Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Exmouth Trip October 6 to 13, 2012

Saturday 6 October 2012
Most of the packing for our Exmouth trip was done on Friday, including loading the kayaks on top of the Pajero, hooking up the Pajero to the Caravan and loading the bikes on to the stand that Justin, my cousin, had attached to the caravan. We've got some serious recreation planned on this trip.  With some minor packing to do we figure we should get away in good time, however it isn't until 9.30 am that we manage to drive out the gate and down the road on our next big adventure. We drop Mr Sox off at the Prideland Kennels in Muchea and our next stop is Cataby Roadhouse to fuel up.

We pass Geraldton around 4.00 pm where we call the Woramel Roadhouse to let them know where we are.  We don't make Woramel until 8.30 pm and let ourselves in through the side gate and set up camp. It's been a straight run and we're glad to stop.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Carnarvon is 123 kilometers from Woromel and we pass by around 10.00 am, fueling up at the busy Caltex service station on the outskirts of town. We cross the Gascoyne River and it's another straight run north through flat country with the occasional goat eating by the side of the road. We've been listening to our new CDs and I read up on the Louvin Brothers and their Satan is Real CD and then we play it. Its a rerelease of an album they recorded in 1958. Now I know where Gram Parsons got the song, The Christian Life, for The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo album and Buddy Miller got the song, There is a Higher Power, for his Universal House of Prayer album. The two brothers, Ira and Charlie, produced Gospel harmonies on this album that have been used by artists like Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. This album is must in any serious Gospel aficionado's collection. The story of Ira and Charlie Louvin reads like a morality play. Ira was the bent one who wrote the lyrics and sang the high harmonies and Charlie was the straight one who was the lead singer and provided the music. Ira died young in a fatal car accident and Charlie lived until 2011, dying from pancreatic cancer.

Another stop at Minilya Roadhouse to fill up the gas tank and we're on the road again. We take the turnoff to Exmouth and drive through flat, virtually treeless county except for some small scrubby shrubs, under which emancipated sheep bend over to hide, seeking shelter from the sun.  Call this cruelty to animals. And where's the water? Cream coloured ant hills bob up like sentries across the flat slopes as we make our way past the low level Cape Range National Park and drive into Newman. It's Sunday and the Visitor Centre is closed so we drive out of town and around to our camp at the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park where I back the caravan into a sheltered parking bay, which we will need because the wind is starting to pick up. After setting up camp it is good to relax with a cup of tea and a late lunch.

Monday 8 October 2012

The morning sun is up in the sky as we drive into Exmouth and stock up on provisions. I find another client for my postcards at the newsagent, which is great. We follow the main road out of town and after about 10 kilometres we turn left to have a look at Pebble Beach. It derives its name from all the small rocks along the beach. We drive on past the Harold Holt Naval Communications Station and about 20 kilometres out of town turn left down Shothole Canyon Road, which takes us into the wild, hilly canyons of the Cape Range National Park. The name derives from the shot holes left by seismographic explosions during oil searches in the 1950s. It's a gravel track that follows the dry creek bed of the gorge for about 12 kilometres before reaching a turn around area. A short walk to the top of the summit reveals a view down the gorge of colourful rock layers and rugged hilltops.

The next access into the Cape Range National Park is via Charles Knife Road, a further 7 kilometres out of town. This time the road follows the top of the ridges of the range and you look down on to the gorges from above. There are pullover spots providing stunning downward views for photo opportunities. We take a side track to the Thomas Carter lookout which is pretty rough but doesn't deter a girl in a conventional car. The view isn't much different from what you can see elsewhere but it does provide the starting point for a 3 hour walk trail for those crazy enough to contemplate such a walk through extremely rugged terrain. At the end of the 11 kilometres drive we come to a capped oil drilling well head that Wapet attempted drilling in the 1950s to no avail. Not the most exciting discovery we've made.

Back in town I go in to the Exmouth Visitor Centre and have a very constructive conversation with the Beth Lawson, the Assistant Manager, regarding stocking my new Way Out West book in their store. Amongst other drawings from around the state it features two drawings from Exmouth, one of the Vlamingh Head lighthouse and another of Yardie Creek Gorge. I trust they will see fit to stock the book.

