Beasley River to Broome – Sun 17th May to Sat 23rd May

Beasley River  – Sun 17th May

A shame to leave Cape Range, but also a good day to do so with rain forecast.  The wind certainly came in first, no need for an alarm clock to get an early start.

Driving out of Exmouth you retrace your steps south for a fair while.  To head north its then a left turn onto the Burkett Road.  This stretch is pretty flat and open, so with the rain setting in it felt like the clouds were squashing us into the earth.  The rain was coming down hard by this time and the creeks were beginning to run, which made some of the floodways interesting.

According to the forecast the rain was meant to be restricted to the west only.  540km to the east later just confirmed its sometimes better to look out the window than rely on forecasts.

Beasley River is a roadside camp taking its name from the adjacent river.  Not sure what the ranks of caravans made of us pitching up in the middle and lighting the fire pit, the best designed fire pit so far this trip.  A shame the same cannot be said of the toilets, where it was hold your breath for dear life.

Karijini – Mon 18th to Tue 19th May

Heading on east the scenery just gets better, deep red ranges set off against vibrant greens.  The entrance to Karajini NP from this side goes via Tom Price.  The highway goes to Tom Price via Paraburdoo, the dirt road goes direct, an easy decision rewarded by incredible landscape.

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As an added bonus the dirt runs past the mine for which the town exists, fascinating to see even if from a distance.  We found out later the mine has taken the top half of the hill that was there, and is digging on down.

Tom Price the town looks a lovely place, not sure what it would be like to live there though. On the way in is a big yellow truck which had worked at the mine; its incredible how large these things are.

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Karijini NP itself seems to be a park of two halves.  The west end has an eco retreat, the east end a normal campground; we headed east.  Fair to say you don’t come here for the beauty of the camp site, with the facilities (toilet, BBQ, no showers) being rather run down and the sites being in the scrub.

Where this park really shines is in the gorges cut into the rock.  A short walk from camp is Circular Pool, set deep into the ground beneath a sheer cliff; in the wet this place is a waterfall, now the fall is dry and you can walk to the pool.

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The pool flows down into Dales Gorge, along which a trail rock hops beside the river.  It’s a spectacular experience walking along the gorge floor, and just gets better at the other end with first Fortescue falls, and then Fern Pool.

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Fortescue Falls drop down into the gorge, and has created a lovely little swimming hole.

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Fern Pool is culturally significant, so a place where it is best to be quiet and peaceful.  The water of the pool is cold, and teems with fish which swarm around you as you climb in.  A short swim away there is a small waterfall which you can sit beneath – after flowing across the rocks above, the fall is pleasantly warmer, and the pounding of the water is a great massage.  Less relaxing is playing ferry to get the girls across the pool….

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At the west end of the park there are various gorges, and we did not get to them all.  Kalamina Gorge was beautiful, in a hazy summer afternoon kind of way.  A more open gorge than some of the others and with water flowing through it was a delightful place to walk.

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Jofre gorge was at the other end of the spectrum, deep with a massive cliff at its head.  It must be incredible to see that fall at full bore in the wet.

15-05-20 Karijini, Jofre Gorge

Oxer lookout is at the confluence of a number of gorges, with a couple of viewing platforms perched over the edge.  Alongside the platforms are a number of low metal hoops, like bike parks for very small bikes; the only purpose we could see for them was abseil points for rescue teams.  It is in this area that the gorges in places get very narrow at the base, with trails threading through rock walls an arm span apart.  Not somewhere to get caught in a flood, or for anyone slightly claustrophobic.

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A great program the park runs is Junior Ranger, the girls each got a booklet with various tasks to complete relating to some aspect of the park or the environment.  At the end they all got a sew-on ranger patch.  A fantastic idea, which really got them engaged.

Less fantastic was the rain, we should rent ourselves out to drought areas as it seems to follow us. Although it pelted down it was amazing how quickly it drained away, next morning it was all gone bar a few orange puddles.

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Indee Station – Wed 20th May

Heading towards to Port Hedland there is a whole lot of nothing, aside from mines, of which there are a lot.  This was not one of our most interesting drives.

Indee Station is south of Port Hedland.  Not somewhere to stop if it is very wet, as the road in crosses a large riverbed; however at this time of year its dry.

We forgot to ask if the station runs any animals, we certainly didn’t see any.  What it does have is accommodation blocks, presumably for workers in the mines.  Not a picturesque camp, but the hospitality more than compensates – as we pulled in happy hour had started, with everyone gathering in the homestead for a chitchat over nibbles and BYO.

