Kimberley Trip September-October 2012

We have just completed another big drive to Broome and various other places north. Just over 21 days and 6500 kilometres with our trusty Prado and Ultimate camper-trailer.

Day 1 - Home to Geraldton.

We meant to leave a day earlier than we did, but had a minor problem with the camper lights. This had a happy consequence - we heard on the radio on the way that the fabulous guitarists Slava and Leonard Grigoryan were playing that night in Geraldton. So we got tickets and enjoyed a delightful concert in the Queens Park Theatre, a very nice little auditorium.

We also made a point of going to the wonderful HMAS Sydney memorial, which has recently been extended with a Pool of Remembrance to mark the finding of the wreck of the Sydney in 2008. As with the main memorial, the symbolism is quite exquisite in both concept and realisation. If you are visiting Geraldton, do not miss seeing this superb memorial.

HMAS Sydney Memorial
The pool of remembrance at the HMAS Sydney memorial. 

Day 2 - Geraldton to Carnarvon.

An easy drive up the North West Coastal Highway to Carnarvon, a town we like a lot. Stayed again at the Wintersun Caravan Park, a favourite haunt. We were pleased to see that the remodelling of the Carnarvon main street was now complete. It was supposed to be done by June or July, but has taken many months longer. But we think it was worth it - when the trees and other plants grow it will look good.

The pic at right is from the White Bluff lookout just north of the Shark Bay turnoff. It's a little community of gnomes left by people to commemorate loved ones who have died. They have a great view from the lookout over Shark Bay.

White Bluff Gnomes

Day 3 - Carnarvon to Exmouth.

There was no hurry to get to Broome, so a couple of days in Exmouth was decided on. We stayed at the Lighthouse Caravan Park and ended up right next to another Ultimate camper, the same as ours. That's quite unusual.

Exmouth Campsite

Day 4 - Exmouth

Spent a very pleasant day visiting many of the beaches on the western side of the cape. Sandy Bay is a favourite, but swims were taken at several of them. Got as far as Yardie Creek, where these little black-footed rock wallabies are very common. In fact if you drive along any of the Cape Range National Park roads just after sundown, extreme care is required to avoid hitting them, because they are everywhere.

Yardie Creek Wallaby

Day 5 - Exmouth to Fortescue River.

Did a short morning boat trip over the reefs in a glass-bottomed boat, which was very good. It was the one operating out of Tantabiddi on the west side of the cape, skippered by Aleks Nowak, a Polish guy who seems to have found his spiritual home on the reefs. It probably helps that he found his wife here too. He is very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable... and great fun!

We continued further north with the idea of maybe spending the night at Point Samson, but heard on the radio that the road to it was closed due to a fire. So we stopped at a roadhouse at the Fortescue River which has caravan sites. The site was between the roadhouse and a village of transportables which are a mining camp, so we thought it would be noisy, but it turned out to be perfectly OK.

2090 Exmouth Boat Skipper
Aleks, the skipper of the glass-bottomed boat.

Day 6 - Fortescue River to 80-Mile Beach.

It's not far from Fortescue River to Karratha, so breakfast was taken at the surprisingly good Jamaica Blue cafe in the Karratha shopping centre. Tea breaks were taken at the Sherlock River and De Grey River rest areas, and a big refuel was done in Port Hedland as planned.

We've stayed at the 80 Mile Beach Caravan Park before - it's very good and right on the beach. But don't expect to swim - the beach is very flat and has the big tides of the region, so often the water's edge is almost a kilometre out! At some times of the year turtles can be seen at night coming in to lay their eggs, but we were a bit early for that this year. The picture is taken looking south-west just before sunset, and the tide was well out.

Eighty Mile Beach

Day 7 - 80 Mile Beach to Broome.

Just a short cruise into Broome, with stops at Sandfire Roadhouse and the Goldwire rest area 150km or so before Broome. Set up at the Palm Grove Caravan Park at Cable Beach, another favourite spot. Sunset was enjoyed at the beach near the port.

