After our Kalgoorlie stay we breakfasted with our friend and departed about nine thirty, having bought fresh meat, topped up with fuel and acquired a map of the fairly remote region we were heading into.
There were a lot of little tiny towns along the way, which had originally been gold mining towns and then the gold ran out. They had charming eccentric names, such as Norseman and Salmon Gums. Norseman was named after a horse called Hardy Norseman and the town has now put up a statue of the horse with much pride; there isn’t a lot else in Norseman to be impressed by.
Salmon Gums has its name derived from a prominent stand of eucalypt trees that have salmon coloured bark in the summer time; they are very striking. Incidentally, we have over 700 different species of eucalypts (or gum trees) in Australia and they are very region specific.
There were a lot of downed trees along the side of the road and when we stopped to buy two bottles of sparkling for Christmas Day, the nice lady at the Norseman bottle shop told us that there had been a violent storm the night before, with power outage for hours. With nothing to do and a lack of lights, people went to bed at about 8 pm! Incidentally, if you want to invest in cheap real estate, you can buy a three bedroom house in Norseman for around $24 000. It might be a ‘des res’, or ‘desirable residence’ but the town itself is not very popular and lacks a lot of infrastructure, such as a pharmacy even.
There’s a pub, though. Wouldn’t be an Australian country town without at least one pub, no matter what the population. It is probably legally mandated to build that first.
(Incidentally, if you wonder why I am over-explaining things, it is because I am using these blog posts for the basis of letters for my very sick Canadian father-in-law: he likes the word portraiture. I assume anybody who regularly reads here from Australia already knows this stuff.)
We left the bitumen shortly after to cut across a well maintained Shire dirt road between the sheep/wheat farms on our way to the coast. A lot of them had well decorated gates at the entrances to their often very long driveways. I liked this one, made out of fencing wire:
Eventually we hit the right road for what we thought was the approach to the National Park. This area is remote, has no people guiding you to a site, operates on a first come, first served basis and we had never been there before. To complicate matters, signs on the road were not the same as signs on the map and it was getting later and later.
We didn’t know how many spots were available for camping although we did know that there were three main camping areas but there was a big distance between them. I had researched a bit on the internet (the power of Google!) but there was surprisingly little out there, even from the official government sources. My choice was Seal Creek so we followed a road that we thought was taking us there, even though it didn’t match up with the one on the map and eventually we came upon a couple of maintenance guys who were just putting up the fee paying station: they told us that as we got there before it was complete, our stay would be free!
Normally, camping in a West Australian National Park is anything from $8 to $15 per person per night: where we go, this covers long drop (pit) toilets and gas barbecues only. Rarely, there is collected tank water. Other people prefer parks that have fire rings and tap water. Further up the scale is flush toilets. And sometimes there is the supreme luxury of a cold water shower that may be warm if you are in the outback. On top of the actual camping fees, you have to pay a park access fee as well, which is a flat rate per visit, rather than per night. We pay for an All Parks Pass, actually I can’t remember how much we pay; I think it is around $90 for unlimited visits to any National Park in Western Australia if you are keen campers, it definitely works out.
This trip was more of a bargain than most, what with not having to pay fees. And we saw the Ranger as we drove further down from the not-quite-erected-fee-station, who told us there were a couple of spots left at Seal Creek and none anywhere else!
I don’t know what I was expecting when we drove in (every campsite is different) but this was lovely. They had carved little swathes of clearings, just big enough for one family, out of the dense bush, in a spoke on a wheel pattern, so that you couldn’t really see your neighbours at all. There were 12 spots, one gas barbecue, one pit toilet and there was a tank of water but I don’t know if it had anything in it as it was rainfall collection and we were at Cape Arid.