GERALDTON WA TO THE GREAT CENTRAL ROAD LAVERTON : Ocean to Desert – Goodbye to Lands Edge

IT WAS A HEART WRENCHING AFFAIR leaving the coastline of Western Australia. I crane my neck seeking one last glimpse of that strip of alluring blue and then it was gone. Inside my soul was kicking and screaming, dragging its heals and hanging on with clawed fingers. It was just sad like I was losing something precious. We had the most wonderful time on this gorgeous coastline.

Its all a trade-off though. We said goodbye to the ocean but in the process have gained something back in the desert; something just as precious and soul stirring.

On the coast in the popular National Parks we had a nightly routine. Watch the sun set into the sea, retire into the camper out of the wind and read for a while before sleeping to the lullaby of waves. Here in the desert, however, that time of day is the most special. When the skies pastel layers of pink, mauve and blue start to disappate, we enjoy the warmth and companionship of a blazing mulga campfire. Other than the crackle of the flames, the silence is absolute. It’s utterly still and for the first time in over a month we hear white noise in our heads. That chandelier of stars commands our attention and we have quiet conversations feeling toasty warm while that cold desert air descends heavy around us. This too is special.

Now, instead of our bed sheets being salty and crunchy with beach sand they have a whiff of campfire about them. All is good with the world. We are still out here doing it and appreciating another new phase.

Our Landcruiser is now a totally sexy beast after having been fitted with new fat Cooper tyres and rear WA made parabolic leaf springs to give it the butt lift it so seriously needed. So with total confidence once again in our rig we finally turned to the East from the Geraldton coastline and two hours later passed a big sign announcing ` You are now entering the Outback`. The point of no return and the commencement of phase 3 of our trip.

Our trip is composed of three phases

Phase 1: The Savannah Way- Cairns to Broome

Phase 2: The WA Coastline and Karajini

Phase 3: The Mega Desert Crossings – West to East

In this last and final phase we will traverse most remote and isolated regions of Australia. Through the Great Victoria and Gibson Deserts into The Red Centre of the Northern Territory and the Simpson Desert crossing back into Queensland.

This phase will be different again and we are both excited about the adventure ahead. As I write this we are heading for the remote WA township of Laverton, permit to cross Aboriginal land in hand, as we prepare to cross The Great Central Road. Next blog post will be from Ayers Rock in Territory.

Finally in the desert we have a free camp all to ourselves

Coral Coast of WA: Quobba and Red Bluff (waves and whales)

A SNAPSHOT INTO A LIFE WE WILL NEVER HAVE.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The coastline here is no longer protected by Ningaloo Reef and its wild. The swells smashing into the rock ledges are enormous, scary and impressive. Tonnes of angry, foaming white water smashing ferociously into the rock walls sending cascading plumes high into the air. It sounds like thunder and this is so not the place to do a bit of fishing from the rocky shelves. Plaques are left here as memorials to those who valued a fish over their own lives. They dared and lost because KING WAVES KILL. An enormous sign tells us so. The blowholes were amazing. The pressure of the incoming swells created quite a spectacular explosion, especially a really big wave.20604631_2004026863149505_4737760012829499236_n

We are at Quobba Station blowholes – a 137 odd kilometre coastal road detour just north of Carnarvon. Our destination was Red Bluff, a surfers paradise, to camp a little bit remote for a couple of days.

Following the narrow dirt track along the coastline we were so excited by the sight of so many humpback whales frolicking close to the shore. Red Bluff attracts local surfers drawn by the magnificent rolling swell on the point. This is the wild West Australian coastline. Clear, deep, cold water with huge waves that roll onto the beach in sets. They tower over the locals who frolic in them. This is their turf. They know the conditions. Not us. We don’t want to get pummelled and it’s too cold anyway. As each wave crashes into the shore it sounds like a cannon being fired. Awe inspiring and very majestic with the red bluff as a backdrop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe camping here is totally unique. $15 per person per night camping and very rustic. Certainly, different than touristy Cape Range National Park but then this is a haven for surfers. I love this place because it gives us a snapshot into a different life. The life of growing up in Western Australia where your life revolves around the ocean (let’s face it; there is absolutely nothing inland.) A life where you are at home in the huge rolling surf that doesn’t faze you in the least and the bounty of the sea is yours to pillage. We chat to a young surfer dude. He camps simple; a swag next to his car, cooking squid stir fry for tea from the back of his 4WD with a squid he just caught, wetsuit hanging over a tree after a day spent catching the curling swells on his board. It’s a life we envy (especially Kevin) but us or our children will never have. Kevin surfed in South Australia when he was younger; some of the best times in his life. So, he’s drooling with envy. I’m so glad we took this little detour. It was touch and go but we figured while we are here we should. We are richer for the experience for sure.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Red Bluff is exposed to the cold August wind but we enjoyed it immensely. The raw power of the Indian Ocean is quite a sight to behold and the sunset was pretty damn magnificent. I know we always rave about the sunsets in WA but this one was particularly impressive with the spray from the cascading waves as part of the equation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

FRANCOIS PERON NATIONAL PARK -OCHRE CLIFFS, BLUE SEA and CREAMY SAND with a touch of MELANCHOLIA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFRANCOIS PERON NATIONAL PARK

Our last chance to experience those vivid coastal colours of Western Australia that I love.

