A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Kimberley road conditions

Gibb River Road and Kalumburu Road still closed

I am starting to get concerned about getting into the heart of the Kimberley with the recent floods caused by the cyclone that ripped through northern part of WA a couple of weeks ago. With only three weeks to go before we want to travel to the top of the Kimberley, parts of the Gibb River Road (the only access road into the Kimberley) are still closed, and even worse, parts of the Kalumburu road, that is the only road to give us access to Mitchell Falls and Honeymoon Bay, have been washed away completely and is also closed until further notice.

http://www.swek.wa.gov.au/

We will have to keep an eye on the road conditions, which are very well published and updated regularly on the internet. I am considering spending more time (maybe another couple of weeks) around Broome/Derby and the national parks before you get to the Gibb River Road to see if there is any chance these two roads will open soon. Travelling the notorious Gibb River Road, as well as the even more challenging Kalumburu road to Mitchell Falls and Kalumburu/Honeymoon Bay, has been part of my dream and I am not keen on skipping this part of our our Big Lap. We will see what happens......

Posted by KobusM 05:48 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Dampier

Australia's largest export harbour

sunny 34 °C

We are camping on the seafront caravan park in Dampier in view of huge iron ore freighters docked in the harbour to get replenished with iron ore being exported to the rest of the world, and I guess, mainly China. I should have collected the red Pilbara sand and dust that I have washed off the Quantum and the Landcruiser yesterday as Im sure there were a few dollars worth of iron ore in the dust washed off our vehicles.

Apart from the harbour, Dampier is home to huge liquid nitrogen gas and shelf gas production plants. It has a population of just over 1,000 people but it is probably most famous for its statue of Red Dog, the Australian red Kelpie that travelled most of the Pilbara in the 70's in search of his deceased owner, hitching rides on trucks, cars and trains. We saw the movie when we arrived in Perth and is was very apt to visit his statue. More information about Red Dog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Dog_(Karratha)

Driving north into the Dampier Peninsula there are very interesting sites to see ancient aboriginal rock art and I have posted a few here on the blog.

At least there are no ants, flies or mosquitoes in Dampier, or at least whilst we were staying here. A relatively cool sea breeze occasionally brings slight relief from the oppresive heat and humidity, and even with the breeze I was still sweating prefusely whilst sitting outside at 10pm in the evening. We are thankful for the airconditioner in the Quantum. We are using our stay in Dampier to recover from the rough Pilbara, do some cleaning and washing and catching up with e-mails and blogs. From here we are heading north-east to Eighty Mile Beach between Port Hedland and Broome.

Abriginal rock art outside Dampier

Abriginal rock art outside Dampier


Aboriginal rock art outside Dampier

Aboriginal rock art outside Dampier


Amazing red hills containing aboriginal rock art

Amazing red hills containing aboriginal rock art


Red Dog and Lorraine

Red Dog and Lorraine


Dampier harbour

Dampier harbour

Posted by KobusM 02:00 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Why did God made flies

and why are so many of them in Australia??

I was wondering why God, or evolution if you don't believe in God, made flies. Camping, or enjoying outdoor life in Northern Australia (and seasonally in most other places in Australia) is seldom without a swarm of annoying flies. Australian flies are significantly more aggresive than African flies and they tenatiously go for your eyes, ears or mouth in a frenzied effort to suck up some moisture. Is the abundance of flies due to too little natural predators that eat flies or is it the Europeans that brought them here and disturbed the eco system? You can stop in the middle of a remote part of the Outback, far from any humans or cattle, and soon you will be pestered by flies.

We have been trying to cope with the flies since we started our tour without success, until we discovered an ointment on sale at the Karijini Visitor Center, made from Rosemary and Cedarwood oils, and it actually works, and smells nice too. After application of the ointment you are really relieved of the flies. You might still get the odd fly that ignores the odour and tries his luck but that is much better than trying to cope with a swarm. Hopefully we can buy some more before we run out of our magic anti-fly ointment.

