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December 2011 Club News

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Ride to Marble Bar and Back

By Andy & Chester

On the road
All packed and ready to go. Arranged to meet Barry May at 8.30am. I arrived early 8.15 keen as mustard. Young Jack Rowe was there to wish us bon voyage and off we went. The weather was looking a little overcast but nice for riding. We arrived at the Caltex in Mt Barker to pick up young Harley Trent, have a morning cupper and chin wag and head off to Katanning, Beverley and a stop at York for fuel and coffee then off to Goomalling for our first night.

The caravan park was pretty good $5/night each for a tent site. Set up our camp: me in a tent Harley & Barry in swags. We walked into town to the hotel and had a few beers (cider for Harley, Guinness for me) and then back to camp to cook some food. Early to sleep but not for long our neighbour arrived back all primed up and decided to hold a one man disco all to our distaste, 2 am the music stopped, thanks to the bloke who invented ear plugs I got a little bit of sleep.

I was awakened early morning (5 am) by someone walking around on the gravel. It was early bird Harley looking for his morning coffee, the management had locked the camp kitchen until 7 am. We all got up and packed accidentally waking up the dickhead with the music. He didn’t look impressed ha ha revenge is sweet.

BACK on the road and a beaut day things just seemed real good. We travelled through Wongan Hills, Dalwallinu, Wubin. The crops in these  districts looked fantastic and all the wildflowers just light up the landscape I think it will be a great year for the farmers this one. Stopped at Mt Magnet for fuel and lunch In 1880 a family by the name of JONES (Warwicks relatives) settled at Boogardie station grazing sheep. Gold was found in 1891 near Mt Magnet which were the makings off this town. Hill 50, a gold mine found in 1936, still open to this day.

Some ratbags at
          a service station.
All filled up we move on and rode to our second nights stop, Cue, another town riding the gold boom. In 1890 an aborigine found a 10oz nugget. In 1892 the Kintore blow gold mine was discovered by a Michael Fitzgerald and partner Tom Cue that’s where the town got its name from. In its heyday the population got to 10,000 compared to today's 350. There are still a lot of tourists visiting the area looking for gold. We meet some in the caravan park who had small nuggets that they showed us. Being such beautiful weather we decided to have a BBQ, so off to town we went to get some stores and have a look at the small motorbike museum at the Queen of the Murchison Hotel, but were told to piss off as they were too busy. So we pissed of to the food shop were we paid $1.13 for a potato and 0.97c for a tomato after that we needed a drink: 4pm and The Murchison Club Hotel just opened. Nice cold beer and a nice bartender. That night we were extra careful in cooking our vegies.

FRI 16
AFTER a peaceful night’s sleep we arose to a chilly morning. Everything was damp so we took our time to pack up. It was then we found the bindii bindii prickles. They were everywhere: all over Barry’s towel that had fallen on the ground, all over the tents, swags, shoes, everywhere. We brushed off as many as we could bloody things! Barry came up with this idea to go and look at the remains of the Big Bell town site so off we went following Barry, about 30 kms down the road he stops to inform us he didn’t know where it was, so I suggested that we go a little further. There were quite a few road trains on the road and soon we came across a huge dump site were the mineral tungsten was being processed. At about 60 kms from Cue we turned back no Big Bell but the ride was nice, thanks Barry.

I stopped to take some photos and because of the truck the other two kept going At about 40 kms form Cue I noticed a sign Big Bell thinking the others had gone down this horrible pebbled gravel road, I ventured down it but only a few hundred meters it was very hard going on my loaded up bike. We all found each other in town and filled up after our 120 kms adventure and headed of to Meekatharra.The landscape changed all the time: getting into the flat low scrub scene now. The temperature also getting hotter. We decided to stay the night as I was feeling hot and fatigued it was about 3pm and 160 kms to Newman so a early day it was. $9/n tent site The park was well set out but a bit noisy as a heap of road workers were staying there. My bike decided to entertain us by falling over onto its side no damage lucky soft ground and grass.

