Monday, 10 September 2012

10-14 September 2012 - Cape Leveque

Once we arrived in WA, we kept hearing about Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque. At the time, we didn't even know where it was located.  Turns out that the whole of the area north of Broome is the Dampier Peninsula and Cape Leveque is at the peak.

After 2 weeks in Broome, we packed up the camping gear, did a grocery shop and headed off (without the van).  Oddly the first 80km of the road is corrugated gravel, while the remaining 115 km to the top is sealed.  I suspect this might be a deliberate ploy to keep visitor numbers manageable. The road really isn't suitable for caravans, so at best you'd have a camper trailer, or like us, a tent.

Our first stop was an area called Middle Lagoon campground.  The location was just gorgeous, sheltered bays, shallow safe swimming and beautiful sunsets.  However the campground itself was grotty and grubby so we only stayed 2 nights.

Elizabeth chilling out at Middle Lagoon.

A long 17 km back to the main road and we were on the sealed stretch to Cape Leveque.  Here we camped at Kooljaman campground.  It was much nicer than Middle Lagoon, we had a great waterfront site but it was pricey.  It also had a nice restaurant and coffee shop.  Very civilised. Once the tent was up we were all dripping in sweat so headed to the swimming beach which was disappointing as it had lots of rocks covered in oyster shells.  We found better swimming at the fishing beach a bit further on.  Larry is quite comfortable driving on the beach now, so we can access more places now.  

Views from our campsite at Koolijamon

Larry fishing during sunset. We still find it such a treat to see the sun set over water.
The next day we decided to get in the car and explore the Cape a bit more.  First stop was Cygnet Bay Pearls.  We didn't do the tour as we'd already done two in Broome, but it had a nice pearl showroom (oh how I wish I could afford to splash out on some big pearl earrings!).  It did have a funky little coffee shop with good coffee and the biggest slice of chocolate cake I've every seen - we all shared it and had plenty!  Cygnet Bay is a working pearl farm so there were big piles of mother of pearl shells, buoys and farm equipment everywhere.  

Piles of pearl shells at Cygnet Bay pearl farm.

Piles of obsolete pearl buoys.

We told Elizabeth and Kate we were visiting One Arm Point, where everyone only had one arm - a right arm and a left arm.  They didn't get it at all and then quizzed us when we got there and saw that everyone had two arms!   Internet reception was available, so we found a beach and Elizabeth set up the mini (netbook) and logged into her Japanese lesson (via Cairns distance ed).  Larry and Kate decided to have a swim in a small bay.  Then we noticed the grey nurse sharks, which Larry insisted were harmless.  Still, he did keep an eye on them and they both backed out when a big one swam towards them!  
Elizabeth logging in to her Japanese lesson.

Larry keeping an eye on five grey nurse sharks sharing the bay with him.

Close up of some of them!
We had 3 nights at Kooljaman and wished we had come directly here.  We could see dolphins and whales off the coast. We also met a lovely family from Perth, the Greenways, with three kids, Charlotte, Olivier and Thomas so E & K were happy to have kids to play with.

On the way back to Broome, we called into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church at Beagle Bay.  It was lovely, whitewashed, with a mother of pearl alter, window frames and decorations. Gold coin donation entry.  This church features in the opening scene of the movie Bran Nue Day.  We found a good spot to have lunch under the trees of the church.  Having been to the Sisters of St John of God museum in Broome, it was great to see Beagle Bay.  Back in 1908, 9 nuns from Ireland arrived here to establish a mission.  It's hard to imagine what they must have thought - going from Ireland to north Australia.  And they arrived in January wearing their full woolen nun habits!!!  They must have thought they'd been punished and gone to hell.  However, they went on to have a huge influence on the well being of the peninsula.
Alter made entirely from mother of pearl

Sacred Heart Church, Beagle Bay

Another alter decorated with mother of pearl

Each window surround was different but still used whole mother of pearl shells.
You can't gain access to the beach from here and generally the Aboriginal communities were not overly welcoming with signs saying ‘locals only’ everywhere.  I guess they are sick of sticky beaks!  This is the part of WA where a hugh gas plant is being proposed.  Driving around Broome, there are plenty of 'No Gas' posters and signs and petititions to sign.  I can see why.  It really is pristine, it's amazing that anyone would even contemplate an industrial facility of that scale.  Somehow I suspect that 'people power' will win the day on this one, but from what we've been told, the fight is far from over.

Travel Tip: There is a well stocked store at One Arm Point for groceries.  During the peak season, all the camping areas on the Peninsula get booked out, so book through the Broome Visitors Centre to make sure you have somewhere to stay. If you are a church goer, it would be great to time your visit for a weekend so you could go to Mass at Beagle Bay.

It's always good to get back the comfort of 'The Mothership' after a camping trip!

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