Darwin - Perth (05/06/15 - 03/08/15 )
Darwin – Bungle Bungle
On the road again – time to head South on what would turn out to be the longest distances covered in the shortest time during our Aussie travels. I guess we got a bit fed up with the high costs, huge distances and incredibly high concentration of travelers at the various highlights down the west coast and sped through faster than intended.
Amazingly it is still incredibly exciting each time we hit the road for the next part of the journey. Darwin was great but Martin was eager to show me Bungle Bungle which had impressed him so much last visit. We bush-camped there in the National Park for 3 nights spending the days exploring the strange and beautiful rock formations, getting up before dawn to get to the cathedral gorge before any other tourists … having the place to ourselves for a wee while to absorb this eerie awesome natural ampitheatre. We did all the walks among the domes and through the gorges and chasms mostly early in the mornings and returned to camp as the serious mid-afternoon heat kicked in. A stunning and not so well publicised area which was only turned into a national park in the 1980's and due to it being 4WD only access, visitors numbers are slightly limited – definitely one of our top 10 Aussie spots.
Bungle Bungle – Port Hedland
Our intention had been to travel the Gib River road and explore the Kimberley which meant about two days driving back up to Kununurra and then north to join the road but after reports of how corrugated it was and not having much enthusiasm for being back in the dust, we flagged it and headed down sealed roads to Derby on the coast, nice to be back in sea air and a cute little historic town with picturesque jetty and of course the infamous hollow Prison Baobab tree – reputed to have been used as a holding area for aboriginal prisoners.
The truck was booked for a service in Broome but we just weren't prepared for the chaos of this busy tourist destination, the weather was grotty, the roads clogged and the campgrounds were full to overflowing. We finally found a spot in the overflow camp at the local pistol club – amid the scrubby bush, two toilet/showers in total for the whole area, with club members turning up for practice in the evening, builders and a digger working on the new clubhouse – one night was enough and we escaped next morning and back on the road!
Port Hedland which gets hardly a mention in the tourist info was an unexpected highlight – the truck was rebooked there for a service so we ended up staying a few days and had a great time checking out all the huge machinery, trucks, trains, ships and best of all doing a harbour cruise among the huge “cape class” carriers with a brilliant commentary from our host, the chaplain of the local Seafarers centre. This town is Australia's main port for shipping iron ore, salt and copper and is one of the largest of its kind in the world, there was an average of 26 huge carriers waiting offshore each day for their turn to come in and load and once full they have to wait for the high tide to sail again – lots of fascinating information and facts – an amazing place with everything stained brownish red from the iron ore!
Port Hedland -
We rolled into Carnarvon not expecting too much as the travel guides hardly give it a mention but found an unexpectedly pretty seaside town, described as being the only spot in Australia where the desert meets the sea, its a small busy horticultural town with market gardens and orchards lining the Gascoyne River and supplying most of the fruit and veges for Perth. It also has the great rambling “One Mile Jetty” with its train and machinery museum and surprisingly a US OTC satellite earth station from the 60's, but sadly no Dugongs. I was eager to see one of these huge dopey-looking cows of the sea and this part of the west coast is their main territory but despite much searching I was out of luck.
Monkey Mia in reality is even prettier than all the advertising pictures, white sand and peacock blue sea, the dolphins arrived on queue, the pelicans strutted around showing off, camels rides on the beach, any number of water sports available, the sun shining …. magic! If only we didn't leave feeling that we'd been processed – I guess that's just how it has to be to manage the numbers at the big tourist destinations. Getting a little fed-up with all the rules we decided to beach camp on a beautiful wild open spot down the coast from Monkey Mia – had a lovely peaceful night but were visited by the ranger in the morning – he turned out to be pretty relaxed about it but obviously no more beach camping!
The weather turned nasty soon after and we hung out in Kalbarri for a few days with great cheap off-peak accommodation in another cute little seaside town.
Kalbarri - Perth
Port Denison was yet another picture-book pretty little seaside town and we stayed for about a week until the weather turned really wild and we were advised to head away from the coast, making our way down past the striking Pink lake coloured by an algae present in the high salt concentration and then on to Cervantes and the nearby Pinnacles (see photos), strange and eerie limestone formations in the desert.
Something I hadn't expected or heard anything about in Australia until arriving on the West Coast were the wildflowers … from late winter through spring there are over 12,000 varieties of flowers going crazy over the south western part of WA. The amount, beauty and uniqueness of these flowers is just staggering with around 60% of them are only being found in Australia. Even Martin got caught up in the hype and we spent a whole wild windy day in Lesueur national park ogling and photographing the beautiful and fascinating flowers.
The remainder of the trip to Perth was pretty uneventful apart from stumbling on the Gingin space observatory and discovery centre an interesting way to spend a few hours before entering the turmoil of the busy city. Unfortunately the whole trip after leaving Port Denison was marred by grotty wet windy weather which finally improved slightly in Perth.