Hi there,

For those of you arriving late to this intrepid family journey through the heart of Australia, you may like to start reading at the beginning. Unfortunately, Blogger organises posts with those most recently created appearing first. So, if you jump in at the top, you're not going to get the full experience of this gritty blow-by-blow account of our adventure. As such, I suggest using the navigation window above and head down to March, where the first part of this journey began. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll be hooked. From there you can scroll upwards to continue the journey. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Alternatively, simply click on the following link to jump right there:
http://theblackstump.blogspot.com.au/2017/03/.

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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ningaloo Reef - Osprey Bay



Date:
21 - 25 /06/2017
Location:
Cape Range - Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
170 km
Temperature:
Min:
10.2

Max:
28.1
Whale sharks swam with
3


As is often the case on days when we are preparing to shift from one place to another, we were up early and ready to hit the road. Having arranged to have our windscreen fixed (finally) in Exmouth, we were determined to ensure that we would be there on time. So, pulling out of Bullara Station, we waved goodbye to the sheep who were wandering aimlessly through the campsite, said ‘see ya later’ to Damper John and watched as several flocks of galahs made their early morning rounds of the Bullara water holes; before turning onto the Minilya-Exmoth road toward Cape Range.

The drive to Exmouth was lovely; especially as we watched the sun creeping slowly into the sky, bathing the land in that pristine sort of light you only ever see at the start of a new day. I must admit, in my day-to-day life, I don’t usually appreciate such things. This is particularly so when the sun is rising as I’m heading to work. Back in the ‘real world’, any day on which I see the sun rising over the horizon, typically means I’m heading to an early morning meeting; rather than spending an extra hour in bed. But, deep in the heart of the Western Australia wilderness, the rising of the sun brought with it a sense of adventure and the promise of exciting times yet to come. As such, on this fine morning, any thoughts of staying in bed were summarily cast from our minds.

Thus, we found ourselves hurtling down the road, along a narrow peninsular jutting out between the Indian Ocean and Exmouth Gulf. Arriving at Exmouth, we soon encountered the usual hallmarks of a big town. However, this place still had the feel of a seaside destination. Amongst the hardware shops and light industrial spaces, there were marinas, boating supply shops, and all manner of outlets ready to supply the traveller’s every need and desire. But for us, we had a single task in mind – to get the irksome crack fixed, which had been marring our vision out of the front window.

We found the windscreen repair shop easily enough. Pulling up alongside a host of other vehicles that had been parked on a patch of waste ground, we unhitched the van on the edge of a slip road opposite the mechanics. With everything locked up tightly, we drove our cracked and bedraggled Pajero into the fix-it-shop. The folks at Exmouth Smash Repairs were quite delightful. Not only did they offer to keep an eye on our trailer, while we went off to explore the town, but also happily dropped us a few kilometres down the road in the heart of Exmouth. Never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, we accepted their kind offer, piled into the car and tootled down the road.

Having been dropped off in the heart of Exmouth by our friendly mechanical taxi service, we headed to the nearest bakery for a spot of breakfast. Having scoffed down an egg and bacon roll and a strong cup of coffee, we soon felt fully watered and raring to go. As such, we took a quick nosey around the shops before heading to a public water park where the boys had a good run around.


Ben and Daniel on the 'Big Chair' in Exmouth

This place was brilliant!! However, I’m not really sure how to describe it… it wasn’t a water park, as such – rather it was more of public space filled with watery fun for kids to cool off in the hot summer’s sun. Sitting alongside a grassy playing field, this area was a fenced off area with all manner of jets and sprinklers spewing their misty water all over the place. There were water fountains, a model whale (complete with a spout from its blowhole), cascading showers and water cannons to play with. Fortunately, there was also a smattering of sunlight pouring through the railings, which was just warm enough to keep the early morning chill away.


Exmouth Water Park

A few hours later I gave the folks at Exmouth Smash Repairs a call and found that the car was just about ready to rock and roll. Leaving Nat and the boys to play for a little longer, I sauntered down the main road and picked up our car with its sparkling new windscreen (they had even reattached our tourist passes to the new window!). Hitching up our trailer once more, I waved goodbye to our beneficent glaziers, picked up the rest of the clan and soon we were on our way.

