Last year as we travelled Ireland and Spain I found myself missing the regular trek north and the wonderful ruggedness of the country up here. So we have come back to enjoy it yet again.
Our first week was spent with our good friends the Wesleys in Exmouth, staying at the Exmouth Caravan Park in town. Its always a challenge to know where to stay in Exmouth. Town is convenient but busy, while the other campsites out of town are cheaper and more remote, but a bugger if you forget the milk…
We spent the first week surfing, fishing and hanging with friends, but I find caravan parks hard when you are packed in tight and there is a lot of noise. Still, it was a good week and then we began the trek further north. Originally we spoke of the possibility of Darwin and even coming back thru the middle, but with a realistic top speed of 100ks/hr and a more regular speed of 90 the driving felt slow and we quickly ditched that idea.
As the rain fell we drove out of Exmouth with the plan of simply driving until we saw blue sky. Our first stop was a freebie overnight at Robe River – we drove a fair way in and tucked ourselves away at the back of the ‘main drag’. What was a quiet night turned very windy around 4am and ended up being noisy as the bed ends I had simply draped over the tent section of the van, flapped around. It was nice to be back in the more remote camping – even if there were 50 other vans of grey nomads.
We stopped in at Karratha for supplies and then cruised thru to Point Samson where we booked in at the Cove Caravan Park – really nice and good value for a family ($51.00). We fished a bit, chilled and read and enjoyed some walks on the beach. Two nights was plenty and the kids wanted to get thru to Broome before the school holidays ended and they had to get back into the school-work.
We went from here to Hedland for lunch and a refuel and then decided to drive until we had had enough. That happened about 20km past Sandfire in a small gravel carpark where we pulled up for the night. Aside from the occasional car passing, it was beautifully silent and the night sky was spectacular. We got there just before dusk and got set up. It had been hard driving as we were smashing into a strong easterly headwind the whole way and the old cruiser was struggling to stay at 80kph. I did flog it in 3rd gear for a while doing 2700 revs but the fuel economy went from 18/100 to 25/100 and we didn’t gain that much.
That section made me rethink my car. Maybe we need a more grunty beast for future trips?… That said, when you only tow a caravan a few times a year and rarely for these distances it may not be justified. It lurks as a possibility… But my preferred option is to wait until Ellie gets her license and then pass it on to her as a daily driver. I can then get a late market dual cab. Danelle thinks the car won’t suit a 17 year old P Plate girl, but I think its just the sort of thing to unnerve any blokes who may be after her!
From the roadside stop we cruised into Broome, looking forward to warm days and light winds. We pulled into the Seventh Day Adventist overflow park, where we had stayed 3 years previous. We had really fond memories of that trip, partly from the friends we made, but also because it was such a fun time.
This week in Broome felt a bit ‘meh’. I hadn’t realised we were in the dodgy part of town last time, but on this occasion we noticed it. The first night we heard music pounding thru the suburb and we figured it must have been a pub or outdoor concert. (Its that time of year right?…) The next night (a Saturday) it happened again and kept going until 5am. It would fade away and the suddenly pump again. I began to think it wasn’t a concert… On Sunday night I went looking for the source and found a rundown house 4 streets away with a few blokes on the patio. It didn’t look like a place you’d go and say ‘hey – can you dial it down a bit’, so I rang the cops who shut it down pretty fast. This happened on another couple of occasions and in the end we left a few days earlier than planned as it became annoying.
In Broome the kids were back at school so morning were spent in the library with afternoons for fishing or beaching. Its still hard to beat a Broome sunset and we enjoyed a few of them on Cable. While there I met up with a bloke off the 60 Series Facebook Forum – that felt odd – he initiated it and was a really nice bloke, but it did seem a little weird to be meeting someone on the basis of a shared vehicle interest!
While in the van park I also met a bloke called Kevin, who was clearly a person of faith (from the signs on his van) and a man with quite a story. He is an itinerant evangelist, living on the smell of an oily rag and traveling where the wind and spirit take him and his wife. We chatted for a bit and it was good to make a connection as I was needing some human contact outside of the family.
We drove out of Broome with the intention of heading to Port Smith. We had heard it was a beautiful place and although there were some sandflies it would be worth the visit. At the turn off from the highway we stopped to get something out of the boot and discovered the airhose to the Poly airs had come loose which meant we were dragging the bag end somewhat. We drove the 20ks into the caravan park and set up – discovering quickly that we were being mauled by sandflies.
Danelle and kids took refuge in the van while I took the wheel off the car and tried to fix the airbag. It seemed fixed so we went for a drive down to the beach where there didn’t seem to be such a high population of midgies. On return I dscoverd the airbag had a leak so it was going to need some more attention. Not until we hit Exmouth again though… Four days later I am still scratching around 60 sandlfy bites and wishing we had never turned in!
We had hoped to spend two nights in Port Smith, but after 15 minutes we revised that to one and got moving early that morning bound for De Grey River about 90 ks north of Hedland. Now we had a strong tailwind and the old girl was sitting easily on 95-100 and doing 16/100 which was much nicer. We pulled in at DeGrey and enjoyed a beautiful peaceful night there. From DeGrey it was back to Robe as our final stop before tracking back to Exmouth. By now we are very good at the set up and pack up routine and having two teenagers makes the process fast and easy. Each time we stop at a remote spot Danelle and I come alive, but we need to balance that with the kids who wonder ‘what we are going to do?’
We left Robe and trundled on thru to Exmouth again where the sun was shining and the surf was flat. Bummer…
We pulled back into the same van park for 5 nights and now that’s its not school holidays the crazy factor has gone. Its mostly grey nomads and travellers. We have noticed that since hitting the road we have heard virtually no British or South African accents! Not so many of that crew in the northwest. But plenty of Aussies and Euros on the road.
We managed to snaffle the final spot in the Caravan park – which seems kinda weird – but it really is that popular up here. We are here until Saturday, when we will head out to Cape Range and try to score a national park site for a few days. From there we will cruise slowly back home. While the weather at home is ugly there is no rush, as up here it is magic every day.
Once home Danelle and I take off to Koh Samui for a few days (Aug 12-16) and then we will hit the road again and head south. We’ll take the van and use it when we can, with some nights in chalets if its really cold and wet. Small confined spaces like caravans aren’t much fun in pouring rain.
So far the van is working out well and we think it’s a keeper for a few years at least, and while the car didn’t do so well into the wind I’m going to do some mods when I get home to give it some more grunt. A boost controller under the bonnet and some tinkering with the fuel ought to bring out the best in it.
Anyway – that’s a bit of a trip update for anyone who cares to read…