Final preparations for the Gibb River

This will most likely be my last blog post for a few weeks. We’re unlikely to have any cover for phone or for the net after we leave Derby tomorrow night, so won’t be able to make, or receive phone calls or emails from anyone. If anything occurs that’s urgent, we’re heading to Derby tomorrow to stay overnight, then heading in an Easterly direction across the Gibb River. I’m sure the police will locate us via the grapevine if the need arises, but I’m sure that’s not going to be necessary…

Our itenary has changed a little as the planning has progressed. As it stands at the moment we expect to be making our way towards Drysdale Station over the first few days, then we’ll be at Drysdale for 20th and 21st June, Parry Creek on 24th and 25th, Bungles, 26th and 27th, Cape Leveque 30th June – 4th July, then Banana Wells from 4th July – 8th. Then back into Cable Beach. We hope we’ve allowed enough time.

It’s going to be a bit of a trial to fit everything into the ute most likely, that’s this afternoons job. Then, tomorrow morning we have to move the food from the main caravan fridge to the portable Engel fridge, that’s going to be an even bigger trial.

We’ve decided eating out where possible is the way to go, and for the times we’re in a campsite relying on our devices, we’ve kept our meals simple. We’re only taking one little portable gas ring with disposable gas bottles, one large lidded frypan, and one small saucepan. The saucepan is for boiling water for hot drinks and washing dishes. The large frypan is for all dinners, which will be one pan affairs.

I’ve made and frozen bolognaise for four nights, which I’ll heat up with some fresh zucchini (courgettes for my European readers). Then when it’s heated through I’ll stir through some pasta which is also pre-cooked and frozen. I’ve chopped some chicken thighs for another four meals, which I’ll stir fry with some spices, carrots, cabbage and canned pineapple, then add a little bit of rice (also pre-cooked and frozen.) Hopefully it’ll be a reasonably edible sort of fried rice. I’ve previously tried freezing the bolognaise and pasta, or rice dishes as a whole. They re-heat very well in a microwave, but in a frypan they end up all mashed together, so now I freeze the pasta and rice separately to stir through at the last minute.

For the remaining two or three meals I’ll make a bechamel sauce in the large frypan, then add some defrosted, pre-cooked brown rice, some dried peas, a small can of corn, and a can of tuna. When it’s heated through sufficiently, I’ll turn off the gas and top with tomato slices and some more grated cheese, and leave it till the cheese melts. If I was making this at home there’d be fresh veges in it, and at the end I’d pop it under the grill to brown,  but this trip is going to require improvisation. In fact all the meals are very much improvised from what they’d be if I was cooking them either at home, or in the caravan. if there’s one thing I’ve realised over the years, it’s that cooking is more of art than an exact science – so having to improvise appeals to my artistic side!

For breakfast were taking a couple of tubs of Greek yogurt, which we’ll have with either some soaked prunes, or canned peaches, and topped with chopped nuts and seeds. Lunches and snacks will be either corn thins or vita wheats with cheddar cheese and chutney, or with canned fish and sliced tomatoes and cucumber. We’ll be taking some fresh apples and mandarins too. All very basic, but I’m sure we’ll get though, and will be looking forward to a proper home cooked meal, and a nice big fresh salad by the time we get back to Broome in almost a months time.

We’re only taking our alumium travel mugs for tea and coffee, and we’re not taking any glasses. I suspect the things I’ll miss most are China cups, our crystal wine glasses (yes, we travel with crystal wine glasses in the caravan), and a ready supply of ice for my water. Those little luxuries will be all the more appreciated when we return.

I’m going to keep an old fashioned travel diary to record the trip, so as I can post about it accurately when I return. Paul’s taking the camera, so we should have plenty of photos too. Yeh! Number one bucket list destination is about to be experienced. Sooooo excited! Watch this space, I suspect there’ll be plenty of the best photos yet coming very soon…..

Broome’s own Jurassic park

We took a sunset flight on a Broome’s hovercraft, Big Bird yesterday evening, curtesy of Alice and Paul (this years birthday present). And yes, it is ‘a flight’, and not, ‘a ride’. The hovercraft hovers approximately 3 feet above the ground, so it is technically flying, and the person directing it is termed a hovercraft pilot.

Big Bird

I must admit, although I’d heard of dinosaur prints in Broome, I hadn’t really taken much notice. I think I had a certain of amount of scepticism too – thinking it was perhaps a lot of hype. After all, wouldn’t footprints, no matter how big and deep, disappear over the passage of time? Seemingly not, and we’ve now seen the proof, proof which was absolutely clear.

