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.: Darwin - Perth WA May 2014

This will be updated most nights except if we don't have mobile reception and that happens a bit in the Outback also if you have just joined us, please read from the bottom up.
Day 34: 13 June - Adelaide River to Darwin 128 km Total 10,568 kms

A slow start to the day, I think we were trying to string the trip out as long as we could. Bacon and eggs for breakfast and then the pack up.

I confirmed that I would take part in the Rosella Festival in July where I we display and hopefully sell some off my canvas prints. Money raised from the Festival will go to Legacy, a great cause. I now have a bit of work to do to organise this.

As we were packing up I heard over the news that a guy that I have known for about 30 years had been taken by a Crocodile and killed. He was in this boat along with some of his family when a croc took him. Very sad and just goes to show that you can never be too careful around these ancient predators.

First stop was at the Strauss airfield south of Darwin, was one of the main WWII airfields. There are quite a number of them alongside the Stuart Highway as far South as Daly Waters. Strauss has an information bay telling of its history and three large coloured "cut outs" of the fighter planes that operated from here.

Next stop the car wash to get a months worth of grime off the van. At Palmerston there is a one that was designed for washing boats but does fit the caravan in which is handy, a lot easier than trying to clean it at home.

Back home to a pile of bills and the unpacking. We still went down to our favorite haunt of Nightcliff for sunset where the regulars all asked us where we had been.

I was kind of good to be home, there is nothing like the bed at home. It was a good trip even though we cover a lot of miles in such a short time.

Day 33: 12 June - Victoria River to Adelaide River 400 km Total 10,453 kms

Another very cool morning with the early light providing beautiful light over the escarpment. It really is a wonderful part of the country.

We headed east towards Katherine making use of the rest areas that are provided. Both WA and NT governments do very well in providing well appointed rest stops. Some of these are also overnight camping which are well used by the Grey Nomads and other travellers.

On arrival in Katherine we had mobile coverage again (first since Kununurra) and I had a few work emails to deal with so after refueling we set up under some trees on the road to Darwin.

On the way through to Adelaide River the country had experienced a lot of fires, a fair amount of the countryside had been burnt and we were heading into a lot of smoke haze.

We had a bit of a challenging moment when we came up behind a lame road train, listening on the radio between him and his service truck, he was really struggling and at times down to 40 kph. After following for a while, I saw a long straight of a couple of kilometers and decided to pass. As it was a little downhill, the road train picked up speed and as I was at the point of no return, a truck was approaching and I had to keep it going and reached the speed limit 130km and a little more. A little hair raising but the van was very stable and performed very well.

Pulling into Adelaide River Caravan Park they seemed to have saved our site for us. We again went up the hill for sunset and there, we could see the extent of the smoke on the landscape. There was also fires visible in the distant hills.

We decided to have dinner at the pub as it was our last night on the road.

Day 32: 11 June - Kununurra to Victoria River 330 km Total 10,053 kms

This morning started with the very comical birds, Grey Crowned Babblers having their social interactions right outside our door. These guys are funny to watch and their calls are quite amusing and they were joined by a Great Bowerbird. Many birds frequent this park and is great to see. There is a lot of wildlife around the caravan park including a freshwater crocodile that visits in the afternoons. The caravan park was a great spot to stay.

We packed up and made tracks toward home, our trip is fast coming to an end. After the obligatory stop at the border for a photo, we were finally back in our normal time zone.

Not far over the border we came across a Ute coming out of the bush and flashing his lights, whilst trying to work out what was going on and slowed down before coming across some ringers droving a herd of cattle along the bush on the roads edge. There would have been at least a couple of hundred head and I would have love to have taken a photo but there was no spot to pull off and there was a road train coming in the opposite direction.

A quick stop at Timber Creek before arriving at Victoria River. It is a bit of a challenge finding a site that is level enough to set up on. We managed to get a good site, set up and then went for a drive down to the river and ended up coming back to the access road for a beautiful view over the escarpment. The last of the sun really casts some beautiful light over the valley.

Day 31: 10 June - Kununurra 38 km Total 9723 kms

After the BBQ night and the good cause it was put on for, I decided to supply some of the photos I took so they could use them to promote these nights. They were wrapped with the photo's and were grateful for the offer.

I did my calls in the morning and then came back to pick up Josie for lunch. Josie then did some shopping while I completed the last of my calls.

We went down to the lake side edge for our normal sunset drinks but we had left the chairs and table back at the caravan and on the waters edge there are no seats but we made do. We watched 3 or 4 freshwater crocodiles swim close by while I got some photos across the lake.

Day 30: 9 June - Warmun to Kununurra 227 km Total 9685 kms

This morning we had been on the road for around 20 minutes when we came across a concrete truck on the side of the road looking a bit worse for wear. We stopped and I checked that the driver was OK. He had a blown tyre and it had done a fair bit of damage but luckily that was only cosmetic and he was basically OK and thanked us for stopping.

Next stop was the Doon Doon roadhouse, a place we would like to stay but they still haven't re-opened the caravan park. It has a great selection of souvenirs and a good collection of books about the settlement of the north.