All good things must come to an end and the end to our time on the Western Australia coastline is approaching far too quickly so we visit Francois Peron feeling a bit of melancholy.

The colour scheme of this National Park once again leaves me in awe. The red ochre, combined with a vivid clear blue sea and a strip of creamy white sand is just stunningly beautiful. I think I’d like to paint my house those colours in memory of the WA coastline (chuckle).20621813_2004552476430277_7818799515519827559_n

Francois Peron is renowned for being windy but we struck it lucky and our two days here were quite lovely, sunny and calm. It was bitterly cold in the morning though. I unpacked all the arsenal and rugged up like a woolly mammoth to walk the beach in the morning. My Ugg boots didn’t appreciate the sea water drenching from that sneaky wave though.

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Our campsite at The Gregories was 5 metres from this lovely calm beach

This National Park is a sand driving adventure. Kevin enjoyed the challenge and was heard to say “surely the Simpson Desert can’t be as bad as this?”  There is a tyre inflation/deflation point at the entry to the park with instructions written in numerous languages so the foreign tourists can’t plead ignorance when they become unstuck (bogged in the deep sand). Let the tyres down to 20 psi is recommended with good cause.

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50km of mostly red boggy sand with the occasional claypan to break it up

We do and our Landcruiser, with its much complained about and soon to be replaced skinny tyres, handles the 50-odd km track surprisingly well. That’s due to Kevin’s driving skills no doubt. We did help out a Dutch couple in an Apollo Camper bogged in the middle of the track. They did let down the tyres and were travelling in 4WD but just maybe lacked the sand driving experience (that would help I guess).

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Bogged foreign tourists

The view between Cape Peron and Skipjack point was incredible and it was all about the colours. My favourite colours. There are a few camping sites within the park and we choose the small ‘Gregories’ which was lovely, although you would be forgiven for thinking by the photo that we are camped in the Simpson Desert.

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Yes we are camped at the beach – in the desert at the beach. A bit of a conundrum

We are actually only 5 metres from the ocean. Unlike our last camping experience at Red Bluff, this ocean is like a lagoon; flat and smooth and we could snorkel if we chose too but it’s just too cold for swimming. Need a wetsuit this time of the year. Kevin had no luck fishing and this is probably our last opportunity.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We now head towards Geraldton and this is our turning point; where we turn to the East and head toward the Great Central Road which will take us back into the Northern Territory at Ayers Rock. We did contemplate continuing down the WA Coast to Perth and the South West corner while we are a hop, skip and jump away but the weather is too cold, wet and miserable at this time of year to be camped under canvas down there. We will save it for another trip when it is summer and we can enjoy that cold Southern Ocean when the wind no longer blows straight from Antarctica with ice on the tip of its tongue.

So, it will be farewell to the Indian Ocean (yes, there will be a tear or two) and hello to the vast Australian Central Deserts with a smattering of wildflower colour. Nice. Still lots to look forward to.

(We are home now and I had to add this follow up. As I indicated in this blog post I’d like to decorate my home in the colours of WA. Well that’s pretty much what I did and I love it. Such a lovely way to be reminded of these beautiful moments.)B7870721-E0B3-487A-B2B0-49EE0B65A9F6

 

 

Waves, Wild Wind and Whalesharks CAPE RANGE NATIONAL PARK EXMOUTH

whalesharkNingaloo Marine Park and Cape Range National Park

Just quietly, between you and me, I’m so impressed with myself.

We are at Cape Range National Park for five nights, an absolute highlight of our Australian meanderings. Cape Range is on the Coral Coast of Western Australia and is on the coastal strip adjacent to the famous Ningaloo Marine Park. The ocean is turquoise and crystal clear and the coral reef is right there off the sandy white beaches. It’s a pristine wilderness.  The clarity of the water here is so incredible – like looking through glass.

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Can anyone spot the octopus? The water is so clear.

Of course, like most of the national parks in WA, its inevitably and deservedly popular. The nearest town to the park is Exmouth and there are signs everywhere stating CAPE RANGE NP CAMPGROUNDS ARE FULL, despite there being a choice of six campgrounds.

