Chasing Sun and Wildflowers – day 29

Karalundi to Cue

A short travel day today of only 172 kms. The nights are getting cooler as we move further south, so it was nice to be able to lay in bed a bit longer. It was around 9am when we hitched up to leave.

We were held up behind a two of the massive sized mining loads. With our two way on we could talk to the escort vehicles, and listen to them as they controlled the traffic in both directions on the road – fascinating. Approaching vehicles were told long in advance to move off the road as two 5.5 metre wide loads were approaching. The escort to the rear of the loaded trucks, who we were directly behind, instructed us to come closer. We listened as he liaised with the lead vehicle in the convoy, who eventually told him there was a flood lane coming up so we would be good to go. He signalled for us to pass. Yikes! There wasn’t much room, and not a lot of length to the available road. I swore a bit, Paul kept calm. The guy in the support vehicle complimented Paul on his driving skills – yikes again! What if he wasn’t such a skilled driver, what if I’d been driving. Note to oneself, never offer to drive on the mining roads.

As we neared Cue there were more and more wildflowers lining the roads. In the next few days these are clearly going to be showing themselves in prolific abundance, so these were just a bit of an appetiser.

We arrived at the Cue caravan park at 11am. This has to be the best value caravan park around. Individual ablution cubicles, a good laundry, campers kitchen and TV room. Plus an outdoor fire pit with wood supplied, all for $20 a night (seniors rates).

Cue, once know as the Queen of the Murchison, now has to be one the saddest towns around. In the late 1800s Cue, a town built on gold, was booming, with a population of around 10,000. Such was the wealth of the area that some of the most grandiose buildings seen in rural Western Australia were built there. Many are still standing to be admired today. During its hey day the town boasted 11 hotels, but as the fortunes of the town began to fade in the early 1900s, so did the town. By the 1940s the population was less than 1000, and has continued to fall since. In the 2016 census only 194 people called Cue home.

Today there are rows of shops boarded up and falling into disrepair. If any town is deserving of being made into an historical, tourist town then Cue is. It makes me think of the book, A Town Like Alice. It’s a town I’d love for some wealthy entrepreneur to take a fancy too. Perhaps the old vacant hotel could be turned into luxury accommodation. A good restaurant with a good chef, and a couple of classy, countrified cafes. A country life emporium selling soaps, candles, dried flowers, and all manner of home wares, and an old fashioned, type of Draper shop but one that caters to today’s market. Put a museum in for some added interest, and add a few tours to some of the local places of interest. Ah, I’m dreaming again, I know. But it’s such a shame to see a town once so great that it was given the Royal title of, The Queen of the Murchison, and now it’s almost derelict. There’s potential here I’m sure….

Soon I’ll tell you about two of those possible destinations for tours – fascinating places.

Chasing Sun and Wildflowers – day 28

Newman to Karalundi

After getting fuel we were on our way before 8.30. Our destination for the night, Karalundi. An uneventful 4 1/2 hours of travel, with relatively flat vistas, but clearly we’re approaching some serious wild flower country. A few different varieties are starting to bloom along the roadside, but as yet there hasn’t been any wow! factor displays. The best are yet to come….

We’ve by- passed Karalundi several times before. This time we thought we’d call in and check it out. Rick, true to the two signs behind the counter, gave us a warm welcome and checked us in. With WA being so busy this season it was like a breath of fresh air to be greeted warmly without the tired, jaded reception that’s becoming usual.

Later in the day I was talking to the Kez (Rick and Kez run the caravan park). Kez was most informative when asked about the history of Karalundi. I hope I remember this all correctly. The place first opened in 1954 as a Seventh Day Adventist Mission for aboriginal children., and was closed approximately 20 years later. With government funding it again opened in 1987, this time as a boarding school for aboriginal children. The school provides education for children from primary through to secondary school, with a religious based (Seventh Day Adventist )curriculum. If I remember correctly the number of children currently boarding at the school is 37.

