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Motorhome Travels - June 2011

03/06/2011

Australia's most westerly mainland point is called Steep Point. Although we have visited the most northerly (Cape York), most easterly (Cape Byron) and most southerly (South Point), Steep Point has always eluded us due to the need for a four wheel drive vehicle to get there. Steep Point is also famous for its fishing, Now that we have both a four wheel drive and a boat, how could we miss the opportunity to go there?

The location of Australia's most westerly mainland point. - [Click for a Larger Image]
The location of Australia's most
westerly mainland point.

While making our way to Hamelin Station (they have camping and allow travellers to leave their motorhomes and caravans on site while visiting Steep Point) we met Steph and Steve Gray. As chance would have it, they were heading for the point as well - we decided to team up and make the trip together. On the Sunday night, with both vehicles fully packed and ready for an early morning start, we listened to the sound of heavy rain on the roof of the bus - that is not good. Sure enough by morning the road to the point was closed. We decided that we would make another attempt the following morning.

An early morning phone call brought the good news that the road was now open and we set off. The majority of the 185km road was in very good condition and we were able to travel at over 80km/h. This changed dramatically just after the salt works where the road turned to huge corrugations (seriously, some of the corrugations were big enough to have their own post code) - progress became very slow from this point, but by 11:30am we were at the ranger station receiving directions to our camp site.

We camped right on the white sandy beach and were able to launch the boat just in front of our camp - and no time was lost doing exactly that.

Our camp at Steep Point, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Our camp at Steep Point, WA

Our baldchin grouper, Steep Point, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Our baldchin grouper, Steep Point,
WA

Blackspot tuskfish, Steep Point, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Blackspot tuskfish,
Steep Point, WA

The ranger had warned us about the strong currents in the bay so we were not surprised to find that drifting with the current was the only real option - this meant only one of us in the water at a time. The underwater environment did not disappoint - there were fish everywhere. As we already had a lot of fish from our trip to the Abrolhos Islands, we needed to be very selective about what type and how many fish we brought back - this turned out to be the hardest part of the entire trip. It is very difficult NOT to pull the trigger on a speargun pointing at a very nice grouper.

While the tides were not huge (1 - 2 meters) the size and shape of the inlet caused massive changes in current very quickly - the water clarity changed just as fast. We did manage to find a few places that were sheltered from most of the water movement where we could both enjoy some great dives together. As we were packing up to leave, we met a team of spear fishermen from Perth who had all been to the point many times - they gave us some great tips about where to find the best fish (slightly late news - but stored for the next visit).

Our last sunset at the beach camp, WA - [Click for a Larger Image]
Our last sunset at the beach camp,
WA

The evenings were cool but pleasant and the sunsets spectacular. Thursday arrived too soon and we were not happy to be packing up. We had time for one more dive/fish and took the opportunity to introduce Steve to the sport. He shot his first tusk fish (a perfect head shot) and is now completely hooked.

We visited the cliffs (where the balloon fishing is done) and of course the most westerly point before heading back towards Hamelin Station and the bus. The route chosen took us past Thunder Bay and the spectacular blowholes before turning into a fairly serious four wheel driving adventure. We were very fortunate that Steve and Steph were with us - as they are experienced four wheel drivers, we were very happy for them to take the lead. The poor little Vitara went places that I never thought would be possible.

We arrived back at the bus (and a cat that was very happy to see us) at about 7:30. It had been a wonderful few days. We have already decided to go back to Steep Point one day.

 

18/06/2011

After our visit to Steep Point we decided to stop off at Point Quobba for a week. The Carnarvon Shire permits camping in selected areas and there is a ranger stationed at the camp for the busy months of the year (winter). The camping fees are a very reasonable $5.50 per campsite per night and the road is sealed all the way to the to the camping area. This makes Point Quobba VERY popular ... and very busy.

The point it's self is a marine reserve but the protected area is quite small. A protective reef system runs north-south and is home to a huge variety of fish life. This area is also well known for the abundance of sharks.

We met Steve and Lexie the day after we arrived at Quobba. Steve spotted my speargun and being a keen spearfisherman himself stopped to chat. On a brief holiday from Victoria they were interested in any local knowledge they could get. We suggested that Steve join us on the boat the next day if the swell allowed.

A tiny finch at Quobba. - [Click for a Larger Image]
A tiny finch at Quobba.

It was later the following afternoon that we launched the boat and headed out beyond the reef. The water was clear and the bottom was quite visible 18 meters below the boat. Steve left the boat and headed towards a ball of small fish on the surface. It was not very long before we spotted him returning with a good sized Spanish mackerel (over 1m long). Steve reported some giant trevally in a small cave a little way from the boat, so Tracey and I headed off to investigate. We found the trevally circulating around a large depression at about 10 meters. In the very bottom of that depression there was a 2.5m shark also circulating. The question was - what would the shark do if we speared a fish and put blood in the water so close to it? The answer turned out to be "nothing" - however a smaller (and perhaps hungrier) shark made a high-speed run at our speared fish but darted off at the last second. We both swam back to the boat quite quickly, keen to be some distance from our bleeding, flapping catch.

A whale swims just off the cliffs at Quobba - [Click for a Larger Image]
A whale swims just off the cliffs at
Quobba

The next time we ventured out to the reef turned out to be far more traumatic. It was two days later and we were keen to explore the outer reef a little more. The swell was quite large - but we felt that it was manageable. Crossing the reef required perfect timing - to get it wrong was to risk being hit by a wave. To get it very wrong was to risk sinking the boat. After watching the waves for a good 5 minutes and picking our spot, we headed across the reef at best speed. It was at this very point in time that the sea decided to produce waves at least twice the size of any that we had previously observed. I honestly don't remember exactly what happened next - I do remember looking down at the boat - it seemed to be about 5 meters below me - I thought "oooo this is going to hurt!" Two huge waves smashed the boat and my landing was just as painful as I had anticipated. It was not a good scene.

We managed to get the boat outside the reef and get all of the water out of it. Steve had injured his hand and my back was beginning to complain bitterly. We now had the task of getting back through the waves to get to shore. Fortunately this part of the voyage was uneventful and we reached the boat ramp with no more excitement.

It took another hour for my back to completely seize - at this point even breathing was painful - moving was completely out of the question. As I write this (5 days later), it is beginning to return to normal, with just the odd twinge to remind me of the altercation at Quobba Point. We learned some very valuable lessons that day.

Fortunately Tracey can drive the bus, so moving north to 14 mile beach camp on Warroora Station was no problem. If you have read any of our blog you will know that we love camping at 14 mile. The white sandy beaches and the reef just off shore make it the perfect spot for anyone who like us enjoys the Ocean. Don't expect the SPOT tracker to move too far any time soon.

 

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