Exmouth – Giant prawn

Pulling out of Exmouth, we only had a mere 50 kilometre drive up the peninsula, around the corner and back down the other side of the cape to reach out destination. Surrounded by water, we enjoyed the route down the coast, watching waves crashing on the rocky shore as we came ever closer to our final destination of Cape Ningaloo National Park

Exmouth to Osprey Bay

And soon, we arrived at Osprey Bay. Oh my… What can I say?

Cape Ningaloo was awesome!

Now, I know I’ve used the word awesome a few times while writing this blog… But seriously, this time awesome means AWESOME!

Welcome to Cape Range

Forty kilometres from the start of the Ningaloo National Park, down a coastal road with grass covered mountains on the left and the crashing ocean on the right, Osprey Bay campsite was nestled amongst sand dunes and spinifex. There were forty-ish large campsites, spread out over a couple of kilometres, set along the rugged rocky coast overlooking the sea.

Osprey Bay campsite at sunset

Driving down the immaculately kept road towards the campsite, we were soon hailed by the camp hosts who had been charged with the sacred pact of looking after this patch of earth. As we trundled our way down the track, Mr and Mrs Camphost came out of their trailer and hailed us down. Quick as a flash they verified our bona fides, and once thoroughly satisfied, they cordially waved us on to our oceanside colonnade. We had expected some level of checking upon arrival; particularly after we passed the huge sign at the entrance to the park advising potential visitors that all campsites were “FULL!”. But luckily for us, Nat had headed the advice of our good friends at Morrows Westward Adventure and had booked early!

When I was younger, I remember watching the likes of Paul Daniels, David Copperfield and (bless his little cotton socks) Tommy Cooper, performing their arcane arts on telly. You know, pulling rabbits from a hat and making the statue of liberty disappear, and things like that. But, for all the magic I’d seen as a kid, I’d never witnessed a feat as tremendous as the magic Nat had performed when securing this fine campsite.

Osprey bay

Even during this ‘off season’ time of the year, the Osprey Bay campsite was pretty much full to the gunnels. While we set up our trailer, we watched as van after van came and were sent on their way by Mr and Mrs Camphost, when their names were not found on the sacred clipboard.

But, for us, these trifles were not our concern. Indeed, way back in the distant past of late summer 2016, Nat had spent many evenings pouring over maps, blogs and websites with the aim of locating the perfect spot for us to pull up at in Cape Range. Amidst all these late nights, with a protractor and compass in hand, Nat finally had a eureka moment when she eventually triangulated the perfect spot. Perched at the ideal position between camp toilets, beach and open swathes of sky, she had calculated the most impeccable campsite amongst the dozens that were on offer…

…and as we pitched up for the night, I couldn’t have agreed more!

Osprey Bay - just perfect!

All the camp sites at Osprey Bay were cordoned off by a simple timber fence, with a lucky few (aka US!) having private paths leading the 20 meters or so down to the water’s edge. Underfoot, the sites consisted of thickly packed earth and shells (which were an absolute bugger to try and drive a tent peg into for holding one’s awning). Fortunately, I was lucky enough to meet a number of kind hearted Samaritans, who took pity in my plight (or perhaps had spent enough time laughing at me trying to drive a tent peg into the unshifting earth) and came over with a rubber mallet and screwdriver to help drive the pegs home. While the kids played on the beach, the trailer was eventually set up and the welcome mat was set out.




Osprey Bay campsite

The next few days passed in blissful, sandy frolics. During the day, the sun shone gleefully on the lapping waves of the beach meters from our campsite; as the sea crept its way languidly up and down the sand. At their apogee, the waves pummelled into the rocky shoreline, before turning around and sweeping down the sea floor back to its sandy nadir many meters below.



Osprey Bay - Life on the ocean waves

Being so close to the water, there was of course plenty of opportunities to drop a line or two into the waves. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much biting – other than a couple of undersized flounders. But, as they say, a bad day of fishing always beats your best day at work, hands down!



