Saturday, 23 July 2016

Half-lap Day 73: Broome -> De Grey

Our friends had booked a Pearl Farm Tour and needed to leave at 9am, so once all the kids were awake we suggested they play together for one last morning, while Tony and I got on with packing up to leave. It felt weird to be packing up after being here for so long, but we hadn’t spread out as much as we sometimes do and it was fairly straightforward – except for the bat poo on the roof of our annexe, which took a bit of time to clean off, and the sticky flowers that were all over our tent roof. We said a sad goodbye to our friends as they left for their tour (we’ll see them again at home in about 10 weeks so we are all looking forward to that) and then finished packing while the kids played with their Skylanders. We were ready to go just before 11.

The pool at our caravan park in Broome
The drive south was through fairly unchanging terrain, although it was different to anything we’ve seen so far. The land was very very flat, the ground was mainly red dirt and the plantlife was very short – lots of bushes low to the ground, and hardly any trees. After several hours there were some hills in the distance, which we eventually drove past, and on occasion the ground would be sand rather than red dirt. In those areas the termite mounds were white rather than red, which makes sense but was a surprise the first time we saw them. Every now and then we would just see a glint of the ocean over to our right, above the cliffs or dunes that must be along the shoreline. It was weird to think that for the whole time we drove, there was the same beach following the coastline to our west – Eightly Mile Beach is over 200km long, incredible.

We were unsure where we were going to stay and kept considering our options as we went. Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park was our first thought, and the reviews were mixed, but we couldn’t swim in the ocean there and it felt like more than we wanted to pay for what we’d get. Cape Keraudren was our favourite option, although when I looked into that and realised how expensive it was we decided to skip that as well ($20 entry fee for the car, $10 for the trailer, then $10 per person (possibly a bit less for the kids)). There were a few roadhouses and station stays – the station stays were also expensive, and the roadhouses in the middle of nowhere, and everyone was mostly happy in the car (we got bored from time to time so paused Harry Potter and played a game for a while, or had some food, or switched around who was using the iPads/ etc) so we kept going. We stopped for petrol at Pardoo Roadhouse (cheaper than the previous one, and we’d had to use our jerry can to get that far, but worth it to save 10c/litre) and then drove another 70km to De Grey rest area, a free camp next to a river about 80km from Port Hedland.

We arrived around 4.30, it’s been a while since we got to our destination within an hour of sunset. This was our biggest driving day yet, over 500km. As we drove into the camping area we saw a large white cow trying to look into someone’s caravan. We drove around the very large camping area and found a spot that looked like it would get good morning shade. We took the bikes off the trailer and then a german guy in a campervan next to us came over and said that we were setting up in a spot where people drove through. We pointed out that right next to us was another spot that people could drive through (the place we had driven through, ourselves, to get to our spot) and we thought that would be enough, he said he was just letting us know and that there were lots of other spots around… We wondered if he just didn’t want us that close to him (we wanted a spot that was shady if possible, and not too far from the toilets (this spot was several hundred metres back to the toilets). We decided to have a bit more of a look around, Tony rode his bike and found a very shady spot closer to the river, so we moved down there. This spot felt much more like bush camping, lots of big gum trees around, and a bit nicer than just being camped on the large flat area we first drove into. It was hillier down here, with lots of little spots in between ridges of dirt and grass.

Sunset over the DeGrey river
We got the tent set up then the kids and I went down to check out the river. There was water covering about a third of it’s width, although it didn’t look very deep, there were wading birds in the edges and lots of water plants showing through the surface of the water. There’d been recent sightings here of bull sharks in the river, so we had a look but didn’t see anything like that, just ripples every now and then from some unknown fish. We watched the sun set behind the bridge then went up to the toilets, on the way back we met a couple with a dog and chatted to them for a while. Tony cooked sausages for tea and we had them on bread. It was nice to be away from lights and towns again and to really see the stars – I always forget when I’m in town how much brighter they are when in the bush. We went to bed as soon as we had all the beds and blankets set up, and had shut all the windows and doors – the nights are definitely getting cooler now! I read a chapter of Inheritance then everyone was happy to go to sleep.

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