Red Dirt Roads to White Beaches.

Australian 4WD / Camper Blog. Week 2 . Featured Photo, Cable Beach, Broome.

  • Week 2.
  • 17/06/21 to 23/06/21.
  • Wiluna to Broome. 1415kms.

Intro 4/07/21, by Will:

Hi everyone I hope you are all getting out and about when ever you can. Our trip is going along great, the three of us are settling into some sort of travel rhythm. Rodgie dog seems to be enjoying herself but about 300kms in the car over the day is enough for her and us as well.

Received an email from our friend Art Brown the other day he lives in Winnipeg, Canada.  Art, Jenny, John and I cycled together from Calgary across the Canadian Rocky’s to Hope back in August 2018. It was an extremely good trip but at times very hot. We soon learnt cycling the Fraser Valley in the Canadian summer is not for the feint hearted. 

Art’s email advised us that the town of Llynton had an all time record Canadian high temperature of 49.6C and that soon after a “wildfire” came through and destroyed 90% of the town (pop: 1000). I remember the day we rode through that area well, it was about 42C at Llynton Jenny and I became separated from Art and John. Team wiljen cycled over Jackass Pass just out of town, that is seared forever into our memories. All up it was a 80km ride and Art finally found us both rehydrating with Gatorade and Beer in a Restaurant/Bar on the outskirts of Boston Bar. (here is a link to what I wrote about our ride through that area. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com./doc/page/?o=1mr&page_id=553847&v=eS )

I have since read the news and it looks terrible, the reason I mention this is firstly I feel for the people having to suffer through it, we experienced lots of kindness from the locals in that area and secondly it’s a very good reminder not to take anything for granted. You need to be mentally and physically prepared for your life to change in an instant. It’s a big reason we travel, helps to keep you sharp, adaptable and ready for change.

Right then, we are nearly at the end of week 4 in real time, but I’m purposely keeping the blog updates about 2 weeks behind. That way I can edit the stuff out that might end up being “to much information” for the authorities. Sadly that is the current world we live in, for now we just have to deal with it.

Here are week 2 travel notes I hope you find them interesting and informative.

Day 8 Thursday, Date: 17/06/21

From to where: Wiluna (Gunbarrel Laager) to Gascoyne River upper middle, Great Northern Hwy 95

Distance: 230kms (190 on dirt along North Wiluna Road, in ok condition).

Accumulated Distance: 1691kms

Cycling Y/N, KMs: not yet

Fuel $: 80 @ 159.9cpl

Litres: 50L prepaid may not have topped up 14L per 100kms.

Accom type & cost: Free, roadside bush upper Gascoyne River.

Grocery Food $: 40

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 120

Rolling Total $: $625

Gopro footage: GP8

DJI Drone Footage:

Weather: Min 5C – Max 18C, 30km/h South East Wind, blue skys.

Wiluna North Road, in reasonable condition. We travelled at 50km to 60kmp/h.

Notes: Longest Dirt Road for New Rig so far 190kms.

Car and camper are now officially dusted, glad to be over that hurdle. We had a busy morning, Jenny did online work while I once again hung out the damp washing. After breakfast Jenny walked the dog down the 3km long Gunbarrel Laager driveway while I finalised packing and fitted the Stone Stomper, Stone guard. About 2kms along the road I picked up Jenny and Rodgie dog.

We stopped at the Wiluna General Store, fuel is prepaid which I sorted while Jenny shopped for basics. Packet of Tim Tams $6.80 which we didn’t get.

Normal sort of drive by dirt road standards, eventually hit highway 95, south of Kurmarina Roadhouse, camped on the Gascoyne River which wasn’t busy. River had large pools of water still in it, had a camp fire.

