“Beautiful but it’s going to kill you” – Canarvon to Eighty Mile Beach

Day 389 – Canarvon to Red Bluff

In the morning we took a slow start, dropping Koko, the car, off at the garage for a check over. We crossed the river and followed a disused train line for 3km until we reached One mile jetty. The jetty was used for the delivery of goods to Canarvon and the little coffee tin train which ran the length of the jetty, transporting livestock and goods. In 1900 the train line was added to run the goods to town. Despite the wind we set up for fishing off the jetty but it was relatively uneventful except for a bit of sunbathing. Ricky however did spot a huge turtle in the water which was beautiful to watch. We walked back down the jetty and I climbed the water tower used to supply the water to ships and surrounding areas. The view over dusty little Canarvon was interesting, a space station in the distance which was used to monitor communications with shuttles, and cutting edge for its time.

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When the car was done we packed the car and stocked up, relieved to get going again. Canarvon is a place you wouldn’t want to be trapped for long. The drive to Red Bluff on the coast was 4wd and with the sun setting there was lots of Kangaroos and goats everywhere. We pulled up in a little inlet overlooking the bluff and the sea and the boys began about fishing again. Sometimes I feel the blogs get repetitive, one will focus a lot on food, another revolve around beaching, but no, this west coast trip has certainly been an opportune although rather unlucky fishing trip.

Around the fire at night Luigi shared with us stories of his life on a prawn trawler working off the coast of WA. The 18hour days of challenging work contrasted with amazing videos of humpback wales, tiger and reef sharks following the boat, as well as sea horses, sting rays and blow fish getting mixed up with the catch.

Day 390 – Red Bluff to Coral Bay

Awaking in the tent, the crashing waves told of big swell on the coast and the morning view of red bluff was beautiful. We retraced our steps to visit the blowholes further down the coast. Here king waves rush in against the rocks and through the funnels, huge spray of water is ejected vertically. The spray blows far but the sound is incredibly powerful and scary as you draw closer to it! Ricky pointed out it looked beautiful but given the chance it would bring your untimely end, and we figured actually that’s a pretty good description of Australia in general!

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Back to Canarvon for a refuel and then pleased to see the back of it we headed once again north.

A short aside off the main highway took us down a dusty track where we were going to attempt to access the beach. Finding it shut we continued on, the fields to either size showing incredible sized termite mounds. Without it being immediately obvious, we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.

We arrived in Coral Bay, a one street seaside town which had a beautiful friendly family feel to it, simple yet not too outdated. From here you can access the beautiful Ningaloo reef. Finding it very busy we set up our tents in the overflow camping area and found the beach as the afternoon drew in. We had an aptly fishy dinner of prawn curry, the prawns caught on the prawn trawler in Canarvon, a gift from Luigi’s friend, and measuring some incredible sizes. We met friendly families in the park including a winery owner from Margaret River.

Day 391 – Coral Bay to Exmouth

I woke early, excited for my day ahead. I was going out on a boat to dive and snorkel with manta rays. I said goodbye to the others who were snorkelling closer to the shore and got measured up at the dive shop. Ready to go, about 20 of us got on the boat, 4 divers. The first site was Lotties Lagoon, full of hard corals in greens and browns but with beautiful marine life. Almost immediately we saw a green turtle, then 3 or 4 blue spotted sting rays burying and busying themselves in the sand. An octopus was an unexpected highlight as well as a bent pipefish, frog fish and a beautiful nudie branch.

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Between dives they sent out a boat to locate a Manta Ray for us to snorkel with. I didn’t realise but they are solitary creatures. We swam with Isabelle, the matriarch female measuring an incredible 4.1 metres. Despite already seeing manta rays, their majestic simplicity never fails to excite. As she swept along the sandy bottoms two metres below us, we followed closely behind. At top speed they can reach 70km an hour! We got to swim twice and follow her for 10/15 minutes each time on her swim.

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My ‘buddy’ was an American girl Tess and we got chatting on the boat after as she had dived a lot of South America and had different experiences. She lived now in Byron Bay and gave me her details to catch up on the other side. The warmth on the front of the boat was beautiful and lunch was served.

The afternoon’s dive was at Asho’s Gap, another shallow hard coral site which was more dense, like swimming through an underwater forest. Another green turtle was spotted as well as trumpet fish, rainbow wrasse and barracuda. The dive ended at a shark cleaning station, literally where grey reef sharks swim in mouths open for the little fish to feed and clean off them. This was INCREDIBLE! About 6 2 metre sharks circling, mouths open, nearby! Diving is a blooming expensive hobby to fall in love with, but wow it’s addictive! To return to the boat we had to swim through the gap, rise up to 2 metres where you got pulled through on a push pull current like a rollercoaster, then dropped down to depth again.

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I met the others after their day snorkelling and we compared stories as we headed up Cape Range to Exmouth, to camp just outside at the Lighthouse. For dinner we cooked up a sweep fish on the BBQ which Luigi had caught. We chatted the night away with other friendly campers, a Swiss family gave us some rice, and an English Australian family sat with us to share the meal time.

Day 392 – Exmouth to North West Highway

When we awoke we passed through Exmouth for Snorkels, super strength tent pegs and fishing bait before driving on to Cape range national park. Our first stop was Turquoise bay with its fabulous crystal clear waters. To test out the snorkels on the coral we had to brave the numbingly cold waters, but it was worth it to see a happy little green turtle and follow him on his mornings busying.

