We’ve now experienced life on a cattle station the size of approximately 320,000 acres and about 90kms drive south of Onslow. We were there for three and a half weeks and it was definitely interesting. When we got there, they still had four young blokes who were hired stock men and labourers for the season and we got conned into cooking for them while the family and young governess were away camp drafting. Man, they can eat! We would cook extra so they had enough the next day for smoko and lunch but no, they would just about eat the lot! You had to be thinking all the time, what to have the next day and have it out of the freezer in time and make do with what you had as there’s no shops round the corner. Once a week they order online and it gets delivered to the station next door (which is owned by the brother) and someone would have to drive across the paddocks about 30kms or 30 to 40 minute drive to pick it up. We went a couple of times and surprisingly didn’t get lost. The boys who worked there, one from Sth Africa, one from Germany, one from Holland and the other Aussie, worked six days a week, ten to twelve hours a day for the princely sum of $600 a week!
We also had to water the lawns and gardens around the homestead and feed the pets. They had a young goat named Rosie who was locked up with the chooks all the time as she kept trying to eat the plants in the house yard. I felt sorry for her and would take her for a walk most afternoons and the dogs would come along too. She was a character!
Living in or close to town you take a lot of things for granted. For hot water the donkeys for each of the dongas and the house had to be lit and stoked up every afternoon and the water was salty bore water!
Drinking water was tank water which you had to go outside the kitchen to get. I was surprised there was still so much as they hadn’t had rain since May.
Another job was to do the ‘mill run’ every three days. This was checking that the solar bore pumps were running to keep the tanks and troughs for the cattle full and if not, start the generators or pumps to run over night to catch up. The run was about 170kms round trip and would take about six hours.
When the family returned the first thing they did was get a ‘killer’ for the freezer. It was only hung overnight as they don’t have a cool room yet and butchered the next day. A few days later the first of the mustering started and we hung around for two of them to watch and bring up the rear in the ute. Greg got in the yards with them to help herd the cattle in for drafting and ‘scruff’ the calves for ear marking and castrating. I was the ‘official’ photographer and the boys were stoked as they had never been able to get photos of themselves mustering before .
Once we did our time, we returned to Warroora Station on the Ningaloo coast for a sea change and to clear the red dust out. We enjoyed the experience and can now tick that one off!
Purnululu, the Bungle Bungle Ranges are stunning and an incredible piece of geology! Formed approximately 360 million years ago (yes we did our homework) and carved out by erosional forces mainly during the wet, the result is banded sandstone domes rising out of flat plains. You are completely surrounded by them once you walk in and it really does blow you away! We stayed three nights spending the first day seeing the northern end of the park with Echidna Chasm, Mini Palm Springs and the escarpment. The second day we went to the southern end, Piccaninny, where the domes are and Cathedral and Whipsnake Gorges. Over the two days we walked about 26 kms.
Halls Creek was our next stop and as a band was playing at the pub just up the road and we weren’t going to get any sleep anyway, we went and joined the ‘locals’. Wasn’t a bad night and they were friendly enough and well behaved.
The next night we stayed at Fitzroy Crossing and did a sunset boat tour of Geikie Gorge on the Fitzroy River which was very spectacular.
Back in Broome again we sent the trailer in for a small welding job and found a broken spring which was the latest causality from the Gibb River and Bungle Bungle roads. Lucky it was found and Greg replaced both before any major damage was done.
We then went to Marble Bar for a look see and was quite surprised. The town is renown for being the hottest in the country but actually holds the record for the temperature not dropping below 37.8oC for 161 consecutive days in the summer of 1923-1924. Imagine trying to sleep at night as there would be no air conditioners then! While we were there though I’m sure we got the coldest night!
There is also a mineral bar known as ‘Jasper’ out of town which was thought to be marble and that’s how the town got it’s name. The rock is quite stunning especially when wet. We could have stayed an extra couple of days as there are gorges around the district but was running out of time as we have to start heading south.
