A couple of nights in Geraldton provided a break from long drives and time to re-supply. James was waiting outside the barber with three other guys before he opened at 8.30am. There only seem to be two in the city that we could find. He had a chat with the barber while his hair was being cut and mentioned the observation that he thought beards were more common in Australia than the UK. The barber agreed and noted that the hipster vogue for beards was keeping him in business as many guys wanted them professionally trimmed. The next stop was the Western Australian Museum which is well worth a visit. It covers the areas archaeology, natural history, settlement, the experience of the indigenous people, later migration and shipwrecks that have occurred along the coast. Admission is by donation. Nearby was a café overlooking the marina which was an ideal coffee top-up and a little further on past the main shopping street, a pop-up secondhand bookshop in which I found a book about the River Road in Louisiana: the southern part of the Great River Road we would like to drive at some point. Continuing along Marine Terrace eventually takes you past the port where the grain is loaded onto ships to Point Moore Lighthouse and beach. The lighthouse is Australia’s oldest and has been operational since 1878.
We had a walk along the beach and near the vehicle access was an osprey nest with three youngsters in it.
The road carries on around the point and back into town where we looked in the impressive Cathedral of St Francis Xavier. It was built in stages from the first part in 1918. A shortage of funds and artistic conflict delayed work until 1926 and was eventually completed in 1936.
The Anglican Cathedral is a little further up the avenue but is an unattractive 1960s-style concrete building. In front of the Queens Park Theatre is what from the road I thought was a sculpture but is in fact a sundial. The Iris Sundial was a gift to the city by the artist Bill Newbold who named it after his wife. A plate in front explains how it works. We tested it and found it to be accurate with date and time. Newbold took to designing sundials after he retired from the fishing industry and there are others around the city.
The following morning, we were back on Highway One referred to as the Brand Highway in these parts. We reached the twin seaside towns of Dongara and Port Denison at coffee time and found the Seaspray café down by the beach. It was well-signposted from the highway. There was a comfortable sofa, good coffee and various, home-made jams, art works and succulent arrangements for sale. The tide was in so there was not much beach to walk on and the only information board on local species was for fish. Fishing is a very popular hobby around here. On the way out, we passed the turn-off for Port Denison where this red fellow symbolises how important crayfishing is for the local industry.
Highway 60, known as the Indian Ocean Drive diverts from Highway One and continues through several coastal communities. We had not gone far when I spotted the turn-off for the Grigson Lookout. It is named after a pioneer whose family have farmed here for several generations. There are 360 degree views over the salt lakes, the gypsum and sand mines and towards the coast. Having thought some of the landscapes we travelled through a while back resembled parts of Utah near the Great Salt Lake, I was intrigued to see Salt Lakes here. This is the Australian equivalent of a trig point at 30m altitude.
This part of the west coast is knwown as the Turquoise Coast and Jurien Bay is the largest town. We found parking near the pier and beach and ate our lunch spot observed by some noisy gulls. There were only four watching us but as we passed the picnic tables later and another couple were eating. Word had got out and there were around twenty gulls. It reminded me of this notice spotted in Fremantle seven years ago:
Robinson Island is known to have rare Australian sea lions and at this time of year migrating cetaceans can sometimes be seen offshore. So far, we have not seen any despite scanning the ocean whenever we have the opportunity. We reached Cervantes and settled into our motel. The next few days will be devoted to visiting the Desert of Pinnacles and then visiting relatives and friends in Perth for a few days.
On the way back to Highway One from Denham there were a lot of wildflowers, but it was far too windy for flower photography. The overnight wind had brought a lot of cloud in. We did spot this raptor with a roadkill wallaby who was not too bothered by us passing by.
After coffee at the Overlander Roadhouse we saw the turn-off for the Butchers’ Track which was the track the camels used to bring the wool into Hamelin. We were soon back in farmland but with cereal crops rather than cattle. Our lunch stop was at a rest area by the Murchison River near the Galena Bridge. The older, lower bridge is still used by the local road to the rest area and campsite and the highway passes over the newer one. The old bridge was submerged in the flood of 2007. On the river were ducks, coots and a darter with a lot of flies in the air.
At the Kalbarri junction the scenic drive to Northampton begins. At first the road is on the plateau at around 200m altitude and after a few miles, enters the Kalbarri National Park. It then descends to the shore at Kalbarri where we spent the night in a quiet motel.