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Turquoise Bay. Is it any wonder Cape Range National Park is popular.

Anyhow this is why I’m so impressed with myself. Yours truly, madame way over organised, booked our campsite in advance. And by advance, I mean 6 months ago. I remember putting so much time into reading travel blogs trying to ascertain not only the best out of the campgrounds but also the best site in the best campground.

But you know what? I bloody nailed it. High five Micky Jo. Not only did we drive straight in without any booking hassles, we ended up on ‘millionaires row’ in the best campground in the park (Site 9, Osprey Bay Campground). Called ‘millionaires row’ due to the spectacular ocean views (the other campgrounds are tucked behind sand dunes). The view is simply breathtaking.

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One of the three campsites on ‘millionares row’ with an ocean view
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The view out our windows was just stunning

Kevin fishes right in front of the camper (with no success but that’s not the point), we have snorkelled the reef right off the beach, seen an array of colourful fish, stingrays, turtles and a reef tip shark and we are a 650m stroll to the absolute most exquisite aquamarine Sandy Bay Beach where I worship the sun and the water like I haven’t done for years.

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Kevin doing his thing……..
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And me doing mine!

And of course, no visit to Ningaloo is complete without a swim with the Whale sharks on a Ningaloo Reef Tour. It cost us $800 but what an absolute buzz. Chaotic trying to avoid fins in your face and a bit of space jostling as you all swim frantically chasing after the massive sharks as the hoover their way through the ocean. It was all go, go, go. (Very much like the ‘Swim with Dolphins’ in Zanzibar, Joel) It was worth it getting to snorkel alongside the world’s biggest fish and we jumped into the water five times following them. We swam on top of them, alongside and Kevin just got out of the way of the huge mouth in time so he wasn’t sucked in with the plankton. Such fun and so exciting. We also saw humpback whales breaching and snorkelled coral bombies. What a sight. Great day.

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A mermaid and a Whaleshark??
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We look like snorkelling pros don’t we?

Then the next day the weather changed. There is always wind on the WA coast but it got really windy. The type of windy that we were sure our little camper on its legs was going to be sucked up in some sort of wind vortex with us inside (off to the Land of Oz we go).  The sound of canvas furiously flapping at night even blocked out the roar of the ocean on the reef. It was so bad that a caravan pulled up stakes and left at 2.30am. We would have liked to be in a caravan with non-canvas walls just then. Where it was going too at that hour I’m not sure. It was cold the next day and when the sun was hidden by clouds the aquamarine ocean took on a more ominous grey quality with 3m swells. It’s the first time the weather has been disagreeable for us and the weather plays such an important role in your perspective of a place. Fortunately, it passed though, the sun came out, the sea turned aqua and although it was still windy all was good with the world once again. Of course, today as we had to leave was picture postcard perfect and neither of us wanted to go but better to leave on a high. A few tears but one day we’ll be back.

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Lovely Sandy Bay

Even though we are pretty much bitumen bashing on this portion of our holiday, we are still remote. In fact, everywhere in WA is remote. The distances between towns are huge. The Coral Coast is unique because its where the desert meets the ocean. Literally. Inland we were driving through red sandhills every 100m or so, just like the Simpson Desert.

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The inland view out the window. It goes on and on and on…………

And there’s nothing. From horizon to horizon its flat, featureless and boring. But then you see this absolute jewel of a coastline that makes Western Australia so incredibly special. We suddenly have this special affinity with the ocean and each evening as I stroll the beach watching that vibrant sunset I am aware how privileged we are to be able to do this.

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I will so miss these sunsets

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Adrenaline filled adventure at Karajini National Park

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A very nervous spider. Not much to hang on too and a long way to fall

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Kevin Spider walking Hancock Gorge
 

My arms are splayed to each side and I have each hand gripping a protruding rock tightly. My left foot is wedged on a tiny ledge on the left rock wall while my trembling right foot frantically searches for a stable foothold on the right-hand side. This is the Spider Walk in Hancock Gorge at Karajini National Park. The Gorge walls are so close together here that you have to ‘spider’ crawl your way along the walls and over the chute of water churning below. My heart was literally in my mouth and I was operating on pure adrenaline (scared shitless). I’m sure my pounding heart was echoing down the chasm but my spidee senses kicked in and I thank goodness that I was born with long legs.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m not an adrenaline junkie, this was just part of the ‘class 5’ walking trail into Hancock Gorge to see Kermit’s Pool, and I point blank refused to let that little bit of fear prevent me from getting there. Kevin was fine; he thrives on danger and does it with a big grin (it’s a man thing).