We are heading to Onslow to caretake a cattle station for two weeks. We think we only have to look after the pets, chooks and pumps and keep an eye on the cattle. They are off camp drafting and when they return the mustering starts which we can stick around to see or help. Should be interesting!
Bloody dust and corrugation about sums up Gibb River Rd! Actually most of
the GRR isn’t too bad and some parts are even tarred but the roads off it
are pretty bad. Mitchell Falls Road had been the worst taking us three hours
to travel 76 kms. We were nearly going to give it a miss as there were
reports of 4WDs and trailers breaking up and being towed out at great
expense but most people were traveling too fast for the conditions, so it’s
no wonder. Our loss to date is a leg off the trailer which Greg fixed, the
CB antenna that flew off, two tyres, one he could plug and the other
We’ve seen some beautiful and amazing gorges and waterfalls that are like
oasis that pop up in the middle of nowhere. Some are short walks from the
road but most are a bit of a drive and hike to get to them but certainly
well worth it. Mitchell Falls is four levels and very spectacular. We opted
to walk in and fly out by helicopter to see it at a different perspective
and wasn’t disappointed! There’s also lots of rock art to see and one known
burial site, but no doubt there’s lots more sacred sites out there unknown
to white people.
The first week was school holidays and lots of traffic and crowded camp
sites but the second week was a lot quieter. If anyone is thinking of doing
this trip we recommend going earlier in the season when there is lots more
water flowing and before the school holidays when hopefully the grader has
been and the roads aren’t chopped up. The falls were spectacular but would
have been more so earlier after the wet, especially Mitchell Falls. There
were lots of caravans travelling on the Gibb and most are also carrying roof
tops or tents so they can park up the van and still be able to get to sites
on the rougher roads.
After two weeks we ran out of fresh fruit and veggies and had to start on
the tin stuff…yuk! Still had heaps of meat as we cryvaced it first but we
had to ration what was left of the beer!
Towards the end of the trip we camped on the Pentecost River for a couple
of nights and saw a few fresh water crocs. We then had a few nights at El
Questro Wilderness Park where we saw a big salty in the Chamberlain River.
El Questro has a few nice gorges, thermal springs and 4WD tracks but
definitely caters for the tourists with a restaurant, bar/bistro,
entertainment six nights a week, cruises, tours, horseback riding, Barra
fishing and helicopter flights to name a few. Wilderness Park, really?
After coming off the Gibb we spent a night at Wyndham seeing where five
rivers meet and then onto Kununurra for a couple of nights via Marlgu
Billabong where there were plenty of salt water crocs as well as birds.
Next onto Bungle Bungles.
We’ve had a few days in Broome seeing the sights and as expected it’s very touristy and commercial but at the same time has a nice laid back feel. We liked the old buildings from the early pearling days especially around Chinatown. A lot of these are now pearl outlets and cafes. We spent a couple of hours at the museum which is also in one of the old original buildings and read a lot of the history of the early pearling days and also Broome’s part in the WWII where they had their entire fleet of flying boats bombed by the Japanese. The majority of pearl divers were Japanese and their cemetery is worth seeing and has not long been upgraded by the Japanese themselves. Next door is the Chinese cemetery which is a lot smaller.
We went to Cable Beach and the northern side is like a highway with all the 4WDs and camels as well. This end is ‘clothes optional’ beach and one old bloke was tanning himself front up where the camels do their tour. Didn’t faze him at all but I don’t know what the poor tourists thought, especially the kids! One of the other beaches, Town Beach, is where they view the ‘Stairway to the Moon’ (which we didn’t stay to see) also has “croc sighting” warning signs, but that doesn’t stop people going in swimming and letting their kids play there.