We got into Kununurra and decided to stay at a new (for us) caravan park, Discovery Lake Kununurra. It used to be a Big 4 and therefore did not take dogs but now that it is a Discovery, they permit pets. It is a nice park on the banks of Lake Kununurra, the only disappointing thing was the site is dirt.

I got a couple of sales calls out of the way whilst Josie did a bit of shopping and then we went down to the diversion dam for a few late afternoon light shots. At the Caravan park they were having a Barra and Beef BBQ night where all the proceeds go to Careflight who work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. About sixty people turned up and they put on a great BBQ.

Day 29: 8 June - Fitzroy Crossing to Warmun (Turkey Creek) 445 km Total 9458 kms

The start was all good this morning (no bones in the foot but still bloody sore). That wind was still knocking us around but, that is the nature of the dry season, a high in the Great Australian Bight pushes up the cool air from the desert giving us the nice cool(er) temps.

We stopped at Ngumban Cliffs (as usual), it is a great stop with lovely views over the escarpment and set up for overnight stays. The WA government has set up quite a few of these stops with tables, BBQ's, shade, toilet and Dump points. on our way in, there was a lady walking a beautiful little black and white dog. We soon got talking and they were a lovely couple on their way to Darwin with their Canadian Miniature Pomeranian.

Next stop was Mary's Pool, another very popular rest stop and we had never seen so many campers there, there would have been 20 - 25 and it was only lunchtime so plenty more would be rocking in throughout the afternoon.

On to Halls Creek for fuel, pick up some supplies and lunch. At the fuel stop we ran into that nice couple again and ended up sharing lunch with them. Josie took great delight in feeding their dog, Maggie Kabana, much to Malibu's disgust. We found that the supermarket had closed an hour or so before so we exchanged cards with John and Anna suggesting that we would catch up when they got to Darwin.

Rather than staying in Halls Creek, we decided to go through to Warmun with time against us, we not so much time but the sun as it was now down at 5pm where 5 days ago it was going down around 5.40pm. As we move east it gets earlier until we cross into the NT and a new time zone making sundown 6.30pm. By the time we booked in at Warmun, the sun was down.

Just in behind us was a small tour group (4 people and their guide) and they set up camp near us. After dinner I noticed that the guide had a wheel off his trailer, he had done a wheel bearing in the Bungle Bungles and it was totally stuffed, he would need a new axle. It was probably going to be a salvage job from Kununurra, some 200 kms away. I hope he had some understanding clients.

Day 28: 7 June - Derby to Fitzroy Crossing 272 km Total 9013 kms

This morning got off to a rather painful start, whilst returning from the shower I was taking my thongs off and stepped back onto one of Malibu's chop bones. I happened to be sharp and upright and penetrated well into my foot. We have to be careful with this as any infection could cause havoc.

A quick trip down to the local markets, run by the CWA, where Josie bought some handmade items as well as getting breakfast there.

On the way out of town we called into an auto spark as we have been experiencing issues with the battery in the the caravan not getting charged as we travel. They quickly found the issue, a faulty solenoid, that was replaced and we were underway around 11am.

Once back onto the Great Northern Highway, we were head on into a fairly strong easterly wind. It did not do much for fuel consumption and moved us around quite a bit on the road.

Day 27: 6 June - Roebuck to Derby 304 km Total 8741 kms

I had an appointment in Broome at 7.30 am, fueled up while there and came back to Roebuck to hook up. We were on the road by about 9.30 and the run through to Derby was fairly uneventful, just a bit of wind moving us around on the road.

Got into Derby and set up, then I had to call on a couple of customers. Whilst I was working Josie did a bit of shopping in downtown Derby.

After that we did a bit of tour of Derby and ended up out at the long trough where I got some photos of sunset.


Day 26: 5 June - Pardoo to Roebuck 571 km Total 8437 kms

Well this morning was an very early start, up at 4am and on the road at 4.40am. There was not much traffic at all. As we approached Sandfire there was a great sunrise underway but when we arrived, they were shut. It was 6.15 and we did not have enough fuel (even with the jerry can) for the 300 kms through to Roebuck. They opened at 7am (Bugga, we could have had a bit of a sleep in), we grabbed the fuel and a Bacon & Egg Sanger and hit the road. The delay was probably a good thing as the sun was a little higher and was a little easier to drive towards.

We pulled into Roebuck just on lunchtime after stopping along the road to do some ordering for work. We got set up, had some lunch then Josie gave me a quick haircut as I looked like I had been on holidays for a month and then I went into Broome to do some sales calls. I completed these and went to pick Josie up headed into town to top up some supplies. As we finished and leaving town I stopped for a Black Fella on a pedestrian crossing, when he was part the way across he started hurling abuse at us and was getting quite aggressive. I ended up reversing back and going the other way, I have no idea what transpired there.

Josie spoke to Dad and he was sounding and feeling a lot better which was good news.

Day 25: 4 June - Point Samson to Pardoo 384 km Total 7866 kms

On the road about 7.30, topped up and filled the Jerry can at Roebourne, not wanting to have any further issues with Diesel. We made a couple of stops for Josie and Malibu to stretch their legs but on one, Josie wanted a comfort break. No problems, I pulled up outside a dunny on one of the rest stops where there happened to be a few workmen constructing a new shelter. Well after a few minutes Josie comes back to the car and asks me to come a hold the door (of the dunny) shut, which I did. When back in the car she told me that once she had her pants down, the door blew open. I said dam, I missed the show, she replied nobody else did.

