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Motorhome Travels - May 2006

04/05/2006

Lucky Beach is a rather strange place. It lies about 20km north of Port Gregory along a well worn track from the main costal road. At some places along the track there are as many as 7 or 8 tracks branching off in different directions - these all meet up again in a few hundred meters. As we travelled the track winding its way to the sea I was glad that the sand beneath our wheels had been well packed by many vehicles before us. Just before we reached the beach we were met by what could only be described as a small village of fishing shacks. The sign erected by the local council (before being defaced) suggested that all of the structures were illegal. However some of the shacks displayed dates of erection dating back to the 1960's - so we guessed that the local council had given up trying to remove them. Everyone seemed to be used to seeing motorhomes come and go and although they were mostly friendly, almost everyone ignored us.

We stayed at Lucky Beach for two days and during that time the West Coast wind kept us from fishing and exploring the interesting looking reef that lies just off shore.

Now if Lucky Beach is a strange place then Hutt River is off the planet (or at least out of the state)!

In 1970 (21st of April to be precise) the owners of a large wheat farm were faced with severe hardship due to a new wheat quota system. After exhausting all avenues of appeal they took the unusual step of announcing their secession from the commonwealth of Australia and the state of Western Australia. They proclaimed Lenard Casley to be the Prince of this newly formed principality and declared that they would no longer be bound by the laws of Australia (and in particular the wheat quota system).  36 years (and many legal battles) later the principality stands and the people of Hutt River pay no tax to the Australian government (nor are they entitled to any of the benefits - e.g. health care etc).   We just had to visit this place!

Hutt River is about 50km from the main costal highway along a dusty corrugated gravel road. It is actually not easy to find. Their website (http://www.hutt-river.org/index.htm) tells their story and invites visitors but does little to tell you how to get there.

The Crown Prince Lenard and Gavin (the humble), WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
[Photo Information]
The Crown Prince Lenard and Gavin
(the humble), WA

Once found it was disappointing to say the least. 36 years has passed slowly here - and the small museum carries at least 30 years of dust on most of the exhibits. We were however greeted by the Crown Prince himself and were duly introduced to his bride Princess Shirley (both of whom are well into their eighties now). The Prince took us on a well practised tour of his domain (which includes his own post office, government buildings and tea rooms). The Prince is happy to pose for photos inside his own church and is genuinely an interesting (if not slightly eccentric) chap. There is a certain sense of "good on the small guy" feeling that appeals to me about this story. As a tourist attraction, the story is far more interesting than the actual place, but we did enjoy having our passports stamped by the Prince himself and we even purchased some of his stamps and exchanged some of our Australian money for the currency of his Principality (slightly less useful than Showgirls dollars I'm sure). 

Kalbarri is quite a different story. They are well practised at separating  the tourist from his or her money in this small seaside town.  Travellers are welcomed to the town by signs proclaiming that heavy fines will be imposed on anyone found free camping within 16km of the town - this may have something to do with the existence of no less than 5 camping grounds in the town. We decided to take the Moke into the national park and up into the gouge - however this was not to be.

The Murchison Gorge Tracey on an overhang, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
[Photo Information]
The Murchison Gorge Tracey on an
overhang, WA

The road into the gorge was so badly maintained, it threatened to shake the poor Moke to bits. We elected to abort the journey before the road claimed the life of our poor little car.  It is possible to visit some parts of the gorge from sealed road, and we did this on the way to the coastal highway.

We did met up with the same river again when we spent a couple of days at the Galena Bridge camping area. This nice camping spot had been savaged just a few weeks before our arrival by huge flood waters.

As I write this we are parked up beside the beach on our way to Denham. The water here is crystal clear and today we took the kayak out into the bay. We saw a number of eagle rays, stingrays and a huge old turtle - this is quite a unique part of the Australian coast.

 

14/05/2006

I know that Monkey Mia is world famous, but I really do think that it is a bit over rated. I guess if you have never seen 'wild' dolphins being hand fed before, it might be quite a sight. The setup is good, the whole area is well cared for and the self guided walk is interesting - I just would not drive 300km again to see some over-fed bottle-nose dolphins refuse a free meal. 

On the way back down the peninsular we called into Hamlin Pool to see the stromulotites (strom-u-la-tights). Now, if the dolphins didn't push ya buttons, these things are very unlikely to. Stromulotites are single-celled organisms that are thought to be close to the very first form of life that developed in the earths seas billions of years ago. Perhaps one of the main reasons they still survive is that the look exactly like rocks and thus nobody paid them any attention for the first few billion years. Still - I took a photograph of them anyway.

