This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2004 Travels August 2

MONDAY 2 AUGUST   EXMOUTH TO MESA CAMP   44kms

We were fed, organized, packed up, and at the National Park Entrance at 8.30am.

There were only a couple of other vehicles ahead of us.

The bad news was that there were no sites becoming available at either Lakeside or Ned’s. So much for our research! But we were offered one at Mesa and took that – better than the alternative of going back to Exmouth! We told ourselves that it was only at the other end of the beach from Ned’s. It was going to cost us $10 a night.

Drove on down the road and into the Mesa camp.

There were twelve camp sites at Mesa. Seven looked out across the sands to the sea; they had some trees around them too. The other five sites looked out on to the visitors’ car park and some dunes. They had no trees around them.

Of course, we got one of the no-view sites! The campers who had been occupying it were moving across to one of the better sites that was being vacated. We were not best pleased, but had to be philosophical about it.

We discussed with the lovely couple who were the campground hosts, the possibility that we, too, might move sites to one with a view – if one became vacant during our time here. They agreed to keep that in mind for us.

And so we set up, on the very open, bare site, hoping it would be a short stay!

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First camp site at Mesa

It was very windy.

After setting up, walked to the beach, through low dunes, and walked along it for a bit. The sand was very soft.

Checked out the long drop amenities on the way to the beach – very clean.

John went down to the beach to try some fishing, after  lunch. No joy there.

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Beach at Mesa – waves breaking on Ningaloo Reef, in distance

There was another Trakmaster van here – a Sturt model. The people were from Tasmania. They had one of the “good” sites.

The campground hosts held a happy hour get together in the late afternoon, and we wandered across to that and sat chatting with the small group of campers. Very pleasant.

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2004 Travels August 1

SATURDAY 1 AUGUST     EXMOUTH

I was able to get newspapers and spent some of the day reading those.

Went to the supermarkets and topped up our food supplies.

Went for a short drive and looked more closely at the new-ish marina development that we’d passed on the way into town. It seemed that some people were optimistic about being able to sell real estate, and establish sea-related businesses, in such a place. Early days yet!

Exmouth had only really existed since the mid 1960’s, being built to house workers and service the needs of the US North West Cape communications base, built at that time. It was a bit like a Pilbara mining town, but on the coast!

John watched football on TV.

This period was meant to be a quiet and restful recovery time, after our Pilbara whirl! A camp over in the National Park should be just the thing.


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2004 Travels July 31

SATURDAY 31 JULY   NANUTARRA ROADHOUSE TO EXMOUTH   270kms

Today’s was a routine drive through some fairly uninteresting country, that we’d driven a few times already.

Took the short cut through Giralia Station to the Exmouth road. It was now a good. sealed road – last time we drove this, it was gravel.

I’d intended to stop at the Kailis seafood factory, not far past the big Learmonth Airforce Base, but the Kailis place was closed for a couple of hours over lunchtime. We’d bought great prawns there on previous trips.

Reached Exmouth about 1pm. Went into the Ningaloo Caravan Park, in the town. It was a Top Tourist park – we were back in the realm of discounts! $23.40 a night, after that. The park was full. It was of the expected high standard. The amenities were clean. There appeared to be some pressure on the washing machines and clothes lines, though.

After setting up, John watched football on TV, whilst I went for a walk to the shops – not too far.

I went to the Tourist Information Centre and found out about camping out in the Cape Range National Park. They did not take bookings for sites in the several campgrounds scattered along the coast. One must go and queue up at the Park entrance – early! The camp ground hosts at the various camps radio to the entrance, when they know of an incipient vacancy, and these are handed out to those in the queue. Very much a pot luck scenario – one takes what one is given! The info lady seemed to think that if we were good and early, we’d get a spot somewhere.

Later in the afternoon, went for a drive around to the National Park, and looked at the various camps that had generator areas – not all did, and we would need one, in case the solar input wasn’t enough.

We decided that we’d find the Lakeside or Ned’s camp grounds ideal.

Refuelled – $1.20cpl.

