The Eagle has landed – best sunset ever

Have you ever seen a more unique sunset than the one below? 

We had driven down Cable Beach a few afternoons ago, not intending to stay for sunset. However, the huge cloud formation above reminded us of some sort of bird, and started to look promising. The surrounding clouds seemed to highlight the single, dense cloud adding to the impression of a big, giant bird speeding down towards the water. The sun peeping out behind it’s tail feathers further added to the illusion.

We stayed on a while longer to watch what would eventuate. This is how it progressed:

We thought we’d seen the best of it, so headed back through the rocks to come home. However, it just got better! We just had to stop again.

 Our final photo shows it in it’s true glory, seemingly with it’s landing gear drawn well up ready for landing, it’s tail feathers streaming out behind. Looking at the beak area, a jet comes to mind, with the eye area ressembling a cockpit window. Perhaps it was an eagle crossed with a 747!

Those of you who have visited Broome will no doubt have witnessed some stunning sunsets, as have we. But this, well, it was just so unique and in our humble opinion this one takes the cake. What a pleasure! What a pleasure it is to be back in Broome again!

Getting to Broome 2020

The travel plan for our trip north – 2020

We usually try to get to our destination quickly when travelling to the top end to get away from the southern winter. Being mindful of fatigue and road safety, we will often travel distances of between 400 to 700kms a day, always staying in tune with our body clocks and travelling only at the times we know we’re alert and fully awake. For us that means early morning starts and making sure we’re off the road before 4pm. Both Paul and I are definitely morning people, so being off the road before any sign of dusk is vital for us to avoid travel fatigue.

This trip we decided we’d try something different with slightly shorter travelling days, and more of them. We carefully planned all our travel days  with none to be more than 450kms. We wanted to focus on the journey this time, not just the destination. Using Wiki Camps we made our plan. 337kms on our first day took us around the outskirts of Perth and saw us to our first destination, Wannamal (near New Norcia).

This has become both our favourite first, and favourite last stop on our trips to and from the north of our country.  It skirts the city of Perth and seems to get us on the way quickly. See the map below for the full travel plan of overnight stops:

So how did it go, did we stick to it? (We’re notorious for not sticking to plans. ) Almost! We found we had time for a more leisurely breakfast, and for Mr Tilly to enjoy a short walk before we set off each morning, and we were still on the road most days by around 8.30am.  We arrived at each days planned overnight roadside stop some time between 12.30 and 2pm. This meant we had a few hours of daylight to enjoy a good walk and to explore the surroundings, and to wind down at the days end. We stayed with the plan for all the stops with the exception of Stanley, the very last one. It was prior to mid-day when we arrived at Stanley, and Broome was calling. With only 209kms to go and so much time left in the day, we decided to keep going. 

Picking our overnight free stops

So, how do we pick an overnight stops. We look at all the available destinations on Wiki camps, and by clicking on them we find what is available there, and how many stars the place has earned from independent travellers, people just like us who are travelling the roads. I’ve used Kirkalocka as an example below. You’ll see that the first thing that pops up when clicking on Kirkalocka is the facilities available there. (We have previously marked Kirkalocka as a favourite – hence the  heart)

You can see that a 24 hour stop is allowed, dogs are permitted, there are toilets, a dump point for caravan toilets to be emptied, bins, fire pits and picnic tables there. There is also telstra reception, and it is suitable for tents, mobile campers, camper trailers, caravans and big buses. It has gained more than 4 stars so, it’s likely to be a reasonable place, and will attract travellers in sufficient numbers so as we’ll feel safe. 

Next we read the independent reviews on Wiki.

And we look at the photos that people have posted on Wiki.

The road side places are usually free, although some require a small donation (Wannamal asks for a small donation).

With the stops planned, and knowing the distances between places we start to look out for the signage to alert us as to when we need to start slowing down and signalling that we’re turning off the highway. The signs are blue, some with just a ‘P’ and perhaps a picture of picnic table indicating what sort of a stopping place it is. Or if it’s a big, well equipped place such as Kirkalocka, it’ll be quite a big sign showing the availability of toilets. See below:

I always think the etiquette at overnight free stops is similar to the etiquette used in an elevator. You space out according to the amount of people there, that is, if you are the second person to arrive you park no closer than coo-ee distance from the first person who has parked up. You don’t park bumper to bumper, but you can park close enough to feel the safety of being within shouting distance for safety. If the place fills up, then people start to fill in the gaps. There have been times when we’ve awakened to no more than 12 or so vans spaced roughly at equal distances from each other, and there have been other times when we’ve woken up to more than a 100 travellers with lots of small vans and tents fitting in wherever they can. Most of the places with facilities such as those at Kirkalocka have the capacity to fit in hundreds of travellers at a time.

