Wildflower Way, Western Australia

It is a widely known fact, in Australia, that Western Australia has the best display of Wildflowers in Spring and if you’re a fan, maps are available from which to choose a self-drive or managed tour. As we were in Geraldton, we took the Wildflower Way, visiting Mullewa, Morawa, Perenjori, Coorow and Moora. We could have made the circle larger, but you really CAN see enough wildflowers for one day.

The first suggested site, St James’s chapel, Kojarena, is not just for the wildflowers nearby, but to celebrate the extraordinary work of priest, architect, poet (and more) Monseigneur John C Hawes, whose designs are also in Geraldton, the UK and the Bahamas. This chapel was built in 1935 on land donated by a neighbouring family.

After that we stopped whenever we saw a good clump of flowers. I’m not going to attempt to name all the flowers we saw, but will create a collage to display many of them.

We had coffee at Mullewa in a place that sold art by the owner, which was very Australian and bright.

Lunch was at Morawa and this was a cute little town featuring, as others on the region, some form of tribute to the flowers, but one to the Lions Club, as well.

We camped by the Moore River, after NOT finding the famous Wreath Flower (far right, above) despite many stops. It was a demanding but beautiful day.

Moore River Campsite

Put a Wildflower drive on your bucket list, so that you get sick of sighing at the sight of so many forms and shades.

Kalbarri National Park

Still in the Coral Coast, we made our way to Kalbarri National Park, passing through the Northern Explorer Wildflower trail as we went, and camping at Galena Bridge en route. Not far from our intended stopping place, we decided to pull over, have a walk and photograph some of the flowers. This, at least, stopped our distraction with them and we could continue in a smooth line to the camp, which was alongside a healthy river.

The drive was so enjoyable with bursts of colourful wildflowers that were sometimes organized into type and at other times were just a mix and patchwork of all sorts. It was stunning to see a field of smokebush on one side and the other had hakea or some pink wattle. We got such joy from it and couldn’t believe our luck at being here during what was considered the best wildflower season ever.

When we last visited, 7 years previously, the road in was heavily corrugated and we’d heard they had done work on it. We were gobsmacked at the changes, but the new carparks are not big enough to accommodate caravans, which is why you leave them near the entrance. More flower-lined bitumen took us first to the skywalk which is unbelievable. As an engineering enterprise it is impressive and scary and beautiful. The floor can be seen through, so not only do you walk 25m out from the cliff edge, you are also suspended 100m (?) over the gorge as well. There are some spatial moments that are quite challenging. The view, of course, of the 420 million year old gorge is spectacular and not really captured on my phone.

Again, the local flora was on display and unmissable.

From here we drove a short way to Natures Window Loop walk, without a clear idea of how far we would go. After negotiating some upward demands, we ended up in a group of walkers, then out-stripped them as they stopped for information on specific areas. A couple returning from ahead, said they had reached a point where, after a steep descent and walking along the sandy river bed, they had to scuttle under a ledge. They thought that, as it would still be another 4 hours to return and they had an engagement, they would turn back at 3km. Following this, we decided to do 2km and then return. We were happy with this, and the group of much older walkers passed on happily and gave us encouraging remarks about what we had achieved. We would be prepared for a longer walk next time, with more water and an earlier start, although we had begun before 9.

It was a quick drive to Z Bend and a 600m walk to the lookout. Here we encountered some tourists who were taking selfies at the best spot, and of course only two at a time. The walk there is downhill and the path loaded with wildflowers, but the uphill return was a bit more demanding, as we did it at a good pace.

We collected the van and went to Kalbarri for some groceries and to have lunch on the foreshore. It was quite lovely, but we could feel a chill in the air.

Kalbarri is about 570km from Perth and we drove all the way to a free camp outside Geraldton, 155km away, with beautiful views and a coal train snaking through the hills.

Plan your trip, as best you can in these times, because you may set yourself a target that demands you come back. We met two women who, travelling separately, discovered that they were both headed to Natures Window to do the walk that one had begun with a husband (now deceased) and the other had missed for some reason, 20 years before. It’s a far away place to have to return to, but now we’re in the same boat, as we want to say we’ve done it!

Travel safe. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

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.

Exmouth and surrounds

A very popular destination in Western Australia, this northernmost part of the Coral Coast region is far from metropolis and features World Heritage Ningaloo Reef. There are caravan parks and campsites and National Parks all along the west coast. Heading in that direction, we tried to secure a campsite a week earlier, but had very slim pickings.

