A little southern comfort… (for a Bacardi drinker)

Leaving the Dampier Peninsula and starting to head south was really exciting for me. I had been waiting for this next leg of our trip for ages and I was really looking forward to it. I don’t think Brandon felt the same way – the first half of the trip was certainly what he looked forward to most, whereas the second half was likely to be my favourite bit.

We left Broome on the Great Northern Highway and headed south towards 80 Mile Beach (yes, it’s 80 miles long). The landscape was so incredibly flat – I hadn’t seen anything like it before. Brandon said there was a lot of wind around blowing us about the road. It was rather surreal. 

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Nothing but flat landscape for an entire day of driving.
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There’s not much at 80 Mile Beach – it’s just a caravan park and a beach. And the beach isn’t good for much other than fishing. The surf is absolutely full of sharks, rays and stingers so swimming is a big no-no. Surf fishing is all it’s about. And shells. Lots and lots of shells. Charlotte was in shell heaven 🙂 

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Looking north up the beach.
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Looking south down the beach.
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We came over a hill and were greeted with water so amazingly blue it was incredible. Unfortunately (for Charlotte) there was no swimming on this beach.
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Brandon caught a ray – one of hundreds that swam in the shallows of the beach.
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The volume of shells on this beach is just amazing – it’s a beach that people drive over all the time to get to the fishing spots, but new shells just appear over the top of the crumbled ones.
 

I quite liked 80 Mile Beach. The community of campers was really friendly – we set up right in the middle of the caravans, next to the toilets, and had lots of folks (mostly retirees) saying hi to us. Every day around lunch you’d see all the grey nomads drive their quad bikes (!) down to the beach with their rods ready to go. 

80 Mile Beach is where our jockey wheel finally gave up the ghost. It had been playing up ever since Musgrave Roadhouse due to something silly we did and ever since then it buckled and needed to be beaten with a steel mallet every time we wanted to use it. Not surprisingly, it got sick of this mistreatment. 80 Mile Beach was our 26th destination, Musgrave was our 6th so that’s 40 times since then it has been bashed black and blue. Poor thing. Anyway on setting up at 80 Mile Beach it gave up altogether and it’s innards haemorrhaged and it was deemed unfixable. We used bricks and blocks that the maintenance guy found for us to replace the jockey wheel for our 3-night stay. Finding a new one became our next mission.

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Our battered and broken jockey wheel

A few hours on the phone, a few messages to my friend in Port Hedland, a few posts on a caravan and camping FB forum we belong to and we’d located a place in Port Hedland who could order us the exact same wheel and have it in Port in time for our arrival two days later. (A big shout of thanks to the lovely caravanners at 80 Mile Beach who saw my post on the FB page and wandered over to offer advice and support – love this community!)

I’ve decided the next time we travel, it will be with this sort of style…


This bus (above) was towing this boat (below) and under the boat was an FJ Cruiser – that’s the way to go!!


In typical WA style, the sunsets over 80 Mile Beach were magical…

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Unfortunately the end of our visit at 80 Mile Beach was marred by my starting to feel really unwell (as I talk about in another post) and I essentially retreated to the camper for 24 hours with lots of moans and groans. Brandon and Charlotte packed up on their own, bundled me in the car and we made for Port Hedland. 

After a rather nauseating three hour drive (which says more about my condition and nothing about B’s driving!) we arrived at Amanda and Jamie’s place and were quickly made to feel at home. For the first time in 2 months, Charlotte slept in her own room (which she quickly destroyed)! I could go to the toilet without (a) opening a zipper or (b) walk for 5 minutes, we could lounge around and watch television and, importantly, go to the doctor. Just as important was the fact Jamie was about to start one month on leave and within a few hours of arriving he and Brandon were out on Jamie’s boat fishing. All was once again right in the Hazelwood world.

With one of our lovely hosts, Amanda, on our last morning in Port. We’ve known each other since we were 7 years old!

