AWOL Around Australia...


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From Sandstone it was back on random dirt roads. Steadily trekking north east, just following our noses like usual.

We called into camp at Lake Mason homestead. It was too early for us to stop, not to mention the place had a pretty spooky, deserted vibe to it.

The weathered buildings went well with the moody skies.

The flies here were starting to get quite bad. N was safely ensconced in the Cruiser whilst I was outside. We happened to have the Dirty Dancing soundtrack on (I’ve started buying CDs again, mostly from Op Shops - you can only listen to so much playlist music and AM radio, no phone or internet reception most of the places we go - so random old CDs makes for some entertaining music selection that you can play anywhere, anytime) so as I’m dancing around flailing my arms around to get rid of the flies before racing back to the car. All she sees is a crazy man dancing badly to Yes! by Merry Clayton, very amusing apparently.

As were heading back to the main track a good old boy in his Troopy came barrelling the other way. We stop for a yarn (although the old bugger was exceptionally hard to hear over the sound on the engines and he would regularly turn away to gesture where he was talking about - I am deaf in one ear so that doesn’t help - N filled me in on the details of the conversation afterwards) apparently he lives another ten km past the Lake Mason camp. He explained that the ‘lake’ hasn’t had water in it since 1976 “that’s the year I was born!” I say. “Must have been a good year then!” he cracks back. Apparently there have been the odd bird watcher come out to see the birds on the lake, only to find it isn’t that sort of lake. Anyway, he seemed a nice enough chap. People living so far out in the bush always fills me with questions, which never seem appropriate to ask in such a short exchange.

We found some properly lonely roads that afternoon.

Quite late into camp that night. A free roadside camp that was set well back from the road. A ute came in after us but didn’t stay, so we had the place to ourselves. Well us, and several million of our closest little mates.

Flies were bad here, even I had the fly headnet on. Luckily only for an hour or so till the sun went down.

Unfortunately we had forgotten to plus in the Thumper battery to be charged as we drove this morning. So it was already quite discharged when we came to plug the fridge in that night. Nothing for it but to turn the fridge up a little and hope for the best, as temperatures probably wouldn’t get lower than mid twenties overnight.



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Well, when I got up the fridge was only at 9 degrees. So the Thumper had probably kept it going till about an hour or so ago. The Thumper was totally discharged. So I pulled the fridge off it and ran the car for a short time to bring the fridge back down to temp, whilst the solar trickled charge back into the battery with the rising sun.

With the winds of last night totally gone the fly factor had gone up even more.

Just woken up.

Not happy Jan...

So we scrapped making coffee, and were packed and ready to go in about fifteen minutes. We were only 60km out of the town of Wiluna, this was the western end of both the Gunbarrel Highway and the Canning Stock Route. So I figured there would be good facilities to take advantage of the travellers of these iconic outback routes.

Not so. Wiluna was unfortunately a good example of when you mix a certain part of our community and alcohol. Rubbish and beer cans all around the outside of the town. Scenes I was familiar with after working on indigenous community projects in the Army. We were there early but the facilities, whatever they were, were not open for business, and as all the windows and doors are boarded up, you couldn’t tell what the might be anyway. Nay mind, we’ll push on.

We headed a short way up the CSR and took the turn off to North Pool. Disturbing the cattle getting their morning drink. It’s a nice enough spot but obviously very heavily visited, takes the appeal away for me - and absolutely the reason why such heavily trafficked iconic routes such as the CSR have no appeal.

We took he more minor loop track out to get back to the main road. Minor? You bet. We nearly lost the trail several times and I would suggest that another vehicle hadn’t been down this way in months.

We eventually popped back out on the main dirt road to Meekatharra.

We didn’t see another vehicle in the 160km till we got to the town. Where a mobile coffee lunch truck finally secured us our caffeine hit, along with some freshly made sandwiches and homemade cake. Worth the wait.

Road. Train.

Up there...

