Days 102-103 – Purnululu National Park aka The Bungle Bungles

10th-11th September, 2016.

Today our destination is Spring Creek Rest Area on the Great Northern Highway about 500m south of the entrance to the Bungle Bungles access road. We had been debating whether it was too hot to attempt the drive in and walk in the National Park but having come this far we decided to do it as we could always turn around and leave if it was all too difficult.

When we passed this rest area on our way west, it was packed. Today there was only one van there when we arrived so we had the pick of the spots. The upper level would have been better for solar collection but it was fairly exposed to passing traffic. The lower level beside the dry creek bed was much more inviting but it was tricky to find a spot that was going to give us enough sun to keep the batteries happy but we managed it.

It was not long before more vans arrived but it was never busy at any time during our two night stay. A fellow camper told us when she had been here four years ago a little earlier in the season, the creek was full and people were swimming. Not this year!

In preparation for the drive in, we deflated our tyres to 26psi all round. We were unsure what to expect of the road other than knowing it could take around 2 hours to cover the 53kms to the Visitor Centre. We set off at 5.40 a.m., hoping to get some walks done before the day got too hot. As it turned out, we covered the distance in 1½ hours with the road being better than we expected. It was very corrugated, narrow in places, hilly and with dry creek crossings so it was not difficult to see why only single axle trailers are allowed on the road. But, in general, we did not think it much worse than some other outback roads we have travelled on.

About half of the drive is through property owned by Mabel Downs Station.

Termite mounds are everywhere in the outback.

There were three walks that we planned to do from the central car park at Piccaninny, a further 25kms from the Visitor Centre in the southern part of the park, The Domes, Cathedral Gorge and Piccaninny Lookout. The other, much longer walks we knew would be well beyond us in the heat. The car park was already busy when we arrived a bit before 8 a.m. and an Outback Spirit tour bus arrived at about the same time. We decided to walk in the reverse direction to the tour group and headed to the Lookout first.

Much of the walking track is sand which makes the going even more difficult in the heat.

Walking along the rock based creek bed was a welcome relief from the sand.

Am I looking thrilled to be here? Hmm, not so much! Hot and sweaty and it is still only 8.15 a.m. but the scenery is spectacular.

Pausing to photograph the occasional wildflower is really an excuse to catch one’s breath.

It was not too difficult a climb to the lookout where the view was quite special.

Unfortunately, we then had to retrace much of the route on our way to Cathedral Gorge.

The distances don’t seem far but the heat is making the walk difficult.

Fortunately, much of the walk to Cathedral Gorge was shaded making it much more pleasant.

It think this ladder is the reason this is a Class 4 walk.

Retracing our path back towards the car park, we decided to walk to the Domes, just a short detour.

We got back to the car park at around 10.15 a.m. and were thankful that we could replenish our water bottles from the additional water we had in the car fridge. It was now around 37 degrees, really too hot to be in the sun but we decided to drive to the northern part of the park where there are more walks.

The rock formations in this part of the park were a bit different from the domes.

By now we had worked up an appetite and ate our lunch under the shade sails covering the picnic tables at the car park at Echidna.

The walk to Osmand Lookout was steep but thankfully only 100 metres or so and afforded good views over the surrounding countryside.

The walk to Echidna Gorge was along the rocky creek bed but by this time we had had enough and decided to head back to camp. The area is certainly well worth a visit but it really was too late in the season for us. Dedicated hikers should camp in the NP camp ground for a couple of nights to take advantage of early starts because, even in mid-winter, the days can be very hot.

We made good time back to our campsite, had our showers and spent the rest of the day recuperating.

Erich was rewarded to a nice sunset.

Undeterred by the previous day’s exertions, Erich was out for his early morning walk to take a few shots before we completed packing up and heading further north.

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Days 95-97 – Heading back to Broome

3rd-5th September, 2016.