Rodgie dog checks out an old Holden Panel Van from the early 1970’s.
Camped on the Gascoyne River.

~~~~~~~~

Day 9, Friday, Date: 18/06/21

From to where: Gascoyne River Mid, to Roy Hill rest area (100km north of Newman).

Distance: 326km

Accumulated Distance: 2015kms

Cycling Y/N, KMs: waiting waiting

Fuel $: $130

Litres: 88L @ 147.9cpl, econ = 20L per 100kms (didn’t fully fill up at Wiluna).

Accom type & cost: Free bush camp, Roy Hill rest area. Very good & clean.

Grocery Food $: 175

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 263

Rolling Total $: 888

Gopro footage: GP8

DJI Drone Footage: not yet

Weather: Min 5C max 19C , strong SE wind, clear sky, wind dropped off in the early evening.

Notes:

Rodgie Dog Turns Two. Birthday Time.

Jenny decided to sleep in until 8.30am, can’t say I blame her it was a windy, chilly morning. I got up at 7am to make coffee and walk the birthday dog. 

Getting packed away is a quick affair now, not rushing takes us 20 minutes to be on the road we were on our way at 9.20am. Nice enough drive along the Great Northern Highway (Hwy 95) , I had to use the handheld UHF radio to contact a huge over width truck with two pilot vehicles and negotiate the dangerous passing manoeuvre . The V8 power of the new Landcruiser continues to amaze and mesmerise both of us, it is effortless, towing 2T this new Cruiser has more grunt than the old 105 Series Landcruiser not towing, unbelievable !

Stopped in Newman for resupplies, groceries from Woolworths, free water from the visitor centre, diesel from Shell in the light industrial area at 147.9cpl , lunch and Rodgie playtime at the local sports oval. Newman is very busy, mining is booming and it’s a town of haves and have nots with all its associated issues.

100kms along the Newman to Marble Bar road saw us at the Roy Hill rest area , we drive deep into the back and find a nice flat area for the night. I struggle to get the Truma gas hot water system to ignite but eventually have success after an hour of fault checking and start up attempts. Yippee we have hot showers tonight. Of cause as per usual we have a camp fire, which we elect to cook our steaks on.

The night isn’t that cold, it’s clear and the wind has dropped. Billions of stars overhead as we sit by the crackling camp fire staring into the warm embers. Yeah this is the life…

Parked up for the night at the Roy Hill real area, only one other Caravan stopped there and they parked well away from us.

~~~~~~~~

Day 10, Saturday, Date: 19/06/21

From to where: Roy Hill rest area to Doolena Gorge (~20kms north of Marble Bar).

Distance: 260kms (200km on dirt roads, 100km very rough at 50km/h)

Accumulated Distance: 2275kms

Cycling Y/N, KMs: nup

Fuel $:

Litres:

Accom type & cost: Free bush camp at Doolena Gorge (Very Good).

Grocery Food $:

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 0

Rolling Total $: 888

Gopro footage: GP8, put in card number 3

DJI Drone Footage: no

Weather: finally some north west weather, 24C max sunny, SE wind at 25km/h, still a cool 7C minimum.

Marble Bar Pool.

Notes:

Marble Bar where winters, summer begins.

Departed Roy Hill Rest Stop at 9.10am after a feed of B&E toasties cooked on the camp fire for brekky. Nice morning with Jenny and Rodgie. The mornings drive began on bitumen but after we past the turn off to the Roy Hill iron ore mine site it turned into a gravel road that rapidly degenerated into a bad gravel road with sharp rocks and corrugations. 

I dropped speed down to what would ultimately average 50km/h for about a hundred kilometres until we were nearly at Nullagine. From Nullagine to Marble Bar it’s still mostly gravel roads but you do drive through some quintessential Eastern Pilbara scenery. Deep red coloured rocky hill’s covered with yellow spinifex, the mostly dry river crossings reward you with groves of white barked snappy gums (also commonly known as ghost gums), there are lines of purple coloured mulla mulla flowers along the road with the odd red and black flowered Sturt desert pea. Definitely extremely scenic as yo bounce along at 50 km/h.

Once at Marble Bar we headed out to see the beautiful jasper and quartz’s banded rock formations at Marble Bar Pool, Rodgie enjoyed chasing her ball and swimming in the pool. Once we left town our initial camp spot of choice was a dam about 10kms north but it was on a station with poison, strychnine and 1080 signs all over the gate. I walked in a short distance and sure enough there was a dam but it all appeared pretty scungy. We continue onto another option we found using Hema Maps and WikiCamps, Doolena Gorge, finding the unmarked track in just after a water crossing was tricky and if you overshoot the track turning around would be extremely difficult. Fortunately we nailed it first time.