We thought that 4 days in the region would enable us to see all that we had researched at a pace that lent lots of time to beach combing or sitting around in our deck chairs, but it was not to be. Two nights was all we could get, and driving distance to any of the tourist spots.

The Fortescue River provided a stop for morning tea and then by the side of the road for lunch. It did the trick and we had a walk around, looking at the river and the cattle, goannas and pelicans.

Another traveler responded to my surprise at seeing pelicans by saying that they follow the rain and if you see them fly off, they’d be heading for water. I think this place was called Ashburton River Rest Area.

We arrived at Bullara Station, 80km from Exmouth,  around 2.45pm. It was a dirt road in and we were a bit nervous, but the few corrugations were tiny, and the road was very short. We were met at a ‘meet and greet’ spot where we got a brief history of the station and told about the main features. The station had been cattle but now ran sheep and this required an extensive year-long team. That night was damper night, so a guy made damper at 5.30 and we could bring a drink and whatever we liked on our damper, to the area behind the camp kitchen, and he told tales of his wanderings and of coming to this station.

‘Lounge’ with TV, set up beside livestock pens.

There were some walking paths, and they liked people to have a look at the old buildings and make sure we saw the Lava Tree ablution block.

As our camp was near there, we made it an early destination. The concrete slab floor had a tree growing out of the centre, the toilet was on the right, with a wash basin and soap and paper towels, and on the left was a bucket, suspended high over the floor and two taps nestled in the corrugated iron wall. We had been assured that the water was hot and the pressure strong, so we are both looking forward to trying that in the morning.

Unfortunately, the birds and I wake too early and no-one had lit the fire to warm the water, so I went for a more conventional shower block, with disappointment I confess. The early morning fog was beautiful, though.

Still early, we headed into Exmouth and by 8.30 had a coffee at Mutts Cafe, before my husband wanted to visit the secondhand bookstore across the way, while I took photos of the friendly wildlife.

Corolla eyeing me off
Little magpie hoping for scraps

Heading around the North West Cape, towards Cape Range National Park, we stopped at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse to try and spot whales. It’s very popular, despite the steep climb, and we were rewarded with ‘spurts’ offcoast, visible without binoculars. There were about 8 whales circling and playing in the expanse before us. This is the top of Ningaloo Reef, so a great spot for the whales.

A spray to try and catch, as evidence

Heading to our next station stay, at Yardie Homestead Caravan Park, it was nearing 11.30, and the grounds were very large but well-appointed. The sites had little shade, but we were not planning to be hanging around, so it didn’t matter. We asked at the office about good swimming beaches and the gorge walk, nearby.

First stop Mandu Mandu Gorge and we attempted the 3km walk that was supposed to be 2 hours, so we set out to beat that. It was pretty demanding at the end, after the first half was walking on river bed stones, with the difficulties they bring. But then, uphill, downhill, loose stones, steep inclines, steep descents for 1.7km and although there were some good views, back into the gorge and out to the Ningaloo Reef, it was taxing. We were both very pleased that it took us less than an hour.

It was definitely necessary to head to Turquoise Bay for a cool down. Aptly named, the bay was such a gorgeous shade of blue/green and the moment we stepped into the water, fish approached us boldly. Some were about 40cm long, all were silver, and they seemed pleased when we turned up the sand at our feet. The nearby reef provides such a huge variety of sealife and we regretted that we forgot our snorkelling gear.

We cooled down for a bit and then went for a walk to see if we could see other fish in other parts of the bay. Near some unusually eroded rocks we found a variety of crabs and a starfish, but no more fish.

The crabs were very skittish and we first noticed them when they scuttled away, over the rocks or under ledges, waiting for a few minutes before peering out to see if we had gone. It took some patience to wait for them to appear in order to capture them.

There was a lookout we had observed on our way to the gorge, and we decided to investigate it. In fact, we thought there were 2, but were only able to identify one of them on our way. This was a bird watching one and there was a bird hide built beside the mangroves, which looked fairly new. A soft breeze blew in the hide, and the scene was peaceful, despite the noisy bird nearby that remained hidden.

In fact, when I went to find it, a cute little bird hopped right in front of me on a branch and didn’t seem too bothered about being photographed, but moved much faster than I could with my phone camera. We returned to camp  we were mindful of the comment that someone had put on wikicamps, about people needing to be secretive when they stare(???) so practiced that, we think.