Having left Dampier early, we were soon back on the North West Coastal Highway heading towards Port Hedland. The roadworks that had been in place when we headed south from Port Hedland at the intersection with the Great Northern Highway were still underway but luckily our delay was short and we were soon past Port Hedland and on familiar territory once again. Port Hedland is not one of our favourite towns so we made sure we had no reason to stop there for shopping or refuelling. The drive from Port Hedland to Broome is over 600kms of excruciatingly boring flat and featureless coastal plains. Our planned overnight stop was at the DeGrey River Rest Area where we camped last year on our way north. It is a huge area and we were able to get away from the few fellow campers who were there.

Like all these rest areas along this stretch of highway, it was dry and dusty with the river bed almost dry. Heading further north, we fuelled up at Pardoo Roadhouse and bought a couple of their famous sausage rolls. Our previous experience of these sausage rolls was fantastic. Sadly, early on a Sunday morning is not the best time to purchase. I suspect they were yesterdays as they were very dry on the ends.

Next stop was the Stanley Rest Area where we also camped last year. We had thought about going further to a new rest area, Goldwire, that we checked out on our way south but were a bit concerned that it would be busy as it is a smaller area than Stanley. Stanley wasn’t crowded at all and we found a reasonable spot to set up.

There was a Geocache here which gave Erich 5 minutes of entertainment. Rocks at the base of trees are usually a dead give away.

There were lots of Zebra Finches which are always fun to watch.

A pair of Red-winged Parrots provided some entertainment as well.

Clouds provided an interesting sunset.

Nice early morning light.

We decided to stay an extra night here. Technically it is a 24 hour stop but it wasn’t busy at all so we weren’t keeping others from finding a good spot. Our vehicle was booked for a service at Broome Toyota on the 8th so we had some time to kill.

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Day 101 – Ngumban Cliff Rest Area

9th September, 2016.

We got away in good time from Broome’s Gateway on Friday morning but not before Erich took a few last photos.

Today we planned to go to Fitzroy Crossing to check out the Geikie Gorge boat tour. We had been told by a fellow traveller that the mid-afternoon tour was no longer running because it was too hot and I had been unable to find any definitive information about the morning and sunset tours. While we still had phone reception as we drove, I checked out the Fitzroy Crossing Visitor Centre opening hours – 8.30-4.30. It was too early to call so we decided to stop in to get the information we needed when we arrived.

After leaving Broome well behind, we made an unscheduled stop for Erich to check something on the vehicle and I could not resist taking a photo of this massive Boab tree. Certainly the biggest we have seen.

After refuelling in Fitzroy Crossing, we parked at the Visitor Centre only to find the door firmly locked and a sign saying they were closed for lunch between 12.30 and 1.30pm. It was now 12.25pm! We were so annoyed that we just decided to forget the whole thing and drove on to a rest area we had noted on our trip west a few months earlier, Ngumban Cliff. What a gem of a camp site!

Erich’s photos tell a better story than I could.

We had a very peaceful night with just 6 fellow campers and very little traffic on the road below.

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Days 98-100 – Broome for the third time

6th-8th September, 2016.

Well here we were again, back in Broome for the third time! We honestly thought when we left last time that we would not return again but it was 10,000kms of travel since our last vehicle service in Broome back in June so it was necessary to have another service before we ventured another 4,500kms or so back to home.

Back at Broome’s Gateway, I had a day to do the washing while Erich gave the car a good clean at the wash down area. It’s very unusual to find a caravan park where you are allowed to wash your car or van but Broome’s Gateway is located on an aquifer so there is no shortage of water there.

The first morning was very foggy making for some great photos.

The next morning was clear providing some stark contrast.

Crested Pigeon.

Great Bowerbird.

We had no idea how we were going to occupy the 5-6 hours it would take to service the car. Fortunately, this time we had the forethought to ask for a courtesy car which was happily provided by Broome Toyota. We’ve had our vehicle serviced there three times now and cannot fault their service department. We still had no idea what to do as we have already seen everything that interests us in Broome.

So we sat for a while at Town Beach which is always lovely.

Then we decided to drive out to the Bird Park at 12 Mile outside of Broome. I’m not keen on caged birds but I have to say that this is a very well set out park, everything was very clean and the birds looked well cared for. Many of the birds were foreign so I don’t remember their names and the more uncommon Australian birds will also have to go nameless here.