We were the first to be picked up from our accommodation at approximately 2.45PM. Our driver quickly whizzed around Broome picking up the rest of yesterdays tour, and after the usual safely information, we boarded the craft. Our pilot, Miles, visually, and quietly, assessed us (for weight) as we boarded, and directed us to where we needed sit. Apparently, weight distribution is important. Then we were on our way.

Big Bird is housed at the top of a ramp overlooking Roebuck Bay. I’m not sure if it’s possible for them to be flown in reverse, I think Miles said not. Anyway, he did advise it slides of it’s own accord down the ramp and onto the Roebuck Bay mudflats. It felt like we were travelling very slowly, so we were all surprised to hear we had been flying along at around 40 kms per hour. We were lucky enough to be seated on the left side of the craft, and yesterday, most of greenback turtles resting on the mud flats where on our side.

Greenback turtle resting on the mudflats.

We came to rest on damp but firm, tidal mud flats across the bay. Miles then took us to where nine footprints of an adult dinosaur are, plus several smaller prints that have been identified as a juvenile of the same species. Miles did say what type of dinosaur it’s been identified as, but the name escapes me now. It has been identified as a herbivore though, that I remember that much. Apparently these foot prints were made approximately 120 million years ago, how awesome is that.

To demonstrate the regularity of the prints, Miles picked nine of us to each stand in one of the adult footprints. They were definitely a regular distance apart, and one could almost visualise the huge, gentle giant meandering through the clay with her feet sinking several feet with each and every step. Clearly, from the small footprints, the juvenile was wondering along in the care of it’s parent, presumably it’s mother.

I don’t begin to profess an understanding of how the footprints came to be preserved, but from the explanation given, I have a vague idea. It involves solidification of the mud, and the rising up of Gondwana…..Ha, that much I got!  Those nine prints are something that have to be seen. Photographs couldn’t show the regularity that demonstrates clearly what they are.

Next, Miles showed us two more footprints, these ones on a higher rock shelf. In these ones it shows the compression of the foot prints. Paul’s attempted to photograph these. Knowing what it is, we can clearly see the absence of the layers caused by the compression, but I’m not sure it’ll be evident in the photo to anyone who wasn’t there to see it in person. Anyway, see what you make of it….

Giant foot print

Apparently, the Kimberley region, and particularly around Broome, there’s an unparalleled number of dinosaur tracks, Australia’s own Jurassic park. 21 species of footprints have been confirmed, with one of them being the only confirmed evidence of the Stegosaur. Additionally, the largest footprint ever recorded has been found here. By contrast though, no skeletal remains have been found here. Apparently, the climate here means the bones would have been broken down but the elements and literally would have turned to dust.

After the science lesson, we were presented with a glass of bubbly, and a table was set up on the mud flats with a fantastic variety of canapés as the sun set. We hardly needed dinner when we arrived back at our caravan park.

If you have an interest in pre-historic life, then this tour is a must. And if you don’t have much of an interest in pre-historic life, I’m sure this tour would tweak your interest. It certainly did for us. Dinosaur stories will never be the same again – it’s given them a reality that goes way beyond the Jurassic Park movie.

Entrance Point – Broome

Our last stop before reaching Broome was at Stanley, a roadside rest area 211 kms south of Broome. As far as rest areas go, it’s up there with the best in WA – very roomy, clean loos, and it even has some concrete slabs.

We’ve now been in Broome for four nights, and we’re loving it. We’ve been enjoying lots of walks, swims and drives along Cable Beach. We’ve given the van a rough clean to get the worst of the red dirt off, and we’ve shopped and restocked.

Yesterday morning we enjoyed a long walk along Cable beach in the morning, followed by a half hour on our boogie boards. Nice gentle waves with little danger to young children and grannies – perfect for me. After lunch we made a list of the Broome beaches to peruse during the afternoon. We’ve never spent long enough in Broome before to have time to explore much beyond Cable Beach. We expected to tick all the beaches off in one afternoon, and didn’t expect any would tweak our interest enough to warrant a second visit as an occasional alternative to the stunning Cable Beach.

How wrong we were. We didn’t get past the first beach on our list. Entrance Point, is near the Port and Broome fishing club, a good place to throw in a line (i’m told preferably on an outgoing tide – unusual). The beach is firm packed red sand at low tide, and with several boat ramps, a perfect place to launch a boat. Such an interesting place to walk, full of rock formations that arguably rival, and in my opinion, surpass the famous rock window at Kalbarri. We spent the entire afternoon at the one beach, so the other beaches on our list will have to wait for another day.

