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Perth to Broome becomes a nightmare.

After two nights at Mt. Robinson rest area we had waited long enough for the weather to clear and it had only managed to get worse.

We had to make a choice between heading further north to drive out of the appauling weather or going to Karijini anyway and hoping to get a few decent pictures.

In the end we chose to head for Karijini as there was no knowing if we would ever be back this way again.

It had been 21 years since I last saw Dales Gorge and it was good to find that the road was sealed all the way in to the campsite.

A metal walk-way now allows visitors to easily go down to Fortescue Falls and the weather held just long enough for us to get down and back without getting wet.

The gorge is one of the most spectacular in the park but due to the weather, several other gorges had been closed.

We decided to stay for the night and set up camp around lunch time. The weather then closed in and the rest of the day was a complete write-off.

There are plenty of campsites for travellers to use in the campground and near the main visitor centre there is even bore water available. It is suggested that the water be boiled before drinking.

 

Fortescue Falls - Karijini
Fortescue Falls - Karijini

 

The weather forecast was for even more rain and storms hitting Port Hedland so we decided to stay put in the Karijini campgound for an extra night.

The rain kept up its drizzly miserable nature but relented just long enough to allow a quick trip by bike to Circular Pool and Three Ways Lookout. The only mistake was coming back to the campsite via the Rim Walk. There are a couple of parts of that trail that are definitely NOT suitable for a bicycle.

 

Fern terraces at Circular Pool
Fern terraces at Circular Pool

 

The weather finally started to clear so we decided to move on to Port Hedland.

The only rest area of note along the way was Munjina Gorge Lookout where there is a very large area behind the lookout but not much in the way of facilities.

We could have stopped the night but wanted to get closer to the coast before stopping. As it turned out there was no good rest area between Munjina (Auski) roadhouse and Hedland.

 

Munjina Gorge lookout
Munjina Gorge lookout (Albert Tognolini lookout)

 

We ended up at FMG Lookout (the word 'lookout' has never been more mis-used) by the railway waiting to see if the local ranger would come along and chuck us out.

There was a big change in the weather as it went from pretty cold to quite hot. 2 days before we had the air-conditioner turned on to 'heat' mode, but that quickly changed to as low as we could make it.

 

Port Hedland
Port Hedland

 

We refuelled, re-watered, dumped waste and re-stocked at Port Hedland.

This town is one that I really find it hard to spend time in as there are just no redeeming features that I can find about it.

We left as soon as we could and started the long drive north east.

After stopping for lunch at De Grey River, we pushed on to Pardoo where we were due to turn north and reach the first of what were supposed to be our longer term campsites of the trip at Cape Keraudren.

Alas it was not to be. As we pulled in at Pardoo roadhouse there was a strange noise coming from the engine bay. One look at the temperature gauge told me that there was some kind of coolant problem.

We let the engine cool down and then re-filled with water to try and find the leak. Nothing doing but as the engine started up again there was a nasty knocking sound that certainly wasn't there before.

 

Yet another breakdown
Yet another breakdown

 

The words 'OH NO NOT AGAIN!" flashed through my mind along with some words that are unprintable here. Just a few kilometres from the first place we were going to start to really enjoy ourselves and everything had come crashing down on us yet again....

The vehicle was still drivable so we booked in to the Pardoo Roadhouse caravan park for the night (powered site $30).

The caravan park at Pardoo was surprisingly nice, large grassed areas and even a swimming pool, not that we were really in the mood to relax and enjoy it.

 

Pardoo
Pardoo

 

The following day a tow truck arrived from Port Hedland and once again we were at the mercy of the local repairers. Due to the weight of our vehicle we were charged an excess of $250 that mysteriously became $300 when we arrived a Hedland. Pilbara Towing do not seem to be the most ethical business we have ever dealt with but we had no choice as the tow was organised by the RAC.

We were towed to the Black Rock caravan park, that unfortunately is not close to anything else and without transport there was nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait for Monday and start to get things rolling.

Powered sites in Black Rock are $35 a night and there is very little room.

 

Black Rock caravan park
Black Rock caravan park Port Hedland

 

We then became stuck in Port Hedland and trying to work out what to do. Getting the vehicle repaired here could have turned out to be very expensive and time consuming but shipping the Coaster back to Perth meant our trip was over and we may never get the chance to come up to the north coast again.

We booked in to see a repairer (Major Motors) and after a day of sitting and waiting for the bad news we were no closer to finding the problem. They did everything they could to diagnose the fault but it was too deep in the engine to locate.

In order to find the fault, the engine would have to be stripped down and that would take far too long to complete in Hedland.

The people at Major Motors were very helpful and did all they could in the circumstances including getting us to the caravan park and looking after our vehicles until we could sort out what to do.

If we had more time available, I would have been more than happy for them to do the repairs.

Our only option was to look for a way to send the Coaster and trailer back to Perth.

Little did we know what a complete nightmare this would become.

Phone calls and emails went on and on. First it would look hopeful and then the transport became unavailable. Replies that looked promising to begin with just faded out without replies to my questions. Prices quoted were from $1695 - $2195 but try as we might we could just not find a company to transport our vehicles.

 

Sending the Coaster to Perth
Sending the Coaster to Perth

 

Finally we managed to get on to Bains Transport who had a truck coming through from Broome ($2035). By 8pm on Wednesday night the Coaster was loaded and we went to Cooke Point caravan park where the RAC had booked a cabin for us to stay in until we could get a flight home.

Cooke Point turned out to be a much better place to stay than Black Rock as it is situated right next to the beach and has nice shady trees through out the park.

 

Cooke Point caravan park
Cooke Point caravan park

 

By Thursday morning the Coaster was gone and we were booked on to flights home on Saturday morning. We were FINALLY getting a hire car from the airport so at least in the dying hours of the trip we would have a chance to look around Hedland after being stuck for a week without being able to move.

This trip has been a crushing blow for our finaces. Over $3000 gone already without even starting repairs on the Coaster.

Friday was our last day in Hedland and the last chance to do something to salvage at least a little bit of the remains of the trip.

We had a rental car and decided to make as much use of it as possible. With a 100km limit per day this meant spending even more money to get further out but by this time, spending a hundred dollars more wasn't going to make much difference in the scheme of things.

We decided to go out to Cape Keraudren. This had been our destination exactly one week before when we broke down just 20km from the campsite.

By rights we should have just been leaving Keraudren with the Coaster so we went out to have a look round with the rental car just to see what we had missed.

The $20 entry fee came as a bit of a shock but it is an excellent campsite and has toilets, shelters, seats, tables, dump points and plenty of room for caravans and motorhomes.

 

Cape Keraudren
Cape Keraudren

 

We spent as much of the day as possible out at the cape before returning to Port Hedland and having a quick look at Pretty Pool before finally returning to the caravan park.

 

Pretty Pool
Pretty Pool

 

All that remained was the flight home on Saturday morning.

 

End Of Part 2

 

Updated July 2016

Go to the next blog installment Go to the next blog installment

 

 

PLACES TO SEE
in travel order

 

Karijini
Port Hedland
Pardoo

 

MORE PICTURES

 

Dales Gorge - Karijini

Munjina Gorge lookout

Circular Pool - Karijini

New walkway at Dales Gorge

Cape Keraudren

Cape Keraudren

 

 

 

 

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