The drive from Port Hedland to our next few days of camping was amazing. The views were really incredible and I had my camera out taking many shots of the landscape around us (click any photo to enlarge it).
We arrived at Albert Tognolini Rest Area quite late on the 25th and luckily our friends were already there and set up. There are no amenities here, but the view made up for the lack of conveniences. I loved cooking dinner over the open fire and then taking photos of the majestic sunset. WA is certainly putting on a good show for me with its sunsets! We ended up staying for three nights at Albert Tognolini (named after a local engineer from the 1950’s) and then we were up and packed very early for a day visit to Karijini National Park. Here we bought the yearly WA National Park Pass, which should save us a bit of money in the long run with all the National Parks we will be able to visit in the next four months.
Whilst at Karijini NP we visited Dales Gorge which included Fern Pool, Fortesque Falls and the Circular Pool. The walk down to Fortesque Falls was quite steep but enough to hold onto to escape any serious injuries! The falls were beautiful but looked a bit too cold for us to swim in so we walked up the path a bit further past some magnificent trees to Fern Pool where we braved the slightly warmer (we were told) water for a lovely swim. Whilst travelling and not going to caravan parks we use our washroom in the van and usually share a warm bucket of water for washing. We get pretty clean doing this, but when we get a chance to go for a swim and immerse ourselves in some fresh water, we go for it! So even though the water was cool, we all jumped in for a dip and swim around the lovely natural pool.
We also drove along a horrible dirt, corrugated road to Weano Gorge where we had lunch and went for a nice walk to the viewing platform to see where the gorges all met and where lots of people go abseiling. That night we camped just outside of Tom Price in a camp where we were able to build a lovely fire to cook dinner with and keep the local dingoes away!
The next day Jakayla went with Jim, Jo and Arid back into Karijini whilst me, Wayne and Rory went into Tom Price for a grocery shop and look around. This part of the Pilbara is rich in iron ore, so there are many mining sites and thus some mining towns have been purposely built to cater for the miners and their families. Tom Price is one of these towns and even in the middle of nowhere it has a Coles and many other shops and places to eat.
Whilst camping at Tom Price, I placed on Facebook where I was and due to this I discovered that I have a cousin living in Paraburdoo, about 70kms away. So after a bit of communication with Troy, we headed off to Paraburdoo the next day to see my cousin whom I haven’t seen in many years! You can’t come this far from home and miss catching up with a relative! We ended up spending the next five nights with Troy and his lovely wife Leanne, who were so wonderful to let us park our van in the front and steal some electricity and use their house. The kids loved playing with the animals, especially beautiful Mischka the puppy and Trinny the cheeky cat. Whilst there we got our own personal tour of the Rio Tinto mine (it’s massive) and even got a ride in the local fire engine truck (Rory and Wayne were thrilled lol). We also got to meet some locals at Leanne’s birthday party at the house on Saturday night. We had such a great time, it was a bit hard to leave!!!
We left Troy’s early Monday morning and headed back to Tom Price for a grocery top up and to fill up our water tanks. We went to the Tom Price information centre, and after a 20min video explaining about the Rio Tinto private road, Wayne got a permit to drive on these roads (which follow the Rio Tinto railway). The railway carries millions of dollars’ worth of iron ore per day, so a service road is in place for maintenance of the railway system. You aren’t allowed to drive on it unless you are an employee or have a permit.
We arrive at Hammersly Gorge just after lunch and went for a bit of a walk and rock climbing to reach the part of the gorge we wanted to swim in. The kids and Wayne were quite nimble and got there before me, but eventually I made it over the rocks and we had a lovely swim in the gorge. It even had a natural spa bath that was a bit warmer than the larger pool area. We spent the night, all by ourselves at Hammersly Gorge campground, which was really lovely. It’s free with bins provided and a lovely view of the mountains. Hard to believe we had such a large campground to ourselves! We certainly slept well in the quiet and dark campground.
The next day saw us back on the private Rio Tinto road. Unfortunately the road was pretty crap and very long as we had to go quite slow due to the conditions. We actually thought the road would be in better condition, but it’s probably quite okay for employees in their 4wd work vehicles !Amazingly there were thousands of beautiful Sturt’s Desert Peas on the side of the road, they are such a gorgeous flower i would love to take one home!
We arrived in one piece to the Miliyanha Campground, in the Millstream-Chichester National Park later that day. The campgrounds were quite basic, but had a disgusting smelling long drop! Most are quite clean (this was clean) but the smell out of this one was horrid so I dabbed some eucalyptus oil on a hanky for us to breathe through! It’s a bit crazy that they charge you $20 per night for these campgrounds and don’t supply you with any bins and the long drops are revolting! The money is supposed to go to the upkeep of the campgrounds but even the road into it was corrugated and uncared for. Oh well, we decided to only stay for two nights as we did want to look around the homestead and the beautiful natural stream that flows through the park. There was no swimming allowed, but we snuck off the track and found a place to jump into the stream for a quick dip. The water was lovely and warm and incredibly crystal clear. No wonder the people that discovered the area built their home right near the stream. Water is so important in the outback, so to find a natural spring is so lucky.
