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FJ Camping

Once a year the Baston and Co. FJ Cruiser (and I) get to go camping ūüėä. With Isaac and Alice holding fort, I slipped out the door late on a Saturday afternoon.

A group of four mates, three cars, one week and 4,200 plus kilometres from Perth to the East Pilbara, and back.

We certainly ticked some boxes over the week.

In the early evening on that first day we pulled up at the Payne’s Find Roadhouse and Tavern. We stood by the 44 gallon drum fire in the cold night air and listened¬†to stories from grizzled¬†travellers, with just bedrolls and Harley Davidsons.

Early the next morning after a full roadhouse breakfast we were on the road to Kalgan Pool just out of Newman, a lazy 805km away.

It was worth it. 

We turned off the Marble Bar Road and after a bottom clenching drive in, first through dust hanging over the road cut with late afternoon sunlight, making visibility effectively nil, and then through very long stretches of the flowing Kalgan Creek. The prize at the end was the spectacular Kalgan Pool, under a huge iron-red bluff. We set up camp at the top of the Bluff. No wind and a full moon. 

After packing up we were off via Nullagine and the ominously named Skull Springs Road.

On the edge of the Great Sandy Desert Running Waters was a swampy oasis, a thermal pool in the desert, reminiscent¬†of Yoda’s Dagobah.¬†Truly a place where the Force was strong! We swam laps in the warm water, climbed trees and generally acted 30 years younger than our age.¬†As we went to bed, bellies full of Mauritian Curry and a nip of rum, our swags next to the long lagoon¬†of Running Waters, I should have read the play.¬†Still, warm night air.¬†A plague of spiders running to higher ground…

The rain started at 1.59am.

As is obligatory every year that we embark on this adventure, a major rain event does its best to wet our swags and close all the roads. Why mix things up this year!

I’m big on positives. Which can annoy the shit out of fellow campers. 

Rain means no dust.

We packed up wet swags and headed off on the Upper Carawine Gorge Road. Another water crossing. Gob smacking scenery.
This country isn’t sharp and angular like the young mountains of the Americas or Nepal.¬†It is ground down over eons.¬†Old and magnificent.¬†With big skies and unforgiving weather.

We made it to Marble Bar around 11am.¬†The rain had the locals at the IronClad¬†Hotel.¬†You can’t work in the rain – right? A rum before lunchtime and we were off again.

We decided to try and dry our swags so we booked rooms at Auski Roadhouse. A humming hive of miners, road crews and rain dodging tourists. Dinner was surprisingly excellent, an all you could eat buffet.

The rain opened another door. Wittenoom Gorge and its townsite, scrubbed from the map. Aware of the risk and with only two residents left in this once thriving asbestos mining community, we drove into town, down the abandoned main street and beyond. It was possibly one of the most visually stunning short drives I’ve done in Western Australia. For miners and aboriginal people this town and the asbestos tailings down the road are a scar on the landscape. A reminder of continuing human suffering.

Next stop Hammersley Gorge. Spectacular with the rain wet rock.

Tom Price was 61km away. The ‘Road Closed’ sign made proceeding impossible. We drove the 250km detour.

An early before 5am wake up in Tom Price had us back in the car driving through heavy low fog to Mt Bruce – WA’s second highest peak. A bit over two hours later, drenched in sweat, we were back at the cars. The sunrise was epic and nobody had a heart attack.

The rain really stymied our plans. A trip down the Ashburton Downs Road to Mt Augustus and home via the Murchison Station country was vetoed. More road closed signs.

So it was a relief to pull into Bullara Station nearly 600km later. At the bottom of the Exmouth Gulf, these guys have got the tourism experience absolutely nailed. Fresh scones and cream being an absolute highlight!

814km later we were pulling into a friend of one of the boy’s, beach house in Dongara. Luxury. We celebrated with beer and garlic crayfish on the BBQ.

One more day driving, a short early morning dart back to the big smoke.

We had covered some kilometres, told some yarns, behaved in ways our wives would have found unacceptable, and importantly soaked in so much of this great state.

Reinvigorated and rejuvenated now it’s time to sell some houses!

– Derek Baston

Vic Park Life

White picket fences and backyards with mulberry trees. Apartments and town houses and villas and everything in-between. It’s got a bit of everything.

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