The pic at right shows the Android smartphone running the OziExplorer navigation app, as we were approaching Broome. We jokingly call it the "Minister for Everything", because it manages navigation, music (cable coming out the top goes to the aux input of the Prado's stereo), recording of fuel figures and other costs, internet browsing - oh, and it's a phone too! It really is quite fantastic. It's a Samsung Galaxy Note, sort of half phone, half mini-tablet. Screen size is about 5.5" on the diagonal, still small enough to be quite usable as a phone, but big enough to give heaps of area for navigation and other tablet apps.

Broome Port Sunset

9467 Ozi Explorer

Day 8 - Broome

Did our first early morning walk on beautiful Cable Beach, but were a bit shocked at what we saw. There had been quite severe beach erosion, and the section of exposed rocks just north of the vehicle access road was now much, much bigger. There were also tidal pools formed just below the high tide mark, and several rivulets where they emptied back into the sea. This all apparently happened on one extra-high tide back in June or July, probably in conjunction with some rough weather. Still a lovely place to be though, and no matter how busy Broome may be, there are usually very few people on the beach before 7am.

Lunch was at Matso's boutique brewery and cafe, and sunset was spent at the port beach again.

9758 Cable Beach Erosion

Day 9 - Broome

Another morning walk on Cable Beach, then looked around the town to see what had changed. We discovered to our horror that two of our favourite eateries appeared to be closed. Fortunately we later discovered they were not closed: one had moved, and one was just a little erratic with its opening times - operating on "Broome time", no doubt.

And another sunset at the port beach. We tended to go there because Cable Beach does get quite crowded in the afternoons. We both take endless photos of the wonderful colours and patterns in the rocks and sand at these beaches.

9794 Port Beach Rocks

Day 10 - Broome

No Cable Beach walk today - Steve went out early and played the Broome Golf Club course. Started at about 7am and went around alone, so was finished before 10! But that was intended, to avoid the heat. The course is quite nice - all grass. In the picture at right, the round green right in the centre is the 18th. And the clubhouse has great views from what must be the only hill for miles around.

We went to Redell Beach for sunset - that's between the port and Gantheaume Point.

9641 Broome Golf Club

Day 11 - Broome

Had breakfast at Ra-Ra's, a cafe in Chinatown. We decided that we'd like to go up to Cape Leveque for a couple of days, so will leave tomorrow. Went to Gantheaume Point for sunset, a place we haven't spent much time at before. But it turned out to have fabulous rocks too, so lots more sand and rock images were captured.

9928 Gantheaume Point

Day 12 - Broome to Cape Leveque/Djoodoon.

Packed up and headed further north. The road is unsealed for 85km or so from the Broome highway, but then is a very good sealed road almost all the way to the tip of the cape. Only the last 4km or so to Kooljaman is unsealed. We called in at the Beagle Bay community on the way and had a look at their beautiful little church. It's quite famous for its pearlshell decoration on its altar and in many other parts of the interior.

We were told about the Djoodoon bush camp by someone at a cafe in Broome, and given sketchy directions. We saw a track near Lombadina that looked like it might be the one, so thought we'd give it a go. Sure enough it was, so we set up and spent two nights at this delightful spot just south of the tip of the cape.

9937 Beagle Bay Church
The church at Beagle Bay
9939 Beagle Bay Church
The interior of the church, with its extensive pearlshell decoration.
9954 Djoodoon
The "office" at Djoodoon.

Day 13 - Djoodoon.

Spent a delightful day wandering the beaches around the bay at Djoodoon, and discovering more great rocks.

There's no website for Djoodoon, and don't bother doing a web search for it - you probably won't find anything. We're not even sure if it has a telephone, so have no idea if/how you can book to go there. It's probably a matter of just showing up and seeing if there is space. It seems to be a fishing spot - the few other campers there all had their boats with them.