Turns out, we arrived just in time for the 2017 Port Hedland Game Fishing Club Blue Water Classic fishing competition. If we stayed a few extra days, Brandon and Jamie could fish that together. Recalling my early departure from Kooljamin, I was quite happy to give him this fishing time (and give myself more recovery time now that I was feeling better). I feel bad for Amanda who I’m sure had wanted us to do more together but I just needed some r&r and to move slowly. So thank you Harris-Thornton household for helping the Hazelwoods get their groove back. Five days of fishing for Brandon and lots of doing nothing for me (and a new jockey wheel) and we were ready to tackle camper life once again. Oh, and we’re pretty sure Jamie caught a prize-winning mackerel on day 1 of the comp but as I write this we are still awaiting official results!

Charlotte was most taken with ‘Kitty’
New jockey wheel! Shiny!
Preparing to release a catfish
Possible prize winning mackerel weighing in at 27.6kg!
Shark mackerel (biggest he’s caught)
Brandon is looking more and more like an old sea captain every day! Needs a haircut!
Whale blowhole!
Jamie fought a shark for an hour and a half!

Weeks/nights on the road at this point: 9 weeks.

Sweet dreams are made of this…?

We’re all about comfort at the moment. Five weeks out from leaving, we’re less focused on needing to set things up and more on how things feel. Particularly how our mattress feels, and it feels pretty horrid, let me tell you.

I have been struggling with the camper’s supposed inner spring mattress ever since we took her for the maiden voyage to the Gold Coast back in January. Really, it’s like sleeping on a plank. And while I’m sure that a lighter, more nimble, more ‘zen’ person would probably reach enlightenment sleeping on that mattress, I was as far from zen as you can possibly imagine each morning after a night on that torture device. How on earth can we manage almost 4 months on that thing?

We tried a bamboo mattress topper and while the difference was certainly better, it was nothing to write home about. Waking up stiff and sore and grumpy is not something my family needs from me at the moment. So we contemplated our alternatives – a good quality eggshell topper from Clark Rubber, a self-inflatable ‘4WD mattress’ on top of the existing mattress, or a new mattress altogether. Each has pros and cons.

EggshellThe eggshell is an unknown – we’ve never slept with this kind of topper before and the reports I’ve heard is that while it’s quite comfortable to begin with, it’s really only good for a short while before the effects start to disappear (particularly if you weigh a little more than average…).

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The inflatable 4WD mattress is a mixture of foam and air and while it may work as a topper of sorts, the whole reason we got a camper in the first place was because I was completely over the whole ‘air mattress’ thing and really wanted something more closely resembling an inner spring mattress. So this would feel like a bit of a backwards step to me.

So that leaves a new mattress. We came across a company called Made to Measure who specialise in caravan and camper trailer mattresses. They have a mattress that comes to just 130mm (our current one is 110mm) but because it includes low profile springs and more foam surrounding the springs, you get substantially more comfort for your $$. So we decided to give them a go.

They are open Saturday mornings and I was told to come over with the old mattress so they can measure up and we can compare the two side by side. On Friday night Brandon got the camper out (not an easy feat), opened it up, got the mattress out and put it on the roof of the cruiser. We organised for my father in law to come and babysit Charlotte so we could give our full attention to our shopping and off we went. Twenty minutes later we arrive… to find they are closed *insert expletive and lots of tired and weary tears* Turns out, as a once off, they were closed that Saturday. Off back home we go, drop the mattress, then head out for the rest of our chores.

Brandon arranged to take the morning off on Tuesday and once again we trudged to the mattress shop. This time they were open! They had a sample mattress for us to lay on and oh boy – there really is no comparison! How had we coped with such torture and pain for so long? Even the sales lady looked at our old mattress and couldn’t help but question our sanity! You can see the thinness of the old mattress in this photo of it on Brandon’s roof rack (the black is his pull-out awning which the mattress sits above). When you think this is an inner spring mattress that two fair-sized adults would have been sleeping on for 4 months… sheesh – I’m so glad we forked out the bucks for the new one!

Check back in two weeks and hopefully I’ll have a photo of the new mattress so share!

30 days until leave commences, 34 days until departure!