I’m not sure when the caravan park was added. It’s small, with power and water for approximately 20 vans, and a large unpowered area for many more. I gather It is slowly being developed and extended. I hope it doesn’t get too big, it’s perfect as it is. The ablutions are clean with roomy cubicles, a shower curtain to stop your clean clothes getting wet, and lots of hooks. The camp kitchen is more than adequate, with two big barbecues each with a hood, and much more. Someone had lamb cutlets sizzling under the hood of one when I looked, yum! Everything in the kitchen was spotless including the barbecues, and I know how hard it is to keep a barbecue with a hood clean. Two on site chalets are available, a one bedroomed unit that will sleep three (queen bed, and pull out single sofa bed), and a two bedroom chalet that sleeps five (queen room, two single beds in next bedroom, and a sofa bed). Both chalets have an ensuite. I didn’t see inside the chalets, but I’m sure they’ll have that same clean, homeliness that’s apparent wherever you look. A sense of pride is evident throughout.

We spent the afternoon giving the caravan a good clean, I think I have managed to get most of the red dust out. With clean sheets, towels, and the floor clean and free of dust and grit, I slept soundly overnight. I don’t know about you, but if my house, or caravan starts to feel grungy, I feel grungy too. Paul rolled out the awning and gave that a good scrub too.

There’s a cafe on site, as well as a few basic supplies for campers. From all of the WIKI reviews the Angus beef burgers are up there with the best. We purchased two yummy vanilla slices for our afternoon tea, and ordered two beef burgers for dinner, which Rick and his two children, Riley and Ali, personally delivered to our caravan. They were absolutely delicious. We’d spied a communal pit earlier in the day so we wandered over for the evening to join the other travellers. It’s always nice to sit around a fire pit and swap a few yarns and travel tips with fellow travellers.

We’ve left the hot weather behind now, so I’ve stowed my summer clothes under the bed, and hung up some warmer clothing in the wardrobe. We’ll be home early next week, so the washing can wait till we get home, and I think this will be the final big clean for this trip while on the road. Much as we love getting away on big road trips, it’s always just as exciting to get home again. But we have a few wildflowers to see first…..

Chasing sun and Wildflowers – day 27

Port Hedland to Newman

We left the caravan park and went in search of the auto electrician. Thank goodness for Sat-Nav the sea mist was thick. We could barely see two metres in front of us, so there is no way we could see any street signs. By 8.30am a new Anderson plug had been fitted and we were on our way. We didn’t fancy the planned alfresco breakfast in the thick, damp, mist, so headed south out of town, leaving the mist behind us. The photo taken below was on the way out of town where the mist was lighter.

It wasn’t long before the flat, barren land close to Port Hedland gave way to the stunning ranges and glorious colours that signified we were nearing our planned destination of Mt Robinson.

We were in Iron Ore country using roads frequented by road trains, and heavy mining transports. Twice we were shunted off to the verge by the support vehicles to make way for gigantic loads.

It was just after midday when Mt Robinson came into sight.

We found a lovely secluded spot and were looking forward to enjoying a few hours exploring and photographing the surrounding countryside. It was hot, so we opened all the windows to keep the van cool, and put the awning out. We don’t usually take the time to put the awning up in overnight spots, but with a long afternoon in front of us, it would be worth while. I cooked Tilly’s dinner, then we sat outside with a glass of iced water, eating our lunch time sandwiches. There were some wild flowers, purple mulla mulla, nearby, so I wandered off with my trusty phone camera, leaving a full glass of water on the little table attached to my chair.

The wind blew up and with it the red dust. It was strong enough to blow my chair over, breaking my water glass as it hit the ground. Tills was looking like, ‘red dog’, as he was hot so chose to lay in the red dirt rather than on his mat. An hour of that breeze and the inside of the van would have had a layer of red dust over everything. Once red dust gets in, there’s no way you can get it out, and nothing will age a van faster. The few hours of peaceful solitude enjoying the Pilbara landscape suddenly lost its appeal! We rolled up the awning, and left Mt Robinson behind, setting off for the overnight caravan spot at the Newman’s visitor’s centre.