Trying to cope with the flies whilst updating the blog

Trying to cope with the flies whilst updating the blog

Posted by KobusM 04:02 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

The Pilbara

Iron dust, heat, refreshing pools and ants.....

sunny 38 °C

When we entered the Pilbara region I was quite surprised by the beauty of the landscape. From my point of reference it was very similar to the Drakensberg foot hills but with the red rocks of the North West near Rustenburg. The Pilbara is the headquarters of the Australian iron ore industry and the mining activity was very evident along the road we travelled, with even one of the gorges named Rio Tinto Gorge . The roads here are bright red and the dust penetrates everything. Our Quantum camper/trailer is guarenteed to be dust proof but after travelling trough the Pilbabra I could find evidence of dust penetration at a couple of points. We also had bad luck with a stone thrown onto the windscreen from a road train and the brand new Landcruiser now has a cracked windscreen. I will wait until we have done most of the dirt roads before I replace it as the insurance only covers one free replacement.

We visited Karijini National Park first and stayed in Dales Campground. Karijini is Western Australia's secong largest national park and is set in the Hamersley Range. Massive mountains....by Western Australian standards...rise of the flat valleys. The high plateau is dissected by breathtaking gorges and tree-lined watercourses. We liked the generous space between campsites but the heat was just too much during the day. We did a long hike in the Dales Gorge and enjoyed swimming in Circular Pool, at Fortesque Falls and in Fern Pool. The rock formations in the gorges are specacular with exposed layers of bright red Iron Oxide, Dolomite and Shale with the odd streak of Asbestos.

After a couple of days we packed up and travelled to Millstream-Chichester National Park. The water that feeds the Millstream oasis streams from an aquifer estimated to be 2,000 square kilometers and is believed to contain 1,700 million cubic meters of water. I loved the swims in Deep Reach Pool and Crossing Pool with its tree lined shores. We camped at Miliyanha Campground but soon after setting up camp we realised we had a problem.....ants....millions of them, trying to invade our space. We have sort of learned how to cope with the flies but the ants were just too much for us. We went to bed early and left early the next morning. Quite a shame because it was a nice campsite with lots of trees, resident kangaroos and cockatoos.

We travelled on to Karratha and Dampier and it was the first time we tested the range of the Landcruiser as we travelled more than 600km without any place to refuel. The Landcruiser is more thirsty than what I estimated with an average fuel consumption of 20 liters/100 km whilst towing a fully loaded Quantum. We arrived in Dampier, exhausted from our rough week in the Pilbara, covered in red dust and it took me almost two hours to wask the Quantum and the Landcruiser.

Red dust in the Pilbara

Red dust in the Pilbara


Snappy Gum Tree, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Snappy Gum Tree, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Rock formations in Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Rock formations in Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Fern Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Fern Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Circular Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Circular Pool, Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Weano Gorge, Karijini NP

Weano Gorge, Karijini NP


Hiking Dales Gorge, Karijini NP

Hiking Dales Gorge, Karijini NP


Cooling off under Fortesque Falls

Cooling off under Fortesque Falls


Deep Reach Pool, Millstream-Chichester NP

Deep Reach Pool, Millstream-Chichester NP


Miliyanha Campground

Miliyanha Campground

Posted by KobusM 02:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Whale Shark

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

sunny 33 °C

Snorkeling with a whale shark has been as exciting as I remembered it from more than 10 years ago. We searched for about an hour before we found this juvenile male, about 5 meters long. I had great views of it, swimming within 3 meters from its head for more than an hour. It is such a privilage to swim with these magnificent creatures, the biggest fish on earth.

Whale sharks come to Ningaloo Reef every year to feed on the spawning coral pollups and on plankton. They can grow to 12 meters but even the 5 meter juvenile looked enormous under the water.

I did a scuba dive before the whale shark swim but that was dull compared to the fantastic whale shark encourter.

I will post some photos later after I have downloaded them from the tour operator's website.

