Day 86 – Dampier to Exmouth (610km)
It was truly amazing how bright and large the fire from gas works a few kilometres away was. It was much brighter than a full moon, easy illuminating the walk from the car to the toilet, casting long shadows at the same time.
Today it finally happened, something that we’d feared, but never experienced – A knock on the door just after sunrise by a ranger, threatening us with a $200 ($100/person) on-the-spot fine for camping in a non-camping area. Thankfully, she was content to just hand out a warning… I do wonder why they care so much, especially since we were at the end of a 6km unsealed road that she would have had to drive along just to check/threaten any campers. I still feel that it’s something that is pressured to the shire by the caravan parks in the area – but I won’t start a conspiracy theory rant.
We quickly drove in to Dampier to have a look around, and after thinking that we’d scoped the town out from the lookout (and seeing very little of interest), we left town, thinking that the salt mines and other processing areas were on the way out of town (it was dark when we arrived last night). I guess we missed it, somehow…
We had a change of plan for route today, too. I very much wanted to head south to Tom Price mine via Karijini and Milstream Chichester national parks. But, Risa was opposed to the detour (seen enough gorges and sick of unsealed roads), which was fair enough, so we made our way towards Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef.
It was a long day of driving (I think our longest yet), but it didn’t feel as much of a chore as some of the driving we did in NT along the Stuart Highway. While being unremarkable on their own, the drive had lots of interesting things to look at, from rocky escarpments, mesas, rugged ranges, wild flowers, sand dunes, interesting vegetation, mini Devils Marbles, rivers and for the first time, sheep!
I wanted to get to Exmouth early enough to visit some of the whale shark tour operators to see what they had to offer, but we arrived just after 5PM (I shouldn’t have had an extended lunch break reading my book) and none of the operators were answering the phone… We’ll have to wing it in the morning and turn up before they depart at 7:30AM (wish Risa luck with the early start).
After our unpleasant start to the morning, we weren’t willing to risk parking illegally here in Exmouth, especially since their fines are $1000! Which is a little ridiculous. But, I guess if people could park for free, they wouldn’t pay the $38 for a place to park a car and an ablution to make use of. We’re still a little resentful of the jacked-up prices here.