Monday, 30 August 2010

Quondong and Port Smith

Here we sit at a golf club car park in Port Hedland where we finally have internet access after a week of being out of range.  We still don't know who the elected PM is, but the way it was looking a week ago, perhaps the rest of Australia doesn't either.

We arrived in Port Hedland last night to find the entire town booked out. We thought about heading to one of the camping spots listed in our Camps 5 book, but Mike was concerned that we'd be arriving after dark which makes picking a suitable spot and setting up difficult, especially when having to drive off-road to access the camping area.  We were directed to the overflow camping area at the Port Hedland Golf Club (a bit odd, but there are others camped here too, and at least there are toilets and good showers).  We need to buy some supplies in town before we head off toward Karijini National Park.   If we can get a site at the park here tonight we'll stay for a day or two and then we'll most likely be out of range for another week, so I thought I'd try and upload a catch-up post before we are incommunicado again.

After we left Broome we headed for Quondong Point, which is on the way to Cape Leveque.  It was a bit of a rough road getting in, but well worth the effort.


We had a fantastic spot to ourselves over the beach with a short walk down to the water.  The closest camper was about 100 meters away.

Perched over our "private" beach.




What a view from our camper!
We keep telling ourselves that we're going to stop taking photos of sunsets.  How many pictures of sunsets can one have?  Our resolve lasts up until the time that the sun begins to set, at which point we find ourselves awed by it's beauty and quickly reaching for the camera.  So you'll likely have to put up with a few more.  We were mesmerized by the reflections in the clouds and settled in for a night of serenity, lulled by the ocean breeze and sound of the surf.


 All that quickly changed when we heard a car drive up after dark.  In it were two distressed young women and children.  They had left their partners 2 kilometers back on the road in with a leaking and hissing gas bottle in the back of their ute (pick-up).  Apparantly they had stopped along the road when one of the children smelled gas.  On inspection they found that the child's bicycle had knocked against the gas bottle while driving on the corrugated road and caused it to leak.  Luckily they had a friend traveling with them and the women set off in one couple's van while the men waited with the car.  They were afraid to open the ute's canopy for fear that it would it explode (and it would have!), and were stuck waiting at a distance until the gas dissipated and the car was safe to approach.

They were worried and the children were frightened.  Mike put out a call for assistance on the CB and we suggested that they camp near us rather than drive around on the sand in the dark risking gettin bogged.  He also gave them some warning triangles which they brought back to their partners to put around the car.  Some time during the night the men made their way to the campground.  It gave them a fright but thankfully nobody was hurt. After spending the morning at the beach and having a chat they headed off.

The beach was beautiful and we spent two nights there having a wonderful time.  We would have stayed longer except for one small problem.  Sunburn!  We hadn't taken to account the reflection of the sun on the water even when we were in the shade, and oh boy did we pay for it!  Although it seems funny now, at the time it was very uncomfortable.

Swathed in sunscreen and aloe vera gel we decided not to continue onto Cape Leveque which is also more beaches (and sun - ouch!).  We were going to stop at Barn Hill which we'd heard great things about, but is also camping on a beach and we were more than beached out at this point.  Instead we decided on Port Smith which is situated on a lagoon which we imagined would be a shadier and cooler.

Port Smith has got to be the friendliest caravan park we've ever been to, and it just reinforced what we have found time and time again in our travels.  You simply cannot judge a place on first sight, or even after a short time.  Some of our favourite spots have been places that were initially unimpressive and grew to be wonderful once we absorbed the "vibe" of the place.

Anyway, we drove 23 kilometers down a dirt track and arrived at Port Smith Caravan Park which initially looked like a typical arid and dusty park.  After begging for a spot with shade, we were given a great spot close to the amenities (which were all ensuites and immaculate) and with shade from the afternoon sun. After setting up we went for a quick look at the lagoon which was basically unimpressive.  Lots of sand and a small trickle of water in one spot.  Massive disappointment especially after hearing how great the lagoon was.  What was all the fuss about?  We had seriously underestimated the magnitude of the tide!