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Commencing the steep slippery descent down the handrail to Handrail Pool

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Kermits Pool in Hancock Gorge
Prior to this we had just completed an equally daunting descent into Handrail Pool in Weano Gorge. Aptly named as you need to grip a plummeting handrail secured to the gorge wall to descend extremely steeply to an icy pool below. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than that in Hancock Gorge. I was wrong. But when it was all done and done safely – what a totally awesome, exhilarating day.

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Handrail Pool in Weano Gorge. You can see the handrail behind me by the waterfall. Scary.
I’m so glad we didn’t leave this trip until we retire when we would have no longer been capable of such adventure. We are on the cusp now with knee issues and balance being not quite what it once was. Each step these days is done with a lot of thought and both these walks required a lot of mental fortitude and strength. Making like a mountain goat on skinny rock ledges and slipping and sliding over slimy submerged rocks an icy cold stream that never sees the sunlight. I do love a good adventure.

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Joffrey Falls. You can just see the tiny people down the bottom. Another scary class 5 walk straight down the cliff and then the coldest swim I’ve ever had in the purest water.
Karajini National Park is lovely and the walks range from a mild ‘class 2’ to the somewhat challenging ‘class 5’ (although young kids were doing the number 5’s and I only saw one cut knee). The myriad of Gorges in the Park all have lookouts on the gorge rim to see the views (for those not up to the challenges with a number 4 or 5) but it’s a little bit thrilling to descend into the arteries and veins of the gorges, wade or swim the bitterly cold water and be dwarfed by those staggeringly high iron rich walls closing in around you. It makes you feel alive and gives a connection to the heart and soul of this beautiful, well-hidden landscape. Stunning place is Karajini.

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A moment of perfection in Dales Gorge

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Fern Pool
The days are sunny and warm; not quite warm enough to submerse yourself in icy water (but we do it anyway because you just have too), but the nights and early mornings are bitterly cold.  The kind of cold that you don’t want to move from that toasty warm spot in bed at night and you wake up with crampy legs. I think we are starting to leave the North of Australia behind us now.

 

 

The Savannah Way from Cairns QLD to Broome WA: How much does it cost?

How much does it really cost to travel The Savannah Way from Cairns to Broome?

I have written this blog because when I was planning our trip I searched the web in vain for someone to tell me exactly how much it costs out there on the road to help me with my savings plan. Everyone was very elusive so here I am very upfront with our dollar cost.

It has taken us 8 weeks to do the complete Savannah Way Route from Cairns to Broome, including a detour up to the top of the Northern Territory and Cape Leveque, north of Broome.

It’s an extraordinary road journey right across the top of Australia with such diverse, magnificent scenery and the weather has been warm enough to swim everywhere. That’s the joy of being in the North while the Southern States are freezing cold.

We took our time across the route but swayed more toward the natural scenic attractions that we could access ourselves by 4WD. We didn’t do any tours or go to attractions aimed at reaping in the tourist dollars so you won’t see those expenses here (like Horizontal Falls which would have cost us $1800 for a day tour).

We have discovered with the right set up, travelling around Australia is completely do-able on a limited budget. You can go for days at a time without spending a brass razoo in the most idyllic locations.

So here are our financial stats for The Savannah Way – Cairns to Broome over 8 weeks.

TOTAL AMOUNT SPENT           $6769.97

Over 8 weeks this equates to an average of $850 per week and covers absolutely everything, including almost $1000 on car maintenance and repairs.

The exact breakdown is as follows…………

  1. FUEL:                        $1643.03

We have travelled 7793 kilometres and most of that on rough dirt roads. The most expensive fuel was at Drysdale Station and Mt Barnett Roadhouse on the Gibb River Road at $2.05 per litre and the cheapest $1.26 in Darwin.

  1. ACCOMMODATION: $ 1084.40

Broken down into the following categories

Free Camping:                   23 nights                                 $0

Caravan Parks                   10 nights                                 $ 417

National Parks                   17 nights                                $ 289.40

Private or Stations              8 nights                                $ 301

Motel (Darwin)                    1 night                                  $  77

We saved a lot of money on accommodation by choosing to free camp more often      and there are some amazingly scenically attractive free camps out there still. Take advantage of these places while you still can.

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Free camping at Coulomb Point North of Broome. I cried when we left as it was so perfect.

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We were camped on the point and had this beach to the left of us…..

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And this beach to the right of us. Just gorgeous and it was really quiet.

  1. FOOD and DRINK: $2106.36

We could do better here as we tend to go a bit silly when we reach civilisation after spending a couple of weeks in the bush eating camp tucker. We eat really well because we carry a fridge and a freezer but it’s still nice to have a pub meal, some nice café style breakfasts and coffees and a little bit of takeaway. Let us remember we are on holidays after all. A carton lasts Kevin a whole month so we can’t even blame alcohol. Our food tally may even decrease a little now that my hunter and provider is catching fish (grin).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

  1. MISCELLANEOUS $973.18

This includes everything else – the four moo moo’s I had to buy in Broome because we are eating so well (chuckle – oh dear many a true word is spoken in jest), gas refills, haircuts, chemist purchases, clothes, fishing gear, market purchases etc. It doesn’t take long to add up.