9982 Djoodoon
Mangroves on the shores of the bay at Djoodoon.
9977 Djoodoon Rocks 9967 Djoodoon Rocks

Day 14 - Djoodoon/Cape Leveque to Broome.

Left Djoodoon and went the few kilometres to the tip of the cape, to check out the Kooljaman resort and camping area. Had a swim at the beach there, then made the drive back down to Broome. We thought we'd try the Roebuck Bay Caravan Park this time, right on the shores of the town beach. When the tide was in it was only 50 metres or so from our campsite to the water's edge. But of course, when the tide is out out it could be a kilometre away! But no matter what the tide, it was a delight to sit on the grassy foreshore and look out over Roebuck Bay.

0010 Cape Leveque
The beautiful swimming beach at Cape Leveque.

0047 Cape Leveque Road
The unsealed part of the Cape Leveque road.

Day 15 - Broome.

A fairly lazy day back in Broome, and back to the port beach at sunset time.

10078 Town Beach Low Tide
Town Beach at low tide.

Day 16 - Broome

Last day in Broome for this trip. Another fairly lazy one, and Chris did some more work on some small canvases she had started at Djoodoon, trying to capture the impression of the rock colours seen at the places we have been.

Broome Canvases

Day 17 - Broome to 80 Mile Beach.

Time to start heading south again. A leisurely cruise back to 80 Mile Beach. The picture was taken at sunset, and is very like the images often seen of Broome's famous "Stairway to the Moon". But instead of being of the moon rising over tidal flats, this one is of the sun setting over them.

0284 Stairway to the Sun

Day 18 - 80 Mile Beach to Point Samson.

The road to Point Samson was open again, so we decided to spend a night there again. We tried the Cove Caravan Park for the first time. Very nice although quite expensive. There's also not much shade, as it's fairly new and the trees haven't grown yet. This was the second place where we were set up right next to another Ultimate camper.

10134 Honeymoon CoveHoneymoon Cove at Point Samson.

0299 DeGreyRiver
Cuppa tea stop at the De Grey River rest area.

Day 19 - Point Samson to Lyndon River.

Lyndon River is a free 24-hour stopping place on the highway. These are very popular with caravanners and campers, but when we got there we were surprised to be the only occupants. A little later we were joined by a huge 5th-wheeler caravan, then after dark a couple of other campers arrived. It was very pleasant indeed, and again not as noisy as we had feared it might be. We even had our own concrete picnic table (well almost).

10136 Lyndon River Campsite

Day 20 - Lyndon River to Carnarvon.

Back to Carnarvon for a couple of nights. Had lunch at the Harbourside, and later a walk around Pelican Point on the fascine at the end of the day. Not sure what the poles in the picture are the remains of, but they make a nice image.

10139 Pelican Point

Day 21 - Carnarvon.

We decided it was time we walked out to the end of the old One Mile Jetty, so battled the strong sea breeze and made the trip. Look how crooked those railway lines are! But the little old train seems to get out and back quite OK. It's going to be a very expensive exercise to keep this jetty serviceable.

0495 One Mile Jetty

Day 22 - Carnarvon to Home.

It was our intention to stay overnight in Geraldton, but after getting there and having our traditional fish and chips at the Dome on the foreshore it was only about 3:30pm, and the lure of our own bed at home was strong. So we pressed on, and got home at about 10pm. A long day but it was worth it.

Over the 6532km of the trip we averaged 11.14 litres/100km, pretty good as the majority of it was towing the camper. The long-range tanks in the Prado allow us to carry up to 180 litres, which is great as it allows us to choose where the big fillups are done, and means we normally don't have to pay the very high prices at remote places because we can go up to about 1600km on full tanks. We also use the Coles and Woolworths vouchers where possible, which become quite valuable when you are filling up with over 150 litres - it can be worth a breakfast or a lunch! With this sort of management we were able to keep the trip average fuel price to about $1.53 per litre, a price that is not uncommon in Perth just now.