Carnarvon

At Minilya Roadhouse, not far from Carnarvon, we discovered that no fruit and vegetables can be brought in to Carnarvon, so we put all such items in a bowl and walked from family, to couple, to single, offering our healthy produce to supplement most people’s take-away. Many took it gladly and only a couple thought my jagged chin reminded them of a fairy tale where the moral was NOT to take the shiny apple. Once in Carnarvon, we discovered that it is the food bowl of WA, providing 70% of Perth’s winter fruit and vegetables, and coming from a State with very strict border food restrictions, we understood how one bad apple can wipe out a whole area.

Quiet Carnarvon is often a stopping point, or base, for those heading north to Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef. On the mouth of the Gascoyne River and Indian Ocean, we thought it would give us a rest from the mad dashing we had been up to, but this pretty town holds a great deal to do. The esplanade overlooking Whitlock Island, provides picturesque sunsets and even a heritage tramway walk that we only followed as far as the bridge to Babbage Island.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Centre is a must for tourists, informing us of the role the Casshorn antenna played in Australia’s first television broadcast to the BBC in 1966 and its live telecast, relaying Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon to Perth’s audiences in 1969. Later that year a wider, steerable antenna was built to improve communication between the NASA Tracking Station and the USA. The entrance fee is modest as volunteers run the centre (keen caravaners can hook up, here, while volunteering for a few months) and I thought we might spend an hour there, tops, but we were there about 3 hours. There are interactive experiences, replicas, historical footage, and information boards.

I think I can safely say that our favourite experience was the simulation of the full sized Apollo space capsule as it takes off. You can look outside the windows and see Earth. The equipment on display reminds me how far we have come with technology, and how fast. Great, cumbersome pieces of metal with thousands of switches, line up along walls and sit back-to-back in darkened rooms. Games to test your skills and have you think about other possibilities are dotted here and there and to keep the numbers small and allow social distancing, you are encouraged to visit all the spaces (pardon the pun) while you wait for your name to be called to the simulator (no line-ups). There is free coffee or tea and soft drinks can be bought. A great trip back in time.

Point Quobba Blowholes are about 20km north of Carnarvon along bitumen roads, unless you have the map with the dirt road. The coastline is stunning and the blowholes not hard to find, as water jets up frequently from many spots. As you leave the carpark and head towards these spouts, the ground is quite sharp and rocky. If that doesn’t deter you, the many signs warning of the numbers of people who have been swept from the rocks, even this far back, to their death below the ragged cliff, is enough to have you work with zoom.

The blowholes are silent, no hiss or swoosh, and you might catch a rainbow. Some vantages give you views of the coastline and its layers and ledges.

Further back, the vegetation is dense and definitely warrants closer inspection, to appreciate the colours and forms.

We walked along the coast toward a shelter and discovered a beautiful protected bay that we think was Point Quobba, but as there was a campground in both directions, we were not sure. The variety of shells and fossils was extraordinary and it seemed as if someone had made a small collection for us. We collected some as we went, bleached over years and indicating some pretty big seafood for the original owners.

On our way back we stopped at Miaboolya Beach, where a natural sandbar reduces the waves and creates a lagoon with no waves, for safe swimming. We strolled around here, looking at odd sea sponges, but the soft sand had us park in the carpark which was a good km or more from the beach and the terrain demanding.

The information sheet we got from the Carnarvon Visitor Centre mentioned a bird watching site at Chinaman’s Pool, not far from town, so we headed there at sunset and found the river. The only birds we sighted were the two rainbow bee eaters, on a fence as we hit the dirt road, but it was a pretty spot.

There is an indigenous cultural centre in town and that interested us, but we couldn’t determine whether it was open to the general public. A short walk provides a look at some heritage architecture and you will find most things you need can be bought during office hours. Just out of town you can get fresh vegetables, fruit and fish from the source. In fact, mangoes were going to be booming in a couple of months, with overladen trees drooping under their loads.

Once the town was known for its One Mile Jetty with a history over 100 years and the extension of the tramwalk from town. But Cyclone Seroja destroyed the jetty in April 2021, with restoration on part of the jetty not begun.

Our caravan park had a few distinguishing features, one of which was that it backed on to the first caravan/truck washing station we had come across, with high-powered hoses to get the job done, and local persons brought food in two nights a week, which was eaten around small campfires near the pool, where travellers could gather and swap stories. I’m always amazed at the people I meet and their tales.

Travel safe. Head West.

Make a landing in Carnarvon

On the jagged north west coast of Western Australia, between Coral Bay and Monkey Mia, lies the town of Carnarvon.  We touched on its history and gardens, but only learnt of its links with space long after we’d passed the sugar scoop and parabolic disks.

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Residing alongside the jetty is the old lighthouse keeper’s cottage. It has been maintained and contains original artifacts, furniture, clothing and documents. We loved the view from the front door, when the back door is open, of the ocean beyond the back yard and we were fortunate to meet one of the family who had lived there. Just checking on things and collecting the gold coin donations, she told us how, as children, when the huge ships came in loaded with goods, she and her siblings would run barefoot down the jetty to watch them unload. They would spend all day at this, as the livestock and goods were loaded on to the tram, which went straight to town.

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The jetty itself was 1 mile long (1.6 km) and although it has been repaired and still has tram runs occasionally, it is shorter. There is a small fee for walking the jetty, which goes towards its maintenance.

We left the jetty and made for the River Gums Cafe, seeing good reviews on the internet and in brochures. It was an interesting drive and the winding dirt road entrance was picturesque. The attached caravan made it through the dips, no worries. We had freshly squeezed juice and an iced coffee, which were both very tasty, but the gardens we observed while we sat at our wrought iron setting, were superb. I have tried to locate the names of the plants I photographed, but I apologise, they were too many. If you know the names of any of them, please let me know.

Carnarvon is sprawled but the centre of town is like any big country town in Australia – wide centre median strip and two lanes on each side. As we moved easily out of town on the good highway, we saw the disks, or parabolas on the hill. My husband recalled something about space tracking.

https://images.duckduckgo.com/iu/?u=https%3A%2F%2Ftse3.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DOIP.DjHqg4rBt_zpJ25wErmK1gHaE8%26pid%3D15.1&f=1Carnarvon Space and Technology Museumfrom Carnarvan Museum.org.au

Well, the radar disks were involved in the Apollo 11 flight, tracking its progress and sending information across the world. Now almost inoperative, the disks are housed at the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum and it is written about very highly. We should have done our research and given this town more time, as the waterways, blowholes, views and museum, that we have since learnt about, would have been enjoyed.

We’ll just have to go back!

Safe travels! Take a hat, water and tourist information.