Today's epistle finds us in Carnarvon, a fair way south from last time and we have travelled north and west since then so more miles on the fabulous Felix and actually getting close to time for a service now I think of it. But where exactly did we go from Dampier?
Well north to Port Hedland again but only for a few hours to fill up on fuel and picnic among some old trains before heading slightly south and then west to Karijini National Park. Not that we made it all the way there of course. A stopover at Auski road house and then onwards into Gorge country with our first stop being the East Munjina Gorge lookout which looked back over the gorge we had just wound our way along and what a view! And the wildflowers! Here it was - the beginning of the beautiful flowers and while they weren't exactly a carpet their colours were brilliant and they cropped up alongside the road often enough to keep me entertained. And before too long we were taking the Tom Price turn off that would take us into the National Park.
A quick visit to the visitor's centre to get the low down on where we could camp and then onto to Dales Campground where once again we parted with the princely sum of $5 per night for the privilege of staying inside a beautiful piece of Oz. Yes I know, there are no showers and only drop toilets but hey, its was only for 3 nights and everything is relative when you never have your own bathroom anyway!
Jude was an absolute trooper and did 2 really big walks (for a 3-year old) and as they both entailed walking down and then up the side of the gorge the 2-3km distances were not really the most demanding aspects.
On our first morning we followed the path from the campsite to the Circular Pool lookout (about 1km) and as soon as we looked down and Jude saw there were people down there he just had to go down. I wasn't too sure as I had been told that the path down was very steep with lots of small steps and probably not suitable for a 3-year old but he was very determined and as we arrived at the top of the descent we met a couple coming up with their 4 & 5 year olds and they said it was certainly do-able although there was a section where you had to climb a short ladder….. Well Jude of course said he would hold my hand and so down we went. Having done the steps down to the Grotto on the way to Wyndham this was actually a breeze with no sudden drops along the path and only one section, right at the bottom, where you were actually walking forwards and down. The ladder did cause Jude some moments of concern trying to work out how to turn around and come down backwards but as it was no taller than me it wasn't really an issue. Down on the gorge floor and it was a further 800m or so to the pool itself and this was all clambering over the natural rock but Jude was in his element and we really enjoyed the adventure of it. A rest break at the pool and then back along and up again and now Jude wasn't so sure - not because of any fear factor but because he just didn't think his legs could make it up! Having said that, he was determined to make it up the ladder by himself to make up for his reluctance on the way down and as we had met up with 3 other walkers that were on their way up we had all the assistance we needed and I only needed to pick him up and carry him 2 or 3 times. Very fortunately for him a lovely lady who had walked up with us offered to drive us back to the campsite and save him the 1km walk back and I think this made his day.
Next day we walked to the other end of the gorge and made our way down to Fortescue Falls and then along the top to the calm and quiet Fern Pool and this walk, along a tree-covered, dirt path, with the sides of the gorge rising up on either side, was just so beautiful and peaceful and really one of the highlights for me. Back to the falls and we followed the path down to the base to enjoy the view before heading back home to our camp.
The drive in to Tom Price was about 100km and first we saw Mt Bruce - amazing - then we saw a dingo cross the road - a rare sight at any time - and then the wildflowers along the verges began - joy joy joy. Jude probably thought I was slightly deranged as I constantly called out, 'Look! Look at the flowers' and pulled over to take photos but they really are just a treat. And although they weren't carpets of flowers like one can expect further south and later in the year they were clumped along the verges in all shades of purple and pink and they just lightened up my life and made me want to dance and sing. (okay, so now you all think I am slightly deranged too)
The first thing you see as you come up to Tom Price is a huge dump truck (or haul truck as I have now been informed) set on the side of the road leaving no doubt what this town is all about and thrilling Jude no end. We spent 4 nights there which some who have been there will be awfully surprised at but we spent our first full day driving out to Hammersley Gorge (part of Karijini N P but from a different entrance) and having the thrill of 25 kms of brilliant dirt road followed by 5 kms of road so bad that Jude actually suggested we should turn back! But not one to be put off so easily I crawled along in 2nd and gathered plenty of red dirt in every orifice of poor old Felix and soon the road improved again and when we arrived at the Gorge we were rewarded with a beautiful spot to relax for the better part of an hour with a little bit of fish-feeding thrown in before we got to tackle the road back out again (and as is often the case it really didn't seem as bad on the way back!)
Of course this resulted in a day needed to wash all the bedding that had copped it with the mysteriously infiltrating red dust through the very firmly shut and locked back door and we also booked to go on the mine tour through the Rio Tinto iron-ore mine not surprisingly called 'Tom Price'.
The tour was really an eye-opener and something I recommend to all of us that are never going to work in a super large open cut mine cos there is a little thrill when you go past the sign that says 'You are entering The Pit' and it is not something you see everyday when you are cruising along in a coach and one of those haul trucks comes up alongside and the coach barely comes up to the top of the wheels (each of which cost $44,000 with the current strong Aussie dollar!) Everything in there is of course huge and over the top and the only downside is that when you are in the pit area (there are actually 5 pits in all) the tour guide/bus driver brings your attention to the 3 high points you can see and reminds you that these were once all joined and this was once a mountain. I know we need the ore (tho' a shame we send it all overseas and then buy back the steel!) but there are so many beautiful mountains and ranges out that way and it would be a travesty if they all disappeared to our need for steel.
From Tom Price we headed back to the coast and back to Bullara Station where Jude was reunited with his 'best friend' Mimi, the station owners' 3 year old daughter. We spent 5 nights there with the 2 of them practically inseparable and when the time to go finally arrived they both turned to me and asked when we would be coming back. In fact we hadn't even made it to the Coral Bay turn off before Jude's sad face came on and he said, 'I really didn't want to leave the Station.'
Anyway a big shout out to Edwina, Tim, Olivia, Lucy, Mimi and all their lovely animals that we fell in love with as well.
Yesterday we arrived here in Carnarvon and today after church we walked out to 1-mile jetty to look at the historic precinct there and to take the train ride out along the jetty and back. Now before you bag me for not walking it consider this:
- I was with a train mad 3-year old.
- I had walked 3 kms out there pushing Jude in his pram and had to walk the same distance back again (that better shift those muffin tops!)
Tomorrow we are heading back up the coast a little to see the Blowholes and spend a night or two at Quobba Station and once again we will be out of range and without power.
It will be interesting to see how we go with accommodation over the next 2 weeks as school holidays have just started and we are coming up to some very popular spots like Monkey Mia and Kalbarri so there may have to be a lot of free camping if everywhere is booked out. No problem, we are old hats at this now and there are plenty of others camping at every rest area you pass and sometimes these are the friendliest places to stop.
Cold weather is creeping up on us and as we continue ever south this isn't going to improve so Bring on Summer I say. In the meantime we will enjoy our still warm, blue-skyed days and 'just cope' with the cold nights and early mornings (Jude's favourite saying at the moment.)
Still living the dream and loving it