Up at 7am and time to pack everything, tie down everything else, and get on the road, which we successfully did by 9am. Just for fun we set the sat nav, and it showed 474 Kms to our destination. David drove the first leg, mostly because I didn’t want to drive the caravan down the narrow road with gravel on the edges. There were emus *everywhere* along the roadside for the first 10 kms or so. I’d gone from never having seen an emu in the wild, to having completely lost count in one short holiday. Thankfully they all stayed off the road, for the safety of them and us. As David said, several times, they just look like bushes until they lift up their heads!
Soon enough we got caught up behind the obligatory slower vehicle, which in this case was a caravan doing around 90, on and off. No way to consider passing on the narrow road, and only being able to do 10k’s more wouldn’t allow it anyway, so he just accepted his lot. And I relaxed, knowing he wasn’t going to frighten me half to death. Then he said to me “There’s something huge in the road ahead of that van!” The van in front obviously was not so observant as it suddenly braked and slightly swerved to the left, sending up a cloud of dust from the gravel shoulder, and then a truly massive eagle took flight. It was such an impressive sight for the few moments we were able to grab as it flew away. The incredible strength of those wings, and the wing span had it in the distance in a matter of seconds. I grabbed the camera and screwed myself around, trying to get a photo out of the back driver’s window, but with the dog on my lap my movement was limited a bit. I got a shot of a grey shape through a dirty window. If only we’d been the front vehicle David would have slowed down in plenty of time for me to have got plenty of photos. But as it was we were just grateful that the eagle had safely lived through the experience, and that mattered more.
Marley began to pant a lot and it was not warm in the least in the aircon in the car. I didn’t know what to do for her to make her comfortable and began to worry that she was going to die, and I began to cry. She is *really* frail and skinny, and with the long day and traumas of yesterday it seemed fairly likely. I didn’t tell David, and was upset on and off for about half an hour before he asked why I was so quiet, and then he saw. There had been a few times through the holiday that I’d felt like crying – I think it was just through everything that had been going on for us so far this year, and perhaps the relief at having a break from it all, but now it was all coming out. We’d reached the end of Shark Bay Rd and David pulled over before we would turn onto the North West Coastal Highway. We got out of Billie and David hugged me, and I fell apart. A very strange place, and a very strange time to be sobbing my heart out. The worst was soon over and David suggested that I drive, so I did.
Marley sat on David’s lap and seemed back to her usual self. It was only 47 kms from the turn-off to Billabong Roadhouse where we intended to lunch once more, but time enough for me to get stuck behind another ‘van doing 80 – 85 kph for almost 30 kms. You sure do get sick of the sight of the back of a vehicle in that helpless length of time. But at last there was a long straight stretch with nothing coming the other way and me, the woman terrified of overtaking, was off. I accidentally went a little faster than I should have, but Billie was up for it and we left the menace in the distance in no time at all. Then it was a free run for the rest of the way to Billabong.
We ordered our fish and chips with eagerness for those beautiful chips again, and when they were brought out the lady announced “I’m new here. My very first day as chef today!” And we thought ‘Oh!’ But they were almost as good as the last time. Very, very almost!
As David had finished his meal we heard a rumour that there was a haulpak heading our way. I said to David “Do I hurry and finish?” and he said not to worry about it so I carried on eating. Once I finished he took the plates in to go and give our compliments to the chef, and then the haulpak went past, heading south. Oh dear!!! It was 12.11pm.
Once we’d got back to Billie and used our own facilities it was 12.20pm as we left Billabong. I wondered how long it would be until we caught up with the haulpak, and how that would work
Perhaps surprisingly, we didn’t catch up with the haulpak until 12.40. He was doing between 60 and 80 depending if the road was a little uphill, flat, or downhill. I would hate to see him tackle a steep or long incline. There was a rear pilot vehicle on the absolute right of the road behind it, but trust me, nothing could come the other way. All oncoming vehicles, whether car, truck or road train, were stationary on the gravel beside the road.
The load was massive. The wheels hanging off the left of the truck were hitting the white reflector posts beside the road and the right wheels were at least half way filling the oncoming lane. Only a motorbike could have passed it.
Considering I was the first vehicle behind it, with a 20 minute head start, I knew that he must pull over to let vehicles behind him get through eventually, so I was quite at peace. Until the pilot vehicle pulled to the left and started waving his arm out of the window at us, indicating that I should pass. How??? I said out loud “I won’t fit!!!” And David said “Off you go!” All I could see was about a quarter of a single lane, white reflector posts beside the road, and gravel on the right of them. Go where, exactly?
