This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2004 Travels July 13

TUESDAY 13 JULY     MILLSTREAM NATIONAL PARK

No rain through the night – good!

The ground was drying out well. But the track in was still very muddy, and most camp sites were still slippery.

The conditions of our stay would allow us one drive out and back, today, so we decided to visit the Chichester section of the National Park.

We carefully replaced the barrier chain across the track, as we left.

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The first 35kms were retracing our route in, back as far as the rail road.

It was a relief to see that the heavy rains had not brought the river up over the causeway.

Then there was a 10km section of road through the range. This was sealed, but one vehicle width only and very winding and steep. Could see why it was stated to be unsuitable for caravans, though a small one like ours could manoeuvre through – but meeting any oncoming traffic would pose problems.

There were some great panoramas opened up as we wound our way through the range.

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From the Mt Herbert carpark, we did the short walk up the mountain. 600 metres each way and the gradient was fairly easy. There were good views to distant peaks and over the ranges.

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Then we walked the 4.8km return walk to McKenzie Springs. It was most enjoyable.

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Track marker (camel) on McKenzie Springs track

The day was quite warm and fine, now.

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There were lots of birds around the springs. This was once a watering hole for camel and bullock trains. The springs and the little creek fed from them, which further down contained the Python Pool, were really pretty.

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We must have been into the early part of the wildflower season in these parts, with a number of different plants in flower.

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Desert Pea

We saw some spotted firetails – a new bird!

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McKenzie Springs

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Mt Herbert from Springs track. Truck is a tiny speck in the carpark!

After some time exploring up and down the creek at the Springs, we returned the same way to Truck, then drove further around the twisting road to Python Pool. From the carpark there, we walked about 100 metres to the actual pool, taking our packed lunches to eat there.

After the peace of McKenzie Springs, Python Pool was rather an assault on the senses. It was too crowded with people, being a place where children could swim. There were far too many noisy kids there!

After lunch, checked out the nearby camp area at Snake Creek – pretty ordinary. But it was, at least, open for camping, hence the hordes at Python Pool.

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Reptile with striped tail, by the track

Retraced the route, back to our solitude at Deep Reach, peopled only by us and acrobatic corellas.

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Deep Reach, near our camp

John topped up the fuel tanks with the diesel from the jerry cans on back of van.

Given the crowds at Python Pool, we concluded that it had been worth the rain, mud and temporary inconvenience that had given us this place to ourselves!

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2004 Travels July 12

MONDAY 12 JULY   MILLSTREAM NATIONAL PARK

By morning, the rain had lessened to showers only, but it had been heavy and steady through much of the night.

M had survived the night, quite cosily.

The campground was a real mess – all mud. All the other campers packed up and slipped and slid out. We thought about going, but really wanted to try to see the place. I had wanted to come here ever since we had to miss it on the ’93 trip.

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Tracks and slush made by departing campers

Then two Rangers arrived and told us they were closing the campground.

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Rangers closing the campground

It was on river silt, which was why it went to slop so quickly. We explained that we’d only just arrived yesterday, and looked sad, and they relented and let us stay, with conditions. We had to promise that we would not try to drive anywhere today. We were not to drive in and out more than once a day, after that, providing there was no more rain. More rain would mean no driving at all. Fair enough, we thought.

The Rangers indicated the weather was supposed to clear.

So now we had a campground all to ourselves!

We discovered a pit toilet closer than the one we’d used to date, that we’d been skiing up to!

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The rain stopped. The ground around our camp slowly dried.

We managed to play boules in the afternoon, after a fashion. Couldn’t play a normal game, because the boule just landed with a splat in the mud, and stayed put. But it filled in some time. The boules needed a very good wash, afterwards.

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Getting water to wash the boules

It seemed a really pretty area, from what we could see. It was on a great, deep, wide section of the Fortescue River. There were reed warblers in the reeds, white plumed honeyeaters about, and plenty of corellas. Watching their antics was very entertaining.

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Deep Reach – Fortescue River – by our camp

Deep Reach was one of the most sacred areas of the local indigines; their Warlu serpent lived in there.

Although it was still cloudy through the afternoon, there was no more rain. Looking promising! The solitude was worth the inconvenience of the mud.

Had to run the generator again for a while in the late afternoon, to charge up the batteries. At least, there were no neighbouring campers to be disturbed, although it ran really quietly.