We stopped at Bush Bay - 35km south of Carnarvon for a few days. This is quite a nice camp with lots of space and great views of the sea. The huge bay is very shallow and it would perhaps be possible to walkout 3 or 4 km if you were so inclined. There was enough sand whiting (fish) in the bay to keep our omega3 levels up and there was a continuous flow of neighbours arriving and leaving. We are now starting to meet up with many of the same people again and again as we all make our own way north.

Carnarvon is a motorhome-and budget-traveller friendly place. They have provided a tap at the information bay to allow travellers to fill up and quite a few free and low-cost camping sites close to town.

The Blowholes is quite an amazing costal area. It is just 100km up the coast from Bush Bay - but it is a totally different world beneath the waves. The water temperature is at least 5 degrees warmer and the water is just absolutely teeming with life.

Sunset at the Blowholes, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
[Photo Information]
Sunset at the Blowholes, WA

The first two times we took the kayak out we passed over what we though was a large patch of weed. Because the weed seemed to relocate itself on the third pass we took a closer look with a mask and snorkel. To our utter amazement this dark patch in the sea was not weed but an enormous school of fish (perhaps 150m in diameter). It also seemed that we were not the only ones who found this amazing - we also saw two large sharks feeding on this fishy feast (we decided to get out of the water at this point). In the evening we watched from the beach as whales and dolphins passed and a school of some large pelagic fish fed causing the water to boil with smaller fish trying to escape the feeding carnage. We are going to stay here for a few more days before heading for Coral Bay and the Ningaloo Reef.

 

27/05/2006

As you drive down the main street of Coral Bay (which is the only street) it is very easy to imagine it just a few years earlier - perhaps just a few shacks and maybe a small general store. Nowadays Coral Bay is thriving hub of tourist activity - and the prices reflect this. We picked up a few grocery items then headed for the camp by the sea, 14 mile. This camp is on the pastoral station called Warroora. Most people bring caravans and park on the beach for months at a time - some have been spending the winter here for 15 years!. The Ningaloo reef is about 2km off shore, just within our paddling range.

The Motorhome at 14 Mile Camp, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
[Photo Information]
The Motorhome at 14 Mile Camp, WA

The Uninvited Additional Crew Member

For well over a week now we have been aware of an uninvited guest living onboard our bus. Our mousie friend has been helping himself to snacks from our food cupboard and has been dinning out quite well at our expense.  It is highly likely that Tivoli brought the mouse inside to show us both what a great little hunter and provider she is - it then escaped its toothy fate to live happily  among us. Mouse traps have been on the shopping list for about the same length of time - two of these were purchased in Exmouth. Tracey carefully baited them with the recommended mouse treat (that clearly no rodent can resist) - peanut butter! As Tracey was reaching under the scuba tank rack to place the first of the traps we became aware that Tivoli was watching on with keen interest - it was only once we had placed the second trap that we realised that she was watching on with the mouse between her teeth and a perplexed look on her furry little face. She seemed to be begging the question "What the hell are you doing and what are those peanut smelling things for?".
It took a little convincing to get her to release the mouse into our custody but suffice to say, the motorhome is once again home to just the three of us.

We decided that we were too heavy to risk driving on the beach and so set up camp some distance from the majority of campers at the far south end of the strip.  We spent 10 days fishing, diving and snorkelling the bay. The major attraction for fishermen at 14 mile is the spangled emperor that frequent these waters and are often caught just off the beach. I think that they are a type of snapper and I now know that they taste every bit as good. While diving we speared a couple of cuttlefish and while carrying them back to the kayak we were surprised to see a number of large spangled emperor taking a very keen interest in our catch. We decided that cuttlefish would make very good bait.

My mornings work (Traceys was to clean them), WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
[Photo Information]
My mornings work (Traceys was to
clean them), WA

For the next few early mornings and evenings we had quite some success fishing for the spangled emperor from just in front of our camp.

Word travels quickly in the bush and we were visited by the station owners who had a number of small jobs for us. Some satellite setups and adjustments, some electrical work on their solar and wind generation systems and some minor repairs. All of this kept us quite busy for a couple of days and helped pay for some more liquid gold that powers our motorhome (diesel).

We decided that Friday was the day for us to move on (before we got too used to this great place and decided to spend the winter here like so many of our fellow campers). Early Friday morning we headed for Exmouth - just 140km up the road. The radiator in the Moke has been leaking for some time and I am fairly sure it is quite blocked. I have removed it from the Moke and have dropped it off for repair in Exmouth. After some shopping and a fast food fix, we left Exmouth and drove around the peninsular and into Cape Range National Park. CALM as set aside camping places ($5per night per person) - these are terrible little cramped squares of gravel with no trees or privacy. Still, they are popular as we had to book ahead just to get one. We have had no chance to see what lies beyond our square of gravel, as today it rained for the first time in almost two months - it continued to rain all day - stopping only briefly to blow a gale before raining again.

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