I had no choice. I waited for a reflector post to go by and then swung wide with about one quarter of my car and caravan on the road and the other three quarters on the gravel. It’s not even as if I could take my time, as there was another reflector post coming, so I had to get on with it. I’ve no idea of my speed, but would guess around 80kph. On gravel, with a caravan in tow. Good grief! But I have to say that none of it was as scary as I’d have expected, nor as scary as if I’d known about it ahead of time and had the time to worry. Now I should have a free run. Until I came up behind the front pilot. We thought it was a police car, but it was Weights and Measures, with all the flashing lights and the whole shebang. He shocked us both by moving to the right side of the road and waving me through on his left. We were going up a hill with no vision for him of what was coming towards us! But we got safely through without causing anyone to die thank goodness. Biggest surprise of all was yet another pilot vehicle, this time it was a police car, about 5kms further ahead. He did the exact same thing and went into the oncoming traffic lane so that I could pass him on the left. This guy most certainly didn’t have anything ahead looking out for him, but that manoeuver was safely achieved as well.
So after all of that I had an amazing run for a considerable length of time until a road train went the other way and I let out a “Whoah!!!” The wind from the road train had blown my mirrors – towing and normal wing mirror – in towards my driver’s window. I had to wind down the window and push them out again while doing 100 kph.
Soon after that was a slow moving caravan, but although I got a passing lane fairly soon, I then copped a slow semi-trailer and I was stuck. This helped our decision to pull into the roadhouse in Northampton to get fuel and let him get further ahead.
David took the wheel once more and other than the mirrors blowing in 2 more times because of road trains, he had a clear run. He grudgingly told me later ‘You get all the adventures!’
Once in Dongara again we were headed to a different caravan park. We wanted to try out 2 of the 3 for future reference. The sat nav led us a very strange route indeed but because of that we got to see a very interesting ‘monkey tree’ (photo later).
We arrived at Dongara Tourist Park at about 4.15 so it hadn’t been a bad run all up. We got all set up, swept, and Marley fed by 5.30. I really loved sweeping the concrete pad. I enjoy sweeping and after the crushed shell base of the last week it was good to be in ‘civilisation’ again.
We cooked a Thai Cream of Chicken Soup for our dinner and the world lurched a little through the evening for me. A little bit of land sickness. Not totally unexpected really and it didn’t bother me. Some TV and bed at 10.30.
Up at 7am and washed my hair, managing to use all of the hot water – whoops. At 8.40 we went to the office to ask if we could extend our stay by one more day. All was going well with David’s parents, so why not?
We had our cameras and walked to go and photograph the monkey tree, towing Marley in her trolley. Then suddenly there was a large white and brown dog standing in the street in front of us. Neither of us liked the look of it and I was scared for Marley more than us. David tried to distract it while I raced ahead with Marley and it followed us at a little distance for a while until it saw a lady walking another dog and raced after them. I think it frightened that lady too as it lunged at her dog, but they didn’t fight thankfully. It followed her down the street though. We were able to take our photos in relative peace, but I was on high alert watching for the horrible dog to come back. Anyway, the garden we’d come to photograph had many, many statues and a gorgeous and unusual windmill that David in particular loved.
We then found our way easily to the foreshore and walked up and down a bit. It took us a while to realise we were walking the same parts as last time, having approached from the other end, and on the road rather than the beach front of last time. But there was certainly nothing worth seeing, so we turned back along the road in the direction of the caravan park again. Marley walked a little bit. She was really getting to love her tiny walks. Perhaps fortunately, we had put her back in her trolley when the grass ran out. We crossed the road and began walking along the path in front of some houses when suddenly a dog barked and leapt up onto the waist-high wall next to us, frightening the life out of us, and of course, in our minds, yet another potential threat to Marley. This was all now way beyond a joke! The owner was in the garden and apologised, calling the dog back. Now we’d have believed this apology had we not driven past the spot again later in the day only to see the exact same performance as the dog leapt up and frightened a much older couple as they walked by. Port Denison doesn’t appear to be a pleasant place to walk with a feeling of safety.
