The Road to Tom Price

We left Exmouth early as it’s 420 miles to Tom Price and retraced our path down the Exmouth Peninsula. The landscape is littered with termite nests. These can stand up to 12 feet high and 8 feet across. Each one contains a king and a queen that live in the middle in rooms that are built to be air conditioned because of the intense heat outside. The most lowly workers work hard to feed and look after them and don’t even come with eyes or ears.They use smell to find their way about. It just shows that even in the termite world it pays to be royal.

We eventually joined the North West Coastal Highway (NWCH) and headed north. Our first and only stop was the Nanutarra Roadhouse where we re-fuelled the van and us. The heat outside was enough to cook you. It has been said that people who get lost in the bush and perish actually cook from the inside out – a bit like being microwaved. That is the whole point about this part of Australia. Nothing should actually live around here but everything does and in huge numbers. They reckon they will be cataloguing new species of wild flowers for the next 20 years. Unfortunately, feral animals introduced by Europeans i.e. the rabbit, fox, cat, goat, pig have flourished at the expense of native animals and plants. There is now a programme under way to trap and poison feral animals and then re-introduce native ones.

We turned off the NWCH towards Tom Price. The scenery suddenly changed from boring flat to rolling hlls and gently twisting roads. As we passed over many dried up river beds we could see hundreds of gum trees in the bottom of them. The only thing that slowed our progress was cattle roaming on the roads. We arrived at Tom Price early evening and camped by the lake. As we were driving along we noticed in the atlas a town called Wittenoom (aband). We wondered what ‘aband’ meant but on the top corner of the page we saw a note in red saying ‘Warning- Wittenoom. Travellers should not venture to the abandoned township of Wittenoom or the nearby Wittenoom and Yampire gorges due to the significant health risk from blue asbestos fibres, a legacy of the blue asbestos mines that closed in the 1960’s’

Wittenoon is about 70 miles from Tom Price over an unsealed road. The story of the town and it’s people is tragic and shrouded in secrecy. Looks like we’ll be going to Wittenoom!

We had a lovely evening wild camping by the lake and watched two guanas (reptiles) fighting. It lasted about 20 minutes before one eventually gave up and went on his way.

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The campsite is based near Beccles in the Waveney Valley in Suffolk.

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