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Sandy off road adventures

Francois Peron NP, Denham

sunny 30 °C
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After two days at Monkey Mia with the dolphins, it was time to pack up, as we wanted to head up into Francois Peron NP. Knowing that most of the national park is only accessible by high clearance 4WD, specifically Sam was looking forward to the national park.
After a couple of kilometers, it was time to reduce the tire pressure and off we went on the red sand towards Cape Peron. Along the way, we passed through some gypsum salt pans before the sections with the really deep sand started. Sam had fun, Max loved the excitement and I was glad that I did not have to drive myself.

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On our way north, we stopped at a beach with an excellent view of the adjacent red and white sand dunes. The landscape was simply great.
For lunch, we stopped at Cape Peron (which is named after a French naturalist who explored the area in the early 1800s). As it was really hot and the midday sun was burning down, we enjoyed the shade of picnic area until we were ready to head on. The lizards provided some entertainment while the mountains of small black beetles were rather static.

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Later in the afternoon, we hiked the nice trail along the coast to Skipjack Point. While we saw lots of tracks in the sand of various animals, most of them were hiding in the shade. All except the cormorants, which populated almost the full lengths of the shore.

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At Skipjack Point we were stunned by all the sea life we could observe from our viewpoint. We saw mantas, sharks, dugongs, turtles, cormorants and lots of fish. Wow – we could have stayed there for ages just observing.

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Our camp for the night was not far away. The Bottle Bay campground seemed almost empty and we had the pretty beach just for ourselves. What a beautiful sunset! And how windy…

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The next morning we headed again to Skipjack Point hoping to once more see lots of animals. But we soon realized that with the south easterly wind, there were huge waves coming in. And without visibility, there was no marine life to be seen (even though it was probably there). Still, it was a very pretty sight with the whitecaps in the rough sea.

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Eventually we decided to start our drive out of the national park. Once again we had to pass the sections of the road with deep sand. In one of those sections we were able to just barely pass by a car that was bogged in the sand and had its hood up. But shortly after we had to stop in a section with fairly deep sand ourselves, as there was a bogged camper van blocking the road. Its driver had gotten frustrated by the deep sand and had taken the absolutely wrong decision to try to turn around where the sand was deepest.

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As there were some Aussies already helping the Germans in the camper van, we headed back to the group of girls with the open hood. They had gotten bogged already so often on their way in that their clutch started smelling. The solution was pretty easy: we helped them to deflate their tires to 15 psi. Thanks to the pressure gauge Sam had bought the day before that was pretty easy. Then we told two of them to stay with us and advised the driver to go on to the next intersection and to turn around in the rather firm sand there. And the plan perfectly worked!
By the time this was done, two more cars were stuck in the sand behind them. So, two more times to deflate tires. And this time we also used the sand boards which are part of our 4WD accessories. And at least on the second try both cars were able to get away.

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We had lots of fun in the process, digging the cars out and using the sand boards. On the way out, we took the two girls with us in the car to the next gypsum pan, where their friend waited for them. In other words: we were the only car out of five that did not get bogged in that section!
After a well-deserved stop at Peron homestead to soak in the hot pool, we headed to one of Denham’s campgrounds. Max had already been looking forward for the last couple of days to use the jumping pillow there. And before too long, he met his new friend Charlie, and both raced around the campground on their bikes.

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But also, the playground in town was quite an attraction in itself. Max was happy to meet his old friend Cooper there again. And Sam and I enjoyed the nice setting along the beach and marveled at the excellent playground, which was potentially the nicest one we have encountered so far on our travels.

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That evening we had an excellent dinner at Australia’s most westerly hotel. The old pub served us a great seafood platter, but also Max was very pleased with his fish and chips.

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In principle, we had planned to stay in Denham only for one night before heading south again. But Max insisted to stay another night and soon enough we realized that a day without much sightseeing helped enormously to get our calendars and cards for Christmas done and uploaded. In the meantime, Max jumped endlessly on the jumping pillow, before we headed to the nice playground again.

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That evening we were invited at Max’s friend Charlie and his parents Chris and Debbie. What a nice evening with nice talks and good food! Once more Sam and I were amazed how friendly people are here and how easy it is to get in touch with others.
While packing up the next morning, Max was up at Charlie’s before going for a final round of jumps on the jumping pillow. Other kids are just the best babysitters!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 19:48 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset coast pub sand west jumping shark playground deep manta pillow dugong bogged Comments (0)

Start into 2017 - more exciting than expected

Porongurup NP, Tozer’s Bush Camp, Fitzgerald River NP, Wagin

32 °C
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New Year’s Day greeted us with the first sunshine for almost a week. That was great news, as we had not gone to Porongurup National Park so far hoping for nice weather. In the national park, we headed to Castle Rock and hiked our way up to the Granite Skywalk. The last bit was a fun scramble through and up the rocks and the reward for it was a spectacular view down into the plains far below us.

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We were not the only ones greeting the new year with a hike. But after our hike we were lucky to get a nice picnic spot and were able to use one of the free barbecue stations to make our lunch. The drive to Tozer’s Bush Camp close to Bremer Bay led us through some nice nature reserves.

