In line with the great Australian tradition of long weekends, our four and half day celebration of Australia Day started on Wednesday for the six hour trek north to Port Gregory.
After a number of years of adventures ‘down south’ at Pemberton and Windy Harbour for our nation’s birthday bash it was determined that a new locale was needed and as I cast an eye over the the many fantastic destinations our great state has to offer, Port Gregory, a small town and fishing port in the Mid West region, beckoned.
Twenty people in 11 vehicles made the journey to Port Gregory.
A PERFECT AUSTRALIA DAY AT A GLORIOUS BEACH
The Port Gregory Caravan Park is very close to the beach and we booked out a large part of the powered camping area. Our usual practice is to to do the ‘big 4WD day’ on the first day of any trip while everyone is keen but Matt told me that Thursday was looking great for a ‘day at the beach’ and the remainder of the break less so. It was an easy decision to swap around the planning.
It was hot early. Anywhere on the Port Gregory beach is ideal and we set up a comfortable ‘camp’ for the day only a few hundred metres south of the jetty.
Matt and Dan went out to the reef to do some diving.
When they came back in with some fish others were keen to join them.
Scott and Helen went for a walk along the beach and met a group that had set up a water slide from the dunes to the beach. They had run out of petrol for their pump. We swapped petrol for access to the slide!
On the way to the water slide in Matt’s inflatable we came across a family of dolphins.
The breaking surf massage was an interesting experience.
Time to leave the beach and return to the caravan park for our ritual cocktail party.
Boules is not exactly a traditional Aussie game but it kept the crowd amused between cocktails.
YES, YOU CAN DRIVE FROM PORT GREGORY TO KALBARRI ALONG THE BEACH
We left Port Gregory and very soon got off the beach and into the dunes.
The top of the dunes give a great view of Hutt Lagoon.
Hutt Lagoon is separated from the Indian Ocean by a barrier dune system. Similar to Lake MacLeod, 40 kilometres north of Carnarvon, it is fed by ocean waters through the barrier ridge.
Hutt Lagoon is a ‘pink lake’ – a salt lake with a pink hue due to the presence of carotene. This algae is used as a food colouring agent and is a source of vitamin A. It is the site of the world’s largest microalgae production plant, a 250 hectare series of artificial ponds used to farm the carotene.
From our vantage point we dropped down to the level of the lake and tried to find a way north.
We turned around from the dead end and found our way onto a flat, dry, wide, claypan. After a false start trying to find the exit we continued north through the dunes.
Interesting dunes with a few steep drops took us closer to Lucky Bay.
After a few more dunes the track lead to the Lucky Bay access road.
I drove onto the beach and got bogged. A few of the guys pushed me out and I immediately got bogged again in drift sand.
We continued further north along the beach and found a great spot for lunch.
After lunch we crawled up the beach in heavy sand. We came to spot where we figured we could not go any further. Plenty of people we spoke to told us that we could not get around Wagoe Farm. The accepted wisdom among people we asked along the beach was that the proprietors of Wagoe would not allow access north of their property, regardless of entreaties or cash inducements. Unless one was staying at the location there was no way past. The farm does not extend to the beach and there had to be a way through. Matt headed inland to find a track.
Matt radioed that he had found a way and everyone headed into the dunes, stopping at a steep descent. I wasn’t prepared to commit to descending the slope until Matt confirmed that he had found a way through to the southern end of the Kalbarri Coastal gorges – only about two kilometres distant in a direct line.
Matt radioed that he had found a way through. I was first over the drop and found myself too far to the left (or not far far enough depending on your perspective), ending up totally stuck in a clump of vegetation at the bottom of the drop.
Everyone else took a line further right and descended the hill without difficulty.
Greg and I attacked the clump of bushes with a spade and an axe, with the intention of removing the vegetation and then shifting the sand to allow the Rodeo to move forward. Dan joined in for a while and then suggested that we winch the vehicle sideways preparatory to winching it out at an angle of 90 degrees from that which it was currently parked. Good suggestion!
Dan positioned his vehicle to the right of the trapped Rodeo. With a number of heavyweights lined up on the left side of the Rodeo acting as a counter balance (similar to an outrigger situation on a yacht) to negate the possibility of a rollover, Dan winched the Rodeo around far enough to tackle stage two of the recovery operation.
Meanwhile Greg continued the attack on the vegetation so we could free the Rodeo. He saw something moving and immediately put the long handled spade to good use to despatch a metre long dugite that had been hunkering down in the bushes. Both Dan and I, wearing only short and sandals, had early placed our feet only centimetres from where Greg used the spade to effect.
The dunes ended a kilometre further on.
Matt guided the convoy out of the dunes and we entered the Kalbarri National Park at its southern extremity.
Some chose to look at coastal gorges and others headed into Kalbarri.
We returned to Port Gregory on the bitumen. Dan set about cleaning his tyre and rim and attempted to re-seat it on the bead by spraying deodorant into the casing and igniting it. The first attempt was a dismal failure and the second was no better.
Safety-aware readers will note the use of PPE and strict adherence to safe working methods.
Sebastien and Marion prepared a video of the day’s adventures.
After a short delay to get everyone in line with the pre-determined schedule we left Port Gregory for the fishing and holiday hamlet of Horrocks.
Thirty kilometres south-east of Port Gregory, Horrocks is popular for swimming, fishing, surfing, diving, and windsurfing .
We aired down before heading north on the beach – not knowing that there is a much quicker way to the dunes.
It was evident fairly quickly that the beach was not the way forward. We turned off the beach into Horrocks Dunes, a huge, wide open area of high dunes.
Today was designated ‘Loud Shirt Day’ despite Nick’s protestations that is was just so I could feel better about my wardrobe.
We drove to the end of dunes where there is a great view of the coastline from a high razorback dune.
It was then back to the beach.
I got stuck on the beach and Matt got stuck snatching me out. We had to use the MaxTrax to extricate Matt and then added in an extra snatch strap to get me mobile again.
We then turned off that part of the beach and found the track that lead to the swimming beach.
After lunch we returned to the Horrocks Dunes and Matt found a high steep dune to tackle.
Greg negotiated the dune easily but at the bottom he rolled the left tyres of their rims. Fortunately there was no damage done to the rubber. Once we got Greg mobile is was time to head back to the Caravan Park at Port Gregory.
The next morning we packed up in pouring rain and headed home, stopping at the Lynton Convict Hiring Depot ruins along the way.
There’s enough attractions, enough dunes, enough challenges to warrant another trip to Port Gregory (or perhaps Lucky Bay) for Australia Day in 2018.
Feel free to use any part of this photo-essay with attribution.