 

  1. CAR MAINTENANCE $963.00

Two flat tyre repairs in Katherine, a 5000k service in Kununurra and the two front wheel bearings needed replacing in Broome (no wonder after the Gibb River Road).  We still believe prevention is better than cure in respect to our vehicle. It is our home and lifeline so a few hundred here and there is better than thousands down the track.

 

So, in terms of dollars it has cost us just under $6770 thus far to have an experience that is beyond value and absolutely priceless. It’s a low enough figure that makes it possible for us to survive without an income, live off our budgeted savings and know that giving up our jobs (or putting our jobs on hold) to do this was the right thing to do. The value of this trip can’t be measured at all in monetary terms, it’s in the breath-taking moments that leave an imprint on the soul. In big moments like gazing at Mitchell Falls or small moments like last night when I was cooking dinner in our camper.  I look out the left window to see the sun sinking in a blaze of fiery brightness in the Indian Ocean and I look out the right window to see the giant white orb of the full moon rising just above the glowing red cliffs. Phenomenal moments worth a million dollars over and over again.  That’s what it’s all about. I wish I could capture these moments in a bottle to use as an elixir later on when we do go back to working class reality; transport me straight back to that moment. But alas, I know it cannot be and we just have to enjoy each and every precious moment here and now.

Broome and Dampier Peninsula

Finding Free Camp Nirvana near Broome WA

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Camping perfection James Price Point 50 km from Broome

Our current address:

Landcruiser perched on the Red Cliff Top

Beach Access Track

James Price Point

Dampier Peninsula Paradise

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Sigh…………Its just magnificent.  Costs us absolutely nothing but is totally priceless. Beach bum nirvana.

We have red sandstone cliffs that extend further than we can walk, soft creamy white sand, blue clear ocean, whales cavorting on the horizon, sunshine in abundance, rock pools to explore and the fine detail of nature’s beach art everywhere. It’s beautiful and its impossibly all ours and ours alone. Kevin has even caught two fish – that’s how special this place is. We might just stay awhile.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely Broome is just bursting at the seams. The population swells by massive proportions during this peak tourist season. The caravan parks are so full that the overflow are camped at sport fields and club ovals.

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Roebuck Bay Broome. Our caravan park was right on this beach. Great location.
Fortunately, I had the foresight to pre-book a sight at the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park. Brilliant location on the amazing aqua blue town beach but the park itself was shabby and the facilities run-down. At least 80% full of permanent residents. Broome is a really expensive place to buy or rent accommodation so a significant proportion become trailer park dwellers. Shame. Another 10% of the park is taken up by grey nomads flocking from Southern WA who stay for months at a time so that only leaves 10% for us transient tourists. Still the town has a really nice atmosphere, great shopping facilities and we really enjoyed the town beach markets on Thursday night.

Four days was well and truly enough in civilisation though as money was running like water through our fingers. We then drove up the interesting route through Dampier Peninsula to Kooljamon at Cape Leveque.

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Cape Leveque Road. Shaped like a bowl after years of grading.
Bookings are required for this very popular tourist spot however we managed to snag one night to camp anyway. Stunning, amazing scenery especially at sunset. Colour, colour, colour.  These should be the colours of our Australian flag. The ochre of the sandstone, the creamy white beaches and the vivid blue ocean and sky.

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That would be me in some kind of beach paradise. Cape Leveque Western Beach.

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Gorgeous Cape Leveque – that tiny figure is Kevin fishing. We had the whole beach to ourselves.
Then we head back down the Peninsula in search of a free beach camp to spend a few leisurely days.  There quite a few free camping sites within a 50km radius of Broome. Quandong Beach is the most popular with some stretches of sandy beach but so many vans packed in and every available spot on the cliff top was taken. A couple of stake holders even claimed land rights and blocked access to their patch of turf with branches or shovel plonked right in the middle of the track. Greedy old farts but thanks to them we continued further onto James Price Point and found our own patch of paradise in a more scenic and quieter location.

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Great camp. We can walk forever down this beautiful beach.

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Lots of beach walking and the red cliffs at sunset are on fire. The colour looks to amazing to be real.

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Kevin fishing. He caught two.
 

We see so much natural beauty that it’s almost impossible to take it all in and we are a bit overwhelmed. Its so lovely exploring the rock pools at low tide and I discover that the stiller and quieter you are the more you will see (there is a life lesson in there somewhere I’m sure); I see crabs scuttling, an octopus and intricate artwork in the sand.

