Leaving the whale sharks to play on the reef, it was time to head across into the Pilbara and Karijini National Park. It was a decent haul, so we broke the trip with a station stay at Cheela Plains; a cattle station that offers camping and motel accommodation to campers and miners alike. The next morning we continued to Tom Price and the scenery was stunning. Red and purple undulations soon became hills then mountains. We had a lunch stop in Tom Price (taking the obligatory photos of massive mining equipment), then finished the journey to our final destination, Karijini National Park.
Karijini Eco Retreat comprises tents and bush camping with basic facilities (solar hot water showers and flushing toilets). There is also a restaurant & café onsite. The attraction of this area is the magnificent gorges which you can explore on foot and if you are brave, swim in too. The pictures tell the story best, but suffice to say it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever explored. Massive ancient rock, in every hue of red and orange punctuated by boulders and gentle waterfalls. Stunning. The kids loved the walks and handled the challenge well. Our favourite was a 6km adventure that saw us view a peaceful fern lined pool before walking up through a massive gorge to a waterfall.
The kids also loved hanging out at camp with some new friends. Two little girls who’s parents (one drove a tug boat and the other was a primary teacher), had moved temporarily from Port Lincoln in South Australia to Port Headland. Together the kids rode bikes and constructed hideouts from sticks. We nearly lost them in the red dust – but they just thought it was the best place on earth!
Our next destination was Broome – some 800km north of Karijini. So we headed off, breaking the trip at Pardoo Station (nice enough but a bit of a retirement village if I’m honest) and 80 Mile Beach (a lovely shell filled beach that was great to explore). There were lots of road trains on these sections, although fortunately no one doing anything stupid. And so, given they length of these drives, it was time for the first officer to step up and share the load. So mum wore the captains badge and brought Zizi into Broome without incident.
Broome was a special spot on this trip as it was the place I would celebrate my 40th birthday. The kids did some secret shopping and took me out for a lovely breakfast…but the real present was to come. Anthony had organised a stay up at Cape Leveque in a safari tent. So, leaving Zizi to have a rest, we drove some 200km up to the Cape to stay at a place called Kooljaman. The road was half bitumen, half dirt/sand. Fairly corrugated in parts – you wouldn’t want to drag your van along it but it was no problem in a 4WD.
When we arrived at Kooljaman we were shown to our tent, called ‘Jumbi’ (each tent is named after a significant elder). Now when I say we were in a ‘tent’, those of you who know me that it was of course, on a platform with beds, ensuite and outdoor deck. But hey, this was my 40th after all! Kooljaman is owned and run by local indigenous community. It offers camping, eco tents, tours and best of all – the most amazing dining overlooking the ocean.
Again, I will let the photos do the talking. You will see – the scenery here, combined with its remoteness, makes it a very special location. The water was warm, the sand is white and did I mention the dining? No camp food or bush tucker required – Koojaman has a restaurant where a Michelin trained chef produces some of the best food I’ve ever tasted! The other highlight up here was a day trip out to Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Cygnet Bay is now third generation owned and run and is the oldest Australian producer of south sea pearls. The kids learnt all about the lengthy process of seeding a Pearl, waiting for it to grow over two years, before the tricky harvesting process. Thomas was of course more interested in discussing the number of divers killed by shark attacks.
Having put on a few kilos, we headed back to Broome to continue the birthday celebrations. The kids had organized a massage for me followed by another lovely dinner. So I certainly celebrated well!
As we watched the camels wander along Cable Beach, I understood why so many people love Broome. It’s beautiful, it has all the infrastructure and if you look on the weather map of Australia on any day in June – at 30 degrees with no humidity, it is THE only place to be! How will I manage a Coledale winter next week??!
Cheela Plains and Dales Gorge (Karijini National Park)
Hancock Gorge (Karijini National Park)
Joffre Gorge (Karijini National Park)
Eighty Mile Beach
Cape Leveque - Camp Kooljaman