The stand outs from this trip

As always, the scenery in the wide open spaces of the Australian outback impresses. The words of Dorothy MacKellar’s poem, My Country, always come to mind, In the opening  verse Dorothy acknowledges the countryside of England speaking of ‘ordered woods and gardens’, as a love she cannot share for her ‘love is otherwise.’ Then starts Dorothy’s most famous verse starting with, ‘I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains…’ and in her final verse more words than resinate with me on our road trips, ‘all you who have not loved her, you will not understand’. I love Australia, and I understand her poem fully. I can happily sit in a car for hours with vast expanses of wide open plains broken every now and again but scenery such as this to look it. 

Our stand out overnight stop this time was at a place called Albert Tognolini. It’s situated off the Great Northern Highway with Karijini National park in the distance. There’s a look out several hundred metres off the road, and from there, there are tracks that lead up high for miles inland offering spectacular views, especially when the sun rises in the morning lighting up the deep red ranges below. You can only stop there if you’re self contained, but it’s stunning, panoramic scenery has earned it almost 5 stars on Wiki camps despite it’s lack of facilities.

So that’s our trip up to Broome for 2020. We’ve now been here for a week, and have seen some more of the stunning sunsets that Broome is famous for, but nothing could have prepared me for one of them. Soon I’ll post some of pictures of the most amazing and unique sunset I’ve ever seen, so watch this space…..

Cable Beach sunset cocktails

One of our favourite things to do in Broome is to either drive down the beach as sunset approaches, or to find a table overlooking the beach to watch the sun go down.

A couple of nights ago we managed to get a picnic table in a prime spot, directly overlooking the ramp used for cars and camels to access the beach.

We had our container of ice, a bottle of Bacardi, orange juice, grenadine and a can of soda to add a touch of sparkle. Paul poured us both a cocktail made to a recipe which we made up a few years ago in order to do justice the glorious sunsets in this part of the world. We call it Cable Beach Sunset.

One lot of camels returned up the ramp, and following close behind a line of vehicles returning from somewhere up the beach.

It’s so peaceful to watch the sun descending towards the horizon. A few clouds, or some smoke haze in the sky adds interest, but even without those things, the sky lighting up into a blaze of red and orange as the sun dips over the horizon is always special.

A friend of mine loves tropical beaches with palms, but doesn’t like Broome. She said she was disappointed because there weren’t any palms. I think perhaps she didn’t look closely enough – what do you think?

Busselton to Katherine – 5th, 6th and 7th nights, Broome

That head wind that I mentioned earlier hit us as we journeyed from Cape Keraudren towards Broome. Paul dropped the speed down to around 80, but still the revs were high, as was the fuel consumption. We should have had enough fuel to get to Broome easily, but to be safe we refueled at Sandfire roadhouse, and used that as a place to have our breakfast. It saved a second stop later, and with the wind being so strong it was more comfortable to sit in the van than at a picnic table in the open, so it didn’t really matter where we were.

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A very special sunset

OK, I know. You’ve seen enough sunset pictures to last a life time, as have we. However, I couldn’t resist posting these next ones.

Sunset through a smoke haze

Paul took these from Gantheaume Point beach earlier this week. There was a faint smoke haze on the horizon, which added a special purple hue, and added depth to the colours. The one above is my favourite of all the sunset photos Paul’s taken, and he’s taken more than a few. It’s possibly my favourite of all the sunset pictures I’ve seen. What do you think?

A couple of others taken also on that night:

I love the red outline around the sun in this one (no we didn’t put there, it really was there)

This one reminded me of the Aboriginal flag

You’ve heard of a Tequilla Sunrise – well we have our own vodka and tonic based version.

Cable Beach Sunset cocktails

We call it Cable Beach Sunset. It’s our drink of choice when having happy hour on the beach as the sun sets – another of the life’s simple pleasures!