By 7.37 next morning, we were bound for Coral Bay. It was a shock to see how much it had grown and how full and busy it was. The increased traffic could have been that we were visiting at an earlier time of the year, or the restrictions imposed by Covid were keeping Western Australians in their own backyard and swelling the usual tourist population. With some trepidation, we made our coffees and took them to the bay. The shape and colour immediately brought back memories and I wanted to stay, but Alan was put off by the busy-ness and was happy to keep our original plan, so we put our feet in, walked the front beach and then left the Exmouth region, sure we would return in a few years.

Who wouldn’t?

Point Samson

With views across the Indian Ocean, purple-hued Honeymoon Bay and access to tourist sites, Point Samson is a great holiday spot or base in the Northwest of Western Australia.

It’s a popular holiday spot for locals and workers at the various mining centres in the Pilbara and, while fishing is the main enterprise of the area, many vantage points show the huge ships lining up to dock at Dampier and collect iron ore.

If you wanted some sustenance or to wet your whistle, then you can’t do better than the Point Samson Tavern, with its views over the ocean, the jetty and the lighthouse. I counted 14 tankers while we were sitting here and the docks can accommodate 8 at a time, I think.

Not only is this a good spot at which to break up a long stretch or wile away the hours, you can base yourself here and visit Millstream/Chichester National Park, Karratha or Dampier, and the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular.

Sunrise
Sunset

The original 600m jetty was built in 1903 and replaced a tidal port at nearby Cossack. The new jetty serviced Roebourne and exported wool and cattle from surrounding pastoral stations, as well as copper from Whim Creek. Until 1971 many houses in Point Samson relied on ships bringing fresh water that was carried by rail carts and later pumped ashore. I’m astonished that people lived in this remote spot with little access to mains water until the 70s.

In 1925 a tropical cyclone damaged huge portions of the jetty, but a new one wasn’t constructed until 1936 due to the Great Depression. As air travel increased, passenger services were the first to go and in 1976 it was closed to shipping. Yet another cyclone, Orson this time, partially destroyed the jetty for the second time in 1989 and due to safety concerns it was demolished in 1991.

The current 70m structure, with its 40 sqm viewing platform and shelter was constructed in 2018 as a joint project of Point Samson Community Association, Rio Tinto and the City of Karratha. The design reflects its history and it provides a suitable vantage point for whale watching in the season. Just two weeks before we got there, visitors reported seeing several whales playing in the bay as they headed south.

We stayed at The Cove Holiday Village, right on the coast, and the sites were large, the amenities clean and very comfortable and there is a pool, family/recreation rooms and camp kitchens and BBQs spaced well. The owners were very helpful with advice and assistance. Honeymoon Cove, within 100m, is small and lovely, with unusual metasedimentary rocks.

Delight your senses at Point Samson.

Millstream/ Chichester National Park

When I enquired at the Karijini Visitor Centre about Millstream, one of the rangers felt that the NP was one of the most underrated places in Australia and she wished more people would go there. Having assured us that there was little corrugation and most of the roads were sealed, now, we decided to go, but had to camp at Point Samson, to avoid taking the back road which was the dirt track we had been travelling on in Karijini and which we knew our caravan wouldn’t survive.

To travel the road to the National Park, I discovered we needed a pass from Rio Tinto. At that late hour, I went online and actually learnt some stuff but most of the road we would travel is now sealed, so a lot of it was unnecessary. I met people who didn’t bother with the pass, but it is free and if there’s a chance of being turned back, why not? The journey to the NP was picturesque, with many changes of scenery and foliage. The wildflowers were a colourful patchwork carpet over much of the land and we believe it’s due to the huge rainfall this year.

The road out was bitumen, with short dirt paths to some of the attractions and from PointSamson it took 2 hours each way. We attempted to do the wetlands walk once we arrived, but it was closed due to heavy rain and damage recently. Instead, we looked around the 1919 household and its very old desks for wireless, wood oven, wireless rocking chair and other artefacts. It’s a beautiful building, well made and maintained.

A few campsites surround the old homestead, nestled in the bush, and there were several vans and tents, which led us to think about staying here, another time. We drove to the lookout and marveled at the breadth of the River Fortescue and how healthy it is.

There’s a path along the cliff top, part of a longer walk to the homestead and back, that takes you along the river and to different landscapes. A bird of prey flew over us and came down pretty low at one point, possibly keeping us from their mate.

From here it was a short drive to Deep Reach, where the original inhabitants believe the Rainbow Serpent, creator of all life, lives. The carpark, where we met a goanna that needed the sun more than an escape from us, led to a short, paved path to the river and shade and tables.

