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