Archive | September, 2015
27 September 2015

Blow Hole!

Quobba Station sounded like a good place to park up for the night, particularly as it was off the beaten track after taking in the Pt Quobba blowholes. By this stage we’re about 60 km north of Carnarvon on the coast….

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Young fella fishing off the rocks beside the blowholes….

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hooked a fish straight away. Got incredibly excited about the size of the fish – “biggest I’ve ever caught – look, look, look”. Played it for maybe 10 minutes, yelling excitedly all the way. Just got it to side of rocks about to clear the water as shark takes it to the gills. Rod is nearly broken with weight of fish but even with only head left he tries to clear the water again and shark takes the rest, hook, line and sinker….

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Talk about disappointed. Shark seemed contented though.

Onto Quobba Station – dirt road for 10 km – we didn’t make 100 metres. Talk about rough. OK, rethink. Back to highway and on to Carnarvon. We’re trying hard to save money so cheap/no cost accom is desirable. No such luck, had to take up residence in a caravan park…

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then off we go to see whats what in downtown Carnarvon. Well, not much really. A nice little lighthouse keepers cottage, a bit of local shearing history, an old steam train that hauled stuff down the jetty and elsewhere an avenue of honour for the 645 casualties of HMAS Sydney II.

As a matter of interest we needed gas whilst here. Tried the local Caltex SS but at $46.00 figured it could wait. Remembered that Woolies/Caltex had cheaper gas. There’s one in town – out of gas today but they charge just $25.00. Its Sunday, will have fresh delivery Tuesday but if your need is urgent you’ll get some at Mitre 10 for $36.00. As it turned out we could wait until Tuesday because we thought there was more to see in Carnarvon. Picked up Woolies gas on Tuesday. How can it be – same product ranging from $25 to $46. Rip off.

One of the items on our bucket list has been to visit each of the most extreme points of the continent. We’ve now done north, east and south so west was next and now. So, from Carnarvon we continue down the coast to Denham. This is on Shark Bay, is next to the well known dolphin habitat of Monkey Mia and is the kick off point to get to Steep Point, the most westerly part of the Australian continent.

We overnighted at a ‘free camp’ just south of Denham only to be harassed by a council ranger at 7 am the next morning. We did notice a sign on entry that specified the need for a permit but phone call to council at 5.05 pm on our way in resulted in a ‘no response’. Ranger was apologetic but insisted we still owed money for permit and ‘he had our number’ – 15 bloody dollars to park up on dirt with absolutely no facilities except a nice view. The caravan parks in Denham have the council in their pockets. We then paid $44.00 per night to stay in the ‘overflow’ area of one of the parks. Ah well!

Denham is however a nice little town…..

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nicely placed on the beach of Shark Bay.

On our way into town we stopped at Ocean Park and found one of the best tourist attractions we have yet seen – an aquarium with a tour guide, a one hour journey through the world of fishes…

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sharks, stone fish, turtles, sea snakes and Nemo fish, all described and personified in detail. Very very interesting, excellent experience.

Some consultation with VIC and other locals led us to the conclusion that Suzi wouldn’t make it out to Steep Point – insufficient ground clearance. So, to achieve our objective our only option was to pay someone to take us. Attempted to book with service provider but nothing happening until a minimum number was reached. As it turned out 3 was the minimum (at $300.00 per head) and we had to wait 3 days for it to happen. In the meantime it was out to Monkey Mia to feed dolphins. Had to be there by 7.45 am. Horrendous hour but we got there along with 100 others. Good show though….

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and Jude even got to feed one. With a bit of time now to fill in we took a drive out to Frances Peron national park to experience an old sheep station. It was mildly interesting….

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a shearing shed and shearers quarters, a house/homestead not accessible to visitors and a hot spa from an artesian bore. Could have driven further out into the park but our experience on sand in Onslow had Jude a bit nervous, so back to solid land…DSC08160

Well nearly.