Home Sweet Home

 The caravan park also runs a shelter for injured kangaroos who they release back into the wild when possible.  They were everywhere, and so funny to see them boxing!  I had no idea kangaroos actually boxed!  I thought that was something that Disney made up with their cartoons of giant mouse-like kangaroos in boxing rings with big red boxing gloves.  Mike took a video which I must have watched a hundred times.  I still laugh every time I think of it, and I am gutted that I somehow deleted the video in trying to upload it to the blog to share with you. :(

And in this corner...

That roo's got a mean right hook!

After a couple of days of hiding from the sun like vampires we drove out to the cliffs for a look around.  Gorgeous!!  Worth the boggy drive over soft sand to get there.  The fishing is great off the cliffs, but that day people were coming back empty handed so we didn't get our fishing rods out.  We did spot a manta ray swimming about though.

King of the world..



You know that tide I mentioned earlier?  Well, below is a photo I took of Mike fishing one evening at the entrance of the lagoon at low tide as it drained into the ocean.

Yeah, I know - I snuck in another sunset photo

We walked past these trees on the way to the fishing spot above.


Here are the same trees taken from our boat when the tide was in!  The smaller ones are completely under water and we rode right over them.  Surreal.


The beach area at low tide

Hey, who pulled the plug?

Launching our boat at the same beach at high tide.



We had so much fun out on the boat, and even managed to catch some fish.


Too bad they were so small and were thrown back in.  We ate really well in spite of having to throw back our fish.  People at the park were so lovely .. and generous.  Those who caught fish offered us some and we had lovely meals of freshly caught fish.  Last night we had two beautiful tuna fillets that were given to us.  And they were huge.. more than we could possibly eat. Yummm!!

Also, people donated fish that they caught to the park who then made fish and chips one night along with a night of entertainment.  It was only $5 for a delicious meal (plus Mike had to "wiggle" to the music for our chips) and the proceeds went to the Australian Flying Doctors.  It was a great night of games, general silliness and music by "Malcolm and the Budgie Smugglers".

One for Mike

And one for me

Another for me!
At the end of the day that made 2 for Mike and 4 for me (but who's counting?).  Actually, I kept him pretty busy baiting my hook and releasing my fish.  Not to mention several untangling sessions he had with my line.  But, lets not dwell on that ... I caught more fish than him!  Heh!

This adorable turtle kept swimming by and popping his head up out of the water as we were fishing.

We had originally booked into Port Smith for a couple of days and then extended for a few more.  By the end of our  visit we could easily see why some people stayed for weeks, or even months and came back every year.

Our last night was spent having drinks and nibbles with Malcolm (of budgie smuggler fame) and Tania who are permanent travelers currently working at the caravan park.  They are temporarily living at a home on the property and it was odd for Mike and I to be sitting in a house after so long on the road.  They were wonderful hosts and a lovely couple.  I hope we see them again in our travels.

Time to leave this golf course and move on to a real site.  See you down the road.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Broome Beaches

We took a ride to Gantheaume Point where dinosaur footprints can be seen during very low tides.  Unfortunately the tide was too high when we were there, but we enjoyed the views nonetheless.


Looking back at a section of Cable Beach

This evening we decided to have a sunset "happy hour" at Cable Beach.

Surreal..
Cable Beach sure does know how to put the "Happy" in Happy Hour!







Thus ends another beautiful day in Broome.

Broome

Broome is overrated. At least that's what we heard by a few people before we got here. I am SO glad that we decided to spend some time here and find out for ourselves. We are both loving Broome!

Of course we had to start out with a day at Cable Beach. The white sand and clear turquoise water are stunningly beautiful, and there was much fun had both relaxing on the beach and jumping over the waves.