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It had been a long day and we were happy once we arrived and could spend the rest of the evening in the big but cosy camp kitchen. Once the rugby fans were gone, it got more quiet and only few people remained. By coincidence someone switched TV channels and ended up at the New Year‘s Concert of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. We watched the full concert - just like every year. Except that this time we were in the middle of the Australian bush and had the luxury of being able to watch the concert in the evening vs. having to get up early in the morning to see it - after partying until the early hours of New Year's Day.
The next morning, we headed to the information center in Bremer Bay to inquire about the status of the roads in nearby Fitzgerald River National Park. Unfortunately, the people there were not really knowledgeable and seemed to talk about roads that they had never seen themselves.
We headed off into the national park and soon realized that the road we took was probably unpassable a couple of days earlier when it had rained. By now the road was passable again, but the bumps and holes in the road were a proof of other cars having gotten stuck. We passed without any issues – except being shaken to the bone and soon enough got into the sandier parts that made for more comfortable driving. Eventually we headed to House Beach and parked on the white fine sand – finer even than Cable Beach. When running over the sand, it even squeaked – a funny sound that I’d usually associate with gyms, but not with sandy beaches.

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After an extensive break during which several cars drove past us and went further along the beach, we decided to do the same in order to find a camp further up at Gordon Inlet or Point Anne. Gordon Inlet seemed not too tempting and so we continued along the beach further north.
At first, the drive was fun. On the hard sand, it was easy driving with the sea to our right and the dunes on the left. And romantically enough, we had the beach for ourselves. A bit later, we realized that all of that was not really too positive: at the point, when we eventually got bogged in the by then very soft sand, there was no one around to help us. And the sea would return eventually above the point where we were stuck with our heavy vehicle.
So I did what I do best in such situations: I panicked. And while Sam tried to stay calm, I eventually managed to make him nervous as well. Luckily enough, we had already some practice in getting other cars out of the sand. We reduced further our tire pressure, got the sand boards into position and edged our way slowly upwards further away from the waves.
Unfortunately, the edging away was only a couple of centimeters up at a time until we got stuck a couple of meters further on. Eventually we used our UHF radio system several times to see if there are other people around who might be able to help, but without response.
After like ten trials or so, we had gained maybe a meter upwards (not in height, but in distance from the waves) and I had calmed down to the point that I agreed to Sam’s proposal that he runs back along the beach. After all, we had passed someone camping in the dunes an estimated two kilometers back from where we were stuck.
In the meantime, while Sam was running back, I kept trying to gain more centimeters upwards. All gains were earned very hard and required digging the wheels and sand boards out every couple of minutes again and again.
As Sam ran back, he soon realized that it must have been further away than just two kilometers where we had passed that tent. Only once he had run for seven kilometers in the soft sand, he finally reached it. In there he met ‘Digger’, a friendly chap living there on the beach for several weeks in summer, who was happy enough to get some change and pleased to be able to help.
When they came along in Digger’s car, Max and I were really excited and happy to see them. Along with the thanks that I had made it quite a way up on the beach, they got to work right away. They decided to reduce the tire pressure even more to below 15psi. Already that helped enormously and with a single try Sam made probably 15m before getting stuck resulting in a full meter further away from the water. That was far enough to get the recovery kit to use and Digger helping with pulling us out.

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Latest by then, my panic had subsided and my mind was willing to allow other things than just digging and driving. So I got the camera and made a couple of shots to document the ordeal and the lucky ending with Digger pulling us out. Once also our car had made it up into the drive-able tracks along the upper end of the beach, both cars turned around and we headed back to Digger’s camp.

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The drive back in the tracks was fairly easy and we were happy not having to dig ourselves out anymore. Even though I was keen to just get off that beach as soon as somehow possible, we had to stop at Digger’s place to have a beer together. After all, who knows if we would have been able to even get out of where we were stuck by then.
Digger shared a couple of stories with us, told us about his life at the beach and the great salmon fishing. By the time we had finished our beers, we were ready to go. To avoid any further complications, we decided to simply go back to the place where we had gotten onto the beach and camped directly there, behind the dunes. After all, it was dark already and we were simply exhausted.
The next morning, Sam joked about driving onto the beach once more, but only to see my stern reaction that I’d veto any movements on the beach for the future, at least not whenever driving a rental car without any other cars around that are prepared to help.
We just walked down to the beach and had an enjoyable morning there. Down there, we realized that the tide had come all the way up to the dunes during the night. Lucky us, that we had managed to leave the beach for the night.
Even though the beach was stunningly beautiful, it was time to say good-bye to the Southern coast. Having gone through our options, we had decided not to continue onward to Esperance, but to rather start our journey back towards Perth, where a couple of days later we were supposed to return our car.

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So we headed out of the national park and back inland, where the temperatures were suddenly about 10 °C higher than what they had been at the coast. In Katanning, we had to stop at the All Ages Playground which features giant slides, swings and oversized rocking horses.

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We decided to stay in Wagin for the night, a nice town in the heart of the Southern wheat belt that is known for its sheep farming. We liked the place with the old buildings and the laid-back country atmosphere. At almost 40 °C in the late afternoon, it was a pity that the campground did not feature a swimming pool. But at least there was a shady park nearby with the ‘Giant Ram’. Quite a contrast vs. the empty beach we came from this morning!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:44 Archived in Australia Tagged beach sand concert playground wheat ram recovery inland bogged Comments (1)

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