Had a text message from M. She’d collected her mother from the plane in Darwin, and all was well, so far.

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2004 Travels July 30

FRIDAY 30 JULY   SOUTH HEDLAND TO NANUTARRA ROADHOUSE   490kms

Today’s was a long day of driving south.

The country was not particularly interesting, and we’d driven it before.

Refuelled at the roadhouse at the turn off to Karratha – $1.08cpl. Topped up the fuel again at the Fortescue River Roadhouse – $1.20 cpl.

For several weeks now, we had spent time in the very large catchment area of the Fortescue River. Now, we were not far from its mouth, about a hundred kms SW of Dampier. There was water in part of the wide bed. We had to detour through a section of the river bed, around the bridge repairs that were happening after the cyclone damage of earlier in the year. Clearly, this river could be ferocious at times.

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Fortescue River bridge – note flood debris

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Flood damage Fortescue River bridge

Overnighted again back at Nanutarra Roadhouse. The ground was dry, this time, but the place was still noisy. $20 a night.

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Dry Nanutarra, this time

Whilst we were here, John took the jerry can to be refilled – $1.36cpl.

He then retreated to the van for a rest. I went for a walk along to the Ashburton River and had a look at the works going on there on a new road bridge. It would be a big improvement on the old, one lane only bridge.

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2004 Travels July 29

THURSDAY 29 JULY     SOUTH HEDLAND

It was an early start, as we had to have M at the airport by 8am.

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Early morning, South Hedland

Watched M onto her plane – to Perth. From there, she would fly to Darwin, to meet her mother, who had flown from Melbourne. They would catch the new Ghan train service from there to Adelaide.

Shopped at the supermarket in South Hedland for food.

Refuelled truck – $1.06cpl.

I phoned Exmouth and booked us into a caravan park.

Then we sat round, relaxing, for the rest of the day. It had been a much more hectic three weeks than we were used to. Our travelling and sight seeing was usually done at a much slower pace!

Had a phone call from M, after she reached Perth. She said they flew over Karijini and that it looked really spectacular from the air.


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2004 Travels July 28

WEDNESDAY 28 JULY   MARBLE BAR TO SOUTH HEDLAND   202kms

An unpleasant surprise greeted John when he went to pack up this morning. The driver’s side front tyre on Truck was flat! So, a wheel change was needed before any other packing up got under way.

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How many flat tyres was that, for this trip?

While that was happening, the gold miner from the General Store arrived, with some small nuggets that he thought might be what I was looking for, to make earrings. I bought two.

After that, we had a routine drive to Port Hedland, all on good sealed roads.  Once past the hilly country around Marble Bar, the country got to be flat and a bit boring.

Went into the South Hedland Caravan Park, at $18 a night. It was rather shabby and contained mostly longer term dwellers. Later, as we were driving about, noticed a new park – Black Rock – that had recently opened. I wished I’d known about that one earlier! Knew there was another park, in Port Hedland itself, but had encountered sandflies there, back in ’93, and was not keen to repeat the experience.

After setting up for a short stay, drove into the main – older – part of Port Hedland, and had a look about. Port Hedland is really these two separate settlements, separated by several kms of desolate flat ground given over to salt pans and some industry. The drive in there took us past the very extensive salt works with their heaped up white salt hill.

The older, original Port Hedland was on a narrow peninsula of ground and limited by the swampy flat lands behind it. When there was the need to expand the original little fishing port town, with the advent of iron ore shipping, the necessary shops, services and houses were built back away from the swampy inlets, to the south. The layout of this part mirrored that of the other Pilbara towns set up for mining related purposes.

We saw long ore trains heading for the port area in the old town.

I remembered buying prawns from a trawler at the port, in ’93. We found out that it was no longer possible to buy fish or prawns from the boats, any more. Pity.

At one stage, saw an entourage in the distance –  turned out to be that of the Prime Minister. Never did find out why he was in town, though.

Came across a shop selling gemstones and rocks, and bought a few pretty stones for grand daughter.