Managed to fill in another day while still waiting to hear if we’ve got a tour out to Steep Point. Call finally came late on Friday to say that tour was on for Saturday – a third person had been acquired and be ready for pick up at 6.30am.

Up bright and early (well up!) and picked up in jacked up wide tyred Land Cruiser…..

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met our travelling companion Roz  and tour guide Ralf and away we goed.

100km or so to the turnoff to Steep Point then let the tyres down. Hey this is serious. Aw! this doesn’t look too bad…

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and then it became a little more testing…DSC08267 DSC08375

As it turned out there was no way Suzi would have traversed the sand dunes.

Anyway, we made the Point ….

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and went on to explore the whole peninsula. Beautiful, stunning coastline and some of the best floral displays we’ve seen so far (and since) and fun sand dunes for that real offroad experience….

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It felt a bit like cheating and there’s no doubt I would have preferred to be driving but dear little Suzi would not have covered the ground. As it was the Cruiser did get bogged down in the sand but a bit of trial and error got us moving again. But, we’ve done it – explored the most westerly point of Australia. And its beautiful and rugged and exhilarating.

This entry is getting a bit long but I am catching up – I’m now only a couple of weeks behind. Part of the problem is the poor internet coverage down the coast. TV has been virtually non-existent except in towns and even then there are few receivable channels and phone reception has also been patchy. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

20 September 2015

Southerly now

And a little bit north. Back down the coastal highway from Karratha generally heading south we decided we should check out Onslow, cos its on the map. This sort of meant a north westerly diversion, actually back to the coast to a township shown as having a population of just 690 people.

Well surprise, surprise its no longer that small. The Wheatstone offshore gas project has transformed this seaside shanty town into a hive of building activity with accommodation of all styles being built everywhere. Apparently in this project construction phase, which has been going on for some years and will continue perhaps for another 2 there are 5400 workers in the town and on site out of town. We stayed in the largest caravan park surrounded by new units and mobile donga accommodation …..DSC07909 DSC07912 DSC07915 DSC07931 DSC07933 DSC07934

The above show the project through a long lens and the new housing estate being developed in town and the caravan park. There are some 400 workers housed and fed daily in the caravan park alone. Greyhound buses ferry them backwards and forwards to the construction site or to the airport as they fly in and out. The whole project is massive and will ultimately transform Onslow into something like Newman  or Tom Price – a substantial ‘mining town’. Mind you, it has little else. It could only otherwise be described as a sleepy little fishing village with only a salt production plant to otherwise provide income….

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A massive pier and conveyor belt carries salt out to ships, but we saw none on our visit. Do wonder how much actually happens here.

In my attempt to get shots of the Wheatstone Project we headed out onto a sandy strip at the end of a dead end road where we could see people fishing and a couple of other vehicles out on the point. Following existing wheel tracks was presumed the safest course – WRONG. The ruts were just too deep for poor little Suzi and belly down we stopped, straddling the hump in the middle. No traction at all. How embarrassing. Ah well we’ll just have to dig out or winch out! Digging under or in front of the wheels resulted in just deeper ruts and there was nothing to hook up to to winch out. Just have to get help. Wandered (stumbled really) over to the fisher folk who, as I got closer, took on a much darker hew. Well they did have two Nissan Patrols so with hand on heart I ask for help. No wurries bro! Fire up a Nissan, hitch a ride back surrounded by piccaninnies running. Hook up winch to Nissan parked off to side of track and winch Suzi out onto non-disturbed sand, unhook, effusive thanks and $20, select low 4×4 and plow back on the harder undisturbed sand. At least I got photos of the Wheatstone Project. Bit of a test really – clearance means a lot.