 As we approached Port Hedland we stopped at a Railway lookout as I could see that a loaded ore train was arriving but no, it was stationary but another approached from the north only to stop and reverse as it was shunting...bugga. We made a coffee in hope of some action but nothing.

Next I had a quick call to do on a customer based in Hedland and then we had lunch at another train viewing stop, on the way there we had to wait at a crossing for one of these huge trains to pass but there was no movement at all at the lunch stop.

We grabbed a few supplies before making our way to Pardoo. There I got some work done in preparation for some calls in Broome tomorrow.

Day 24: 3 June - Fortescue River to Point Samson 230 km - Total 7482 kms

A easy run into the roadhouse on the outskirts of Karratha where we were able to top up with fuel. A big increase in the number of trucks and we passed quite a few mines and gas plants. The scale of mining in this area is huge.

We stopped for lunch on a beach in Dampier, it was quite picturesque considering we were smack bang in the middle of a massive mining export operation. While we were having lunch there were several schools of fish busting up in the water just in front of us. We stopped at the the Red Dog statue, the one the movie was made about. When I took Malibu over to the statue, a lady who had been taking photos came back to get a photo of Malibu with Red Dog.

From there we went out to the visitors centre on the Burrup Peninsular but unfortunately it was shut. We had been there before and it is a very interesting centre put together by Rio Tinto showing the whole process of mining Iron Ore.

We then travelled into Karratha to top up on some supplies and we added a 20lt Jerry can which we will fill with diesel before heading to Port Hedland.

Our stop for the night w spots, so went for a bit of a drive grabbing a couple of shots before going to the Point Samson Tavern some nice Fish and Chips (very nice but not as good as Denham).

Day 23: 2 June - Carnarvon to Fortescue River 518 km - Total 7252 kms

An early start saw us on the road at 5.30 and it was great to finally put the light bar to the test. I worked great, we could see a lot further down the road and just as importantly, off to the side where the animals lurk. The only issue is the first half hour or so was there a heap of fog around and in the situation it just puts up a great wall of white light in front.

About sunrise the temperate dropped to the lowest we have experienced on the trip, 9 deg. Luckily it was nice and toastie in the car. A brief stop at Minilya for fuel, Bacon and Egg sanger and Josies quick walk and then back on the road.

The scenery through this stretch is still pretty ordinary and it is not until you get to Nanutarra, which is basically the start of the Pilbara region. We stopped at Nanutarra but did not refuel as it has the reputation as being some of the most expensive fuel in Australia.

We start moving into more hilly country with some of the magic rocky outcrops that the Pilbara is famous for. Our stop for the night is Fortescue River Roadhouse but as we pulled in there was a sign "No Diesel"....bugga. Next fuel is at Karratha some 130 kms away but we only had enough fuel for about 50 kms. This was a fair bit of an issue, the attendant said that new supplies were probably 8 days away but suggested calling RAC (AANT) roadside assistance. Luckily I had paid an AANT subscription before leaving Darwin, the local contractor drove out from Karratha with 20 lts of diesel for only the cost of the diesel. A huge relief as that would be enough to get us into Karratha.

We went just down the road to the river for sunset which provided some different views that were quite nice.

Day 22: 1 June - Denham to Carnarvon 348 km - Total 6734 kms

Before hitching up we went to the local market in Denham, very small with only 4 stalls but Josie still found things at two of them to buy.

Denham is a beautiful spot albeit overrun by fishermen, there is a lot to explore around the area and we would love the spent some time here in the future. A Bacon and Egg Sanger on the waterfront before setting off around 11am and we started the 130 km trek back to the highway.

The highway north is fairly featureless, mostly flat and downright boring. The highlight being a few goats on the side of the road. We were making our hourly stops for Josie (and Malibu) to get their bones working again and one of those stops was at Wormeral Roadhouse where Josie rang Dad and I took Malibu for her comfort stop and we got nailed by the flies, there was bucket loads of them so Josie gave the stop a miss.

Got set up in Carnarvon, did some grocery replenishment and went down to the wharf for the sunset drink and photo. Well the sky was not being helpful and the location was a challenge so I am not hopeful on what turned out.

Josie did have a small altercation with sum backpackers who ignored the honesty box for a walk out on the wharf, they just laughed when she pointed out that they should at least make some contribution for using the wharf.

Day 21: 31 May - Kalbarri to Denham 384 km - Total 6386 kms

Leaving Kalbarri meant saying goodbye to clean sandy soil and hello to red dirt as we move further north. Once we hit the main highway it was unbelievable how may boats were heading south. There more boats than caravans and they ranged from small tinnies to cruisers being hauled by small trucks.

After a quick stop at Billabong Roadhouse we continued north to the turnoff to Shark Bay where it is about 140 km into Denham. Shark Bay is a world heritage area famous for its Stromatolites, Dugongs and pristine waters that provide great fishing.

We stopped at Hamelin Pool where we viewed the Stromatolites. These rock like structures are actually some of the oldest life forms known on Earth, some 3.5 Billion years old. Whilst not the most exciting thing to look at, they are still quite fascinating.