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My rock pools

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Natures art work in the sand

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Even the shells on the beach are beautiful. I leave them there and don’t collect them. They belong right where they are.
The wind blows persistently on the cliff top but it’s so lovely hearing the rhythmic cadoosh of waves at night and the sunsets over the Indian Ocean are simply incredible.  Even the moon sinks into the sea in the wee small hours as an orange bauble. The breath-taking view from our campsite costs us nothing but makes us so much wealthier. At this point in time we are brimming with riches.

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Sunset from our cliff top home
We have pretty much found nirvana.

The Kimberley, WA – all about the Gibb River Road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe’s in her bikini, thigh deep in the Pentecost River – not that far down from where it joins the Cambrian Gulf which is the domain of absolute monster estuarine crocodiles. Meanwhile Kevin and I, a bit further along the bank, tie a rope onto our bucket and chuck it into the river from high on the bank to scoop some water out for our dishes. There’s no way we are going near that water. Not after our episode at Douglas Hot Springs ( Aussies behaving badly: Our adventure at Douglas Hot Springs )

It’s a car load of adventurous European backpackers and we are all being ‘slippery gypsies’ free camping at the Pentecost River Crossing on the Gibb River Road. I say to her “you’re brave” and she replies with “it’s okay, I can’t see any crocodiles”. Oh dear. Their naivety is delightful but then she didn’t get munched so all good. We saw a croc the next day so they were definitely in there.

Our campsite on the Pentecost River

In the morning I say to Kevin, “this is priceless” and he agrees. We have just cooked bacon, eggs and naan bread toast on the BBQ plate over a small campfire and eat in the sunshine on the bank of the Pentecost River in the beautiful light of a cool Kimberley morning. This is good.

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Sunrise on the Pentecost River
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Ready to cook breakfast

I admit we were a little ‘jaded’ with the El Questro experience at the start of the Eastern end of the Gibb River Road. Its bitumen all the way to the turn off now and too easily accessible by the masses. I swam in icy cold Emma Gorge by myself, as we were the first early birds there, and it was just delightful, however, Zebedee Hot Springs and El Questro Gorge were just ridiculous with the volume of people. (although the scenery is worth it).

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The stunning Emma Gorge at El Questro. An icy cold swim ticked off the bucket list.

This is our third time across the Gibb River Road and we got to see it 28 years ago when it was totally ‘uncommercialised’. We had to pump diesel out of a 44-gallon drum at Mt Barnett to refuel and the road was little more than a rough track. It’s much busier now, the road is badly corrugated in places but a lot wider than back then. Initially we thought it was less of an adventure than our honeymoon trip in 1989 BUT THEN for the first time ever we turned onto the Kalumbaru Road and headed north to Mitchell Plateau. Crikey. The road was savage with corrugations as big as speed humps.  Now that’s definitely an adventure.

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Kalumbaru Road Corrugations (for 260km)

It took us a brutal bone shattering six hours to travel 230km from the Kalumbaru turn-off to the Mitchell Falls campground. So why do it you may ask. Is it really worth it? Well, yeah.  Mitchell Falls were the most awe- inspiring, magnificent, totally gob smackingly WOW. The sight of them in full glory while we perched on the edge of a steep cliff after walking for 2 hours was something to see.

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A photo just can’t do Mitchell Falls justice. An awe inspiring sight when you are there.
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After the grandeur of Mitchell Falls, the lovely Mertens Falls made a lovely lunch spot and a refreshing swim followed.

If you look where we are on a map, remote is an understatement.  We saviour this remoteness by spending a couple more nights camped beside the gorgeous King Edward River where we swim and have a canoe adventure where we try to get our inflatable to ride the rapids (Kevin fell in).

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Paddling on the King Edward River

Then we face the horrendous corrugations back down again. Kevin was exhausted from the serious concentration required skating over the road but it’s a small price to pay to experience such amazing scenery. No major issues with the car which was great: a few more rattles and the tray bolts were loose (despite nylock nuts) but no flat tyres. The car has been an absolute champion and performed admirably under very trying conditions.

The Western end of the Gibb River Road is in much better condition than the Eastern end with the bonus that there is more to see –  gorgeous gorges and swimming at regular intervals (Manning, Galvans, Adcock, Bell and Windjana: all different). We free camp at Barnett River Gorge which was an absolute gem and free camp (a little sneakily) along a creek near beautiful Bell Gorge.

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Gorgeous swimming and waterfall at Bell Gorge

Mornington Wilderness Camp, 90 km off the Gibb River Road, was a must see. Kevin made me to drive in and I went through a couple of water crossings (over the bonnet and up to the windscreen). Okay, I exaggerate – just a little…..

