Motorhomes Australia

Robbo's Rambles Part 5
The travel adventures of Ian (Woody) & Julie Robertson, whilst they journey around Australia
CMCA Member V18544


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Oct 8th:
We go to Fitzroy Crossing and as usual check out the tourist office. We decide to check out the old township, old creek crossing (of course this just begged to be driven across, so I did) and go out to Geikie Gorge for lunch. The road out is a good bitumen road the whole way. When we arrive we note that they have boat tours. We decide to wait the 3hrs. and do it.

At this time Julie decided to get a migraine so while she had a sleep I chat to the others that pull up and check out the dash again. Still no joy. Fridge and guages still not working. Sounds like me.

The guides arrive and I chat to them and book the boat trip. Julie is feeling much better so off we go.

On this trip we have seen a heap of gorges but I reckon that Geikie is the best I have seen. It is so different than all the others and it fascinates me. We invite the guide over for a cuppa and talk for about an hour. Great day.

We head out and stop 42k from Derby at the information boards and truck stop.

Oct 9th:
We go into Derby and look at the prison Boab tree. Boab trees are basically hollow and this one was used as a cell when transporting prisoners. The longest cattle trough (so they thought, see later) in the southern hemishere and Frostys Pool. This concrete pool was built by soldiers as a dip pool while stationed here during the second world war.

We promenade along the pier with another couple and read the interpretive signs about the early history.

On the way out of Derby the law finally caught up with us and locked me up in the old gaol. Silly buggers left it unlocked and I escaped and headed for Broome.

We arrive in Broome and book into Cable Beach CP. We book on a tour of The Willy Creek Pearl Farm for tomorrow.

I talk with another camper until after midnight. This is a bad blue as my healed up legs have suffered another attack of the sandflies.

In W.A. they have removed most rest areas within 50k of towns and it is easier to stay in Caravan Parks than travel from the rest areas to have a look around unless you are only staying the day.

This has created problems in peak tourist seasons with more tourists than available spaces in CPs so a lot of the destinations have overflow areas where you are allotted a spot until one becomes available. These are generally showgrounds and are charged at near Caravan Park prices.

In most cases caravan parks are the only place to obtain water as well. Most of the water used in parks and gardens is reticulated water from the Sewerage works and signs warn that it is unsuitable for drinking. I read the signs.

At isolated towns and road houses there is no water or only limited amounts for filling water tanks but it doesn't stop some idiots. Classic example was a group of backpackers washing their feet and thongs under a running tap at a roadhouse and when told by the owner to stop still continued.

We have had no problems with obtaining water.

Oct 10th:
We are picked up at 8.00AM and on the way to the farm the driver gives a commentary on the history of Broome and the pearling industry. At the farm you are shown how they seed the shell to obtain a pearl, how the pearls are grown and harvested. They then tell you how to look after pearls and allow you to try on an expensive string of pearls but they don't suit me so we don't buy any. Julie dreams on but we still leave empty handed.

They provide morning tea and take us back to town. All in all another great tour that is good value for money.

we then go to Chinatown and browse the shops. We decide to hire a car as I need to get parts for the regulator (still not working) and the wreckers are miles out of town as are a lot of the other things we want to see and it easier than packing up the van each time. Another time when a vehicle would be handy but for the amount of time we have needed one I still think for our purposes it is an unwarranted extra problem and expense.

We go to The Pearl Lugger where an ex diver named Salty gives a talk on the divers history, life and role in pearling. A film is also shown showing Broome and the divers.

This is an interesting and entertaining talk but I think a little overpriced at $18.50.

We return to the park. Julie goes swimming.

I get my bits from the wreckers and armed with my MMM (magic multi meter) and various tools remove the dash board again. This is not going to beat me. I remove and dimantle the regulator. This vehicle was made (1982) before the automotive industry had discovered complete component replacement and you can actually pull things apart. I examine the circuit board and test all the resistors and anything else that I can get a probe on or into. Hmm, no power through this one, wriggle the connection, broken. Solder that one and so the process goes. Connect it back, still no work. I pray over it or something like that and have a cuppa. Start again, scratch head, sit and ponder. Another cuppa. I get the MMM and start checking again. Persistant mongrel aren't I? On with the motley. I accidently drop the unit on the floor and all is revealed. Well bugger me. A wire that tested ok parts company so I resolder that and check it again. Eureka!!!!! It works. I still don't trust it. I reconnect it but leave the dash out.