Entrance Point is a popular place for weddings and wedding photographs. Here’s why:

Low tide on the beach, looking though a gateway to the ocean.

Giant rock cliffs.

Caves visible on the low tide.

One of the many windows.

It was while Paul was photographing this that a couple of dogs out for a walk approached me with their owner. As always, I was eager to say hello to any little hair balls and give them a pat. The owner was most apologetic when they barely gave me a cursory ‘how do you do’ before scampering off. Apparently nothing gets in their way of them exploring all the little nocks and crannies this beach has to offer. It was easy to see why, and I can’t wait to bring our own little fur ball back there next year.

This window had a perfect natural window sill with green strata layers.

A perfect natural frame for your loved ones.

The receding tide hadn’t yet reached these rocks.

A door way through which to view the ocean.

And another window.

An interesting beach to walk along, lots of hard packed sand between the ground rocks.

Towering, stand alone, weather sculptured rock formations.

Gateway to ocean.

Just like an interesting garden with windows framing points of interest, walls, windows and doorways leading visitors to yet another vista – Entrance Point has it all. No wonder it’s famous for wedding photography, so many natural frames. Im sure a landscape gardener couldn’t have planned it better. As if Cable Beach isn’t enough, Entrance Point, a total contrast, full of interest, different – and just as perfect. A real pleasure! We’ll be back.

 

 

Dampier to Pardoo Station

On our second day at Dampier we took a day trip to Point Sampson, for research. And what are we researching I hear you ask? Dog friendly caravan parks! Paul and I have decided after almost a 1/4 of century of being dog free that it’s time to add a four legged companion to our household. We’re both extremely fond of cats, but cats aren’t as practical as caravan travelling companions, nor will they take kindly to the occasional few nights being pet sat at Alice and Paul’s when the need arises, and I’m sure there will be an occasional need. We have our name on a waiting list for a miniature Labrodoodle. It’s almost a nine month wait, a bit like waiting through a pregnancy, and almost as exciting.

We’re spending much of this trip researching pet friendly accommodation in the North West, and yes, having a pet is going to restrict both where we can stay, and where we can go for day trips. So far we’ve found between Perth (but not Perth itself) and Carnarvon will be a breeze. The Winter Sun in Carnarvon will be perfect for a week or two for sure.

There’s plenty of overnight free stops that are good enough for a night or two between major destinations. We just need to determine the best places to put on our list for longer stays of a week or two. We’ve worked out Point Sampson looks to be the nicest of the pet friendly parks in the Pilbarra. There’s nice beaches there for playing with a dog on, good for a paddle or a swim too, and certainly good for fishing. So, Point Sampson will most likely be our 2nd major place to stop after Carnarvon on next years trip. While at Point Samson we called at Tata’s restaurant for a light lunch – good service, a pleasant lunch, and interesting decor, and so, so clean.

Life sized horse sculpture at Tata’s

and beautiful ocean mosaic wall.

Meanwhile back at the caravan park in Dampier the corollas were waiting for Paul to return. We’d no sooner returned to camp and sat outside with a drink when one came visiting.That’s what you get when you give them a nut or two, they remember for the next night. Several watched from the trees while the first one came in to test the waters. Yep! once it was established that Paul was indeed a ‘soft touch’ for the second night, the whole family/flock quickly descended upon us. I’m not sure if some had found water to have a good bath in, or if some had just taken a dust bath.

Clean and white

Clearly this one’s been enjoying the Pilbara dust

‘Soft touch’ Paul

Next stop,  Pardoo Station which gets great reviews for being pet friendly. As it turns out it wasn’t a good week-end to try it. Being a long week-end in WA, every man and his dog from Port Headland, only about 100 kms away, had decided to have a fishing week-end at Pardoo. It was jam packed. We were lucky to get a site, many that arrived later in the day weren’t so lucky and were turned away.

The station was in the middle of mustering, bringing the cows into pens directly opposite our caravan for re-tagging. Being confined to small holding pens after roaming free on the station didn’t make for happy cows. They bellowed their discontent well into the night. The wind was up, in fact, it was blowing a gale, carrying the noise, along with the smell of a couple of hundred penned cows directly towards the campers – but one has to expect that as a possibility when camping on a cattle station. Obviously the cows needs must come before the needs of the campers, and rightly so.