Again, we huddled in the van for our meals. One of us had to sit on the bed – only room for two at the table. But it was comfortable enough. We talked for a little while, after tea, then had another early night.

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Millstream Chichester National Park – from CALM brochure

 


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2004 Travels July 11

SUNDAY 11 JULY   KARRATHA TO DEEP REACH MILLSTREAM NP   140kms

We left Karratha about 9.30am. This first pack up with a third person and their gear required a little trial and error. Will be faster, next time.

Topped up with fuel on the way out. Still at $1.08 cpl. We put about 10 litres in each of the jerry cans on the back of the van, so our possible movements would not be too constrained by fuel availability.

Drove out to the highway, along it for a little way, then picked up the railway road on its other side. This road was maintained by the company, for access to its rail line, for repairs, checking and the like. Given that there is no direct route through to Tom Price, it was used by company staff going to the mine.

The drive along the Hamersley Iron Road was different. The road was pretty reasonable – unsealed of course. There was not much traffic.

We saw one of the huge, long ore trains and the driver blew the whistle at us. I supposed travellers provided him with some variety in the otherwise back and forth journeying.

One section through some hills was a bit steep and winding – there were no guard rails or the like!

There were rain showers for some of the time, and we could see nasty looking dark cloud, with rain falling, in the distance.

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On the railway road – threatening skies

Came to the place where two railways intersected. Ours ran from Tom Price to Dampier. The other from the mine at Robe River, to Cape Lambert, near Roeburn. That one went over the top of the one we were following on a flyover.

When the railway road intersected with the Roeburn Wittenoom road, we took the latter, which took us to a reasonable access road to Millstream National Park. This crossed the Fortescue River – dry at that point – on a long causeway, so we were then on its southern side.

At the entrance station to Crossing Pool, where I’d intended to camp, found it was now day use only, due to cyclone damage from “Monty” back in March.

So we continued on to the Deep Reach camp area. The track in there was very sloppy.

The camp area was fairly full, so there was not a great choice of sites in this fairly small area, but we found a good looking spot, backed up to the reeds and the Fortescue River, with a small patch of grass for M’s tent. The ground was fairly dry – it looked as if some campers had not long left. Maybe the approaching nasty looking weather had something to do with that?

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Millstream Deep Reach camp site

The clouds were definitely threatening and it began to rain, lightly, so we set up very quickly. Then it teemed down. There was soon very slippery and sloppy red mud all round us.

Going to the toilet – some distance away – became tricky, and messy – mud, water, the risk of slipping over, even with walk sticks.

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Change of mind!

We’d arrived about 1.30pm. Spent the afternoon and evening all huddled in the van, damp and cold. With this experience of touring, M might just decide to defer her retirement plans!

John had to go to Truck and break out the generator and get it going – for the very first time – because there was virtually no solar input. He remembered how to do it and it started first time. So, buying it was now justified!

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Generator first use

I wondered if the river would rise if the rain didn’t let up? That was not a comfortable thought!

Staying here cost the National Park camp fee – $5 each, per night.

An early night was in order. M paddled over to her little tent on its small island of grass.

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2004 Travels July 10

SATURDAY 10 JULY     KARRATHA

We did a food shop in the morning – tedious but necessary. Refuelled – $1.08cpl.

Drove out to Dampier – the port for the export of iron ore from the inland Pilbara.

Had intended to take M to the processing plant for offshore gas, on the Burrup Peninsula, but the Visitor Centre we’d intended to visit was shut.

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Burrup Peninsula

We drove out along the rough track on the Peninsula for some way and had a good view back over the gas loading port.

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Ship loading LNG for export

Drove around Dampier town for a look.

Went back to Karratha in time to get the Weekend Australian, which came in on a late plane.


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2004 Travels July 9

FRIDAY 9 JULY     KARRATHA

John’s face was still very swollen and he was not happy.

I did the washing in the morning, to get that out of the way before we headed off for a couple of weeks of solid activity.

In the laundry, I was recognized and accosted by a lady who had stayed, with her friend, at Adels Grove, last year. They stayed for two or three nights in one of the creekside tents. They were from NZ and had been travelling Australia for more than two years. I didn’t actually recognize her, but so many travellers passed through.