Whale Shark

Whale Shark

Posted by KobusM 19:31 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

Cape Range National Park

Snorkeling heaven

sunny 35 °C

Travelling 400km north of Carnarvon to Cape Range National Park I planned to take a short cut via a 4WD track instead of travelling via Exmouth, which would have been 100km further but sealed road all the way. The first 25km to Ningaloo on the ¤WD track was not too bad as we could negotiate the corrugations at about 60km/hour which was reasonably comfortable with the Old Man Emu suspension. From Ningaloo to Cape Range National park the track turned into a very narrow, single sandy, but very corrugated track with many stony parts that slowed us down to 30 km/hour. I was starting to regret taking the short cut but at the same time also enjoyed the 4WD offroad experience. We reached Yardie Creek well shaken and stirred and although I decreased the pressure to 2 bar in all the tyres at the start of the 4WD track I got stuck in the sea sand crossing Yardie Creek. Deflating the tyres down to 1,5 bar and engaging the 4WD low gear got us unstuck very quickly. I am really impressed with the performance of the Land Cruiser.

Finally we arrived at our first long stay destination, Lakeside beach campsite in Cape Range National Park. The campsite only has bush toilets and no other facilities or mobile network coverage. After rigging the Quantum I could not wait to get into the clear water and have a swim. The water was crystal clear, lukewarm and I saw two Blue Spotted Sting Rays in the shallow water at the start of my swim. Later we also saw two Wallabies hopping along close to our campsite at dusk.

What makes Cape Range so special is the Ningaloo Reef, Australia’s second largest coral reef, that run very close (at Lakeside campsite less than 50 meters) to shore and therefore ideal for snorkeling. I have spotted a white tip shark, about four turtles, many parrot fish angel fish, trigger fish, clown fish, puffer fish and very big sting rays, king fish, queen fish and barracuda whilst snorkeling amongst the coral. Lorraine's first attempt to have a swim attracted a sand shark in the shallow water and she spotted it before I did. It just came to have a look and it dissapeared. I guess that was the last swim for her on that beach.

We have been here for 4 days already and drove to Exmouth today to get advice as Lorraine got a tick bite. Apparently it is a kangaroo tick and not serious. We will just remove it with a tweezer. There is no network coverage in Cape Range NP so we are doing a quick replication in Exmouth. Tomorrow I will come back here for a day trip diving and snorkeling with the whale sharks.

4WD track from Ningaloo to Cape Range National Park

4WD track from Ningaloo to Cape Range National Park


Yardie Creek crossing, Cape Range National Park

Yardie Creek crossing, Cape Range National Park


Lakeside Campsite, Cape Range National Park

Lakeside Campsite, Cape Range National Park


Cape Range National Park

Cape Range National Park


Emperor Angel Fish

Emperor Angel Fish


Washing day

Washing day


Curious visitor at our campsite

Curious visitor at our campsite


Emus in Cape Range National Park

Emus in Cape Range National Park


Lakeside Campsite, Cape Range National Park

Lakeside Campsite, Cape Range National Park

Posted by KobusM 19:33 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Free camping on the beach

Miaboolya Beach 21 km north of Carnarvon

sunny 31 °C

We travelled another 450 kilometers north of Hutt River to Carnarvon where we did a final replenishment of our food, drinks, water and fuel as we will be far from towns, villages or shops for the next seven days. The Quantum is great as it has two 180 liter water tanks, solar power with rechargeable batteries and a shower and toilet which makes us completely self sufficient for at least 10 days powerless and free camping.

Miaboolya Beach is 21 kilometers north of Carnarvon but not really a camping area and we had to find a decent spot amongst the beach bushes. We are the only people in the area and it feels great. Again, the flies were a pest during daylight and I guess this will be our fate for some time in northern Australia.