Gantheaume Point Beach

Gantheaume Point is located approximately 6 kms from Broome. The beach at the point is approximately an hours walk south from the main Cable Beach, and there’s a once a day bus that services the area. It arrives at the point at approximately 8am to drop people off who want to enjoy a beach walk back to the main Cable Beach area.

For those with vehicles there’s easy vehicle access onto the beach, so it’s a favourite place for Paul and I to go. Being able to drive onto the beach with our beach umbrella, chairs, towels, and lunch is a lot easier than lugging all our gear down to the beach by hand.

We sometimes also drive to the north of Cable of Beach, and area that goes for miles. Hundreds of vehicles go to the north, but because there’s so much space you can always manage to put a lot of space between yourself and others. The area allowing vehicles to park at Gantheaume Point isn’t very big, so it can get a little crowded.

A busy place – note the buses which drive their passengers right onto the beach

Unlike the drive on beach area to the north, which is quiet and peaceful, Gantheaume Point Beach is always a hive of activity. Don’t let this detract you from visiting – it all adds interest.

Kayak tours leave from here. Usually when we’re there we see a tour either leaving or arriving. Fishing charters, whale watching, and snub fin dolphin tours also depart from this beach, so there’s always people coming and going.

Plenty of boats, both private and charter anchor in the calm waters of the bay

A parachuting company sets up their flags adjacent to the vehicle area as an area for their tandem jumpers to land. There’s plenty to see.

Tandem jumpers landing – Mr Tilley is terrified of the parachutes

Mr Tilley is absolutely terrified of the parachutes. The first time he saw them we were very close by. He shook with terror for around ten minutes. It’s the only thing we’ve ever seen that’s frightened him. We now set up closer to the rocks putting quite a bit of distance between us and their landing area. Most times he doesn’t notice them coming in to land, but if he does he clearly hasn’t sorted them out as something not to be scared of yet.

Setting up close to the rocks gives us a bit of breathing space for Till’s to run around with a bigger margin of safety.  Some of the drivers don’t observe the 15KMH speed limit, and Tills loves to bound after something that takes his interest. The two together could be disastrous. We love to explore around all the rocks, as does Mr Tilley so it makes good sense to be near them.

Rocks at low tide add interest for puppies (and us) to explore

As at Cable Beach, Gantheaume Point Beach is another great vantage point from which to observe the sunsets that Broome is famous for.

We sip our cocktails poured from the back of the car as the sun descends towards the ocean

The fiery afterglow after the sun sets reflecting in the wet sands of Gantheaume Point beach signals the end of just another wonderful day on Broome’s beaches

We’ve been in Broome a little over two weeks now, and apart from basic food shopping, caravan park fees, and the occasional ice-cream, have spent very little. It’s easy to enjoy the simple things in life here – good weather, pristine beaches made for walking on, and glorious sunsets at the days end. What more could anyone want – it’s such a pleasure to be here again in Broome.

Walking on Cable Beach

There’s always plenty to see when walking on Cable Beach.

Sea birds diving for breakfast beside a fishing boat

Wings tucked in close for streamlined water entry

A perfect entry – worthy of the Olympics

It took Paul several attempts to manage to get the full descending dive. What he didn’t manage to capture was the success of the dive when the bird surfaced with his breakfast. Maybe next time….

The planes, frequent at this time of year,  fly low over Cable Beach to land not far away.  If we’re directly underneath Mr Tilley gets a bit of a fright, but soon recovers to watch them disappear over the dunes. His curious gaze always follows them until they’re out of sight.

Another plane load of visitors arrive scaring a bird as it comes in to land

And another plane load disappearing over the dunes

There’s cyclists to see. These wide tyre cycles, suitable for beach riding, are available for hire close by to the parking lot at Cable Beach.

Cyclists and a jogger enjoying  early morning exercise on Cable Beach

There’s plenty of people on the beach in the morning, but providing you time your walk to coincide with the lower tides, you’re always able to put a comfortable space between yourselves and others.

Mr Tilley loves it. He’s a bit like our friend Brian. Kaye, Brian’s wife, says he can’t walk from one end of a mall to the other without making at least two new friends. There’s regular canines on the beach that Mr Tilley recognises and greets now like they’re old friends. And there’s new possible friends that he introduces himself to, referencing and cataloging their individual scents with a sniff in the places that dogs use for this purpose.