We had lunch, then went and sat on the steps that lead to the water, cooling our feet and enjoying the fish and damselflies. It was enough for me, as I thought the deep river, whose reeds reached up out of the water, was a bit scary. I thought I could see a current and was not sure how strong it would be. This was a beautiful spot and we could see how it might be visited frequently if you camped in the park, also doing some of the walks. However, with some walks closed due to the wild weather earlier in the year, we weren’t sold on this park as a destination, yet.

We both thought we’d save our swim for the magical Python Pool, on our return journey, and the initial turnoff was dirt, as we were told, but shockingly corrugated. We attempted it for about 5 km and then could see no end to it so, wanting the unpleasantness of shaking and rattling to end, we turned around and went back. Later, we met a couple who took a different road (that we thought was off-limits to non-Tinto people) and entered Python Pool from the North, saying the road was really easy and the Pool was amazing.

Another location to put on the ‘next time’ list.

One of the sights on this road is the iron ore train, with carriages that go as far as you can see in each direction. You can’t go on until it’s finished, so why not get out and take photos?

Check road conditions before you head off. Rio Tinto provide daily updates if you do the online training.

Travel safe, with your permit, hat, water and sunscreen.

Karijini National Park

Nestled in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, recognizable by it’s red and orange hues, is Karijini National Park. You can get to the park from three directions, North, South and West and each is at least 2 hours from the next campsite or town. We came from the North and found the scenery stunning, as the tufts of spinifex and layers of red hills came and went. The wildflowers were so vivid and varied, that we both tried to find new ones and point them out, right up to the Ranger Station.

We had booked our campsite and, as it was absolutely chocker-block, only managed two nights in the overflow camp. This provided a toilet and access to bore water that had to be boiled before drinking. It’s worth mentioning that both this campsite and the main one, Dale’s campground, were showing as full in the online booking but some people don’t turn up, so if you see plenty of free spots, it’s worth asking at the visitor centre or the ranger who does the rounds each night, particularly if you want to stay longer. At the visitor Centre, we got some information about the state of the roads, and discussed what we wanted to achieve in two days, getting good advice and tips, before making our way to the campground and selecting our spot, near the water tank.

Wanting to make the most of the time, we set off on the dirt track for Kalamina Falls that afternoon, where the road was far worse than we had anticipated, with deep corrugations and sand, upon which we slid, until we reduced the tyres to 28.

The carpark went down to the falls on one side and a walk on the other. We met a couple a bit older than us and they had done both, saying the walk was demanding and took them about 2 hours or more of hard work. It was getting late in the day and Alan isn’t keen on long walks, so we did the waterfall. We were surprised that after a one minute downward climb, we were at a stream, with bracken water that looked like lumps of soft manure floating in it, so we went to the fall, where the water was running and it nested in a small grove, where Alan climbed up and under it to have a soak.

the reflection of the trees hides the ‘ floaties’

From here the return journey to where we began was quicker and then on to Dale’s Gorge, that we remembered very fondly from 7 years ago. The path has been formalized with concrete and there is a huge metal stairway taking you from the lookout to the falls. There weren’t many people swimming at Fortescue Falls, but plenty around and we decided to go the extra 600m to Fern Pool. It was quite different, with the platform gone and signs that it might have burnt down. We liked it better now, as it was more open, but the tree canopy was gone and so less birds were there. The pool looked so much bigger and you really notice the rock formations now and ferns hanging in the crevices. We had a very soothing soak and it is still one of the best places we know, with great memories and good feelings.

We’d planned an early start the next day and so we did, taking off on that grueling road again, only twice as far, first to Weano Gorge and two lookouts, and then to Joffre Falls.

At the carpark we saw a dingo, skulking around and clearly looking for scraps, as it came quite close and approached most of the people there.

The gorge was easy to enter and had tall, stratified red walls that lined the river. It wasn’t very deep but was clear so could have been suitable for swimming. The path was pretty easy with only a few wet patches that weren’t  slippery, and some loose stones. At the end there was a lot of rubble that was ok to climb up but I thought it would have been slippery as a downtrack. 

Weano Gorge had an easy trail that took less then an hour, and we began it at the beautiful end, within the gorge, finishing on a dry path to the carpark, but one which was lined with wildflowers, so it wasn’t unpleasant. The sun was warming up by that time, so I’m glad we went early.