Dimond Gorge is really remote and so dramatic. We paddle down the tranquil Fitzroy River where it cuts through the King Leopold Ranges. The sandstone gorge walls are contorted from long ago earth movements and ancient (up to 1.8 – 2 billion years old – mind boggling). It really was so stunning and we both commented on how at that moment in time how we were the wealthiest people in the whole world.

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Pumping up our boat at Dimond Gorge. We refuse to pay $70 to hire one.
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Lovely Dimond Gorge which we had all to ourselves
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Just as beautiful Sir John Gorge at Mornington Wilderness Park
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Dimond Gorge paddle picnic lunch

The Gibb River Road is not about driving the road itself, it’s about the extraordinarily special scenery it leads you too. You need to travel the corrugations, do the hard yards, make like a mountain goat at times, swim under the waterfalls and see, hear, feel and touch the landscape. Soak it up. Touch the soul and feel the heartbeat of The Kimberley. I do love it so. We both do. We did it all.

So how do we feel after 7 weeks and 6800km on the road living in a 2m x 2m box on the back of a ute? Pretty good. Naturally we have days where we feel weary, worn out and dirty, however, then we have another ‘magic’ moment to remind us why we are out here. A night sky, a sunset, a magical piece of scenery.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are so many magic ‘wow’ moments, every day is different with a sense of anticipation and most importantly we laugh a lot. After coming all the way across the top of the country we are definitely tired and gorged, waterfalled and rough roaded out a bit now though. Its ‘slip into Broome time’ mode coming up and we have every intention of chilling out for a decent break around Broome to recharge the depleted batteries (and possibly splurging just a little with the savings we made by free camping).

Fish’n’chips on Cable Beach. Bring it on……..

A few random photos below

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Good idea not to bring the van on the Gibb River Road. It just might not make it…………
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This is the Prestons avoiding camp fees and making free camping a fine art form. 
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Beautiful Barnett River Gorge. Another great camp and delicious swim.
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Crocodiles at Wandjina Gorge
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Ancient Devonian Coral Reef at Wandjina Gorge
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Free camping at the RAAF Quarry (its in the camps 9 book but we thought the sign suited us down to a tee)

Lorella Springs Station – Savannah Way, Northern Territory

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPARADISE FOUND

Paradise is a hard word to define because everyone’s concept of it is different. Fortunately, Kevin and I are on similar wavelengths here (except his version includes beer). We have found a pretty good version of paradise here at Lorella Springs Station.

This place is magic. It’s completely wild, natural, untouched and remote. A destination for 4WD adventure seekers only.  The road is far too rough for all but the most rugged off-road caravans, so it’s quiet and everywhere we go we have it mostly to ourselves. A few camper trailers and other slide-on campers come and go and some 4WD bus tours but they don’t venture far from camp.

We spend a couple of days following 4WD tracks through sand, mud, rocks, bulldust and water. There is a thousand kilometres of them on this one million-acre property. On foot, we clamber and scramble over rocks and through creek beds following pink ribbon markers in trees and we are always rewarded with an exquisite waterhole (crocodile free), gorge or waterfall. We drive, walk, swim, drive, walk, swim.  Its lovely. Its adventurous. It’s just our kind of thing.

We camp only 20 metres away from the natural thermal spring in the creek. It’s not too hot and not too cold and in the early morning steam rises from the creek. I stay in there until my fingers wrinkle like prunes.

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Michelle in the completely natural thermal spring. How awesome to have it all to myself.

We visit places like helicopter pool, fern gully, fossil fern, la spa and nannas retreat. Each place is unique and lovely and worthy of just one more swim. It’s a wonderful piece of the Northern Territory that has stayed wild, untouched and completely natural. No paths or handrails or causeways.  I hope it stays that way.

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The very beautiful Helicopter Pool. Magic and 10/10 for wow factor.
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Crystal clear water
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Eat ya heart out Russell Coight! That would be la butt in ‘La Spa’ swimming hole.
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Boiling the billy and picnic lunch at ‘Fern Gully’ swimming hole. The water was lovely.
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Swimming through the Gorge at ‘Nannas Retreat’ to reach the cave at the other end. Adventurous!

Lorella Springs is located at the end of a 29km track off the Cape Crawford to Roper Bar Road. It is definitely remote, you need a 4WD to get here and you certainly need one to enjoy the attractions. The property borders Limmen National Park and is a commercial enterprise. The station owner concluded that a better living could be made from tourism than cattle.  The cost to stay here is $20 per person per night but this includes access to the whole property which extends all the way to the gulf for spectacular barramundi fishing and you can remote camp anywhere you choose. It pays to be totally self-sufficient and bring extra fuel as the station will charge you $3 a litre to top up here. There is bar with happy hour at 5pm every day and there are facilities at the main station campground which is huge. They are unique facilities. It’s kind of amazing showering under the stars a few minutes after you light a fire under the ‘donkey’.