That occupied some time and then we had lunch at Matso’s, a boutique brewery with restaurant, centrally located in Broome. By the time lunch was finished we had a call to say the car was ready to be collected. We said our farewells to Broome and don’t expect to visit there again but despite what many people say, we really like it and would advise anyone who is undecided about visiting to do so. There is a lot of interesting history and great scenery.

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Day 93 – Millstream-Chichester National Park

1st September, 2016.

Instead of taking the van down to the Millstream campground, we decided to make our visit a day trip from Dampier. It was around 100kms of good sealed road before we turned on to gravel to head along the Chichester Range to Python Pool, one of the main attractions in the park. As we began to climb through the hills the scenery was quite spectacular and as we got higher and the road more hilly and winding, the surface changed to bitumen. This road would be impassable after rain otherwise.

We stopped at a couple of opportune pull-off areas to take some photos.

Arriving at our destination, it was just a short walk along the rocky creek bed to Python Pool. Obviously there has not been much rain in recent times judging by how low the water was from the high water mark. It is a popular place to swim and it did look rather inviting but we had not come prepared.

We retraced our route back to the main road and continued on towards the camping areas making a circuit of the drive by taking the first turning we came to which looped around back to the other entrance. This was a pleasant drive along reasonable dirt roads and once again the scenery was lovely though different from the Python Pool drive.

These wildflowers have been everywhere for the last couple of weeks and I finally can identify them as Mulla Mulla.

Spinifex always adds a wonderful texture to the landscape but it’s not so nice if you brush up against it.

Prior to its acquisition for a National Park, Millstream had been an active pastoral station for more than 100 years. The original homestead has been preserved as a Visitor Centre along with the separate cookhouse.

There is a Geocache somewhere around here but unfortunately the coordinates were well off putting it in the middle of a patch of dirt. We were fairly sure it would have been in this piece of old machinery but we were unable to find it.

The Millstream precinct is a priority one water catchment area, surprising given how arid the surrounding countryside appears.

There is a lovely wetland area close to the homestead where a walking trail has been established.

There was a Geocache along this trail which was an easy find. Eventually the walk brought us back to the homestead.

We had a drive through the Miliyanha Campground which was well set out with large campsites, some sunny, some shaded but well separated from each other. It would have been a good place to camp. Further along the road we drove up to the cliff top with a view over the Fortescue River.

Further along we came to the second camping area, Stargazers Campground, which did not impress us very much as the sites were on the small side and close together. The only advantage this campground would have over the other is its reasonable proximity to the river, though it would still be quite a walk. It was also not too far to drive to Deep Reach Pool, a popular picnic and swimming area on the Fortescue River.

There were shaded picnic tables and two well built entry points into the river for swimming.

Here is a picture of the Cockroach Bush alluded to in an earlier post. It is easy to see the resemblance between the mature seed pods and cockroaches.

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Days 91-94 – Dampier and surrounds 2

2nd September, 2016.

We decided to make a day trip to the towns of Point Samson, Cossack and Roebourne and to include some Geocaching along the way.

It started out a beautiful morning for Erich’s walk by the bay.

The port looks almost attractive in the early morning light.

The hunt for the first Geocache of the day led to a lovely view.

And not too difficult a find once approached from the right direction.

Our drive took us north approximately 60kms almost to the town of Roebourne where we turned towards the coast and the small village of Point Samson. This is very much a place of holiday homes and fishing shacks with a couple of caravan parks for those who enjoy being close to the ocean but it is a very windy place. We managed to find a Geocache very close to the beach with hundreds of sea birds standing around on the rocks.

There was another Geocache at the old railway station site.

Driving back past the modern town of Wickham, we stopped at a display of mining equipment to log another find.

Next stop was the abandoned town of Cossack, now purely a destination for day-trippers to see the well preserved buildings and to learn some of the history of this former supply harbour and pearling town.

A Spinifex Pigeon posing.

The search for our first cache here took us on a long walk along the beach which would have been lovely had it not been so hot. The cache was hidden in this dense thicket of bush.