People watching must have thought I was crazy as every now and again I would go around the front, turn on the ignition, do a little victory dance and then leave. After 20 such tests I pronounce the patient well and refit the dash.

The fridge is still not working. One problem at a time.

It is 3 months and a lot of money since we left Tooradin.

Oct 11th:
We go to the old courthouse and wander around the market that is held here on Saturdays. We leave and have a good look at the town. There are numbered story boards in Johnny Chi lane in Chinatown so we read those. There are statues and monuments so we check all these out.

we return to the park. Julie goes swimming.

We have had trouble with the heat being trapped under the van by the bins. These can be up to 5-10 degrees above the interior and make the floor hot. I drill vent holes in the covers and this seems to fix the problem. Just as an aside, the water in the tanks gets hot because the engine heat travels across them and the ambient temperature helps as well. It is so warm that for a shower you don't need the hot water service.

That night we go down to Town Beach to watch "the Staircase to the Moon". This phenomenon occurs with a low tide and full moon rising over the mud flats. The moon reflects in the water caught in pools and gives the impression of a stairway up to the rising moon. I know that I am a cynical old bastard but this has been a PR mans success and requires a reasonable imagination to envisage it.

I may also be a bit parochial here but I think that watching the sun set (from the beach at Frankston) over Port Phillip Bay on a calm clear summers night takes some beating as the rays form a golden grand staircase.

What the tourist brochures don't tell you is that this can be viewed in Darwin and Port Hedland.

Later that night I have to go to the hospital as the bites are getting infected and my ankles are swelling badly. Smelling of antiseptic and legs covered in bandages so that I look like a mummy from the knees down I return back to the van.

Oct 12th:
 I DON LONG PANTS as my legs look funny. We book out and park the truck at Cable Beach. we walk down to this most touted beach in WA and I have to agree that it is a nice looking place. Julie goes wading in the shallows while I bird watch. Feathered variety naturally. We notice smoke rising from the sand dunes and see a fire devouring the scrub. We go into the car park and people are moving vehicles. Julie asks if I am going to move the truck. Nope, the fire is going the wrong way and where it is parked it has a natural firebreak around it. we pass the fire trucks on the way out.

We take the car out to Gunthearme Point and look at the replicas of the dinosaur prints and Anastasias pool. This was built by a former light house keeper for his arthritic wife to soak in. We watch the fire and its progress as well. Julie looks at me as if to say I hope you are right. I reassure her that CMCA insurance will cover it. Not funny she says.

We drive back and pick up the truck. See I told you that it would be alright. This statement earns me a belt on the arm. We head towards town, park the truck in Coles car park and drive around the outskirts of Broome looking at the buildings we had missed. It is lunch time, we return the car and have lunch.

Why don't we leave? We are waiting for the main event. We had heard about this from some campers that had been working here and they said it is not to be missed. So we wait.

CRAB RACES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We arrive at the venue at about 5.30PM and have a drink. They also have FREE sausages in bread so tea is taken care of. The proceedings get under way at 7.00PM.

Hermit crabs have numbers on their backs. You buy a raffle ticket @ $2.00 each or 3 for $5.00. The money goes to charity or a local organisation. Tonights races are for the local netball club.

They then draw out 8 tickets and you select your crab. Our number is drawn and I select a crab (Julie wouldn't as women have to kiss the crab for luck) that looks a likely starter.

The crabs are then placed in the centre of a 6' round table that has a 2" red circle around the perimeter. The bucket is lifted and the crabs are off, well some of them. They go every which way. Ours makes a beeline for the edge and then wanders around the line but the bugger won't cross. The others are getting closer and still he won't cross. He stops and waits. He finally makes his move when others are getting closer. WE WIN. Prizemoney is $80.00.

There are 6 races in all but we don't get a chance again. A fantastic fun night that was worth waiting for.