We survived, although Jude is a little more apprehensive of sandy tracks. Back to the highway and on south again. But Exmouth requires another northerly detour. We had been advised by many that Exmouth provided many points of beauty and interest, including some of the best ‘free’ camp sites in the country. So went the advice that you had to queue up from 6.00am to take advantage of someone leaving the National Park sites on the Ningaloo Reef if you wanted to actually stay in the Park. By the time we got into Exmouth it was too late in the day to anticipate a site in the Park but we did consult with the Dept of Fisheries and Wildlife (or whatever they call themselves here) only to have it confirmed that we did indeed need to line up early in the day if we wanted a site. We ascertained that there was actually only one ground that would accommodate our rig so, after checking into a station stay caravan park at the entrance to the Cape Range National Park, we drove down to check our options. Sure the site would fit us but after inspection we decided that we didn’t share others effusive delight at the beauty of the site/s. A couple of long drop dunnies, a sand dune between the site and the beach a few stumpy trees and nothing but some low barren hills to the rear to look out on.

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We drove further into the Park to be further disappointed.

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There must be s here that we are not seeing – perhaps it is the Ningaloo Reef. The Reef is 180 km or so long and generally is just a few hundred metres off the coast. Many coral and fish varieties to be observed here, all easily accessible. A fishermans paradise! Is this the attraction?

Have to find out. Booked a glass bottomed boat guided tour of the reef for the next day. Very entertaining guide was Alec but hardly a visual treat the reef….

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We’re told the colour is better if you dive on the reef ie get down there with it. That ain’t gunna happen. There’s sharks out there.

We certainly didn’t see in Exmouth what we presume others must do. Maybe Coral Bay is better. Back southwards.

Coral Bay is a pretty little seaside resort but you gotta like the beach and probably fishing  to get the most out of it. Clearly a lot of people do. Judging by the occupancy of the caravan park….

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Next stop Carnarvon on the southerly journey which unfortunately is also the way home. We are now only 904km north of Perth (or so)

16 September 2015

Red Dog lived here

If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know we’re in Dampier. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie we are in Dampier. Near Karratha, Cossack and Roeburne we are back on the WA coast.

Getting back here has been a 800km round trip via Newman, Karijini, Tom Price and Nanutarra, just dots on the map now.

Dampier et el is a mining town. Karratha has become the epicentre of  activity with a large population and business centre but Dampier to the north and Point Sampson to the northeast are the ports for iron ore and gas. Not as big or as busy as Port Hedland but interesting nonetheless.

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Anyway there’s Red Dog (again)

Cossack is an old pearling town just north of Roebourne. Relocated to its present location after a cyclone back in the late 1800’s it was a fairly substantial town in its time. Parts of it are beautifully preserved …..

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schoolhouse, warehouse, courthouse, jailhouse, sh..house, (bigger) warehouse, and someones own house, all in great shape except the obvious one that isn’t.

Flash on to Point Samson….

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where it’s all gas processing . The iron ore trucks pictured are actually at Dampier. Don’t know what is involved in the gas processing but the noise and the pipes are incredible. Gas from here is piped all over the state.

Roebourne is another historic town but not nearly as well preserved as Cossack…

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Whilst these examples are reasonable, although not in great shape, the town itself is very run down. Nevertheless what looks like a new government building is under construction…100_1342

No idea what it is.

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Looking more like a city at night, the gas plant out from Dampier is astounding. I can’t remember the name of the peninsula that this facility sits on but its sort of to the right of Dampier on the coast (just discovered its Point Burrup). From this same area we witnessed the “stairway to the moon” again….

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Then it was on the way south again to pick up on Onslow, Exmouth, Coral Bay, Carnarvon, Denham, Monkey Mia and of course Steep Point, the most westerly part of the continent, but more on that to come.

Internet reception all down the coast is patchy. This entry has taken 3 nights and a lot of hair to put together. The photos seem to take hours to load even though they are all substantially reduced in megs. Should be in Geraldton  soon where hopefully reception on all fronts should be better.