We drove down to the beaches to check out fishing spots. The tide was out, so what we saw I’m sure didn’t do justice to what the spots would look like at high tide. Perhaps, we’ll give it a second look one day, but for now from our first impressions, and despite the glorious sunset on our last night, it hasn’t made next years list.

As the sun drops over Pardoo

And dips a little further, turning from yellow to deep red

Tonight we’re camped in a free roadside camp at Stanley, approximately 200 kms from Broome. It’s a great overnighter with heaps of space and plenty of level areas for parking on. There’s lots of tables under shelters, and the toilets are in reasonable condition. A good, clean freebie before we head into Broome tomorrow is most welcome. After tonight, we’ll be paying Broome’s ‘high season’ prices of more than $50 a night. The caravan parks  fill up despite the high prices, so the cost is just a reflection on how much people love Broome – including us. Can’t wait…..

Colours of the Pilbarra

Finally an opportunity to visit Millstream/Chichester National park. Despite good intentions to visit this national park several times, something has always managed to come up that’s thwarted our planned visits. This time we made it, albeit only a day visit.

The drive from Dampier where we were camped was over 130km each way, much of which was on corrugated dirt roads. It would be an understatement to say the scenery on the way there was gobsmacking – the colours glorious. Words can’t describe the awesomeness of the wide open spaces, the deep red of the earth and rocks, the stunning flowers growing out of the seemingly barren earth….

Hopefully the photos will tell a better story than words ever could. This is what we saw:

Wide open spaces fringed by heat-hazed hilltops in the distance

The rich red of iron ore country

Sturt’s desert peas on the roadside

The approach to Python Pool

The cool clear waters of Python Pool dwarfed by the towering red rock back drop.

The only way to truly appreciate the magnificence of the rocks is to swim to where they join the water, and look up, and up, and up….

Spinefix Pigeons

and wildflowers

giant termite mounds built out of the red earth

And more wildflowers

and more wildflowers

The Fortescue river

Parrots in flight above the Fortescue River

And coming in to rest.

So, that was our day at Millstream/Chicester. The drive to the park with the promise of better things to come had us enthralled – then we came to Python Pool. I’m not sure if the pool is actually in the park, we found the pool before we found the entrance to the park. It’s amongst the best of any natural fresh water pools we’ve ever been in, those rocks towering above you when you look up – words, nor pictures can do that justice. It was awesome.

After our refreshing swim, we journeyed on with eager anticipation to the actual park. And from there on we were a bit disappointed. All the best scenery seemed to be on the approach to the park and at Python Pool, and in comparison the actual park was relatively flat and uninteresting. Are we pleased we went though – absolutely, I would go again. The 260 km round trip to Python Pool was worth every kilometre of the bone shaking drive. To float in clear, clean water looking up to the top of the rich rocks, and the contrast of the vivid blue sky above – an absolute pleasure!

Cape Range National Park

We’ve recently finished five nights at Kurrajong campsite in Cape Range National Park. There’s several campsites in the national park, all not that far as the crow flies from Coral Bay. However, not having the benefit of wings, the trip to get there from Coral Bay takes considerably longer for mere mortals than it does for the crows. Accessing the campsites means a road trip up the east coast of the Exmouth peninsula, through Exmouth, around the cape, and then down the west coast of the peninsula to reach the campgrounds.

The arid surroundings of Cape Range.

Local wildlife abounded.

The arid landscape means there’s no fresh water there, and the campgrounds have no electricity. There’s no phone or internet cover, and no TV reception. Our solar panels ensured sufficient power for our needs, and by being economical with our water we survived the five days using only our 180 litre tank, plus 4 additional 15 litre jerry cans. In fact we had water to spare, and so treated ourselves to a really good shower on the last day. TV, wasn’t missed at all, but the internet….. I think I had withdrawal symptoms. I think I’m addicted!

It was good to see one person had managed without the benefit of being able to use their mobile phone. We found a message written in the sand at one of the bays – clearly the meeting place had changed to Turquoise Bay.

A message spelled out in stones.

Being just up the coast from Coral Bay, Ningaloo reef is just offshore, so water based activities are high on most peoples agenda. Despite several fishing attempts, Paul only managed to bring in one Dart, which was one more fish than I managed to hook. Other people, however were bringing in some beauties. One of our fellow campers reeled in a Golden Trevally that fed two for four meals. Another caught a 60cm Spangled Emperor one night, and another of similar size in the middle of the afternoon the next day. The fish were there, just not for us.

