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Travel Australia with Kids

Friday 14th October 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Sunday, October 16, 2011

The area along the coast between Port Hedland and Onslow is often by-passed by travellers - most head south to Karijini then west to Tom Price and to Onslow from there. As it would be unlikely we would travel all the way up here in the near future (or ever, who knows?) we decided we should visit while we could.  It's all about mining around here - Karratha being the major town centre and Dampier the main port for shipping of the mined material.  I wouldn't call Karratha "big", but it was astonishingly busy - all to do with the enormous mining industries (iron ore, salt and gas) in the area.

We stayed a couple of nights in a caravan park (thank goodness for those vouchers we got when we bought the 5th wheeler) and spent the ENTIRE first day spring cleaning Optimus (I just couldn't stand the dirt anymore) - it was a necessary exhaustion, but for a few days afterwards the poor kids were very confused about why Mom suddenly barked at them everytime they came near the door with sand or dirt on their feet!  The next day was spent mostly doing all the other chores - shopping, laundry, gas refills and another car service for Ironhide.  There was a great playground at the caravan park built on a huge sandpit and the kids made some new friends and spent ages building mines for their mini-dump trucks. B & T and their little tribe of 6 children joined us for an outside viewing of "Cars 2" (which the kids hadn't seen yet) while the adults had a good chat about all things travelling.

Our next stop was at a lovely camping area called Cleaverville Beach - Camps 5 and the sign out the front declare that it's only open for camping from May to September, but a call to a friendly information centre revealed that the area isn't locked or gated and there is no caretaker from October onwards, but due to cyclone season "officially" starting, they can't really endorse camping.  Basically do so at your own risk - so we did! We had heard quite a bit about the midges in the area, but we luckily chose a great spot and spotted not a one during our 5 night stay.  We were joined there by a lovely Irish couple (H & M) we had met a few days earlier (who had brought over a whole bag of ice blocks for the boys!) and a family with a boy Kia's age, so we were all set socially!

Cleaverville was the perfect camp spot.  We were only 50m from the beach, at one end of which was a lovely large rock pool perfect for a swim or a snorkel at high tide.  There were long walks as well, looking in the numerous small rock pools all along the beach for all manner of sea creatures - huge sea cucumbers, nudibranchs, a few good size octupuses (one of which was caught and cooked - Tiran loved it!), and some enormous black-lipped clams. There was a boat ramp on the other side of the camp area which led to a series of mangrove creeks - lovely boating along here, but unfortunately not much luck catching fish.

We spent a day exploring the other towns in the area: checked out (from afar) the huge port and loading facilities at Cape Lambert, spent the morning snorkelling in the amazing clear waters of Point Samson beach (no coral around but a couple of turtles and some lovely bream that Kia had fun chasing) and after lunch explored the historical town of Cossack with its restored buildings of a century ago (the display and information about the area in the old gaol was excellent). When we returned to camp, on a whim we decided to drive up the very rocky and steep 4WD track to the lookout - at one point I had my eyes shut tightly as all 4 wheels spun for some traction!  Lovely view but we were all glad to be back down soon after!

Although hard to leave Cleaverville, we were running behind schedule (again!), so dropped in for a last stock up in Karratha (next Woolworths not for another 700km at Carnarvon) and drove the short way to Dampier.  We took the boat out to nearby Sam's Island - Sam was the local character who adopted the island as his home and spent 40 years rearranging the basalt rocks into a type of medieval castle, importing sand onto the once barren island and even starting a coconut palm grove. Sam died in 2005 and everything has been left "as is" which unfortunately also means a state of disrepair, but it was interesting to have a walk around the old structures.

One of the things we had really wanted to try and see on this trip was the Staircase to the Moon phenomenon - October is the last month of the year for this (don't ask me why) and nearby Hearson's Cove was touted as a great place to view it.  We stopped off on the way at Deep Gorge to see the petroglyphs, which is apparently the largest concentration of aboriginal rock art in Australia (perhaps the world). There is very little information on how to get there and the tracks aren't clearly marked at all - we did find it eventually and had a walk around which involved quite a bit of rock scrambling.  We saw quite a few images, a lot of them pretty faint.  We weren't really up for a long hike or too much rock climbing, but I think if you took your time you would find A LOT of hidden treasures.

Hearson's Cove was absolutely beautiful - a massive shallow bay, where at low tide the flats are exposed for nearly 2km (which the kids and I walked all the way to the edge of the water)!  The full moon rising coinciding with the low tide provides a stunning visual display of a "staircase" going up to the moon.  There were nearly 200 people there to watch the "last" event for the year - I'm so glad we managed to fit in with the timing to see it! And tomorrow we head off to one of the most anticipated locations of our trip - Exmouth & Ningaloo Bay (hope it lives up to our extremely high expectations)!


Watching Sandplay with new friends - Karratha, WA (07Oct11)Cleaverville Beach, WA (08Oct11)Nudibranchs in rockpools - Cleaverville Beach, WA (08Oct11)
Sunset at Cleaverville Beach - WA (08Oct11)Boating in the mangrove creek - Cleaverville Beach, WA (09Oct11)Not much luck with the fish! - Cleaverville Beach, WA (09Oct11)You can never have enough shells - Cleaverville Beach, WA (10Oct11)
Getting really dirty with new friends - Cleaverville Beach, WA (10Oct11)Tiran's version of snorkelling - Cleaverville Beach, WA (10Oct11)Loving that snorkelling! - Cleaverville Beach, WA (10Oct11)Cleaverville Beach, WA (10Oct11)


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