August 23, 2006 GMT
Cool Colours and Chilly Weather

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16 000km so far!

I wish I'd visited Broome years ago, before the tourist masses descended. The tourists had taken over this sleepy seaside town, and the prices had risen accordingly. However, Cable Beach was huge and beautiful, the fish and chips were good, we were able to get all our chores done and despite being warned we'd not find a campsite with space left we found a brilliant spot - right next to the beach.

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We met Steve and Lynn again - a couple we'd bumped into several times on the Gibb River Road who had saved us one night when we were parched - with ice cold beer and champagne! We returned the favour (with the beer anyway!) and caught up on travel stories before catching a movie at the oldest outdoor cinema in Australia, Sun Pictures.

From Broome we headed South on an incredibly straight road with very little to look at except miles of scrub and brown grass. We soon had enough of that and turned South towards Marble Bar. At first there was more of the same; flat browness, then suddenly lots of small hills appeared, red with iron ore against the deep blue sky. We both decided it reminded us of parts of Scotland and Northen England.

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This was the start of the Pilbara, an area of land rich in minerals and scenery. As the sun sank lower we started looking for a rough camp, and soon came to Doleena Gorge, one of the few gorges still to have water during the dry season. It was absolutely beautiful, as the sun set the hills glowed red and orange, the water was still and the only sounds to be heard were made by birds.

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That night we didn't use our tent, we simply lay on our sleeping bags on our tarp and slept under the stars next to the fire. It was magical.

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In the morning Hamish's Scottishness came out - he wanted to climb the hills. I was content to lie around watching the wildlife all day but let him persuade me and I was very glad I did, despite the fact we set off in the heat of the day (only the poms are this silly) and struggled up through the spinifex. It sounds painful and it is; short and spikey grass which catches at your legs. The views were well worth it. On the way back to the camp we stopped at the water's edge to try and catch dinner as there seemed to be lots of fish. The pelicans and cormorants were ducking and diving and catching plenty, but we had no success at all - so we cheated and opened a tin of tuna instead.

As we watched the sun setting and the hills changing colour the pelicans fished, kockatoos flew overhead on their way to roost, birds of prey picked off any fish the cormorants missed and a rock wallably came down for an evening drink. We slept out again and I woke in the middle of the night to see the white bark of the ghost gum trees shining in the light of the nearly full moon and a pelican gliding silently by on the water. I thought how I didn't want this trip to end...

The outback is full of colour. Reds, blues and greens are everywhere but in the Pilbara the wildflowers were starting to come out adding splashes of pinks and yellows.

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We fuelled up in Marble Bar, famous for its jasper deposits. We got talking to the owner of the roadhouse, Cheryl, who was desperately looking for staff at the roadhouse; she offered us both jobs on the spot. We would have taken them if we didn't already have plans as it would have been a great experience to work in such an isolated place. The three weeks on/one week off would have given plenty of time to explore the Pilbara... but we did have plans, and after fuelling ourselves up as well we were off again.

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The dirt started shortly afterwards but it was 'good' dirt, through stunning colourful scenery, really enjoyable and wonderfully quiet, only two cars passed us in 150km. This is the road after the dirt finished, the hills were quite dramatic.

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Hame had read about Karijini National Park so we headed there for a couple of days to explore more gorges. A nightmare of red dirt and corrugations - 46km of them - took us to Weano Gorge, a deep and narrow gorge carved from the tightly packed red rocks which erode in straight lines like brickwork. We climbed down into the gorge and walked along until it got narrower, and narrower.

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Soon we had to wade through pools and along the creek bed until we came to a steep drop down to the Handrail Pool, we had to climb down using a rail and a rope.

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The water was Very Cold, and as we went further it got colder, and narrower, until we could touch both sides of the gorge at once. Eventually we got to a part with a sign which warned us not to go any further unless we could abseil, so we turned around there.

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On the way back we stopped at a viewpoint overlooking the place where four gorges met. It was an awesome sight, four incredibly steep and narrow gorges meeting directly below us.

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The next day we went to Tom Price, a town named after a guy called... Tom Price. We went on a tour of one of the iron ore mines in the area, the only word I have to describe it is BIG. I know the world needs iron ore but we had to laugh when we read the sign which said they were trying to do it with the 'least environmental impact'!!

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It was however, an interesting trip and despite all my horrors about the way the countryside was being ripped up I had a strange urge to have a go on one of the really really big trucks...

