The Wild Wombat’s Wonderings!


Part 7


2 January 2000 – Another do nothing day.  However, that will soon end.  I head up the coast tomorrow morning for about a week or ten days.  Into the wild wastes of the western Australian coast.  Time to put a few km on the car.


3 January 2000 – Up early to get laundry done.  I headed up the coast for Dongara.  Of course, I didn’t go directly up the main road.   I took Rte 60 to the Guilderton jct, then over Gingin to Hwy 116, the Midlands Hwy.  This was, so I’m given to believe, the old Great Northern Hwy.  At Mingenew I cut back to the coast & Dongara.  The land dried out as I headed north.  Truck farms & vineyards gave way to wheat fields & grazing land.  The day began sunny with the promise of temps in the upper 30’s.  About 2/3rds of the way there the clouds closed in.  Lots of big & dark clouds.  Thunderstorm clouds.  I could see the rain in the distance.  Then I would be in it.  It poured.  Off to the west was the smoke from a major brushfire.  It had closed the major N/S hwy for part of the day.  With all my wanderings from the direct route I drove about 500 km today.  Eating alone has its drawbacks.  I went to Toko’s in Dongara for dinner.  The food was pretty good, but the service sucked.  I waited forever for the appetizer.  I waited even longer for the main course.  They didn’t begin it until I was done with the appetizer.  As I was tired, I wasn’t a happy wombat by the time the food came.  Don’t go there alone!


4 January 2000 – Up & on the road fairly early.  I wandered about Dongara for a short while looking at the bldgs. & historical sites, &  then headed up the Brand Hwy.  I checked out 7-Mile Beach.  The next spot was Flat Rocks.  This is the approximate location of where the protagonist in Upfield’s The Beach of Atonement stayed.  Interesting surf, but no rocks off shore.  It was interesting to track the site down.  I toured the historical site of Greenough Hamlet.  It is the preserved remains of a pioneer village.  It was well worth the visit.  I had time so I visited a few sites in Geraldton.  While I had my car in for the 25K km Service, I toured the Maritime Museum nearby.  It centered on the wreck of the Batavia as well as on the many other wrecks in the area.  I called my neighbor about her getting thru to WorldNet.  She thought it was settled.  In any case WorldNet is pretty poor on customer service. :-(


5 January 2000 -  Headed out fairly early.  My 1st real stop was the Hutt River Province.  I met, chatted & had a photo taken with Prince Leonard & Princess Shirley.  I also bought some stamps & currency for souvenirs.  I inquired about making ALBACON an official Hutt River Province function.  We shall see.  I next tried to find the Warribano Chimney, but didn’t.  I soon reached Kalbarri NP.  I drove into to check out the Ross Graham & Hawks Head Lookouts.  They give good views of the Murchison River Gorge.  As I was leaving the area, it began to thunderstorm & pour.  The day had begun sunny & hot.  Clouds tend to develop along a line about 20 to 30 kms inland.  You can get some mean downpours, but very localized.  It wasn’t & didn’t rain in the town of Kalbarri.  I got a room & then checked out the Meanarra Hill Lookout which gives neat views of Kalbarri & the surrounding countryside.


6 January 2000 – Up early!  I took a tour to the Loop & Z-Bend Lookouts of the Murchison River Gorge.  The views were spectacular.  As the road was unsealed & very rough, I’m glad I took a tour & didn’t drive it myself.  The tour guide was quite well informed.  It was another hot & sunny day.  In the afternoon I did a self-tour of the coastal gorges.  There were a couple of very impressive cliffs & cutbacks.


7 January 2000 – Got up with too little sleep.  I read a novel until late. :-)  Headed north along a mostly deserted highway.  There isn’t much traffic out here.  I stopped at the Billabong Roadhouse for coffee & petrol.  The day was sunny & hot.  It should reach the upper 30’s again.  The landscape was mostly grain fields & scrub.  When I turned off to Denham/Monkey Mia, it was almost all scrub & sand.  Not much going on out this way.  I located a place to stay & managed to get on 2 cruises in Shark Bay.  While waiting for the 1st cruise, which was a wildlife cruise, I watched a few dolphins cruise the beach looking for fish.  Needless to say the folk in the water loved this.  The dolphins came to within a meter or two of the shore.  We did see a fair amount of wildlife on the cruise: dolphins, dugongs, turtles, an eel or sea snake & maybe even a shark.  There are a fair number in the area.  The skipper thought he spied one trying to take on a dugong.  After dinner we set sail in the bay for a sunset cruise under sail.  It was a delightful day, if exhausting.