After setting up we went looking for some fresh fish, as this was a fishing mecca and after the great feed we had last night. No luck, so we found a spot for a very spectacular sunset. It was beautiful across the water. After talking to a fisherman we we changed our mind on our Bacon and eggs and opted for the local Fish and Chips, we had Red Emperor and they were probably the best Fish and Chips we had ever had, they were sensational.

Day 20: 30 May - Kalbarri 46 km - Total 6002 kms

On my way back from the shower this morning, there was beautiful morning light over the estuary so we took off to try and capture the beauty before the sun got up too high. It was probably the coldest morning we experienced on the trip 10 deg, but at least the wind wasn't blowing. I got what should be some nice shots.

I had some work to do being end of month so while I knocked that over, Josie went for a walk into the village for some shopping. I finished in time for lunch, Josie made some sandwiches and we went for a drive along the open coast. A very spectacular part of the coast with rugged cliffs, big surf and nice but treacherous beaches. We had our lunch overlooking the surf breaking on Red Bluff.

As we were about to leave Crayfish country, we decided that we would indulge ourselves and we chased around looking for Fresh Crayfish, well we could only get frozen and they were very small almost looking undersized. Evidently you cannot buy directly from the boats anymore, they are sent to Geraldton and then come back here frozen. Well we bought a couple of small cray tails for $48.

Sunset was not looking very good as there was not a cloud in the sky but we took the wine and headed out anyway. Whilst not being optimistic about the outcome, I went down to the rocks trying to catch some of the wave action and I should have got a couple of keepers.

The Crayfish was cooked to perfection (even if I say so myself).

Day 19: 29 May - Cape Burney to Kalbarri 194 km - Total 5956 kms

A leisurely start to the day, a nice morning, one of the best we have had so far. We stopped just up the road where we had good reception, to call Dad. He was in good spirits although a little weak.

We went through Geraldton and stopped just north at Drummond Cove. This was mainly to make some family phone calls. We had some great views of the coast with a few ships anchored waiting to dock at Geraldton.

The country north of "Gero" was beautiful rolling green farmland supporting mainly sheep and wheat, a very fertile area stepped in history. Next stop Northampton, a quaint little historic town where we had some lunch, I also caught up with some work.

Taking the scenic route through to Kalbarri took us through more rolling countryside until our stop ay Lynton, a historic Convict hiring depot built in the 1850's. The site is looks great with some parts in ruins and some well restored. Just down the road is Port Gregory which is another exposed "Port" that is protected by a coral reef and launches from the beach.

A short run through to Kalbarri gave us sensational views of the coast, we had decided to stay 2 nights here as I had to do end of month for the business and we needed to be more comfortable with Dads situation before heading further north. When checking in to the Caravan Park, there were only 2 sites left that would suit of large van. I asked why it was so busy (being in the off season), it is a long weekend West Australia day (formally Foundation Day) and there is a bowling tournament along with a couple of other sporting events. We have not had much luck staying in this beautiful spot, 5 years ago we arrived in the middle of school holidays and got sent out of town to a horse stud.

Today was the best we have experienced weather wise since being in the south west and we concluded it with a nice wine at sunset on the estuary.

Day 18: 28 May - Green Head to Cape Burney 216 km - Total 5762 kms

Before hooking up, we took a bit of a tour of Green Head. A nice seaside town with some headlands and some sheltered beaches. The sun poked its nose out a couple of times allowing me to get some nice shots.

We called into Leeman for a couple of photos before making our way to Port Denison, a larger fishing port. We had lunch there on the waterfront. All through WA we have found the parks to be well set out, clean and done better than other states that we have travelled in.

We moved on to Cape Burney, travelling through Greenough, a very historic town with some beautiful old stone buildings and the trees surrounding the area had succumbed to the strong winds and were premently on the lean.

After setting up we decided to explore nearby Geraldton. It is a place that we had only passed through in the past. We checked out the very busy port area, the Moore Point Lighthouse and the memorial to HMAS Sydney II.

This beautiful memorial commemorates the sinking of HMAS Sydney II after a battle with a German raider in 1941 off the coast of WA where the Sydney was sunk claiming the lives of 645 servicemen. The memorial has been done so well, a dome of 645 seagulls next to the roll of honour and cascading waterfall representing their plunge into the depths.

After a bit of shopping as Geraldton will be our last major centre until Carnarvon, we went back to Moore Point Lighthouse for a possible sunset shot. Again conditions were not favourable.

We got the word that Dad had been in surgery to get his pacemaker fitted and had came out without any major issues. We will watch the situation closely over the next few days.

Day 17: 27 May - Ledge Point to Green Head 180 km - Total 5546 kms

We got up to blue skies and no wind...yay. Before we had finished cooking breakfast, the clouds had started to roll in...bugga.

First stop was Lancelin, a fishing village. It is interesting that most of the towns in this part of the coast have fishing fleets (mainly Crayfish) but no natural harbours to protect the boats only a reef offshore and the access is from the beach. It is a very exposed coast with the next landfall being South Africa.

This part of our trip is quite a bit slower allowing us time to check out some of these towns and what their little shops have to offer. Josie picked up a few bits and pieces mainly for our new Great Granddaughter, Kiara. In town the cafe's had dummy Owl's sitting on the tables, to keep away the seagulls and the seemed to work. The would see a bird of prey as an issue and keep away...brilliant!

