waves on the sand and the low rumble of the surf over the reef (Beats cranky cows any day). Now you have to keep all this a secret because it only costs $70 per week for 2 people!

14 Mile Beach

IMG_1918

The view from our van is spectacular both day and night. We have been swimming each day ( in lieu of a shower) and have driven around a number of the 4WD tracks through the sand dunes to check out some of the other camping areas that are not accessible by caravan. We are camped in an area called 14 Mile Beach which is by far the best of the lot. We also went whale watching at a spot called Wedding Hill and Bill has made friends with the neighbour and went out fishing in his boat to the reef which is only 1km offshore. They even managed to catch a few fish for dinner.

IMG_1911

IMG_1914

Some of the campers have been here for weeks or months, there is one couple who have spent 6 months here every year for the past 6 years and the camp caretakers have actually been camped here for 18 months. They put up awnings and build wind breaks with sand and tarps around their caravans, even decorate them with solar powered fairy lights and shells and coral. A few diehards have big satellite dishes and giant antennas for mobile reception. There is actually an artesian water pump back up in the sand dunes nearby, the water is not really good for drinking but is good enough for washing and such. I’m not really sure what they do for fresh drinking water, will have to find out about that.

So we will be here for only a few more days and hopefully we won’t run out of supplies. Until our next post, we will be enjoying some fresh air, reading, fishing and sunshine at the beach………

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Pilbara and Coral Coast: July 29th to August 8th

Broome to Cape Keraudren….. 23rd – 27th July

Posted by BigOdyssey on July 27, 2013

There were lots of things to see and do in Broome but it is a very touristy place and we only stayed 3 nights. We did our usual stuff, checked out the town and local area, watched the sun set on the beach, explored some local attractions, the shops and the night market at Town Park. We went for a drive out to Willie Creek and some other spots along that part of the coast.

When we arrived in Broome after our little unexpected overnight stop in Willare we quickly realised that at this time of year it is a town that is bursting with tourists (apparently the population trebles during the winter months!!).  Our first stop was the tourist information centre to check out caravan park accommodation, they had a summary board detailing caravan park availability and every park was full!!  They also had some overflow accomodation advertised and we managed to secure the last powered site at the Broome Pistol Club as mentioned in the last blog.  We didn’t try to move from the Pistol Club as the site was ok and other site options were very competitive.

Broome was established in the late 1880’s as a pearling port and through to today the industry flourishes.  Did you know there are 22 pearl farming licences in Australia and 16 of them are located in Western Australia?  Did you also know that Broome was bombed twice by the Japanese during the second world war?

We visited the Willie Creek Pearl Farm which is a little north of Broome in a very idyllic setting – except for the few crocodiles they have in their waterways!!.  They are well set up for tourists with their tours and the detailed information they provide.

Part of our tour included lunch which included some fantastic damper with dried fruit in it.  For anyone who is interested the recipe is as follows (courtesy of Willie Creek Pearl Farm):

Ingredients

3 cups of self raising flour

2 Tbsp of sugar

1 can of beer (room temperature)

Non-stick oil spray or Glad Bake paper

Method:

Place sugar in large mixing bowl and add one can of beer.

Add three cups of self raising flour and stir until blended into dough.  Spray bread baking tin generously with non stick oven spray or line with Glad Bake paper (a lid is recommended but not essential).

Important:

Set thermostat to 180OC on low oven tray.

Bake for 35 minutes and test with skewer.

Variations:

Variations to this recipe could include sultanas, or dates and golden syrup with walnuts.  Damper can be frozen.

Growing and farming pearls is a labour intensive industry with a need to be constantly attending to the shells during the farming process. Pearl  farmers in the Broome are fortunate in that there are lots of backpackers wanting work and they have more applicants than they need and after 88 days on the job they receive  a qualification they can use in other pearling parts of the world.

Broome’s famous South Sea Pearls are produced by the silver or gold lip pearl oyster called “Pinctada Maxima” which can grow up to 30cm in diameter and weigh up to 5kg.

It was interesting to see how the industry was transformed with things like the introduction of scuba gear which followed the use of the diving helmet (being modelled by Bill in the photo below).  The biggest transformation involved a Japanese man Tokichi Nishikawa who perfected the process to produce cultured pearls and was granted a patent in 1916. This process apparently remained a secret for many years and created a monopoly but eventually the secret got out and now everyone follows the same seeding process that involves a small operation on the pearl to insert a seed (typically a small piece of shell) that starts the pearl growing.  This process can be performed up to four times (once every couple of years) but the success rate rapidly diminishes the more times it is repeated.  Each time the procedure is successful it produces a larger pearl.  The pearls are known as first, second, third and fourth generation.

Did you know that within many of the oyster shell lives a Soft Shelled Pea Crab (oyster with Pea Crab shown below) and the relationship is described as a symbiotic one which means they both benefit from the relationship.  The oyster provides shelter and food to the crab and in return the crab performs the housekeeping duties (cleaning the oyster shell and removing unwanted debris and parasites).

IMG_1676

IMG_1638

IMG_1536

Cable Beach is a well known beach with lovely sand that goes for miles and miles (22 to be exact).  The sunsets are also spectacular.  Did you know, Cable Beach got its name from the telegraph cable that was laid between Broome and Java in 1889?

IMG_1526

One of the tourist attractions in the area is to view some fossilised dinosaur footprints on a section of the headland just south of Cable Beach at Gantheaume Point.  Some of the footprints can only be seen on the lower tides and there are additional footprints that require a very low tide to see.  We saw some of the additional footprints on the very low tide but the quality was not as good as the ones that are easy to find and we photographed.

