Now even though we were only at Steep Point for the one night, we felt that the photos alone deserved to have its own post!!! Once we had arrived back from Francois Peron NP, we cleaned, showered and slept in the van at Hamelin Station before once again restocking the car and heading out to Steep Point.
For those of you that are not familiar with Steep Point, it is located on the western most point of mainland WA, within the Edel Land National Park and the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. It has long been known as a tough drive due in part to the many sand dunes and rugged Zuytdorp Cliffs, rising almost 200 metres above the Indian Ocean. It was first discovered way back in 1616 by Dirk Hartog, and has since also been explored by many other European explorers, giving the area the many unusual and exotic names. The Zuytdorp Cliffs are actually named after a Dutch ship that was shipwrecked along the cliffs back in 1712. One of the many shipwrecks that we have read about on our trip heading north form Perth.
We left early for our drive out to Steep Point as we had heard many differing stories regarding the condition of the road and driving conditions. After we turned off onto Useless Loop Rd, our calculations had the drive into Steep Point at about 140km, all of which is unsealed road. Recommendations were for it to take 3 hours, so we settled in and enjoyed the scenery, mostly of which was low bushes and saltpans during the early stages. The initial 110kms of road was easy driving, with hardly any corrugations, where we drove past the turn off for 2 remote stations, Tamala Station and Carrarang Station, where a lot of people choose to store their caravans while they make the trek out to Steep Point. Just after Carrarang Station, as we crossed over the last saltpan causeway, we obeyed the signs and dropped our tyre pressures to around 22psi. After another 10kms of easy, but this time corrugated driving we finally hit the sand dunes, as stated in the info books the last 30kms of driving is where the fun begins as you traverse the amazing sand dune systems on the way to the cliffs and ultimately Steep Point.
We found the drive through the sand dunes was easy and loads of fun, some of the turns were tight in our big cruiser, the sand was fairly deep in lots of sections and the track also became narrow in parts as well. Ascending the dunes, we were fortunate that we didn’t come across another car coming the opposite way, as that could have made for some creative manoeuvres and possible near misses as you couldn’t see what was coming up the other side. In general, we had a good visual most of the time in regards to the track ahead. Silverfox didn’t miss a bit and much to Nik’s disgust we had no instances where we even nearly got stuck, so the winching and Maxtrax’s were kept for another day!!!
The rest of the drive towards our campground had us all surprised and stunned, as the scenery was amazing. At one stage we turned the corner to arrive on the most beautiful beach, with green bushes and birds on one side and clear blue water and rocks on the other side. Of course we had to stop and get out to absorb the beauty of it all, wandering over to test the temperature of the water, still a bit cool, but fresh and very inviting. Whilst we were standing there taking it all in and taking photos we also spotted a turtle swimming along the shore, then further along we spotted a reef shark in the shallows, as well as lots of fish darting here and there, most likely trying to evade the reef shark!!
After a while we were back on our way, driving along the beach, Nik struggling to keep his eye on the ‘road’ whilst taking in the scenery. This was not what we were expecting from Steep Point, we had envisioned a rugged desolate place, surrounded by cliffs and pounding waves, not this peaceful and tranquil oasis that we had stumbled upon. We eventually arrived at our campsite, approximately 3 hours after we had left Hamelin Station, so safe to say the info books had got it right. Our campsite was situated right on the beach of Shelter Bay, with views of Dirk Hartog Island opposite us. As it was just going on lunchtime, we decided to quickly unload the car, grab a sandwich then head off exploring before we came back to set up the tent.
Quite obviously, our first destination was the western most tip, Steep Point. The drive from our campground only took us 10 minutes, passing a few other camps and awesome little alcoves within the bay. So many times we have seen photos or footage of people at the point practically being blown away from the force of the wind, so naturally we were expecting the same. However, in tradition with this little adventure, we were once again surprised to only encounter a slight breeze as we took the customary photo of everyone standing in front of the sign. The girls went and explored, wandering too closely to the cliff edges for my liking, while Nik and I were talking to another family who were camping not far from us.