 

 

 

11 September 2015

Gorge ous

Karijini National Park was next in line for our attention. Didn’t know what to expect but it was on the road back to the coast from Newman. We’d perhaps heard it mentioned in conversation with others along the way but best to have a look. It is/was a surprise. Like so many other parks and places we weren’t expecting what we got. Even the Visitor Information Centre was a surprise….

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beautifully blended with the landscape. We were directed to Dales Gorge Campground which turned out to be good value at $13.20 per night (National Parks standard fee). Nice spot, well laid out, new long drop dunnies, all very well kept and serviced. Of course no water or power but we were allocated a “Generators Allowed” site which meant that we didn’t run the risk of running out of power. We didn’t really need it with the new batteries running on full, but one never knows!

Well, on to the sights. Obviously close by the first chasm was Dales Gorge….

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and most notable is the tree clinging to the side wall and that it all appears to be built of bricks and pavers. In a flat surrounding landscape this is a gouge in the face of the Earth not a gorge. We caught up with a young couple riding mountain bikes down the walking trail surrounding this chasm and thought “how clever”. Then the trail became a lot less defined so they had to carry their bikes for most of the distance – as it turned out “not so clever”. Bikes get bloody heavy as you scale 1.5 km of mountain trail. We didn’t offer to help! This completed day one in Karijini.

On the advice of the camp hosts (volunteers who man the traps) we headed straight out to Hamersley Gorge the next day. This is at the far western end of the Park and can only be accessed via dirt roads so it was to be a bit of a long haul, a round trip of 200k. As it turned out we were able to travel some 70 odd k on bitumen and the dirt roads weren’t too bad so we made good time. Worth the trip – absolutely. Its stunning as a geological/geographical sight….

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As it turned out the road condition left us with more day than we were expecting so it was back into the middle of the park to attempt to see some of the other gorges and rockpools. About 2 kilometres into the centre on the track that gets called a drive we decided we needed to keep poor Suzi alive for a lot longer. This track wouldn’t pass for a goat trail – wide enough for 20 goats but they’d trip over the corrugations. So back to camp for a nosh-up. Lots of people about but the layout of the campground was not conducive to good neighbourliness so we pondered the  clear skies by ourselves for the rest of the aftern0on and the magic star filled heavens later. It gets seriously dark out here!

Next day had us in Tom Price. Another mining town albeit a little older than Newman I think. Not a lot to see here particularly after having already done a mine tour at Newman so we took ourselves up to the top of Mount Nameless along naturally enough Mt Nameless Rd. The views were spectacular (the road less so)……

DSC07708 (1024x232) DSC07711 (1024x232) DSC07714 (1024x232) DSC07720 (1024x232) DSC07724 (1024x681) DSC07726 (1024x683) DSC07738 (1024x683)Whilst taking in the views we got chatting with Chris and Ron Wellington  from Qld. They headed off before us but we caught up later when we found them stranded on the downward journey, the car stopped in the middle of the track. Can you imagine calling the RAC to tell them they were broken down on Mt Nameless – “you’re where, on what road, whats the nearest intersection?”  – “its Nameless, there isn’t one” – Who’s on first, what’s on second!  It took some time for the RAC to decipher, but it was funny along the way. In the meantime dear little Suzi winched the big bad broken down car out of the middle of the road to let the poor confused Telecom worker heading up the mountain to pass. Once clear we went back to Winnie and not half an hour later Chris and Ron turned up. Just an air lock in the fuel line from low fuel in tank bounced around too much on the track. And thanks for the bottle of wine and chokkies.

We overnighted in a caravan park in Tom Price at a cost of $46.00 for a site on which we didn’t fit. Most times we are able to get a drive through site which will allow our 16.5 metres to be housed and also allow us to take the car off the trailer. In this case we said to the lass on the counter that we were 16.5 metres long to which she responded “no problem”, allocated our site and sent us off. Of course 16.5 metres is beyond the comprehension of young women –  we didn’t fit. As we were contemplating our options on site the owner appeared and suggested that we take up two sites (the one behind us) but we would have to pay another $46.00. Or we could disconnect and park the car on a different site beside us at no additional cost. DUH! Anyway we disconnected took up two sites and the one behind us remained vacant for the night. Some people just don’t understand the meaning of service!

