This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2007 Travels September 5

WEDNESDAY 5 SEPTEMBER     BARN HILL

Despite yesterday’s reassurances, the fire to the north and east was now causing concern.

There was no possibility of anyone leaving now.

All us rigs camped along the cliff tops were asked to move from that area to the grassed, powered central area – as it would be easier to defend! Hmmm….

Fire beyond the deserted cliff top camps

So we packed up camp and relocated to the rather crowded grass camp area, finding a place where we could keep the van and Truck hitched up. M was nearby. We were told we could hook into power – at no extra charge. That was a nice touch. But we were not to try to use anything that drew much current – I guess they had more rigs than usual hooked up to the system. We did not put up the awning.

In the powered camp area

Many campers filled water containers and had them at the ready. This was feeling rather too serious. There was an air of tension and worry now.

M had containers of water on standby….

Then the Fire Service helicopter flew in again and landed on the grassed area by the camp kitchen. The fire person  said he still thought we would be alright, here. He said the fires were cutting the access track out, so there was nowhere to go, anyway.

The fires burnt in the middle distance, all day. It was quite smoky.

Hoses all connected up…….little groups of concerned campers

For something to distract us, played bowls, in the afternoon. Nero fiddled while Rome burned; we bowled while Barn Hill burned…..

Nero fiddled……we bowled (and they talk about plumbers’ crack!)

We were joined on the green by a solo lady traveller, who hailed from Bendigo, in Victoria. She was exploring, in loose tandem, with another single lady. They both had camper vans.

I decided to walk back across to the ablutions block in the unpowered area – quite a distance away – for my afternoon shower. No one else seemed to be bothered to make the trek over there, even though the block in the campground was a bit too small for the numbers packed in here now.

I came out of the shower, and a snake that had just come out from under a nearby bush, did a fast u-turn and retreated back into the scrub. I didn’t know what type it was – only had the impression that it was a grey-green colour. Not sure which of us got the bigger fright.

Bendigo lady and her friend joined us for happy hour drinks. I put together some dry biscuits and cheese, for nibbles, and she brought across a plate of Chilly Philly cheese and biscuits. A very pleasant interlude, with much travel talk, including speculation about when the roads out of here might be safe to travel again.


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2007 Travels September 4

TUESDAY 4 SEPTEMBER     BARN HILL

In the morning, it was very smoky.

Some travellers left quite early, including another Trakmaster that had been here. They told us they did not want to risk their van by staying. We actually thought that leaving could be more of a risk, as there seemed to be considerable doubt about the place, over the exact fire locations, in relation to the track out of here and the Highway. I thought that people leaving ran the risk of being caught between different arms of the fires.

That fire front was extensive….

Late morning the distant sounds of helicopters became closer, then a Fire Service helicopter appeared low from the east, and landed at the perimeter of the camp ground. We were immediately apprehensive that this meant an immediate evacuation order. Instead, the fire person said we were all ok here. That was reassuring. Some visitors asked if they were better off leaving, but he simply reiterated that it was safe here. I guessed they had to be a bit careful what advice they gave.

We did a walk on the beach, but mostly stayed around camp. It was too hot and smoky to spend too long on the beach. The constant smoke we were breathing was giving us all slightly sore throats.

This rock formation was reminiscent of a beached ship….

John did some more camera experimenting as we walked. He was happy with the results he was getting.

I spent some time downloading photos onto the laptop, and sorting and naming them.

At night, the fires seemed much closer…..

Seeing this at bedtime was not conducive to a sound night’s sleep!


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2007 Travels September 3

MONDAY 3 SEPTEMBER     BARN HILL

Only four weeks left now before our housesitters must depart then for their next sit.

We lazed around camp and generally relaxed – talking, reading, sewing. M did a crossword.

Smoky camp. Some had left, most others were hitched up, ready to go at short notice

We filled in part of the day with a lovely long stroll on the beach.

Birds on a rock

It was a photographer’s paradise, here. John did a lot of experimenting with the new big camera, trying to photograph birds in flight, and experimenting with different settings.

From our vantage point on the beach, there was much smoke evident, drifting across from east to west.

There was enough smoke in the air to give us slightly sore throats, after the beach walk.

Back at the van I sent off some email letters.

On the strength of what John had said, about travelling this way in 2009, I took the opportunity to email the sitters. They pencilled in May to September – exact dates to be confirmed a bit closer to time. They must have decided they like a winter sojourn in Melbourne – we are lucky!

Despite the surrounding fires, still, we were not actually particularly concerned, at this stage. They still seemed pretty distant, and we thought they were so much the norm in these parts, at this time of the year.

Our camp, from near the cliff edge

After dark, some station staff began burning firebreaks. This was definitely taking things up a notch! The break burning seemed too close for comfort – there were occasional embers drifting across our camping area.

Does fire appear closer than it really is, at night?

We had a later night than usual – fire watching. M and John even climbed up onto the roof rack of Truck to get a better vantage point. We could actually see flames – a worry!

The shape of Barn Hill could be seen against the fire glow
Vantage point

It was after midnight when we finally went to bed, having discussed whether to leave – early – tomorrow. We decided to wait and see what it was like in the morning, before making a decision. Most of the cliff top campers had hitched their vehicles to their vans, ready to move if need be. We had done that, too.


