Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dampier to Broome - almost

After leaving the amazing Millstream-Chichester and Karijini National Parks getting back to civilisation was always going to be a bit of a come down. We'd met some friendly half locals (used to live in the area, now south of Perth) who'd told us that the Dampier Transit Park was THE place to stay in Dampier. It was really the only place for caravanners etc. After a quick and delicious burger-with-the-lot at the Roadrunner Cafe we checked in. I was quite nervous as we had also been told that the park manager was a ferocious lady who called a spade a spade. She had been a drover and a truck driver among other things in her past life and certainly looked scary enough. It turned out that she was friendly and helpful provided you didn't mess with her sprinklers.
*Dampier Port - a 24/7 facility very close to the Transit Park. The noise and associated flood lighting did not make make for great sleeping.

To be true one of the main reasons for going to Dampier was to see the Red Dog memorial.This wonderful life size memorial is on the road on the way in/out of town. For those unfamiliar with the story; Red Dog was a kelpie/cattle cross who moved to Dampier in 1971 with his family. He quickly cut ties with this family and began his wanderings. He befriended a Hammersly Iron bus driver and the seat behind the driver belonged to Red Dog. He soon became well known and was a regular companion on the buses. So well known, that when a new bus driver refused Red Dog to board the bus a strike was imminent with other bus drivers threatening to walk off the job until the situation was remedied. Red Dog enjoyed this nomadic life in North West W.A until 1979 when he was reportedly fed a strychinine bait in Karratha and died.

*Red Dog Memorial.
He is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere between Karratha and Roebourne. Red Dog made many friends in his time on the road, he even had his own bank account and was rarely short of a place to kip. He was also made a member of the Transport Union. Red Dog's story has reached far and wide thanks to Louis de Bernieres (of Captain Corellis Mandolin) writing the story after a visit to WA and hearing this dogs tale.

We decided one night in Dampier was enough and decided to push on. A little place on our map called Point Samson took our fancy along with descriptions in our brochures of great fishing, beaches, swimming etc. On the way we stopped in at Karratha for some supplies and the much talked about solar panels. Point Samson turned out to be a gem, a holiday oasis in a sea of industrial towns.
*Beautiful frangipani at Point Samson - the smell when the warmth of the sun hit the fowers in the morning was gorgeous.

The tiny caravan park for two nights was perfect for us as we still had reception so Andy could get his work done. The gardens were lovely and fragrant with lots of butterflies and birds and we were close to the Samson Beach Tavern.

*Andy and the brand new solar panels. I will let Andy do the technical talking. We have been talking about solar ever since the fridge battery ran out of puff at Redbluff after three consecutive scorchers. They are just little ones but we really only want them to help the fridge rather than running a TV and air conditioner. It has a 12V plug which charged up my phone in no time as well as alligator clips for the auxiliary battery. As we've been town hopping up the coast with a few long drives in between to charge up the battery we haven't needed them but I'm sure they'll come into their own in a few weeks time. We are very pleased with this new addition to our kit. We are sure that by the time we get back we'll have everything you need for a year camping.
We partook of the Wednesday night half price T-bone at the Samson Beach Tavern along with everyone else in town. Lucky for us our tummies demand a fairly early dinner these days which ensured an ace table. The view from the deck over the ocean was lovely and it all would've been perfect if it hadn't been for the sandflies. The little bastards nip and pee, nip and pee. Even Andy got munched although he just looked a bit spotty. It would seem I am allergic to them and it takes antihistamine to take the sting out cos if you itch them they just get itchier and then it feels like your arms and legs (or wherever the bites are) are on fire. In this climate there is real potential for them get infected once you take the tops off.

As Payniac's work load was reaching a crescendo we were committed to at least one more night in a town with coverage. Port Hedland was the obvious choice as we make our way slowly to Broome. We found a choice caravan park about 4km out of town (thankfully) which also turned out to be one of the most $$ caravan parks we've stayed in! And they didn't even have a jumping pillow!
*Dusk over Port Hedland.
Needless to say we didn't spend much time in Port Hedland. It was however the site of our first Chicken Treat meal - I wish I'd made sandwiches.

