Sunday 3 June
After shopping, clothes washing etc, we explored around Port Hedland a checked out a few possible sites for launching the boat and doing a spot of fishing. None proved inviting, with the 20 knot South-Easterly ruling out almost all options. In the end, we opted to try for mud crabs in the creek at Redbank. The final score was mud crabs 0, sandflies 100. In fact, we barely got out of the creek in time before the rapidly falling tide left us stranded in a mud heap.
Monday 4 June
Today we tried a spot of shore fishing at the “Spoil Bank”, a large expanse of flat land created from the dredging of the harbour entrance. It proved to be VERY frustrating, with a number of solid fish (almost certainly salmon) hooked but not landed. Despite this, the session was a lot of fun and certainly helped to relax us. The sight of huge ore carriers entering and leaving the harbour throughout the afternoon kept us entertained.
Tuesday 5 June to Friday 8 June
Another week of work, with Christine in her same 6/7 class at Cassia all week and me working at Baler and Cassia in a variety of roles. We both enjoyed terrific hospitality and a strong sense of staff unity at Cassia. Christine was thrilled to receive a small gift in appreciation of her efforts at the end of our stay.
We have decided to push on without having the car looked at because no one will look at it. This is certain to be the case until Darwin. Fingers crossed!
Saturday 9 June
We left Hedland (Hooray!) and drove to 80 Mile Beach. The car performed well and the automatic transmission gave no problems. I drove all the way with the overdrive turned off. It uses a bit more fuel but seems to be the way to go. The caravan park here is one of the best appointed anywhere. Given its very remote location, it puts many town based parks to shame, with numerous ablution facilities, local TV broadcast, lots of grass and shade and a well stocked little shop. It is also a pleasure to find such friendly staff.
We set up in time to catch the afternoon rising tide for beach fishing for salmon. The “brag board” of photos showed that late May had been the time for large threadfin salmon, with many 5-10kg fish being caught every day. Unfortunately, things have fallen off in June and we didn’t manage any.
Sunday 10 June and Monday 11 June
Two wonderful days of sleeping, fishing, bike riding and relaxing. We had one good fishing session, landing a couple of nice blue nosed threadfin for tea. We also met yet another satellite man who helped us get our dish tuned. I am ready to make a barbecue out of the thing. Still, he gave us some useful tips so next time we may do better.
Tuesday 12 June
It is tempting to laze away at 80 Mile Beach but we pushed on today. We had planned to put in a couple of days at Langi Crossing on the Fitzroy but changed our mind at the last minute and opted for Willie Creek, just North of Broome. Again the car performed well so I am hopeful the problem is solved. After a hurried shopping trip in Broome (overcrowded and chaotic as usual) we negotiated a corrugated track out to Willie Creek and set up in a terrific spot with shade and ocean views. It even proved sand fly free, although a few mozzies came in with the dusk.
Wednesday 13 June and Thursday 14 June
We launched the boat mid-morning on the falling tide and spent a terrific two hours catching all manner of small fish (and losing a couple of big ones). A nice little cod assured us of tea. The variety was amazing, bream, queen fish, flag, flathead, brown sweetlips, trevally, and 3 species of cod. We failed again with the mud crabs and were disappointed when another boat came in with 5 big ones. They had picked up 3 on handlines.
On Wednesday afternoon, a couple arrived in our camp on foot, requesting assistance with their bogged vehicle. It was a ute with a tray-back camper and was well and truly anchored to Mother Earth. Worse still, they had bogged while trying to turn around so they were broad side on to the track and there was no room at all to use a “snatch strap”. I used my exhaust bag to lift the vehicle up and we tried packing rocks underneath. This advanced us about a metre or so. After two of these manoeuvres and still well and truly bogged, we drove down to the Willie Creek Pearl farm in the hope they had a tractor. No tractor but they did have some planks so we managed to get them out just on night fall. Wishing them well, we went back to camp.
At 10am the next morning, the couple reappeared and sheepishly announced that they were bogged again. In fact, they were only 25 metres from the previous bogging. After we left them, they tried to turn on some hard looking ground, broke through the top layer into the powdery stuff underneath and spent an uncomfortable night perched on an awkward angle. This time, I could use a snatch strap and managed to get them out in about half an hour. The last I saw of them was driving away from the beach area.
Friday 15 June
We were up at the crack of dawn to give us enough time to break camp, drive into Broome, shop for Trevor’s extensive meat order and drive on to Fitzroy Crossing. All went well with our timing and we rolled into Fitzroy just after 4pm.