Friday, August 27, 2010

Heading to Ningaloo and Monkey Mia

We were sad to leave Broome, as we knew we wouldn't be able to be carefree about time spent at any place we stopped. We headed towards Ningaloo Reef, stopping at Port Headland on the way for lunch and a computer stop to pay the caravan registration.

While I was waiting for Randall to finish I noticed the name on one of the big ships in port - Tampa. Wasn't that the one involved with some boat people controversy?

As we drove out of the port, we noticed a huge pile of white stuff, which we found out was salt - Rio Tinto Salt! There are so many mines up here!

We stopped at an overnight road stop, along with a few other caravanners, and enjoyed the warmth of a fire after our tea. We had set up our satellite dish and saw some breaking news in the Phillipines about a man who had hijacked a bus, and was holding everyone on board hostage.

The next day was quite cool and it started to rain as we were driving along. It was the first real rain we had had on our trip.We called in at Karratha to have a look then kept going to find our next stop. Our roadside stop was on bitumen, but at least we were dry in our little van. We did try and sit outside for a bit but it was too unpleasant.

You can see by the photos that we always have company at these roadside stops, and people are always friendly.
We headed to Exmouth to have a look at Ningaloo Reef. Exmouth was quite a nice seaside town, so we parked the van to have a look around. It was funny to see an emu wandering around the car park!

We had heard about some campspots near the world famous reef, so called in at the information centre to find out about them. We were disappointed to find out that they were all full, but we decided to go and check them out anyway! Each campspot has a volunteer host - taking up a space for a regular camper I might say, so we were not happy! We found out that you had to queue up at the entrance gates at about 2am and wait for people to leave and you might still not be guaranteed of a space, so we gave up on that idea. We did find out the best place to swim and snorkel, so we hired some flippers and snorkels and, with limited time, had a go swimming over the reef. It is really close to the water's edge and it was lovely, but I was hopeless with my mask - it kept filling up with water and I couldn't breathe properly, so I didn't really get a good look at the reef. We returned the snorkelling gear, and had another swim at a beach nearby - our last swim as it turns out, as the weather is now too cool.

We decided not to stay in a caravan park there, but head out towards our next stop - Monkey Mia. We drove up to look at the lighthouse on the way out:

The sky was a beautiful blue, and we hoped that we could come back another time.
We had another roadside stop before we got to Monkey Mia, and it was lovely watching the full moon come up.

We arrived at a camping spot just outside of Denholm, the nearest place to Monkey Mia. We had to make a phone call and get a permit to camp, and I was surprised when the lady said there were spaces at all the campspots, so I took the one closest to Monkey Mia, called Eagle Bluff. It turned out to be a magic place, with a beautiful view, perched above the beach.

We got up the next morning and headed to Monkey Mia. I was really looking forward to this, and I had read about the dolphins at Monkey Mia, and really wanted to go there and see them. We had to pay an extra fee to get onto the beach, but we managed to get a seniors discount, which pleased us no end!!!
We were lucky that some dolphins had just come in, and a lot of people were standing along the water's edge, so we wandered down and joined them. It is all very controlled, and you are not allowed to touch the dolphins or get too far into the water, but it was still lovely to see them. A mother and child dolphin were there and stayed around for at least 1/2 hour while we were there.

I was so happy to see these dolphins, they really were lovely to watch. After they swam away Randall and I enjoyed a coffee at the resort there, called in at Denholm on the way back to our camp and had a nice pie at the bakery for lunch.
We got back to camp and did some catch up washing before relaxing watching the action out in front of us.

In the early evening we saw some dolphins in the distance, and then I saw a skate swimming along in front of us, and also a couple of sharks slinking in. The water was amazinly clear and we really felt we were at a very special place. Our permit was only for one night, but we stayed 2 nights anyway, and no one came looking for us to tell us off!!! It was quite isolated, only one tent in the distance, so lovely and private. We really loved this place.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


We left Windjana Gorge and headed up the rough road to meet the Gibb River Road and head towards Broome. Some of the Gibb was sealed but only a middle bit, like East of Alice Springs so if someone was coming towards you, you had to move off the bitumen, and the guide posts were very close to the edge!
We called into Derby, a fishing town, and filled up with diesel, then kept going to Broome. We were told everything was expensive in Broome, even the caravan parks, but we headed to Cable Beach Caravan Park, reccommended to us, and got the last powered site of the day - $43 a night, which is the most we have paid. The park has 500 spots and they are mostly filled every night, so it's a good money earner for someone!
Broome is not what we expected. It is divided in two - Cable Beach area, and town centre area. The town centre has all the touristy shops, and pearl shops of course, and restaurants. The Cable Beach area has not many shops, a cafe of two, a pearl shop and some resorts. None of the resorts can see the beach - there are sand dunes in front of them. We decided to stay a while here, as a last ditch relax before we head home.
We decided to go and look at a camping place north of Broome as we had heard it was very nice. It was called Willie Creek, so we turned off onto yet another rough road for about 27kms. You can see what I'm talking about with the corrugations - we have experienced a lot of this!, and the road is really wide!

We actually went too far and had to turn back into Willie Creek. The campsites were just ok, but surprise surprise, there is a pearl farm here, so had a lovely look around and Randall bought me a beautiful pearl ring.

We drove along Cable Beach - a lot of people drive their cars along the beach and do their nudie sunbathing! We saw a man throwing a boomerang which did come back to him!