Picturesque it isn’t, quiet and peaceful it isn’t. But it’s clean. We paid our ten dollars fee, and set about washing the red dust off Tills. We were next, a shower to get the red dust off ourselves, and over to the pub for a cool drink and their Wednesday night special of steak and chips. Dinner was ok, nothing great, but we didn’t have to cook it, or clean up afterwards. So that was yesterday’s travel. That extra 109 kms will shorten today’s trip considerably, so I’ll have time to give the van a bit of a clean before we leave. It’s starting to feel grungy…..

Chasing sun and wildflowers – day 26

Broome to Port Hedland

We were hitching up to leave Broome when we noticed that Anderson plug for the caravan stability control was missing, with the casing that holds it battered and bruised. Whoops, the Mr forgot to plug it in after our last overnight stop, and clearly it had dragged along the ground as we travelled along. Oh well, ya get that sort of thing when caravanning. Plans were revised quickly with an 8am appointment at an auto-electrician in Port Hedland the following morning.

it meant a slightly longer travel day than we’d anticipated, and it meant a $55 caravan park fee in Port Hedland as apposed to a free 24 hour roadside stop. We’ve only ever driven through Port Hedland before, so we made plans to get the Anderson plug fixed first thing the following morning, and then we were going to drive into the town for an al fresco breakfast, and a quick squiz at the town before travelling to our next nights destination. We had left Broome at around 8am, and were set up in the caravan park before 4pm.

With the caravan park right next to a beach, and a couple of hours of daylight left we took Tills for a long beach walk.

The Sand Bubbler crabs clearly enjoy the deserted beach. I’ve never seen such extensive patterns before.

Busy little Sand Bubbler Crabs

Then steaks cooked on the communal barbecue with salad for dinner, a look at the news on TV, a few pages of my book and an early night.

Too darn hot!

I quite like the heat, but I’m sure it’s hotter up here than it usually is at this time of year. Mr Tilly’s not doing well in the heat. He’s off his food, and is having trouble keeping things down. We took him to the vet a couple of weeks ago. Seemingly nothing to much to worry about, but the vet put him on a bland diet of boiled chicken and rice for a few days to settle his stomach. Paul’s in town as I write this fetching more chicken breasts and rice.

We were due to leave here Wednesday, but have decided bring that forward to head for cooler weather sooner. We’ve spent today packing up, and will leave tomorrow morning. It’ll take a couple of days to get to milder weather, and then a couple more days and we’ll be feeling the cold. Once we hit the cold we’ll be in wild flower country. I expect internet cover will be hit and miss for a few days, but I’ll post details of the journey when I’m able to. So watch this space…..

Johnny Chi Lane

A great place to start any visit to Broome is to visit Chinatown, and walk down Johnny Chi Lane. The arcade runs between Dampier terrace and Carnarvon Street, and is easily found by its distinctive, Broome styled, entrance at either end. If you allow yourself a couple of hours to meander down the twisting lane you’ll emerge with a good insight and appreciation of Broome’s history, and how it evolved to be the popular tourist destination it is today.

In Broome’s hey day Johnny Chi ran a long soup kitchen from the site. Today the lane has been rebuilt in the style of architecture that typifies broom, and named to honour Johnny Chi.

Twenty story boards are spaced along the lane providing good insight into Broome’s early days. They are definitely worth taking some time to read.

There’s a mix of souvenir shops, clothing shops, art shops etc in the lane to browse through.

A free to use art table with supplies is located in the middle of Dampier street end of lane, and alongside it a second hand book cart. The second hand book cart sells donated books with the proceeds going towards animal welfare for the town. Broome doesn’t have a good reputation as far as animal welfare goes!