After we talked for a bit, sussing out each other’s stories and past and future destinations, we jumped back into the car and drove around to the area where all the hard core fishermen (and fisherwomen) come. My goodness, these people are dedicated and must love this sort of fishing. Firstly, they are camped high above the water, set back on the cliffs that are covered with dirt and sharp rocks, that make stable walking quite an effort. The wind around this part of the point (called The Oven/ Faultline) was ‘mild’ today according to a lovely couple we got talking to, generally they say it is blowing a gale night and day, which to me sounds like rather unpleasant conditions for camping in a tent or camper trailer. We sat and chatted with this couple for a while and watched and asked many questions while they fished and showed us how the whole ‘balloon fishing ‘concept worked. Once again our perceived ideas and thoughts were way off, we assumed the balloons helped the fisherman determine if they had caught something way down in the water, however this is not the case. The helium filled balloon is in fact, used to float the lure out to certain parts of the water, this actually requires quite a bit of skill by the fisherman, to where a ‘bait bomb’ is located (a huge school of fish that the tuna have herded together and then herded to the surface of the water) then as the balloon floats around in the air the lure bobs in and out for the water, looking like part of the bait bomb. Then as the bigger fish like tuna, mackeral and even shark, head in for a feed, they actually hook onto the line, it is at this stage that the reaction time and strength of the fisherman, or the anchor and strap that they are secured to on the rocks comes into play. Apparently quite a few fishermen have gone over the cliff (about a 20 metre drop) as they haven’t been quick enough to clip themselves onto the secure strap and there is no way in hell they are going to lose their $500 fishing rig. Thankfully the drop is not too big (compared to the Zuytdorp Cliffs on the western side) and dangerous and if the swell is not too bad they can safely pull themselves back out of the water and begin the long arduous climb back up the rocks to the cliff top.
After the excitement of watching the cliff fishing, we headed back to camp to set up, have a swim and relax for the evening. The night stars were awesome, however the temperature dropped and together with the wind forced us into the tent for a few games of cards and an early night. It was at this stage that we met the friendly Spinifex Hopping Mouse, up close and personal, as 1 or 2 of them were climbing up the fly screen door of the tent, trying to get to some food, which was all thankfully locked away in the car. Shining the torch outside, we saw at least a dozen of them hopping about the place, bit like a scene from a horror movie where killer mice descend on the poor unsuspecting campers sleeping in their tent……………. Needless to say they weren’t killer mice and we did end up surviving the night, even having quite a restful sleep, until we awoke the next morning and started brewing some coffee for breakfast and noticed the tell-tale droppings in the back of the car and the half nibbled corner of bread. Crap, there was one in the car………in the beloved Silverfox!!!!
After a while spent playing ‘cat and mouse’ (pardon the pun) we packed up and headed off, listening to the pitter-patter of our tiny friend as he searched for a way to escape the roof compartment above us, for the drive home. Today’s drive was a little different to yesterday’s drive, it was less sandy, rockier and little bit harder and at times hairier, as we navigated a sometimes unclear track along the enormous cliff tops. This track took us home via the rugged Zuytdorp Cliffs on the western side of the peninsula, past some amazing views and southward down to Thunder Bay Blowholes and then False Entrance Blowholes. However, as we were blessed with some awesome weather and no wind, this translated into no swell or waves in the ocean and therefore no blowing of the blowholes. Still standing next to the holes and listening to the awesome sound of the wind, air and waves way down below gave us a sense of how powerful and amazing they could be.
After we had explored the blowholes and stopped for some morning tea, we enjoyed our last bit of sand dune driving before we arrived back to the causeway where Nik reinflated the tyres and we were on our way back to civilisation. Steep Point had long been a must see destination for Nik and I, however we were astounded as to the beauty, isolation and ruggedness of the whole place. Our expectations were completely blown out for the water and we all agreed that it was a top 3 highlight of the trip so far. It made us all the more excited for our next adventure and destination on our ozlap………………………….