This boy gets a bit too boisterous for smaller dogs if off his lead. He’s a regular that  Tills recognises now and always says hello to. They’re happy to see each other despite Bluey’s seemingly concerned look.

By the end of each morning’s beach walk I’m sure Mr Tilley has made at least two new friends. I don’t think Brian sniffs his potential new friends rear ends though for future recognition. Such are the delights of the canine ‘meet and greet’ system!

Enjoying Broome’s glorious sunshine and beaches

Anyone familiar with Broome will know that the consistently good winter weather entices more than it’s share of visitors from the south of the country during the colder months. Years ago the Broome caravan parks could name their price, and had strict booking conditions. Whilst the prices still remain high during peak season, the rigid booking conditions are now more relaxed. On our first camping trip to Broome some of the caravan parks would only take a minimum booking of two weeks, and only from Saturday to Saturday. Of course, you could depart earlier, or arrive later in the week, but the payment was in accordance with the Saturday – Saturday fortnightly schedule.

I’m pleased to say the conditions are now a lot more relaxed, and vacancies are usually obtainable, at least somewhere in the town. People who arrive in town without a booking can usually be accommodated, if not in one of the proper caravan parks, at least into one of three additional overflow sites that are now allowed to open for the peak season. Up until this year, it was only in the overflow sites where one could stay if any pets were on board. Anticipating nowhere else for us and Mr Tilley, we arrived at Broome Pistol club’s overflow site where we stayed for the first week.

Whilst we were grateful for a place to be able to stay with Tills, the rustic, dried out, grass sites were full of seeds, and weren’t proving to be overly compatible with Mr Tilley’s scruffy coat. Fearing it was only a matter of time before a seed managed to embed itself in-between paw-pads, or down an ear, and finding out Broome caravan park is this year, trialling accommodating pets, we secured a booking for the remaining two weeks of our time in Broome.

So – that’s where we have been, and are currently staying. Now onto what we’ve been doing. Fortunately we’ve been to Broome several times so have ticked off all of the must do’s. The absolute stand out highlights have been, The Horizontal Falls, Cape Leveque, and last year’s trip up the Gibb River Road using Broome as our starting base. If you’re planning any trips to Broome, you really must factor those places in.

With those things ticked off, we’re free to just relax and enjoy acclimatising Mr Tilley to the pleasures of caravan life. Learning to quietly adapt to people, their pets, and children coming and going from neighbouring caravan sites is uppermost, and for a twelve month old puppy, he’s doing remarkably well.

We start most days with a lengthy walk and ball chase on Cable Beach to ensure he’s used up a considerable amount of his puppy exuberance early in the day.

Cooling off in the shallows after relentlessly chasing his ball

he runs till he’s knackered! and would still run some more if we’d let him

It took us a while to connect his sudden bursts of disobedience with being physically over stimulated. Now we’ve made the connection we’re able to regulate his behaviour (most of the time), by interrupting his break neck speed of ball chasing and beach running, with some quiet trick training.

Time out – ‘right paw shake’ – yes, he knows his right paw from his left paw

Eagerly awaiting the next request (and accompanying treat)

“beg” – yep, but only with a bit of help. Balancing isn’t his strong point yet

A few minutes of quiet mental stimulation provides some much needed respite from all the hectic physical activity, and he remains a reasonably obedient puppy throughout the walk.

Then, depending on the tides we may pack up a lunch and return to the beach for a couple of hours of people watching. Or we may pack up drinks and return to the beach for sunset drinks.

Some things just go together – Bread and butter, flowers and sunshine, Cable Beach and dogs! Mr Tilley understands quite a few words now including, ‘Beach.’ A question of, ‘Do you want to go the beach’, gets an almost whiplash response, followed by his undivided attention as we get ourselves organised to go.

Our long travel days spent getting here seem to be well forgiven and forgotten. I suspect if Mr Tilley could talk, and we were to ask him what the highlight of his life so far has been, the answer would definitely be, “visiting Broome’s gorgeous Cable Beach.” Introducing and sharing this gorgeous spot with our canine companion –  a pleasure that’s sure to be repeated.