Tomorrow we are heading for Cape Range National Park and Nigaloo Reef. The is the beginning of the whale shark season and I am very eager to do some diving with whale sharks again. I had a number of opportunities to dive and snorkel with whale sharks in north-east South Africa and south-east Mozambique more than 10 years ago and it is really a wonderful experience to swim with these wonderful creatures.

Our first free camp on Miaboolya Beach

Our first free camp on Miaboolya Beach

Posted by KobusM 04:37 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

First stop in an independent, sovereign state

Principality of Hutt River

sunny 32 °C

We finally departed from Fremantle and travelled 560km north to the Principality of Hutt River, an independent, sovereign state that seceded from Western Australia on 21 April 1970.

We were met by His Royal Highness Prince Leonard who showed us around and explained the history of his small country. We bought some banknotes, coins, stamps and post cards.

Leonard Casley had a dispute with the government over Wheat Quotas that were introduced in 1969. For many years the Casleys consistently cropped 13,000 acres of wheat every year and when the Wheat Quota was introduced they only got a quota equivalent to 100 acres. Leonard Casley lodged a large claim and the government's reaction was to pass a bill in parliament whereby the Western Australian Government would get the power to resume the Casley's farming land. Leonard Casley poined out to the govenment that the resumption was unlawful and asked the Governor to intervene or he would secede his land to protect his lawful rights. A month went by without any response and eventually Leonard issued the Seccession Documents. A lot of political negotiations followed but Casley stuck to his guns and eventually the Commonwealth Government stated that they would not intervene with seccession and from that moment Hutt River became an independent, sovereign state.

More can be read on their website: www.principality-hutt-river.com

My brother, Robert, will love the story of the Principality of Hutt River and I am sure this will give him some ideas for his farm in South Africa.

We were the only campers in the camp site except for a group of contractors living there whilst they were planting millions of trees for companies to offset their carbon tax that has been introduced recently.

We were pestered by flies during daylight and we had to use our mosquito nets that we bought in Sweden to keep the flies from crawling into our eyes, noses and ears. However, the fantasic clear view of the milky made up for the fly trouble in the evening.

Lorraine and His Royal Highness Prince Leonard

Lorraine and His Royal Highness Prince Leonard


Me with a sculpture of HRH Prince Leonard

Me with a sculpture of HRH Prince Leonard


HRH Prince Leonard's Rolls Royce

HRH Prince Leonard's Rolls Royce


Our first camp on the Big Lap

Our first camp on the Big Lap

Posted by KobusM 03:38 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Lekker Afrikaans

For my Afrikaans family and friends

sunny 32 °C

Vanoggend moes ek by Dick Smiths 'n draai maak om TV kabels te koop om die satelliet TV funksioneel te maak binne en buite die karavaan. Ek het net begin om my behoeftes aan die jong verkoopsman te verduidelik toe hy my vra of ons Afrikaans kan praat. Hy moes my aksent opgetel het of ek lyk soos 'n tipiese Afrikaner. Dit was tog te lekker om in Afikaans bedien te word in 'n vreemde land. Hier is duisende (ek het gehoor dit is amper 200,000) Suid Afrikaners in Perth en jy hoor gereeld mense Afrikaans praat op straat.

Perth is soos Pretoria by die see.

Posted by KobusM 23:39 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Ready for departure

Week 3

sunny 32 °C

Final preparations are almost complete in advance of our departure from Fremantle on Sunday 18 March. We are now equiped, tested, trained, but also exhausted from a very hectic three weeks of preparations. We have moved countries and continents many times but I must admit that this time it has been particularly testing with a complete change in lifestyle and an extreme change in climate. One of our bedrooms in Dylta Bruk was about four to five times the size of our living space in the off-road camper and it takes some adjusting to the limited space and different way of living. This lifestyle also requires us to be very organised and very neat to enable us to enjoy it.

I have now finally equiped the Land Cruiser with everything we will need for the trip, including a state-of-the-art street and off-road satellite navigation system, a complete set of recovery gear, spare parts, spare fluids and tools. I have been very impressed with the performance of the Land Cruiser whilst negotiating the difficult 4WD training tracks last weekend and I have much more confidence for the different eventualities we might face on the trip.