After a lunch break and rest we drive back towards Exmouth to see if we can see any turtles coming in to nest. It's something they do around sundown at this time of the year so we are a bit too early. We make our way up to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse and join dozens of other four wheel drive vehicles parked and waiting to view the sunset across the sea. We've all been told to do this by the tourist brochures so we all duly follow suit. It's really no different to a sunset over any other beach but when in Rome, do as the Romans do. We get out before the sun has finally set so we're not caught in traffic jam.

It's nice to get back to camp for dinner and sleep.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Today is the day that we plan to take the kayaks out on the water. They're not just for show. We turn left out of Yardie Homestead and drive into the Cape Range National Park paying the $11.00 daily fee at the entrance. Our first stop is the Milyering Visitor Centre where we buy tickets for the Yardie Creek Gorge boat tour for the next day. We then check out the Milyering Visitor Centre where I introduce myself to Suzie Lorraway, the Retail Shop Manager. I ask if she had received my complimentary copy of my Way Out West book and she hadn't so I go and get a copy from the car. She appears genuinely interested in stocking the book, which is great. We've forgotten some things so we drive back to camp and change for our kayak adventure.

We then drive to Mangrove Bay where we plan to put the kayaks in. As we begin to untie the kayaks some passing tourists suggest that we'll have a long walk if we are planning to kayak there right now. Taking their advice we go and have a look and find that the tide is out, something we hadn't thought about. I ask a guy with a boat about the tides and he suggests we come back at 2.00 pm when the tide is on its way back in.

So it's a change of plan and we drive to Turquoise Bay to do some coral reef swimming. The car park is almost full but we manage to score a parking bay. We find a spot amongst the crowd on the beach and I fit up for some snorkeling and underwater photography. The water is great and there are numerous fish swimming about so I enjoy myself following them and trying to take their photographs. It takes a while for me to get a hang on it all but I enjoy myself immensely. Unfortunately I realise when I get back to the beach that I have forgotten to put my rashie on and will probably have a very red back when I get back to camp.

It's about 12.30 so we decide to check out some more beaches before we put in at Mangrove Bay again. One of these beaches is Lakeside and it looks good for kayaks. The tide has started to come in and the beach isn't far from the parking area so we stop and get the kayaks off the top of the Pajero. After kitting up rashies, water bags, sunnies, sun hats and water shoes we are ready for the water. The sea is Turquoise blue. We paddle put past a reef and follow the coast for quite a way until I tire of it and suggest we turn around. Lexie would go on forever if she was given half a chance. Eventually we pull the kayaks up on to the beach and carry them back to the car. It's been fun but it is time to go back to camp for something to eat, Besides I'm starting to feel a bit burnt.

After a late lunch and a shower I ask the lady at the caravan park shop if she has any skin lotion for my burnt back. She doesn't but she does suggest I get some aloe vera and apply it to my back. She draws a mud map to show where I can pick some, which I do and take back to Lexie to apply to my red back. It's very sticky but does a surprisingly good job of relieving the sunburn. There's something to be said for old wives’ tales!

Late in the afternoon I drive back to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse to have another go at photographing it at sunset. The reason for my change of heart is that when I was at the Milyering Visitor Centre I saw a sunset photograph of the lighthouse with the sun going down in the background that was really spectacular, mainly because the photo was taken when there was a lot of cloud which reflected the sunset colors. I find the likely location from where the photographer took the photograph and wait for the sun to set, taking a few shots every five minutes. Interestingly, as the suns starts to set it is divided by some cloud in front of it causing the sun to be split into two forms. Whether this produces an effective photograph remains to be seen. I follow the four wheel drive procession down the hill and back to camp in the gathering dark.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The plan for today is to take the boat ride up the Yardie Creek Gorge. We're not up for much else as we're still dealing with the effects of sunburnt skin. We arrive just in time at 11.00 am and joint the waiting contingent on the flat bottomed boat. Our guide and boatman is Peter who has been living in Exmouth for long time. He gives us a rundown of the gorge and its animal inhabitants, which is informative and engaging. His comments and observations as we continue up the gorge continue thus and it is a most pleasant trip. The gorge itself is spectacular but we continue to compare it to Geikie Gorge, which is really spectacular. The trip is definitely worthwhile and we see much bird life, including cormorants, corellas, egrets and grey waders. We also see a couple of Black-footed Rock Wallabies, which are part of a colony that live at the gorge. The boat ride is a definite must on any visit to Exmouth.