You drive in about one kilometre after opening (& closing) a Station gate. There was already two other camping outfits here in the premium positions so after Rodgie and I scouted around on foot we directed Jenny to drive to a spot in amongst the river gums. Now there is a catch, it’s tricky and Low Range 4WD will be needed. This is a first for us with the electronic off road wizardry of the big 200 Series Landcruiser.

Jenny is shitting herself but won’t relinquish the pilot’s seat to yours truly so here we go. Turn off traction control, engage centre diff lock, place into “Park” (no wrong that incessant alarm is telling us we have stuffed up, make that “Neutral”) and push in, then switch the knob to low range. 

Select the sequential gate on the auto gears and choose Low Range Second. Ah wait don’t forget to switch off the SRS Airbags in case you hit a ditch hard and that inadvertently deploys the airbag system. Ok we’re ready to go.

Jenny proceeds and as we hit some soft sand the trailer wheel catches on an embankment and we’re bogged, but only a little. With some reversing and forwarding we make a little progress to out nearby patch of green in the shade of the trees. Why, why won’t it work ? Our 19 year old HZJ105 Series Landcruiser seems so much more simpler than this, just shift the lever into Low Range and go. 

Jenny looks at the dash lights, yellow icons everywhere but the yellow traction control icon has disappeared which means traction control is on so when the wheels spin the power just disappears. Press the traction control button for 5 seconds to completely disengage it and then no problem the car crawls forward and we are out !

The boggy spot at Doolena Gorge near Marble Bar. The new Landcruiser is loaded with electronic traction aids & we’re still coming to grips on how to use them.

I now felt grateful I had watched all those YouTube videos. Turned into a very beautiful afternoon watching the sunset make the rocky gorge glow red.

Now how to get out tomorrow, let’s sleep on that one  🙂

Doolena Gorge, nice spot. Should have spent a few days here.
Some nice and interesting rocks around here.

~~~~~~~~

Day 11, Sunday , Date: 20/06/21

From to where: Doolena Gorge (Marble Bar) to Stanley 24hr Rest Area (230kms south of Broome).

Distance: 347kms

Accumulated Distance: 2622

Cycling Y/N, KMs: nil

Fuel $: $106.44

Litres: 60L @ 177.4cpl Sandfire Roadhouse.

Accom type & cost: free 24hr rest stop, Stanley.

Grocery Food $:

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 106

Rolling Total $: 994

Gopro footage: GP8

DJI Drone Footage: yes south of Shay Gap driving along a Plain.

Weather: 30C max at end of the day, Sunny fine conditions.

it’s a very busy time in WA’s north and space is at a premium. Stanley 24h rest area.

Notes:

Back onto Busy Roads. NWC (#1) Highway, Broome here we come.

We watched a spectacular sunrise from the comfort of our camper’s queen size bed. But she who must be obeyed was stomping around….Rodgie Dog !

So team wiljen got up before 7am, WTF is with that we haven’t even been grandparents for 12 months yet and already we’re getting up before sparrows fart. Next thing you know we’ll join the Grey Nomad Club !?!? Yeah right I don’t think so . Haven’t seen any of them Grey Nomads out here destroying their new SUV’s and 24’ Vans on the last 800kms of dirt roads we’ve driven during the past 11 days. Ok maybe a couple of the hard core ones, but not many.

So off we go with Rodgie across the Coongan River, it’s dry in many places so crossing is easy. There are water birds everywhere, pelicans, jabirus, herons, kingfishers, cormorants and let’s not forget the many hawks and eagles, just amazing.

Pelicans at Doolena Gorge.

Jenny throws the ball for Rodgie across the river bed while we both enjoy the vista of Doolena Gorge and surrounding ramparts. I guess it was a 2km walk often in course soft sand. Back to camp we head, for a breakfast of nuts and berries (muesli) for me and clag glue (porridge) for Jen. Rodgie got half a cup of chicken flavoured dog kibbles, lucky her.

It was a slight challenge getting out of our camping spot, Jenny operated the Gopro while I performed the offroad action, due to some glitch the Gopro didn’t actually record but trust me I got back to the main track easily, especially with the Traction Control off. Our travel day began at 9.10am. 

The dirt roads we travelled today were the Bamboo Creek Road, Shay Gap / Meccan Road then the Boreline Road. A total of 150kms of reasonable gravel with the odd slow section. By 2.30pm we were at Sandfire Roadhouse, I would have filled up but at 177.4cpl I opted for just 60 litres of diesel ($106.44), fuel in Broome is at 151.9cpl so what can you do but economise. 

100kms after Sandfire which equalled exactly one hour, yes we were hiking the outfit along at a good clip, we arrived at Stanley 24hr free Rest Area. To be fair it’s pretty good, toilets, bins, shelters, open space, but there is at least 40 vans crammed in here. If we had arrived earlier in the day we would push on but it’s now nearly 4pm and the sun sets at 5pm, so we select one of the few remaining positions near a large gazebo styled shelter. 

Poor Rodgie needs to remain tied up and we do our best too make the most of a free communal camping one nighter. The Large Van next to us runs their generator until 8pm ? Who does that nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st century ? Haven’t they heard if LiFePO4 Batteries, solar panels and solar/vehicle management systems. I don’t get it, do they like the sound of loud throbbing from a generator or are they just lazy ?

Overall a very good day touring the back tracks of what we remember the “old” Pilbara from 20 plus years ago to be. Tomorrow we try for Barn Hill Station, this will be our third attempt to get there, no doubt we will succeed since this time we are driving a V8 Turbo Diesel Landcruiser.

Also must mention the maximum temperature reached today was 30 degrees Celsius this afternoon, happy days for mid winter in Australia ;-).

