LiAM had a very restless night and was not feeling well. At about 4am Tony got up with him so that he could have a shower which helped him feel a bit better. Tony’s back had been giving him a bit of pain over the past few days, and as he got out of bed in the early morning it was really bad.
When I got up a couple of hours later I let the others sleep in. This was the coldest morning we’d had in a very long time, quite icy when the wind blew. I used the power in the camp kitchen to charge up the computer and my camera battery, and got the dishes done. Millie woke up when I got back to the tent. I had some breakfast then started packing up. Millie helped me on and off, and played on the iPad. The others didn’t wake up until after 9, by which time I’d done all that I could without packing up the beds and the stuff we needed for breakfast. Tony’s back was still extremely sore and he couldn’t bend at all or lift much – I’d figured I’d need to do most of the pack up myself if he was still in pain, so he might as well sleep as long as he could. I finished packing up and got everyone breakfast. The kids went looking for some wild horses someone had told us about the night before, but didn’t find anything. The sun was well up by now and it was hot again, looks like we’re heading back into hot days and cold nights.
Tony helped me get the bikes on to the trailer (probably the only bit I can’t do myself – oh, Caitlin had helped me fold the tent up) and we were hooked up ready to leave by 11.15. Tony was more comfortable driving than being the passenger, which was fine with me too. We headed south toward Karajini, and after a while saw Red Rock from the highway – very cool to see it again and from this vantage point.
For a good while the terrain was still flat and dry, with low spinifex and dotted with white gum trees. There were hills in the distance, and occasionally we’d pass some, they were all interesting shapes. Occasionally we saw areas in the hills where the mines were – cuts in the cliff or terraces of dirt built up from the mine. Signs of the mining industry were everywhere – constant traffic of 4-trailer road trains (all covered in red dirt), dirt roads leading off the highway, with mining company signs at the entrance, areas filled with identical demountable buildings. It was a very busy road, and most of the traffic was the road trains, caravans, and mining cars with their orange flags attached.
We stopped for fuel at Auski roadhouse. We had to give ID in the store to have the fuel released. It was only (!) 1.55/L which wasn’t bad given the remote location. This roadhouse was the least stocked we’d seen, just one shelf with a smattering of groceries and toiletries. They sold hot food and seemed to be doing a good business there. There was a caravan park attached (we’d considered staying here instead of Indee, but the reviews were all bad) and we used the toilets – really not great, although not the worst we’ve used. We were glad we hadn’t pushed on to stay here though, it didn’t feel welcoming.
From there the terrain changed – the hills were more like mountains and were even more fascinating. Deep red cliff faces at the top, and then green grassed slopes from a little way down. There were definite layers of rock and grass, so that they looked stripey from a distance. The road wound between them, and there were obviously gorges and ravines and valleys all through the hills, there was nothing straight or curvy about them, it was all jagged lines and really beautiful.
Turning west to approach Karajini we had those hills on our right, and flatter plains on our left, leading to another range. There were some tall mountains here, and I was wondering which one was Mt Bruce, the 2nd tallest mountain in WA. We might go exploring there in a day or two.
We reached the National Park and drove around to Dales Campground. We went in to see the camp hosts at the entrance, and asked if there was still a site available (sometimes it fills up, and we hadn’t arrived until after 3 due to our unexpected later start). There were a few sites left and we were allocated a long, thin site. I was worried about whether we’d fit, but the lady said we should be fine. We drove around to find our site and I was even more worried about whether we’d fit. As we measured it out and discussed our options I really wished I’d asked for a different site. Our tent is 5m by 3.5m (including the drawbar) without the awning, and 5m by 6m with the awning. This site was only 4m wide, although she said it would be fine if the awing protruded beyond the bollards at the edge of the site.
In the end we backed the trailer in to the middle of the site and unhitched it, then Caitlin, Tony and I were able to turn it sideways, and fit a good bit of the drawbar in between two of the bollards. I’d been worried we wouldn’t be able to open the trailer gate far enough once we were in place, so we got out all our stuff before we turned it. As it worked out, we’d been able to slide far enough between the bollards so that the gate opened easily all the way. The awning will go a little over the edge of the site, but there’s a cleared spot there where we put our chairs, so that won’t be a problem. Our table fits nicely over 2 of the bollards, so they aren’t sticking up (at shin or knee height) into our living area. We’ve not yet had a site that we couldn’t get to work for our tent, I just have a bit of a panic sometimes when we arrive and I can’t quite see how it’s going to work.
The ground was rock hard in the middle and we could not get pegs in along the door side of the tent. We were able to peg in the other side (we figure the middle part has had caravans driving over it for years and has become extremely compacted), and then used bungee straps to tie down the tent corners to parts of the trailer, or pegs over on the softer side. It worked quite well.
With having to think for so long about how the tent would fit, then the very hard ground, and Tony not being able to bend at all, set up took longer than it ever had. The kids went and explored the campground and met a family with 2 little girls aged 4 and 2, so played with them for a while. Millie got out all her toys and played on the picnic rug near the car. Caitlin went for a bike ride, and Tony started cooking tea. I sat and read my book and had a cup of tea for a short while, then got the beds set up before we ate.
We had a delicious spaghetti Bolognese in the cold evening air – as soon as the sun dropped over the horizon the temperature dropped noticeably. After dinner I sorted out all the blankets and heated water for hot water bottles. I had a spare sheet and the kids suggested I hang it up so that their beds were separate from the rest of the tent – they loved it once it was up and want it there all the time. I found a hanging storage thing in my bag that we hadn’t used it and I hung it next to LiAM with his asthma medication and some Echinacea and butter menthols – he’s still not feeling great and has a sore throat – and he was thrilled to have all his supplies so easily accessible. I got into bed as quickly as I could and we read a couple of chapters of Inheritance. It wasn’t too cold inside as long as we stayed under our blankets, and the hot water bottles certainly helped.