Exmouth to Tom Price and the Cyclone's 06 to 08 March 2007 Western Australia
11 Mar 2007
The road to Exmouth became tedious as we drove up the peninsular with low bush and thousands of termite hills. I later learned that the termites are grass eaters, can tunnel 50 metres to obtain grass and dig down over 10 metres for water. May be I should have given the termites a bit more credit.
Our journey was really about 30 miles beyond Exmouth to the Cape Grange National Park and its stunning beaches and scenery. After driving past the American Telecommunications Post at North West Cape and Vlaming Lighthouse, we came to the Jurabi Turtle Centre, an un manned visitors information post informing of the laying of eggs by turtles on the beach, and the 5 to 6 days digging out of the wee turtles before they make their way down the beach to the sea. After 20 years 1 in 1,000 will have survived to make it back and breed.
At the Cape Grange National Park Visitors Centre we learned the park was likely to close. Today is very hot and 43 degrees in the shade; kangaroo's were sheltering by the side of the visitors centre. Last night tents were being blown into the sea. Our plan was to stay at a camp site at Yardie Creek, a further 30 miles on where you could take a boat trip into the gorge. We were told all of the boats had been taken out of the water and the gorge trip would not take place until the 18th at the earliest. We retreated from the park after first taking a look at Neds Bay and Mangrove Bay. After visiting the lighthouse lookout we booked into the nearby Caravan Park, an easy drive to the Jurabi Turtle Centre.
Today was Monday. The reason for the closing down of the Cape Grange National Park was Cyclone George which was off the coast, above Exmouth and assessed as a category 5 cyclone, and they don't get any worse than this. There was every chance that cyclone George could move down the coast and much more information would be known by Thursday.
Well, as we could not do our boat trip in the gorge, and the park was likely to close, plus it really was very hot to be parked without power to drive the air conditioning, there was not much point in staying around to meet George. However, there is still tonight.
About 8pm we drove down to the Turtle Centre and walked down to the beach with our torches at the ready. The tide was low and there were lots of rocks, it was clear that the tide came in very high and would cover the rocks by at least seven feet. After a half hour of dark deliberation, well the expected moon kept behind clouds, we came to the following conclusion. Because the adult turtle leaves the water at high tide to lay her eggs, there is a good chance the baby turtle heads for the water at high tide rather than throw itself on the rocks.
High tide was at 1.30am. The choices were to return in 5 hours after waking the camp site up as we drove away, and then do it again on our return, or get a good night's sleep. I'm afraid we missed out on the baby turtles. We did see three adult emu's and our first baby emu of this trip. They seemed to have adopted this camp site.
Next day we attended the Tourist Office at Exmouth and viewed the four day prediction for cyclone George. The expectation was that it would move down the coast in a southerly direction alongside the Cape Grange National Park and everywhere near by would be extremely windy and wet. Our expectation was we would not stay to find out what happened and would head about 220 miles inland, (as the crow flies), to Tom Price, a mining town near to the Karijini National Park.
Exmouth did not seem to have much to commend it, however preparation work for at least 5 housing areas with waterways which will have access to the sea are underway. The local Authority seem to believe they can attract enough moneyed people who like to sail boats and would appreciate their own slipway at their front door.
We left Exmouth just after noon and after stopping for breaks we arrived at the Nanutarra Road House at 4.30pm after a drive of 175 miles. It was 48 degrees in the shade, and as Sylvia said, we didn't see any shade. The Roadhouse restaurant had some tables and chairs outside but their customers were all sitting in the air-conditioned inside. Sylvia's only needed the cold tap to enjoy a nice warm shower.
Once we had driven the 59 miles from Exmouth down the tedious termite hills road, we joined the old 'wool pack' road which only became a sealed road in 1996 and the scenery became much more interesting. 50 miles later we joined the Northern Highway and the remaining 65 miles was also an interesting journey. We were now about 80 miles east of Exmouth and pleased with out decision to leave.
It is now Wednesday. Our drive took us upwards past lots of hills, before going down the longest slope I have ever driven whilst driving between hills. Throughout the journey, as on previous outback drives, we drove across hundreds of dry 'Floodway's. Lots of them had water markers up to 2 metres, (about 6feet 9 inches), in depth and one up to 3 metres deep.
It was a nice journey but no blue sky. After 170 miles we arrived at Paraburdoo, still 50 miles from Tom Price and met with two young people who had been our camp neighbours at Coral Bay. Had we heard the latest about the cyclone? No we hadn't. Cyclone George had turned completely round and gone up the coast over 300 miles and was somewhere about 220 miles above us, travelling south and heading for land.
We all spoke with one of the local officials who had parked near by and was brought up to date with the situation. Our young friends were turning back. They were on their second and last week of their holiday and could not afford to be marooned at Tom Price. We said goodbye and they took a note of this blog site.
Sylvia and I hope they will get in touch through the internet and let us know how they got on. We carried on up the road to Tom Price where we should be safe.