The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere

Oakabella Homestead, Western Australia

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Two Weeks in a Few Words – After Leaving Port Hedland

I’ve had a bit of a break from blogging over the last 6 weeks so thought I’d better catch you up on where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing…. I have not been stationary ….Far from it!

The first stage of my journey south from Port Hedland took me to some wonderful camping spots, most of which I didn’t photograph – I think I was suffering from technology resistance! Anyhow I’m over that now, so here goes. I was on a mission to get to Oakabella Homestead, between Geraldton and Northampton as the manager, Loretta, had asked me to be camp host for a couple of weeks while she had a break from the daily grind. Here’s my trip from Port Hedland to Oakabella.

Port Hedland to GeraldtonI travelled this 1607km journey in 14 days and during this time split with my travelling buddies as they went inland to Karijini National Park and I hugged the more direct coastal road.Some of my stop overs included a free camp at Yule River, where I was greeted by a happy little dog that looked vaguely familiar. Sure enough it was Pip, who led me off to see her owner Laurie who was camped here too. José was travelling with me to Karratha, Faith was travelling with Laurie, so we had a good night around the camp fire catching up on who had been where since leaving the rally in Penola.

Yule River Western Australia

Jose lights a great camp fire at Yule River

Yule River was a good camp so I decided to stay a couple of days. José left to visit her son in Karratha, then Laurie and Faith left and I thought I’d have some time by myself and stay another day…..uh oh, is that Glenys pulling in? So much for time alone but it was wonderful hearing all about her overseas travels and looking through her photo book. After a coffee at Whim Creek together the following day she headed south and I meandered to my next stopover at Cleaverville, just north of Karratha. The Whim Creek Hotel has only recently re-opened and offers free camping overnight in the grounds. It’s a busy pub with a miner’s camp adjoining it.

Whim Creek Hotel, Western AustraliaSo many of my friends had stayed at Cleaverville that I was looking forward to some time there. I checked in with the caretaker and asked for recommendations on where to camp. “Just over there would be a good spot” he said, ” and there’s another lady over there who is travelling by herself”.  I followed his directions, set up camp, walked around to the other side of the shrubbery – and there was Robyn. Our happy hour together was even better when a fellow camper gave us 3 mud crabs to feast on – yum!

On the way to Cleaverville I detoured to the historic town of Cossack.

After 2 nights at Cleaverville I was on my way again, next stop Dampier where I caught up with Robyn again. It was full moon and low tide so she offered to drive me to Hearson’s Cove to see Staircase to the Moon.

My next stopover was another great free camp at Robe River where I once again caught up with Laurie and Faith. It was here that I discovered I had a major gas leak so I wasn’t game to turn my fridge on. Fortunately it was fairly bare and the nights were cooler so nothing spoiled but it did cut short my stay as I had to plug into power to keep the fridge running when I wasn’t driving so I pulled in to an old favourite, Bullara Station, for the night. We had damper around the campfire and I offered to do some of my bush poetry so it was a great night and I met lots of new people. Here’s a reminder of what’s on offer at Bullara Station, on the way to Exmouth, with some photos from last year’s visit.

My original plans were to bypass Exmouth but the gas leak forced me to change those and I thought I was lucky to find a gas mechanic who promptly came to my van, did a few things, took $50 for his trouble and declared the problem solved. What a relief! I took off for another old favourite,14 Mile Beach (Warroora Station). The drive in was horrendous, 23 kms of rough corrugation but I thought I’d have about 3 nights there so it made it worth while. Imagine my horror when I turned on the gas at the bottle and I still had a gas leak! No fridge again! And the thought of turning around and leaving via that same rough road the next day caused a few bad words to escape my mouth – glad there was no-one camped nearby! To focus on the positive I wrote my poem, The Frozen Mosquito, which was the subject of another blog entry.

The next day I got out the compressor, let down the tyres, put Brutus into 4WD, and tackled the trip back to the main road. Letting the tyres down is easy but pumping them up at the other end was a time-consuming and dirty job, however it did make the 23km journey a lot more comfortable so it was worth it.

Next stop Carnarvon – and a gas repairer. This time I struck gold, (and parted with some), but drove away with a new regulator and NO gas leak. I’m a happy girl!

My last stop before arriving at Oakabella Homestead was at Wooramel Riverside Retreat. What a find! It has hot artesian tubs to relax in, native birds nesting in the old river gums – and Cherri and Pat who I had met at Robe River were there too!

Oakabella Homestead, Western AustraliaMy life of leisure was over for a couple of weeks as I settled in to life at Oakabella Homestead. I got more than I bargained for as I ended up opening the cafe 3 days each week when Loretta found herself short staffed at the last minute. The only things on the menu when I worked, though, were tea, coffee and scones, which were already prepared and ready to heat and serve! I did learn how to make a good cappuchino! By the time Loretta’s holiday was over I was ready for mine – not used to this working caper.

