Carnarvon – what a place – planned on staying one, maybe two nights, we stayed five nights…
Before anyone goes and puts Carnarvon on their “Must-Visit” list, I am pretty sure that our enjoyment had more to do with the people that we met, rather than the actual town.
Our time in Carnarvon started with a contact from a good school friend of mine with her cousins. He had been in contact with one of the cousins, who was currently out of town with his wife having had their first child the week before, he gave us the contact details of his brother, who I shall call B-he.
He rang B-he as we were driving around Carnarvon looking, increasingly despondently, at the caravan parks. We arrived at the Wintersun Caravan and Tourist Park, and things started looking a little bit better. It is not tourist season at Carnarvon at the moment, and it hasn’t rained there in some many, many moons, so everything is looking a bit dry. The Gasgoyne River is an underground river that flows right past the town though, so there is plenty of water for irrigation, and fortunately the Wintersun Caravan park had been taking full use of the water and the lawns were green and things looked pretty good.
We’d talked to one of the people who worked there, and had found a good site, and He was just about to walk into the reception area to pay for the site for a couple of nights (only 2 as it was bloody hot in Carnarvon, and the pool didn’t look like it was going to entertain and keep us cool for any longer than that) when B-he called back, told us to hang on a minute and that he might have found us somewhere to stay… Things were looking even better.
The call came back a few minutes later and we said goodbye to the lovely staff at Wintersun and headed back into town. If ever you are passing through Carnarvon, and need a van park, I’d recommend this one, it was by far the best we saw there.
Anyway, we met B-he at a house in town that is owned by his family, but no one currently lives in it. It was sparsely furnished, with a dining table and a few side boards all that was really there, but as we have everything we need, and the place was air-conditioned, we were as happy as pigs in mud.
We had never actually met B-he before, but it was like we’d known him a long time. B-he was extremely casual, gave us the key, showed us through the house, told us to make our selves welcome, said he’d better get back to work, but would be back after work for a beer! Wow – we had fallen on our feet.
True to his word, B-he came back after work and we had a couple of beers, got to know each other a bit, while our girls entertained his youngest daughter, who I shall call M2 (who was a very cute two year old who our girls instantly loved).
B-he rang back later that night having checked the tides, and advised us to head to the Carnarvon Blowholes (which are about 70km out of town) for a look about and a snorkel the next day, then catch up with him later to work out what else we should do while in town.
Amazing house that we were staying in. It had about five or six bedrooms and several bathrooms as well as a great kitchen. We only really used two of the bedrooms, the dining table and one bathroom, but it was superb. Brilliant location too, right across the road was the mouth of the Gascoyne River, so amazing sea breezes most of the time, and oh, what a view!
Sunset from the front of our house at Carnarvon
So off we went to the Blowholes the next morning, as advised by our new tourist guide!
The blowholes were a little disappointing that morning, with not a whole lot of action out of the actual blowholes, but it was a dramatic and lovely coastline, and looked to be a great place to spend a hot day.
The morning at Carnarvon Blowholes
The coastline at Carnarvon Blowholes
From the blowholes we headed down the road a bit to a great little snorkelling bay that B-he had told us about, where we promptly found ourselves a big shady shelter to put all of our stuff and then we headed out snorkelling.
This is where we snorkelled
Couldn’t really get the younger two into it, because as soon as it got the tiniest bit deep, they freaked out and wanted to stop. In the end we left them playing on the beach while we had a bit of a look about. It was pretty cool – loads of coral (though not much of it very striking in colour) and heaps of fish about.
We snorkelled for a bit, then went for a walk up the beach to look for shells. We bumped into one of the families that had been at Big Valley with us for a night or two (which I forgot to mention in my Big Valley post) who were also travelling Australia. They have two kids similar ages to our younger two, and they’d all had a good afternoon or two kicking around camp. These guys are starting to struggle a bit on the road, mainly due to their kids wanting to go back home. Made me feel glad we had four kids that could all keep each other occupied.
Spent the rest of the morning snorkelling, looking for shells and feeding the fish our bread scraps (which we have since learnt is very bad for them, apparently long term causing liver issues – but at the time we didn’t know this, so it’s ok). The only mishaps during the day being a couple of small cuts from shells for the girls, and then me having to dig a few pieces of oyster shell out of AHB’s foot – which has now thankfully healed up well, for a minute I was starting to envisage tropical ulcers and all sorts from the deep cut and warm waters!
Thought we’d better call back into the blowholes on our way past, and were very glad we did as the tide had changed, or the swell was different, or something, and what had been rather piddly in the morning was now really quite impressive.
The blowhole blowing
The blowholes in the afternoon – good parenting?!
When we got back to town, B-he called and said that they were going to The Yacht Club that night and that we should come along. So we got showered and off we went. With a classic comment from MMB about how much she loves wearing boy clothes, and that they are very comfortable, which coming from the pretty-in-pink-I’m-not-wearing-my-brothers-clothes-ballerina that we left Orange with 8 months ago, is quite a change. I later heard her hitting AHB up for some more hand-me-downs!
Walking along the river frontage on the way to the yacht club was beautiful, and although the yacht club was nothing amazing, its outlook was spectacular.
As we walked into the yacht club, we were met by B-he’s Dad (who I will call Big-D) who greeted us with “I saw you walking out of my house, so presume you must be (insert my friend from school’s name) friends!”. Big-D then preceded to walk us around and introduce us to people, found some boys for AHB to play with, and then our girls found M2, so everyone was happy. A lovely evening was spent meeting new people and being shown the hospitality of a coastal/rural town.