We have now also tested all the features of the Quantum off-road camper-trailer and are now familiar with the details of the solar power system, the gas hot water system, the inverter system and also the satellite TV system.

We have been lucky to have friends in Perth that were kind enough to assist us with various parts of the preparations and we would like to thank William, Debbie, George, Francine, Julie, Pauline, Alison and Allan. Without their help, friendship and support it would have taken us much longer to prepare for the trip.

On Sunday we will say farewell to our friends and to Perth/Fremantle and we plan to be back here around May next year. Our first stop is in an independent country.....yes, very few people know that there is an independent country in Western Australia, the Principality of Hutt River, about 500 km north of Perth, but more about that in the next blog.

We will be heading for Cape Range National Park, a coastal park in the north-west cape of Western Australia about 1400 km north of Perth, with one night stop-overs at Hutt River and Carnavon. We will not visit the popular places like The Pinnacles, Kalbarri, Shark Bay and Coral Bay on the way because we have already visited these places previously when we lived in Australia and during our visits whilst we lived in Sweden.

We appreciate and enjoy the comments made about our blogs (and photos) and hope that you will continue to comment and support us during trip.

Posted by KobusM 03:40 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

First Relax Day

Carnac Island

sunny 41 °C

After a hectic two weeks and an especially busy weekend with the 4WD training we decided to make use of the good, calm weather and take the boat out to Carnac Island for the day.

Carnac Island is a 19 ha island nature reserve about 10k south-west of Fremantle. The island is home to Australian Sea Lions, a large range of marine bird life and an abundance of venemous snakes, particularly Tiger Snakes, but they are not easy to observe from the beach. Carnac Island has been our favourite boating spot when we lived in Perth and today it turned out to be a great spot again with at least 7 sea lions sleeping on the beach. The sea lions that live here are all males and they only leave the island once a year to mate with females that are living on islands 800 kilometers north of Carnac Island.

On the way to Carnac Island we encountered an Australian submarine and I took some photos. Not sure if it is legal but I'll post one here and see what happens.

I love to snorkel with the sea lions and today one big male was very curious as to what I was doing under water and he started nibbling at my fins. They are so gracious under water always curious about humans. They are not dangerous as long as you keep a distance of at least 2 meters.

Lorraine got sea-sick for the first time since we have been boating in WA and Sweden but we think it is due to heat exhaustion from the extremely hot and busy days before, hence we will have a relaxing evening and hope the temperatures decrease in the next few days.

Posted by KobusM 02:35 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Preparation for the Big Lap in Perth

The second week

sunny 40 °C

We can't believe two weeks have past. We have been been so busy preparing for the big trip the past week and time has flown incredibly fast. We have been buying, installing and testing equipment, including a UHF radio and satellite phone.

The past two days was spent on 4WD training. Although I have extensive 4WD experience in Africa and Australia, I deemed it appropriate to do a formal 4WD training course to get refreshed, especially on recovery techniques and also to get accustomed to our vehicles special features.

On Saturday we did Sandy Terrain training, including sandy track driving, beach driving, dune climbing and decending as well as beach recovery techniques. This was done on coastal dunes 70km's north of Perth and some of the tracks were overgrown with bushes which led to the vehicle being bush scrathed but luckily not serious and an hour of polishing sorted that problem out. For the first time I learned the proper way to recover a bogged vehicle on the beach and I now know how a snatch strap works.

Today we headed for the hills east of Perth, at a place called Ngangaguringguring Hill and did the Rocky Terrain part of the course. We did some serious rock climbing and crawling techiniques as well as recovery with a hand winch. The posted photos gives an idea how diffilcult the track was to negotiate in some places. I picked up a small cut in the side wall of my front left tyre and had to swop it for the spare after patching the cut. That gave me the opportunity to test the high lift air jack and the onboard compressor.