In the words of Willie Nelson ……I’m on the road again……


Catching up in Karratha

When I left Exmouth I was heading to Karratha and made my first stop at Barradale Free Camp where Wilma, one of the Willie Wagtails I had met, caught up with me to travel north together.

Barradale Rest Area

Barradale Rest Area

Our first stop together was at 40 Mile Beach, or Gnoorea Point, where we thought we’d spend a week just enjoying the ocean.

After a few kilometres of not bad corrugation we arrived at the camp to be welcomed by the ranger/caretaker. My first sight of the beach was disappointing – mud flats and mangroves – so I asked if there were any campsites on a ‘real’ sandy beach. He jumped on his quad bike, said “Don’t go anywhere until I come back” and took off down the track. About 15 minutes later he came back and said “Follow me, I’ve got just the spot for you!” Off we went, 3 kms down the track, and he advised us the beach was just over the dunes. “Thank you, thank you” we said, booked for a week, and set up camp.

Liar, liar, pants on fire!! What was over the dunes? Mangroves and mudflats!! Away in the distance, about 1km down the beach there was about 50 metres of sand that, you guessed it, became mud flats when you hit the water! Anyhow, it was a pleasant trudge through soft spongy sand to get there, but the nesting Ospreys made the walk worthwhile. We also had a visit from Glenyce Mills, (I had travelled with Glenyce in Tasmania), who was on her way home to Perth after over 2 years living the dream and travelling our wonderful country. And before we left, Jose also paid us a visit on her way home to Perth.

Exmouth to Karratha

Both Wilma and I were well and truly ready to leave after 6 days, so we packed up and headed to Karratha.

Wilma was staying in the Dampier Transit Park while I stayed with Brett and his friend Paula in a real house, slept in a real bed, bathed in a real shower (not a bucket like I usually do) and ate meals made in more than one pot!. Brett and I had worked together on the Gold Coast and hadn’t seen each other for about 8 years, which is when he moved to WA, so there was lots of catching up to do, many wines to drink and tall stories to tell.

Selfie after many wines!

Selfie after many wines!

While Brett was working I took the opportunity to visit Wilma at Dampier and see the local sights. Red Dog is a Dampier/Pilbara icon so had to have my picture taken with him at the information bay on the way into town! If you haven’t seen this movie, do yourself a favour and watch it!

Red Dog Statue in Dampier

Red Dog Statue in Dampier

It was also my chance to photograph the Sturts Desert Pea flower that grows wild on the roadside.

Sturts Desert Pea1809

Dampier is a busy port with ships lined up to take on their loads. Apart from iron ore it is also famous for Dampier Salt.

Dampier Docks

Dampier Docks

Dampier Salt for loading

Dampier Salt for loading

I was lucky to catch up with Richard when he arrived for the weekend so we went off to the annual Chilli Festival at Port Samson and had a good look around that area, too, before heading to the pub to watch the first game of the Bledisloe Cup on the big screen with Brett and Paula.

On the Monday, Wilma and I had booked a trip with a local guide to visit the Burrup Peninsula. Clint took us to Aboriginal Rock Art at Deep Gorge that is dated up to 30,000 years old. It stopped about 100 years ago when the aboriginal community was wiped out in a massacre.

Most of us are familiar with the Dreamtime, or Dreaming, of Aboriginal history but the aborigines of this area don’t refer to it this way, they have a word that means ‘when the earth was soft’, meaning before the spirits decided where the rocks, the land, the rivers and the sea would be formed. Clint was a fabulous guide, raised traditionally in the area, and a fountain of knowledge about his people’s local historyand the importance of different landmarks in the area. He is also a great story teller, which is how the aboriginals pass on their story from generation to generation, so with people like Clint around, hopefully this story will not be lost.

Clint our aboriginal guide on the Burrup

Clint our aboriginal guide on the Burrup

Hearsons Cove, where our tour began

Hearsons Cove, where our tour began

The rock art is not rock painting, but the images are made by removing the outer surface of the rock by techniques including pounding, abrading and scoring. They are called petroglyphs and there estimated to be between 500,000 and 1 million petroglyphs in the Burrup Peninsula area, with approximately 10,000 at the Deep Gorge site. It’s hard to comprehend the age and amount of this amazing legacy which is unparalleled in the world.

Three different types of boomerangs in rock art

Burrup Rock Art 1822

Many of the images needed some serious rock climbing to access and view, but if you’re interested in seeing more just google Burrup Peninsula and there are heaps of images available on the web. One fact that did amaze me, though, is apparently there are a number of images of a Thylacene (Tasmanian Tiger) in this area.

Before I could leave Karratha I had to give Brutus some attention as his engine was missing badly. Wilma headed off to Millstream Chichester National Park and the next day, and $180 later – and all that bought was a new spark plug lead – I went off to meet her. They talk about the Pilbara Premium, and there’s a perfect example!

I’m finally on my way to Karajini National Park, after hearing so much about it from so many people.