We left Miliyanha early and headed towards Python Pool, about 50kms north of the campground. Along the way, Wayne and I got to see some of the most spectacular views we have seen on our trip. We stopped a couple of times to take photos and drink in the views around us. We arrived at Python Pool around lunchtime and Wayne even went for a swim in the freezing pool! We stayed for an hour or so enjoying the peacefulness.
We then headed north up along a very well maintained dirt road towards historic Roebourne.Here we visited the information centre and for a gold coin donation we went into the museum (which was once a gaol) and had a lovely look around. It was getting a bit late, so we headed up towards Point Samson where we cooked dinner overlooking the view at Honeymoon Cove.
The next day we drove to a local park for breakfast and whilst there Wayne discovered that his front driver tyre was worn to canvas on the inner toe (as explained by Wayne). The wheel nuts were on so tight we rang NRMA (whom we have the top assistance with) and after a long 2-3 hour wait, someone arrived with their equipment to take the tyre off and replace with our spare. We were lucky the tyre held out as long as it did and didn’t blow while driving but just another added expense to the growing list 😉 Lucky enough we stopped at a fantastic park with a kid’s playground, toilets (that were immaculate) and fresh water taps. Afterwards we visited Karratha and went for a grocery shop. Karratha is a very big country town with all facilities, so we enjoyed walking around the shops. We then headed north towards the coast for a couple of days camping at a place called Cleaverville Beach. It’s a council run campground with only a basic long drop and bins provided, but at $10 per nite, reasonably priced and had a great view of the Indian Ocean. This place is choc-a-block full of grey nomads, but all were friendly and welcoming. The kids and I enjoyed walking on the beach and looking for hermit crabs (found two, nowhere near as much as Cape Leveque!!).
A few months ago we heard from another traveller about the Staircase to the Moon and were told not to miss it. So we have kept our eye on the dates and places we were at and realised we are right near a great viewing spot at Hearson’s Cove. So we arrived in the early afternoon to get a good spot and for enough time for me to cook some dinner before the moon appeared. Within a couple of hours the place was full with hundreds of people ready for the viewing. I only wished I had a great night camera to take some shots, but pretty pleased with what I came up with.
The next morning we had breakfast at Dampier Port and whilst eating breakfast we saw a huge shark swimming very close into the shore! Wow we weren’t expecting that, especially on a beach that is open for swimming! Afterwards we headed to the Red Dog statue for some photos with the famous Pilbara red dog that travelled all over the area in the 1970’s. The kids are looking forward to seeing the movie now. After that we headed to the Karratha Gas Plant where the visitor centre is open to the public to view all about the gas that’s extracted from the area (32kms out to sea from Karratha). We all enjoyed the 30min movie about the area and how gas is made and extracted and how much the plant supports not only the local community but the Australian economy.
We checked Wikicamps to see where we were next off to and decided to head up to the Fortesque River where there is a nice free camp on the water. We drove for a while and suddenly were stopped from driving further due to a tidal river in front of us! I checked WilyWeather and discovered that the tide was very high and wouldn’t go down until tonight, so we decided to camp just up from the river and not try to cross anything with water in it, regardless of how low the tide gets (it’s also salt water). It felt like we were on mars with all the rocks and red sand around us, but it was a quiet night’s sleep and we got up the next morning and arrived at the Fortesque River Roadhouse where we currently reside for two nights. It would have to be one of the ugliest parks we have stayed in but after eight months of travel, the fact that it has power, clean water, hot showers and a free washing machine makes it pretty bloody perfect in my eyes! The park also has hundreds of dongas ( accommodation for miners) right behind us, but so far it has been pretty quiet here. I have done so much washing (using their free machine and my twin tub), even cleaning curtains and some canvas walls! Wayne has been busy cooking up a storm with fresh bread and rolls and also taking advantage of the clean water to wash the truck tarp (which has gone from Pilbara Pink to nearly back to grey again!)
Today is also Rory’s 7th birthday. I heard him wake up this morning and come over to my bed where he leaned in right next to my face and whispered loudly ‘it’s my birthday today!’. He is so cute. He has been counting down for the last 100 days I think lol. For his birthday he got some drum sticks and a Meccano building set from Dad, a box of Lego from me and a fly gun from Jakayla. We got some hot chips from the roadhouse for lunch (hot chip butties anyone?) and Wayne has baked a beautiful chocolate cake for the occasion.
Tomorrow we head slowly towards Onslow and then Exmouth.