Osprey Bay - fishing!

With a lovely breeze coming in from the ocean, many of our evenings were spent unfurling the kite that we had lugged around the country – in search of the perfect place to let it sail across the sky. Indeed, we found the perfect place for a spot of kite flying here at Ningaloo, and soon we had small crowds of kids lining up to have a go at taming the winds with our colourful sail. This kite had been a gift to the boys from their uncle Gareth a few years ago; but until now, it hadn’t been given a proper opportunity to truly spread its wings. As it turns out, Ben was a dab hand at aerial acrobatics… he’s always said he wanted to be a pilot; perhaps this is hint of things to come!




Ospey Bay - Kite flying

The water in front of our trailer was also filled with all manner of aquatic life. Flashy schools of large silvery fish (who, in retrospect, I’m glad were too smart to get hooked by my fishing line) swam shoulder to shoulder (or fin to fin) with green turtles and reef sharks. Nat, who preferred to keep herself firmly planted in the shallower waters near the beach, was lucky enough to swim for several hundred meters alongside a massive turtle (while Ben and I were at least 500 meters out in the ocean trying in vain to find one of the buggers…). Ben and I did eventually see and swim with a battalion of turtles, but on that particular day Nat had a magical time of her own in this unexpected one-on-one encounter with such a majestic beast.

Osprey Bay - Reef Sharks

Despite having paradise on our doorstep, we also remained cognizant that there were other slices of heaven to explore nearby. On one of our days at Ningaloo, we spent hours at the nearby ‘Oyster Stacks”. This was a superb place for snorkelling, with next to no effort required to see all of the wonders on offer. This stretch of beach was caressed by a fairly strong current, which flowed from left to right along the beach. As such, all one needed to do was traipse a little way up the shore; hop in the water and casually swim out 20 – 30 meters; then let the current pull you gently along. As you floated in the water, it was almost as if you were flying over cities of coral; each of which was inhabited by a myriad of colourful marine denizens, all going about their daily life unperturbed by the giant floating onlooker cruising overhead.

The giant pillars of coral and stacks of oyster encrusted rocks weren’t the most colourful (these were hard corals, which are far duller than their brilliantly coloured gaudy ‘soft coral’ cousins on the east coast). But, they were teeming with life – from little electric coloured fish, to large clams the size of a chest of draws. Amongst all of this were monolithic turtles, cruising their way amongst the patches of sea grass (but if spooked, these fellas could take off like a rocket!), and all manner of fish from the microscopic to specimens almost as large as me!






Marine Life

In order to top off our Ningaloo adventure, we felt it was only right to leave the shelter of the inner reef and venture out into the ocean to swim with the biggest fish in the world. As such, on a cold and blustery morning, Nat, the boys and I, found ourselves standing on a concrete pier waiting to board a boat in search of an elusive whale shark (Rhincodon typus). Fortunately (or rather, thanks to Nat’s tremendous planning), these magnificent creatures made this stretch of the coast their home during this time of the year. Throughout the months of April to August, these great beasts come out to play around Ningaloo Reef. Here they cruise the waters in search of food, trying to sate their voracious appetite (they have rather big bellies, after all…). Growing between 4 – 8 meters in length (in these waters at least – elsewhere they can be up to 12 meters long and weigh up to 19 metric tonnes), the gentle giants that inhabit Cape Range are mere teenagers compared with the specimens that occasionally appear in the deep waters of the Indian Ocean.


Whale sharks - All aboard, here we go!

Meeting the crew of 3Islands Whale Dive Tours, we and the other 20ish expectant passengers who were huddled together on the pier, were ferried in small groups to a boat anchored off shore. Once we were all aboard, and safety briefings were completed, we took to the open waters and cruised around for a few hours in search of these elusive critters. Along the way, we spotted pods of dugongs and dolphins, and spent a few hours searching for blue whales that had been sighted on the horizon earlier in the day.