Just down the Indian Ocean Highway from Lancelin was a sign for a lookout so we decided to checkout the lookout at Nilgen Nature Reserve. It provided great views along the coast but the weather did not allow us to to make the most of them. The Nature Reserve was set in Coastal Heath with a lot of different Banksias and Black Boy's (PC name Grass Trees). We had a good walk through the area but unfortunately, there were only a few flowers out, wildflower season is spring.

We stopped off at most of the coastal towns, we had some lunch at Cervantes and when it was too windy to boil our own billy, we bought a coffee and tea with the obligatory cake.

On our way into Jurien Bay we got a message that Dad had been admitted to hospital. We kept in touch with Michael, Josie's brother. The fitting of his pacemaker had been bought forward to tomorrow and hopefully this will solve a lot of the issues that Dad has been experiencing. We will monitor the situation closely.

We stopped for the night at Green Head, a nice park but the rain arrived as we were setting up and it continued. We still went for our sunset drinks, without the sunset and as I did not want to cook in the rain, we had a nice meal at a local restaurant.

Day 16: 26 May - Lake Clifton to Ledge Point 260 km - Total 5366 kms

The wind had subsided which made a warmer and more pleasant morning. We did want to leave too early as that would have put us in the middle of heavy freeway traffic. The morning started with feeding of the Ring-necked Parrots and then a couple of Magpies. This happened while we packed up the van ready for the return journey home.

Once we got through Mandurah, the Kwinana freeway took us into Perth and the Mitchell Freeway to the northern outskirts. We called into Yanchep and where there was a Masters Store, I had never seen one of these stores which were soon to be in Darwin. Nearby, Josie found a homewares store where she bought a few bargains. From there we went onto Two Rocks, catching the magnificent coast before joining the recently completed Indian Ocean Highway which opened up a coastal route north.

Our planned stop was Guilderton which is a nice little town on the Moore River...but as we pulled up at the caravan park, there was a sign, "No Pets". We turned around, visited the local lookout and headed further north.

We ended up at Ledge Point at a great Caravan park, after setting up we went down to the seaside for a pretty ordinary sunset. Whilst we are on the sunset coast I am determined to get that great sunset shot.

Day 15: 25 May - Lake Clifton 98 km - Total 5106 kms

The wind buffered the van most of the night with some respite just before day break. There were a lot of Ringneck Parrots around the park so Josie put out some biscuits, it took a little while but there were 20 or 30 birds gathered around Josie waiting for a feed.

We went back to Arthurs for a BBQ breakfast where we were joined by David (Josie's brother) who wasn't able to make it last night. The family was now complete. It was great having everyone together. After brekkie and a few coffees, we all said our good byes.

We went into Mandurah for a look around. This is a town that has grown very quickly over recent years with it being the fastest growing city in Australia. We had a nice snack down at the waterfront and still dodging the showers.

We made our way back via the scenic route which skirts Peel Inlet that would make some nice sunrise shots. We stopped at Lake Clifton lookout which is setup very well for observing the wildlife, in particular birds as this area is listed under the RAMSAR convention which protects wetlands that migratory birds use in their travels to and from Siberia. Unfortunately the weather did not allow any photos of waders.

Day 14: 24 May - Perth to Lake Clifton 132 km - Total 5008 kms

Packing up was fairly quick even though we were dodging showers and the traffic on the freeway was a bit lighter being a Saturday. The winds were fairly strong and moved the van around a lot on the freeway.

We booked into Lake Clifton Caravan and set up. It is a nice grassed park with plenty of shade. It is a bit old but clean and have some nice hosts.

We then found Arthur's (Josie's Brother) block where the whole family was getting together for a BBQ. The family had not been together for quite some time. His block is set amongst some huge Tuart trees and currently looks nice with green grass from the current rains.

We had a great BBQ followed up with a few (quite a few) reds around a fire which was a challenge to light as most of the wood was wet....all of our Boy Scout skills were bought into play. A good night was had by all.

Day 13: 23 May - Perth 116 km - Total 4876 kms

The gales never eventuated, thank goodness but there was a lot of rain. Josie saw that there was some water in our rubbish bin but when she went to empty it, it was chokers, so there must have been teaming.

The main part of the day was taking Dad for a scan at Hollywood hospital. After the drama we had with getting a park last time, I decided to drop Dad and Josie off and I took Malibu down to a park near the river where Malibu had a bit of a walk around and I caught up with some work.

After the appointment we went down to the riverside for a cuppa, just as we got there and set up when a light shower hit but that provided a very vibrant rainbow over the Swan River.

Next was to pick up supplies for the family BBQ tomorrow and the long trip north.

Day 12: 22 May - Perth 186 km - Total 4760 kms

Today we were going down to Madora Beach, near Mandurah to visit Cheri. On the way we called into Battery World for some batteries to suit the tyre pressure sensors. That done we were straight into a traffic jam on the Roe Highway. Traffic was ground to a crawl because of an accident...very painful. We were probably nearly an hour in the jam and the detour took us away from where were going making us about an hour late.