An added bonus is Red Rock, further into the property.  At first glance it is just a small red outcrop, however in certain place there are rock etchings, and the view from the top just highlights how remote this area is.

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Less of a distinction is the station was the scene of an aircrash back in 1968.  A flight from Perth to Port Hedland came down with the loss of all 26 aboard, Australia’s third worst air accident and the end of the Viscount 700 aircraft in Australia.

Stanley – Thu 21st May

A quick stop into Port Hedland probably didn’t do it justice.  What was impressive was the level of infrastructure, with the various iron ore rail lines running to the docks.  Heading east the landscape was less impressive, a purgatory for the senses; although someone had done their best to crack a smile, putting safety hats onto the termite mounds.

Although the scenery improves after a while it is nothing spectacular.  Despite running parallel to the invitingly named 80 mile beach its never close enough to see anything.  We found out later that in any case its not wise to swim there, too many sharks.

Stanley is a roadside camp, so nothing special, just a place to stay with toilets.  It is funny though, even in the most obscure places you can bump into people with a connection; in this case John and Amanda (50 Toes Walkabout), fellow travellers from Sydney and their 3 children also enrolled with the distance education school.

Broome – Fri 22nd to Sat 23rd May

Along the road we had many comments from nomads as to how expensive Broome had become etc.  Yes the caravan park was not the cheapest, but also nowhere near the most expensive we’ve had; and the town itself is delightful – small enough everything is 5 minutes away.

A highlight of Broome is Cable Beach, which nightly hosts the sunset, and for which we had the pleasure of a friend from Sydney who moved here a number of years ago – Ashley and her lovely children Airlie and Finlay.  Unfortunately Ashley’s husband Phil couldn’t join us, he was off riding the Gibb River Road, on a pushbike! Now I like my riding, but that’s just a bit crazy, hope the bike had some good suspension.

A feature of the beach is the camels, which ferry tourists up and down whilst the sun drops into the ocean.  It is quite the festive scene, with cars parked all along the beach, enjoying the sunset with a drink and a picnic.

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Minilya to Cape Range NP – Sun 10th May to Sat 16th May

Minilya  – Sun 10th May

I may have mentioned the flies last week.  Lying in bed as the sun came up it sounded like the pattering of rain, which was odd as the sky was clear.  Turns out it was the sound of flies landing on the tent, ready to pester us as soon as we came out, not the most fun pack up.

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Today was a day of firsts.  Heading north the major town is Carnarvon, where the Gascoyne River meets the sea.  All a bit quiet given it was a Sunday.  However leaving town you see the banana plantations – a first for all of us, but a bit ragged from the recent cyclone.  Great fun explaining to the girls that bananas grow upside down compared to how they appear in the supermarket.

Minilya is a roadhouse on the road to Exmouth.  On the other side of the road is a lovely little free camp, next to the river with toilets and fire pits.  Even better the flies had dropped off a bit.  Unfortunately for the girls it was an afternoon to keep up with schoolwork…

The next first was Charlotte & Bonnie pelting back from the toilets screaming “redback”.  Full marks to them, there were indeed redbacks in the corners of the toilet block, complete with egg sacs.  They did seem a bit more scared of us than the other way around though.

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Funny how the fire is a great social focus, sometimes no-one wants to chat but most times it brings people together.  Perhaps a throwback to caveman days, who knows, but it’s a good thing, and a great place to swap experiences or get advice on what is coming up.  One chap recounted how they walked camels to the tip of Cape York, the first people to manage it – I have no idea if that’s true, but I hope so, it was a great story.

Exmouth – Mon 11th to Wed 13th May

Heading onward the landscape was more like we expected of the Nullarbor; wide, flat spaces dotted with scrubby bushes.  Then the termite mounds began, poking randomly out of the ground like half buried ice cream cones.

Along the way you pass Coral Bay, a diving mecca.  Aside from that, a pleasant looking beach and a couple of crowded caravan parks it did not seem to have much else.

We had planned to drive back here after Exmouth, taking the dirt road along the coast. Sadly the chap in the info place explained this was no longer possible, the sandbar at Yardi Creek halfway down had been washed out; he had a great photo of a toyota which had tried to cross anyway and got bogged – the story was the driver spent the afternoon fishing from the bonnet before rescue arrived, but the car then died 4km down the road.

The road runs along the edge of Exmouth Gulf on the way to town.  For the last stretch the hills of Cape Range NP march along to the left, split in places by deep gorges, must be a fearsome sight when these are in full flood.

