We arrive in Carnarvon and go to the tourist information centre. Shut;
so we`do a "brown sign tour" and go to The Heritage Precinct.
This is located at the One Mile Jetty. Out here they are restoring the
jetty, railway locos and rail line that was so important in the development
of the town. As luck would have it they were running the "coffee pot" (a
replica of the port train powered by a VW engine :) ) along the jetty. The
railway sheds and the lighthouse keepers cottage were also open so we
inspected them as well. A lot of work has been done but a lot still has to
be done. It is a credit to the volunteers who as usual work with little
The wind has been howling since we left Broome and it is showing in the fuel
consumption figures because as usual it is a head wind or to be more
precise, a gale on the port or starboard quarter.
As there are no bush camping spots within coo-ee we book into Plantation
Park C/P. and I assess the fridge problem. I also add to the problems by
starting the computer up. From therein big bangs were heard to issue (the
other residents sought cover and tin hats) and it stopped. Shee I can't take
"Happy Hour" was an interesting experience and got me thinking about various
things. As usual we had the "campfire gurus" present spouting out theories.
Main subject: Driving at night and boredom on long drives. You know my
thoughts on this. There were others present that had the same opinion as me
and funnily enough nearly all ex-truckies.
I think I had a win here. Coversation as follows:
Uppity woman (in a 25' caravan that is towed by a truck and has the house
fitted including a ducted vacuum system)," We don't travel after 2.00PM. We
have had trouble coming down from Broome as the caravan parks are far and
few between and have had to travel until 5.00PM. So exhausting. (wipes brow
as she reminisces about the hardship).
General head nodding from all the campfire sages. As she has the floor she
" We don't travel at night because (looks at husband) WE (nudges husband)
are worried about hitting wildlife and animals"
More nodding from sages and raised eyebrows from others.
Me," I generally find that most of the wildlife and animals have pulled up
by 2.00PM and after dark I only have to worry about the fauna."
Laughter by most but puzzled look from UW. Husband of same throws me a wink.
This of course led to the topic of what others do to relieve the boredom of
driving longer distances.
I find it relaxing to drive. To relieve the boredom (if the scenery isn't
worth looking at and that is the case up here. My opinion.), I play mind
games. I calculate speeds, ETA of getting to next town and whether I need
fuel or where to fill next. I also play aeroplanes out the window (yeah,
childish, I know but still good fun) seeking out the low and high pressure
areas around mirrors and bodywork. This practise is not to be recommended if
a road train is approaching as it is hard to play with a hand missing. Makes
it hard to operate the light switch etc on the right side as well.
I play the "what if" game as well. This comes from advanced driving courses
I have been lucky enough to have done. I treat driving as an art and like
most artists a little practice and improvement doesn't go astray.
The way it works is this; imagine a scenario like blowing a front tyre. What
do I do? Where do I go? What can I do to minimise damge and casualties in my
own and other vehicles? Other scenarios are: What if a car comes round the
corner on the wrong side? A truck coming towards you loses a wheel (this has
happened to me). Having a what if plan can save your own or someone elses
life. It pays to practise.
At other times I am Quincey, CSI and accident investigation squad as well.
Because of climatic conditions here (no rain) skid marks that go off the
road are visible in the gravel for months afterwards. Some are semis
stopping rapidly for large fauna (they don't generally slow down for roos.
Camels, bulls and horses are a different story.). Others are where cars have
been travelling too fast to negotiate the corner, others where they have
woken up and got a fright. Still others are where they have hit the fauna,
skid marks in a curve ending up in a dark patch on the road, either blood
from dead fauna or a dry cleaning job needed. You get the picture about
supposing what happened. Unfortunately too many end at a white cross.
It is interesting to note here that although the Northern Territory has an
unrestricted speed limit outside towns most motorists sit on about
110-120KMH. I only saw 2 or 3 going like the clappers. Their road toll is
also low. Makes you think, don't it?
