Where are we now
We’ve now left the coast to start exploring some of the inland Pilbara, first off we headed down Shay Gap Road to find what was left of the mine of the same name, very little here except the bitumen roads, a few power poles and a couple of water tanks. Shay Gap was once a thriving mining town with 850 residents, on closure in 1993 everything was taken to Yarrie Mine (now also closed) just down the road or sold. We enjoyed being on good quality sandy/gravely roads all the way to our first stop for the night at Coppins Gap. This is jasper country oh so beautiful when it is wet or the sun shines on it, also rocky hills and spinifex here reminiscent of the McDonnell Ranges.
Coppins Gap was a lovely area to camp with the walk through the gap in the rocks looking at the jasper and then relaxing by one of the waterholes watching numerous birds come down. Next morning I got a bit of a scare when getting out of bed, (our bed in WIII is over a metre high) somehow I slid and ended up crashing to the floor, arms and legs in all directions, woke Rob up with a real scare. Everything seemed ok although I was pretty shaken so the first stop was the Nursing Post at Marble Bar and yes the nurse confirmed all was ok. Great facility in what used to be a hospital and is now run by one nurse who is very proficient and loves his job.
We had a look round Marble Bar township including taking in the view from the town lookout, checking out the solar farm which produces a high percentage of the towns power and also calling into the Iron Clad Hotel. We will be coming back through here so will see the other sights on our return. Did find out that there are many different minerals being mined and explored within a 100km radius of Marble Bar including gold, magnesium & lithium as well as the commonly known iron ore.
We take the loop road toward Nullagine with our first overnight stop on the Nullagine River, one lone caravan when we arrived then a group of 5 vehicles rolled in just on night fall. The only noise was the very occasional road train from the Telfer Mine and the happy corella. Ended up here for 2 nights to give my body a bit of a rest before heading on to Carawine Gorge.
Carawine Gorge is a perfect place to camp for a few days especially as we have the kayak to explore up and down the wide clean river. From our site it was easy to slide the kayak in and also for me to get in for a swim, the cool water seemed to be helping my knee which was still painful. A few other campers came and went but some like us stayed longer like Lyn & Noel, who we’d camped with the previous night, they were camped on the grass when they heard a commotion from the birds, it appeared that an Ibis was stuck in the mud but on further investigation it was being strangled by a 3 meter Water Python. The next day they had another visitor a large goanna who kept them entertained by getting insects from the dirt banks until the Rainbow Bee-eater chased him off. Saturday night there were 9 campers here so we had fun visiting them all and picked up good hints on where to go next. Stopped in for happy hour with Marge & John from SA which was a lovely end of another day by the gorgeous gorge.
Sunday our last morning at Carawine Gorge we had a nice surprise gift of Silver Cobbler (fresh water catfish) caught by Noel delivered to our river frontage, he even filleted it for us. Made a yummy dinner cooked over the campfire this was followed by sultana & cinnamon damper for desert. We’d continued on the loop road toward Nullagine and stopped at Running Water Waterhole, a little difficult to find but thanks again to Wikicamps we saw the kangaroo statue on the hilltop and then found the turnoff. This place was surreal surrounded by paperbark trees and there is an amazing waterhole with warm water just trickling in ah another perfect place to swim and relax chatting to another couple who had been tenting here for the last few days.
Another swim in the morning this time prepared with snorkelling gear and waterproof camera before leaving Running Water on to Skull Springs Road toward Nullagine. This is remote country and we are on an interesting road/track with constantly changing scenery, the day passes quickly with a few stops to look at wild flowers and interesting rock formations. We stop for the night at an old mine site and enjoy the peace while watching the activity of another mine in the distance, clearly a 24/7 operation.
Where are we now
We enjoyed our last couple of days in Broome completed domestic chores then chilled out on Cable Beach swimming before driving onto the beach to enjoy the sunset. We had left our chairs back at the PCYC Overflow Camp so took the next best (or better) option and sat up on WIII’s roof, great fun watching everything from birds eye view. We also wandered into Chinatown one evening finding it much quieter than expected but did find a very genuine Chinese Restaurant and enjoyed a yummy dinner. Our highlight though was catching up with Marie & her husband Rod, Marie & I had worked together and they had been travelling in the opposite direction from us. We’d been following each other’s travels and wondered where we’d cross paths, such a lovely evening sharing our experiences.
We realised as driving out of Broome that we’d spent 2 weeks in the area, it was a case of OMG how did that happen, this is certainly the luxury we have when travelling in our own country with a very distant deadline.
Our next stop was Barn Hill which literally everyone had mentioned was a place to stop, initially we thought we’d only spend one night as it isn’t free camping and we weren’t right on the beach however after a couple of hours we realised why people stay longer. Everyone seemed very friendly, the beach is just a short walk away for a good swim and there is plenty of room both in the campground and on the beach. Facilities were good and we enjoyed our amenities block with views to the sky although did hope there were no drones about. This place is part of Thangoo Station with 8000 head of cattle on 430,000 acres and has operated as a campground for the last 31 years.