We managed to get back to Rosie without further threat and were making ourselves some maple bacon pancakes for lunch, but as we were doing that Marley wandered away. I’d thought David put her in her little enclosure to have a drink, but no, he’d left her loose, ‘knowing’ that she never walks more than a few steps. I turned off the gas, and with our hearts pounding, we went looking for her. She was gaily walking down the caravan park roadway about 5 bays away. Cheeky little varmint! No point giving David dirty looks. After 42 years of marriage I know full well that he will always live life in the belief nothing bad could ever happen. I envy him his conviction!
We finished cooking our lunch, and as we ate, a few clouds began to come over and the sky began to darken a bit. Considering it had been raining moderately-to-heavily in Perth for almost our entire time away, we could hardly complain. Deciding that we’d go to Dongara and take some photos for the afternoon, we piled into the car with our cameras. I’d set a challenge for us to see who could take the best photo of the gorgeous Moreton bay fig trees down Dongara’s main street. We often challenge each other, and always end up easily agreeing on the winner. So this is the winning shot, which was David’s.
It was lovely to chat to a few of the very laid-back locals as we walked the short distance up and down the main street. They were really friendly and there were no horrible stray dogs there either. The very best, most fun part was the tyre shop. They had an incredible array of tyre art outside and we loved it all and took quite a few photos. It was all so creative, and beautifully executed. Bravo to the artist!
After this we wandered along the nearby riverside, dictated by us choosing to follow wherever Marley led. We were rather surprised how far she went. All of the little walks each day must have been building up her fitness. Then there was a historic house to walk around and peer through a window, followed by a relatively aimless drive around. We came across a hill with wooden stairs leading up to a shelter/look out and, always loving a climb given the chance, David carried Marley up there in her baby sling. The nearby beach still had the ever-sounding roar of the waves.
That was about all we could wring out of Dongara / Port Denison for activities so headed back to Rosie. It was 1.30pm and felt more like 4.30. At 2pm it started to rain so we’d timed it really well. It was time for a drink, and we shared a grapefruit, an avocado, and played some games before there was a persistent hammering at our door. It was a woman from the next caravan who had pulled up about 30 minutes before, demanding to know if we were leaving any time soon as she’d booked our spot for her friend *tomorrow*. I beg your pardon? If you have any admin enquiries go to the office, don’t bother us!!! I didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry. I think I’m still deciding actually. If we’d been out in the annex it would have been fine, but she was bent on nearly hammering our door down.
Tonight’s dinner, our final holiday meal, was lemon fish risotto. David rang his parents, as he’d done every afternoon and asked his mum if it had been raining down there and she replied “I don’t know, I haven’t been out!” For someone with alzheimers, who wouldn’t know if you’d poured water directly over her head 3 minutes ago, she totally amazes me at how quickly she comes up with reasons as to why she doesn’t know the answers to things. I couldn’t do it if you gave me 10 minutes to think it up! Dad came on the phone and reported that she’s slowed down a bit today but ‘isn’t a bloody nuisance like’. I love the way he words things sometimes. He said they’ve had *heaps* of rain the whole time we’d been away. It rained quite heavily for us around 9pm, but we were snuggly and warm and headed to bed at 10.30.
Awake by 7am we went through all the familiar pack-up routines and were in Billie, with Rosie hitched behind, and heading to the office at 9.20 – not bad. The instructions on the sat nav were to continue on this road, next instruction being to go straight through a roundabout in 261 Kms.
David took the first leg of the drive and we made a brief stop just south of Leeman to let a really slow VW Kombi get ahead and out of our way. There’s only so much you can stand of doing less than 80kph in a 110k limit.
We decided to stop for lunch in Jurien Bay, and the long-vehicle parking placed us right next to the Jurien Bayview Bakehouse and we chose a fisherman’s basket each. I managed to sit with the sun on my back, which made up for the cold wind, and the contents of the fisherman’s basket were very nice indeed. We’re not sure how they can claim a ‘bay view’ though.
Back into Billie by noon and I drove, which meant that I copped the still half-closed Guilderton Bridge again, but I was an old hand by now. We had to be back home before 3pm to pick up our grandchildren from school and in the end that meant going straight there with the caravan still attached. I’d already put the 2 mermaids on the bed and as we collected the girls I told them “There’s someone in Rosie that’s keen to meet you!” They absolutely *loved* them and almost immediately named them Crystal and Emerald. It was a very happy way to end our first long caravan holiday.
We’d done 2,100 kms in the 9 days.
Here are a final few photos that wouldn’t reasonably fit in the story itself…
Next big adventure coming up in November – don’t forget to check back 🙂
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