The layers in the wall were explained in a sign at one of the lookouts. Millions of years ago it was an ocean floor and as layers of sediment built up, mainly consisting of silica, and iron oxide and silica, it pushed the water out. The natural tectonic plates created the twists and turns in the walls. We thought the colours looked like chocolate and caramel icecream and the layering meant that, as large blocks cracked and fell away, what you have are piles of squares. It’s absolutely geometric.

The lookouts were not far from our starting point and although one was closed following recent heavy rain, the other allowed us a glimpse into Oxley Gorge. Such a deep gorge, carved in the same way, and seeming to go on forever.

Thinking that perhaps all of the grading was easier than implied, we made it to the start of the Hancock Gorge and began the descent, hoping to see enough of the gorge to take a cheap pic and call it a day. It was not to be, and I could see one of those deeply descending stairways and people coming up, looking well and truly tuckered out. We both pulled out of going further and enjoyed the wildlife as we returned to the car.

A 20 minute bumpy ride back the way we had come took us to Joffre Falls. The lookout is about 100 m of slightly downhill loose stones, and when you get to the suspended platform you can’t help but exclaim. The waterfall and pool of turquoise water is completely invisible from such a short way above and the water courses down a long, deep gorge. We could see people on the other side of the gorge, taking what appeared to be 500 steps directly down, into the water. Some made it through a sandy gap to the base of the falls, which looked a little fresher in my opinion.

Can you see the person on the bottom right, making their way along the ledge, towards the narrow gap?

It didn’t look very far or difficult to the top of the falls, so we took the path and, sure enough, after a steep but short scramble down the red rubble path, we were able to walk 30m on flat, rounded rocks to the top of the falls and the gorge. What a great view of the rock layers, gorge and water source.

Surviving the return corrugations, that afternoon we were off to our favourite place in Karijini – Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool and we swam in both, taking our time and sitting in the shade or sun, on the rocks, and enjoying the moment, as it might be another 7 years before we are back.

Back at the campsite, we sat in the shade, a warm breeze blowing, and people came to the water tank that we parked beside, to fill their tanks. The bees, which constantly hover there, keep them company, until the moths come at sunset. The wildflowers and birds are fabulous. It’s been a good visit and we will be back.

Head west, all people, and see the world. But take your hat, plenty of water and apply sunscreen.

Broome or Barn Hill?

I think most people around the world have heard of Broome, the pearl region of north-western Australia that guarantees a stunning sunset. But as we headed here, so many travelers told us about Barn Hill, that we changed our plans. Our memories of Broome, that it was almost dead in late October but had some fabulous beaches, had been tarnished by the reports this year, of overcrowding and price rises due to Covid-19. As it was the beach we most sought, we decided on a shopping stop in Broome and then to travel the 110km to Barn Hill Station,  a cattle station that offered a campsite on a cliff over the beach.

Broome was actually lively, with varied shops open and people moving about purposefully. We decided to do our grocery shopping first and then sit for a coffee, where we could get internet and search a few of the locations we were hoping to visit in the future, but hadn’t quite decided on, or booked for that matter.

I rang our sons to let them know where we were (why were they not the least bit concerned?) and when Alan returned from his obligatory secondhand book hunt, we went  to Barn Hill, the last stretch of which involved a 10km dirt road that was a little corrugated but softened by the red dirt.

It is a great campsite, a little ramshackle and with basic amenities, but we had power and water for half the price of Broome, and a short walk down to the beach, with its red cliffs and layered rock formations.

We were expecting the water to be warm, but it was cool and had a strong pull into the ocean. Earlier, the neighbours said that there had been a small shark sighted that morning and everyone had to get out of the water. It made me a bit nervous, and I kept looking around for a fin, while resisting the undertow. I saw a brown jellyfish, the size of a large bowl and that had me exit for the day. A late afternoon walk brought us to some great rock formations, some scuttling crabs that hurriedly dug holes (and some are way too big to think about), and a beautiful sunset.

On our return, we saw people sitting in readiness for a show of some kind. Apparently, the entertainment was a no-show, so they contacted two guys who played the previous night, and they stopped their fishing and put on a show. It was quite good, really, with mostly 70s soft rock/LA sound stuff. Lucky for us, we got a good seat.

The next morning I went for a walk to the beach and thought that this coastline was a lot like Aldinga, in South Australia, with the sandstone cliffs. In fact, I’m beginning to think most of Australia’s coastline e is sandstone. But this place has had a lot of erosion, creating pillars of rock and sand, along with familiar rock pools and exposed reef.

We had our morning café then strolled to the market, where clientele were selling their wares in stalls erected in the community gathering area. There are always pens for goats and horses and children who aren’t kept busy with this or the ocean are on the few items of play equipment.

