Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The front at Onslow

Jolly swag van camped by a billabong

I did not know he was taking this!

Water sports in the evening at Dampier

Beach at Dampier

The campsite at Dampier

Our lunch spot at Yule River

The Munjina East Gorge lookout


Our latest friends, Brian and Marilyn are staying an extra day before travelling the two hundred miles to Karratha. Brian informed he has been told he will be able to secure mining work at Pannawonnika which will necessitate a return journey of 125 miles. He is 53 years of age and says he has never really found a job he wants to settle at. As long as you don't mind moving, in Australia you don't have to stay in one job. Their last work was looking after a chalet park at Mandurah for 7 months

We needed to know what time schedule we had available. The Karijini is still the main desire but it is shut. I telephoned my name sake Jeff who turned out to be a very fit 57 year old but not as good looking as me. It is now Tuesday; the Karijini should be open on Thursday or Friday. I informed Friday would be much better for us and Jeff offered to phone when he had more accurate information. If we stay at Onslow for a lazy day, our travel route will need to be back along the road from the Nantarra Road House to Tom Price; for the third time. Our aim is to travel and view Australia.

Prior to leaving Onslow we were advised the camp sites at Karratha would be full of miners displaced from their Donga's by the Cyclones. The rows of huts in which the miners live are called Donga's and the ones wrecked by the cyclone were built to stand a category 3; there are Donga's on the Tom Price Caravan Park. A nice caravan park at near by Dampier only allows up to three days stay and consequently will be empty at this time of the year. It will be another month before the migration of caravans and motor homes start moving north as the south heads towards winter.

Once again the road along the North Coastal Highway proved to be interesting with changing scenery from low scrub plains to increased vegetation and hill ranges. We would pass signs telling us the name of the 'mountain' we were passing by and the height above sea level. Nice to look at but if you have ever seen a book of the Scottish Munro's, let alone climbed one, you will realise we were not that impressed.

The Fortesque River Roadhouse proved a welcome stop for coffee, and an interesting conversation with a couple who were travelling north where three weeks work cutting trees followed by mining work was promised them. The lady would earn her money as a painter at the mine. They had lived in Donga's and spoke well of them. Also part of the conversation was a work man whose present high paid task was laying fibre optic cables. He had many jobs in the past including 'Road Train' driver and his present boss was paying the Roadhouse £71 pounds a night for his room and keep. There was no TV in his room and the food was poor; he would prefer a tin of Pal dog food to the fare here.

Just ninety miles to go. A supermarket petrol station was situated on the corner of the main road as we turned to drive the last few miles to Dampier. I have a shopping receipt that gets me 4 cents per litre, (1.7p), off my purchase. At the roadhouse the cost of diesel was 160.9 cents per litre and I knew we had enough to get to Dampier. The cost outside Dampier was 135.9 per litre before my discount, and if you spend 2 dollars you get an extra 2 cents per litre discount. I spent 3 dollars on 2 packets of mints, (buy 2 get 1 free). It's no wonder the definition of a Yorkshire Man is a man who lacks the generosity of the Scot.

Jeff from the Pilbara Gorge Tours phoned whilst we were at the garage. He can take us into the Karijini on Friday. If we leave it until next week he does not know when he will have a party going on the tour; it depends on any bookings. We arranged for Sylvia and I to be picked up at the Karijini Visitors Centre as this would save us the extra drive of nearly 30 miles to Tom Price; and gain an extra hour in bed.

The journey into Dampier was a bit of a shock. As we travelled over a long land bridge, flanked by pools of 'fish farmed' anchovies, we were passed by hundreds of cars, busses and a few lorries travelling the other way. Dampier was built by Hamersley Iron in 1965 and named after an English buccaneer William Dampier who visited in 1688. It remains the largest tonnage shipping port in Australia and houses the massive export facilities of Hamersley Iron, Dampier Salt and the North West Gas Shelf Project. We had been too late for the shift change going into Dampier but not the ones going home.

Dampier is also the departure point for day cruises into the spectacular Dampier Archipelago. We don't have time for this. Our time is spent getting on site, a quick slake of thirst and the bikes down from the back of the van. Why do we always pick areas with small hills instead of flat ground? Anchored off shore from the leisure beach of Dampier is a fishing fleet. It is a nice small town despite all of the industry just round the corner. On our way back 'fitness walkers' acknowledge our efforts as we toil up a hill; we are welcomed to the fitness club and don't inform we had a beer before setting out.

Next day, after a look at Karratha and some shopping we set off to drive the 325 miles to Karijini National Park. The road follows the coast but we can only see flat land with low grass on our left, and the same on our right fringed some way back by rocky hills. Kamikaze birds who don't have the sense to stay on one side of the road are feeding over the grass areas. Lunch was consumed at a lovely road side 24 hour camp site by the Yule River; it did not take the flies long to readjust after the cyclone. A few miles more and we are travelling south down the road towards Newman.

This was an interesting journey with changing hills, varied vegetation and some areas sustained trees. Pools of water were left over from the cyclones and creeks still had some water in them. Remember, Australia is in a drought period and this is an unusual sight for us. After refuelling at the Munini (Auski) Roadhouse we travelled through the hill range of which the Karijini is a part of. The road was only opened in June 1987 and you can see into the inside of some hills where the rock ripping machinery cut through. Pictures from the gorge lookout are attached.

The time was moving towards dusk as we drove the last part of the journey and we arrived at our Karijini camp site at 7pm, a half hour before nightfall. A rest in our chairs whilst the mince and tatties simmered on the stove was very welcome. We are close to Dales Gorge but the sight seeing will have to wait until tomorrow which hopefully will be another special day.

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