By the time you’ve finished browsing the shops, and reading about Broome’s history you’ll be in need of some refuelling. I’d suggest a delicious fresh juice or smoothie from Chi Mayi. The Green Reviver did the trick for me.

Broome has a colourful history, which coupled with its unique ecology explains why it’s grown into such a popular tourist destination. Some people, like myself, come here and fall in love with the place, a love affair founded on the amazing weather, the unique ecology, and the history. Broome has the ability to transport one back in time, to almost feel the buzz in ones bones of the frontier town Broome once was, to feel the deep, deep sorrow when learning about the cruel practice of Blackbirding….

The indigenous history, the pearling days, the wars, and the mung bean days off the 1970s have all played a part in making Broome what it is today. Some people hate Broome, seeing it only as an over priced, over populated touristy town. I’m sure those people have never taken the time to take a slow walk down Johnny Chi Lane. If they had, the history of Broome would have planted its seed, a seed that when fertilised with the unique colours and ecology of the surrounded landscape, and watered with a cooling dip in the turquoise waters of Cable Beach – well how can one help but fall in love with this little piece of paradise. I certainly have. What a pleasure it is to come here again, and again, and again….

Explaining Broome tides

Apologies in advance if this all sounds complicated. I mention the tides in Broome nearly every year mainly because at least a few cars are lost to the sea here each season. Understanding the tides is a necessity if one wants to drive up Cable Beach, and hundreds do just that every day. A knowledge of the tides is worth having even just to know where to put one’s umbrella or towel on the sand before taking a dip in the inviting waters. A bit of self education, and it becomes simple…..

The tides in Broome are amongst the largest in the world. I wrote a post on them a few years ago, which is one of the most read posts in my blog.

Here’s a little more explanation on how relevant the tides are in Broome.

The biggest tides occur both when the moon is full, and when there’s a new moon. These are called the Spring tides. As the moon reaches a quarter crescent the tides are called Neap tides. You’ll see on the tide chart below that there’s considerably less variation between the low and high tides during the Neap tides. During the Spring tides the low tides are much lower, the high tides much higher.

To give that some perspective, on the 26th August, the high Spring tide was 9.47metres, the low tide a mere 1.15metres. These measurements are relevant to the depth of tide, not the distance on the beach, and that’s very important to know when in Broome. The beaches around Broome have a gentle slope, so a difference of 8 metres between the high tide and low tide equates to around 1/2 kilometre of beach length. In contrast, on the 19th August, during a neap tide phase, the low tide was much higher at 4.57 metres, with a much smaller rise in tides to a mere 6.71. During this phase of the Luna/tide cycle it’s reasonably safe to access the beach at any time. I know that all sounds convoluted, but stick with me and I’ll try and clarify it a bit.

On Cable Beach when setting up a beach umbrella, if the tide is on the way out you can set it up almost at the waters edge. If it’s on the way in, then look where the umbrella hire company has set their’s up and align yours with theirs. They know where the high tide will reach. If the the tide isn’t going to be high their umbrellas will be grouped spreading down the beach, rather than in a long thin line close to the sand dunes, as they are in the photo below.

We love to watch newbies to Broome smugly setting up their umbrellas closer to the waters edge, clearly wondering why everyone else is almost in the dunes. In the photos below, this group set up close to water. Within 20 minutes they were scrambling to get everything down, but still they didn’t take note of the umbrellas set up way above them on the shore. They moved back about 10 metres. Another 20 minutes the water again reached their umbrella, they packed up and left. We had a little chuckle to ourselves…. Ah, people watching can be such fun!

if you note where the waves are breaking in this next photo, that’s approximately where the above group were not 30 minutes before – yes that’s the distance the tide rises in a short time, and that’s why it’s so important to understand the tides if one chooses to drive a car down the beach.

With our umbrella safely in line with the hire umbrellas we watched as the water came almost up to our toes, and knew the tide would turn without any danger of it swamping us.