The view from the lookout certainly foreshortens the length of the beach.

There was a Geocache up here among the rocks too but unfortunately it eluded us.

Next we decided to tackle a multi-cache (not Erich’s favourite type of cache) at the Asian Cemetery. Fortunately all the clues were to be found on this headstone and the resulting coordinates revealed the cache close by.

By now we were getting hungry and with nothing on offer in Cossack, we headed back to Roebourne. All we knew of Roebourne were the entertaining anecdotes told to us by a former female prison guard, now retired, at the old Roebourne Prison, who was camped at Standown Park when we had our extended stay there in 2014. We found a great cafe staffed mostly by local indigenous youngsters and had very good coffee and burgers, all freshly made and very cheap.

Sunset at the Dampier Port.

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Days 91-94 – Dampier and surrounds 1

30th August – 2nd September, 2016.

Leaving Cape Range National Park, we retraced our route to Exmouth where we collected our mail, restocked with groceries, filled our tanks with water at the Information Centre and refuelled before heading back down the peninsula and taking the turn left to connect with the North West Coastal Highway. This was a better road than that from Minilya Roadhouse and we were able to make good time until we came across massive roadworks that went on for kilometres. As our planned overnight stop was at the Barradale Rest area just at the end of the roadworks, the 30 minute delay did not upset our plans.

An enterprising Station owner has set up a Burger Bus at the rest area and does a thriving trade with passing truckies and tourists. As we were a bit late for our lunch we decided to try out her fare and very good it was too. No wonder it is so popular.

The rest area is massive, going a long way back from the highway so it was not difficult to find a reasonably level spot away from the highway noise.

The nearby dry river bed gave Erich a nice subject.

Our original plan on leaving Barradale was to head to Millstream-Chichester National Park for a few nights, travelling via the mining town of Pannawonica, before venturing out to the coast again at Dampier. The closer we got to the turn off, the more I began thinking it would be better to go to Dampier during the week than to arrive at the small community owned caravan park on the weekend. Well, we are nothing if not flexible, so I reprogrammed the GPS to take us to Dampier.

We chose Dampier rather than a caravan park in nearby Karratha which does not have a very good reputation for welcoming travellers, rather concentrating on the more lucrative mining trade. The small so-called “transit park” which allows a maximum 3 night stay is certainly a more pleasant place to stay and we were lucky enough to get the last powered site available with the available unpowered sites being too small or too shady for us.

After a quick lunch, we called at the Visitor Centre to collect a brochure of the area and decided to explore the recently declared Murujuga National Park on the Burrup Peninsula where there are hundreds of Petroglyphs in the rocky landscape.

To the far left of this photo can be seen one of the many mine installations on the peninsula, just outside the National Park boundary.

Imagine the internal earth pressure needed to push these rocks to the surface.

It took a while for us to “get our eye in” and to recognise what we were seeing but once we did it became easier to spot the Petroglyphs, although identifying what they were meant to represent was more difficult.

We also finally saw our first Sturt Desert Pea flowers – just beautiful and they grow in the most inhospitable places.

Even this tree manages to find a foothold amongst the rocks.

This massive natural gas processing plant is certainly a large blot on the landscape but must bring a lot to the local economy.

At the entrance to Dampier is a monument to Red Dog, a red kelpie that wandered the area back in the 1970s and who’s legend became so famous a movie was made about him. There is also a Geocache here which simply involves taking a photo of the monument and a GPS showing the coordinates.

The view from the William Dampier Lookout over the port area was interesting.

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Days 88-90 – Cape Range National Park

27th-29th August, 2016.

The day finally arrived when we could book in to our camp site at Kurrajong in the Cape Range National Park. We got away early from Minilya after fuelling up at the roadhouse and began the drive north west to Exmouth where we would stock up on groceries and then make our way down the southern side of the peninsular to the National Park.

