Day 58: 27 July – Goodbye red dust, hello oh so blue ocean!

Author: Mr A

From: Millstream-Chichester NP

To: Port Samson 

Distance: 171 km

It was time to say a fond goodbye to our spot by the very picturesque forest of Millstream and head to the coast. Not a bad drive, some corrugations, but livened up by the multi-coloured shrubs now lining the road. 

We made a short detour via Karratha to purchase some new camp boots. I love these pull on, leather, ankle length work boots for knocking around the dusty sites. Keeps at bay the bull ants, snakes, prickly spinnifex and everything else that’s out to get you in our wonderful bush. 

Port Samson is the only non-industrialised settlement we could see on this “WA Inc” coast of the Pilbara. It’s a very “functional” campground (i.e. No effort made whatsoever so pretty it up), concrete slabs for the van and a view of your neighbour’s washing out-so-close-you-need-to-duck when the wind blows. 

An afternoon of cleaning car, van, clothes and ourselves was long overdue after a couple of weeks in the red dirt. I’d woken up again before dawn, so it wasn’t a big night. Madam made a cracking spag bol, just the ticket, the remnants of the Bin 8 and that was it for me…done. 

Day 57: 25 July – Biking & paddling Millstream

Distance cycled: 16 km

Time paddled: 90 minutes

Distance paddled: unknown

As always we awoke to a stunning morning – about 16 degrees, blue skies and promise of a 30 something degree day ahead. Life is easy when the weather is totally predictable. We decided to head off out on our bikes while it was cool, and first of all paid a visit to the old 1930s homestead, from back when this National Park was a horse, sheep and cattle station. There was a lot of information about the Aboriginal cultural heritage of the area which continues to this day, plus an interesting depiction of life here early last century. We continued our tour along a wetlands trail to a sacred lake behind the homestead, and then along a fantastic 8km cycle trail completely off road, leading through the gum forest and through spinifex filled open desert to a fabulous viewing point over the Fortescue River.

We returned from our cycle to have a BBQ brunch and relaxed through the heat of the day.

Around 2pm we headed off to find somewhere new to paddle. We spotted a road heading down to the river and decided to park by the closed gate and hike off down for an explore. We were just opening the doors of the car and we saw a WA National Parks Ute reversing swiftly towards us. A stern woman brusquely told us were not allowed off piste, and that down that unmarked trail was an Aboriginal cultural area visitors could not access. 

National Parks in Western Australia are quite different to those in NSW, which rarely patrols its areas (meaning everywhere is open to visitors), and certainly doesn’t seem to fiercely protect Aboriginal zones. This is not the first time we have been told we cannot freely explore a park – a Karijini ranger also told us to stick the the allocated trails there. It does explain why the parks are always so busy, with everyone constantly channelled down the same avenues. 

We ended up going back to Deep Reach along the Fortescue River, inflating our kayaks and setting off for an explore. We saw many birds this afternoon, reed warblers, rainbow bee-eaters, honey eaters, firetails, ibis, herons, black kites…the list was endless, and stunning reflections on the water.

On our way back to the car I managed to stop Mr A from stepping on a rather stunning cream and brown patterned snake which was crossing the pathway. It coiled up and threatened to strike at us, its pink mouth open and hissing in our direction. We waited until it decided to retreat back into the bushes before continuing, unsure whether it was poisonous or not. Back at the mobile apartment I checked it out in our ‘Reptiles and Amphibians’ book – it was a Stimson’s Python – non-venomous…so I didn’t save Mr A’s life after all…!

Nevertheless, we celebrated with a home cooked dinner of Beef Rendang and a delicious bottle of Penfold’s 2013 Bin 8 Cab-Shiraz. 

Day 56: July 24th – Millstream National Park byPacKraft 

Author: Mr A

From: Hamersley Gorge

To: Millstream National Park

Distance: 160 km of dirt

It was a brilliant drive today across the endless plains of acacia, the red dirt kicked up in clouds as we followed a network of roads across country. We had fuelled up with a BBQ of eggs on toast just after dawn, then set off expectantly into another glorious blue sky day.

Arriving at Millstream-Chichester National Park at midday we bagged ourselves a brilliant camp spot. Almost surrounded by woodland, birds were everywhere, this is one of the best we’ve had. Bit of an issue though when I was filling up the water from our drinking water tank….it was so cloudy I could hardly see through the glass! We are thinking the Pilbara dust has penetrated the tank somehow. A problem for another day, can’t solve it here. Better drink beer instead of water then!

We decided to check out the local waterhole, Deep Creek, in the packrafts. Litttle corellas were stridently letting us know with their raucous cries we were invading their territory.  Egrets, great cormorants, straw necked ibis, royal spoonbills, white necked herons…this place was twitching central. The packrafts are great for this type of wander down a river, providing a stable but manouverable platform to take some photos, peer through bins, or just take a snooze!

As the sun started to dip it was back to base for vodka and soda, nibbles and a reflection on the day….just marvellous. As for dinner…well tonight it was me manning the BBQ with lamb cutlets and roast sweet potatoes sizzling away. Mrs A added the magic with stir fried veggies in a van made satay sauce. I produced a Konunga Hill Shiraz Cab blend from the depths of the cellar (who needs a shoe cupboard, really?) and the night was made.