Watching the awning in the wind has given me an idea for a new sport amongst
gathered motorhomes or caravans fitted with awnings.
THE GREAT AWNING PULL CORD RACE!!!
1: An A&E type awning at least three (3.0)metres in length that does not
retract automatically when windspeed exceeds 15KMH. This of course rules out
some Winnebagos and Swagmans.
2: A steady breeze from a consistant direction.
3: A flat open area capable of fitting 3 motorhomes side by side with
4: A stake at least 2 metres high to which a windsock can be attached. If no
windsock is available a light piece of suitable clothing (knickers come to
mind) or toilet paper can be substituted.
5: A qualified medical officer in the event of muscle pulls or heart attack
caused by the stress of competition.
1: In one corner of the "field" the stake is driven into the ground and wind
direction indicator fitted. This then gives the directional orientation and
deployment of the competing vehicles.
2: A line is then drawn across the field at right angles to the wind.
At this time competitors are allowed to bring their vehicles into the arena
and park at right angles with the rear facing into the wind, rear awning
strut on the line. It is preferable that space allows a drive in situation
as time can be wasted by having some people reverse in.
The starting order of competitors is decided by "throwing the hook". The
hook is the jigger that you use to pull the awning up and down. "Throwing
the hook" is the flinging of the hook down the course. The furthest fling is
first, next goes second etc. (Some people will have had more experience than
others because of practise gained when the hook falls out of the pull cord
whilst half way up and it slips just out of reach. Upon retrieval it is
launched into orbit followed by the mystical chant of the Wharfie that was
told he had to work.)
Rules: 1: Length of rail does matter in this. The judges will mark a line at
2.7metres from the REAR of the awning so that all competitors are equal. All
awnings are to be level. Laurie and Keith Smythe will be the judges of this.
They are experienced.
2: The cord is held at full stretch in the right hand to the rear of the
vehicle and in line with the rail.
3: The starting signal is given by the judge standing in a position where
all competitors can see them. The signal is a hook dropped to the ground. In
the event of a dust storm or rain obscuring the starter then they can yell
4: Competitors release the cord when the hook leaves the starters hand.
5: Competitors must step back so that no outside wind assistance can be
given by blowing or hand fanning.
6: Marshalls will be at each vehicle to signal that the cord has crossed the
7: The winner is the first cord to cross the line.
8: Heats will be run until all competitors have been through and then
knockout rounds commence until only 3 remain. These will play off for the
9: In the event of a tie, the winner will be decided by The Great Awning
Rollup. The fastest to retract their awning will be deemed winner of that
heat. In the finals it is rollup and setup again.
Addendum: Cheating is frowned upon. No slots are to be lubricated with
graphite, Armourall or other synthetic slippery stuff. Washing with mild
soap and detergent is permissable.
Only the A&E standard pull cords are permitted, no super duper kevlar or
carbon fibre synthetic cords.
We spend the day looking around Carnarvon and organising someone to look
at the fridge, someone else to look at the computer and booking on a town
tour and a salt mine tour.
We remove the computer and give it to the shop.
We walk into town and go on the town tour with Ben. He is 5th generation
and knows Carnarvon and its residents well. The past and present history of
the place is interesting. He explains how the river flows upside down and
that all the irrigation for the market gardens comes from here. The water in
the Gascoyne normally only flows when it rains but there is a huge stream
under the river bed and this is what they tap into. We return to the van and
await the fridge feller.
The fridge mechanic comes out to check the fridge. I see heaps of dollar
signs amassing but he repairs a faulty connection (Waeco one) and the fridge
bursts into life. It has run the best it ever has and not missed a beat at
this time (11/11). The final charge is $50, cheap at twice the price. The
fridge was fitted to Waeco specifications but he advises a vent would help
it enormously. I cut a new vent into the van and then walk up the road to
see a metal fabricator to have a cover made. I catch a taxi back.