Now down the bitumen highway south, back towards Mount Magnet, but our destination was the small historic town of Cue.

Girl doing Terminator walk.

Some grand old buildings.

This one all on its own out the back of town, felt like it would be haunted, for sure.

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Back on the dirt now, first stop was one of the more recent ghost towns. Big Bell Township 1936-1955. Boom and indeed, bust.

Watch your step around here.

Whilst photographing the building I heard a noise inside, quietly cursing to myself, surely there couldn’t be anyone in there...?

Seconds later out hopped Skippy...

Next stop on this afternoon’s dirt road tour was Walga Rock, an impressive natural sculpture with indigenous cave paintings all along the inside of the overhang.

This was the perfect contrast to our visit to Wave Rock. Just us there. Minimal modification to to the environment, just a chain to keep you away from the ancient cave paintings and a Heath Robinson irrigation system made from old oil drums that was slowly rusting itself away.

You can drive around the whole rock, absolutely worth it. Very little publicity for this monolith. Australia is normally quite proactive in publicising such things, anyway I’m not complaining.

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Final stop was Australia’s smallest
meteorite crater. It did have an good back story though.

So we rolled back into Yalgoo from the north, come early evening. No flies to mention here.

A few big days behind us so we slept well that night.


Come the morning we drove out to Jokers Tunnel. Named so because the gold leases in this area were named after playing cards.

So in I went.

Mostly cut by hand...

The bats were amazing, I have never seen them so up close before, they didn’t seem too bothered with me being there, probably quite used to human interference by now. Have them fly past you was a pretty surreal experience.

The tunnel gets quite tight at the other end, and stepping back to full height and the clear daylight was a relief. Looking around for the path back around I expected to find I realised no such thing existed and so there was only one vaguely sensible way back. So back through the tunnel I went.

After a few more photos of the bats and I think they were starting to have enough of me. The bigger ones were flying past me a lot and a couple of them touched me on the way. So I decided I had disturbed them enough for one morning and made my way out, past the several metres of bug lined walls, then the same with spider webs, and then back out into full daylight.

It was a pretty exhilarating experience all in all.

An easy drive back west to the town of Mullewa. Where some of the best examples of the Monsignor Hawesarchitecture is.

Here we again hit the dirt to go cross country to the town of Northampton.

We were beginning to realise that free camping in WA isn’t really available the way it is in the other states, aside from roadside camps, and who wants to camp there?

So N had found a $5/night place, and it was in the region we wanted to explore next. So Elbenjo Camp it was for us.

The hosts greet you on arrival with a rescue baby kangaroo, there have many rescue animals.

I said its a while since I've seen one up this close and they though I meant a dead one! I reassured them that Mt Ive Station in South Australia has a couple of very friendly pets ones too.

That's a photo from Mt Ive, as I didn't get any of the Elbenjo joey.

After moving everyday for the past four days, it was going be good to stay in the same spot for a couple of nights.
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Kalbarri Region.

West Australia.

Next day we took a short drive around the local area. Mostly to check out the pink lake at Hutt Lagoon, Port Gregory. There are a number of these pink lakes in Australia, in varying intensity of ‘pinkness’. Why pink?

Hutt Lagoon is a pink lake, a salt lake with a red or pink hue due to the presence of the carotenoid-producing algae Dunaliella salina, a source of ß-carotene, a food-colouring agent and source of vitamin A. The lagoon contains the world's largest microalgae production plant, a 250-hectare (620-acre) series of artificial ponds used to farm Dunaliella salina.[2]
From Wikipedia

Seems that plant is run by BASF (judging by old mate at the campsites work shirt), the German chemical company who any fans of iconic racing car liveries would know.

Hutt Lagoon was decently pink.

More appropriately photographed from the air, or assisted in ‘post production’ as you see in all the tourist brochures. As ever, my photos are just as I find the environment. M. Nature does a good enough job in my opinion.