Kalbarri sits about halfway on the Coral Coast where the Murchison River Gorge reaches the sea. Our day began with a walk along the beach and then the pelican feeding which takes place from 8.45 to 9.15am every day. It has been going on since 1974 and is now undertaken by volunteers. They ask for a donation to cover the cost of the fish and the surplus is given to local good causes. Before the volunteer arrived, pelicans had started to gather in anticipation. They are Australia’s largest water bird.
Gulls were also hanging around hoping to catch something, but they were going to be out of luck.
Nine pelicans in all were there as the breeding season is now over.
Afterwards, we drove up to the National Park. There are several trails and lookouts over the gorge. We chose to do the short walk to Window Rock, one of the most popular.
There is a skywalk under construction at another outlook with a café and wheelchair access. This should be complete in early 2019. On the way back to town the wind had settled so flower and plant photography was in order.
Back in town we had coffee and a browse in the Book Nook, the bookshop near the shopping arcade. They stock secondhand books, accept donations and will give you some credit to spend in the shop if your donation will sell. They also have internet access. We donated two books and bought one. The coastal road continues south past several outlooks. Eagle Gorge also has a 1km walk to a secluded beach and the start of an 8km coastal trail. Further on we come back into farmland and then towards Port Gregory, the road runs alongside Hutt Lagoon. This was named Pink Lake by explorer George Grey in 1839. The pink colour is due to carotenoid-producing algae and is best seen in the middle of the day when the sun is high. It was even reflected on the clouds when we sawit. There is a large commercial plant on the lagoon shore and a mine nearby so there is only one parking place unless you take the side road to Port Gregory.
Past the lake we saw our first sheep since starting out.
The coastal road ended in Northampton, a town established in 1864 which is proud of its heritage. We then continued on to Geraldton. Yesterday we covered 230 miles and today 237 so out trip total is now 7,079.
We left Carnarvon on Saturday morning. The growers’ market was underway in front of the Information Centre and a pop-up Men’s Shed on the main street. From Carnarvon to the Overlander Roadhouse, Highway One is closer to the coast than it has been for some time. We drove through a desert landscape with only a few goats seen. The ground is too dry to support any other livestock. Wooramel Roadhouse was the coffee stop and shortly afterwards the red earth had changed to a sandy colour. Near Yaringa, we stopped at a lookout which was a welcome break from the miles of flat land with limited views.
There was more traffic heading southwards today as the spring school holidays finish this weekend. We then passed a notice telling us that we had crossed the 26th parallel and left the North West. Near the Overlander Roadhouse we took the road towards Denham and entered the World Heritage Area. This is also the traditional homeland of the Mulgana people. Hamelin Pool is an inlet with very high salinity and higher temperatures than the surrounding bays. It contains microbe mats that can become rocky structures called stromolites.
There is a boardwalk over the area and swallows were nesting underneath the wooden structure. There is also a circular walk through the bush. In the 1920s a wool shed stood on the shore. Camel trains brought the wool to the coast and it had to be loaded onto lighter boats to take it out to the ships in deeper waters. Eventually, when the road to Carnarvon had been completed and a rail link, the shed was demolished in 1968. We had our lunch at the rest area near the old telegraph station, the campsite and shop/tea room. I was about to photograph some pigeons on the roof of the shelter, but they were frightened off by a high school trip party who left noisily.
Further along the road and over the bush-covered hill is Shell Beach which is composed of cockle shells.
A few miles from Denham we again crossed the 26th parallel in the opposite direction and were back in the North West. Denham is the westernmost town in Australia. The westernmost part of the continent is Steep Point on a neighbouring peninsula. To get to it you need 4WD, high clearance and deflated tyres. There is also an entrance fee and campsites. The road leaves the Denham road long before the town is reached. We found our beachside motel and settled in before having dinner at the most western pub in Australia.
The day’s 212 miles added to our total brings it to 6,702.
It was getting very windy late afternoon on our last day in Broome making waves on the pool outside our room. When we woke the next morning, the sky was much cloudier and the sea much less blue. The Broome Highway took us back to Highway One which then passes through the Roebuck Plains. Some of the shrubs we saw bare in Northern Territory have leaves on here and overall, the bush is greener unless there has been a recent bush fire. The road runs between the Great Sandy Desert on one side and the ocean on the other. At a rest area we watched a pair of crested pigeons in a nearby tree and I finally got a photo of a shrub/small tree I have been seeing for a while. It has red seed pods, and small rounded leaves. It is not in my Australian Tree Book, so I suspect it is a shrub.