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We took a walk up the white sand bay in the warmth, then cooked up some bacon and egg sandwiches from the back of the ute.

We drove the length of the park, much of it 4wd, passing Mandu Mandu gorge before reaching Yardie creek. The river blocks the road here so we paddled across to test it’s height, let down the tyres and ploughed across.

We stopped several times more for goats with overgrown horns, picture spots and at fabulously empty beaches leaving the park late afternoon.

As we pulled over to re-inflate the tyres, a land rover full of ‘lifeguards’ aka a stag do of men in red speedos stopped to check we didn’t need the coastguard before pulling off again.

We stopped for the night at a rest area off the North West Highway where the huge Road trains continued to rumble by on their nights drive.

Day 393 – North West Highway to Karijini National Park

We stopped at Nanutarra roadhouse on our way to Karijini National Park. The temperatures were climbing and the wind and dust coming in through the window was our only ventilation.

We began to enter mining country, the pilbarra, with its red dirt and evidence of isolated mines through private roads and long stretches of railway. Everytime we passed a truck the windows go up to prevent us breathing in the inevitable red dust cloud which follows. The realities of a west Australian road trip, everything that we own is in this car, but not only physically, apart from friendly passers by we have very little actual contact with reality. With little phone reception and no wifi we have very little idea what’s outside our bubble. As we pulled up in Tom Price, gateway town to Karijini national park, Karolin got a news article of an 8km wildfire burning through the park uncontrollably for the last 2 weeks. We filled up the car with supplies then headed to the visitor centre but found that the fire was burning in the South, blowing further south so we were safe to go in! Another thing we are struggling to become accustomed to is the chlorinated drinking water.

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We pitched the tents in our home for two nights and then set off for a gorge walk, first descending 170 steps into Fortesque Falls, a lovely pool with waterfall trickling over natural steps.

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Our walk took us through Dales Gorge, spotting lizards hiding in the sharp red rock. We ended at the spectacular Circular pool, caved in for 50 metres by high red walls and took a shower in the freezing water falling from the rocks.

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We climbed out of the gorge getting both sweaty and red again. From the lookout point Ricky spotted a hat and clambered all the way back down to get it.

Dinner in camp was a prawn pasta followed by several card games and mosquito dodging!

Day 394 – Karijini National Park

The full force of the sun was apparent by 6.45 and we set off early to Weano Gorge, a short drive through the park, not before spotting a small snake taking refuge in the leaves just inches from our tents. Despite his blueish head he blended well into the undergrowth and made us question just how many we may have passed by unknowingly. The Junction pool lookout at the beginning of the walk was the meeting point of 4 gorges, a dramatic 100 metre drop below, the silica and iron ore combination giving the rock it’s incredible stripy effect of reds and greys.

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In Weano gorge we paddled through shallow pools and wide open spaces to reach narrow crawl throughs. Finally a slippery handrail descent took us through a gap into a pool where we could bathe. 5 metres above the pool was a jut of rock which caught the sun, perfect for warming up before having to wade again through the cool water.

After bacon sandwiches back at the car we visited Hancock Gorge, a similar story of beautiful pools hidden by steep rock walls. The final pool had a natural amphitheatre look, followed by a slide of slippery rock down to Kermit’s pool.

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In the afternoon we visited the visitor centre which focused on the Aboriginal tribe and their displacement from this area. In their beliefs, the rainbow serpent Thurru made this sacred area and all the pools and rivers are connected. They would sing to the land and always ‘greet the water’ as they believed in warning spirits of their presence and thanking them.

Back at camp we had a friendly family as our new neighbours, and together we all set off for a late afternoon dip in the Fortesque falls.

The evenings have gone from layering up as soon as the sun goes down, to now remaining in shorts all night and sleeping tent sides open, no sleeping bag. The moon tonight was full but eclipsed by red.

Day 395 – Karijini National Park to Eighty mile beach

In the hot morning we covered the 300kms to Port Hedland, on the way passing changing degrees of red landscape, a roadhouse and a few road trains. The dead and rotting cows gave you a few kms warning with the foul smell.

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44 degrees as we pulled into Port Hedland and it felt oppressive. Everything was red with iron ore dust and it seemed like a workers town, very quiet in the middle of the day. Port Hedland is an essential town, growing from a once minuscule population of 150 in 1946 to now handling more export than any other Australian port. Apart from its air con it wasn’t an alluring town so we pushed on 300kms for eighty mile beach. We stayed at a lovely family campsite on the waters edge, literally 80 miles of white sand, although the water was so far out we had a long way to reach it.

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Canarvon: $1.66
Exmouth: $1.77
Nanutarra roadhouse: $1.90
Munjina Roadhouse: $1.72
Port Hedland: $1.62

Road Trip top 3 songs:
ACDC- She’s got the Jack
Kim Carnes – Betty Davis Eyes
The Beatles – Octopus’s Garden

Total showers: 5
Dead kangaroo count: 8
Live kangaroo count: 27
Emu count: 7
Snake count: 1

Spent so far (between 4); $2235.55
Kilometres covered: 4016km
Distance from Perth: 2400km

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