Before long, the boat picked up the trail of a whale shark, so we abandoned the search for blue whales and got down to the business we’d signed up for. Over several hours we dropped into the cool waters of the Indian Ocean and swam alongside a handful of the largest and most magnificent beasts on the planet. In small groups of 10, we plunged into the briny depths, followed a spotter from the crew and swam out little hearts out. At times these great beasts moved dreamily through the water, cruising up and down in the water – disappearing for a short while into the murky depths, before reappearing again beneath us as it followed a trail of plankton through the columns of water.






Whale sharks - Ningaloo Reef

And so, with the best of Ningaloo experienced, we regretfully had to pack up our home on wheels and hit the road once more. Thankfully though, we weren’t saying goodbye to our beachy paradise for long, as we would be heading down the coast to Coral Bay…

…I hear there have been Manta Rays spotted there recently – AWESOME!

Until next time,

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Bullara Station


Date:
18 – 20 /06/2017
Location:
Bullara Station (Western Australia)
Distance Travelled:
545 km
Temperature:
Min:
8.9

Max:
30.3
damper eaten
2

Leaving Tom Price, we knew it would be one hell of a drive to get all the way to Exmouth in one day (around 630 km, or 8 hours without a break). We had also heard there were a few interesting places to stop at along the way; amongst these was a working cattle station at the base of Cape Range, known as Bullara Station. As such, we decided to break up the journey and take a pit stop in our travels.

The morning began well enough. We drove out of the campsite and made our way down the main street of Tom Price. We didn’t get too far before we stopped briefly at a large monument to this mining town. To be honest, there wasn’t much of a fanfare about this great feat of human engineering or the hard-won history of this corner of Western Australia. But at a junction, just off the main road, there was a large discarded mega-dump truck that they boys were able to stand in front of and take few photos in the early morning light.


Tom Price - Mining truck

Having taken a snap or two, we jumped back into the car and finally got an early start on our journey. With the sun low in the sky, as we zipped off down the highway, we felt like we were ahead of the game.

Typing the words “Bullara Station” into Google, we asked our sage electronic advisor for the best way to proceed. “Turn right onto State Route 136” we were informed. “Fair enough,” we thought (having never been led astray before), “let’s go…”

Perhaps our first clue that we had in fact been led astray by our ever-faithful electronic companion should have been the half-rusted road sign that pointed down the trail. As it turns out, one should probably think twice about taking a heavily loaded camp trailer down any byway with the moniker of ‘Nameless Valley Drive’. On second thoughts (and in case anyone actually mistakes this for a ‘travel advice blog’) perhaps I should be very clear on this matter: “never, ever, drive a fully loaded camp trailer down a road called ‘Nameless Valley Drive’”.


However, we unfortunate souls did indeed drive along this stretch of tarmacked road. It wasn’t until nearly 20 or 30 kilometres had passed that our good fortune (and the bitumen) suddenly ran out. Coming to a T-junction we were unexpectedly faced with three options: On one hand, we could persevere down the bumpy gravel road of ‘Nameless Valley Drive’ and would have (probably) eventually emerged back on to the main highway once more. On the other hand, we could turn our car north… but, oh man, would that be one hell of a detour (for anyone who cares to check out a map, you’ll find that the road north would lead us in the complete opposite direction to where we were heading). Finally, we figured we could also bite the bullet, turn around, and follow the bitumen back to Tom Price. While this would mean backtracking quite a way and resulting in a slightly circuitous route to our destination via the small town named Paraburdoo, at least we would be on our way once more...

Although neither of these options thrilled us, as soon as the boys heard the name “Paraburdoo”, they were hooked on the idea. “Paraburdoo”, “Paraburdoooooo”, “Paraburdooooooo” (try saying it out loud, using the voice of Yogi Bear from the 1980’s cartoon of the same name, and you’ll be able to experience the full oral and aural pleasure that is inherent in this otherwise nondescript appellation).

With apologies to Hanna-Barbera

And so, with our tail firmly between our legs, we returned to Tom Price and set off again in the direction of Paraburdoo.