Last night we went to Matso's Brewery and had a fabulous time. The food was great and while Mike sampled several of their award winning dark lagers I sipped "Squealing Pig" chardonnay. We sat on the balcony overlooking the courtyard where a jazz trio was playing. It was a wonderful night. In fact, it was during the course of the night that we decided we hadn't allocated enough time to Broome and that we'd extend our visit here for a few days.

Today we did some shopping in the Chinatown area and got a few chores accomplished. My New York driver's license is about to expire and my Mom had sent the forms to Mike's parents who then forwarded them to the Broome Post Office for us. I had my eye exam done and Mike bought a multimeter thingamabob so he can tell how charged the camper is when we're bush camping or on a non-powered site.

Apparently people book both the resorts and caravan parks here months in advance. Probably a smart thing to do during the height of tourist season, but as we like to be spontaneous in our travel we never know exactly when we're going to be where. We were very lucky to ring the day before we arrived and book a non powered site 350 meters from cable beach. We could walk to the beach if we weren't carrying a sun shelter, lunch, towels, books, etc.. but I digress.

Tonight we went on a sunset camel ride on cable beach. Touristy? Perhaps. Loads of fun and memories that will last a lifetime? Absolutely!



The group before us finishing their ride.

That's our camel "Cairo" on the left.



A face only a mother could love.

Whoa Nelly!  ..err Cairo!

Walk like an Egyptian..

We had SO much fun!







Look at us!  We're on a camel! On Cable Beach!  In the middle of winter! At sunset!  Cheesy Grin. :)



A severe case of camel toe.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Kununurra to Derby

Our last day at Kununurra was spent at the pool and enjoying a fabulous lakeside lunch.



Fish gathered alongside the balcony and enthusiastically shared our lunch with us.


The views from our table were magnificent!



That evening there was a fundraiser burger barbecue and entertainer at the park, followed by some socialising with other travelers.  It was a perfect end to our stay in Kununurra with the exception of having to say goodbye to our friend Larry who was a frequent visitor to our campsite.

Larry The Lizard

I said in my last post that I would try to remember to photograph a boab tree to add to the blog.  Little did I know that our drive to Derby would present the perfect opportunity ...  or three. 

We drove toward Derby stopping for a break and some fuel at Halls Creek.  We'd heard that Halls Creek isn't a good spot to spend the night and drove another hour  to a free camping spot at Mary River.  Mary River was fantastic.  It was much larger than we expected - there would have been approx 50 caravans/campers there.  Set beside the river were BBQs, picnic tables, bathrooms, shady sites and lots of camaraderie. 

As we drove along the following morning we came across this beautiful boab tree at one of the rest stops.


On the outskirts of Derby we passed a sign for a tourist attraction, "The Boab Prison Tree".  Intrigued by it's name, we went to have a look.  It turns out that before Derby was established (in 1883) Aboriginal people were kidnapped by settlers in the pearling industry to be used as labor.  The kidnappers, known as Blackbirders, would round them up and march them, in chains, to the coast.  Some were held in the Boab Prison Tree to wait for a boat to the pearling region.

By 1887 a prison was built in Derby (5 Km away) where hundreds of Aboriginals were held over the next few decades.  Most had been charged with killing and eating livestock.



The Boab Prison Tree
As we drove into Derby we passed these leafless boabs which illustrate what I meant when I said that boabs look like they're growing  upside down with their roots in the air.  The boab nuts are carved when used in Aboriginal art.


We've only spent one full day in Derby, and our favourite part of it was the wharf.  There are huge 11 meter tides here.  At low tide the wharf appears to be raised up high on stilts.


As the tide came in the fishing rods came out and the stilts disappeared (as did the fish when they saw me coming!)


Although we were unlucky with the fish, we were very lucky to be on the wharf to see the beautiful sunset.



We easily could have spent more time in this area exploring the Gibb River Road and gorges.  It seems that the longer we travel and the more people we talk to the more there is to see.  We're pretty gorged out at this point and are looking forward to some beach camping.  Tomorrow we're heading to Broome to spend some time at beautiful Cable Beach.