Some say the gales come mainly in the summer months. Others shrug and say that’s the way it is all year.
“From now till March, you got anything to do outdoors you do it in the morning. In the afternoon it’s windy on the coast from here to Esperance,” said camp host Greg, checking us in to Cape Range National Park on Ningaloo Reef.
He was wrong. Further south along the reef and at Carnarvon the bloody wind proved more challenging than some of the boggy sand tracks where we tested Isabel’s ability to crawl over dunes.
We wanted to do the inland sand coastal track from Cape Range to Coral Bay. Isabel’s first little test was Yardie Creek, silted up at the mouth for five years. Sand at the creek crossing has been churned to powder but with 30psi tyre pressure Isabel walked through.
The track past towering cliffs and brilliant sand-fringed turquoise bays proved easy going. We planned a return visit to stay at one of the camps at Ningaloo Station – a better option coming from the south as the camp sites are a fair drive north of the station, so you have to do a fair bit of extra driving to book in, get a key to the gates, and then drive back to a camp site. Not surprisingly, the key has a $100 deposit because of the temptation to just keep driving north.
Jane at Ningaloo Station said a bit of sand was over the road on the coastal track to Coral Bay “but if you got through Yardie you will have no problem”. The bit of sand turned out to be a couple of decent sand blows where we took the discretionary side track.
We wondered about the sand blows coming in from the west and along the Fraser and Gold Coasts from the east. Will Australians one day end up clustered around Alice?
Isabel trekked in and out of sandy tracks as we looked for a free camp site but were put off by the blasting gusts of wind. And the signs that said “No camping”. We kept our eye out for a free site we had visited before north of Coral Bay. It is now run by an Aboriginal corporation and has fee charges. And wind, bloody wind.
We came across Vance, escaping on a week off from a mining services construction site in the north. His 4WD was jammed with diving, fishing and photographic gear. He followed us in ploughing over a challenging sandy hill to pretty Dog Rock bay. No “No camping” sign was in sight. It was worse. The sign said “No Fishing.” Mercifully, we were sheltered from the wind so we elected to stay.
Tony and Vance exchanged national parks conspiracy theories over a beer and wondered how we would get out the next morning. He also had some interesting stories about Aussie workers being paid off at construction sites in favour of Irish and East European workers on 457? visas. Suspected reason: they are not being paid properly and find themselves on the next plane home if they complain.
In third gear low range, Isabel strolled over the long sand hill out the next morning.
Coral Bay lived up to its name. It delivered neat pies at the bakery, head-shaking prices at the supermarket and bloody wind. Vince went snorkelling, found himself a long way out and had to swim hard to get back. We left him to spend the night at Coral Bay as he eyed the single girls strolling by.
We pushed on to Warroora Station and one of the finest camp sites yet on a sandy dune overlooking the bottom end of the reef.
In small bays and lagoons of glorious clear water we caught flathead, whiting and dart, watched sharks and turtles cruising by, listened to waves crashing on the reef at night, spoke to no-one else for a week but enjoyed the company of goats, sheep and red kangaroos with black ears. Idyllic. Except for one thing. Rattling up the greatest rate of knots yet, we didn’t call it Maria
ABOVE: Warroora Station - such a fabulous camp site. Shame about the wind..