A small wedding in the outback – part one

We arrived in Venn, 25kms south of Katherine on Sunday afternoon, five days before the marriage was to take place. Initially the only people that were going to be in attendance was to be Kelvin & Nikki, Paul and myself, and the celebrant. I think Kelvin was concerned that if he started inviting friends to a wedding, then a wedding was going to be expected, and a wedding means money, an expense not wanted at this point of time in the newly-weds lives.

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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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Busselton to Katherine -4th night, Cape Keraudren

We set out on the morning on our 4th travel day with the intentions of staying at the free camp on the side of De Grey River. Our plans are never written in concrete, and with Mr Tilly clearly not speaking to us, we thought we’d better give him a bit of consideration, so mid trip a change of destination was decided. An adolescent dog needs to have a good, off lead, romp at least every other day, and De Grey River would definitely not have been the place for that. Cape Keraudren would give him the space he needed to burn off some of his energy.

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Busselton to Katherine – 3rd night, Mt Robinson

Mt Robinson

The third day was to be the longest of our travel days on the Busselton to Broome leg of our journey up to the Northern Territory. Day two had seemed to drag. We were tired at the days end, and Mr Tilly was clearly, ‘over it’, by the time we had arrived at Lake Nallan.

To try and make it easier for our third day, we had everything ready the night before ready to set off at daybreak. We were awake at 5.30am (I always am), so a leisurely cuppa before securing the van ready for our 6.45am start.

The wild flowers start in the north earlier, so they had virtually all finished north of Meekatharra. Without wild flowers to see, if you’re not a fan of wide open spaces full of red dirt and scrub you would find this next section of our trip a tad boring. I find a landscape with nothing much except wide open spaces and red dirt quite gorgeous, so I wasn’t bored.

We stopped around 2 3/4 hours into our trip at Gasgoyne River South for our breakfast. We always enjoy this free camp spot, whether it be for a meal stop or an overnight break. Today there was just a little trickle in the river, but there are always lovely gum trees lining the banks of the river.

Lovely river gums

For an overnight stop the Gasgoyne River South Branch has the usual facilities of a well serviced overnight stop in WA. These include a dump point, long drop toilets, rubbish bins, and shaded picnic tables. In WA you’re unlikely to find water at any of the free road side places. The other thing in abundance (sadly) were signs of ungrateful campers. Obviously the long drop toilets (quite clean) had been overlooked by too many in favour of squatting in the bush. Ok – I don’t have a problem with that for a pee, but please ladies don’t leave your loo paper behind to decorate the bush as it blows from place to place!

There’s definitely nowt queerer than folk – this time leaving a real blot on the landscape

Our next stop was for fuel just before we reached Newman. We took advantage of a toilet stop while there, and enjoyed an ice cream in the shade before continuing on to Mt Robinson.

Mt Robinson is a place similarly equipped to Gasgoyne River South, long drop toilets, bins, shaded picnic tables, and a dump point. A winding track takes you far off the highway, so you’re far away from the noise of the highway.

Our caravan – in the middle of nowhere

Whilst it doesn’t have the lush green meadows, the lake and the wild flowers than we enjoyed last night, it does offer a peaceful outback setting. Opposite where we’ve set up is Mount Robinson, and behind that is Karijini National Park.

For many people Karijini is up there amongst their favourite places in Australia, and not without good reason. It’s a place full of stunning gorges, water holes, and bush walks, enough to keep the most avid explorer happy.

Paul took Mr Tilly for a walk up the hill behind us. I’ve been up there before but decided my dodgy knee wouldn’t appreciate the steep gravel decline this time.

I love the dramatic colours of the Pilbarra, but could do without this gravelly slope

We’re far enough north now that the jumpers are off through the day. However, the nights are still very cold, so our woolly top blanket will remain on for one more night, and the jumpers won’t be packed away completely until after we’ve left the early morning chill behind on day four.

Day three

Busselton to Katherine – 1st night Wannamal

A few last minute things on departure day to take care of on the home front saw us on the road around 9.30am. We’re heading up the Great Northern Highway, and having heard only good things about Wannamal we thought this would be a great place for our first night.

Map showing first nights camp spot, and toilet stops used on the way. We didn’t stop for lunch.

We weren’t disappointed. Wannamal is a great site,. There’s separate ladies and Gents flush loos, with hand basins. There’s a free gas barbecue, a mosaic picnic table with two bench seats, a few other seats scattered around, and three fire pits.

There’s a few people here who have come up from Perth and the surrounding suburbs with this as their destination – and why not! With the profusion of wild flowers surrounding us, and many more ready to bloom, it’s just gorgeous. And the best thing, it’s all clean, well kept, and it’s free.

Here’s some of the wild flowers we found, all within only a few metres of our van.

I don’t try to identify wild flowers, I just admire them. If you’d like to try and identify these ones, here’s a chart supplied at the camp site.

The camp site is on the site of the old Wannamal school that closed down in the 1980s. It’s quite close to New Norcia, so if you’re wanting to visit there you could do so while staying at Wannamal. The New Norcia roadside camp charges $10 a night and has no facilities (and when I say no facilities, I really mean NO facilities, absolutely none). Wannamal is much nicer.

It looks like there’s a lot of walk trails nearby to Wannamal, as well as a lake a short walk away on the opposite side of the road. Investigation will have to wait for a later time – and there will be another time at this beautiful site, that’s for sure! It’s a great place for the first stop on trip up to the top end, or even a great place for a wild flower investigation central point. We’ll be back!