Moi, "I will go and see the metal fabricator up the road to have vent
Julie,"It is not that far. Why don't you walk?"
Moi, after clutching chest and rolling eyes,"Hmm it is further than
Julie, "Don't be a wooss, it won't kill you."
So I set off (40+degrees) and walk. 45 minutes later I reach them. So dry I
can't raise a spit let alone talk because my tongue was so swollen it filled
my mouth. After draining the Gascoyne basin and bankrupting the market
gardeners I finally explain what I want. No probs but won't be ready until
Thurs. He calls me a taxi and we measure the distance, 2.4 Kilometers. No
wonder I was buggered. Great judge of distance, my wife.
We are picked up by Harry and do the Dampier Salt mine complex, the
Gypsum mines and their loading facility at Cape Cuvier. He brings us back
along the`coast and we have a look at the HMAS Sydney memorial and the
Blowholes. I have seen some speccy blowholes but these are awesome with the
Indian Ocean behind them. He tells us these are not at their best as there
is not much swell and a fair bit of wind. WIND!!! Understatement. I think
they have a scale above the Beaufort scale here because it doesn't go high
Lunch was provided and we ended up staying in the van to eat it because I
don't like sand sandwiches.
We check out the longest horse trough in the Southern Hemisphere. Remember
that Wyndham had laid claim to this? Wrong! Apparently they were cleaning
the area up (there is a huge thermal spring here) about 18 months ago and a
bulldozer driver accidentally uncovered it. Checking with the older
residents confirmed that it was there but had been forgotten about.
We arrive back in Carnarvon and I go to the computer shop and am told it is
fixed. Another surprise, not much wrong but the power supply was stuffed and
it costs me $100. I was expecting more.
Things are looking good, computer fixed and fridge working.
Temperature is still high and the wind blows.
We spent the day relaxing and updating emails. I ring the metal workers
and the vent is ready. I catch a taxi and retrieve it. I fit it and it looks
good. We make ready to make tracks for cooler climes on the morrow.
I like Carnarvon, it is very motorhome friendly with wide streets and centre
road parking for oversize (up to 10M) vehicles and parking for buses at the
rear of the tourist centre.
We ambled down to Denham and after checking out the town went to the
Shire Offices and got a camping permit to camp at Eagle Bluff for the night.
Camping at most of the reserves is free but you need a free permit from the
We watch the sunset over the Indian Ocean from the sand dunes. The wind has
dropped but for how long no-one knows.
we leave early to get to Monkey Mia for the dolphin feeding. Cynicism is
showing again here. What a con. $12.00 to get in but it is for 2 days. Only
3 dolphins came in and whilst they do come right up to those standing in
ankle deep water you are not allowed to touch them and only a minority of
people are allowed to feed them, contrary to the ads. I do agree with this
policy but the ads could be a little more explicit. A long way out of the
way for not much and Bunbury Dolphin Centre offers much more at less cost.
We are sitting in the van having morning tea when this pommy voice says,
"That moves along." I look around and standing there is a blonde lady. I
think to myself, she has a deep voice and then I see her husband.
"It does at that," says I.
They were in a Britz camper van coming out of a side street and tried to
catch us. We invited them in for a cuppa and a sticky beak. They introduced
themselves as Paul and Shiela on holidays from England looking at
prospective towns to live in when they move here on Pauls retirement.
We chat for quite a while about various aspects and costs of living in Oz
and decide to do the Dugong spotting boat cruise together. Not a bad cruise
and we see some turtles, dolphins and of course a Dugong. Julie is happy.
We say goodbye to Paul and Shiela and head out of Monkey Mia for Kalbarri
checking out Shell beach and Hamlyn Pool, where we looked at Stromatolites,
on the way back to the highway.
We camped in a rest area 118K south of Billabong.
we arrive early into Kalbarri and wait for the Tourist Office to open. We
had a look at the road into Natures Window and Z Bend on the way in and
decided that if we were to see these a hire car was needed. The roads are ok
for Coaster types or buses with air suspension but not our truck suspension.