That evening we came back and drove along the beach to watch the sunset. It really was beautiful. We saw the camels too, but neither of us were inclined to have a ride on one.

We had a lovely relaxing time in Broome, just hanging about the campsite, going for a swim at the beach and at the park pool. Here is Randall playing poker by the pool:

We went and looked at the lighthouse, but couldn't see any dinosaur footprints - the tide was too high :(
We did see some fake ones in cement, so I took a photo of them anyway!!

Election night was very important, and of course, we had the dish up so we could watch all the action as it unfolded. We sat outside watching the telly and munching on a few treats - a Smith tradition:

After watching the washup of the election the next day, and enjoying another swim in the ocean, we packed up and headed south on Monday 22nd with plans to see Ningaloo Reef and Monkey Mia before getting to Perth.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Windjana Gorge

We got up early to head further west, not really knowing where our next stop would be. We stopped briefly at Hall's Creek, and called in at the bakery that someone had reccommended to us. I had a delicious pastry, but Randall, who is very hard to please when it comes to pies and pasties, was disappointed with his pastie. We kept on going towards Fitzroy Crossing, a place I had often heard about. The Fitroy River was very pretty, but the town was only small, and not all that appealing for staying the night, so we filled up with diesel and decided to stay at Windjana Gorge, north of the main highway. It was a gravel road for 90 kilometres, but the sign said "open to all vehicles", so we taped up the fridge and the side windows and headed in.
The first part was pretty awful with dreadful corrugations, so we went carefully along, but the road improved and it was not so bad, and we made it safely to Windjana Gorge with everything in tact.
We set up camp and settled in for the evening.

The campsite setting is quite nice and the rocks towering over us were very impressive.

The next morning we took a walk into the gorge to check it out. We were amazed to see heaps of freshwater crocodiles sunning themselves by the water's edge. This was our first experience of seeing crocodiles up close without being on a cruise. We were both very impressed.

The gorge was lovely and even had some fossils to look at, so we were very glad we had come.
In the afternoon we drove back along the road, gritting our teeth, to look at Tunnel Creek, as we had passed it on our way in, but it was too late to stop.
Tunnel Creek is a creek that runs along inside the Leopold Ranges. We came armed with torches and our bathers as apparently you have to wade through a fair bit to get to the other end. As we headed into the darkness, Randall was a bit apprehensive, as he is uncomfortable being underground, and he decided he'd seen enough and we headed back outside. Outside a tour group of 'older' people were coming in, and Randall decided he would not be beaten by some oldies, so we turned around and went back in.
It was a bit creepy and eery seeing torchlites of people heading towards us, but I'm glad that we did it.

We were glad to get through to the other end, but the water was not all that inviting - a bit slimy so we didn't go for a swim.

We both were glad that we went through Tunnel Creek, but we were glad to come out at the other end into daylight!!
Even though we were a bit gorged out, Randall had read about a place called Bell Gorge, which was about 130kms from our campsite at Windjana. We had the option of towing the van there, or just making it a day trip. In the end we made it a day trip and we were pleased we did as there were a few river crossings the van might not have coped well in! We stopped to get fuel at a roadhouse, and nearly died at the price, but had to get it anyway!

We then drove into Bell Gorge, which had a lovely swimming hole. We hadn't been able to have a swim since El Questro, so it was wonderful to swim in the fresh water again. Bell Gorge is very pretty and as usual there were quite a lot of people there.

We had a lovely time there, then stopped off for a late lunch at a nice picnic spot. We were very glad we made the effort to see the gorge, and Randall was happy that he could say he drove along the Gibb River Road. It was much better than expected, but we were glad that we didn't take the van with us. It was nice to arrive back 'home' after a big day and just relax and enjoy the peacefulness of it all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Bungle Bungles

We collected the van from Kununurra, made a few phone calls, then headed off to go see the Bungle Bungles. You are not allowed to take caravans in, so we stayed the night at a lovely free campsite at a place called Spring Creek, ready to head off early in the morning, leaving the caravan behind.

We got in and checked in at the visitors centre before heading off to have lunch then look at Cathedral Gorge. The scenery is amazing here - the rock formations are quite unusual.

Cathedral Gorge was great. A huge amphitheatre like space and very awe inspiring. All these gorges we go into are very quiet and still and have a very special feeling to them.
After doing a short walk around the domes, where Randall the rock art cynic found an example of how its really done,

we headed off to the Kurranjong campsite to setup for the evening. We had a nice spot and had a lovely evening. It was funny not having the caravan with us with all its conveniences.

The next morning we decided to look in on the mini palms gorge and Echidna chasm, then hightail it out of the Bungle Bungles. The mini palms gorge was a good walk in, along a rocky riverbed - never easy to walk on I can tell you!
Randall thought he had lost weight, but he had to take his waterpack off to squeeze through here:
Of course, I got through without having to take mine off :)

When we got to the end of the walk, we looked down on the floor of the gorge and it really was quite spectacular.
We then headed off to look at Echidna Chasm, which we had seen in pictures and thought it was a must see, and it was!
After that we hopped in the car and headed off back to the highway - 1 1/2 hours to drive 52 kilometres - back 'home' as we now referred to our caravan.

We really enjoyed The Bungle Bungles and felt it was well worth the trip in, and we enjoyed staying in our roof top tent as well.