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……

Staircase to the Moon


Goodbye Broome – Hello Barn Hill

I finally tore myself away from Broome after staying there for 36 days, my longest stop anywhere except for my house sits. When I went to the office to say goodbye they expected I was going to book in for a few more days again, but I assured them I would be back next year. I loved it!

This map shows the first part of the trip to our next major destination, Port Hedland. It’s only about 600 kilometres to Port Hedland so you can see we didn’t get very far on Day 1!

Broome to Barn Hill

Here’s a couple of things I did in Broome that I haven’t shared with you yet ….

I was lucky enough to be taken out to Willie Creek (thanks Geoff Phillips!) on a very rough road that I probably wouldn’t have driven on with Brutus, my trusty campervan. Mick, who I have been camping with also came and on the way there Geoff gave us a Cooks tour of Broome, the port area and Gantheaume Point.

One of the highlights was seeing the famous Staircase to the Moon. A group of us went to the Mangrove Bar, known as one of the better viewing spots, and it didn’t disappoint. Even though we took everyone’s advice and got there early we didn’t get a front position but as the moon rose over the mudflats to create the Staircase effect the crowd made room so that most people had at least a photo opportunity. We may not have had prime position but we did have a table to sit at and enjoyed drinks and nibbles while we waited.

I have seen some beautiful photos of Staircase to the Moon that absolutely kill anything I was able to capture on my iPhone but this is my proof that I was actually there!

The following night we watched this natural phenomenon from the park next door to our camp where the night markets were being held. Another wonderful night, good atmosphere, good company and good fun. (And yummy food from the market stalls, too)

The last weekend I was in Broome there was a writer’s festival called Corrugated Lines. There were so many activities organised but I chose to go to see Di Morrissey, author of many Australian based novels but particularly Tears of the Moon, about the history of Broome and the pearling industry. It was one of my inspirations for wanting to go to Broome. The session she did interviewing Sally Bin Demin, who was raised at Cape Levique and Broome was so relaxed and friendly it was like sitting in a living room listening to two people chatting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course I bought Sally’s book at the end of the session, Once in Broome, and got it signed by Sally, a truly remarkable lady with a great sense of humour ….. so interesting!

While in Broome we had many happy hours together on the beachfront at Roebuck Bay Caravan Park. Could life get any better than this?

I was so lucky to be able to camp in the ‘tent’ area at the Caravan Park. The photos of happy hour show my view each day from my camp site and as a bonus I had red-winged parrots nesting in the hollow tree next to my van and one day a Tawny Frogmouth got disoriented and spent the day beside me too.

Mick and I left Broome on a Friday morning and after some shopping and washing our vans we headed to Barn Hill Station. It was only about 140kms away but after being stationary at Broome for so long that was far enough to drive in one hit.

Barn Hill Station

Everyone I have met talks about Barn Hill and I decided it was a ‘must do’. At $25 a night for an unpowered site it had to be something special, and it didn’t disappoint. The beaches were beautiful and the cliffs on the edge of the beach were quite spectacular.

On one of the walks along the beach we came across this water python that had literally bitten off more than he could chew!

Water Python

Greedy Water Python at Barn Hill

We tried to pull the fish out of his mouth and only got the first few inches out so he was either very hungry or he’d estimated his prowess to be greater than it was in reality!

One of the other highlights was bumping into Joy and her partner Michael, heading north while we were heading south.

Sunday night at Barn Hill is a roast dinner where everyone takes their chairs and tables down to the lawn area and sets them up for a feast. We had a huge crowd on our table as you can see in the photo and Joy and Michael joined us, as well as Peter and Penny who were camped nearby. The more the merrier!

After 3 nights at Barn Hill we were in travelling mode, so set off to our next destination, Cape Keraudren. We’ve got a bit of a tag along going as Dave, Anne, Mel, Nola, Mick and myself all left Broome around the same time, all heading in the same direction. We are all Solo Travellers, each of us with our own van, and it is wonderful to have the company of like minded friends. It certainly makes for some fun happy hours!

Cheers! See you down the track!