Broome is on a peninsula, the white sands of cable beach on one side, and the red earth, rich turquoise waters, and mangroves on the Roebuck Bay side. The tides are relevant all around the peninsula. Below are some comparison shots between high and low tide on the Roebuck Bay side.

As you can see the water is a long, long way out on all the photos on the left. On the high tide (in the photos on the right), the mud flats, mangroves and jetty are completely swamped. I hope this gives you an idea if the size of the tides and just what they mean. As you can clearly see, an 8 metre difference in tides means a lot, lot more than 8 metres more of beach length. There will be big fish swimming where the jetty joins the rocks when the tides in. We know, we’ve watched them being caught there.

So there you have it, the tides explained. Now I’m going to mosey down to the beach again and see who latest high tide has caught out…..

Eco Bay Beach Resort

Our day trip out on the Karma 1V took us to the gorgeous bay on which the expensive Eco Bay Resort is located. We were dropped by tender onto the stunning white sands of the bay at around 11.30am. Shelters equipped with hammocks hanging in the shade dotted the shore, a perfect place to relax after making use of one of the many kayaks or paddle boards lying on the beach ready for guests to use.

A short trudge up the sand hill took us to the meeting place for the passengers from the boat. Lunch was available when ever we chose to have it, as long as we were finished and ready to board the boat again at 2pm. There was a short free tour available of the the resort including a look at the accommodation options. Or we could have a swim in the pool or bay, use the kayaks, or make use of the bar or the on site cafe.

We took the tour. The accommodation is all linked by a series of wooden boardwalks. First we visited a garden view glamping tent. During the peak season (winter months) these start at $230 per night, (accommodation only). The glamping tents are set up with a generous, very comfortable looking king sized bed, made up with hotel quality linen. A small wicker table, two wicker chairs, a free standing hanging rail, an esky with ice, and a fan complete the bedroom. There’s a basic ensuite to the rear, and a big canvas patio overlooking the native gardens to the front. A barbecue can be brought up for use on the patio if required.

Next we went onto the garden view villa. These were rather special. The main living room held a table with four chairs, a set of bunks, and a big sofa that converts to bed. The kitchen was equipped with a fridge and microwave, but no other cooking appliances. Again a barbecue was available if required for use on the verandah. Off the living room was a king sized bedroom with a dressing table, and both areas were linked by a two way access bathroom. An added touch of luxury in the villas was air conditioning.

Ah, now this had us dreaming. We’d want an ocean front villa of course. we could just imagine how amazing it’d be to be lying in bed listening the waves gently lapping against the shore through the night, then pulling the curtains back in the early morning to look out over the stunning turquoise bay. But with in season prices starting from $780 per night – perhaps not!

The accommodation prices don’t include any meals. I wonder how much extra these following two options would set one back.

Meal options for guests

Apparently the usual stay here is three nights, and if you’re wondering what there is to do here for three nights besides the beach activities, here’s a look at the activity boards.

Our tour over, we headed to the restaurant. We both chose the crispy skin salmon, which came with sweet potato chips and a generous side salad, followed by a tangy Citrus tart. Paul had a cool ale with his. I would have liked a fruit smoothie, but alas they didn’t do smoothies. Never mind, water was better for me anyway. The lunch didn’t disappoint, and the view from our table over the bay was amazing.

Pool looking out over ocean

We finished lunch in time for a cooling dip in the bay before the tender arrived at the beach to take us back on board the boat for our return trip to Broome. A gorgeous little piece of paradise for a variety of champagne budgets. Me and mine though – well our holiday budget is more in the beer price range, but how lucky are we anyway that our beer budget could still stretch for us to sail in and take a look at what would certainly tempt us with a nice lotto win. Ah! the stuff dreams are made of……

Karma IV

With Tills safely lodged in doggy day care we made our way to Gantheaume Point for our rendezvous with the Karma IV, a catamaran with a capacity for around 60 passengers. Our meeting time was 8.25am, our destination for today, a lunch date at Eco Bay Resort approximately 100kms south if Broome. We arrived early, and so were among the first to be taken by tender out to the boat. Coffee, tea, water, and jars of ginger and peppermints were available to help ourselves too. A cup of green tea, and a square of ginger to settle our stomachs in case of sea sickness, and we went in search of a place to sit. The nets on the lower deck did look interesting, but I wasn’t sure I’d manage to get out of them, instead we found a nice bollard at the rear of the boat on the upper deck, and settled in for the trip.

