– By Rod
Bye bye Ningaloo Reef! It is time to leave the coast behind and head into the “Wild Western Outback”. Leo and The Wombat were keen to get some dirt under our tyres. Little did we know how much of it would actually be mud.
A few hundred kilometres south-west of Exmouth are the stunning Kennedy Ranges. Rugged rocky outcrops rising up out of the flat, semi-desert landscape. The Kennedy Ranges National Park has a lovely little campground and a number of great walks to take in the spectacular scenery.
Unfortunately, we only got to stay for two nights due to some forecasted rain coming. It takes a mere 10 ml to close the dirt roads out there – and they stay closed for up to a week. At four AM we heard the ominous sound of rain on the caravan roof….lets get out of here! It was one of the quickest pack-ups that we have ever done – in the dark and in the rain. For fifty km’s to Gascoyne Junction (and the bitumen), we slipped and slid and arrived completely covered in mud. We squelched in at sunrise, just before the road became closed to all traffic. Add another adventure to our travel tales.
After hosing down the rig and reassessing our route, we decided to stick to the sealed roads for the next little while. Back to Carnarvon and down the coast highway to Geraldton before heading East. We spent a very pleasant couple of nights at a Wooramel Station, camped on the bank of the Wooramel river. Campfires under the stars and interesting drives to explore the property made for a pleasant and relaxing stay. Sights included the old disused woolshed that the corellas had taken over.
The road to The Goldfields was a little bit featureless, but still scenic in its own way. Vast fields of grain stretching as far as the eye could see. No wonder they refer to this area as The Wheatbelt. Five hundred km’s inland and we were back in the arid interior where farming gave way to prospecting. The hope of striking it rich had been luring people here for well over a hundred years. We may not have found any gold, but getting to sit by a campfire under the amazing canopy of stars made us feel very rich indeed.
Lake Ballard had been on my bucket list for some time; I am so glad that we made it there. It is home to Inside Australia: Antony Gormley Sculptures. The artwork is a collection of 51 steel sculptures standing over ten square kilometres, on the white salt plain of a huge lake. There was a lovely, free campsite on the edge of the lake and very few other campers. We were also blessed with some very colourful sunrises and sunsets. I was in photographer’s heaven. I couldn’t decide which pictures to share, so I ended up making a slideshow of some of my favourites.
Just down the road from Lake Ballard, south of the little town of Menzies, is Goongarrie Station, my home for the next month. We were to be camphosts for National Parks, managing the campground and caretaking the historic station buildings. Dee helped me get settled in during the first week, before heading over to the east coast to have her own adventure, visiting friends and family.
It was great to be back out in the desert again. Big sky country! Spectacular sunsets and starry, starry nights.
The time zoomed by. Lots of forays by car, bike and foot to explore the countryside. Great chats with the campers that came to stay for a night or two (or more). Plenty of time to sit and soak up the peace and tranquillity of this ancient land. A special time in a special place!
As lovely as it was here, it wasn’t quite the same without my new wife and long-time travelling companion. Time to hitch up The Wombat and hit the road to meet up down the track a ways. I had yet to travel with the caravan by myself, so this would be another new experience. (Little did I know how much of an adventure it would be.)
I had worked out a route that would take me along the same track that the early gold prospectors took in the late 1800’s, when they came out to Coolgardie and beyond to, hopefully, strike it rich.
Leaving Coolgardie and the bitumen behind I headed off down The Victoria Rock Road. Over the next three days and over 350 km’s of dirt road, I passed only three other vehicles. My first camping spot at Victoria Rock was great, with a lovely late afternoon walk to explore the rock formations before lighting the campfire and settling in for the evening of splendid isolation.
It was very pleasant driving through this area with so few signs of human disturbance.
A bit further down the track was McDermit Rock – another great campsite and interesting walks.
I drifted off to sleep wondering why there were no other travellers around. In the middle of the night, I found out. It started to rain…By the time I headed off the next morning the lovely dirt road had turned into a giant mud puddle stretching a couple of hundred km’s all the way to Hyden and the closest sealed road. Leo and The Wombat slipped, slid, and crawled along and by the time we arrived, there were very few spots not caked in mud. What fun! Just have to get everything cleaned up before Dee gets back home 😉 .
For more more photos of our travels…