~~~~~~~~

Day 12, Monday, Date: 21/06/21

From to where: Stanley Rest Area to Barn Hill Station

Distance: 94km

Accumulated Distance: 2716kms

Cycling Y/N, KMs: no

Fuel $:

Litres:

Accom type & cost: Barn Hill unpowered site 2 nights $60.

Grocery Food $:

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 60

Rolling Total $: 1054

Gopro footage:GP8

DJI Drone Footage: no

Weather: 30C, humid, overcast, maybe rain later.

Definitely worth visiting Barn Hill, bit 3 nights would be heaps of time.

Notes: Shortest Day So Far, 94kms.

As it turned out stopping the night at Stanley proved to be a smart move. To get a spot at Barn Hill Station (BHS) at the peak of tourist season means you need to arrive early. We left at 9am and arrived at BHS 10.30am, there was already a line up of 4WD’s towing mega vans at the reception area.

Our morning started off relaxing, at 6.30am I took Rodgie dog for a sunrise walk along a single lane sandy track. We were gone for 30 minutes. Once back at camp Jenny cooked up bacon and egg wraps and we enjoyed a coffee while watching the morning pack up antics of our fellow campers. Nothing to serious apart from one mega van going past with one of it rear stabilisers still down. I did run across and stop the old bloke and pushed it back into it’s travel position.