Next day we pottered around the house and went for a drive to see what else Carnarvon had to offer, which really wasn’t much. In the tourist season, which also happens to coincide with the tropical fruit growing season, there is a bit more to do, especially the “Fruit Loop” which is a circuit through a couple of roads that travel past a lot of the plantations that sell their fruit and veg at roadside markets, though at this time of year we could only find one such stall open, and with pretty limited stock.
Back at the house we all had a pretty quiet day, AHB read a lot through the heat of the day, and the girls watched a few movies. We also did a bit of baking while we were there, decorated the cake and everything, even though it wasn’t anyone’s birthday.
We even baked a cake because we could
B-he had told us to try some fishing off the jetty just across the road from our house, and even though we are the worst fishermen in Australia, we dug the rods back out, bought some bait, and headed down at sunset to try our luck. And what do you know?! After being there about ten minutes, MMB, who was fishing with a stick that she had found and then wrapped some discarded fishing line around, added a hook and some bait and had dropped it into the water was calling out as something was on her line! Sure enough, I ran over and helped her pull up an enormous cod! Enormous on our scale, but big enough on most people’s.
MMB with her cod
We spent about another hour there, but only caught a few little fish, MMB being the main catcher, much to the disgust of the others, especially AHB who would dearly love to be able to blow off the curse of his parents and actually catch something edible! Then we called it a night, even though the kids wanted to stay there forever. He gutted and filleted the cod on the way home, and we popped it in the fridge ready for cooking!
Gutting the fish – some less impressed than others!
We promised the kids we could get up early the next morning to fish again:
Sunrise at Carnarvon
This time with a bit more luck spread around, though not on the actually eating size fish, just quite a few that were kissed and put back.
BSB kissing and releasing a fish
While we were fishing that morning a lovely lady stopped by on her bike and introduced herself as B-he’s wife, who I shall call B-she. B-she extended an invitation to us to come around for fish and chips that night, and also let us know that “Frozen” was on at the movies in town that afternoon.
We didn’t get up to much else that day, but I did take the kids to the movies to see “Frozen” for the second time. I ended up with BSB scared out of her brain sitting on me (and being a hot little ball of sweat), AHB sitting very close on one side, and HGB clutching onto me on the other side. With not a very effective air-conditioner added into the mix, I felt lucky to survive the ordeal. We all thoroughly enjoyed it again though!
Around to B&B’s for fish and chips for dinner, where our four played really well with their two, the aforementioned M2, and her big sister M1 (who is a similar age to HGB). We spent a really lovely evening getting to know the B&B’s a little better, discussing the highs and lows of the world we live in, and possibly some of us drank a little bit too much wine…
Next day the one that had drunk a little bit too much wine was feeling a little bit steady, but we had organised to go out to Big-D’s plantation to have a look at all their young trees and to catch up with his step-daughter and her kids again, who we had met at the yacht club. Fortunately Little-D (the step-daughter of Big-D) is really nice, and very forgiving of those with hangovers, even providing a rehydrating ice-block for the one that needed it!
A really lovely morning was spent at the plantation, again, just chatting about the world, before taking all the kids (11 in total, our four, her four, a friend of her eldest son, and then a friend of hers with two) down to the river, which was flowing above ground for the first time in years, for a swim. Extremely idyllic setting, and despite my hangover, a great way to spend the morning. It was actually Monday, but a public holiday in Western Australia, so all the kids were home from school. The kids all had a brilliant morning. The Gasgoyne was flowing gently through a few waist-deep clear pools of warm water. Trees overhanging the banks, sun shining, light breeze blowing, kids running and splashing and even playing “Marco-Polo” at one stage as a big group – imagine that – fresh flowing water, new friend’s to play with, sunshine and good times.
AHB then stayed on for the next couple of hours, as Little-D’s eldest was the same age, and we do try to find AHB a bit of “boy-time” whenever we can.
Back to B&B’s that afternoon to go over our maps, which we’d neglected to do the night before. The girls all had a lovely time playing together and ended up with the hose in the front garden spraying each other in the nude, which then turned into sliding along the slippery front veranda that they had the hose running onto. A great game that kept them occupied all afternoon. However, just after I’d given them the five-minutes-til-we-have-to-go warning, HGB slipped over and completely cracked her head on the cement… bound to happen… instant enormous egg on the back of her head… fortunately no blood, but we headed home for some pain relief and an ice-pack anyway.
Home for medical attention and some quiet time before some dinner and a last fishing session on the jetty, at which only BSB caught anything that was edible. Not that we actually know what it was, but we ate it for breakfast the next day, and it was beautiful.
Oh, and the cod that MMB caught was delicious, we had it for lunch on one of the days we were there.
Tuesday morning saw us packing up and leaving the huge house, hopefully making it look like we hadn’t been there at all!
Final goodbye to B&B&M2 the next morning before stopping in at Big-D’s sister’s plantation on our way out of town to pick up a tray of the most delicious mangos I think I’ve ever eaten. The Mango Lady was out on her tractor, but we tracked her down to thank her for the Mangos. She is just like her sister (my school friend’s mum) and was welcoming and loving and entertaining.
I will remember Carnarvon for the wonderful, generous, colourful mob of people that we met, sure that we could have stayed another week and met more of the friends and relations.
I may have to edit this later, I’m sure some of it doesn’t make sense, and I’ve probably missed some stuff too… forgive me? I just need to post it or I’ll be even further behind…