We had a great lunch with Cheri and unfortunately we had to make tracks, as the trip back was going to put us right in the middle of rush hour. In light of that, I thought it might be a good to go through to Kings Park and capture shots of the the city at twilight, we would be going against the traffic. That was a misguided thought, we were at a standstill as there was a breakdown slowing traffic into the city. We really can't understand how people deal with this day in and day out.

I got some nice shots and then when we made our way back to the van, I used the very polite lady in our GPS and she took us a way that I had not have thought of but we got back to the van park park with little fuss and relatively quickly.

There are weather warnings about as there is a severe weather warnings about for overnight weather. Gales up to 100 km are possible so, I decided to pack up our outside tables and awning.

Day 11: 21 May - Perth 43 km - Total 4574 kms

The milage today was a little misleading as we dropped the Pathfinder off to get the Light Bar fitted and we used Dads car. We decided to take Dad down to Fremantle for Fish and Chips.

After visiting Coromal (the brand of our van) where the people there were very helpful with some queries I had, we headed down to Freo. It was a fairly gloomy and wet day but it cleared up enough for lunch at Perth's most famous Fish & Chips, Cicerellos. They have been an institution in Fremantle for more than 100 years and they did not let us down. The snapper was caught this morning and tasted fantastic, along with some sensational scallops.

I had taken my camera gear out of the car whilst the light bar was being fitted, I didn't have it to capture Fremantle so I improvised with my iPhone. I thought I had better put into practise what I preach "it is not the camera that makes the photo". I was impressed, whilst they couldn't be blown up huge, they are quite suitable for use here....you be the judge.

There are some great bronze statues around the waterfront in Freo, one was of Bon Scott, the late lead singer of famous rock band AC/DC. Whilst being a Scotsman, he grew up in Fremantle.

Day 10: 20 May - Perth 128 km - Total 4531 kms

Today we had to take Dad for a specialist appointment and that was a challenge. It seems that most of the area around where his doctor is, is full of specialists and parking is a major issue. I think every practice of 10 specialists has 3 car parking spaces....a nightmare. I dropped Dad and Josie off and after not being able to park we decided that I would leave them with the appointment and I go the place where I had bought our satellite dish. I have had an issue with it and found the it had taken a tumble (several times) and the main arm had been bent. this made aligning it nearly impossible.

I got back in time to pick up Josie and Dad where it was time for a bite and a coffee. Dads prognosis was encouraging and we have to take him for a special X-ray on Friday.

With our trip south we spent a lot of time travelling before sun up so we decided to fir Spotties or a light bar to the Nissan so I checked out a few options and settled on a Great White LED Light bar that will light up the highway up to 1/2 a kilometre ahead and 50 metres each side of the road. They are good but not cheap, $900 fitted, but will make our journey a lot safer. They will fit it tomorrow morning.

Day 9: 19 May - Perth 124 km - Total 4403 kms

After washing the car, that didn't work, we went to Michaels and picked up Dad and took him for a drive. We ended up at Kings Park that provide beautiful views over the Swan River and the city. It is a beautiful park, probably the best city park in Australia and probably the world covering some 400 hectares.

There is a statue there of one of Josie's ancestors, Alexander Forrest, who was one of the pioneers of West Australia. He explored a lot of WA and paved the way for a lot of the settlement and pastoral of the north of the state.

We then went to visit and pay our respects at Mums grave and went down to the waterfront on the Swan River for a coffee and a snack. It was great looking over the river from the beautiful park lands they have gracing the Swan.

Day 8: 18 May - Wongan Hills to Perth 252 km - Total: 4279 kms

We had a bit later start this morning as there was no point in getting to New Norcia before it opened for business. When we got up it was cold and soon after that the fog rolled in and over there was a white rainbow, I never seen anything like it before. Not far out of Wongan Hills is Lake Ninan, a shallow lake with lots of dead trees around it but with the fog hanging around, it really made for some great shots.

We stopped at Calingiri looking for the right road through to New Norcia, we must have looked lost as this very kind gentleman pulled up, walked back to us and told us the right way. It was very good of him.

New Norcia was once a very religious town, originally being settled by the Benedictine Monks in 1847 then the town went on the have an Orphanage, a Girls and Boys College and that is where Josie spent her high school years. St Gertrudes seems to be pretty unused at present but still being kept in fairly good condition. It was not open but Josie found an open back door and we sneaked in. We had a look at the old dining hall which still had the same tables and stools in the same spot. There is a great little chapel there that we also got into and Josie showed me the stairs that she fell down some 50 years ago.

After a quick visit to the visitors centre and a few souvenirs, we started the journey to Perth. It is a beautiful drive through the Chittering Valley into the outskirts of Perth. Our first job was to get the caravan washed as it was filthy from the rain and road trains we encountered further north but finding a car wash, especially one that will fit the van in is quite a challenge and we spent a couple hours looking. Eventually we got one in Gosnells near where we were going to be staying.

That done we went to the park that we had planned to stay at only to be told, "we only accept permanents now" and they directed us to a nearby park. We got there only to find a sign "No Pets". The lady there was very helpful in finding another park that would take Malibu.

Finally we got settled into a nice park.