We collect all the info. and go around to the Backpackers Hostel to hire a
I don't know how many people hire cars but I get cheesed right off when you
ring a car hire company and they say that it is Xdollars to hire for the
day. So off you toddle to the office and find that the car is Xdollars +
stamp duty and if you want the insurance excess dropped from $2500 to
$250-$300 you can pay extra. The vehicle ends up costing twice as much as
advertised. Why can't they just say that in the first place.
This place did just that, $77 all up, no excess Kilometres, no extra hidden
costs. The way to do it. The only catch was that the vehicle had to be back
by 7.30PM but the service stations close at 6.00PM. No problems. We have a
Suzuki Jimney in our hands and off we go.
A little tip here. we had been told that Backpacker Hostels were the best
and cheapest place to negotiate car hire. This seems to be true and I wish
we had known when we had hired before. We shall probably try it later and
see if that is the case.
We go out to Kalbarri National Park and look at Z-Bend and Natures Window.
From here we journey out to Hutt River Province and meet Prince Leonard. He
gives us a guided tour of the Chapel and other buildings as well as the
history of Hutt River. An interesting man who is still sticking it up the
Government. For those that don't know, Hutt River seceded from Australia and
became an independant entity. Take your passports if you have one and he
will stamp it for you.
We then went out to Port Gregory and headed back along the coast doing a
"brown sign" tour of the various bays and rock formations. We arrive back in
Kalbarri and fuel the car at 5.55PM. Cutting it fine. We are about to return
the car when we spy Paul and Shiela in the caravan park opposite where the
truck is parked. It is decided that we will all have fish and chips for tea
so we book in to the park and while I set up, Julie and Shiela get tea. We
return the car and chat late into the night.
After brekky with Paul and Shiela we move towards Geraldton stopping at
Northampton to admire some of the old buildings. We book in at Belair
Gardens C/P and we finish our BAS. Work does not stop when on holidays if
you are self employed.
We finish the BAS and email that off. After lunch we went to the Tourist
Office and look for a physio for my back. It is still sore. The first one we
find has a cancellation and can see me in 1/2 an hour. I wait and Julie
checks out the shopping centre next door. The physio has a look at my back
and I find out he is from Frankston. I was raised in Frankston and lived
there for 30 years and it is only 25 K from Tooradin. Small world. He comes
out and checks the seating position in the truck and alters it so that it
will put less stress on my back. Nice bloke. 1 more visit and he reckons I
should be fairly good. I meet Julie and we wander the streets of Geraldton.
We go up to the HMAS Sydney Memorial. This is awesome and a fitting
tribute to the men who lost their lives. From here we went to the Museum.
You would think that we would be sick of Museums by now and we are but this
had something that we wanted to see.
It has the history and relics of the Dutch ship Batavia that was wrecked off
the coast in the 1600's. They have a video that recreates the whole
scenario, sex, violence, murder and religion. Who could ask for more? They
also had other exhibitions there. The cost? Entry by donation.
Our next stop is St Francis Xavier Cathedral. It is open to the public and
guided tours take place but as usual not when we are here. The stained glass
windows are fantastic and the architecture the same.
I go to the physio while Julie does a tour of the port. They have spent
millions here putting in new facilities and deepening the harbour so that
the larger grain ships can fill right up instead of doing a 5 day steam to
southern ports to top up the load. One wonders what affect this will have on
the harbours and economies of the southern port cities.
It is the same with the new railway line from Alice to Darwin. Transport
companies and allied industries will suffer some loss. Already some of the
major importers and exporters are setting up offices in Darwin.
Enough of theorising and back to the journey. We head south.
We do a walking tour of Greenough Historic Hamlet. Another restoration
project and not a junk museum. We have a look at Walkaway Railway station
and then go out to Ellendale Pools and camp for the night.