8 January 2000 – I was up quite early so I could be at the beach by 0800 for the feeding of the dolphins.  It was quite fascinating to watch them come in for a nosh.  Earlier the youngest dolphin enlivened our waiting by doing number of leaps out of the water.  She probably got a couple of meters out of the water.  I sort of lazed about the rest of the day.  It was hot & humid.  The AC in the cabin was woefully inadequate for the place.  I did luck out at the hotel in town.  They were having an all you can eat surf & turf for $12.50.  I pigged out. :-)  The snapper, caught that morning by the hotel owner, was marvelous.


9 January 2000 – Lots of driving to do today.  1st to the Overlander Roadhouse for breakfast & petrol.  Then by Carnarvon on to the Minlya Roadhouse.  As the quoted price for a room in Coral Bay was $115 a night, I decided to get a room at the RH for $35.  Then on to Coral Bay.  I was in time to get on a cruise to view the coral.  I followed this up with 45 minutes of snorkeling.  As the coral appears only about 30 m offshore, I could easily head out to peer down at the coral & numerous fish & one small ray or shark.  It was neat.  The water felt like a bath.  It was at least 30 degrees, maybe warmer near shore.  It felt warm!  I learned that one of the El Cheapo places, Backpackers, was in Coral Bay & had ACed rooms for $18.  I told them to hold one for me for the 10th.  Then back to the RH. 


10 January 2000 – I had a rough night.  A Vampire Frog attacked me.  Well, twice I was awoken by something landing on my neck.  It was squishy & cool.  The 2nd time I was able to ascertain that it was a small, 5 cm long, brown frog.  I was not amused.  Off to Coral Bay for my trip out to have brekkie with a Manta Ray.  We spent about 4½ hours in the bay.  I can now better understand why the rich get yachts to ply the waves.  It was a totally neat experience.  We did find the ray which was grazing back & forth across the bottom.  We spent about 45 minutes snorkeling about overhead with the occasional dive to get a closer look.  A Manta Ray is a most beautiful creature.  WOW!  I spotted a couple of other rays which were rather circular & the color of the sand.  We also saw a couple of turtles.  We moved to 2 other locations to snorkel.  We were there about 45 minutes each time.  Snorkeling is a fair amount of work.  I’ve only done it a few times.  I probably use up much too much energy doing it.  It did work up an appetite.  I spent the rest of the afternoon chatting with a couple of blokes up from near Perth.  They joined me for dinner & more conversation.


11 January 2000 – I was up & out early.  As the hotel’s front desk didn’t open until 0800, I may have lost my key deposit, tho I left it for them with a note on my bed. [I contacted Bayview Coral Bay after I returned home. They immediately refunded my key deposit. I recommend their place if you ever get to Coral Bay.]   It was sunny & would turn into another typical summer day.  Hot!  I stopped at the Nanutarra Roadhouse for breakfast & petrol, which around here costs more than US$2.25 a gallon.  This is not the most expensive I've seen at the pump.  I had to argue to get soap to wash my hands.  Since everyone seems to steal soap, they will try & sell you a little hotel-sized bar of soap for 50¢.  When I said I would dig out my own bar of soap from my car, she begrudgingly gave me a bar.  Most petrol station restrooms don’t have soap.  Remember to bring your own along.  Oh yes, no “takeaway” has a restroom.  In any case I drove thru some very beautiful desert landscape.  On occasions it would get very barren, & then revert to scrub & short trees, but none close together.  Traffic was almost nonexistent.  I could go for as long as 30 minutes before meeting another car.   This means we were about 100 km apart!  I finally arrived in Tom Price.  The cheapest place to stay with some sort of AC was in the local caravan park.  I stopped by the local supermarket for some goodies to feed my face for the next couple of days.  The host at the CP was kind enough to nuke my meal so I didn’t have to turn on the oven.