Paul did a bit of snorkelling at Turquoise Bay, but somehow I couldn’t seem to get in the mood. Perhaps it was the wind that blew each and every day while we there, or perhaps it was those internet withdrawal symptoms….. Eventually, I started to feel sorry for poor Paul, out there looking at the pretty fish and coral with no-one beside him to share the experience. I donned my mask and headed out there to join him, only to discover as soon as I took my first underwater breath that the seal had disappeared from the end of my snorkel. Coughing and spluttering I returned to my towel on the shore and left poor Paul to it.

There’s plenty of walks in the park, and had the wind not being blowing incessantly perhaps we may have tackled a few more of them. We did one short walk at Yardie Creek. Yardie Creek is at the southern end of the park and signals the end of the accessible area on the north western side of the peninsula. The red shoreline provides a striking contrast between the deep blue waters of the creek and sky above. The photo below hasn’t been enhanced at all, so the colours you’re seeing are just as they were to our naked eye.

Yardie Creek flowing out to sea.

The winds usually blow all along the WA coast from around September until around Easter, and then they drop. This year they seem to be continuing on much longer than usual. On one of the days the wind was almost gale force, and blew for the entire day. Most other days it either blew up strong during the night, continuing into mid morning, or it blew up in the mid afternoon. So, sorry folks – we didn’t get to experience the park as much as we could have, and don’t have the amazing photos that I’m sure were there just waiting for us to snap. Perhaps next time…

 

 

A day of cooking

Cooking on the road is different than cooking in a house. Consideration needs to be given as to what is cooked inside the caravan, and when. Fish, curries, and other highly fragrant meals aren’t pleasant in your bedroom! Additionally, cooking anything that requires several hours heats up the caravan considerably more than it does a household kitchen. Meals are more often than not something that we cook up quickly outdoors, with barbecues being the obvious choice.

Sometimes we miss the slower cooked meals, and will spend a day lazing around the caravan, doing normal household chores like washing, and doing some good old ‘slow cooking’ to stock up the freezer. Nothings cooked quite the same as it is in a household kitchen, as can be seen from today’s effort. Cooking in a confined space with limited  bench space and cooking implements means making do. It doesn’t look as pretty, but still tastes okay.

The bedding’s been changed, and all the linen’s freshly laundered and drying in the sun. Don’t you just love the smell of sunshine on your sheets after a day of drying in direct sunlight.

A rich, red bolognaise is simmering in the electric frypan outside, almost ready to portion up for freezing in small meal size quantities. I’ll cook up a box of penne to freeze in similar sized portions separately from the bolognaise. If we’re in a place without power I find it better to have the sauce separated from the pasta. After both are defrosted, I’ll heat the sauce in a large saucepan first along with any vegetable additions (frozen spinach if nothing else is available), then at the last minute stir through the pre-cooked pasta.

Sauce ready to freeze in meal size portions.

Later this afternoon I’ll cook a roast chicken with veggies. The left over chicken will make us a salad tomorrow, and also provide some cooked chicken and left over veggies to add to another couple of meals. As you can see everything is cooked in the one frypan. Firstly the chicken, then the potatoes and pumpkin. Then at the end I place the cauliflower and broccoli flowers stalk down with the flowers supported by the rest of the roast. Not as I’d do it at home, but it works a treat in the caravan situation.

A one pan roast dinner – cooking is very different on the road.

Paul (our bread baker) has made a couple of  loaves . He makes his own recipes in a Panasonic bread maker. He slices them up before freezing.

Yum, I’ve just been handed a crust from this fresh loaf spread with butter and honey.

And to top it off, a batch of pancakes for today’s enjoyment – what a pleasure!

 

A stack of irregular shaped pancakes cooked in the electric frypan

Pancake topping – chopped banana and fresh mandarin in a sauce of mixed maple syrup and bitter orange marmalade.

We’re fortunate that our caravan has a good sized fridge and freezer. I don’t know how people manage months on the road with only a tiny fridge. Our fridge is usually full, and that’s without drinks. We use the Engel for our drinks and for any spill over of fresh produce that won’t fit in the fridge.

We have almost two weeks ahead of us without power, firstly a week at Cape Range National Park, starting tomorrow,  followed by almost a week of free roadside camping as we make our way to Broome. Starting out with all the laundry up to date, and a freezer, fridge and pantry well stocked with the ingredients for easy meals is going to make the trip easier. We’ll  be out of range for phone and internet as of tomorrow, so if things go quiet – it’s only because we haven’t any internet connection. I’ll update with where we are and what we’re doing as soon as technology allows me to.