SAT 17
Up early again: 5.30 Harley already packing up. It was really chilly so I guessed he didn’t sleep well in his swag. We had a cooked breakfast in the restaurant. Not impressed with the food serving size small but the fuel price was out of this world $1.97/litre so we only put enough to get us to Newman 160kms away. Made it to Newman about 11 and went straight to the shopping centre for some nice cold drinks and lunch.

Booked into the Whale Back Caravan park $23/n. Set up camp and Barry and I decided to go for a swim in the pool as we were very hot now. Harley wimped out, but he had the last laugh. I dived straight in and like a penguin being chased by a killer whale I was out, the water was like ice, so cold, Barry didn’t believe me but soon he was out as well. We persisted and soon were doing laps that was the only way to keep from freezing

All cooled off we decided to head into town and have a look around the tourist centre with its huge Haul Pack and mining machinery which was interesting. Iron ore was discovered in 1957 by Stan Hidditch and the town of Newman was set up between 1967-69 onwards to this day for the mining industry. The railway from Newman to Port Hedland is the longest private railway in the world reaching 426 kms. Whaleback iron ore mine still operates today producing 30 million tones of ore a year. A great place to see all the town and the surrounding mines is Mt Newman lookout. The town looks like an oasis in the middle of this huge red valley. All the trees have been hand-planted. After our tourist activities we head back to camp for a big cook up and early sleep.

SUN 18
Awaken to the hustle and bustle of the mineworkers changing shifts. Another beautiful day. We’re on the road with all the mine vehicles heading to Tom Price through the Hammersley Ranges. The scenery and landscapes though here are stunning: all the reds, golds, browns and the deep blue skies make it such a joy to ride through.

We reached the town of Tom Price about midday so we bought food and sat in the park to eat it. Tom Price is the highest town in WA at a height of 747m above sea level and nestled in the Hammersley Ranges at the base of Mt Nameless it has a very calming feel about it.

That’s until we got to the caravan park which is 5 kms from town and $16/n each for a un-grassed sandy tent site rip-off but it’s the only one. Camp set up we headed back to town for tea at the Windawarri Lodge $22.50 all you can eat. This place was set up mainly for the miners but we sure ate our share I reckon at least 3 days worth of food each.

A lot of exercise was needed to wear off calories. That night Harley rang the others, Warwick, Kim and Dave to see were they had got to. All went fine the first day and they arrived at Goomaling, Warwick’s childhood town stayed the night at the caravan park. The next day Sunday riding north to Wongan Hills when they were hit by a heavy rain and strong winds Warwick was suffering quite a bit as he had no wet weather gear with him so on reaching Wongan he and Kim booked into the Hotel to dry out, Dave pressed on and by Payne's Find the weather had cleared. He made it to Cue where he booked himself a cabin in the park with a heater to dry out his gear. We phoned him to let him know what was happening and we arranged to meet him at Dales Gorge in Karajini National Park the next day.

Tourists mainly from Germany and France doing the walking and cycling trails around the Pilbara turned up at the park, it was very busy, one had to be quick to get a shower and to cook ones food. They took over everything.

MON 19
UP early to beat the rush at the kitchen, just made it. While eating our breakfast we meet a very interesting young Australian fella who had spent 3 years travelling the world on a pushbike. He started in Amsterdam (Holland) travelled through Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and now he had plans to pedal around Australia. He was telling us he would do 120 kms a day and had tented it the whole trip. He carried food, water, cookers, computer, phone, you name it on this bike, amazing. The front tyre had travelled over 36,000 kms and still look good.

We passed him on the way out of the campsite pushing into a strong wind poor fella. We back-tracked following the Hamersley Ranges to Dales Gorge in Karajini arriving about 11am and checked into Eco Park $5/n. The volunteer ranger were very nice but had put us in the farthest camp site. We picked a spot and set up camp, very basic camp grounds long-drop toilet, no showers etc but OK for a night or in a camper van. Harley was a little tired so he decided to stay in camp while Barry and I walked to The Gorges.