Heading south down the Great Northern Highway isn’t the most exciting road we’ve travelled just scrub and the occasional sandy track to a station, the first place of any interest is Sandfire Roadhouse stopped here for our first burger on the trip – had to do this just once. Continued on to the turn off to 80 Mile beach where we stopped overnight free camping before heading down to the beach. We find it unfair that there is this huge coastline with amazing beaches but we can only access them through caravan parks hopefully this changes as we head south.
Went down to 80 Mile Beach to check it out the beach, which is very long in fact from memory I think it’s 136 miles long, by the caravan park (which is the smartest one we’ve ever seen with plenty of green grass, hedges, cafe, shop and even a veggie garden) there wasn’t any rocks or anything of particular interest. Highlight here was the car wash bay so Walkabout III had her first wash since Katherine which amazingly was 2 months to the day ago. We decided it was definitely a good move just to visit for a couple of hours before going on to Cape Keraudren.
The turn off for the cape is just by Pardoo Roadhouse so a good location to refuel if need be and 7cents a litre cheaper than Sandfire Roadhouse. Surprisingly the 13km road in is mainly bitumen, this is a conservation park so an entrance fee is required as well as a per night fee for camping – reductions for seniors 😊. We planned to stay one night but after seeing whales, turtles and dolphins all within the first hour we decided an extra night was warranted. We saw a large shark the next day apparently there have been many here but much smaller than the one we saw. The park is very large with a variety of places to camp some with toilets and other for the self contained, we scored a great site enabling us to see sunrise & sunset and close enough to hear the whales communicate and the slap of their tails. As you can guess we went for plenty of walks and found an enclosed lagoon with it’s own select variety of bird life and the boat ramp.
On our last afternoon at Cape Keraudren (we ended up staying 3 nights) we noticed a few people down near the water where we hadn’t previously walked so went to investigate just as well we did as there was the most amazing rock pools ever. It was quite windy but so pleased that I’ve some good photos just to show how nice it was. This place should be a must see on anyone travelling up here.
Where are we now
Broome again didn’t disappoint we stayed this time at the PCYC Overflow Camp didn’t mind paying $30 as it went fully back to the community. It was a handy location for us to do a bike ride up to the lighthouse although a little harder than we anticipated as rather than roads out on the point it was sand tracks so lots of bike pushing, oh well good exercise. The lighthouse was somewhat insignificant but nice views out to the ocean. We rode back via Town Beach and had a late lunch at the market that was just setting up in preparation for the crowd coming to see the staircase to the moon.
Early evening we returned to Town Beach and sat with 100’s of others in anticipation of the moon rising, yes spectacular but photos not as good as I’d have liked. Wandered round the markets again now with every type of food you could imagine as well as other stalls and a couple of brothers entertaining us with some good country music. A nice relaxing night and just a short walk from camp.
Woke with another sea mist covering us in dampness but this was again burnt off by 7.30. We headed off on the Cape Leveque road knowing that the first 100 was unsealed. The road was much better than expected with a few rough spots and some interesting slopes when I felt that I was going to topple sideways from my seat. Our first stop was Beagle Bay Community where we checked out the 100 year old church decorated with 100’s of mother of pearl shells, built by 3 pioneer brothers with the help of Aboriginals, the church has been beautifully maintained and is still in use today. The community is very tidy and has a good general store and a bakery although no cakes had been made that day, they do make a mean iced coffee though 😀
We were heading to Pender Bay Camp but I missed the turning, yes more bad navigation, so we continued north and checked out Kooljaman on the tip of the Cape rather nice with fancy restaurant and their own airstrip to fly in guests who didn’t want to face the rough roads. A cute little lighthouse up there too. We didn’t stop for long carrying on to what turned out to be our spot for the night – Gumbanan Bush Camp.
Gumbanan is in a perfect location just on the east of the Cape with views in all directions small islands dotted around which grew as the tide went down. Also some amazing rock pools on low tide incredible coral and other aquatic plant life and a variety of small fish, I spent both mornings for about an hour just photographing and watching. While up that end of the peninsula we went to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm where I did a very informative tour about the Brown Family and how they developed the farm and perfected the culturing of pearls. We also visited the hatchery at One Arm Point, not really a hatchery as such but a number of large tanks with a variety of fish and seaweed. Worth a visit all the same as there was interesting boards about the history of the local community.
We were going to stay at Pender Bay before heading back to Broome but 500 meters down the road we decided to turn around due to rough corrugation, didn’t feel too disappointed as we’ve stayed at 3 gorgeous beaches on the peninsula.