We are driving north away from the Shark Bay region and back on the highway, probably a couple of hours into our travels when the Landcruiser feels like it’s not riding as smoothly as normal. We pull into the next roadhouse to check tyres when we hear a bit of a rattle under the bonnet and it feels more like the motor is missing a beat, tyres are fine. All the gauges are looking good so in the middle of nowhere we decide to press on, slowly, and limp into Carnarvon as there is a Toyota dealer there.
We booked into a terrific caravan park, the Wintersun, with the manager giving us grief the whole time about ‘should have bought a Nissan’, Ha. A phone call to the Toyota dealer and the car is in by early afternoon.
The great people at Toyota Carnarvon gave us a loan car, the Mazda 3 didn’t look quite right next to the Jayco, but we were extremely grateful. At least we could look around Carnarvon.
The first thing we noticed as we drove into Carnarvon were all the banana plantations with bunches of bananas hanging. This area is part of the Gascoyne region, a big tropical fruit and vegetable growing area.
You can pick up a Gascoyne Food Trail map and find some great roadside plantations selling direct from the farm. We found a couple of places to stop at and get some good priced, locally grown produce.
The other really noticeable thing in Carnarvon was the deafening sound of the cicadas, you know you’re heading into the tropics when the air is alive with the shrill of these big insects. Great to listen to, not so much fun when they come in for a landing near you, (think jumbo jet of the insect world). The temperature in Carnarvon was 38 degrees and humid.
A good place to head to out of the heat was the Carnarvon Space and Technology Museum. You can’t miss the big satellite dish as you drive around town, and that’s where you will find the museum. Carnarvon played a big part in early NASA space exploration and supported the Gemini, Apollo and Skylab programs. It was also an important part of the early days of Australian satellite communication industry.
The museum is run by volunteers, costs only $10 per adult and has a resident cat “Buzz” who greets everyone on arrival.
At the entrance to the museum is a replica Apollo capsule simulator which you climb into (astronaut overalls optional) and be closed in, lying in launch position, as a 7 minute video experience takes you through a launch. The capsule is cramped and although there is no actual movement its quite unnerving as the video and soundtrack take you through the launch sequence. With speakers next to your ears and small screens to the side of you acting like windows you hear the NASA chatter, see the lift-off, see the flames out of your side windows and take the ride into space until finally seeing our big blue planet from above. A fantastic experience but I was glad to get out of there too.
The museum is full of memorabilia on the part the station played in space exploration and has been visited by Buzz Aldrin and Andy Thomas amongst others. There are also plenty of displays of early satellite technology, massive banks of early computers and a stack of computer discs in which these days a USB could hold the same data. Incredible to see how far we’ve come in such a short time.
At the end of visiting the museum you can walk up to the OTC Earth Station and actually climb to the first level as well, it also gives you a good view over Carnarvon.
Our first day in Carnarvon and no definitive news yet on the Landcruiser, could be dirty fuel injector. Did Steep Point get the better of it?
We had a look around the town of Carnarvon and saw another lovely foreshore area, lined with palms and boats in the bay. There just happens to be a hotel on the foreshore which has a beer garden with the perfect view of sunsets over the water.
A second day has gone by and the Landcruiser is still in and causing a bit of mystery. Not what you want to hear. But on day three there is good news, the Landcruiser can be picked up, mystery solved. It seems the issue was a combination of problems, one spark plug was jammed, stuck fast and even the wrong size plug compared to the others (questions will be asked!) and a fuel injector has had a clean too. The barely there holiday fund has taken a blow but we are mobile again.
We took off on another day touring around Carnarvon, this time to the Quobba Blow Holes. The road is bitumen all the way and when you arrive at the Quobba area you are met with a huge, clear, to the point, warning sign.
The road left will take you to a free camp area, a beach for snorkelling and the blow holes. The rocky landscape you walk on to get closer to the blow holes is almost other worldly. You can see and hear the blow holes well back from the cliff, and better from a side on angle. Waves are wild and powerful.
Heading in the other direction is Quobba Station and a memorial to the HMAS Sydney II.
Last stop was up to a lighthouse we had passed on the way in, giving us a great view over the sand hills and coastline and from here you can still see the spray from the blow holes.
And best of all, the landcruiser is ticking along nicely, even better than before, thanks to the team at Toyota Carnarvon.
The journey continues.