It was quite a walk in heat but we made it down to Fortesque Falls and onto Fern Pool a beautiful swimming hole were we found some backpackers from the UK intrigued with a Bungarra roaming around looking for scraps. We told them to be careful as these creatures had a habit of running up the body and siting on your head when scared.

They were very careful with it and when it made sudden moves the tourist just freaked out, yes, they were girls. The water in the pool was nice and cool so we floated around in it for some time and then came the climb out of the gorge well it was a huge struggle, a lot easier going down than up for this unfit dude, me.

Made it to the top and came up with an idea to build a pool on the top of the gorge so people can cool of after the climb out, its stinking hot remember! On getting back to camp we found Harley a little stressed. He had an encounter with some Japanese tourist who reckoned our site was theirs. Well he told them in so many words that we were not going to pull down our camp and redo it elsewhere, it was hot work, and they got the picture. All worked out OK.

Late that arvo we heard the thump thump of a Harley in the distance it was Dave. He had travelled from Cue to Dales that day: 800kms, and was hanging for a nice cold beer which he had in his trailer with soft drinks, water, snacks, chocolate, the advantages of a trailer. After cooking up some food and some tales about snakes and wild dingoes we’re off to bed for a good nights sleep. I slept fine but the boys in the swags were a bit restless dreaming about snakes and dingoes I guess.

THE night was very cold and we all where a little reluctant to get out of bed. Dave and Harley were the first, eventually we were all up and packed and on the road to our first stop - Auski Roadhouse, or the native name Munjinna Roadhouse, for a bacon and egg toasty and coffee. Quite a busy place heaps of mine workers camped in the cabins and feeding at the restaurant.

The price of unleaded was a little unrealistic at $1.93/litre. Anyhow, filled up and headed north to Port Hedland 264kms. The temp is getting much hotter now but a nice heat. The landscape is looking very dry and as we near Hedland we could see the damage a fire the week before had done to the area. We made it to Hedland and headed to the Black Rock Tourist Park $12.50/n tent site not much of a camp kitchen, BBQ plate and microwave, no bench space.

Went into S Hedland for some stores and a quick look around and then back to camp. Barry and I went for a swim in the pool as it was still very hot, felt a lot better after that, had a cook up and then headed to bed. Didn’t get much sleep that night as the noise from all the trains, planes and shift workers went on all night.

Luckily it was
          a cool day.
WED 21
WE’RE all a little tired this morning and it seemed to take a while to pack, it was going to be another hot day. By 9am the temp was 28C and we where heading to the hottest place in the world, Marble Bar. That’s the hottest consecutive days in a row. The road to Marble Bar is real good heaps off scenery to take in, mountain ranges, river crossing, termite moulds with miner helmets on them and the colours of the rocks and soil. One had to be a little careful at the river crossing as there were a lot of cattle drinking there and a lot of dead ones one the road edges, been hit by the road trains of which there where lot.

The only dicey part was going though the narrow Doolena Gorge only single lane not a place to meet one of those road trains. We arrived in Marble Bar and booked into the caravan park $10/n set up camp and had a bite to eat, not much choice from the only store in town, so pies it was. The temp now was 36C so we went looking for some swimming holes.

We where told about Chinamans Pool (named because a Chinese man was hung there for not disclosing the location of his gold strike to claim-jumpers). Marble Bar pool (named because of the Jasper rocks mistakenly identified as Marble) so off we went - very disappointed little water and very dirty.

Barry went in at Marble Bar pool and reckoned it was great, but I didn’t like the look of the green water anyhow something brushed against him maybe a woggle and that was it out he came smelling like cow shit, well we think it was the cows. The Jasper rock around these pools when wet looked unreal. We headed back to camp, Barry at the rear and first in the showers.