Day 7: 17 May - Mount Magnet to Wongan Hills 498 km - Total 4027 kms

We are getting used to these early starts getting a few kilometres under our belt before sun up. This morning was the coldest so far, no air con and jumpers including Malibu. Our first stop was to check our tyre sensors as they were giving an alarm but I think it is time to replace the batteries in the sensors as all seemed to be good.

Next stop, Paynes Find, a small roadhouse and caravan park where it was even colder. Down to 12 deg. We got Malibu out for her ablutions and she just looked at us as if to say "why did you bring me to this bloody cold place?" The sun was up but that really didn't help.

We called into Dalwallinu, which is one of the many towns around here that Josie lived when growing up. We looked for a souvenir but struggled until we found a little Gift shop where Josie got a mug but not a lot open. A nice country town with a nice town centre. The next overnight stop was to be New Norcia (where Josie went to school) but in reading Wiki Camps, there is nowhere worth staying there so we decided to stay at Wongan Hills (Josie also lived here). I missed the main turn off to Wongan Hills but I was sure there was another. In the meantime, we came across another huge wide load which we had to get off the road completely. Another huge Dump Truck heading to the mines.

I found the turn off which took us to Balidu (a town that hasn't changed since Josie lived there some 60 years ago), then on to Wongan Hills. A great little caravan park where once set up, we took off for a look around and found a great lookout that provided magnificent views over the Wheat belt. Oh, I forgot to mention, this is wheat country, huge fields and machinery but no wheat at the moment. I think they are just about to plant again.

Day 6: 16 May - Newman to Mount Magnet 636 km - Total: 3529 kms

We awoke to some light rain but got underway without getting too wet. As mentioned before, there is a huge amount of trucks involved with the mining industry but when we went past the Capricorn roadhouse there was at least 40 road trains parked up. That is huge. The commentary says that the mining boom is over, well what we are seeing suggests that it is still growing....maybe not at the same breakneck pace.

We soon encountered some fairly heavy rain and that is a challenge when going past a road train, the spray these big guys churn up makes it very scary as your lights just blind you off their spray. As it became light we could see heaps of low lying water and as this is very flat country, we were concerned that it would take much for the road to be cut.

It cleared up and we encountered quite a few wide loads. We have a UHF radio (CB) and that allows us to listen and converse with the truckies which really helps in knowing what is happening on the road. We could hear that that a wide load was approaching and it sounded like a load at 2.8 metres which is no big deal but as we got closer we realised that it was 2 units at 8 metres wide...oh shit, we have to get off the road, which we did. The load was a couple of huge dump trucks and they did take up the whole road.

Travelling down through Meekatharra and Cue, there are some great old historical buildings and these towns have embraced their history and have done it well. Spending the night at Mount Magnet, we unhooked and went for a drive around this historical town taking in a great lookout over some of the mining operations, a beut little museum and onto the Granites, a rocky outcrop with some 9000 year old Aboriginal rock artwork.

As we cooked dinner, thunderstorms were around the area with some lightning.


Day 5: 15 May - Pardoo to Newman 621 km - Total: 2893 kms

The mornings are getting cooler as we move south and there was a huge ring around the full moon, it would have taken up 1/4 of the night sky, I have never seen one so big before. We got to Hedland just on sunrise and as it was chaos with a huge amount of roadworks as they are building new bridges and roads between Port and South Hedland.

In the attempt to find the car wash to give the van a clean, I turned up the wrong street and ended up in the Police Station. No way to turn around so, I had to back down the narrow street and into a side lane in order to turn around. We got to the car wash and then headed back through the road works to Port Hedland where we went to a nice little park that is on the edge of the Harbour. While we were there (just over an hour) 3 ships left port. These ships total 180,000 tons and it is all Iron Ore on its way to China. They are huge and with the harbour being so narrow at that point, they are so close.

On leaving there, we fueled up and stopped a lookout point to view the huge Iron Ore trains, these are some of the heaviest trains in the world. Port Hedland whilst not being the prettiest places in the world, the scale of industry here is just huge and quite fascinating.

Heading out to Newman, you are dwarfed in amongst 53 metre long road trains and there are literally hundreds of them, chuck in lots of wide loads and you have a mixture that would be very intimidating for anyone especially a new Grey Nomad. We ended up with a very long day in getting into Newman just after dark.


Day 4: 14 May - Fitzroy Crossing to Pardoo 774 km - Total: 2272 kms

On our way out of the park at 4.45 am, we were treated to hundreds of Wallabies on the lawns and a beautiful Full Moon. The unnerving thing was, it was completely dark and the first sign we saw on the way out of town was "Beware Wandering Stock next 215 kms"...great! Luckily we saw little in the way of stock till well after sunrise.

The landscape from Fitzroy Crossing to near Port Hedland is as boring as your uncles slide night. It is fairly flat with little in the way features....definately Big sky country.

The plan was for us to get to Sandfire, a roadhouse on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert but we got there around 2 pm and at 38 degrees (we were expecting it to get cooler as we headed south), we decided to go on to Pardoo some 140 kms further south. It is a nice little roadhouse with grass campsites which are always a hit with Malibu. It is not a fancy place but they do the basics well.

We had a nice Steak Sandwich there and talking to some of the miners that were using Pardoo as a base, they were in the process of shutting down one of the nearby Iron Ore mines. That seems to be common place through the Pilbara now.