We leave at 10.30. We are starting to act like motorhomers. HMMMM, will
have to stop.
We intend to go out to Coalseam Conservation Park but we miss the turnoff
and end up in Mingenew. We send off some mail, backtrack and find the turn.
Rolling hills, trees and farmland. It is so nice to see instead of rocks and
rocks and rocks. The temperature is pleasant, the wind is still blowing but
life is good.
There is a constant loud banging like bullets penetrating steel and I wonder
what the hell is going on. I stop and investigate. From the headlights down
there is squashed grasshoppers and the bumper is yellow. Nothing above
headlight height. We decimate the grasshopper population and the farmers
should be paying us as pest removers. (I had to wash some off later as the
smell was REALLY BAD.) After discovering the cause we trundle on.
We do all the touristy things and check out lookouts and have lunch at
Coalseam. we go to Dongara and Port Denison. We move on and camp at a rest
area 51K south of Eneabba.
We leave early and arrive at Cervantes and go out to the Pinnacles.
Rather interesting and eerie in the early morning light.
We move inland to New Norcia and do a guided tour of this Monastic town. Our
guide is a past student and told us some interesting stories about life in a
boarding school in the 60's. The chapels are very ornate and it is hard to
imagine that most of them were done by one man.
There are only 16 monks here now as the schools are closed except for
special use groups. We head towards the Big Smoke.
Traffic lights and cars in abundance. I had forgotten what driving in a
strange city was like and it reminded me why we had headed off in the first
We navigate our way around and head towards Fi and Allans place in Mandurah.
They are in the middle of combining two houses into one and are not home so
we park as per instructed in their driveway and have tea whilst awaiting
their return. On their arrival it is cuppas and talking, making them green
with envy and ready to sell up and go motorhoming.
4 months and 23,000K (+1000 in hired vehicles) have elapsed since
leaving. It has gone quickly and we have hated every minute of it. If you
believe that, then I have a rock and a bridge for sale.
Mandurah is 70-80K south of Perth so a vehicle is necessary. We make
The first few days we did some maintenance on the truck, worked out what to
see and just chilled out.
The hot water service has had a small leak from a pipe union and to repair
it has needed the water cut off and a new fitting put in. As I didn't have
the fitting we have had to wait until I could get one. Hot water service
functioning but the pump must have picked up some garbage and marked the
valves, now it doesn't work.
Murphy is back.
A trip out to the 12Volt shop (I was going there anyway, now I have a
reason) and rather than get a kit I buy a new pump and install that. Water
works all fixed.
Our original intention was to get a laptop computer before we left but time
ran out. The computer has suffered badly from vibration and in the last
1000K has now rendered one hard drive unreadable. After much discussion,
thought and traipsing around Perth, Fremantle, Mandurah, other suburbs and
the parting of many Shekels we are now using a laptop. We ceremoniously wrap
and pack the big one in a safe place not to be released until we get home.
The hassles and lack of knowledge on the part of sales people when you tell
them that you want to run off 12V is unbelievable. There was only one (of
about 10) that knew what we were on about but they didn't have the kit. He
got all the details and gave us the part numbers we needed. The store? Wait
for it. Harvey Norman in Osbourne Park. We ordered it from HN at Mandurah
and it arrived the next day, a Saturday. Can't beat that. Thank you also to
another CMCA member for her advice on what we needed. You know who you are.
Perth and Fremantle are not motorhome friendly as far as parking is
concerned. Anything bigger than a Kombi is near impossible to park close to
the city. All parking is by meter or ticket and limited in time. If you
don't have a car to use then the public bus service is excellent with free
CAT (central area transit) buses going on circuit routes to all the
interesting places. We parked in big parking stations and walked or used the
bus. Believe it or not we walked most of the time. I must be unwell.
On to all the tourist bits.