Anyway, Tom Price got more of our money than we wanted to leave despite not paying for two sites. On the point of costs, this trip so far has been far and away the most expensive. Notwithstanding the repair costs, the tourist attractions and caravan parks and meal costs have all been far and away more costly than any we have experienced in the prior years.

We’ve covered close on 23000 km between the Winnie, Suzi and Robyns Prado. The one saving grace is the Winnie fuel economy, now sitting on 19.3 l/100km – down from 21.8 in previous years. This represents a fuel cost saving for this trip of around $$700.00. Still not enough to make up for all the other high  costs though.

This roundabout way to get back to the coast was sort of necessitated by our desire to see Newman and Karijini – pretty much a 800km detour. So back to Karratha, Dampier, Cossack and Roeburne on the coast. One priority was to pat Red Dog at Dampier…..

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Luvved the movie had to get to the source of the story.

Got a new router today. Still working it out. Internet is incredibly slow and preparing this has already taken some hours so time to publish and go to bed. A quick rush forward, we’re in Denham and have been waiting on confirmation of a tour to Steep Point, the most westerly point of continental Australia. Its now on in the morning and we are to be picked up at 6.00am so early to bed.

6 September 2015

New Man

T’was about 1953 that iron ore was discovered at Mt Newman. But a federal embargo on iron ore mining (or was that exporting) meant that it did not get dug up for a couple of years. Since then they’ve kept on digging, now at a rate of over 200 million tonnes per year and the mountain (actually Mt Whaleback) is no more. This is just the BHP Billiton site. Gina and Twiggy have more of the same in the neighbourhood but we couldn’t get to see their operations.

We thought the super pit in Kalgoorlie was fairly impressive and indeed it is but this hole in the ground is apparently bigger but is not as impressive. Nor does it seem to be the same hive of activity that we noted in Kalgoorlie. The township of Newman is a mining town – it is barracks and dongas and caravans and common design houses spread over an architecturally sanitised streetscape. Virtually every accommodation facility is surrounded by white cars/trucks with yellow stripes down the sides, extra rear (high) lights and a pole with a flag on top. You’d easily believe that everyone in town had a company vehicle. Even the traffic  on the highway down was constant mine vehicle traffic including 4 trailer road trains which service the minor miners.

But its BHP we came to see……

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That wheel and tyre weighs over 6 tonnes and a tyre costs around 40 grand. Each “bench” in the ore pit is approx. 13 metres high and each bench is the consequence of blowing up the floor with fertiliser (ammonium nitrate) and diesel as an explosive mix then the consequential rubble being excavated. The rubble is then carted in the ore trucks, each carrying around 230 tonnes, to the primary crusher from where it is then moved on conveyors to a second and third crusher to be resized to small pebbles and then onto the train which carts it to port 426 km away.

This is a bit of an oversimplification of the process because there are some chemical stages also along the way to seperate the ore from the chaff. Newman has its own power station comprised of 3 gas turbine generators, 3 heat recovery steam generators and 2 steam turbines. The gas comes from Karratha by pipeline and it then travels on to Kalgoorlie. The power station pumps out 198 megawatts. I’ve no idea how much that is but it sounds good and we could run the NEW aircon in the truck which is a lot more than we’ve been able to do in some other places.

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to appreciate the length of an ore train these photos are each taken about 15 seconds apart – it goes on for 2.7 km travelling at around 65 km/hr. We took a guided bus tour around the mine site and it was worth every cent of the $25.00 each when it concluded with a devonshire tea.

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A couple of dusk shots from the town lookout back to the mine and over the township.

Newman was very interesting but it is just a mining town. Onwards to Karijini.