Pilbara to Ningaloo

The Pilbara has been a leg of great contrast. We’re primarily back on sealed roads, with occasional detours onto sand tracks and wide gravel road train routes. We embraced the ocean breeze along the coast after some intense humidity in the north. Surrounded by farming territory we’ve enjoyed a few station stays where the owners have shared with us the challenges and joys of cattle farming in remote WA. Its remarkable to hear that cattle rustling still happens today. We’ve visited some stunning national parks and in contrast a couple of booming mining towns. This billion dollar industry is clearly visible across the landscape out here.

We left Broome for beautiful sandy Cape Leveque. We passed a few pearl farms, which the area is famous for, just off the coast . The floors, walls and most notably the alter of Beagle Bay church are decorated with mother of pearl shells, it took a couple of years to complete, so we made our donation to enter and admired the work of this small aboriginal community.

The pearl alter at Beagle Bay church

After 2 nights bush camping with very persistent mosquitoes, let’s just say there was little flesh left unbitten, we took the 100km of corrugated sandy track to the tip of the peninsula and settled into our beach side shelter. A pricier option than a main camp site but we were happy to indulge this once. With space for the hammock, an outdoor shower and a fire pit stocked with wood we’re were ready to relax. We swam in the calm ocean as the staff assured us there had been no croc or shark sightings. However, always wary, a new game was created ‘ croc or rock?’ The sunsets along this stretch of coast are breathtaking.

After a few days driving along the Northern Hwy we were in need of exercise. Taking a morning stroll from our bush camp we were unexpectedly followed by a nude, male flute player. Naturally we were quite taken aback and quickly retreated to the car! They say it’s the people that make your trip!

The north western coast of WA is dominated by industry and mining. We sped through Port Hedland and Karratha. Dampier however was on our agenda. This is the home to the Red Dog memorial statue. We’ve watched the movie, loved the legendary stories and were keen to see him for ourselves.

[Red Dog was a friendly Kelpie known for his travels through WA’s Pilbara region. Dampier, is one of the towns to which he often returned]

Iron Ore trains consist of more than 200 carriages and exceed 2kms

A common theme of our trip so far is arriving at our chosen destination immediately after storms have passed through. Whilst we’ve been lucky enough to stay dry, we arrived just as the roads to Karanjini National Park reopened, what a relief as we were so keen to visit. For three days we enjoyed walking along the steep red gorge rims and climbing into the crystal clear waters at the gorge floor. Swimming at the foot of waterfalls, wading through rock pools and traversing rocks. Such an adventure, we could have stayed much longer in this fantastic NP. Highly recommend this destination if you’re in WA!

Hammersley Gorge

Abandoned shoes at the start of the gorge

Spider walk

Our bargain purchase (souvineer!) of the trip so far has to be Doug’s new Rio Tinto overalls. $5 from the op shop in Tom Price, no more scrubbing oil stains out of his good clothes! (Turns out he is frequently under the car repairing or simply tinkering). Tom Price is a purpose built mining town near Karanjini. We couldn’t resist the mine tour and a sneak peek into this world. Loaded onto the coach with hard hat, safely glasses and rules read, we drove to the mine site and saw the iron ore processing centre and ridiculously oversized machinery. We took away a small piece iron ore.

Tom Price mine site (can you spot the trucks at the bottom?)

A retired ‘spade’ the new ones are big (ger)

Popping the kettle on at Bullara Station

Back to the coast, our first stop in Exmouth was a shop to buy our snorkels. It would be foolish to visit the world famous Ningaloo Reef without being prepared. Staying in Cape Range national park we had access to the reef immediately off the beach. Turquiose Bay was just that, snorkels on, we could ride the drift current (which was incredibly strong) exploring the sealife beneath the surface. Reaching the sandbar, we hopped out, walked up the beach and started again.

Dog Point, Coral Bay

A highlight of WA so far was swimming with a whale shark in Coral Bay. There is such excitement and build up before a shark is sighted, some days it can be half an hour into the trip, other days 4 hours! We got lucky after around 1 hour, it was all systems go, obviously the nature of wildlife is unpredictability and we had to get in quickly before our opportunity passed. We were really lucky to come across a “cruisy shark” , more than happy for us to swim along beside and stayed at the surface for what felt like ages. We left overjoyed after a seasonal record of 6 dives with this 6-7 metre beast! Each whale shark has a unique identification pattern, the tour photographer provided the photo of our shark, once we register online we’ll be able to follow and receive updates of where she is sighted in the world. What a bonus! These tours, whilst expensive are a once in a lifetime opportunity, in addition to the swim we visited 2 stunning coral reef sites, while snorkeling we saw some fantastic fish and even followed a turtle.

This coastline is just spectacular, we can’t wait to explore it further as we head south towards Perth.

3rd May – 17th May 14
Total KMs: 13,068
KMs on this leg: 3041

Car maintenance:
Replacement spider bearings for front prop shaft (full time 4WD badge on the side of the car is once again accurate)
1 oil change
1 electrical fault – eventually traced to when we engaged reverse. The offending aftermarket lights are now in the landfill.
Intermittent problem with one brake calliper dragging and getting hot (No fault found yet!)
1 new pulley tensioner wheel on the a/c

just like a big meccano set

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