In Fremantle we went to both Maritime Museums. One has the remaining hull of
the Batavia on display as well as other relics from shipwrecks. A guided
tour is worth taking as this fills in a lot of bits you don't read about. I
like the cost of this one too. Donation.
The other Maritime Museum is free on the second Tuesday of each month but
fees apply at other times. This has an "O" class submarine that has guided
tours through it. The rest of the museum is devoted to all things marine
with Australia 2 and other historic craft on display. If you like boats this
is a must and a whole day or longer could be spent in here.
Fremantle Goal has an excellent guided tour with the bonus of a second tour
for free after the first one. the first tour takes you through the main Goal
whilst the second goes through the newer part or womens prison.
The other attraction is the Roundhouse: The original convict goal to house
some of the first inhabitants here.
Fremantle is an interesting place with narrow streets, old buildings and a
lot of history, past and present. If you have a good imagination it is like
an Australian Port-o-Spain on the Spanish Main and you expect square riggers
and pirates to be here. They aren't of course, but then who knows? It is
extremely clean and every retailer we had dealings with are polite and
Perth is a bigger version of Freo (that is WA speak) with more people. It
reminds me of how Melbourne was about 30 years ago. No fuss and everyone at
least acknowledges that you exist. Most people are smiling. Maybe they know
something that us Easteners don't.
Kings Park is the jewel in the crown, with plenty of space, manicured lawns,
fountains and barbecues etc. They do guided tours here and I think they
would be very worthwhile but our times did not correspond so we missed out.
The new elevated walk is unbelievable.
We did a lunch cruise (naturally) up the Swan to Freo. The guide points out
all the interesting things along the river including Millionaires Row. These
are the residences (mostly unoccupied) of Australias rich and famous. I
personally think that it is obscene to spend $10-30million on a house that
is empty most of the time. A worthwhile cruise as it gives a different
perspective to driving between the 2 cities. We also saw half a dozen
doplphins. Julie very happy. Who needs Monkey Mia.
The Perth Mint has tours and you get to handle a 12Kilo gold ingot. They
have tours here as well with a gold pour every hour.
The Swan Bells were on the to-do list as well. These are a relatively new
attraction and worth a visit. You actually get to ring a bell and watch an
experienced bellringer at work. More to it than meets the eye. You can see
the bells and there is an observation deck that gives good views across the
river as well.
We also did a Heritage wwwwwwwwwalk at Pinjarra to a suspension bridge.
We drove down to Bunbury and climbed their lookout tower. They have a
Dolphin Discovery Centre at Bunbury as well. This in my opinion is far
better value than Monkey Mia. Entry fee is a whacking great $2/adult with,
cop this........... the ticket lasts 6 mths. As with all things to do with
nature there is no guarantee of seeing dolphins but their displays and
knowledge of the staff (all voluntary) is fantastic.
From Bunbury we went to Dwellingup after a pleasant and SEDATE (hard to
believe) drive on gravel roads through Lane Poole Conservation Reserve.
There are some great camping spots in here but fees apply.
At Dwellingup we went on the train to Etmilyn Forest. Fire restrictions are
in force here now so we went in the diesel loco (oil burner for Val) as they
are not allowed to run the wood fired steamer.
The visitor centre here also has an exhibition of things from the 1961 fire
that destroyed nearly all the surrounding towns and most of Dwellingup. Only
Dwellingup was rebuilt.
The Forest Heritage Centre situated here is worth the money as well.
We also drove around other scenic areas including Jarrahdale and the
We`also did the Mandurah lunch cruise on the Peel Princess with the skipper
named Mick. This is excellent value for $45 each. Lunch was 3 courses at the
Clansmen Hotel on the Murray River banks. The commentary was informative.
We`also saw more dolphins including a mother and her`calf. Julie is
In the afternoon we make ready to move on again to the SW of WA. Fill
water tanks, stow everything where it should be, check oil and water and
tyres. All shipshape and Bristol fashion we are ready to leave very early.
Thank you for having us so long Fi and Allan.