Port Gregory, looks inviting hey?

These little fellas were lining where the tide was coming to on the beach.

Bluebottles or Portuguese Man O War, unlikely to do you serious harm, but still will take the fun out of swimming in the sea.

We meandered back along the cliff road, through the beachside village of Horrocks.

All very nice, and as we were still ‘long weekend’ distance from Perth many Mc’Mansion Shacks (Mc’Shacksion?) were in evidence. Anyway, the worst heat of the day gone we trundled back to camp.

Cooked beef curry, just in case you thought we had stopped eating :)


Next day a train of caterpillars helped us pack up.

I found a mean and roofless Discovery on the way out.

We made our way to the Province of Hutt River, and according to their view, left Australia for a few hours while we visited there.

The second, errrm individualsettlement we had been to in WA. I couldn’t work out just how seriously they took themselves.

With 19,000 acres of wheat and cattle farming they probably do ok. Anyway it’s a bit of fun, and a story, the like of which doesn’t really happen any more.


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Camp for the next couple of nights would be at Lucky Bay.

$15 a night, but basically camp where you like, on the flat hard standing like everyone else, or tucked up in the dunes (us).

There were about eight other vehicles there that night. As I said all down on the flat area. I figured they either had a big caravan, no compressor to pump their tyres back up, as the dunes required 20psi and under to negotiate, or a roof top tent, there wasn’t much level ground near the beach, just enough for us to squeeze the Oztent on.
Although a Patrol that came in after us, towing an older road based caravan, and hit the dunes with great gusto. I later found out it was a couple of Irish brothers, who got that caravan right onto the beach, they were here for fishing and fishing only.
Irish lads always seem to travel as brothers, as if... (Irish accent) ‘Ma, I’m, thinking of going to Australia...’ ‘That’s fine Seamus, just make sure you take your brother’.

As usual these coastal campsites are a bit windy, but you certainly feel you’re back to nature. Interesting after that first night it was just us and the Irish chaps.

Beetroot, harissa lamb and rice cooked in the beetroot liquor. Bloody delicious.

Sunset on the beach.


I left the rest of the expedition party at camp the next day, whilst I headed up the coast to hike the river gorges of Kalbarri National Park.

We had actually been here before. Twenty years ago when it was all dirt roads (not to mention a big detour to get in, after Cyclone Steve at the time), then we just came for the hole in the rock, we didn't know about the other stuff, how did you find out back then? we only knew about the hole because of word of mouth. Anyway, that's still what most people come here fore, and the roads are all bitumen now. So I skipped queuing up for the same photo everyone else was going to get, as I already had that one.

I got some others instead.

Bush walking, WA style.

Don't go hiking in the middle of the day in the Australian summer. Mad dogs and Englishmen only.

The black swan is the bird emblem of WA.

The water looks like a chemical spill at times.

On arrival back a camp there was a mere forty metres of sand to traverse to get the Cruiser back up the camp. I was hoping I could hit it at road tyre pressure, rather than dropping the tyres right down to explore the dunes as we had yesterday searching for a camp spot.

Well unsurprisingly, NO, was the answer to that. Any hard won momentum just evaporates in the sort sand. So 25psi came out of each tyre. You just can’t short cut off road techniques I guess...


Next day we headed up the coast to Kalbarri township. Not before helping this little chap finish crossing the road after he had stalled halfway. Keep your gloves handy people.

Echidna in case you're wondering.

Kalbarri is a nice little fishing/surfing/tourist village, probably just far enough from Perth to lack the millionaire holiday homes and all the better for it. We needed water, laundry and internet. So this would serve nicely for a couple of nights.

Thanks for reading.



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You are seeing some great places. Are you now following the coast north?
Yep. Back to hugging the coast for a while. Weather is mad inland and getting madder it seems for a while. Hope to do the Pilbara before the Kimberley. But whatevs, we’ll just play it all be ear, it’s a pretty good part of the country!