Fortunately, the road in this direction was well maintained and a joy to travel upon. We drove for many hours, listening to audio books and music, until we eventually called in for lunch at a small roadhouse known as “Nanutarra”. Despite the large forecourt and spacious real estate surrounding each of the bowsers, there was bugger all food on sale inside the café attached to this place. Pulling up, we also spied a convoy of trailers who were drawing up at this enclave of petrol and food.

While I filled the car, Nat and the boys high tailed it into the store, attempting to beat the masses and check out what meagre offerings were on sale inside. Having given our car a good drink and the windows a hearty scrub, I soon followed the rest of the clan with some haste into the store. Turning towards the shop, I saw an army of grey haired nomads who had begun lurching their way towards the front door. Eyeing my nemeses, it seemed to dawn on us all of us at the same time that we on a collision course to the front steps of the shop – and there was not going to be enough snacks to fill ALL of our bellies...

… Luckily, with my good hips and unadulterated knees, I was able to dodge this gaggle of silvery haired stalwart road-warriors with a mix of weaving this way and that (not to mention elbows ready to knock aside any of the marauding interlopers who might get in my way! Huzzah!) – until I finally set a triumphant foot on the steps of this oasis of food and drink.


Having finally secured the high ground, I turned to the zombiesque crew (who were clawing their way towards me, groaning and wailing). I glanced down at the uneven ground upon which I had bounded over to reach the staircase, and gave a wry grin. “Try and catch me now” I cackled as I sauntered up and took my place in line with Nat and the boys; who were hurriedly urging the shop attendant to put the last few remaining pies into a bag…

…So, with petrol and pies paid for, we promenaded down the stairs – past the tangle of older travellers (who were still groping their way to the top) and sat on a park bench to have lunch. Perhaps it wasn’t the most salubrious of surroundings; but our meagre morsels tasted all the sweeter for knowing that they were the spoils of a hard-won battle!


Nantura road house – Yup, it's a long way to pretty much anywhere from here...

Leaving Nanutarra Road House, amidst a clattering of canes that had been raised in anger and protest (Ok, so I may have lapsed into hyperbole and started to embellish a little on our story here…), we soon passed through some more magnificent scenery that this region of the world had to offer.

Before too long we pulled up at the somewhat understated gates of Bullara Station.


Bullara Station

Manoeuvring down the driveway of Bullara station, we pulled up at the homestead. The reception was set behind a simple wrought iron gate leading to the front door. Wandering into reception, we were greeted by a friendly young lady who took our details and radioed ahead to her colleague in the station, who would soon meet us and show us around. While at the reception, we also enquired about what fun and frolics were on offer here. We were regaled with stories about 4x4 driving tracks, fishing holes and languid walks around great sand dunes just outside of the campsite. “Awesome” we all thought, bring on tomorrow and we’ll hit all the best spots.

Heading out of reception, we returned to our car and drove a little further into the station; past the shearing sheds and an assortment of other farm buildings. Pulling up as instructed, we soon met a young chap who showed us to out allocated spot.



Bullara station

“If you’re quick at setting up”, said the young chap, as we pulled up at our dusty, yet shady spot; “Damper John will be gathering serving up shortly”

“Who is Damper John” we chorused, enthralled by the idea of being served food after all this time on the road.

“Oh, he’s an old bloke who makes damper every night around the camp fire. Everyone’s welcome to share a bit” came the reply. “Take a couple of drinks and something to spread on the damper – it’s a good night”. Then the young fella disappeared back into the dust of the early evening air, ready to meet the next new arrival in this far-flung corner of Western Australia.

With promise of a warm fire and a bit of a nibble to fill our bellies, we sprang into action and had the trailer set up in record time. Nat and the boys soon went to secure a spot around the campfire, while I finished off the last few bits of set up (slightly reminiscent of the show down at Nanutarra earlier in the day). In the end, I turned up with a beer in hand and plonked myself down amongst the circle of 40ish people around the campfire; where I was able to finally relax and breathe in the smoky, cool, evening air.

Looking around the circle, it was clear that some of our fellow travellers had been at this ritual before. Several of our number called out across the circle to their opposites on the other side of the fire, asking how they had faired on with this or that expedition today. But, amidst all of this, there was a roaring fire. Flames licked up the sides of large dried logs, and smoke curled up towards the darkening sky above.

