Perth to Karratha via the inland road
We were away reasonably early and for once the weather was being kind to us. No clouds, no rain, just nice clear skies and cool temperatures.
This is the first long trip we have done with the Jayco Swan and we are loaded up with everything we need to go fishing up north. Previously we have only been out for long term trips in either a converted bus or a big caravan so the rather small Jayco Swan could turn out to be a bit of a challenge.
We took the back way north via Tonkin and Roe Hwys. The traffic was actually light for a Friday morning and eventually we were out of the suburbs and heading north through the Swan Valley and on through Bullsbrook.
New Norcia is a very interesting place to wander around for those who have not been there before. It is the only monastic town in W.A. and the architecture is rather striking. We have been there many times and had to reason to linger this time so we pressed on to our overnight stop at Jibberding.
The rest area is very large with room for many vans and motorhomes and it is possible to get well back from the main road. The only thing of any real interest was an old well that has been covered with mesh to make it more safe.
There were a lot of roadworks that slowed us down so progress was only about 350km.
Sections of this part of the road have been very bad for years so it is good to see a long stretch being fully upgraded.
Cue is an interesting old historic town with some very interesting old buildings. We had been through just 12 months ago so weren't stopping to look around this time.
25 Mile turned out to be a pretty awful rest area as it is frequented by noisy trucks and the road trains kept on roaring past until after midnight. There is plenty of room but a fence line keeps you from getting away from the noisy road. Road trains are common on this road and they roar past only minutes apart.
North of Meekatharra towns are a bit 'thin on the ground' with only the Kumarina roadhouse to refuel at before reaching Newman. We fuelled up at Kumarina which was a big mistake as we could have easily got to Newman and saved around $20.
Newman is a pretty ordinary place with nothing much of interest and few signs to tell you where anything is. There are some interesting 4x4 trails in the area but we didn't have time to stop and investigate these and Newman town is too much like a Perth suburb to be of any interest to us. We would have stopped at Coles if we could have found it but we couldn't so we topped up the fuel, had lunch and took off again.
The scenery was now starting to really become spectacular as we drove through the Hamersley Ranges. I love this area of W.A. and hope to come back again without fishing being on my mind so I can do some more exploring.
Our stop for the night was Mt. Robinson and it turned out to be a nice place to get away (a bit) from the road trains. We did manage to hear some dingoes howling in the hills and there was the occasional ore train in the valley below but we did get some good sleep here. It was also the coldest night we have spent on this trip so far but at least there were no flies - that had been driving us mad everywhere else.
We were planning to turn off the main road at Munjina (formerly called Auski) and head west to Wittenoom so we picked up yet another tank of fuel and asked if the Wittenoom - Millstream road was open. The staff at Munjina were completely unhelpful and seemed to know nothing about a road that runs past their front door. We fuelled up anyway and turned off the main road towards Wittenoom.
The road is sealed about half way to the old town and good gravel the rest of the way. There is little left of the town now but there are still 2 or 3 hardy souls calling the place home.
Most of the buildings are abandoned and the many personal belongings left behind make this sad place even more melancholy.
After we had wandered around for a while taking pictures, we headed up the Wittenoon-Roebourne Road with Millstream as our goal for the night. We took the route heading north and then west from Wittenoom but there is an alternate route heading west then north. Both roads intersect at a T junction and if you follow the route we took there is no sign post telling you which way to go. If you are heading for Millstream then turn right.
There was a little water over the road in places up to the Tom Price turn off. After this there was a lot more water over the road with some sections being knee deep or more.
Finally got to the Millstream NP turn off and then a few corrugated kilometres further on found that the main entrance was closed due to the river level being too high and we had to take the back way in via Snappy Gum Drive. Although it says 4x4 only, most 2wd vehicles would have little difficulty unless the river was running and was too deep.
There aren't enough signs to tell you which way to get to the campsites, so if you are on Snappy Gum Drive you need to turn left at a T junction, this one is easy as turning right takes you onto a private road that is signposted as such. Another turn takes you left across the big water pipes once you have passed the Water Authority buildings. This wasn't signposted and people could easily keep on going straight which leads who knows where.
Prior to reaching the Water Authority buildings we had to cross the river that was still flowing pretty well and will stop you from crossing if the flow is too fast and too high. If you can't get through this way then you are stuck as the main entrance will certainly be closed. It pays to check before coming here what the conditions are like.
We finally made it to the campsite despite the almost total lack of decent signs telling how to get there. NPaW seem to expect most people will get to the campsites via the main entrance and haven't bothered much with signs on the other road.
The old homestead would be a lot more interesting if it had been set up in a way that depicts its original use but at least the lilly pool area was nice.
We stayed at the main campsite after deciding that the Stargazers site was pretty horrible. Camp fees are $10 per person per night which can get pretty steep if there are 3-4 of you in the same vehicle. Concession rate is $6.60 per person. There is also an entrance fee just to go into the park and this can make camping here as expensive as a caravan park.
The river still had the main entrance closed when we left, so we had to take the long way round again via Snappy Gum.
Millstream is about 130km from Karratha and all but 41km is now sealed road. The unsealed section still involves a few flood-ways and some rough sections so keep an eye on the road as most of it is very good and can lead you to think that all of it is the same - it isn't!
There are a lot of ore trains using the railway that runs parallel with this road and it is interesting to watch the rail activity as these leviathans travel between the mines and the coast to deliver their cargo.
We decided to drop into Karratha on our way to out main campsite and pick up supplies and fill our water tanks. There is now a fee to collect water here of $1 per 50 litres. Fair enough I guess as many thousands of people pick up water for camping or just as they pass through.
Anyone who used to pick up water at the old Roebourne sports club can forget it now as the flow has finally been turned off. Rather sad to see the club abandoned and vandalised.
Now we are settled for a while and will be concentrating on the main reason we have come all this way - fishing!
PLACES ALONG THE WAY