Carnarvon and Blowholes 28 February to 03 March 2007 Western Australia
11 Mar 2007
You never know what is round the corner when driving in Australia. Just as we were driving endlessly past unassuming bush areas, we were amongst some hills and took the opportunity to drive up to Gladstone Scenic Lookout. This gave me the chance to take pictures of the area and our last bit of road, and the road we would soon travel. We also crossed the 16th Parallel on this journey and are getting close to the tropics.
On the outskirts of Carnarvon is the old American satellite dish which was built in conjunction with NASSA and is no longer used. It is to be turned into some sort of visitors centre and it dominates the sky line. We chose our camp site because it had a mini golf course and on checking in we learned it had just been taken up to provide room for chalet's; our first disappointment in Carnarvon. Still, a notice at the office stated the camp was host to two Frog Faced Owls. Our bird book states they are not really owls but as they occupied the tree throughout the day just across from our van, we took them to our hearts and frequently looked at them.
Carnarvon is behind in its development and there are some plans to re-locate some town centre buildings, and a new housing estate with the fringe houses having access to waterways is being built. The town is situated by the Gascoyne River delta. We took a two mile nature walk across the river delta and stood on soil which had come from many miles away. The Gascoyne River catchment starts over 400 miles inland near Meekatharra and drains 48 thousand square miles of land. Because the river typically flows only twice a year, usually after a cyclone or the May winter rains, its bed is usually dry.
The river does flow underground and the fruit plantations along both sides of the river bore holes and pump out water for their crops. One lady told us there had been no rain in the area since last March. She also informed that after a cyclone 18 months ago the river had been high and had flowed for six month. Difficult to accept looking at the pictures, but true. We crossed the delta following the nature trail which was alongside the old railway line; rail enthusiasts have plans to restore this. At the end were the museum pieces of the society and a 1 mile jetty which is being restored and not before time.
After paying 10 dollars towards the restoration, we walking to the jetty end and then walked back again. Whilst we returned across the delta my feet wondered why we were walking instead of riding our bikes. We then drove along one of the roads leading into town, along the memorial drive which has a plaque for each of the people lost on HMAS Sydney. These line both sides of the road and some of the plaques are in front of a palm tree, eventually trees will have been bought for all of the plaques.
On our second full day we went in search of the fruit plantations, especially one which makes a range of unusual jams and chutneys. After crossing the river, we travelled up the north road past grape and banana plantations, and others we were not sure what was growing. We missed the one we were looking for. Although it is out with the fruit growing season, some places indicated they had fruit for sale, but hadn't. We did buy some bananas and a big juicy melon from one lady when travelling down the south side of the river, and enjoyed our conversation with her.
Eventually we found our jam maker and they were shut, despite placing their advertising board some two miles away. During the fruit growing season you can have a tour of some of the plantations and we were aware we had missed this.
After our aborted fruit venture we decided to have lunch at Rocky Pool, described as a beautiful deep fresh water pool some 34 miles away. We turned back after 8 miles on the main road as the side road we wanted was rough and unsealed, despite the tourist leaflet stating the route was on a sealed road. On our way back to town we visited the Chinaman's Pool but apart from upsetting about 100 cockatoo's it wasn't worth a visit.
On return we visited the tourist office and bought a variety of the jams and chutneys made at the plantation we had tried to visit; we had sampled their chocolate coated bananas yesterday when we first visited the tourist office. During the visit we took the opportunity to tell them what we thought of the local tourist brochure and the misleading signs of the local fruit sellers. After mentioning a few negatives, we learned that the road to the picturesque pool is sealed, if you drive far enough along the rough bit. Apparently this information is a secret kept from the tourist leaflet.
I was told Carnarvon was not really a tourist area to which I replied it was never likely to be one if they did not get their act together. What is the point in printing tourist leaflets indicating places are open when they are shut; or not giving proper information for visiting areas of interest? The tourist lady admitted she did not have the easiest of jobs.
Our afternoon was spent being lazy and catching up with some of the blog writings, plus visiting our Frog Faced friends whilst trying to think who they reminded us of.
The next morning we bought food before leaving Carnarvon, a town which is not on our recommended to visit list. Not long after joining the main road there was a minor road of 43 miles length leading back to the coast and some interesting blow holes. Although the blowholes were near the road end, we had to cross a very weather pitted rock surface to see them properly. They proved to be as good as the brochure said. Our Carnarvon tourist leaflet told us of a memorial to HMAS Sydney just along the coast travelling on an unsealed road, indicating it was half way between the blowholes and a cattle station which was 5 miles away.
The road was rough and the memorial, which was placed overlooking the spot where the surviving German sailors from the engagement had landed their life boats, was just a quarter of a mile from the Cattle Station. Still, after all the other bits of involvement with the story of HMAS Sydney, we were glad we had travelled the rough road, despite the slowness of the journey. (I was not so keen at having to travel back along the road). The detour to the memorial had added an hour to our day's travel time.
Maybe it wasn't the best time of year to visit Carnarvon, and maybe we have been spoiled by some of the places we have visited, but we are here to experience as much of Australia as we can in our limited time, and the next place should be a real treat.