Rain was threatening all the way down the coast and there was a heavy shower which finished just as we arrived at the campground so we were able to set up without getting wet. Looking at our campsite, you would think that we were all on our own but every campsite in every campground in Cape Range was booked out every day for weeks on end. Only advance online bookings can be made through the WA National Parks website. It’s quite a pain because you need to know in advance when you will be arriving which for travellers like us is not always easy to predict, hence why we had an extra day waiting at Minilya.

The Kurrajong campground is well set out with spacious sites well separated from each other and with a sand dune providing protection from the on shore winds. It was a good thing having some separation between us and the ocean because we had very strong winds for two days of our stay making it rather unpleasant to sit outside.

We spotted a few whales outside the reef but they were quite a distance away.

Erich decided to have a play with medium long exposure resulting in blur when photographing the waves crashing on the reef.

The low shrubbery around the campground provides wonderful habitat for birds and native animals.

Lots of Zebra Finches.

Corellas.

This boardwalk to the beach was located just behind our site.

Heaps of Kangaroos and Wallabies.

There were plenty of people swimming but it was too cold for us.

One of the main reasons for coming to Cape Range NP was to do the Yardie Creek Boat Tour into the Gorge. No tours were running on the Saturday due to low tides so we booked the 11.30am tour on the Monday, hoping it would not be too crowded after the weekend.

Looking towards the mouth of Yardie Creek from a walk along the cliff. The bar across the creek is accessible by 4 wheel drive vehicles which can drive up from Ningaloo along the beach. Not something to be attempted with a caravan in tow.

Looking back up the creek towards the gorge.

Kayaking is very popular on this safe waterway.

A trio of Pied Cormorants.

Some of the beautifully coloured cliffs along the creek.

We spent some time looking for the elusive Black-footed Rock Wallabies that live in the cliffs and were rewarded with quite a few sightings. They blend in so well with their background that they are difficult to spot.

The gorge is navigable for a relatively short distance and is quite shallow in places but the scenery is very beautiful.

One of the highlights was seeing an Osprey nest with the parents and a chick. It was difficult to get good shots of the birds at the nest though.

But we managed some shots of the parents when they left the nest looking for food.

Interesting rock formations.

Fig trees sending out aerial roots as they cling to the cliffs.

This time we saw the whole family.

As always there were pretty wildflowers around.

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Days 86 & 87 – Minilya Rest Area

25th & 26th August, 2016.

Our original plan had been to retrace our steps from Mt Augustus past Kennedy Range, back to Gascoyne Junction and then to Carnarvon to do our restocking. However, on consulting the map we decided it didn’t make much sense to go over old ground when we could take a more direct route to the North West Coast Highway.

So we retraced our route to the junction of the road from Kennedy Range to Mt Augustus and then struck west to meet roads that would take us either north or south to intersect with the highway. All went well as we had travelled most of this route previously until we got to a section of the road that was both hilly and narrow. I was beginning to rue my decision but in the end it wasn’t too bad. Then we had to decide whether to go right towards Lyndon where the road would intersect with the highway at Barradale meaning we would have to head south to connect with the road to Exmouth or take the left fork which would bring us out on the highway near Minilya and a more direct route to Exmouth. We chose the left fork and it was not too bad. A few corrugations along the way but nothing worse than we have previously experienced.

We arrived at the Minilya Rest Area at a reasonable hour to have lunch, chose a good spot and set up camp. As it happened, we had two nights until we could go to our camp spot in the Cape Range National Park so we decided to spend the time here. It was fairly close to the highway but there was not much traffic to disturb us and we were able to get bread at the roadhouse a few hundred meters up the road.

There was a cache nearby so that gave Erich something to do in the morning while taking photos.

The cache was located in one of these old water tanks.

It looks as though we are crowded in but that is just the perspective of the photo – we had enough space around us.

So we spent a quiet couple of days with Erich processing his photos while I caught up with the blog.

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Days 84 & 85 – Mt Augustus National Park

23rd & 24th August, 2016.

