West coast and Margaret river

West Coast and Margaret River

After living on the beautiful east coast of Australia for 3 1/2 years we knew that the west coast was going to impress. The northern coastline around Coral Bay was spectacular and the weather warm and sunny. As we made our way south towards Perth we felt the temperatures fall and the sprawl of the big city reach out to us.

During the drive from Coral Bay to Carnarvon, the rear brake that had been problematic previously, started to overheat again. We removed the wheel and caliper once again and there was still no visible cause, we drove all the way (the remaining 200kms) without touching the brake once. One of the few perks of the long straight roads through this region! We later had this checked out in Carnarvon by a mechanic and they found nothing wrong. We continued on in the hope this intermittent problem would fix itself.

We spent 2 nights at Red Bluff, a remote station campsite immediately on the edge of the coast renowned for its impressive surf. A couple of days relaxing here and a few dips in the ocean we could see why it had this reputation. As the ocean calmed at dusk, we admired amazing and unforgettable sunsets.
Beautiful Red Bluff.
Stars and surf at Red Bluff

A local roo watching over camp

At the start of the track there is a brilliant blow hole, well worth stopping here, we carelessly left the camera behind though! Also worth noting that this spot has a famous food van, sadly they weren’t here so there were no bacon rolls for us this time.

One great sight along the coast is Shark Bay. Known for it’s dolphins, azure waters and living stromatolites. Hamelin Pool is one of only two places in the world where living stromatolites exist. They are the earliest record of life on earth, it’s thanks to these stromatolites that this area is so rich in iron ore.

Hamelin Pool Stromatolites.
Hamelin Pool Stromatolites.

Hamelin Pool. One of the few locations of living stromatolites in Australia.
A great opportunity to bring out the 8-15mm fisheye lens.

Flying fish in Hamelin Pool.
Flying fish were plentiful in Hamelin Pool.

In an effort to avoid the tourist trail we headed north up the penninsula of Cape Peron National Park. A 35km stretch of corrugated and in places very deep sand track led us to the ocean and beautiful calm still water at Herald Bight. There was an airing station at the start of the track, it would be great if all tracks provided a compressor!

Remote beach camping in Francois Peron NP.
Remote beach camping in Francois Peron NP.

Shark bay is a tourist hot spot, there is a daily admission fee but worth it for the opportunity to hand feed dolphins. There’s a maximum of 3 feeds per day and this was the last one, they pick people out of the crowd so it’s pot luck, I really was excited to get chosen, and to be the first.

Dolphin feeding in Shark Bay.
Dolphin feeding in Shark Bay.

did you know that dogs can't look up?  Well neither can dolphins, so they swim on their sides to get a good look at you.Did you know that dogs can’t look up? Well neither can dolphins, so they swim on their sides to get a good look at you!

Continuing south along the North West Coast Hwy we could feel the drop in temperature. Whilst the grey nomads all ventured north in search of the warmth we were leaving it behind.  The days we pleasant but the nights were plummeting to around 14 degrees. Shock! We realised we had acclimatised to the top end heat and humidity.

Before reaching Perth, there was one more sight on our itinerary. Nambung National Park, home to the Pinnacles Desert. Erosion has left these stone pillars, mimicking gravestones, protruding from the sandy desert floor. You can drive the designated route through the pillars and there are multiple opportunities to hop out of the car to get close up. With the ocean in the distance, and grey clouds moving in, this was a really unique, almost eerie place.

The Pinnacles Desert, Nambung NP.

It would be foolish to visit Perth and not explore Margaret River and surrounding wine region. We spent some cool days tasting local red wines, cheese and chocolate. A great accessible trip from the city.

Enjoying the Margaret River wine region.

Doug bravely climbed 51 metres to the top of the Diamond Tree, this was a fire lookout between 1941-74, I however got dizzy at around 4 metres so stayed safely on the ground.

View from the top of the Diamond Tree.

The area surrounding Walpole on the south coast is known as the Valley of the Giants. An obvious name for these huge 400 year old trees. Hidden away in the forest is the leisurely treetop walk.

Tree Top walk in Valley of the Giants.
Tree Top walk in Valley of the Giants.

Kookaburra drops into camp.
Kookaburra drops into camp.

While in Perth we are staying with relatives of Doug’s, after 2 months in the tent it’s strange to be indoors again.  Time for some city sightseeing, trip planning and preparing the car for shipping.