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The roof less shower cubicles and its unisex and the shower curtain blows open.
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The ‘donkey’ behind the facilities. Light a fire under it as you have hot showers. Yay!

The best time of year to visit is now, in May and June, after the wet when the waterholes are still flowing. Later in the year they dry up and some become stagnant. At this time of the year they are amazing.

We only got a small taste of this paradise but that’s good because it gives us a reason to come back one day.

The following piccys show some of the ‘interesting’ 4WD tracks.

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Although the photo doesn’t capture it very well. This was steep.
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Add some rocks for good measure. My head nearly fell off here

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Definitely put this place on your bucket list. Its awesome.

Just what is it about Lawn Hill Gorge?

“Lawn Hill Gorge has ‘it’. Precisely what ‘it’ is I’m not sure how to put into words. I guess it’s like trying to explain what colours are to a blind person. It’s just something you need to experience yourself or it has no meaning.”

From Leichhardt Falls we take the shorter route via Augusta Downs Stations and join the Gregory Development Road to the Gregory Pub. After a delightful swim in the Gregory River its only 100km further on to Boodjamulla National Park and Lawn Hill Gorge.

The first 65 odd km to the Century Mine turn off used to be great because it was well maintained for the numerous trucks going in and out of the mine. However now the mine has closed and the layer of seal is pot holed and disintegrating rapidly. Makes for an interesting ride dodging from one side of the road to the other avoiding mega pot holes. The last 15km into the National Park is badly corrugated dirt but the camp ground is full of caravans so it did not obviously deter them.

We always stay at the Boodjamulla National Park campground. Adeles Grove Caravan Park 10km away is very shady with green grass on the banks of Lawn Hill creek. Its lovely if your stay is all about the camping, nice facilities and a restaurant but we come here to hike, canoe and swim in the pristine waters of the Gorge and all this action starts at the National Park campground. Its dry and sparse with cold water showers but is nice and quiet. No generators allowed and only 20 sites that must be pre-booked online if you want to snag a spot in peak season.

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Our camp site at Boodjamulla National Park

Now about Lawn Hill Gorge. Some places just have that ‘wow’ factor. I’m hoping to see a few of them on this extended trip but on this occasion, we chose to start our adventure with a known ‘wow’ spot just to kick it off nicely. This is our sixth visit here.

Lawn Hill Gorge has ‘it’. Precisely what ‘it’ is I’m not sure how to put into words. I guess it’s like trying to explain what colours are to a blind person. It’s just something you need to experience yourself or it has no meaning.

In the words of John Denver, it just ‘fills up my senses’.  Visually it is striking. The colours mixed together on an outback palette create something quite extraordinary.  The water in Lawn Hill Creek is a deep jade green due to the calcium carbonate content. The gorge is ochre red and against a brilliant blue outback sky it is beautiful. I can never take a photo that does it justice.

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The water is genuinely this gorgeous shade of jade green

My favourite place at Lawn Hill is in the middle of the gorge, drifting aimlessly in the canoe in the late afternoon shade and just taking it all in.  The canoe traffic has vanished for the day make it a place of complete solitude. The water is still and reflections are mirrored on the surface. The silence is complete. Only on occasion, you hear a willy wagtail chirrup or a corella squawk by or the gentle lapping of water on the canoe. It is so unbelievably peaceful.

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The middle of the main Gorge where Boodjamulla the rainbow serpent dwells

The swimming in the green water is just absolutely delicious despite the presence of freshwater crocodiles. They won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. We don’t even know they are there unless we spot one sun baking on a log as we canoe past.

We think its essential to bring your own canoe to Lawn Hill. They can be hired from Adeles Grove but its quite expensive and only available during the day. We bring our own ‘Sevylor’ inflatable. It packs up quite small and gives us the freedom to canoe to our hearts content, including sunrise and at night (that was a bit hairy). That way you can take photos like this.

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A sunrise canoe is just magnificent as the first rays of sunshine touch the gorge walls
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Our inflatable canoe is just perfect to carry on a long trip. Takes 5 minutes to pump up by hand and folds up quite small.

So our three days here have, as usual, have been just so lovely. Mostly swimming, canoeing and relaxing as the weather was very warm still and swimming in that divine water is just a heavenly experience. Hard to leave but this time is different as we are not homeward bound.

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Beautiful swimming

Its time for us to turn left and head for the Northern Territory border. Exciting days to come. Lorella Springs Wilderness Park and Limmen Bight National Park next and this is a wild and remote part of the Northern Territory (complete with natural hot springs).