Carnarvon, 900 km north of Perth, WA, Australia
Some places are remote by isolation and others by geo-culture. Carnarvon on the northern land edge of Shark Bay or the southern tip of the Ningaloo coast is geographically and culturally an island community. There’s desert North, East & South and the Indian Ocean west. 900k south is the capital of WA, inland there ain’t much but Stations, mining and desert and HEAT. There’s one highway connecting the coastal towns of WA which nearly misses Carnarvon, travelling north there’s a right hand corner on you are on your way out… which means the backpackers and ‘grey brigade’ can bypass this oasis. The ‘Von, as I know it, has it all and not a lot in the same breathe. Great scenery, camping, fishing, sailing, kayaking and people. Some arrive for awhile and find the climate and lifestyle too hard or isolating. As the Hutch-meister would say “toughen up”. A simple approach that allayed my fears when heading out to sea in 25-30 knot winds – mind when I saw him heading for land my relief was short-lived – he’d snapped a boom and was only returning to pick up the replacement arranged by mobile phone – 5hrs later we’d moored 25nm offshore in Redcliff Bay – storm passed and the water’s glass….
The winter is mild on the coast but can be bitterly cold at night once you move inland towards Kennedy Range or Mt Augustus. Summer, you’re declared ‘loose’ to head inland and camp in 40-50C heat, yet quite sane to sleep at 0-3C in winter. The simple beauty of the desert can only take your breathe away or inadequately be depicted by an image.
Then there’s the Gascoyne River – the lifeblood of the town – quite quaintly it is best described as an upside-down river. Over one period of 23 month’s there was no rain in the town and the ‘Gascoyne’ was dry as a bone and a sandy 4WD track. Yet the plantations all draw their water from bores set in the artesian riverbed over the year producing the sweetest Mangoes.
When there’s a ‘river’ the sanity-lacking souls run the river on car-tubes; surfboards or in our case kayaks. A 2-3 m high head of water rushes down to the sea, and depending on the total catchment volume the main riverbed returns to sand within a week. Once after a Cyclone struck the west coast a group of foolhardy souls held the Gascoyne [Wet] River Dash with a variety of craft racing 160km downriver. Now as an alternative there’s the
Gascoyne [Dry] River Dash attracting off-road vehicles from Australia wide…
A piece of barbed wire & pliers – an Aussie can do anything