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Exmouth itself is a decent town.  We were there for Pippa and Charlotte to sit Naplan, with Exmouth District High School very kindly agreeing to take them in.  Otherwise it seems there are two main reasons for people coming here – the nomads for the climate, the rest for the whale sharks.

It may sound odd to come all this way and not to go see the sharks, but in the end we chose not to.  The girls are a bit young, Bonnie especially, so it would have meant Hils and me going on different days; the whole affair also seemed overly regimented.  We saw plenty of stuff in Cape Range in any case.

In town we came across a great looking camper.  Owned by a German couple it was an East German border guard van from the Berlin Wall.  Weighing in at 5t and with 70hp its apparently not the fastest, loved the cow horns though.

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Cape Range NP – Thu 14th to Sat 16th May

On the other side of the range from Exmouth, there is a narrow, grassy section of flat ground between the hills and the sea.  Along the shore are various camp sites in the national park, perched on the edge of lagoons bounded not far offshore by the Ningaloo Reef.  Facing West the sites are well located for sunset.

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The lagoons are shallow and perfect for snorkelling, albeit the current can be a bit strong.  In our time we were there we saw a turtle, sting rays, a small shark and tons of fish of all shapes and sizes.  Especially good was Turquoise Bay, despite the weather being a bit blustery it was still beautiful.

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A great excursion is the boat trip up Yardi Creek.  Yardi in the local language means creek, a bit odd to be saying “Creek Creek”.  The cliffs here are home to the black footed wallaby.  A relation of the yellow rock wallaby from the Flinders, this one is blessed with an inordinately long tail which it sits and grooms in the sun.

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Ospreys also call the cliffs home.

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At the mouth of Yardi Creek should be the sandbar which allows cars to drive the dirt road from Coral Bay, and where the Toyota came to recent grief.  Walking across was wet enough, would be crazy in a car

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The only downside with the camping here, being so flat, is there is no shade; nor shelter from the wind.  With a forceful nor’easter blowing it was rather exposed.

GinGin to Francois Peron NP – Sun 3rd May to Sat 9th May

Willowbrook Farm  – Sun 3rd May

Willowbrook, before being solely a campground, used to provide cream teas.  Whilst that side of the business is no more Sunday remains scone morning for the campers, delicious.

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It would be fair to say there may have been some sore heads amongst the vets, with Mr President reportedly seen taking a snooze next to the fire late last night.  Certainly no late night partying in evidence today.

Point Louise – Mon 4th May

Sadly no scones today, probably for the best as we had to be on the road.

Along the way is Lancelin.  Hopefully the pervasive stench of rotting seaweed is not a permanent fixture, but it certainly reeked.  According to the Hema navigator it should be possible to drive from Lancelin to Wedge Island.  Perhaps it used to, but a quick visit to the tourist info put paid to that idea; between the coastal erosion and unexploded shells on the artillery range the old dirt road was out of reach, very disappointing.

A second chance to get off the road comes at Wedge Island.  This is a fascinating place, a community of leasehold fishing shacks, like a shanty town hidden behind the sand dunes.  It is also a rabbit warren of a place, devoid of sign posts.  We found what looked like the beach access, but with a howling onshore wind and rain in the air caution won out.

North of Wedge Island is Nambung NP, which contains a real gem of nature, the Pinnacles.  Quite how the limestone formations came to be is still open for debate – some say rain cemented the lower levels of dunes into limestone, others that plant roots were involved.  Whatever their origin they are well worth seeing, like thousands of rough sentinels stood randomly across the sand, reaching up to 4m high.

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Something we were becoming aware of, heading up the coast, was the scarcity of cheap, decent camp areas.  There are caravan parks but for an overnighter the (near) roadside camp is all that’s needed.  Point Louise was a welcome exception, set just north of Green Head.  Although just a large gravel area it was alongside a beach, was clean and had a toilet.  It also came with bonus comedy.

Just as we were setting up a bloke wandered up seeking a shovel – turns out he had tried to 3 point turn on the track behind the beach and got stuck in the verge.  Being a rear wheel drive sedan with almost bald tyres probably contributed, it certainly meant no grip on the sand tracks so the tow strap had to come out.  No photos, he was embarrassed enough….

Waminda – Tue 5th May

Another triumph of wiki camps.  The idea of a night at a private animal sanctuary where they give you breakfast and ask for a donation rather than a fee was too good to miss.