We were underway by 9am, leaving behind the various craft anchored in the bay, and the red cliffs bordering Gantheaume.

Shortly after departure the crew came around with trays of cheese and tomato croissants. Having been warned against eating breakfast, we were ready for something by this stage. Yum! Considering they were no doubt prepared and heated in the galley, and knowing how limited most galley kitchens are on board boats, they were exceptional. Hot, light, and crispy, just the way I like them to be. There was a bit of a breeze, so it wasn’t long before they pulled the sail up the huge mast, and we settled back mesmerised by the wake trailing behind the boat.

A whale was breaching on the horizon, but there would be time for following whales and taken photographs on the return journey (at least that was the plan). More food came around. A tray of spinach and ricotta pasties, followed shortly afterwards by a huge platter of warm blueberry and white chocolate muffins, and home made biscuits. Pleased I didn’t eat breakfast….

We sailed into Eco Bay resort around 11.30. The boat anchored offshore and shunted us in by tender. A lovely 2 1/2 hours in the bay, time enough for a short tour of the resort (more about that later), a leisurely lunch and a swim in the bay.

Then back on board for some whale spotting on our return trip. The onboard bar was open, actually it’d been open for the duration of the trip. A few people, obviously with with a better ability to metabolise alcohol than Paul or I have, had made good use of the bar from early in the day. Paul purchased a beer, I was happy with cooled water. The speakers were placed on deck, and ‘fossil rock’ played creating a party atmosphere as we sailed back towards Broome. Being on an open deck with shade sails above us, the music was never too loud. We rocked away to the sounds of (amongst others) AC/DC, Cold Chisel, Springsteen, Queen, and Billy Joel. The crew kept a look out for whales.

A few turtles could be seen swimming by, but no whales. One of the crew climbed the mast for a better view….. yikes! Pleased it was him and not me.

Eventually a whale was spotted. The skipper manoeuvred the boat to a better position – and the whale dived down, never to be seen again. This happened several times. Clearly the whales were in a hurry to complete today’s section of their journey south and weren’t interested in hanging about posing for pesky tourists. It wasn’t for lack of trying that the passengers went home with cameras void of any whale photos. The luck of the draw I guess when photographing wildlife.

A constant supply of food was handed around throughout the afternoon. Lightly toasted Turkish bread with dip, pastries, dumplings, and spring rolls. Lots of food to help soak up the bubbles and beer. Goodness, some people have an amazing ability to consume alcohol without any obvious effect. More than three glasses of bubbles and I would have been asleep, some people would have had more than ten glasses without showing any obvious signs. It had the potential to get messy, but thank goodness, it didn’t. Perhaps the crew were monitoring the signs and pacing people accordingly.

We sailed back into Gantheaume as the sun was resting on the ocean. By the time we were back on solid ground, the sun was long gone, leaving just a strip of colour to say good-bye to the day. What a great way to spend a day, relaxing on the ocean, glorious weather, and even more appreciated because I’m all to aware that most of this country can’t take advantage of such pleasures at the moment. As I’m typing this, the news just out is that NSW recorded 1029 cases of community acquired Delta strain yesterday. In WA we currently have no community transmission, so are free to travel, almost without restriction, anywhere within our own huge state. (Fingers crossed that it stays that way). Who knows if our luck will run out sometime soon. We currently have the freedom and we will make sure we use it. A lovely day out. What a pleasure!