After spending a month in the big smoke we were ready to hit the open road again.
Ok, Perth is no big smoke - it’s a pretty little city and like it a lot we sure did, but winter was coming... we wanted to leave those frosty mornings in our wake, get away from civilisation, let the days slow down again, and spend some time living barefoot in the sunshine.
We had a couple of weeks before my fouteen year old sister, Katie, would fly into Perth to spend her school holidays getting a taste of vanlife. So, we decided to do a little detour and head up to Shark Bay, just a quick 10 hours up the road. We were promised by many Western Australians that Shark Bay was right on the border of where cold ends and warm begins, so we were sold.
Because we’re in a relatively slow vehicle, it took us two days. If you’re ever on the road and doing this stretch be sure to do a sunrise or sunset in The Pinnacles Desert, it’s pretty weird and pretty specky.
Just how? And why? And what are they?
There are also mountains of white sand everywhere. Giant gleaming sand dunes surrounded by desert. You can stay in Cervantes, or do as we did - risk it for the biscuit and camp somewhere with a view. We actually did this area on the way back down to Perth, because it was pouring on the way up. But I’m guessing most of you are more sensible than us and will only do this drive once, instead of the three times we’ve ended up doing it.
We stopped in Geraldton where there’s a free 24 hour car park for campervans and caravans. Very handy.
As we cooked our dinner we were joined by a true blue Aussie bogan, who stood outside Scout for a good hour, in his stubby shorts, grey beard down to his bare chest, holding his VB, telling us yarns about his own Kombi adventures - love these moments on the road.
There’s also a huge adventure playground nearby. Very fun for married couples who crawl out of bed needing the loo, but end up playing on a playground for an hour at midnight.
The road to Shark Bay is long and barren, but as we got closer I could actually see a line across the road and the desert either side, where the shadows cast by the gloomy clouds stopped and the sunshine cut through. It made me smile. I did a happy dance in the passenger seat as we crossed it.
We spent two beautifully slow weeks in Shark Bay.
Where we camped:
Monkey Mia. Known for its abundance of dolphins and calm waters. It delivered on both counts. There’s only one option here, and that’s the RAC caravan park. There is literally nothing else around.
The unpowered sites aren’t exactly sites, more a sandy carpark that backs onto a communal lawn, but the facilities are great, and the fact that the whole place is sand is fantastic - no dirt :) The park backs straight onto the beach so you can wander down in the morning and watch the dolphins come in and catch fish, or watch the tourists stampede down and line up at the water’s edge to watch the dolphins catching fish. It’s a sight to behold!
If you stay away from that end of the beach, and away from feeding times, the beach is extremely quiet and we spent many days enjoying the pool-like ocean in solitude.
I woke up on our second morning here and thought Dom was just outside, so I lifted the curtain and met the face of an emu staring me dead in the eye. Scared the bejeepers out of me! That was the first of many emu confrontations. They lurk around Monkey Mia ready to snatch any piece of food they can find. So be warned… the only way to make them back off is to hold your chest out, open your arms, and kinda run at them doing a chicken-like screech.
I’m not joking. I resorted to this tactic many times. I think I scared the other campers more than the emus.
We spent a week camping on the peninsula in a campground just off Eagle Bluff Road.
This was one of my favourite weeks ever. Total isolation, where the outback met the sea and the red sand met the white sand. A time of stillness, and a lot of reflection. We could see the sunrise over the desert and sink over the ocean.
Days here were a blissful mix of sunrise coffees, beach runs, yoga, campfires at night, and a lot of stargazing. We also had a bar of reception from the roof of the van, so we could put one of our phones up there to do a little bit of work if we needed.
There’s a bunch of these campgrounds (use Wikicamps to search). As we drove in there were signs saying that it was 24 hours only, and you call the Info Centre to pay the $15.
Look, I don’t know if we just went so off track that we weren’t in the 24 hour zone anymore… but we didn’t see a ranger once. We did take what was probably a 4WD track, and left the obvious campground, followed the road for another 15 or so until we found the kind of spot we were looking for. So we stayed a week. Until our supplies diminished.
Before we left we spent two risky nights camping at a beach just outside of Denham, but again - we weren’t bothered and had no trouble. We just made sure we had the bed packed up nice and early so that if we did see anyone, we could easily say we’d just rocked up. What’s with the fog on the windscreen? We’ve got the kettle on brother, want a cuppa? ;)
Then it was time to drive back to Perth to pick up my little sister…