The crabs are released back onto the beach the next morning. This has caused some interesting things amongst tourists. A backpacker apparently saw these crabs with numbers on their backs running around on the beach and asked a local why they were numbered. His straight faced reply was that they number the crabs so they know who owns them and they can keep an eye on them. I wonder how many Europeans come to have a look at the numbered crabs of Broome.

We leave Broome at about 9.30Pm and head South and stop 58K from Willare.

Oct 13th:
We have a cuppa at Sandfire Roadhouse and I enquire about the road to Marble Bar. Most maps show about 30K of gravel but they are wrong. It is a good bitumen road except for a 5K section undergoing roadworks.

We go into 80 mile beach and Julie has a wade. We trek on.

We arrive in Marble Bar and check out Marble Bar pool, chinamans pool and the slab of rock which gave the place its name. we have a look at the old buildings and head towards Port Hedland.

We stop at a rest area about 130K from PH. We think that we may be here on our own which happens a lot with us. The serenity is broken by a 4WD with flashing beacons that does a lap at Grand Prix speed and then leaves. I see him parked on the road and a low loader with one of the road working machines loaded follows him in. The dozer has a fuel problem, the con rod has let go and come through the block knocking the injector pump off. Fuel problem like I said. We chat to them for quite a while and settle in for the night.

Oct 14th:
We head towards Port Hedland.

I have always said the Kimberly is best viewed from 40,000 feet and I still do but the Pilbara is different again. The space shuttle would be too close, it is the most god forsaken country I have seen. Nothing grows over 2' tall except the gum trees at dry watercourses. Even the crows and kites avoid it.

If the Kimberly is the land that time forgot the Pilbara has just been forgotten. Get the impression I don't like it? Right on. 600-700K of the same.

We reach Port Hedland at 8.45AM, the tourist office is open but we have to wait for the Post Office to open. It is fortunate that they are right opposite each other.

I have been looking forward to 3 tours in this place. BHP Billiton, Boodarie Iron and Dampier salt. They are advertised in all the brochures and even in the Tourist office itself; but guess what? Nope only the tour of BHP is available and we are told that they have never done the others. Whether it is laziness on the part of the girl in there or not I have no idea. We book on the 9.30 tour and collect our mail while waiting.

We leave on the tour.

It is rather sad that these days because of stupidity on the part of a few that the majority suffer. We are not allowed off the bus because of Occupational Health and Safety. Photos through glass do not turn out well. The tour is good but would have been better had we been able to get off and get within a reasonable distance of things.

The scale of everything here is HUGE, the trains, ships, carrying capacity and processing plants. The whole plant including bringing the trains from 400K away can all be run by remote control by 4 people if they had to.

We have morning tea at a park in the town and have a look at some statues of the aboriginal strike for better pay on the stations. They won but lost their jobs because the stations used motorbikes and helicopters to muster instead. Cheaper.

I had the front wheels balanced as they had thrown a weight somewhere and were getting a bit shuddery (very techo mechanical term).

We had lunch at the Don Rhodes Mining museum (it is free) after driving around the town a bit.

Port Hedland itself is a dirty brown colour from the iron ore dust. I, for one am glad to leave and we go to South Hedland about 15K away to stock up. This is a little oasis with good shops and its CLEAN.

We head down to Point Samson after turning off at Roebourne. This is not one of my better judgement calls. The road is excellent and the plan is to camp down at Point Samson the night and check out Cossack and Roebourne on the way out in the morning. Going well so far.

Point Samson is a really nice little place with nice gardens at most houses. We had passed the boat ramp on the way in had seen a bus parked there. We return and after tea and a chat retire to the van for the night. The temperature has eased some what and it is almost pleasant.

At about 9.00PM I have to get something out of my wallet. There is no wallet. Now most fellers can relate to this. You get used to it being there and don't feel it so you don't miss it when it ain't. A panic driven search of the truck doesn't reveal much.

As a rule we carry very little cash with us but we had withdrawn a fair amount to pay for fuel (not many Mobils up here). Cash is a good negotiation tool.

Plan B goes into action.

Ring banks and credit unions to cancel cards. Ring Port Hedland police to ask if it has been handed in. Nope. So far so good.

After doing this we decide to have a look at all the places we had stopped to admire the view. Off we go, 6 hrs after we had been there. Pull into the last place first and there it is sitting on the ground. You cannot get luckier than that. If it had been tourist season I doubt that it would have been there but I would like to think that it would have been handed in. Phew.