It's only 615km from Port Hedland to Broome but we'd heard it was a punishing drive so we thought we'd break it up with a few nights camping after a week in caravan parks. We're also a little ahead of schedule and didn't want to arrive in Broome too early as it's all about timing for the 'staircase to the moon' phenomenon.

The same couple who'd told us about Dampier told us about Cape Keraudren about 140km east of Port Hedland. It turned out to be a lovely spot run by the East Pilbara Shire (the largest shire
in the world FYI). The ranger had perhaps been in the game a bit too long as he showed vehement intolerance of the two carloads of backpackers of mixed nationalities ahead of us. He completely ignored them while he gave me a nonsensical lecture about treatment of sandfly bites.We were also given a quick refresher on how to deal with snakes crawling over your feet (we didn't see any) and pesky roos. We'd been thinking if it was a nice spot we'd stay two nights. This lunatic quickly put paid to that notion.

*VJ in anti-sandfly garb looking out to sea, Cape Keraudren Nature Reserve.

We had a lovely afternoon of reading and yahtzee and beer drinking. We had a visit from a curious joey who hung around for ages.

*Curious joey.

*Curious Joey in camp.

As I said a lovely afternoon until Ranger Crazy was doing his rounds. Instead of just checking our rego against the list he was in the habit of calling into every camp and having a chat. After asking us where we were from and telling him Dangar Island he launched into a tirade about an Egyptian hieroglyph site on the Hawkesbury River. A significant site (him being an Archaeology PhD) he said, proving ancient trading with the Egyptians, along with great bounty of sapphires and sulphur. He had also met Douglas Adams who told him how the Hitchikers Guide was born!

*Camp Keraudren/Krusty.
After a little research the hieroglyphs turn out to be a hoax (Noooo!) and were done by some other loony who was caught in the act by a NSW Ranger and the Douglas Adams story is readily available on the web. More lecturing about sandflies - most of what he said made little sense although he spoke with such authority on the subject that I could make no comebacks. We decided to move on.

We must've been keen to get out of there as we had one of our earliest departures to date and were on the road before 830am.

We stopped at 80 Mile Beach briefly. There was a lovely shady spot to camp but we wanted to get a little closer to Broome and so pushed on.
*80 Mile Beach

This stretch of road between Port Hedland and Broome has tested the podcast collection again. We are rapidly running dry of BBC podcasts and we both happily anticipate the Country Hour on Radio National from 12 Monday-Friday with Skye Shannon. We're both learning a lot from this program; mice plagues, wool prices, about the new beef processing facility in Esperence, tomato growers levy and of course swine flu. Si and Charl had warned us that you get into all sorts of stuff on a trip like this and it's true. We especilly love the regional news and weather.

*The view from the low tide water line back to shore at 80 Mile Beach.

*The Sandfire Roadhouse. We were both pretty excited about this stop. Besides needing fuel we were going to treat ourselves to a cold drink or an ice block - alas no shop.
This was an anti climax and we still had a long, long way to go and it was hot and we had been in the car a while already...need I say any more?

*Broome here we come. Not far now.
I'm pretty excited about Broome. We're planning to have night there early in the week before heading up to Cape Leveque for a few days. Things have really worked out for us as the Mailers and the best little brown dog (Champy) arrive on Tuesday and we're looking forward to some catch ups with them as they embark on their new life in the tropics.

*Barn Hill Beach.
I'm writing from Barn Hill, a small caravan and camping facility on the 430,000 acre Thangoo cattle station. It is really beautiful. There are lovely shady trees (not so good for the solar, but they're powered sites anyway) and lots of birds. It's a bit of a fishing destination although I've only heard of the ones that got away so far. I haven't had a swim yet (I know, unbelievable) as I'm scared of the snap-snappys. The locals seem more worried about the sharks - maybe they ate all the crocodiles? There was no one in the water when I wanted to have a swim so I stayed out. It's hot today (again) and I would dearly love a dip so will try and time it with some of the nomads looking like they're going swimming.
*Eucalypt blossoms at Barn Hill
*Red wing parrot

We'd love to stay here an extra night but we are very low on XXXX so will move on tomorrow to a camp site north of Broome after picking up the beer and calling at the VIC for some much needed information about future adventures.

It's time for breakfast so I'd better run.

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