Siting in the camp relaxing we received a message from the lost wanderers Kim and Warwick they had arrived in Hedland and were on their way here, 4.30pm they arrived looking very hot. Warwick's face was red like a beetroot, left his visor up. They set up their tents and then we walked to the Iron Clad for some refreshments and stores for a BBQ tea. Sitting around the camp all full and content with our days activities, all hell broke loose. Kim and Barry seemed to have gathered a balloon full of gas each the performance went on and on, never heard anything like it, lucky it was just us. As the peace and silence returned we all took the opportunity to get out of there and go to our tents,

Swimming setup
          for the North.
Up early to get some shots of the brilliant sunrise. Kim, Barry, Warwick and myself all climb up the hill that supports the town’s water tank. What a view from up there at that time of the day. Warwick told us about the RAAF airfield that was secretly built during the war and still exists, but the road was loose gravel, not for our bikes. Temp now 37C, Dave was told by the park owner that there was a nice clean swimming pool called the Overlander Crossing about 80kms from town, so Harley, Dave and myself decided it would be nice to lay around in. We fuelled up and that’s when Harley did a Bob he put diesel in his tank. To give him an excuse all the hoses where criss-crossed and not marked clearly (that’s not an excuse - Bob). He managed to get most of it out and filled up with the correct fuel. We headed off to cool down in this nice river pool, 80, 90,100 finally 150 kms we found the pool. It was the De Grey River, and it was green and had heaps of cattle. We had been had by those Marble Bar hicks. The only good thing was the ride there and back as the scenery was awesome: mountain ranges, unusual rock formations, heaps of rivers and termite mounds. When we got back the only food shop was closed. No meals at the pub as the kitchen was being renovated. Baked beans it was.

FRI 23
ANOTHER beaut day, all packed and waiting for fuel. The only shop in town for food and fuel opened at 7.30 am. We all checked Harley was putting in the right stuff, had a coffee bacon and egg toasty and headed off back to Hedland. Kim decided to replace his front slick with a treaded tyre in Hedland.  Dave guided him to the tyre shop, lucky they had one that was ordered by someone else and never picked up. The rest off us went to South Hedland shopping centre to chill out in the air conditioning with coffee and cakes.

All regrouped and of to Roebourne to check out the museum. Very interesting, especially the free coffee and tea. Mr Warwick was very thirsty, at least 4 cups of tea. The people at the museum were very friendly and helpful The next stop was Whim Creek for some nice cold drinks. Just made it as the Hotel was closing up for the afternoon.

Pushing a cart
          on a whim.
Whim Creek has a colourful history. The hotel steel framework was originally made for the court house at Marble Bar but due to a cyclone it was stranded in the position where it stands now. It is renowned as a drinking hole for all the copper miners and travellers for the past 120 years. The heat now was hot, 39c. It seemed to take an eternity to get from Whim Creek to Karratha, but once there, it was great. We set up camp at the Karratha Caravan Park. Barry and myself jumped straight into the pool to cool down, it was heaven. The park was full of workers supporting the mining boom. The tent site was fairly small and packed full of tourists. The park management warned us that a few snakes had been slithering around the park of late and told us to zip up, for Harley and Barry it was a worry.

SAT 24
Good sleep, but up early with the noise of the workers going to work, checked to see if the swag boys survived the night, all OK. We packed up, had breaky and headed down to Dampier to check up all the activity. The place was booming. A very pretty town on the water front. Back to Karratha (meaning good country in the local aborigines language) for some stores at the huge shopping centre and fuel. Next stop was Fortesque River for a rest and cuppa. The roadhouse was still serving fuel and food, but the caravan park was closed.

Continuing on we headed for Onslow. It seemed to take a long time we had all split up, somehow the lights of Kim and Warwick where getting further and further back and Barry, Dave and Harley were way way up front as I had stopped a couple of times to take photos. On reaching Onslow I stopped and waited for Kim and Warwick. No one came so I drove into town and was fuelling up when Barry turned up. He had been to a caravan park down the road which was now only for offshore workers. We found Dave and Harley in the Ocean View Park all set up. Dave on his first stubby and Harley with his mates from Mt Barker but no Kim or Warwick. Maybe they had stopped for a cuppa, we all know Warwick.

Barry and I set up our camps and then came Warwick with the news that young Kim had run out of fuel 11kms from town. Dave to the rescue with his trailer and a drum of fuel. Did we give poor Kim a lecture or two on how to fill up a bike? He miss-calculated, that’s all, instead of only putting $20 in he should have filled right up with fuel at Karratha, a lesson learnt. It was sure nice to be near the ocean again.