The road runs through Anna Plains where the earth is sandier and then into a desert-like coloured landscape. I would have liked to take some photographs as there were even odd bits of fence and other items which would have been good in the foreground. It reminded me a little of the desert in Utah near the Great Salt Lake. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to pull off the road here and a little more traffic than we had seen for a while, so I had to give up on the idea. At the Sandfire Roadhouse, only instant coffee was on offer but as the temperature had climbed up to 40 degrees today, I had a cold drink. Like the Inn at Daly Waters where people leave stickers and other memorabilia, here there is a vogue for leaving your cap behind.
There were also number plates from around the world, road signs
and a selection of old machinery rusting outside.
Continuing along the road we passed a guy riding an electric bike with four panniers stuffed with things. I did not envy him in this heat. Just before Pardoo Roadhouse was a ‘Welcome to Pilbarra’ sign. This roadhouse sells freshly ground coffee, but it was too late in the day for me to have some as I have become a slow acetylator of caffeine and if I intend to sleep at night I can’t have any after 2pm. Our destination for the night was Pardoo Station Stay: a cattle ranch with rooms, cabins and a caravan park. It is near the coast, at the bottom end of 80-mile Beach but we were told you cannot walk there (it is only a few kilometres) and you need a 4WD to get right down to the beach. We did see a lovely sunset and had a chat with a couple of campers sitting around the campfire. It is lit at 5pm every day. They couple told us that they come up here every winter to escape the cold further south and that in peak season the caravan park is full, with people queuing up outside to get in.
Our waitress at dinner was from Ireland. We have met several people from the Emerald Isle on our journey so far. At times I still feel I have not left home: we saw an Everton shirt a few days ago, a child in a Liverpool Mo Salah strip yesterday and the receptionist at the motel in Timber Creek which is not really on the tourist trail, was from Kirkdale in Liverpool. In our room at Pardoo, the mugs were made in Stoke on Trent.
The following morning, we were back on the highway continuing westbound towards Port Hedland. At one point we had to avoid a large lizard who was crossing the road. Fortunately there was were no other vehicles there and we could swerve around him. The soil here is very red and hills began to appear on the horizon. We saw quite a few willy-willies: columns of dust like mini tornadoes.
Port Hedland is a big industrial area with the railway bringing iron ore in from the mines, a nearby limestone quarry and a huge pile of salt that puts British Salt’s heap in Middlewich to shame. Some of the termite mounds here have got white workers’ hats on them. There were long lines of trucks waiting to be filled and a large metal recycling plant. Between Whim Creek and Roebourne, the Sherlock River was the only watercourse we crossed that had any water in it. We passed through Roebourne to take the road off to Point Samson. There are some old stone buildings as you enter the town. These were the regional prison and can be visited. The current prison is on the road to Point Samson. A lookout at Point Samson revealed merchant ships queuing to get to the harbour to pick up consignments of iron ore.
I did some beachcombing and was admiring a new mural that some children were helping to paint on the walls of the toilet block. One of the people there was a wildlife warden, who spotting my camera (I had been trying to photograph birds on the shore), told me that there were ospreys nesting at the harbour and they were very easy to spot down there.
We were back on Highway One on the 1st of October, heading west. The termite mounds seemed bigger and rounder here and it struck me that there must be a PhD in termite mound structures and sizes in Northern Australia if some entomologist has not already done one. Baobab trees and purple flowers on the verge began to reappear and we had driven 136km before we encountered any roadworks. By the time we got to the roadhouse at Willare, I was in need of caffeine. It has a café, but this was closed and only instant coffee was available. The roadhouse is next to a bridge over the Fitzroy river which eventually ends at the sea in Derby. We continued on to Broome. As it was not time to check into our hotel we drove to Gantheaume Point.
There are dinosaur footprints on the beach here, which are visible at very low tides. This was not due to happen during our visit and the information board at the point asks people not to attempt it as clambering over slippery rocks at the base of the cliffs can be dangerous. Today several people were swimming from the point and the Indian Ocean was a wonderful blue. There is a lighthouse here and the structure is a good nesting and perching site for birds.
