Wed 19th July
I didn’t even want to get out of bed. This holiday has had no assurance that we’d actually be able to take it ever since we booked it in January, and the doubts had been taking their toll so much that there had been no joyful anticipation whatsoever. Quite the opposite, we’d spent the 6 months in ever-increasing… well, misery. I’m going to be truthful and call it what it was. We had a cuppa and looked at each other in emotional exhaustion, wondering if today would see us heading north for some freedom, or staying home as we’d had to do for David’s last leave from work in November. David then phoned his dad to make sure mum was in good health today, and we could dare to go on our holiday, praying constantly that she would remain well while we were away. It was to be a very long drive and we hoped not to have to turn around and come back again prematurely.
We’d done most of the packing on Monday (Tuesday having been my birthday and a busy day), and now only had the final few bathroom items, batteries, computers, chargers etc to put into the caravan after the dreaded phone call. All was thankfully well with his parents and we grabbed the dog, locked the doors, and started hitching the van to the car. This involves having the car sticking out onto the road as we live half way round a bend – but this can’t be helped.
There was hardly any traffic as we headed north. I drove for the first 2 hours, which got us as far as Cervantes. It was a lovely drive with only 2 brief stops for roadworks. One was where they’d shut the eastern half of Guilderton Bridge and it was down to one *very* narrow lane. The caravan just fitted with about 2” to spare on either side. I did not do the 40 kph the signs requested as I drove through that’s for sure, and I’m sure the cars behind me understood.
Soon we were through the roadworks and able to do 100 again. I came up behind another caravan at one point who was only doing 80, but an overtaking lane soon arrived and I ‘blew him away’ in the distance; our vehicle and van being very happy and capable to do the hundred. All vehicles with trailers are limited at 100 kph as top speed anywhere in Australia, even though the road limit was 110 for cars.
Once in Cervantes we decided to eat at the Country Club. We’d been here once before and remembered it as a nice meal. But this time we had our little dog, Marley, so we had to sit outside. It was fairly cool in the shade, but the wind was quite strong and bitterly cold. David went inside for menus and I looked around to see if I could find a table out of the wind – and away from a smoker who had just decided to light up. Thankfully there was a table in a sheltered annex around the back so I made it mine by depositing my rear end on its bench seat. Marley had her nice warm double-layer knitted coat on too, so she was warm enough. The meals were delivered by a very nice friendly guy and the food was delicious. We had prawn and scallop salads and relished every delicious morsel.
We set off again at 1.05pm with David driving, so that meant I had Marley on my lap. She’s much loved, so always gets to sit on the passenger’s lap, even though she’s getting old and we have a towel between her and our lap. (I won’t humiliate her by saying why.) She loves the car and the snuggle time so much. David had a lovely uneventful journey and we arrived at the Big 4 caravan park in Port Denison at 2.54pm. I got Marley out of the car to see if she wanted to use the grass and she tottered a few steps unsteadily while David went into the office to check in. The lady said to him “I’ve seen your old dog. I won’t make you sign the dog policy.” We laughed our heads off. Poor little Marley, it was very obvious she wasn’t going to hoon around the park barking, chewing or menacing anyone.
Our allocated site was between 2 other vans and we were facing south. Under normal circumstances I’m sure this would be no trouble at all, but during the evening the wind got stronger and stronger from the ocean. Because we were side-on to it the van was being rocked quite a lot. I kept my peace (just barely!) by knowing that we’d been doing 100 kph on the way here, passing trucks in the other direction doing 100 kph, so potentially it wouldn’t tip over unless winds exceeded 200 kph, and it didn’t feel as if that was the case. Speaking to the lady in the caravan furthest from the beach the next morning she said that she’d been scared all night long. The other thing was a constant roar and I took ages to realise it was the waves. I’ve never heard waves make such a constant noise – there were no undulations of any description, no individual wave noises at all, just a constant, steady, unromantic roar all evening, all night and all morning. However, we snuggled down under our electric blanket and slept well. The caravan park itself was pretty ordinary, but I’m sure it would be lovely in summer, being just a few steps from a little beach. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
At 4pm David rang his dad to see how things were (he always rings twice a day to check, and see if there’s anything he needs to do). And that’s all I’m going to say about that phone call. David wished that he’d forgotten to make it. So did I, as it left me unsettled until well into the next day.
We grabbed our cameras and went for a soul-healing meander along the grassed foreshore, allowing Marley to toodle along for a few steps but then David put her into her ‘baby sling’ so he could carry her hands-free. We photographed the little old pier and then tried to get photos of the seagulls in flight. This was difficult until one of them, who I’ve named Mr Showoff, came to quite literally pose for us. He flew right above our heads a little north and then let the wind bring him south again, repeat, repeat, repeat. As many times as we would point our cameras at him, he flew and posed, proudly watching our every move. I honestly thanked him out loud when we were done!
We then ambled along the other side of the street back to the van as there was honestly not a lot to see, and decided to drive to the sister-town, Dongara, for a look around there. The only other time I’ve seen Dongara was literally a drive-through on our way to Geraldton a few years ago, and it was only 5 minutes away. We drove around a bit but again, not much to see other than their lovely trees down the main street and I’ll say more about those much later. It was getting towards dusk so we went back to Rosie (the caravan) and cooked fish burgers in homemade coconut flatbread, and then spent the evening vegging out, watching some videos and generally trying to forget our normal lives.
