Promotional guff about inviting places never mentions the flies, the mosquitoes or the sandflies. Or other strange insects.
“Let’s go to Cleaverville,” we said to Amber and Dean when they arrived at Dampier. They were on their week off from a mine near Karajini, exploring WA with Landcruiser, swag and fishing rods.
We had camped two nights before at the beachside, council-run Cleaverville, between Karratha and Roebourne. The camping ground was closed after the winter tourist season, which meant it was free instead of a small fee being paid to the ranger.
Back we trotted to Cleaverville to be greeted by wall-to-wall bush flies, as persistent as any we had ever met. “They weren’t here two days ago,” we said apologetically to the miners, peering at each other from behind head fly nets. “The sandflies were though.”
Tiny little buggers that could crawl through screens. We fished, relaxed and sipped cold beer wriggled under the nets. Winds howled on and off. Tony and Dean caught a couple of decent mud crabs then we pinged off to 40 Mile Beach south of Dampier where the “closed so it’s free” rule applied again.
We perched in a picturesque spot, fished and fought flies. Mercifully few sandflies appeared. Amber and Dean had taken to sleeping on top of Toddy Toyota to escape flying and biting creatures and heat but a sudden screaming wind almost hurled them into a magic carpet ride.
Tony stood knee-deep in water wondering if there was any substance to the crocodile warning sign. A loud splashing behind him was followed by a thrashing in front. He said something like “Oh my gosh” before high-tailing and high-stepping back to shore from a friendly metre-long shark, much to the enduring amusement of his future son-in-law.
Near the Old Onslow ruins is a superb free campsite along half a kilometre of the Ashburton River. It was closed but free. If you stay more than three nights you are supposed to let the council know, presumably in case of a need for evacuation. In the mid-summer the Three Mile Pool closes altogether because it is too wet but in the shoulder season you have your pick of the sites.
Here the miners were to have insect encounters of new kinds. Dozens of 25mm, black crunching beetles tried to get into the roof-top swag. Some made it. Some found the wooden chopping board and three bored their way into the timber.
The swag was tossed under a tree during the day. After dinner a repetitive, awed “Oh my God, Oh my God” came from Amber as they went to sling the swag rooftop for the night. A thousand or more light brown beetles had encrusted the swag (ABOVE). They seemed harmless but took some brushing to persuade them to leave the swag they had mobbed.
We retreated thankfully into Isabel. Some things are better left to younger adventurers.