Technically after Denham (Australia’s westernmost town) near Monkey Mia, but especially after Ningaloo, we are officially traveling more eastwards than westward in our clockwise lap of Australia. This was commemorated with another foray into the Outback, in the Pilbara region. This was a recommendation from the family we visited after Perth and was a good one.
Although few people live in the region, it is full of wildlife. Most notably right now are the birds, which love to flit in front of the van and perform evasive maneuvers. However, these evasive maneuvers are best suited to avoiding birds of prey, not big blue walls that are hurtling at them at 90 kph (55 mph). Makes for a very nerve-wracking drive when you really don’t like making roadkill. Surprisingly, most of them seem to escape death (and if they don’t, I don’t want to know about it), even if it is by going under our vehicle. I guess that extra under-chassis height does pay off in more ways than one.
This region of Australia really has RED dirt. It is really extraordinary. They have everything in the red spectrum from pale blushes of pink and orange to deep violet. Truly gorgeous to observe. The red dirt in the States doesn’t hold a candle to what you see out here. Plus, there are always lots of wildflowers here, which is always a plus in my book. The downside is that it is really obvious when you have dirt everywhere and this red dirt seems particularly “sticky”. It clings to everything and is difficult to remove.
This is a Sturt Desert Pea. I have been chasing this since the first National Park in South Australia. This flower was on their logo, but it was so weird-looking I didn’t know what it was. So glad I finally got to see one in person.
First major stop was Karajini National Park. This beautiful park is jam-packed with dramatic gorges. Probably the best way to explore them is via hikes into the bottoms of the gorges, but with my knee still out-of-sorts, we mostly stuck to the lookouts, which were still pretty eye-catching.
We did venture into a few more accessible gorges with shorter walks and easier steps. The first one yielded a pleasant surprise of huge bats hanging from trees. These things were enormous, probably 18 inches or half a meter tall with a wingspan twice that. I believe these are fruit bats, but I didn’t read any material on that to verify.
The only downside is that right now these parks are packed and everyone was going for a swim. Made it hard to get great pictures.
From there, we went up to the oasis in the desert, Millstream Chichester National Park. Truly interesting to find a true oasis. It had been a homestead and station for many years, so many parts were modified for irrigation ditches for gardens, etc.
At this point, I finally filled up my micro SD card after 3 years, so I had to delete old pictures each time I wanted to take a new picture, until I could get out my computer to delete them in bulk.
We made a journey back to the coast to get food supplies and fuel and decided to head back into the Pilbara to investigate Carawine Gorge on our way to Broome. Along the way, we decided to stop at Marble Bar, which makes its claim as the hottest town in Australia. The town experienced 160 consecutive days of temperatures above 100F (37.8C) in 1923-1924. It is also part of the largest local authority in the Australia (3rd largest in the world), the Shire of East Pilbara. It is named for a rock outcropping of jasper that was originally thought to be marble.
The trail into the Carawine gorge is 4WD, but we didn’t really have any trouble until we hit the gorge, which is covered in deep gravel. We only got stuck a little bit once and were able to get out pretty quickly. Apparently the area is a working cattle station, so we had cows for neighbors and a great view.