Just outside of Geraldton, Waminda (“peace and tranquillity”) is 11 acres of bush inland but on the slopes overlooking the sea.  Set up over 20 years ago by Ian and his wife Chaliaw it takes in injured and abandoned animals.  For more information see Waminda Link.

The girls were in heaven, hand feeding Emus, Kangaroos, all sorts of birds, a horse (Ian’s stock horse from his farming days), a pig and chickens.  There are also dingoes but its adults only in that enclosure, kids being smaller look too much like a snack.

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Most amusing when the kids refuse to wear suitable footwear, is to throw the chook feed across their toes – they don’t get pecked but its arguable who squawks loudest

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They got their own back when the parrot decided to Long John Silver me.

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Kalbarri – Wed 6th May

On our trip we had not planned to visit another country.  After all Australia is both country and continent right?  Apparently that may be wrong.  18,500 acres of wheatland 595km north of Perth maintains it is a Principality under the governance of HRH Prince Leonard.  No, I’m not making this up, and the ATO show him as non-resident.

The Casley family were wheat farmers who would have been adversely affected by a quota proposed in 1969 by the WA government.  To cut to the chase (its all at Principality Link) it seems the farmer was quite a bush lawyer, first claiming independence and then adopting the status of Principality to obtain protection under the 1495 Treason Act, which provides that anyone hindering a de facto Prince in the discharge of his Princely duties may be charged with treason.

Oh, and in 1977 they also declared war on Australia, and claimed victory under the Geneva Convention based on expiry of time without response – presumably Canberra was too busy laughing to send in the troops.

Kalbarri itself is a pleasant enough town on the seaward side of the park.  Just outside of town is Big River Ranch, a riding stables with a camp site attached.  Great camp kitchen, and hot showers very welcome.  Not so welcome the peacock / turkey duet from 5am the next morning – it quickly turned a planned two night stay into one.

Worth a mention along the way is Northampton, where the coffee shop is run by an expat from the UK, who happens to be a chef.  Seriously, she makes the best pies, the best of the trip so far.

Francois Peron NP – Thu 7th to Fri 8th May

Driving through Kalbarri NP you could be forgiven for wondering why it was so special.  What is visible from the road is flat, bleak, and filled with various types of non-descript shrub.  However this is doing it a disservice, as its jewels lie along the Murchison River.

Set at the end of a fairly rough dirt track (so plenty of passing Britz vans uncomfortably bumping along) its all about the rocks and the river.  First up is Natures Window, where the horizontal strata have weathered to leave an opening which conveniently frames the river behind.  Beautiful but getting a photo is like trying for a seat on the train at rush hour; ahead of us the cameraman was exhorting “different pose” so often we were about to pose him into the river…..

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Second is Z-Bend, where the river has cut a narrow gorge into the plateau.  Hitting harder rocks in places it has been forced into some sharp turns, hence the name.

15-05-07 Kalbarri, Z Bend

Heading north from here the road is pretty non-descript and remains so until Denham.  At this point you have the choice of heading to Monkey Mia, famous for the dolphins which come so close you can touch them, or the national park to the north.  Given the dolphins are tame because they are fed, we chose the park.

There is one road in, in the main it is red sand but also crosses a couple of salt pans.  Not overly difficult, with only one boggy section, but in places corrugated and at 35km a long drive chasing sunset to set up camp.

15-05-09 Francois Peron NP

There are no trees here, its all low scrubby bushes dragging moisture from the sand.  Sounds awful but actually it is spectacular in the contrast between the red of the sand and the varying blues of the sea and sky.

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But dear God the flies.  Courtesy of a couple of cyclones in the last 2 months there is a fly plague roughly from Kalbarri north.  Unless you had a net on they seemed to be contesting how many they could fit up your nose, in your ears or heaven forbid you open your mouth.

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A couple of days was enough, perhaps with fewer flies it would be a place to stay longer.  The sites are large and facing the ocean and just offshore was a small reef for snorkelling where the girls saw their first turtle.  However time was pressing, with the girls booked into Exmouth High School for NAPLAN on the 12th.

Gladstone – Sat 9th May

Heading away from Denham is Shell Beach.  No sand here, the entire beach is made up of cockle shells, and its not a small beach.  The water here, through a quirk of currents, it twice as salty as normal and the cockles apparently thrive on it.

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Gladstone camp is in the middle of nowhere.  Just a turnoff opposite the homestead on whose land it lies, then 5km of dirt until you hit the sea; a clean and very convenient stop over on the long haul up to Exmouth but not much else unless you have a tinny and like fishing.