We next headed up towards Cape Leveque, camping at James Price Point which is a free camp on the headlands for three nights. Then onto Middle Lagoon calling into Beagle Bay, a small community to see their historic church which was built in 1917 and the interior is decorated with ‘mother of pearl’ shells and is quite impressive. Middle Lagoon a stunning bay and a popular campground as we found out with the school holidays, but we got a spot in the overflow area. They assured us there are no crocs, don’t know how they can be sure, but we chanced it and went in swimming a few times and tried our luck fishing as well but no bites on the beach. Most people have boats and head out to sea and seem to do OK.
Back in Broome for a couple of days to stock up everything and then head off on the Gibb River Road to see the gorges of the Kimberleys and lots more red dust!
This album has 15 photos and will be available on SkyDrive until 6/10/2015.
Red Dog – the Pilbara Wanderer.
Northwest Shelf Gas Plant – Dampier.
Yvonne, Dave, Chelsea, Sue & Greg.
Stopped at Whim Creek Pub for lunch!
Port Hedland – Salt Mine
Fishing at Eighty Mile Beach
Queued Up At Sandfire Roadhouse!
Barnhill Station Camp.
We are at present heading into Broome for a few days before going north to Cape Leveque. We’ve slowly been moving up the coast staying and visiting Karratha, Dampier, Port Samson, Port Hedland, Eighty Mile Beach and have just left Barnhill Station which is a campground by the ocean.
We caught up with friends Dave and Yvonne Fuller and their border collie, Chelsea for a few days. Was great seeing and spending a few days with them. Their son Pete gave us a guided tour around Port Hedland where he now fly’s in for work. We left them there and they will head back home to the Central Coast via Karijini NP and the Great Central Road. We actually met some of their old neighbours yesterday…..small world!
Between Eighty Mile and Barnhill we stopped at Sandfire Roadhouse to fill up. Turned out there was only two diesel bowsers and one was taken up by a mine truck buying bulk to take back to site. The other one had a long queue of caravans, motor homes, campers etc. Well, the truck emptied his side of diesel and our side ran out as we got to the bowser…..typical. The owner put 80 litres into the tank and the truck had to put one of his tanks back in. We were good to go but don’t know how many more would have filled up but the tanker was due in at 1.00pm!
After leaving Exmouth we went on to Onslow and camped out at the Four Mile Camp on Ashburton River near Old Onslow. The only remains of Old Onslow is the gaol and police quarters with a python living in the wall. They rebuilt the town further away because the river was silting up and they couldn’t get the ships in. It was a nice spot to camp except for the mossies which were so bad they near carried you away and repellent didn’t deter them at all.
From here we went east to Tom Price and Karijini National Park. (And no, we didn’t look for work while we were here!) Karijini has some of the most spectacular gorges we have seen and were lucky to be able to see them as there was a lot of rain and some of the roads and gorges were closed for a couple of days. But the sun came out and the roads soon dried out enough for traffic to get through. Some of the walks into the gorges were quite hairy and I’m surprised they let people do them, but I guess you go at your own risk. Some you had to descend so far by ladders, climb walls, walk through creeks and pools and get through best way you could. But it was all worth it and amazing to see. We didn’t end up swimming as the water was freezing and you could see how cold the ones were who did, they were shivering!
Our next stop was Millstream NP which also had heaps of rain and had only just opened to 4WD’s. The Fortescue River that had flooded was going down but we still had a few crossings to get through. This park wasn’t as scenic as Karijini but still nice and had natural springs which were crystal clear. Millstream was once a station and the homestead and cookhouse are the only buildings remaining. A bathhouse was built back in the station days in the springs but is now long gone and swimming is forbidden due to some aboriginal belief but we managed to find a little spot down stream to jump in. Surprisingly it was lukewarm.
We are at present camped at Forty Mile Beach south of Karratha for a week. Haven’t caught any fish yet but we are going to try and catch some muddies up the creek. Fingers crossed. The weather is quite nice and 29oC is about average. A bit windy today though. After here we will go to Dampier and Karratha for a few days and then continue north.