Friday 16 October
We are swimming in the waters of Ningaloo Reef! Have left the Pilbara and are now in the Coral Coast.
Left Dampier Wednesday heading south. As we were leaving this large ore carrier was being berthed. The pilots are put on arriving ships and taken off departing ships by helicopter. It is not possible to see the port operations unless you go on an organised tours and as the tourist season had finished so had the tours. I would have liked to see the port operations but there is always next year.
In the main street of Dampier is a bronze memorial to Red Dog. A dog who developed a fondness for travel and travelled all over the Pilbara and even to Perth being picked up by truckies and bus drivers. Whilst he has been dead for 25 years he is still talked about fondly.
This miner bird decided to come to breakfast and seemed to like Vegemite.
We detoured from the main highway to visit Onslow. On the map we saw a dirt road we could use that went via Peedamulla Station. This crossed the Cane River and as there was no water in the river this didn’t present a problem. It was nice to be able to boil the billy and not have a constant stream of traffic. Whilst having a cuppa two utes came by and as is the custom on remote tracks they stopped to see if we were okay. They were two prospectors, one from Hobart! He told us that when he is in camp he checks the Mt Field web cam and times his visits to Hobart to coincide with the ski season.
Onslow is not really a tourist town although it does have two caravan parks, both on the waters edge. There is a prawning fleet operating out of the port, which is really just a couple of wharves up the creek, we purchased a kilo of prawns for $15. These had just been cocked and were bright red in colour, delicious.
Onslow terms itself the cyclone capital of Australia. On the headland is a memorial to the crew of two trawlers who perished in a cyclone about ten years ago. Because the beach was not suitable for swimming we decided to continue travelling. We asked at the tourist information office if there were any good campsites near by and were told of a “great” campsite on the Ashburton River about 30 kilometres out of town. However on asking about swimming in the river the response was “Oh no there are two resident salties”, so we kept travelling. About 1600 hours and after about 450 kilometres we made camp in a designated overnight stop on the banks of the Yannarie River. About 15 other vehicles also overnighted here. In the wet season most of the campground becomes a ragging torrent so at least once a year it gets a good flush out.
Early next morning we continued on about a further 250 kilometres to Exmouth.
This part of the country is typically flat with the road seeming to go on endlessly. There is also no trees of any size so there is very little shade.
Exmouth seems a real tourist town with caravan parks and accommodation everywhere. There is even a canal estate and yacht harbour being built. We went into the tourist information centre to obtain information on camping in the national park but they were pretty useless, they only seemed interested in booking excursions. It is interesting to see the difference in tourist information offices, some like Exmouth only seem interested in booking excursions and this is certainly how they make their money, whilst others like Karratha and Onslow seem to delight in giving you as much information about their area as they can. We purchased some supplies, filled the car with fuel, watched the emus roaming the town and headed north.
The Cape Range National Park is on the western side of the Exmouth peninsula and to access it you need to drive almost to the end of the peninsula and then come down the western side. This is the most regulated park, for camping, that I have ever seen. At the entrance to the park you stop to pay your entry fee and there is a board displaying the vacancies in the twelve camping areas. At peak times there can be 15 to 20 vehicles lined up waiting for a vacant spot. If none become available that day they go away and try again the next day. All camp areas have pine posts dividing the areas into bays, some areas have only 4 bays whilst some are up to 15. All bays are numbered and you are allocated a specific bay in a specific camping area. In the tourist season the camping areas have camp hosts or as one fellow camper called them “Kamp Kommanders”. Whilst I can understand that they have to do this because of the numbers wanting to camp here it is far too regimented for my taste. Thankfully with the ending of the school holidays last week the park is fairly empty, the camp hosts have gone and we could choose where we camped.
The first camp area we tried to set up camp in, Mesa Camp, the ground was so hard that we could not get pegs in so we packed up again and went 60 kilometres south to a camp area called Yardie Creek.
This is a fantastic spot. A low sand dune gives us some protection from the onshore wind, we have trees for a bit of shade but we can see the water from camp.
We have erected a full camp including our shower tent and will probably stay here about a week. There are no resident crocodiles or sandflies! The march flies are pretty ferocious however.
The surf breaking on the outer reef is a constant roar.