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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ospreys also call the cliffs home.
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
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.