Onslow is going though a huge development as Chevron have been given the go-ahead for the $30 billion Gorgon natural gas project offshore Onslow. That night we spoiled ourselves to a pub dinner. There was a very pleasant smell wafting though the hotel just before dinner. It seemed to make us all hungry. We all ordered fish & chips. It was the biggest serving I have ever seen, enough on one plate to feed three people and most was eaten by all.

After such a huge meal Warwick, Kim Barry and myself went for a walk along the boardwalk when the light went, Wok and I turned back to camp, but Kim and Baz carried on until they where spooked by something in the bushes. A bogey man. They had to use their mobile phone lights to get home they were in a terrible state, meanwhile we had been told to cover ourselves with sand fly repellent as there were heaps in the park. Everyone seemed to sleep well that night according to all the snoring going on especially Dave and Wok.

Luxuriating in
          a unit.
SUN 25
Packed up and off to fuel up. We all checked to see if Kim filled up and off we went. It was the fairly cold morning and I had to put another layer on whilst doing that I took some pics of a termite nest, wouldn’t want to build a house in this area. First stop was at Minilya Roadhouse. The entry into this place was shocking, potholes and loose gravel everywhere. All filled up and of to Carnarvon, Wok had some fun with a couple of emus running out in front of him, a urgent toilet stop was required. There were quite a few emus, cows and goats on the edges of road, more than other places we had been. We arrived in Carnarvon late afternoon and decided to get a self-contained unit at Carnarvon Caravan Park.

Great to have a nice bed. Dave was on the floor in his swag. He drew the short straw. We cooked up a nice BBQ that night and caught up with some news on the tele and then to bed. Everyone was good for the first couple of hours and then Barry came to the front with this snoring session. Then was outdone by Wok, Kim, Dave Harley and I guess myself. We were all awake and then Dave got up for a smoke outside, so we all were up, this was 2am sitting around drinking cups of tea listening to Barry winging that we all woke him up. We got him to roll onto his side and that fixed the snoring but put pressure on his guts and then he started to complain very loudly and that started Kim off then it was Woks turn. I couldn’t wait for morning not much sleep.

MON 26
All up to the smell of bacon and eggs. Dave and Harley had had enough of the nights shenanigans and decided to meet the other crew in Denham and off they went. The rest of us did a train ride on the mile long jetty and a walk though the very quiet town centre. The floods the year before were still evident in all the market gardens and rebuild houses. The bananas were just starting to get up to fruit-bearing size, even  here they cost $7.99/kilo. The park where we were still had signs of where the water had got to. Me and Baz had a nice and relaxing day just hanging around the unit. Wok and Kim went off on their bikes looking around. We sat down to a huge roast dinner that night with ice cream and fruits from the area. See what you missed Dave and Harley. All was nice and quite that night as I had my earplugs in. Best sleep in a while.

We awoke to a change in the weather. It was raining so we prolonged our stay as long as possible in this nice dry unit. The rain eased of and we left, heading to Denham. I had my wets on and by the time we got to the servo it had stopped raining. Wok still had no wet gear. It started to get a little heavy 20kms down the road but typically 10 minutes later it stopped. I kept on going until we got to the Overlander Roadhouse were the driveway is worse than Minilya. All the way to the pumps was disgraceful. Stripped off our wets and off to Hamelin Pool for some lunch: roast beef sandwiches from the night before. Hamelin Pool is known for its stromatolites and shell block buildings. There is a caravan park and shop there as well catering for the many tourists that come there. While sitting in the gazebo having lunch Warwick said that if there was a cabin for $100 he would shout us and guess what the budget cabins at Denham Seaside Tourist Park were $100, $97 with a senior discount so Harley, Kim Barry and myself thanked him for his generous offer.

Great little self-contained cabins with space for 6 persons. We gave Wok the double bed for being so nice to us also it was the furtherest away from us (he has been known to snore a little). We shouted him the next night.
Next edition: the short ride to Denham by Chester & Andy

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