Collected our mail from the PO. This included the new battery charger we’d had sent from Melbourne. But we decided not to try to get this installed now – not sure about the local work. We’d been managing with the portable charger, so thought we’d try to get back home with that system, and get the new charger properly installed at Trakmaster.

John found a tyre place and put the flat tyre in for repair.

M bought us all chicken and chips as a farewell dinner. I made an exception to my rule of not eating chicken not cooked by me – and hoped! I’d been outvoted. Fortunately, there were no adverse effects later.

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2004 Travels July 27

TUESDAY 27 JULY     MARBLE BAR

In the morning, John wanted to do some computer stuff, so M and I went for a walk to explore the town, after I’d packed our lunches ready for later.

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Morning at Marble Bar Caravan Park

It was an interesting place, with some very dignified old stone buildings, dating from the time when mining seemed to offer a bright future for the place. Who knows, with the advances in the technology of minerals exploration and extraction, those times might come again?

Marble Bar is known as the hottest place in Australia. In recent times, that has been its only claim to fame. That was why John wanted to visit here in ’93 – so he could say he’d been there! We certainly were not expecting somewhere so intrinsically beautiful, and with so much that interested us.

The hottest reputation is not because of a maximum temperature reached on one day, but because it holds the record for the longest run of days over 100 degrees F (37.8 C) – 160 days over summer of 1923-24. They didn’t have air-con then, either!

We looked over the Pilbara Pioneers Memorial Wall. The plaques here give details of pioneers who often died alone and who were buried in remote and lonely places in the district. Some typical inscriptions: Avis Hosotana 1898: aged 3 days; buried at Tomborrah Creek; son of Otako and George; died of heat exhaustion. Robert Chandler 1899: Aged 42 years;  Buried at Tabba Tabba Creek near Port Hedland; a saddler who became lost in the bush and died of thirst.

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The Wall also honours Lang Hancock, who is credited with founding the iron ore industry of the Pilbara. He recognized the richness and extent of iron ore deposits in the region, and publicized and promoted the potential, although he never owned an iron ore mine himself. He did however, start asbestos mining at Wittenoom! These days, a dubious claim to fame. His daughter Gina, and her Hancock Mining Company provided funding for the Memorial.

M and I only progressed as far as the General Store! A miner’s wife ran that establishment. From her I bought a gold nugget already mounted ready for chain and four smaller nuggets, also mounted, for the daughters for Xmas. I put in an order with the miner for a pair of “flat” nuggets for earrings, when he had two that matched. M bought a nugget too.

We had certainly done our bit for the local economy, whilst here!

Then John arrived, driving Truck, to put in some fuel. He only added 50 litres – at $1.28cpl. That should see us through to somewhere cheaper!

We drove out to Coppin Gap, to the NE of the town about 60kms. This involved us taking the sealed Port Hedland road, then the gravel Bamboo track to the east. The Coppin Gap track led off this.

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Bamboo Road – and smoke

We passed mustering vehicles and a helicopter. The mustering team had lit fires in the spinifex, out beyond the Gap, as they had mustered out there. The dark spinifex smoke hung in the air – not all that far away, it appeared.

The country out that way was just beautiful.

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We parked at the end of the access track, then walked to the Gap, and walked/scrambled through it.

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Approach to Coppin Gap

The Gap was quite dramatic – a water carved gap in the Coongan Hills.

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Walking through Coppin Gap

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Reflections

We had lunch, sitting by the waterhole at the base of the steep cliffs of the Gap.

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As we retraced our way back to Truck, the fires looked closer, but still a way off. But they were enough for us to curtail any further exploration out in that direction.

Yet again, apart from the mustering team, we’d encountered no other people. Being able to enjoy places like this in solitude was wonderful, after the crowds of Karijini.

On the way back to camp, detoured to take in Doolena Pool, off the Hedland road, as it wasn’t far from where we rejoined this.

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Doolena Pool

Doolena Pool was on the Coongan River. Whilst it was very pretty, it was not in the same league as Coppin Gap.

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I thought John had done so well with the pretty constant driving he’d had to do over the past three weeks. We would have to find somewhere that he could have a good long refreshing break from it, once M left.