12 January 2000 – Up fairly early to head out to Karijini NP.  As I was staying in a cabin in the Tom Price Caravan Park, I could relax over a bun & coffee, lots of coffee!  The day promised to be sunny & fairly hot.  The drive out to the park, about 50 km, took me thru some very rugged countryside, the Hamersley Range.  The area is pretty much desert, getting about 25 to 35 cm of rain a year.  Mountains & escarpments rise out of flat valleys.  You don’t really see the gorges until you are almost right on top of them.  I drove over 100 km in the park.  It is, obviously, quite big & spread out.  As I am quite aware that I haven’t done all that much exercise on the trip, I’ve done some, but not enough, I took it a little bit easier on myself.  I did a number of walks [easy], a couple of tracks, [not so easy] & one “route” [fairly strenuous].  While the park is somewhat off the beaten track, it is worth the effort to get there.  Of course, you might try doing it in season during the winter.  It is drier & cooler. :-)


13 January 2000 – It was just one km after another today.  From Tom Price down past Newman the land was rough, mountainous,  & lots of escarpments.  I got some petrol at the “Capricorn Roadhouse” just past Newman.  Here I got a glimpse of the mining company stripping down a mountain for the iron ore.  It is located just to the south of the Tropic of Capricorn.  Whew!  It was great to get back into the “temperate zone.”  The tropics were a little bit hot!  From there on the land flattened out.  It was pretty barren & empty.  There were grassy patches, scrub, bushes & the occasional low tree.  I saw a number of sheep & cattle along the way, but not much of anything else.  Yet there is a kind of beauty to the land.  It is very much alive.  Next sign of civilization was the Kumarina RH.  Then on to Meekatherra.  I drove over 700 km with nothing but the 2 petrol stations between Tom Price & Meekatherra.  I do tend to watch my fuel gauge while driving in the outback.  The Auski Inland Motel, like a few other establishments, is prejudiced against foreigners.  They won’t give a “senior” discount to anyone but Australians.  Spent a few hours chatting next door with a young couple from the Perth area who had decided the heat was a little bit too much & wanted to sleep in an ACed room.


14 January 2000 – I wasn’t going far today.  I drove to Cue, about 120 km further down the road.  This was in the middle of the area in which Upfield wrote a couple novels.  I learned that Snowy Rowles was held in the local jail, now a ruin, before being sent to Perth.  Rowles was the chap who used the method described by Upfield in his novel to try & get rid of 3 bodies.  He was clumsy, got caught & hung!  I then drove out to Big Bell.  It is a ghost town.  The only bldg. standing is the shell of the hotel.  I think, I later found the remains of another ghost town, Day Dawn, which Upfield may have used in a novel.  I pressed on to Mt. Magnet a gold mining town.  I spent part of the afternoon wandering about gravel roads seeing The Granites, an overlook, and several assorted tourist sites.  After dinner I drove out into the country to look at the stars.  Not too successful.  The Moon was half full.  It was about as bright as a full moon in Albany.  Incredible.  I want to see if I can read by the light of a full moon while out in the desert.  The day was sunny & hot.  Clouds formed, as usual during the afternoon.  It became quite windy as well.  A front was coming thru.  The land was quite barren tho it became a little bit more hilly.


15 January 2000 – Time to push on to Perth.  It was clear & cool.  For a change I didn’t need the AC in the car.  The land started out barren & quite flat shortly after leaving MM.  There was really nothing out there.  The area is unfenced in rangeland.  I would come across cattle & sheep grazing along side of the road.  I would see the occasional feral goat from time to time.  It was a long drive to Perth.  I got petrol at Paynes Find – a big town of 15 people, 150 km along the way.  It was another 150 to Wubin where towns began to appear with some frequency.  Shortly after PF the scrub began to give way to thicker & taller brush & the occasional tree.  The trend continued until once again I noticed water in the rivers & fences around the paddocks.  Civilization!  I was out of the Bush.  About an hour out of Perth I took a scenic tourist drive thru the Avon Valley.  The road wound along rivers, thru farms, vineyards, stud farms, etc., in quite rolling country.  A most pretty drive.  Then on to Perth.  When I tried to book myself & car on the train to Adelaide, I learned that I could go on the 21st, but the car couldn’t until the 28th.  Sigh!  I guess, I drive the Nullarbor in the other direction.  The hard part will  be the 2½ hour time difference at the SA border.  I called Albany to check.  I think my account with WorldNet is ok now. 


16 January 2000 – A relatively calm day.  Preparing for the push east & the end of the trip, tho I will be stopping by a number places yet.  Not sure just when I’ll be able to post the last few weeks of the trip.  I may have to wait until I get back.