In the late afternoon we drove over to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. The beach was named after the Australia to Java telegraph cable which emerged there. Sunset viewing is a very popular activity in high season. There are bars you can sit in or picnic on the grass or as we did, sit on a bench. 4WD vehicles are allowed on a certain area of the beach. Whichever option you pick, get there early to park & pick a spot. Cable Beach is 22km long so quieter places are possible. There are three companies offering camel safaris at sunset, late afternoon or morning. The beachside restaurants had queues outside after the sun went down so we drove back to the town centre to dine.
The following morning we explored China Town. Broome grew on the pearling industry which began in the 1880s. Hence there are several stores selling Broome pearls and others from around the Pacific. I did some early Christmas shopping in one store that had a sale. The prices of some jewellery is well into four figures. Later we stopped at Magabala Books, a publisher and bookseller of indigenous books. Had i not got my baggage weight at the end of the trip to consider I could have bought several. It has a good selection of children’s books. Plans for the rest of the day were cooling off in the pool and walking to the lost isolated brewery in Australia, Matso’s for a cold beer. One thing of note about Broome is that it is very spread out. You think something is just a couple of blocks away and then discover the distance. You either need your own wheels (car or bike) or to use the bus network to get around.
We left our motel in the rainforest and crossed the Daintree River on the ferry again. It runs from 6am to midnight.
There is no mains electricity north of the river and solar power and generators provide what is needed. Back on the road to Mossman we were accompanied by electricity cables. We took Highway 44 from Mossman to Mount Molloy, a road that winded uphill to Mowbray National Park. The first gap in the hills providing a viewpoint, also provided a gap for the power lines and had a plaque commemorating the date the gravel road was completely bitumen: in 1982. At the second viewpoint which had a somewhat better view, we met a guy walking his dog who said that this was the first cloudy day for months.
Mount Molloy was named after a farmer who found the copper out crop while searching for a stray bullock. We joined Highway 81 near here which is also known as the Mulligan Highway. The road was named after James Venture Mulligan who found many of the mining fields in Northern Queensland.
We drove through bushland which had been on fire very recently, some logs were still smoking. We passed Lake Mitchell and arrived in Mareeba. Appropriately it was coffee time. Mareeba has arabica coffee plantations and 70% of Australian coffee is grown here. It was also the place where the world’s first mechanical harvester was developed. The biggest crop used to be tobacco but now there are mango, banana, papaya and nut orchards and a liqueur distillery and a tea plantation. It has a reputation as a bit of a cowboy town and you can certainly buy all your gear here and attend the annual rodeo. The travel agent was advertising trips to Calgary Stampede. There were also a couple of holistic and natural therapy shops which might be bucking the trend.
At the southern end of the town we re-joined Highway 1 now the Kennedy Highway and continued to Atherton. It has a population of more than 7,000 and sits at 752 metres on the Atherton Tableland. Atherton was noted for production of timber and tin. At one point it had a large Chinese community who worked in gold mines in the late 19th century until the gold ran out. Some turned to timber and market gardens and their temple has been restored. The road continued climbing up the slopes of Mount Hypipamee and over passes at 1008m and 1113m. Just before Ravenshoe, we passed the appropriately named Windy Hill Wind Farm which we had seen in the distance earlier and the first we had seen in Australia. Ravenshoe is Queensland’s highest town at 913m. From here, Highway 1 is called Savannah Way. We were surrounded by bush littered with red rocks. At Mount Garnet we had lunch watched by a couple of magpies and these birds:
Further west the rocks were lighter and then black. Near Forty Mile Scrub we saw our first road train with three trailers. All the others we have seen so far, have had two trailers. At the junction with Highway 62 Highway 1 became Gulf Developmental Road. I had wondered what this was and soon discovered it. Our road soon began to have single lane sections.
Just before another one, we spotted a truck ahead, so we stopped at the end of the two-lane section and waited for him to pass. Just as well, as he was carrying explosives! The bush now had what looked like the tops of rock pinnacles sticking out of the grass.