This is a very relaxing campsite, with entertainment, a bar/café that can provide occasional internet and all the environmental features you’d get in Broome. The facilities are basic but very clean and the hot water in the shower is reliable. There are washing machines that work and the sites are shaded and large. There is the choice of powered or unpowered, but the unpowered seemed to have little shade.

Have a little adventure and come to Barn Hill, with your hat, sunscreen and fishing rod.

Purnululu and the Bungle Bungles

About 4 hours from Kununurra, just over the NT/WA border,  is Purnululu National Park, in which sits the famous Bungle Bungle Range, or Bungle Bungles. The highway through the Kimberley Region is very good and picturesque, so the time passes easily. We stopped at Turkey Creek Roadhouse for a stretch and that had food and accommodation for those needing it.

The 1km road into Bungle Bungle Caravan Park was pretty corrugated and we set up on the large, unshaded block before quickly asking about the condition of the road into the National Park. We were pretty inexperienced 4×4 drivers and wanted to decide if we should be doing the $380pp tour instead. Encouragement and approval of our vehicle was not lacking and we made nervous plans for the following day, while the desert sunset brought an unexpected chill.

What an adventure! If you’re an avid off-roader you’d have given it an 8, I think, as those who’d just come off the Gibb River Road said it compared to that journey’s detour tracks. What are we talking about? 1.5 hours (53km) of heavily corrugated road on entry and exit, for which we lowered the psi to 25, and five river crossings not requiring a snorkel, but we weren’t stopping. Other corrugated sections of varying degree, making it a rattling good trip.

Don’t be deceived, the water came up to the top of the bonnet: straight down and straight back up again.

We followed the tour plan and, after calling in at the visitor centre to record our names and our pass, went south first, to Piccaninny Creek carpark to see the Domes and Cathedral Gorge. The former is what has made the Bungles famous in the late 1980s, when a film crew flew over it and  ‘discovered’ the beehive-shaped sandstone hills. Capturing the expanse of the range is very difficult with a standard lens, as you can see in the header photo.

The average height of the domes is 250m and the distinctive orange and black towers are fragile. As the sign on the walk says, “… each encased in a thin, protective skin of orange bands of iron oxide and grey to black bands of cyanobacteria. A skin is deposited on the surface by water seeping through the sandstone. If the banded skin is damaged the sandstone is rapidly eroded away.” Another sign informs us that the foundations were laid down 360 million years ago and flood waters have brought deposits and formed deep gorges.

From the carpark, both walks are very easy, on flat paths, well-signed. You’ll be unprotected from the sun in many places, so remember hat, sunscreen and water. After you reach the pool in the Domes, the path to Cathedral Rock, back and to the left, is along some sections of dry river bed, so use good walking footwear for sandy and uneven surfaces.

There are ladders to help negotiate difficult terrain.

The sun glows off the walls like molten gold.

Cathedral Gorge is unexpectedly stunning, but you have to get in and under the Ridge to fully appreciate it. Many people just sit for a time, absorbing the extraordinary peace and beauty. You first encounter the amphitheatre and the still pool in the centre.

Venture in
And look back out
Not so bracken that the fish had all left

We ate our lunch in the shade, here, then headed for the northern end of the National Park and Echidna Chasm.

From the carpark, you follow the dry creek bed, over mostly rocky terrain, through palms bordered by the orange sandstone cliffs, showing signs of erosion.

The river bed and walls are made up of conglomerate, formed by pebbles and boulders that have been embedded over millions of years.

It isn’t too long before the path narrows and you read about large, falling boulders, causing a little increase in your pace.

The light and the decreasing width of the path is beautiful and highlights this impressive weakness in the Bungle Bungle Ranges.

When you get to the end, it’s quite obvious there is no going forward, so back you go, still able to admire the glowing cliffs.

Near the start of the riverbed is a sign directing you to the Northern Escarpment Walk which is a very short (5min) trip to look over the landscape. In the distance are ranges that are billions of years old and information boards explain the changes in the environment and the practices of the Aboriginal people of the area. There is a move back to involving the original inhabitants in the preservation of the area, as their knowledge of watercourses, in particular, is crucial to the health of the region.

It isn’t a trip for the feint hearted and is one to put on your bucket list, but only if you can be rattled around a bit. You need to time it, as the park is closed between November and April, roughly, but we were here in October one year and the high temperatures meant it was closed. So, do a little research.

Travel safe. Take your hat, water and sunscreen, and maybe a spare tyre.