Margaret River to GinGin– Sun 26th April to Sat 2nd May

Margaret River – Sun 26th to Tue 28th Apr

Heading out of Drafty’s camp the track runs through the forest, the trees towering overhead in a way almost reminiscent of Californian redwoods.

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Heading through the thriving and really rather nice, little town of Pemberton, the road runs through a mixture of woodland and agriculture before fetching up in Margaret River.  Whilst this is a pretty part of the world in the natural beauty stakes it is not quite in the same league as the south coast; it does make some pretty good wine though.

First stop was Swallows Welcome.  To say this is idiosyncratic is an understatement.  Self-styled as the smallest vineyard in Margaret River it is tucked away about 5km from town.  The owner built a small chapel to house his wife’s art, if no one is in the tasting room you ring the chapel bell to get attention. To be fair the wine is pretty good, as is their Pensioners Port.  Meeting up with with a mate, Andrew Thomasson, who was running a photography course (see for all the details), the girls were an instant hit as impromptu models for his students.

Further north of Margaret River is Aravina.  Not exactly a bastion of fine wine, but worth a mention for the vintage car collection on display next to the tasting rooms.  Pretty location too.

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Seaward of the town is Prevelly, tucked on the hillside behind the beach and a great place to watch the sun go down over the ocean at Surfers Point, venue for the Margaret River Pro surf contest.  With sunset the light is great for photography, with the girls again drafted in as models.

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Geographically Margaret River is a bulge at the SW corner of WA, with Cape Leeuwin at the south end and Cape Naturaliste at the north.  The vineyards are scattered about, but primarily around town and towards the north.  Hamelin Beach was a great spot for a picnic lunch.  Also worth a mention is Boranup Beach, with a great 4wd track in – not so great was snagging the fishing rod on a low tree and snapping the tip, a bit of a blow given the aim was to have a fish on the beach.

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Home for the 3 days we were here was Glenbrook Estate; not a winery as the name suggests, but a camp ground just south of town.  Originally run for school camps, rampant OH&S put paid to that, and it is now a low key camp spot.  It is one of those places with no sites marked, and everyone gathers around the campfire after dinner – just the kind of place we like.

Elgin – Wed 29th to Thu 30th Apr

All good things and all that, time to move on.  Probably not a bad thing as the weather was forecast to be poor for the next couple of days.

Heading north, just before the road heads east, you pass through the little village of Yallingup.   Not only does it have some fine views of the ocean, but at the entry to the village there is a delightful little bakery selling Googlehupf, including an interesting version with speck.

From there its Busselton and the road to Bunbury.  The only notable thing on this stretch was the Holy Mile.  For some reason there is a string of religious campgrounds all in a line.   With both Catholic and Anglican represented images of the Spanish Inquisition came to mind.

Franloy is a farmstay based on a working dairy farm.  Only opened this year it boasts one of the best camp kitchens we have come across, and the softest grass of the trip so far.  Also a bonus was the woodfired stove, especially as the weather forecast had for once proved accurate.

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The camp kitchen was so good we stayed a second night to get some lessons done.

Perth – Fri 1st May

Whilst Perth may have many plus points, the availability of campsites and the prices charged do not seem to be among them.  Unfortunately there was no avoiding it, we needed to have a wheel stud fixed on the trailer.  A big thumbs up for Daniel, with the repair being fully covered, and also for Towsafe who fitted us in at short notice.

It may seem strange that we did not see the sights, but to be honest cities are not top of the list for us and the extortionate price to stay was just a touch offputting.

On the positive side the guy at the site who showed us around was also a 110 owner, so conversation turned to things Land Rover and Hilary’s eyes glazed over…..

GinGin – Sat 2rd May

Just outside of GinGin is an interesting little place called the Gravity Centre, with various interactive displays designed to demonstrate science, primarily in relation to gravity and space.

The girls had great fun working the exhibits.  Highlights included a toroidal vortex machine (basically a smoke ring machine) and the leaning tower, from which water bombs are used to test Galileo’s question of which object would hit the ground first, heavier or lighter.

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Just around the corner is Willowbrook Farm.  We had expected a little farmstay like Franloy, so were taken by surprise to see a full blown campground;  however it is fortunately much more relaxed than a caravan park.

The girls were well entertained feeding the animals – as well as 43 sheep there are a few alpacas and a small herd of cows including a Texas longhorn, looks scary but really quite friendly.

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Also staying were the Mandurah Vietnam Vets, they meet here the first May weekend each year and Sat night is there main dinner plus live singer.  A great night, sat around the campfire chatting with the girls burning marshmallows.

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