Nearer to Karumba some of those near the road had been dressed with clothes or painted. The temperature had topped 34 degrees that day and our mileage so far had reached 2572 miles when we reached Georgetown where we were spending the night. This is just over the length of Route 66 driven five years ago. The next morning we woke to a blue sky and set out on a quiet road. We did not see another vehicle for the first 48 km. We did however, see a cow cross the road:
followed by several wallabies, an Australian Bustard and a snake. We also interrupted numerous raptors who were feeding on dead wallabies. We drove over the Gilbert River which was completely dry except for one small pool. Croydon was the coffee stop and it has some older buildings. Gold was discovered here in 1888 and there are said to be some deep seams that have never been excavated.
Further on we passed three guys rounding up cattle with motorbikes. Quad bikes would not get around the bush here. After crossing the railway we entered Carpentia County which has a population of only 2500. Normanton was a supply stop before lunch at Mutton Hole Wetlands. In the wet season numerous birds are here but the only water was on the river and some small pools. These crows watched us as we ate.
On the road to Karumba we were out of bush into grassland. A large folk of Brolgas were by a roadside ditch.
We soon found our motel by Karumba Beach.
The mileage today was 239 bringing the total to 2,701.
We were in Cardwell on a Friday and our hosts said that they always got fish and chips for the evening meal if we wanted to join in. We agreed and had a very pleasant meal with them (both New Zealanders) and another guy from New Zealand who was working in Australia. The next morning, we were back on the road through banana plantations. The bunches of fruit were all covered with plastic bags which we presumed were either to protect from pests or prevent them from ripening too early.
We passed Mount Bartle Frere which at 1622m is Queensland’s highest peak. In 1942 a USAAF plane returning to base at Charters Towers encountered a tropical storm and crashed on the mountain killing the seven crew. In Babinda, we could not resist following the sign for Babinda Boulders and there is a memorial for the crash there. Swimming is allowed at the first pool next to the carpark and there is a walk to a couple of viewpoints where swimming is forbidden.
We were continuing on Highway 1 (The Bruce Highway) to stay with friends near Yarrabah, a 20km detour off the highway. Their house is right on the beach and we had a great walk and clamber over the boulders with them and their dogs before dinner. This was the first beach on the east coast that I have found sea glass on.
The next morning, we all had breakfast on Cairns esplanade. On the way there we passed numerous classic cars heading in the opposite direction for an event. There was a charity walk taking place on the esplanade, but we managed to find a quieter café eventually.Before leaving town, we stopped at Rusty’s market. Many of the stallholders are Hmong people from Laos. There is an amazing selection of fruit and vegetables and also jewellery and some crafts. I topped up my coffee supplies at this stall.
We then left Highway 1 to divert to the Daintree rainforest via the Captain Cook Highway to Mossman which for much of the way follows the coast. Just before Mossman we diverted to Port Douglas for lunch by the beach. Continuing north from Mossman there is eventually a turn for the Cape Tribulation Road and the Daintree Ferry. On the winding road to our destination there was a lookout (Walu Wugirrica) over the rainforest to the Alexandra Range.
We spent Monday exploring a little of what the Daintree National Park has to discover. The Discovery Centre was our first port of call. Elevated boardwalks run through different levels of the rainforest from the floor to the canopy. A 32m high tower gives the topmost views. and is also used to measure carbon flux by researchers at James Cook University.
The species of fig tree here (Ficus virgate) has very small fruit compared with my commercial variety Brown Turkey at home.
As we had a few longer driving days ahead we walked the nearby Jindalba (Kuku Yalanji for ‘foot of the mountain’) Long Loop trail which is 2.7km. There is a shorter boardwalk. The trail is way-marked and there are a lot of tree roots and rocks, plus a few fallen tree trunks to step over and some creeks to cross. There are a few short steep ascents and descents so sensible footwear is advised. Don’t go in your flip-flops. We were very pleased to get see an adult Cassowary and a youngster before they disappeared back into the foliage. Unlike most birds, once the Cassowary eggs have hatched, the male takes responsibility for caring for the young until they are 16 months old. I did not get a good shot of the adult but here is the youngster:
As we are almost at the end of the dry season there were a lot of fallen seeds and fruit on the ground and fungi on tree stumps. After finishing the trail, we drove to Cow Bay Beach for our picnic lunch. It was another almost deserted beach and this lizard was sitting on one of the trees. Saltwater crocodiles mean that going into the water is not allowed. I did some beachcombing while James rested, finding a couple of pieces of coral and looking at all the Bubble Crab holes on the sand. On other beaches I have seen them emerge in the evening.
There is so much more to see here but we had the press on with our journey the next day.