Although we didn’t want to admit it, our Australian loop had been Covid-19 affected and although in theory still on the road, our route from here onwards was a way back in reality. With mixed emotions and still not sure if we should just bite the bullet and cross into Northern territory or remain for the rest of our time in WA, we made a U-turn from the state border. As WA is a Covid free state, the WA state government would not allow us back into the state even if we were to cross to NT for just a day, something that would complicate things for both of us. So still confused as to what we should do, we took the bumpy, corrugated road of 60km to the Bungle Bungles, with their distinctive rounded rock towers molded by rainfall over millions of years.
Although we thought that the bad roads were a thing of the past after completing ”The GIB”, we were surprised by how bad conditioned those 52km of twisting, rough road from the highway to the visitor centre near Three Ways junction were.
On the other hand, the good news were that Voukefalas had no problem tackling them as his dirty fuel problem was solved! Yeah!!! After taking the advice of a Toyota mechanic, we added F-10, some sort of blue liquid, that once inside our tank apparently dissolves all dirt and that was it! Problem solved! Now back on our way there, five deep creek crossings meant to add to the adventure and break the dusty monotony of the road, but as before, at the end of dry season, it was nothing more than a dusty patch of riverbed.
Another 20km further down the rough road, we reached the Echidna Chasm Gorge, a palm-fringed, narrow gorge, in the northern part of the park, that we were lucky to have it all to ourselves. The trail that leaves the car park, leads you deep into the gorge that in most of its length is no more than one person wide. A scenery that any director of action movie would have envied. Our stop for that night was a bush camp in Walardi camp, under the stars, that had the novelty of fresh water. Night skies almost anywhere in remote Australia were a thing to admire but that specific night, with the shades of the rocks adding to the dramatic scenery, they were unparalleled.
The next day, we took the road for the Cathedral Gorge, an immense circular cavern that seems an oasis after the 1 1/2 hour beating sun trekking to get there. This unique photogenic natural formation, as well as its setting, is a mandatory stop for all the groups that make it here but that didn’t bother us since we had time to wait until we had it all to ourselves. Although we could spend much more time around this area, with that ticked off our list, our Bungles expedition was completed and therefore we headed back to reunite with Rochelle’s parents and take the road to Halls Creek, a small town on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert.
Halls Creek is the cultural center of the communities of Kija, Jaru and Gooniyandi people and their presence give the town a special feel to it. Stacked away deep in the heart of WA outback, the temperature in this place can reach as high as 50 degrees in the summer. With that extreme heat to a lesser extent and the fact that there was no real accommodation option, made us decide to refuel our tanks and push onwards. Our next stop was the small settlement of Fitzroy Crossing, where the Great Northern Highway crosses the mighty Fitzroy River.
As in Halls Creek, this one street town has no real reason to make you stay here other than it’s a good access point to Geikie Gorge, where a boat cruise up the mighty Fitzroy is essential. During our cruise, we were lucky to have a native guide that took his time and explained us in detail all about the aboriginal culture and the way that their society is structured. I must admit, although I struggled to understand him (real Aussie heavy accent) it was a mind opening experience, regarding the native population and their complex society structure that the harsh living conditions of this land have created.
That same night, we pulled in for a drink into the atmospheric ”Crossing In”, a pub that Rochelle’s Dad and his band had performed in back in the 70’s. We were welcomed by friendly elder locals in a talkative and dance the night away kind of mood that spiced up our time there.
As for the physical bar set up and decoration itself, although not confirmed by Rochelle’s dad, we were pretty sure that had not been changed since his days here. A unique experience, full of native aboriginal colour, and moments that add a good enough reason to continue getting to know the aboriginal ways and their perspective for the world. Leaving Fitzroy Crossing behind, we headed back to our familiar Broome and as an instinct reaction, we both agreed that since we were there and with plenty of time on our hands, another visit to Cape Levenque would have been a great end to our route across Kimberley region. So off we were back to our favorite peninsula and Koodjaman campground that, after visiting for the second time, it now holds a special place in our hearts. In order to add something new to our experience, we picked to overnight in Pender Bay, a new community that had just lifted the traveling restriction and it was, once more, welcoming travelers. Beach days in the secluded bays were just the cherry on the cake for our beloved Cape Levanque Peninsula.