Rodgie was ecstatic to see the beach at BHS, straight into the water, shaking the ball, she was in her happy place. Very nice beach, white sand, red sandstone cliffs, not bad at all. One reason for stopping here is there is suppose to be phone reception and Jenny needs to do some real work. So far all we’ve been getting is an intermittent one bar of 4G which apparently comes across Roebuck Bay from Broome, about 45kms as the crow flys.

~~~~~~~~

Day 13, Tuesday, Date: 22/06/21

From to where: Barn Hill rest day

Distance: 0

Accumulated Distance: 2716kms

Cycling Y/N, KMs: no but Karate Monkey has a rear tyre leak.

Fuel $:

Litres:

Accom type & cost: already paid. 

Grocery Food $: 6

Take away food $: 13 from BHS cafe

Beer/Wine/Soda $:

Other $:

Day Total $: 19 

Rolling Total $: 1073

Gopro footage: GP8 but only morning flood damage and sunset.

DJI Drone Footage: nil

Weather: Rain, 30-40mm, very strong winds , estimate 40-50km/h. Fine after 10am.

Notes:

Stormy Night, 40mm of rain, flash floods and wind !

Pretty poor sleep due to the big storm that past through during the early hours of the morning (1am-3am being the worst). We learnt we had camped in a water course to the ocean. At 2am the water was about 50mm deep and flowing over our ground mesh mat. The afternoon before Jenny and I had rolled in our light weight Dometic awning (sun shade), placed the bike cover over the bicycles, which is when we discovered the Karate Monkey had a flat rear tyre. Geez haven’t even ridden it yet and it has a puncture just sitting in the rack. Remember it is a brand new wheel but old tyre which is mounted tubeless.

While lowering and raising the ISI bike carrier I somehow injured my back, feels like a strained muscle in the middle, left side of my spine. Going on past experience it’s going to ache for at least the next week. On the severity scale with 10 being you can barely walk, it feels like a 4 or 5, slows you down, hard to sleep type of pain. Bummer.

The bike cover was secured with cord but it still flapped a bit to excessively during the high winds for my liking, still no damage done except too my REM sleep. The next day I learned some unfortunate Caravaners had lost their awnings and they were damaged beyond repair. I did feel sorry for them but was happy we had stowed ours away. Like the old sea dogs say, “if a storm is coming, reef your sails early” , good advice !

Jenny and I took the dog for a walk along the north beach which was nicer than the southern walk the previous day, we also had a big walk around the campground and checked out the huge variation of camping setups. Most unusual was a couple in a 3rd generation Suzuki Jimny/Sierra towing a micro camper trailer, full respect for that compact setup.

Barn Hill isn’t quite what Jenny and I expected, to be fair if you haven’t been here it is definitely worth the effort to come in and stay 2 or 3 nights. The beach is excellent, the facilities are adequate, staff friendly, but it’s cramped and poorly set out. The development appears it has happened organically and if they need more camp sites they appear to just push down more coastal scrub, plant and reticulate some future shade trees. All seems a bit adhoc to me.

In my personal opinion, it’s someone’s money making machine with limited regard to environment or regulations. That opinion comes across as a bit mean but I don’t intend it to be, we are all part of the problem and  people love these sort of coastal environments to death. The rubbish seemed organised, seperating, glass, plastic and aluminium (but where do they dump the general waste) ? The kids and families were having a great time. The current influx of newly retired Boomers seemed to love the place, with it’s bowls green and fellow traveller camaraderie.

Jenny was going to get some online work completed today but the phone tower signal is so poor and intermittent that it makes using data all but impossible. Even making a phone call is difficult. Jen had to ring a Caravan Park in Broome to make a booking as the place is jammed packed with tourists . The call repeatedly dropped out and she had to ring them back 8 times to finalise the booking. Ridiculous when BHS advertise that they have phone reception for all major telco carriers.

I don’t know, I guess it was just to busy and popular for our current liking, management seem to do the bare minimum of effort to keep a certain demographic happy. Doubt I’ll be back but Barn Hill is worth experiencing if only once. Could it be on the cusp of becoming the next 80 Mile Beach or Coral Bay ? Hopefully not but probably will happen over the next 10 years.

Campers packed in amongst the trees at Barn Hill.
Travelling Small, Barn Hill.

~~~~~~~~

Day 14, Wednesday, Date: 23/06/21

From to where: Barn Hill to Broome and back to Gateway CV Park

Distance: 160 (check) 130 to Broome then back out.

Accumulated Distance: 2876

Cycling Y/N, KMs: no flat rear tyre on Karate Monkey 

Fuel $: 161 (United Fuels Broome, cheapest)

Litres: 106L @ 151.9cpl

Accom type & cost: $66 for 2 nights at Gateway Caravan Park.

Grocery Food $: 191, Broome Woolworths 

Take away food $:

Beer/Wine/Soda $: 176 , BWS, 2x Blocks of beer, 2x wine 1x Rum.