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From here Hame and I had two choices, 300km of dirt through the middle of nowhere or a longer tarred route to Gascoyne Junction, venue of a bike rally we'd been aiming for. Of course we chose the silly adventurous route and spent eight hours bumping and bouncing our way along the road. The scenery wasn't much to look at but there were loads of emus - running alongside us, appearing ahead on the road, running madly off sideways into the bush. They all reminded me of John Cleese doing the Ministry of Funny Walks. We also saw a couple of large whirly winds, things I knew as 'dust devils' in Kenya as a child. They are like mini tornados, sometimes with a 'tube' stretching 60m into the sky.

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We'd heard of the bike rally months back and had used it as something to aim for to get us this far West. The 'Off Centre Rally' is an unofficial meeting, every two years, of like-minded adventure bikers. Gascoyne Junction was little more than a few houses and a pub, but was transformed by all the bikers into one large party.

We pitched the tent then Hame wandered off in bloke ecstasy to stroll about looking at all the other bikes, take pictures, talk machinery and modifications and drink beer. He was, as you can imagine, in heaven. I, as you can imagine, wasn't, but made the most of it and met heaps of people, thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it being very bikery and blokey, and partied long into the night.

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At some stage of the evening the next venue was decided, by the bloke with the loudest voice. It was great fun, we did meet some good people and I hope we make the next one. As we've both fallen in love with Australia there's a rather large chance we may be here.... watch this space!

We left the next morning with sore heads and some new friends; Pete, Steve and Chris. It was back on the dirt for a bit (which I've totally had enough of for now) before going North to Coral Bay, touristy but stunning and full of sea life. The snorkling was fantastic if a little chilly - we've been spoiled in the past by the 29 degree sea temperatures of Asia. We also went on a whale watching trip, and saw a humpback whale and her calf, as well as dolphin, lots of turtles and a manta ray - amazing!

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We hadn't planned on coming as far South as Perth, in fact we do very little planning at all, tending to look at the map in the morning and decide then which way we'll go. As we were so near to Perth - only 1000km away! - we decided to come down and visit Hame's brother's sister-in-law (work that one out) Jen and her husband and family who we'd only met once. Feeling bad for not giving them more notice we called to see if they were home. With great warmth we were immediately invited to come whenever we could get there.

On the way to Perth we stopped at Hamelin Pool, which is one of the only two marine homes on earth of stromatolites, bacterial lifeforms which build themselves slowly into weird looking stumpy structures.

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This may seem a strange thing to want to visit, but without stromatolites we wouldn't have evolved; for 3,000,000,000 years they were the only forms of life on earth. As they grew they produced tiny bubbles of oxygen which over all those years turned our atmosphere into one things could live in. They are the oldest forms of life on earth and the ones at Hamelin Pool are protected. They even have a captive one in a tank! Bill Bryson wrote about Hamelin Pool in 'Down Under' and I'd wanted to come since reading the book, and seeing fossilised stromatolites in Chillagoe weeks ago.

After a night sleeping in a luxuriously converted railway carriage in Dongara - our first bed for a month -

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we arrived in Perth and were given a warm welcome by Jen and Rikki and a truly delicious meal of roast lamb - very welcome after all those camping meals. As I'm writing this guess what Hame is doing...

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This time it's new brake pads, an ancient oil leak which can't be put off any longer, and a few other bits and pieces - I'll let him write about it in the next blog.

(1 week later)
We've had a fantastic week with Jen and Riki and the children. We've been made to feel so welcome and been wonderfully looked after, had fun with the kids, practised baby skills on Harrison who is 13 weeks old and it's going to be very hard to leave (but we will have to before I get any broodier!). Riki didn't bat an eyelid as Hame dismantled Bertha in the garage, I've enjoyed having girly chats while getting to know Jen, plus it's been lovely being in a big comfy bed and having a fridge! But the tent is calling us, adventure beckons again and we'll be leaving tomorrow morning. We're not looking forward to more goodbyes, it's been great getting to know another branch of our family and we could easily stay a lot longer...

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All the way South it was getting colder and it's well and truly 'winter' now (only 19 degrees or so!), rain and wind with sun every now and again. We will head West then North towards the goldfields, the rough plan is to ride to Alice Springs along the Great Central Road - over 1000km of dirt across the desert. Hame said "We can go across on tarred roads if you want..." whilst looking sad, so although I could do without a week bouncing on dirt we've decided to take the Great Central road, after all where's the fun on tarred roads?!

(Emma)

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Hame bought me an Aussie bush hat!

Posted by Emma Myatt at August 23, 2006 05:46 AM GMT
 
 

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