At this stage we had entered September and that meant in the Kimberly that the monsoon season, as well as the summer, were approaching and with them the heat and the tropical storms. Two elements that we were not looking into experiencing them, so a bit fed up with the sun, and still waiting for our extended Carnet de passage to arrive, we picked a cattle station just out of Broome to escape for a while.
Barn Hill Station offers bush camping style experience and proved to be another great spot on a cliff top overlooking a secluded bay. After a couple of days, with the extension in hand and with another five months ahead of us, we started our course towards the south. This time we tried to pick a different route, so some more places were added to be explored. First port of call and our last stop in Kimberley was the 80mile beach. This 200km long stretch of white sand is not lucky to be protected by a reef and that means that swimming is prohibited as salt water crocodiles, sharks, sting ray and box jelly fish are all out seeking for easy prey.
So, with no swimming in the list of daily activities, the sun setting over the water was our only reward! And a few more shells that Rochelle collected and a rock! (Yes, really we carry a physical rock as a souvenir). Further south, we aimed to visit Point Samson that proved to be nothing worth mentioning, except for a Sunday pub meal of fish and chips and hanging out with the locals. So after a quick stop in Dampier Peninsula, we entered Onslow. This historic town was meant to be the epicenter of a huge development from a mining company but as the infrastructure was getting completed by the state, the private company pulled back and left behind a ghost town with the latest facilities you can imagine just for us, the few tourists that bother to stop here.
As we found out, within the Karratha extended industrial area and mining boom all around it, this part of the coast is not the prettiest. So after staying a couple of days in Onslow, we had covered all our options and therefore we pushed for one last time towards Exmouth. This time we were heading to Mesa Campground as our base. Call it pure luck, but we managed to score a booking in this otherwise fully booked out place till October, with a beach front views for three magnificent days. What a treat that was! We took advantage of the good weather and the no wind (rare here in Exmouth) and enjoyed the beach as much as we could. Heading south and after crossing the 26 parallel, we said goodbye to the Northwest WA and entered the Western WA.
Here, pretty much all the so called highlights had been done and covered on our way up. So with a mismatch of favorite selected stops from our northbound route like Monkey Mia and with addition the new Rangers N.P., we kept ourselves occupied. Heading inland, worth mentioning here and with Rangers N.P. as our final destination, we spent a night in Gascoyne Junction, a small settlement in the middle of WA’s outback that proved to be a lovely place to stop for another night under the outback skies. In the park itself, now, that is subject of huge floods in the winter, we kept busy exploring small and larger canyons as well as wonderful rock formations, before finally departing to enter the colder zone further south in Kalbarri.
Our attempt was to find a place with a shoulder season, weather wise, as in the north the monsoons had arrived and with them the rain; meanwhile in the south it was still too cold. To cut the story short, our attempt was not exactly successful and as a result of that transition, Rochelle ended up with a bad cold that insisted on keeping her awake at nights.
The outcome of the combination of all of the above and after a great free camp outside Geraldton, was that for the first time in Australia we had to leave the comfort of our tent and take on an Airbnb in order for her to recover.
For one more time luck was on our side, as the place we rented was in a peaceful, beautiful farm and our host went out of their way to make us feel like home. Our plan was after Geraldton to head inland to the colourful wild flower field of the outback but instead we rescheduled, as we have been doing from the beginning of this trip, and headed to Sandy Cape, a national park 300 km north of Perth, where we discovered another free camp spot, with our own private beach just a couple of meters away from our tent. Change of season here and as elsewhere in Australia it is time for the bush flies to ruin all our daily experience by annoying us while flying by the millions. Finally, after two nights we had enough. Kicked out by the notorious bush flies, we retreated to Cervantes for a couple of nights before we returned to Perth to regroup and reschedule.
Here I would usually leave you with a cliff hanger in order to keep you excited for what is coming but instead I leave the below that I just came up with. “We own only what we can carry, we love the unfamiliar, we trust strangers, we sometimes choose not to come back soon. Keep on following us”.