Other $: 8 car wash

Day Total $: 602 (big restock for trip to Darwin)

Rolling Total $: 1675

Gopro footage: GP8, SD card full, needs a change out.

DJI Drone Footage: no

Weather: 24C max, sunny, cool SE wind, gusting to 30km/h.

Notes:

Back in Broome, it’s not what we remember.

Last morning at Barn Hill Station, May as well have a decent breakfast.
Beach at Barn Hill is a winner. Nice photo here of early morning the day we depart.

For what was going to be an easy day it turned into a hectic one. I was up at sunrise (6.30am) walking Rodgie dog around the area. Then it was breakfast time, bacon and egg wraps done on our bbq were the go.

9am came and it’s time to pack up, straight forward enough but the ground mat (shade cloth) is caked with mud from early Tuesday morning ps drenching. I grab our hose, bundle up the filthy mud sodden mat and head for the nearby communal grass area. Which is the only clean area to wash it down. It took me a good 20 minutes of hosing.

Upon my return to camp Jenny had taken Rodgie to the beach for some ball chasing exercise. I walked to the edge of the red sandstone cliffs and watched Rodgie playing with another dog on the white sand while Jen walked and chatted to another couple on the beach. Once they finally returned and we were finished packing we hitched up the camper to the Landcruiser and we’re on our way at 11am.

It’s about 130kms to Broome but first we had to tackle two muddy bog holes on the Barn Hill access road. No real dramas there but some mud stuck to the car. The drive into Broome was reminiscent of past travels there, scrubby savannah, with occasional plains, Drovers on horseback were rounding up cattle on the expansive Roebuck Plains as we drove past from the air conditioned comfort of our capsule sitting on 95km/h.

Once into Broome our our first job was to take on 106L of diesel we searched out the cheapest price and found the United Fuels was selling for 151.9cpl about 12 cents cheaper than the dearest in town. Next stop was food. Off to the Woolworths, Jenny kept Rodgie amused while I battled the maddening crowds. I’ve never seen Broome so busy !

Fuelling up in Broome, definitely worthwhile shopping around.

Once the food shopping was done I had to return with my trolley to BWS a liquor outlet, the shop clerk frowned at my purchase of two blocks of beer, two bottles of red wine and a 700ml bottle of spiced rum. I had to show my drivers license, which they took a copy of. Then fill out paperwork with more details and that was after answering questions like where are you taking this alcohol ? “Ah back to my car mate”, what is your purpose for purchasing the alcohol ? “To get pissed Buddy”. How long are you in Broome for ? “For as short as f**ken possibly c**t” !

He really did ask those questions but I kept the smart arse answers to myself and told him what he wanted to hear. The rest of the Kimberley is pretty much a nanny State in some sort of pseudo prohibition because some of the population over indulge and become antisocial. Look I get it, there is a drinking problem in the Kimberley but the thought process of let’s penalise everyone isn’t right. 

It’s a typical government response to a problem. How about focusing on providing people with respect, education, meaningful jobs and better living conditions. Deal with the root cause instead of the symptoms. Imagine if you were expected to go through this rigmarole in Perth just to buy a block of mid strength beer and a bottle of wine (cask wine have been deleted). Would we roll over and except it or would there be a massive outcry ?

By now I had nearly had a gut full of Broome but there was one last job to complete. The outside of the car and camper was fairly grotty so we made a stop at the car wash. It was just a quick clean down to get rid of as much dust and mud that $8 in gold coins could buy. Time to head back out to Gateway Caravan Park 30kms away, book in and set up.

Gateway is very impressive, only $33pn, versus $70-$90 in town for an unpowered site, huge drive through sites, massive showers, a dog off leash area, BBQ’s, fire every night. Still a work in progress but a terrific well thought out concept. Jenny took Rodgie Dog over to the dog exercise area while I set up, the bottom latch on the front right side locker would not open. A levelling ramp was jamming it. I spent about 10 minutes with the top section of locker ajar trying to hook it free with a metal rod. It was a relief when I finally had success.

Camping area at Gateway, Broome.

~~~~~~~~

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