Day 3: 13 May - Kununurra to Fitzroy Crossing 639 km - Total: 1498 kms

Well this was a real early start, up at 4 and on the road by 5 but to put that in the Territory time zone, 5.30 and 6.30...not so bad.

It was beautiful driving through the red hills of the Kimberley as the sunrise cast its warm tones across the landscape. The highway through to Halls Creek is a very scenic road, winding is way into the ancient land of the Kimberley. We encountered a lot of cattle as well as a few horses on the road which is a bit challenging, to say the least.

One of the stops we made, there was a couple of blokes trying to get this Falcon back on the road. The goose, a European backpacker, had tried to turn his car around and put his wheels over the side of a causeway. A situation we really didn't to get involved with but you can't leave somebody in trouble in the outback. They were in need of a rope which we were able to provide and another person with a 4WD managed to pull him out. He was very grateful.

We fueled up at Halls Creek and started across the very flat country and a drive that is so different from what we had just come through, flat straight and featureless apart from a couple a small sections. We contemplated going through to Willare, another 230k's from Fitzroy Crossing but the blinds were starting to come down so Fitzroy was our stop.

Josie had painful issues yesterday with her legs and had a fairly difficult time with the miles that we covered, so I decided that we should stop every hour or so and Josie was doing 10 laps of our rig in order to keep her legs working. This seems to have paid off as she had a lot better day, whilst slowing us down, the benefit far out weighs that.

Day 2: 12 May - Pine Creek to Kununurra 627 km - Total: 859 kms

Getting an early start, breakfast and a coffee to go by 6 am, jumped in the car and a flat battery...bugga. Luckily we have a jump starter, one of the best investments I have ever made. Finally on the road at 6.20. Speaking of batteries, had a issue with the caravan battery last night but a new fuse seemed to fix that.

A good run to Katherine with a nice sunrise through some heavy low lying smoke. There were a lot of Black Kites on the road which can make things a little hairy but luckily not hitting any.

First stop Katherine for fuel and to post a birthday card, on to the Victoria Highway for the journey west. As mentioned, quite a few fires around, mainly early season burning. The are all fairly small as the grasses still have a tinge of green which slows them down.

We stopped at Victoria River for fuel and a coffee. We set up under some shady trees with a great view of the beautiful red Victoria River escarpment. I just don't understand why when we stop somewhere, people always pull in beside us and it happened again here with 3 RV's parking in our laps while we were trying to have our coffee.

Before jumping back on the road, after thinking about the fuse issue we had last night I decided to test the caravan battery and it 7.5 volts, in other words ...rooted. We will have to get another in Kununurra.

Malibu is starting to get the better of us (surprise surprise). She makes look like she needs a toilet so we stop and she gets out the sniff a few trees and little else.

We got to the border checkpoint and confidently told the inspector that we had nothing (fruit and general plant mater), the lady went through the car without any issue and the caravan was going well until she got to the back of the fridge where she found some Tomatoes that were supposed to be used at Sharon's yesterday and a lemon that we forgot about....Doh! Luckily we didn't get thrown in jail or fined, WA takes their quarantine very seriously.

Had to pull up soon after the checkpoint as after the inspection as we hadn't put the TV back on the bed (where it is store whilst in transit) but too late, it was on the floor...another bugga.

First stop in Kununurra was the battery place to check our battery.... he couldn't even get a reading, so it was cactus. I am so over batteries, they are the bain of my life. I decided to go with an AGM which is quite a bit dearer but better suited to the caravan and lasts longer. We should be able to save fuel as well because the wallet was $400 lighter.

After checking in at Lakeside we went down to Ivanhoe Crossing for sunset, a nice spot with quite a few people sharing the experience.

Back to hook up ready for a quick getaway in the morning and I wanted to watch Carlton play, not on TV, under too many trees to set up the satellite dish, not on radio so I had to listen to our fantastic win via the AFL mobile app.


Day 1: 11 May - Darwin to Pine Creek 232 km

We are taking this trip down to Perth as Josie's Dad is about to have a heart operation and we wanted to be there for it. It would be far cheaper to fly but with Malibu getting on, she frets too much while we are away to the point, she does not eat or drink. The old lady is getting on, turning 17 last month. This also gives us a chance to give the van a good run which we haven't done (apart from long weekends) for exactly a year, when we went to Broome last year.

We had some last minute irrigation issues to fix at home (Josie didn't want any of her plants dying while we were away) and the plan was to have Mothers Day lunch at Sharon's (Josie's daughter) and head off from there. We left around 11.30 and it is about a 40 minute drive to Humpty Doo where Sharon is. This was to be a very special Mothers day as this was Jamie-Lee's (Sharon's daughter) first Mothers day as a mother. Well this when a little pear shaped as the girls had had a big night at the rodeo and were only firing on about 3 cylinders. We managed to get a BBQ together and a few salads with the help of Bonnie (Sharon's other daughter...who didn't drink last night) and we had a great lunch and finished up having a photo shoot (after lots of make up) with Kiara.

We left there around 3.30 (about 1.5 hours later than planned) and decided to make for Pine Creek rather than Katherine. All when smooth and got in just on dark so we didn't even unhook the van. The little park was surprisingly empty for this time of year, it nothing great but has everything you need and is clean.



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