The West Coast from Perth to Broome via Kalbarri, Coral Bay and Exmouth –
Please scroll to the bottom of this post for full gallery of images
Ben and I left Perth on the 30th September. After spending three weeks pouring money into the camper van with the hope of passing the roadworthy test we were told that we would need a new engine as the current one was only running on three cylinders. As we had already spent $2,000 on repairs to that point, we gave up trying to get her road worthy and decided to run the gauntlet – we would limp north with the three cylinders we had and see how far we could get before it died. We didn’t know it at the time, but that would turn out to be precisely 398km out of the hoped 4042km between Perth and Darwin.
The First Attempt
The first image below was our farewell to Perth, driving out past the city and saying thank you for being our home for the past 18 months while we earned some cold hard cash to see us to the end of our journey.
En route we stopped in at Yanchep National Park, an hour north of Perth and home to the only colony of Koalas in Western Australia. Not native to WA, the cuddly marsupials had been brought over to the West Coast to live in the Perth Zoo and since its closure have made their home in a purpose built habitat in Yanchep.
Our first night out of Perth we stopped two hours north in Jurien Bay, and the van seemed to be running okay. When we woke up the next morning the battery was dead but, to our relief, managed to start again after filling up with gas at the gas station.
Onward to Geraldton. The van was losing significant power in the 100km we had to go before Geraldton, managing 80kph on the flat, 60kph up the hills and a top speed of 90kph down hill with a tail wind. With 30km to go Ben woke up from a nap and asked “How’s she running? Not dead yet?” As if on cue, something clicked under my foot and the accelerator turned to mush, the noise from the engine halved and we started losing speed. Eyeing up a nice wide gravel area ahead I steered her gently toward it as the engine completely died and we rolled to a stop in complete silence.
“Hmm. Well I thought we’d get a bit further…” I said to Ben. Ever hopeful, Ben thought we’d let her cool down a bit and see what we could do. There was no response from the engine, the battery was dead, which was a bit strange as we’d just driven for two hours. Popping the top of the battery housing, I noticed the battery was steaming from the overflow valve and was really hot to touch. Leaving it to cool for a few hours, Ben then swapped the standard battery for the deep cycle house battery and she started first try.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]To do on a West Coast Road Trip
– Koalas at Yanchep NP
– Visit Prince Leonard at the Hutt River Principality
– Sea Cliffs at Kalbarri
– Visit the Z-Bend Gorge and The Loop at Kalbarri NP
– Feed the Dolphins at Monkey Mia
– Spot Wildlife at Shark Bay
– Get barrelled at Gnaraloo
– Snorkel with Manta Ray (all year) and Whale Sharks (Late March – July) and spot Humpback Whales (Spring) at Coral Bay [/box]
Trundling back onto the road we got another 10km toward Geraldton before it happened for the second time. Without another battery to swap out, she was dead. We had always known she was going to die, and we knew what had to be done. looking up the local wrecking companies, the first one we rang said “Nah mate, we don’t touch those” but the second struck us a bargain. He would come and ‘take it off our hands’ and as payment we could get a lift into town. We packed our bags with more than we could carry and as the tow truck arrived I realised we had a fridge full of fresh vegetables, so I started furiously stuffing broccoli and capsicums into the top of my overfull bag.
The towie was a classic Aussie bloke complete with floppy hat, flannel shirt, thongs (sandals) and missing teeth. He told us he’d “been overseas once to Singapore, and if that’s what overseas is like I’d rather stay home thanks very much!”. From Sun City Wreckers we taxi’d to the nearest camping ground and spent the next day eating as many vegetables as possible before gathering our things and hitchhiking north.
It took two hours to catch a ride with a man named Blackie who was headed 45km north to Northampton. As we drove off I got a text message from a guy who I had found on the rideshare website coseats.com.au who was headed to Broome from Perth and offered to pick us up from Northampton on his way through. He was just leaving Perth, so we had a few hours to wait. Blackie dropped us at the Northampton IGA and we settled in on a nice patch of grass to wait for our ride. It was 2:30pm.
8pm rolled around and we had relocated to the pub across the road when I got a call from our ride. He’d broken down 5km north of Geraldton and was getting a tow truck 400km back to Perth. The best deal we could find for accommodation was the Old Convent across the road from the pub and luckily the woman who ran the place, Maureen, was kind enough to take us in, late as it was. We set out again the next morning, trying to hitchhike from the main road in front of the convent, but had no luck and by lunch time the AFL final was about to start and the trickle of traffic slowed to nothing.
Back to Perth
A campervan relocation from Perth to Broome became available on coseats.com and although it would mean crawling back to Perth to collect it with our tails between our legs, at least we would have a cheap ride north with roadside assistance. The next bus didn’t go for a few days, so we spent three nights at the Convent. In the mean time, we had told Maureen our story and she had set us up with her friend Terry who runs Red Earth Safaris, and we ended up jumping in with him on his run back to Perth on Monday morning.
On Wednesday morning we successfully attempted to leave Perth once and for all, heading north via the Hutt River Principality, completely independent from Australia, the sea cliffs at Kalbarri and the gorges at Kalbarri NP, Coral Bay, Exmouth and up to Broome.
For more information about Coral Bay and our snorkel tour with Coral Bay Eco Tours where we saw bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales and snorkelled with Manta Ray, green sea turtles and hundreds of beautiful tropical fish amongst the coral of Ningaloo Reef follow this link here.
We switched campers in Broome, dropping the van off to Britz and picking up an Apollo 4×4 camper through to Darwin. We were incredibly lucky to find the second relocation and it worked out perfectly.
[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]To do in Broome
– Ride a camel with Broome Camel Safaris
– Visit the stunning Cable Beach
– Relax with a Ginger Beer at Matso’s Brewery on the waterfront
– Shop for local pearls from one of the many jewellers
– Tour the Horizontal Falls by boat or plane[/box]
While the seascapes and gorges of WA are beautiful, the internal landscape is an acquired taste, red dirt and scrub, but some people absolutely love it. The drive east of Broome is much more picturesque by my tastes, with huge towering rock formations and Boab trees with huge trunks and tiny little branches like the tree version of a T-Rex and a few wild Brumbies running around. Being spring there were a fair few foals as well which indulged my love of cute fluffy animals.
On to the Northern Territory, the land of crocodiles and all the biting, stinging, poisonous animals you could wish for!