Not long after I’d sat down within the circle, a tall man (who was sporting a leather Akubra hat, blue shirt and khaki shorts) emerged from the back of the group. Speaking with a thick Yorkshire accent, he drew everyone’s attention towards himself and welcomed us all to Bullara. He gave a fine speech and read a poem that he’d penned about his time in this place several years ago. As it turns out Damper John had spent the last six or so of the past dry seasons here in Bullara, living a caravan on his regular patch of earth near the fire. As he spoke, he gave the occasional subtle nod to three damper loaves cooling on a wooden bench of to the left. We learned that he’d been preparing these throughout the late part of the afternoon, as the throngs of travellers had begun to gather. With speeches and poems finished, Damper John cut into three of the lightest loaves of damper that I’d ever experienced. In turn, these were duly passed the around for all to share.

Slathering our slabs of damper with butter, vegemite or peanut butter, we sat back and chatted to those other travellers who had congregated around us.

The rest of the evening was passed around the campfire, until it was time to head back to the trailer, make some proper dinner, and wind down for the day. Eventually, one by one, we went to bed – with the promise of heading down the 4x4 track in the morning and go fishing in the many water holes butting up onto the coast at the edge of the station.



Freshly cooked damper by the campfire at Bullara Station

As the rest of the clan drifted off to sleep, I returned to the now deserted campfire and spent a few hours sorting through photos and writing this blog. But in the end, the fire died down and I sat looking at the stars before heading to bed as well.

The next morning, with the rousing speech of Damper John still rolling around in heads from the night before, we were pumped and ready to get cracking. Needing a hearty breakfast to get us set for the day, we wandered up to the little café attached to the reception building and ordered a round of Devonshire teas for us all. As we waited for the scones to be cooked, the kids played in the garden and made friends with guinea pig and other pets owned by the station hosts. Sipping our coffee and licking jam and cream from our chins, we turned our faces to soak up the rays of the warm morning sun, before wandering back to the car so we could head off on a backroads trip to the ocean.






Tasked with getting the gear ready for the day, I was the first to return to the car. As had been common practice since acquiring a chip in our windscreen, I glance first at the front window to check if all was still OK.

…”Bugger”, I thought, as I soon realised that we were most definitely NOT ok. My eyes were immediately drawn to a long snake-like crack that had worked its way up through the bottom half of the window. “Oh, bugger…” I repeated, under my breath.

Last night had been cold! And by ‘cold’, I mean freezing. As such, it really shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that the heating/cooling and expanding/shrinking of the glass would have caused more than a little stress upon the pane. However, what did dawn on me quickly, was the idea that what had once been a $90 repair, had suddenly skyrocketed to be a liability of around five or six hundred dollars – and all this was done in the blink of an eye…

Needless to say, we decided against our 4x4 off-road experience today. The crunchy sound that was coming from the window was a warning that could not easily be ignored – especially as we still had a few hundred kilometres to cover before we could get to a windscreen repair shop.

Phone reception at Bullara was weak to say the least. However, the good folks that ran this place had had the wherewithal to install a cell phone booster box near their repair shed. This little box wasn’t overly strong, but it did throw out enough signal to get a bar (or two if you were lucky) every now and then. Huddling around the shed, with a bunch of other travellers who were desperate to get some form of connection to the outside world, we eventually tracked down a window repair shop in Exmouth that would be able to get us back on the road again.

Having given our details over the phone to the mechanic, we figured there was little else to do than to explore some of Bullara Station on foot...

As such, we wandered away from the throngs gathered around the old repair shed and took a walk towards a trail at the back of the station. Heading past a row of farming equipment and disused, weather-beaten cars, we found our way out of a series of heavy iron gates and into the paddocks beyond. The gates closed behind us with a resounding clang; pulled shut by a creaky makeshift pully system.

Bullara Station - This Way... to adventure!