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2007 Travels September 2

SUNDAY 2 SEPTEMBER     BARN HILL

I was up early, before the others had roused, so went for a long walk. Very pleasant, in the early morning, before it got too hot.

 I went as far as the northern rocky point. In all, I walked for about 90 minutes, with regular stops to look at things of interest – rock pools, shells, unusual shapes….

We just lazed around in the morning.

After lunch, M and John had a bowls session.

We could hear the station’s machinery bulldozing firebreaks in the distance. There was even more smoke.

There were a couple of campers near us, in a big, professionally fitted out full sized bus. One of those ones with all the bells and whistles. The lady was walking past and stopped to speak to me. She had recognized me. She worked in our local real estate agency, and her children had attended “my” school. They were taking a year out of their usual lives, to travel the country. There’s that small world thing again……..

Again, we walked on the beach in the later afternoon.

No one seemed fussed about the fires. I thought they must be more distant than it seemed from the smoke.


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2007 Travels September 1

SATURDAY 1 SEPTEMBER     BARN HILL

After a leisurely start to the day – it was that sort of place – M and John fished off the beach. This involved carting their gear down a long set of wooden stairs that led from the campground up on the cliff bluffs, down to the beach level.

The smoky sky created a most unusual daytime light.

They had no luck. No one seemed to be catching anything, apart from the occasional shovel nosed shark. The wind was from the wrong direction, or something.

Shovel nosed shark

After they gave up on the fishing. we went for a walk on the beach, to the south this time.

I got to carry two sets of footwear so the photographer could be hands free!

The rock formations in this direction were just as interesting, but we could not go as far in this direction before being blocked by rocks.

After lunch, did some bowling on the little green that is part of the campground facilities here. It was rather rough, and the whole exercise all a bit of a giggle.

There was still much smoke in the distance, and the smoky smell was obvious.

Pied Oystercatchers

The smoke in the skies made for some wonderful lighting effects in the later afternoon, on the sea.

This would be our last month on the road, this trip, if all went according to plan. There’s those words again……”if all went…….”.


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2007 Travels August 31

FRIDAY 31 AUGUST   BROOME TO BARN HILL   140kms

M had another early start – to go on the hovercraft trip to the sunken wrecks of flying boats, in Roebuck Bay. These were partially exposed at particularly low tides.

The fifteen  ill-fated seaplanes landed here, in 1942, carrying Dutch refugees from the Japanese advance upon the then Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). Soon after landing, Japanese planes attacked and sank them, killing some eighty people. The wrecks are scattered over Roebuck Bay, but six of them can be seen at the low tides.

Broome was one of several places across northern Australia, bombed in WW2.

We were packed and about to leave, at 8.15, just as M arrived back from her excursion. At least, it had given her tent time to dry out a bit.

John had opted to refuel out at Roebuck Plains Roadhouse, thinking that, being on the main highway, fuel would be cheaper. It was in fact considerably dearer, at $1.50cpl.

It was not a long trip to Barn Hill. And not a particularly interesting one, either. Broome to Port Hedland is one of the most boring stretches of road in Australia, in my opinion!

Great Northern Highway between Broome and Port Hedland (Google)

The 9kms of unsealed track from the highway to the campground was in fairly good condition – a few corrugations in places.

The Barn Hill campground was on an operational cattle property – Thargoo Station. We opted for one of the unpowered sites, set on top of a low cliff, with a good outlook towards the sea. There was a low, sandy, scrubby area between the base of the cliffs and the beach.

Cliff top camp sites at Barn hill, and scrub area between cliffs and beach. The low hill is Barn Hill.

These sites were more spacious than those in the grassed, formal, powered section – which mostly had no sea outlook. $15 a night cost. If we stayed a week, the seventh night was free. There was room for M on the same site. Unlike the grassed camp area, there was no shade – but that was good for the solar panels to work. We could use the genset, if needed. There was a good breeze off the sea – very welcome. We also were able to hook up to water.

Our site with its ocean outlook

The amenities for this section of the campground were quite newly built, corrugated iron, unroofed – open to the sky – but roomy and totally adequate. In fact, they were better than the older amenities at the powered camp area. They were not too far from our site.

Barn Hill (Zoom). The line of cliff top camps stretches north from the main camp

To our surprise, being across the Bay from Broome, there was radio, some TV reception., mobile phone reception and thus internet! John was overjoyed!

There was also a small, rather rough, bowls green, much to John’s delight. Clearly, it was a very sociable camp ground.

After lunch, we went for a walk on the beach – going down a long wooden stairway to reach it.

The beach was wide with firm sand to walk on where the tide had receded. As expected. What was surprising, though, were the absolutely superb rock formations in places along the beach where the cliffs were closer, and higher. They were quite unique, not like anything I’d ever seen at a coast, before.

The beach at Barn Hill – looking north
Unusual coastal rock formations
Bushfire smoke and tide out

We took lots of photos. There was the big bushfire to the east, so the afternoon sun was smoky, as it had been in Broome. This made it even more photogenic.

We decided this place was wonderful – already loved it here!

John floated the idea that we plan a 2009 trip to these parts, to spend about a month at a time at each of here, Eighty Mile Beach, Ningaloo/Cape Range National Park, Denham. Sounded a great idea to me – maybe 5 months away, most of it spent lazing by beautiful coasts.

At night, we could see the lights of Broome across the Bay.