We make enquiries at the Milyering Visitor Centre as to the best place to go snorkeling and when it is best to walk in to Mandu Mandu Gorge. Jamie, the man who speaks to us, is very helpful. It turns out he knows Scotty, our friend who guided us into Rudall River National Park on our last outback trip.

We return to camp for a late lunch and, after a rest, drive in to town to stock up on provisions. I buy a couple of newspapers and find that my Way Out West book has been reviewed favourably in the Tuesday edition of the Today section of the West Australian, which is great. I ring a couple of the local Visitor Centres to let them know. We stop by Bundegi Beach and find that it is a fishing beach and more for those folks who like to catch fish.

On our way back to camp we drive up the road to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse where I wait to take some more photographs. This time there is some cloud in the sky, which offers a chance for some reflection of colour off the clouds. It often takes a number of visits to a site to get a successful shot. When the light fades we join the vehicles making their way back down the hill and drive back to the caravan park.

Thursday 11 October 2012

This is our last day in Exmouth so we've got to make the most of it. The first planned adventure is a hike up Mandu Mandu Gorge which is about half way into the Cape Range National Park and accessed from the west side. Jamie advised us to go in the morning so we wake at 6.00 am and leave camp by 6.30 am. We arrive at Mandu Mandu just after 7.00 am and head up the pebbled water course of the gorge. It is a visually pleasing walk. I've got my jeans and walkers on as I figure there may be some spinifex, and I am right.  Along the way we meet a wallaby who appears to be in no hurry. The signposted trail follows the course of the river up the limestone gorge until the main cliffs run out and the dry creek bed winds its way through the range. The marked trail turns left and we follow it up the side of the gorge to the top. This is an arduous walk but we make it in good time and are served with a splendid view back down the gorge to the plain and the turquoise sea in the distance.

From this point the trail follows the top of the gorge and goes up and down a few ravines until leveling out and we can see the cars in the parking area. The sign at the start says that the walk is a 3 kilometre turnaround but it feels like a like lot more to us. The recommended time for the walk is an hour and a half and we make it back by 8.45 am, hot and ready for breakfast. A 6.00 am start would have been better. By 9.15 am we're back at camp for breakfast and a rest.

Sometime after 10.00 am we have changed and head off to do some snorkeling at Lakeside Beach, again another recommendation of Jamie's. Lexie sets up her new beach umbrella and I kit up for some snorkeling and under water photography with our small underwater camera. This time I am wearing my rashie. I swim out between the marked yellow markers and struggle to manage the snorkel, flippers and camera as the water is fairly choppy. It takes me a while to get the hang of it but eventually I get to take a number of photos of fish and coral, finally calling it a day after ingesting copious mouthfuls of salty water. I stagger back up the beach to where Lexie is relaxing under her umbrella and suggest it is time to go back to camp for lunch. We arrive back at 1.00 pm.

It's a pretty hot day so we shower, have lunch and rest for a few hours. At 4.30 pm we venture out, this time to go kayaking at Yardie Creek Gorge. We get there at 5.15 pm and get the kayaks down off the car. By 5.30 we are kayaking up the river to the gorge passing various water birds on the way. The gorge is quiet and the limestone cliffs reflect the evening sun making it a particularly pleasant journey. We row up the gorge and turn around at the point where you would have to carry your kayaks across rocks to get to the next stretch of water. It's a leisurely row back to the sandbar with the sun heading for the horizon. It's been a particularly pleasant row but we could have started an hour earlier to take advantage of the sun shining off the cliffs.