Wandering down the trail, we passed flocks upon flocks of galahs and crows; all nibbling on grains from feeding silos and drinking their fill at water troughs. The sky boiled with clouds, which were pushed across the sky by the high up winds. However, down here on the ground, the air was still and warm.


Along the trail, we kept our eyes peeled for a special inhabitant that we’d heard frequented this area. Amidst the tails told by Damper John the night before, he’d also urged visitors to take a wander and see if they could spot the Bower Bird (family Ptilonorhynchidae) that called Bullara Station it’s home. AS such, Nat, the boys and I on a quest to find this elusive creature. Luckily, we were given a little help in our search, as we turned the corner and stumbled across a less than subtle roughly painted sign that signalled the bird was nearby...

Bullara - Shhhh, Bower Bird's nearby

Try as we might, and despite the colossal sign trying to point us in the right direction, we just couldn’t seem to find the bird or his obscured nest for quite some time. Off the track we went, plunging deep into the scrub, in a desperate search to find this mysterious beast. With no luck amongst to dust and thorny bushes, we returned to the track and up and down for the best part of half an hour. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Eagle Eyes Nat spotted it! The bower bird had made its nest in the crook of an old dead tree. The characteristically shaped bower, made from individually placed stalks of grass, was currently adorned by offerings of white objects and clear glass. Scattered some way from the entrance was a smattering of discarded green and blue items from previous attempts at attracting a mate. We’d heard from others around the camp that until recently the front of the bower had been decorated by a mix of green and white pebbles, but seemingly this colour scheme had not been to the liking of potential mates.

Bullara - Bower bird nest

Having snooped around the nest for a while, with no sign of the owner coming home, we decided to press on down the track. We knew from the folks around the campfire that this trail would end at an expanse of sand dunes that could be explored.

Turning a corner, we emerged from the trail onto a vast region of sand. Although they weren’t on the same scale as grand deserts like Namibia or the Sahara, they were still pretty cool to wander around. The boys had a great time diving down the dunes and leaving trails of foot prints on the otherwise pristine sand. We also spent hours following various animal tracks that weaved their way through the sparse foliage poking up through the sandy earth. Occasionally an Antlion nest (family Myrmeleontidae) would appear amongst the scrub, and we watched as little critters fell to the doom in the jaws waiting at the bottom of the pit’s slippery slopes (Ahhh, the circle of life…).

video

Bullara - Antlion trap

As the clouds started to roll in, we left the critters of the Bullara sand dunes and made our way back to camp. As we arrived, the kids made a bee line back to the central campfire, where they struck up a conversation with Damper John. It turns out that we were just in time for the king of damper to begin his afternoon process of crafting bread to feed the masses later that evening. Our own little budding master chefs got in on the gig and helped out/watched with interest as the floury mixture was combined and lightly kneaded, before being placed in heavy cast iron pots and covered with coals. Occasionally over the next 40 minutes, the coals were moved and the damper checked to ensure a good crunchy crust was formed. In the end, Damper John and his two little apprentices turned out a trio of crunchy, fluffy loaves onto the wooden bench.






Bullara - Damper John and his two new apprentices!

As the crowds started to gather, we listened again to tall tales around the campfire, before breaking bread with our neighbours for the night. We hung around the campfire for most of the evening, chatting and gathering intel from fellow travellers.

The boys busied themselves with playing petanque / boules and having a steaming wash in the wood fired outside shower. However, before long, it was time to turn in and bring out Bullara adventure to a close.




It would be an early start in the morning, as we would be on a mission to get arrive at Exmouth in time to have our windscreen fixed; before diving headlong into the coastal wilderness of Ningaloo National Park.

But, for now, we must sleep.

Bye ‘d bye,

Gregg

....Oh, before I go, if you want to see a few photos of Bullara that are a little more specky than we managed to capture, you might want t check out the website of Gemma Clarke. There's even a snap of Damper John's 'world famous in Australia' recipe for the camp bread he has become known for.  I toyed with the idea of posting it myself (I mean, he does give a copy of the recipe to everyone who comes to the evening get together), but I just couldn't bring myself to poach the work of someone who so obviously loves what he does.