Meeting the locals on Heirisson Island, Perth.
Meeting the locals on Heirisson Island, Perth.

After a few trips to Bunnings for tie down straps, wood, nails and a padlock, the big day arrived for putting the car into the container.  Removing the roof tent is never a fun task, but Doug reversed the car in with surprising ease (skill?!). It took the two of us 6 hours, not sure where the time went, but we closed the door, applied the customs seal and lock then waved goodbye for the short term. We hope to be reunited on or around 7th July.


wpid644-IMG_3908.jpgNailing the wooden chocks to the container floor.wpid646-IMG_3505.jpgOnce we receive the car in South Africa, Doug will write a detailed post on the container loading in the overlander area for those that are interested.

Just the other day our Africa guide books arrived in the post and it felt like Christmas. It’s great to have some up to date reading material in our hands to assist with planning the next leg of the trip.

Pleased to see our Africa guides have arrived.This is the route we’ve covered during this blog post:

18th May – 6th June 14
Total KMs: 16,156
KMs on this leg: 3037

Car maintenance:
Rear brake check up (still no fault found)
Wheel Alignment
Pre-trip check up (1x new wheel bearing, 3 new belts)
1x fuel filter


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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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The Top End. Darwin to Broome.

Next stop on our adventure was Kakadu National Park, croc country or so we were led to believe! After watching the TV show following the day to day actions of the park rangers, we were excited to arrive and see the ancient lands for ourselves. Safely on dry land we visited the infamous Cahill river crossing, climbed to a lookout to view the expanse of the Arnhem Land flood plains and admired aboriginal art dating back 20,000 years. For all these reasons, it did not disappoint one bit.

wpid256-P1070907.jpgwpid250-IMG_0202.jpg wpid252-IMG_0214.jpgwpid254-IMG_0230.jpg   wpid248-P1070832.jpgUnfortunately, our starter motor decided to pack up on this day so we bump started our way around Kakadu, making the most of the sloped car parks and Ruth and Rosie’s brute strength. wpid258-IMG_0286.jpgAfter a few days in Kakadu we still hadn’t set eyes on a single crocodile, with hope, binoculars and cameres at the ready we ventured south to Nitmiluk National Park, (Katherine Gorge). But stilll no crocs!

wpid260-IMG_0288.jpg wpid262-IMG_0301.jpg

Doug and Ludo spent some time examining and testing the faulty starter motor, it became apparent we’d need a replacement, this was just bad luck. Passing through Katherine we bought the new motor, fitted it in camp and we were back up and running.

Ludo and Rosie were only in Australia for a couple of weeks, and our goal was to reach the Kimberlys and see as much as possible along the way. Driving the Victoria Hwy westbound, we passed through Gregory National Park. After weeks of wide flat vistas we were faced with huge rocky escarpments and a mountainous landscape.

Excitedly we saw our first Boab tree, after consulting our book (Les Hiddens’ Bush tucker guide) we decided it was safe to eat. Our first bit of bush tucker! Highly nutritious and didn’t taste terrible. It was a little dry, but good to have up our sleeve in an emergency!

wpid264-P1080025.jpg wpid268-IMG_0341.jpg wpid266-IMG_0337.jpgThat night we camped at Zebra Rock mine which was really lovely, being early in the season we were the only people there. In the morning we fossicked in the dry riverbed and each found some crystal to take home for souvenirs.

wpid270-IMG_0356.jpgCrossing into WA was another landmark day for us, it was the last state on our Australian leg and we were approaching 9000kms on the trip odometer.

wpid272-P1080090.jpgBack on the dirt and through a few small river crossings, we had arrived in Purnalulu National Park, home of the Bungle Bungle ranges. Somewhere we had been excited to get to for a long time. wpid276-P1080123.jpgThat evening, relaxing at camp and tucking into some Anzac biscuits, we were approached by the campsite host/ranger Gene. He was looking for assistance in their battle to eradicate Cane toads from the area. (these poisonous toads were introduced to Australia, and without a natural predator are putting some native species at risk of extinction). Rosie eagerly volunteered us all, and as darkness fell we clambered through another dry riverbed, armed with rubber gloves and a very stinky sack. Head torches on we caught 101 cane toads.wpid280-IMG_0385.jpg

wpid278-IMG_0380.jpg  wpid274-IMG_0361.jpgWe woke the following morning well before the sun came up, we were off to the Bungle Bungles for sun rise. It was spectacular. It was an easy walk through the range to Cathederal gorge, we watched as the tips of the domes turned a firey orange colour in the morning sunlight.