We’d gone to bed around 11.30 – extremely early for us. I woke at 7. David had been up since 6am when Marley had asked for her breakfast, and he’d had the pleasure of seeing 2 beautiful sea eagles flying overhead just as it was getting light. It was still windy. There had been some fairly heavy rain a few times but we were snug and warm in Rosie and it stopped raining each time we needed to go outside to pack up ready to travel again. We mapped out 2 stops for driver changes, as today we had a lot further to travel – 395 kms, approximately 5 hours if we did it non-stop, which we had no intention of doing.
David’s drive to Geraldton was uneventful and we stopped there for some fuel and to stretch our legs briefly, and then David continued driving until a bit north of Northampton where I took over. I got stuck behind a convoy of 2 caravans doing between 88 and 100 as the mood took them, which was a bit frustrating after 20-30 kms of it, but David later got 2 doing only 85 so I considered myself lucky in hindsight.
After roughly 200 kms, 132 of which has no towns, no side streets, or any other distractions along the road, we reached Billabong Roadhouse and stopped there for fish, chips and salad for lunch. I wasn’t really expecting much of it, seeing as they had a captive audience (it was another 200 kms to anything further north along the road too!) but the food was deeelishus! The chips in particular were truly world class and it was a very pleasant spot indeed, sitting in the wonderful sunshine. Far away now from the winter rains that Perth was having, and were still forecast for the week ahead.
Then we were on our way again with David doing the final stint of driving. We’d been glimpsing ocean on and off between Perth and Geraldton but hadn’t seen it at all since then. After turning left 47 kms north of Billabong, and then continuing for another 85 kms, we realised we must finally be travelling up the Shark Bay promontory, having seen some ocean on our right at last. Seeing ocean on your right while heading north is all wrong for WA, but we coped ha ha! A bit further on there was a sign that said Shell Beach, and we decided we’d stop and have a look.
A short walk from the parking area we truly did see a beach entirely made of shells. Apparently the beach stretches for 120 kms and is up to 10 metres deep in places. All of the bright white shells were identical. No sand, nothing but shells for a hugely wide beach in every direction, it was fascinating. We probably only stayed for about 10 – 15 mins, but it was lovely to see.
A short distance further and the most beautiful bay I’ve ever seen was laid out on our left, fairly close to the road. We probably should have stopped, but the end of the journey was in sight (well, still about 50 kms away) and it was obvious we would barely arrive before dusk, so we continued on our way.
The narrow road, one lane in each direction and absolutely no hard shoulder, continued onwards. This one road is 100 kms long with only a few tracks to lookouts, all on the left except for Shell Beach. I was glad I wasn’t driving. I don’t like driving with no hard shoulder, as the very sight of gravel along the sides scares me. At some point along this road, heading north, we apparently crossed the 26th Parallel. Interesting to know.
As it turned out, we arrived at Shark Bay (well, Denham really) about 4.30 so it was well before dusk. The Shark Bay Caravan Park didn’t have a single blade of grass anywhere to be seen. To be truthful, hardly any of the houses round about had grass either. We’d already been told that water is precious this far north, so watering grass is obviously not done. The surface of the entire caravan park was crushed white shells and had a beauty all its own. It was certainly practical and hardly any got trodden into the caravan during our stay. The town electricity seemed to be provided by 4 big wind turbines that we had seen in the final approaches to the town. It was a very self-sufficient place.
The caravan sites were all a bit close together really and the people in the van behind us were like ants making a constant beeline between their van, past the corner of ours and on to the bathrooms and back again. I always worry that our TV will disturb the neighbours in the evenings, but David assures me that Rosie is well insulated.
David separated the car and the van and did all the outside stuff that he does while I did the inside duties. Then he began setting up the annex and I asked for the flyscreen back and front walls, so he put up the solid one at the back and was going to leave the front open. I wanted my pilates exercise mat in there so needed it to be private. I also didn’t know that we only have one flyscreen wall, I thought we had two. He was going to change it for me, but it was now 6.40, he still hadn’t rung his father, and had only just finally come inside after moving the car around (in my opinion unnecessarily). I was getting a bit fed up and felt that he’d be messing around until midnight the way he was going. All I wanted was to sit quietly together and have some peace. Just signs of being drained rather than anything he was actually doing wrong.
I made David ring his father from inside the car where I couldn’t hear any of it and then he finally came inside. To settle down for the evening? No, not yet. The caravan door wasn’t shutting properly. He slammed it at least 8 times to check!!! I told him “We’ll be evicted soon if you keep that up!” He laughed – as intended. Considering that every time he’d opened the back of the car it let out a high pitched noise as well. LandCruisers do that, but between that, door slamming, clattering around erecting the annex… well, let’s just say he’s not a quiet person LOL Have to give credit though, he didn’t swear while putting the annex up – just for a change. He went out and let one of the stabilisers down a bit and then only had to slam the door 3 more times to ensure he’d fixed the problem. Thankfully, for the sake of me and the neighbours, he had!
Finally he was ready to come indoors to stay, and we prepared our dinner of bacon and eggs, with banana and celery salad. We ate, washed up and it was 8.40 already. I felt as if I didn’t know where I was. We hadn’t even looked around the camp site, much less the surrounding area! David set up the computer screen so that we could look at our photos to date, then we watched some TV and went to bed at 10.45.
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