IMG_1553

IMG_1552

While we were there we saw a couple of Humpback Whales frolicking off the coast.  It would have been nice if they were a little closer but they were having fun and we saw them so that was all that really mattered.

IMG_1524

We also visited Streeter’s Jetty which was the original jetty for the pearling luggers based in Broome. The jetty is apparently still used in a limited way to support vessels for modern day pearling.

IMG_1532

On the morning we went to Willie Creek Pearl Farm we went for a dive up to James Price Point.  There is a lot of controversy over this area at the moment as some multi national oil and gas companies want to build a gas processing hub in this area.  The photo below is a view from James Price Point which is approximately 50km north of Broome and overlooks the Indian Ocean.

IMG_1618

The staircase to the moon is another well publicised tourist attraction in the area.  From March to October the staircase to the moon can be seen.  It is caused by the rising of the full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats at extremely low tide – creating a beautiful optical illusion of stairs reaching to the moon.  It is only visible for about three nights each month during the March to October period.

It was not the easiest photo to take but the photo below was taken looking across Roebuck Bay and is the best one we took.

IMG_1689

From Broome we headed down toward Port Headland and decided to drop into Cape Keraudren which is about 5km off the Great Northern Highway.  We were able to drive straight into a beachfront spot and have been sitting back doing absolutely nothing since we arrived.  The photos are taken at high tide and the tide does run out a very long way but it always comes back again!!!

IMG_1760

IMG_1794

IMG_1764

It is great to listen to the ocean all day and all night with warm weather so not sure when we will decide to move from here………….(probably when we run out of fresh water!!)

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Broome to Cape Keraudren….. 23rd – 27th July

Posted by BigOdyssey on July 23, 2013

Derby to Broome:  19th – 22nd July

We left off our last update with our arrival in Derby. We only stayed there 2 nights and the day in between was spent exploring the town and taking things easy.

We got away from Derby about 8am Sunday morning for the 200km drive to Broome. We wanted to arrive early as we had been told that it could be difficult to get a caravan site in Broome. We were making good time and were about 50kms down the road from Derby and had just passed a little place with a roadhouse called Willare. We rounded a bend in the road and came upon a small mob of cattle from a local cattle station that had been spooked and were running across the road, then we noticed some thick black smoke up ahead.  As we got closer we could see that all traffic had stopped and about 500 meters down the road there was an accident. Two road trains had just had a head on collision on a single lane bridge! If we had been a few minutes earlier we would have missed it.

Now, if you are not familiar with road trains think of a semi-trailer but with 3 or 4 trailers. And if your imagination isn’t up to that then we have some pictures below of road trains we photographed near Darwin. One truck had a load of cattle and the other was loaded with jet fuel and also diesel destined for the roadhouse at Willare. We could see thick black smoke and flames several meters high and hear the cattle bellowing up ahead. All we could do was wait for the emergency services to arrive from Derby.  One of the people who were stopped behind us was in contact with family in Derby and we knew that the police, fire and ambulance were on their way but it still took another 30 mins for them to get there.

People were walking up and down the road trying to find out what was happening. We hung around, chatted to people as they walked past, boiled the billy, read a book for a while and generally waited to find out what was going on.  Cars, many with trailers or caravans were queued up for several kilometres but the road was too narrow for most of the vans to turn around on.

Eventually more details came through, one of the truck drivers was injured and the other was OK. Some of the cattle were dead and others had to be euthanized – we heard several gunshots.  At first the word was that the bridge was going to take a few hours to clear, and then it became evident that it was going to take a lot longer. Cars had started to turn around and head back up the road, a spot opened up where vans could turn around and the road began to clear. Many people headed back to the roadhouse which was only 10kms back down the road.

We had to wait a while longer so we could drive up the road a bit and turn around -this was actually a good thing. The police came by and told us that the roadhouse at Willare was full and to go to a rest area about 3 kms away that was normally for day use only. We were told the bridge would likely be closed all night and that the road was being blocked off at Willare. By the time we turned around there were only a few caravans and cars left and when we got to the rest area we ended up with only 4 vans and a handful of other people in tents. Everyone else was packed in just down at the roadhouse and we had a nice shady spot with plenty of space around us.

So it was only 11.30 am and we were staying put for the rest of the day and night.  What to do? The wagons were circled (figuratively speaking) we had a nice shady spot and a group of people who had just experienced a bit of excitement together. Well you can guess how things went. The sun definitely wasn’t over the yard arm but the beer started flowing and a good time was had by all. We watched the progress of the recovery and clean-up vehicles as they drove back and forth to the accident site, the police dropped by a couple of times to give us updates, people staying at the roadhouse walked up and down the road. A young fellow in a ute came down from the roadhouse and joined us. By 4pm we heard that the road house had more or less run out of everything (the pub with no beer!). As night approached the fire was lit and the stories got wilder. By 9.30pm we were all off to bed, last we heard the road would re-open at 8 am, but when we woke in the morning there was a note on the gate to the rest area to say the road had re-opened at 10pm. Traffic started flowing down the road before first light and we were up at dawn, so were on the road again by 7am.

We finally made it to Broome at 9.30 am (after being held up by road works), only 24 hours later than we planned- and managed to find a powered caravan site at the local pistol club of all places. Check out this link to the ABC News website for a brief story about the accident. It doesn’t really do justice to what actually happened for the dozens of people caught up in this event.

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-21/cattle-truck-crash/4833560

We plan to be here for a few days so will update you again soon.

IMG_8316

IMG_8901

IMG_1485

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on