We had been in two minds about whether to visit Mt Augustus National Park or not. I had not been able to find out much about what there was to do until we got to Temple Gorge campground in the Kennedy Range National Park and got a brochure on Mt Augustus from the camp host. It showed there was a 49km circuit drive around the rock plus a number of short walks to suit our fitness level, not just the 8 hour summit walk which was way outside our comfort zone. Size-wise Mt Augustus is on par with Uluru (Ayers Rock) and its sandstone is said to be two or three times older. For those of you with a geological bent, Google is your friend.

As we were so close (around 250kms away!), we decided we may as well take the detour. The gravel road was in really good condition for the most part and we were generally travelling at around 70kph. The only place to camp in the area is at the Mt Augustus Station “caravan park”. We were pleasantly surprised as there were lots of grassy areas to camp beside and it was all very spacious. The amenities were clean if a bit dated but as we only ever use the toilets when necessary during the day, amenities are never high on our list of priorities. We had an unpowered site with a tap nearby that we could have topped up our shower tanks if we had needed to. Diesel was available at $1.75 per litre, very reasonable for such a remote spot.

Erich was out for his morning walk as usual and the light was terrific.

We could see the rock from our campsite.

As we had limited ourselves to just two nights here, we only had the day to see those sights that interested us.

First stop was at Cattle Pool where we had a very pleasant walk along the waterhole trying for those elusive bird photos.

Before we had even left the car park, a Spinifex Pigeon posed for us.

While there were not a lot of wildflowers to be seen, the few that we found were pretty.

These three Little Black Cormorants posed nicely for us.

There was a good view of the rock from various parts of the walk.

Not a great photo, but this is an Australian Ringneck (a parrot).

Next we drove to a lookout that gave great views of Mt Augustus.

Next we entered the part of the loop road that would take us around the back of the rock and back out onto the Mt Augustus to Meekatharra Road. We drove in to the area known as The Pound where drovers in the early 1900s would rest their mobs of cattle on the overland trip to Meekatharra some 350kms away. Apparently they covered this distance in 10-12 days which seems incredibly fast to me.

We walked up to the “Saddle” which afforded wonderful views to the north and the south. It was quite a good trail, Class 3, though very rocky so we had to watch where we put our feet.

 

There was actually a seat at the end of the trail where we sat to take in the views. All along this walk were lovely wildflowers and flowering shrubs.

This white stuff which felt soft and furry is actually a plant of some description.

This shrub, a Cassia I think, is commonly called Cockroach Bush because the seed pods when they age look rather like the back of a cockroach. These seed pods are far from reaching that stage so a certain amount of imagination is required however a later blog entry should show a more descriptive photo.

Driving further on the loop road, we came to the start of one of the summit trails which also leads to some Petroglyphs (Aboriginal rock carvings).

Continuing our drive, we came to another Petroglyph site.

We think this may be a Quandong tree with unripe fruit, the fruit is deep red when ripe.

On entering the main loop road again, we could see witches hats and tree branches blocking part of the road. As we got closer it suddenly dawned on us that these were burrowing bee nests in the road. We had been told about them at Kennedy Range NP but had not seen any.

We stopped the car to take some photos but the bees became quite agitated, buzzing around our heads. We didn’t know whether they could sting or not so we beat a hasty retreat to the car.

Our next stop on the loop was at Ooramboo to do the stockman’s trail. On the way in we found hundreds more burrowing bee nests once again in the middle of the road.

This was a very pretty spot with a lovely natural pool.

On the way out we stopped to try to get a decent photo of one of the burrowing bees – they are really large. Finally success but it is still difficult to get a good perspective on how large these bees are. Apparently they do not nest here every year but good rainfall is essential for their life cycle.

All-in-all a very enjoyable day. We are so glad we decided to make the trip to see Mt Augustus. Our last evening, Erich tried his hand at a few more star trails.

Erich didn’t realise at the time what he was photographing – he just was attracted by the large camp fire under the stars. In the morning he talked to one of the guys in the group of campers. Turns out they are crossing Australia from the most western point (Steep Point) to the most eastern point (Byron Bay) on motorcycles (Harvey Davidsons) for a very worthy cause: “5,000 km ride across the deserts of Australia bringing communities together to fight suicide and depression”. Check out their website: http://crossingaustralia.com/

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