This has a bonus to it, Julie keeps patting my bum to do a stocktake.

Our problems aren't over yet. We return to the campsite and go to bed. All night we are attacked by thousands of midges. Screens don't keep them out and clothes don't help much either. It is so bad that the other couple leave at 6.00AM. We are gone by 7.00AM. If I thought my legs were bad I was wrong. I count 200 bites from my fingers to half way up my forearm. The rest of me is as bad. Talk about itch, I haven't got enough hands. Like I said, not one of my better judgement calls.

Oct 15th:
We only intended to be in Cossack for about half an hour but ended up being there for nearly 8. We do the museum thing and check out the other buildings which are slowly being restored and read the history of this former pearling town. I had wanted to see Cossack as this was the first pearling town in WA. Interesting place. We look at the wharf and there is a tour boat tied up there so Julie asks the price.

We decide to do the tour. Why not? We have done all the others. This tour includes lunch. It goes out to the lighthouse and keepers cottage on Jarmine Island. It then goes up the river where we have lunch. From the time we board there is none stop food and drinks. Starts with chips and biccies, then cheese and biccies, lunch was grilled snapper fillet, potato filled with sour cream and salad. This was then followed by a fruit platter with every fruit including dried apricots. A very relaxed enjoyable tour.

This tour was run by Cossack Adventure Tours and I rate it excellent. Be aware that if you don't eat fish you will have to tell them as they normally don't cater for it.

We then go into Roebourne Tourist centre. It is housed in the old Goal. We look around this and other things and head towards Karatha.

We go into the Pilbara Caravan Park. This is fortunate.

Oct 16th:
I woke up feeling really crook. My head was spinning and my eyes would not focus. The staff at the Caravan Park took Julie and I up to the hospital. I get a Stemetil injection and they check all my bites. The Caravan Park pick us back up and I sleep all afternoon. Julie went swimming. I hate this as before and after no one would think anything was wrong.

Oct 17th:
There were no tours of Dampier Salt and Hammersley Iron available until later so we decide to look around Karatha going up to the lookout and around the town. We went out to Dampier and looked at the port and the North West Shelf gas centre display.

I thanked the staff at the Caravan Park before leaving. It is good to know that there are some people that do that bit extra.

We stopped 18K from Karatha at Miaree Pool on the Maitland River but it was packed so we move on. We stopped for the night at Robe River. I cook the roast pork in the Cobb and it is truly excellent. Wonder what the peasants are doing?

Oct 18th:
We travel into Onslow and tour the town. We call into the tourist office housed in the old goods shed. We go through the museum which is interesting.

There are varying reports on the condition of the road out to Old Onslow so we have a look for ourselves. We go about a kilometer and it is rough so we turn around and head out again.

About 10K up the road I look in the mirrors and notice a bin lid is open. We stop and and check its contents. The only thing missing is one stabiliser jack. We turn back and retrace our steps. We find it where we turned around on the gravel.

We check out the termite mounds and Bobbys Tree and head for Nanutarra for lunch. We buy some fuel which is the dearest so far at $1.19/litre. There is a Range Rover which is totalled sitting there. I ask the attendant about it and he informs me that it was travelling at 90KMH when a willy-willy pushed it off the road and rolled it 8 times. After driving through one I can believe it.

We have had a steady side wind for the last 4 days and now I reckon we are in willy-willy alley. We count about 8 or 9 on the way into Exmouth.

We arrive at the tourist office and the lady is very helpful. I tell her that we are her challenge for the day because we don't swim, don't snorkel, don't fish and don't scuba. She laughs and asks why we came here. She suggests the Yardie Creek Gorge tour and the Vlaming point lighthouse and lookout. Being a bit gorged out we give this one a miss but go up to the lookout and have tea while we watch the sun come down. Not a speccy sunset but it is an interesting place to watch it from.

We head out and camp at the rest area 30K from Minilya.

Oct 19th:
Our intention today was to go to the Minilya rest area on the river and just do nothing for the day but since they have built a new roadhouse with ........................ you guessed it, a caravan park there is no camping at the rest area.

We continue on to Carnarvon.


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