wpid284-P1080141.jpg wpid294-IMG_1802.jpg wpid292-IMG_1796.jpg wpid290-IMG_1766.jpg wpid288-IMG_0492.jpg wpid286-IMG_1748.jpgThe route to the northern side of the park passed the aptly named Elephant Rock, and we reached Echidna chasm as the sun was rising in the sky. Entering into the 200m chasm was a great relief from the heat and we were amazed at how far in we could get.

wpid296-P1080177.jpg wpid298-IMG_0509.jpg wpid300-IMG_0519.jpg The Gibb River Road was our next challenge, renowned for being a bone shaker and wrecking cars we headed off optimistically. After a few minor car troubles we were hoping it wouldn’t live up to it’s reputation. Adjusting to the clock change and sunset being an hour and a half earlier than we’d become used to, we approached the largest of the croc infested river crossings, the Pentacost, nearing dusk. It was a little high at half a metre and the width was slightly daunting, there was no way we were going to walk this crossing first! Both cars made it across without any problems, however our car had picked up a small fish which Doug kindly returned to the river!

wpid304-IMG_0543.jpg wpid306-IMG_0551.jpgwpid302-IMG_0535.jpg We had to bush camp this night as our planned destination had not yet opened for the dry season. We found a spot off the main road easily but we were spooked early on by the seemingly close dingoes howling in the woods. We woke the next morning to find the troopy had a flat tyre, the first casualty of the Gibb.

wpid308-IMG_0559.jpgTurning off the Gibb River Rd into the Mitchell Plateau was a fabulous drive. The road was in great condition as we had arrived before the peak season traffic had roughed it up. There were a few river crossings which really added to the sense of adventure and remoteness. Once again our surroundings were tropical, red dirt and dusty roads lined with tall palm trees.

wpid312-IMG_1831.jpg The walk to Mitchell Falls was really enjoyable. 4.5kms one way, passing through varied bush land but most memorably Little Bennet Falls. Here we could swim in the water hole, only Freshwater crocs ‘Freshies’ inhabit this area and we were assured they rarely eat people! It was another exceedingly hot day with high humidity so not even the crocs would stop us stepping under this waterfall and going for a swim. Arriving at Michell falls we needed another swim to cool off, we picnicked on the waters edge and waited for our helicopter lift to arrive. As a treat we booked a ride over the spectacular triple falls and were dropped safely back at the car park. This was an amazing experience.



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wpid320-IMG_0615.jpgwpid324-P1080255.jpg wpid336-IMG_0656.jpg wpid334-IMG_0652.jpg wpid332-IMG_0642.jpg wpid330-IMG_0638.jpg wpid328-P1080274.jpg wpid326-IMG_0629.jpg wpid338-IMG_0669.jpgThis area has a lot of aboriginal art sites, we even came across a sacred burial site.

wpid342-IMG_0679.jpg wpid310-IMG_0570.jpgIt was on our return drive that we had to remove our ‘new’ prop shaft. It had been on for less than a week. Needless to say we were a little disappointed. We served tea and oreo cookies as Doug and Ludo removed the part in the dark. We continued on to Drysdale River station in 2wd, successfully dodging cows, bulls and ducks.

wpid340-IMG_0682.jpgThe following morning we were celebrating, it was Ruth’s birthday! Ludo and Rosie delivered some cards and gifts from family quite unexpectedly and a cake mix with candles to blow out. A great start to the day and a welcome distraction from it being the last day all 4 of us were together.

wpid344-IMG_0701.jpg Despite the overwhelming heat and humidity we built a camp fire and as a team baked our first (and wont be the last) camp cake. A really unexpected success.

wpid348-IMG_0755.jpgLudo and Rosie were Darwin bound to return to the UK, we were to complete the final leg of the Gibb River Road. wpid350-IMG_0766.jpgDriving into Derby to replenish fuel stocks, we could finally say that we, and the car, had survived the Gibb! Pulling up at Cable Beach in Broome we hurried to see the ocean, it had been a long time and the sea breeze was very welcoming!wpid352-IMG_0788.jpg

wpid356-IMG_0835.jpg wpid354-IMG_0822.jpgHere is the route we covered in this post

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