Paul & Cara's Big Trip travel blog

Where's Cara?

Where's Graham?

Not all of the wildlife is roadkill

Take five from the long old road and see what you can...

Cara adopts an unusual but effective method of fly protection

A fly swept gorge

The road quite literally goes on forever

Ahhh camp site heaven

We made it

The dark bit is the reef

The following morning we made a fairly early start, packed up Graham, picked up some supplies and took to the open road. We had a vague idea of where we were heading and, as the guys had to be back in Perth a week later, we'd planned to head up the coast as far as Exmouth, spending a couple of days and nights on the way, then make our way back along a slightly different route. It wasn't too far into the trip that it dawned on us that Australia is actually enormous, as far as countries go. We've all heard it said before, and seen the films and documentaries that depict these huge barren tracts of land and endless roads, but for some reason it simply hadn't sunk in until we'd been driving for a few days and still hadn't moved out of one square on the atlas. We made a couple of stops on the way, but not for long, and other than that it was hundreds and hundreds of KMs of absolutely nothing but road and bush as far as the eye could see. Every car, van or truck that passed gave a little wave or nod of acknowledgment, as if desperate for any form of human contact in this dusty void.


It was pretty much driving, stopping for a sandwich, driving, stopping for a toilet break, driving, then eventually stopping to sleep. On the second day, we almost ran out of petrol, having not quite got used to being able to physically see the fuel indicator needle dropping before our eyes. We worked out that we were about 150 KMs from the next service station, so pulled into a rest area and begged a couple of litres of petrol from a fellow 'vanner', in the hope that this would see us through. It did, and we rolled into the roadhouse running on hope and fumes. We decided to stay there for the night, as it was dark by then and the likelihood of ploughing into a hopping kangaroo increases dramatically at night.


The roadhouse was an empty bar, a couple of raggedy-looking locals and the staff and, having asked for a site for the van and somewhere for Adam and Leonie to pitch their tent, a really creepy woman led us outside. Apart from being a few watts short of lighting a bulb, she looked like she'd just stepped out of some weird outback horror movie. Our 'site' turned out to be in the car park, with a tiny piece of rock-hard ground for the tent. It was situated between two generators that seemed to be competing for the accolade of noisiest piece of machinery, and just far enough off the highway for the back-draft of any passing roadtrains to slightly sway, rather than push over the van. It was too late to find somewhere else so we got settled, but Adam and Leonie were having problems getting the tent pegs to penetrate the rocks, so it was back inside to the creepy woman to ask to borrow a mallet. A few minutes later she crept back through the shadows and made us all jump out of our skins by appearing beside us, wielding a huge mallet. Leonie thanked her and said we'd return it when we'd finished but she just stood there.


"Me boss says I have to wait here with the mallet. We've lost mallets before this way, people borrow 'em and don't bring 'em back."


Where exactly she thought we were going to be running off to in the middle of the night with a knackered old mallet, I have no idea, especially as the price we'd paid for the 'site' could probably have brought a couple of shiny new ones. Anyway, true to her word, she stood and watched as they put the tent up.


The next day we set off early again, and by now we'd realised that we weren't going to make it as far as Exmouth, so we picked somewhere a little more realistic that sounded nice. We arrived at Coral Bay in the afternoon, and it was indeed lovely. Relatively untouched by tourism, with just a couple of campsites and restaurants, it was a beautiful little cove, with the clearest turquoise water and white sand. It was also just off the edge of the Ningaloo reef, said to rival the Great Barrier Reef, but whereas the Barrier Reef required a two-hour boat trip to reach, here you could hire a snorkel and mask, swim out about 20 metres and see the reef and a huge variety of fish. That's how we spent the next couple of days and it was really nice to be out of the van and off the road. We cooked big dinners in the evening, sat out with a few cold beers and generally had a lovely, relaxing time.


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