ON THE ROAD AGAIN!

It’s winter in Western Australia, and I’m on the road, tapping out this blog on my iPad, which is perched on my lap in the front passenger seat of our Toyota Landcruiser. Hubby and I are driving north, chasing the sun. We’re travelling on ‘a straight and narrow highway’, spinning our wheels for more than one thousand kilometres in the hope that we’ll be transported from the chilly south of the State to warm temperatures in the north.

It’s almost a ritual for us around this time of year to drive north to get warm!  And with Covid continuing to restrict overseas travel, many more Australians are doing exactly the same thing this winter – heading to the northern areas of the country to find a taste of summer! In Western Australia, we are able to achieve this within our own State, meaning we don’t have to worry about being caught in interstate Covid lockdowns and quarantine periods to cross State borders.

Our Western Australian community remains free of community Covid cases, so we have few restrictions. Social distancing and hand washing are still encouraged, and we have a Government app on our phones for contact tracing. We don’t have to wear masks, though we are carrying some in our luggage in case things change.

Famous winter holiday upmarket places such as Broome, Darwin and Cairns are packed out – elbow room only. So we’ve opted for the less busy Gascoyne region capital of Carnarvon, by the Indian Ocean.

Carnarvon Shire covers nearly 50,000 sq kilometres, so although we passed into the region an hour or so back, we are still about 120 k from the town of Carnarvon.   We are already being rewarded for our mammoth road trip effort as the temperature has warmed up to a sunny 23 degrees.

I’ve written about Carnarvon on this blog before.  So take a look at that article – WA’s REMOTE UNIQUE CARNARVON on April 14 – if you haven’t already read it. I’ll try not to repeat myself! Yes, it is another revisit! But in a more ‘as it happening’ way. I’m on the road, and taking you with me!

My camera and phone are both at my feet as we drive.   Both at the ready to take photos, and keep me amused on this long trip.  The phone is pretty useless for anything else, as there is scant phone communication available outside of the main towns en route. As many photos are taken from our moving car, they aren’t the best quality. Nor, on this iPad, can I seem to insert captions. Hopefully, you’ll figure it out 😎.

As we drive, we are managing to tune into some reasonable radio coverage with a station pumping out endless blocks of music hits from the 70’s and ‘80’s.  Very little commentary, very few ads.  No annoying talkback.  Bliss. Bryan Ferry is singing ‘Let’s stick together’ right now! Of course, we have playlists at the ready from our own music collections. But that presents a travel debate ..his music or mine 🧐

Because this highway north is so incredibly straight, you can read without motion sickness.  I have ‘The Beekeeper of Aleppo’ loaded onto the iPad.

As we move further north, the opportunity to read goes. I need to keep my eyes peeled on the road ahead, watching out for stray cattle, goats, emus, kangaroos and sheep that might wander onto the road.  A major traffic hazard in the Australian outback.  Hubby is driving, and he needs all the help he can get to spot them and avoid a collision. We’ve already seen all of them, except roos, this morning feeding by the side of the highway. At one point a small family of goats ambled slowly across the highway ahead of us. We quickly reduced our speed. I like a good goat curry – but not one mixed with a Landcruiser!

The weather keeps changing as we travel. Overcast and drizzle, clear skies and then back to clouds and more light rain.
But the temperature is definitely rising. Outside the car now, it’s 22 degrees Celsius. The mix of rain and warmth seem to be bringing out the birds
.

As we get closer to Carnarvon, we spot egrets. The Gascoyne region is a birder’s delight!

A few minutes ago we spotted a little pipit bird standing stock still on the road centreline.  He didn’t seem at all bothered by us or roadtrains thundering past.  Was he being daring or just experiencing a zen moment?

Eagles are soaring above us …. two wedgetails in a playful tussle in the sky.  If I’m lucky, I’ll get a good photo of an Eagle on this trip.

A flash of bright lime green to the side of the car captures my attention.  A flock of parrots flying low, parallel to us.  Are they trying to keep pace?  

The countryside is flat, apart from Mensa that suddenly rise up ahead in the landscape …imposing, magnificent.

It’s also very green here this year … unusual for the Gascoyne.  A cyclone 8 weeks ago passed through here, and there’s been a lot of rain since. Rivers like the Wooramel below have water flowing for the first time in years! The wildflower season in spring should be magnificent.

The rain, however, has seen floods close many of the unsealed roads and tracks that we usually follow to some of the region’s natural attractions.

This is an area of Australia where you drive hundreds of kilometres without seeing a building.  And when you do see one, it’s likely to be a Roadhouse .. basically a service station with a small convenience shop, public toilets, and sometimes some very basic accommodation.  We pulled into one – the Overlander – for morning coffee.  Diesel cost close to 150 cents a litre…unleaded petrol 150.9!  Lucky our tank still has plenty of fuel, though prices will increase the further north we travel.

The car park at the Overlander was packed with 4wD pulling caravans or boats!  The coffee was not good, and I poured most of it into the dirt, which up here is orange. It becomes more red the further north you go.

We  hope to reach Carnarvon in time for a late lunch.  We would have been on the road today for about five hours by then after overnighting at the coastal town of Geraldton en route. That’s a relatively short hop going north. If we travelled further than Carnarvon we could be looking at 8 hour drives.

A FEW HOURS LATER

We’ve arrived, and headed straight out to the Harbour to our favourite cafe for a meal and mango smoothie. Carnarvon grows wonderful mangoes and this particular cafe has always bought them in bulk when in season from the local plantations and frozen them to blitz with high/low milk for the most fabulous smoothies. They do the same with bananas, also grown here in Carnarvon plantations.
I’d heard the cafe changed hands three weeks ago, and has a new name. But I presumed its famous smoothies would have been retained on the menu. Never presume! Not a mango or banana smoothie in sight! Some fancy mixes with berries and other produce, but the simplicity of a quality smoothie abandoned. So my quest for the next few days, find a new mango smoothie Mecca!

We have four days here before we head for a Station (ranch) stay! Stay tuned!

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