The past week has been scorcher in Perth with temperatures hovering between 38 and 40 degrees. The past two day have been very hot during the 4WD course and we are both a little sun stroked. We are looking forward to "cooler" weather next week when temperatures should be lower.

Posted by KobusM 06:16 Archived in Australia Tagged week seond Comments (0)

Preparation for the Big Lap in Perth

The first week

sunny 32 °C

We have finally arrived in Australia with our 80+kg of check-in luggage and big, thick coats suitable for the Swedish winter.....not something we will be needing very soon here in Australia.

The first week was incredibly hectic with so many things to do. We took delivery of our new Land Cruiser on Monday as scheduled some 5 months ago. Finally I enjoyed the reward for preaching and practicing on-time delivery for so many years in Atlas Copco. That was the easy part. The Quantum off-road camper's delivery was delayed one day, also not bad as it had to be shipped all over the continent from Queesnland, so we took the small delay in our stride. It was delivered to the Atlas Copco factory in O'Connor, Fremantle on Tuesday morning and the next task was to take it to be inspected for local WA registration. The first problem that I encountered was that a flat 7-pin connector was installed instead of the small, round connector that I ordered. Luckily, George Strydom's maintenance subcontractor (also a South African living in Perth for almost 3 years) was on site and he quickly solved my problem with an adaptor ('n Boer maak 'n plan). The next surprise came at the authorised inspection facility in Bibra Lake where the Quantum's towing safety chains were rejected as they were not stamped according to regulations. After several phone calls to the manufacturer and them insisting that their chains were stamped but powder coated that covers the stamps and that many Quantums were delivered to WA without any problems, we agreed that the chains will be sawn off and replaced with stamped chains to the satisfaction of the inspector and that the manufacturer will pay for it.

After finally taking delivery of a properly-chained and inspected off-road camper/trailer, we headed for Fremantle Village where we will live in the Quantum (and Land Cruiser) for the next three weeks, preparing for our Big Lap. We battled about 45 minutes to get the unique hitch unlocked from the Land Cruiser but eventually found what we were doing it wrong. Apart from the hiccups with getting the Quantum inspected and unhitched we finally got it set up and were very impressed with the quality, attention to design detail and how easy it is to set it up. Every little space is fully utilised and designed in such a way to ensure ease of operation and functionality. Well, that was until we attempted to rig the annex the next evening in gale force winds....not a good idea! The instructions were also not up to the standard of IKEA standard instructions (and I am fully qualified to make that judgement) so we battled for a long time to figure out what goes where. We abandoned the attempt and settled for a partly assembled half-annex and we will try the full annex next week when we have settled down and when we have a windless day.

The rest of the week was used to collect gear that was delivered at the Atlas Copco factory, assembling them and also buying other equipment accoring to our detailed plan. The recovery gear alone weighs "a ton" and is now neatly packed in the newly installed cargo drawer system in the back of the Land Cruiser. The cargo drawers are prefect for this type of expedition and I have a feeling that I will be very thankful for the decision to install them over the next months. The fridge slide is also very convenient to slide the big fridge/freezer out to get easy access. My decision to buy the biggest fridge/ freezer (95 liter) for the Land Cruiser to compliment the 82 liter fridge/freezer in the Quantum is also quickly proven to be good as both filled up very quickly after shopping.

We are now sort of organised and last night I installed the mobile broadband to enable me to post this first blog and we watched our first DVD on the camper TV, a locally produced film called Red Dog that travelled in the Pilbara during the 70's. We plan to visit his statue near Dampier in about a month.

The coming weekend is a long weekend in WA and we are planning to relax, enjoy Fremantle, an enchanting harbour town with lots of character and history. It is going to be very hot (35 degees) so I guess we will be going to the beach and if the wind is not blowing too much, maybe take the boat out for a couple of hours to our favourite spot at Carnac Island.

Posted by KobusM 18:28 Archived in Australia Comments (3)

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