We rearranged Truck contents to fit a passenger onto the back seat. As usual, when travelling, we had removed the two seat part of the back seat, leaving just the seat for one, and packing gear like spare clothes into the space. Things like the picnic basket, folders of maps usually sat on the spare seat, with the picnic table, boxes of spare fuses and hose attachments, small tool kit, spare torch and so on, in the foot well and wedged in front of the seat. Those items all needed temporary relocation.

Went to the shops. Still no mail, so had to do a redirect – to Newman PO. How long DID it take to get an Express Mail delivery from Melbourne to Karratha?

I posted some more gifts off to the family – birthday card and cheque to daughter in law, knitted jumper I’d recently finished for grandaughter, a booklet on El Questro for son, and a note to them.

After late lunch, drove off to the airport to meet M’s plane, which arrived at 4pm. We were surprised to see that it was a 737 – and it was full!

We went straight back to camp. M pitched her tent on the corner of our site. It fitted in well. She settled in with us straight from the start.

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Karratha camp

The NZ ladies came across to have Happy Hour with us and stayed for nearly two hours. It was very pleasant. They were interested in Trakmaster vans.

Went out and bought fish and chips for tea. Pretty expensive here, but very nice fish and not too greasy.

After tea, we squeezed one of the camp chairs into the van so we could all watch “Old Dogs” – such a funny program.


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2004 Travels July 8

THURSDAY 8 JULY   NANUTARRA RH TO KARRATHA   280kms

When we woke in the morning, it was not raining, but was still really muddy.

According to the radio news, the highway just north of Carnarvon had been cut by floods.

John’s face was still swollen.

The drive to Karratha was very scenic, with the typical Pilbara hills and spinifex country.

We stopped for a break at the Fortescue River Roadhouse. It would have been a better overnight stop than Nanutarra had been. Diesel was a lot cheaper there, too.

At Karratha, we went into the Rosemary Road Pilbara Holiday park – another Top Tourist one. $23.80 after discount. It was much nicer than the previous one we’d stayed at. Apparently that one had now been given over entirely to permanents, anyway.

We had a very generous site that would also hold M’s tent.

After setting up, drove to the Post Office, but there was no mail waiting for us. Posted some cards. I’d phoned L last weekend to send a bag of mail here.

Went to the Tourist Information Centre to get a permit to drive the Hamersley Iron railway access road, between here and Tom Price.

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Ore Train railway road (from Pinterest)

We had to watch a short video on how to drive on it – common sense stuff, like give way to ore trains! Really? There was no fee for this. No mention was made about towing the van on it, and we didn’t ask.  All good.

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2004 Travels July 7

WEDNESDAY 7 JULY   CARNARVON TO NANUTARRA ROADHOUSE   370kms

It rained steadily and heavily all night.

The park grounds were very muddy. We got very wet, packing up and hitching up.

I seemed to recollect D telling us, just a few days ago, how wonderful Carnarvon was at this time of winter, and that it never rained!

It continued to rain heavily, out of Carnarvon, all the way to Minilya Roadhouse.

It was hard work driving. Lots of depressions in the road had water in them and some floodways were flowing. Some out of Minilya were running nearly two feet deep. There was an amazing amount of surface water just lying on the land, between Carnarvon and Minilya.

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Flooded highway north of Carnarvon

The road to Gascoyne Junction had a Closed notice on it, as we went past. I was happy that we were still not out in the Kennedy Range when this lot came in!

Refuelled at Minilya – $1.17cpl.

It continued to rain. A car had gone off the road about 10kms north of Minilya – perhaps was going too fast when it hit water over the road? It was being loaded onto a tow truck as we passed.

By the time we reached Nanutarra, the rain was slightly lighter.

It was all mud there too. It cost us $20 to stay on bare muddy ground, next to a power pole!

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How many stars would this rate?

We could not bush stay – even if we could have found a place dry enough to access – because the batteries had not been charged up overnight. John had turned the charger off, to watch TV, and said it was not necessary to turn it back on. Whoops!

Apparently, it was raining right up to Karratha. I hoped we would not have to change our plans.

John topped the fuel up here – $1.34cpl.

Apparently, the culprit was a cloud band from the north west that had sucked in wet, tropical air. It was raining all the way to Kalgoorlie! The forecast for Carnarvon, for tomorrow, was just as bad, so we would not have gained from trying to wait it out there – and may have been caught by closed roads.

We had wet clothes from this morning – and then this evening – draped everywhere in the van.

It was cold as well as wet.

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