By the time we have secured the kayaks on the roof it is 6.30 pm and we begin a hazardous journey back in the fading light. I say hazardous because of the many kangaroos and wallabies that are on the road. It's about 70 kilometres from Yardie Creek to Yardie Homestead Caravan Park and we do it at between 50 and 60 km/hour. Even so a wallaby jumps into us. It doesn't appear to have any broken bones as it sits by the side of the road but it does have a bloodied nose. There's nothing we can do for it except hope that it will recover from the shock and continue where it was going. We arrive back at camp at 7.45 pm, tired and ready for a shower. It's been a big day.

Friday 12 October 2012

It's time to head back to Perth so we rise early and are packed and ready to leave by 8.00 am. On the way out I have a chat with Miffy, the park attendant and we discuss the possibility of me doing an acoustic caravan park concert the next time we are in Exmouth. I explain that I did this once in Marble Bar where the concert was organised by the Royal Flying Doctor committee as a BBQ fundraiser and was vey successful. She says that they do similar concerts at Yardie Creek Homestead for the Flying Doctor so we agree to follow up on it on our next visit.

On the way out I stop and take some photographs of the large emu contingent that is based around the water trough just outside the Homestead gates. Emus are a major feature of Cape Range so it's good to get a shot of so many together.

The trip to Carnarvon is uneventful and on the way in we stop at the Gwoonwardu Mia Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre to have a look around.

This is a large dominating building that features Aboriginal design cut into steel sheet and is quite impressive. There is a range of local Aboriginal art on display for sale, from paintings and drawings to hand made crafts. We are invited by one of the Aboriginal women staff to view the permanent exhibition in an adjoining building where we are treated to an interactive display of images and objects about the local history of the Aboriginal people of the region. We find this particularly interesting, especially the recorded video interviews with Aboriginal people and the part about the local mission. On the way out we are introduced to the Centre Manager, Justine Lawler, and we talk about Aboriginal art and the possibility of doing arts workshops when we visit Carnarvon next year. Justine is very receptive to this idea so hopefully something will come of it.

We drive further in to town and park out the back of the Carnarvon Visitor Centre. I have an order of my Way Out West books to drop off and I get to meet two of the pleasant staff, Stephanie and Leah, whom I ply with questions about what visitors are looking for when they visit the Centre. It is a productive conversation and I come away with more ideas on how to use the photographic record that I have built up of the region.

After setting up the caravan, having lunch and taking a rest, we get the bikes off the rack and kit up for a bike ride in to town. There are major roadworks happening in the middle of town so we stick to the footpaths. On the Fascine there is also major development taking place. It looks like the shire is upgrading the whole look of the place in anticipation of more visitors coming and locals wanting a better looking town. The Fascine is the built waterfront where the town meets the estuary and is lined with palm trees that give it a tropical flavour. When the upgrade is completed I imagine it will give the town a real lift. Our bike ride is limited because of the earthworks but we enjoy the ride around the Fascine and then back to our camp.

Saturday 13 October

This is the last leg of our trip and we get away in good time by 7.45 am. It's a straight run to Billabong Roadhouse where we change drivers and Lexie takes over. The next stop is Northampton where it's the annual Airing of the Quilts. The North West Coast Highway runs through the centre of Northampton so there are road calming devices in place and quilts hang from shop windows on each side of the road. There are lots of people about so we take a wander up the street and have a look at the quilts. We stop outside the convent where there are a number of quilts on display and a fashion parade beginning. Local girls are modelling dresses from yesteryear, which is all very interesting. We wander back down the road looking for somewhere to eat but the eateries are all very crowded so we decide to move on.

We pass Geraldton and stop at Dongara to fuel up and order sandwiches, which are only available in white bread. We eat lunch on the road as we drive into grey clouds and wet weather, an indication if we needed one, that we're back in the south. We're running close to time so we give the people at the kennels an indication of where we are and keep them updated as we approach. We pick up Mr Sox at 6.15 pm and drive through dusk reaching home at 7.30 pm. Then it's just a case of unhooking the caravan and bringing the tucker inside. Home sweet home.

1 comment:

  1. Exmouth is really a great place. You won't regret the day that you've been there.
    Exmouth tour