I have lived in Western Australia my whole life and call it slackness on my part, but I’ve never been further north than Monkey Mia. It isn’t that there wasn’t appeal in exploring more of the state, it was just something I hadn’t gotten around to as yet. You see such stunning pictures of the stark scenery and all the vibrant red dirt and I did hope to get there one day. But sometimes you need a push, well a push or if you are really lucky, an invitation to visit Carnarvon. I recently received an email asking me if I would like to attend the Gascoyne Food Festival as a guest of the Gascoyne Food Council. Wow. Like seriously wow. What an opportunity. I felt so incredibly fortunate to be asked along. I had it all locked in and would be heading up Thursday morning and coming back on the Saturday. So a pleasant two day intro to this part of Australia was in my calendar.
Photo Credit: Gascoyne Food Council
Now for those that don’t know me well, I’m a bit of a planner, particularly when I travel. I like to know everything that’s going on and be very well prepared. But best laid plans of mice and men…. I’ll be honest, something went massively awry on Thursday morning. The flight up to Carnarvon was with a smaller airline, not leaving from the domestic terminal and for the life of me I just couldn’t get myself there. The GPS took me to the wrong place, there was just no time and the plane had to go without me. To say I was mildly disappointed to find myself in this predicament would be a slight understatement. It was utter devastation, a blur of tears and swearing and shock. But thankfully after some speedy googling by some of my nearest and dearest a Plan B was put into action and I would still make it up on the Thursday. I’d be flying to Exmouth at lunchtime and then driving down. What an adventure, it was a workable solution!
I felt the utmost relief when that plane took off and I was at last on my way after the considerable bump in the road. The flight was quite pleasant (not a bad peri peri chicken pizza for our in flight snack) and it was delightfully brief in length at just under two hours. I was sat next to a lovely lady from Italy who was heading to Exmouth with her husband and another couple to explore Ningaloo. We both peered out the window and marvelled at how stunning Shark Bay looked from the air and you could see the tone of the earth start to get redder. What a beautiful part of the state we were headed to.
When we hit the ground one thing I noticed as we left the plane was that I did not need a jacket. It was pleasantly warm and something I’d been missing the past few months in Perth. So this was where the sunshine had been hiding! A short two hour flight North! Definitely something I’d be keeping in mind the next time a cold spell hit Perth!
I was very grateful when Avis upgraded the compact car I had ordered to something with a bit more leg room and soon enough I was cruising to Carnarvon in a lovely, new Holden Commodore. It was quite the sweet ride. I had asked whether I would need a GPS, but the Avis gent assured me I would be fine. That made more sense when I exited the airport and there was one road and a welcome sign pointing me in the direction of Carnarvon, 332km thatta way!
When speaking to people before I left there was a lot of talk about how long and potentially boring the drive would be and I suppose that if you’ve done the drive a few times before it may well be, but for this Gascoyne newbie it was entirely fascinating. Just outside of the airport there is a stretch of road where there are all these termite mounds and they are massive and just everywhere! Such a unique addition to the landscape, I pondered how long they’d been there as I drove and how long they had taken all those termites to create. I had been warned to keep an eye out for the wildlife (lots of warnings from my dad about cows and roos), but thankfully everything I saw was super polite and kept to the side of the road. I marvelled when I saw two giant eagles and also chuckled when I saw a few sheep roaming the country side. They were all dusted up with red dirt, must just be how they roll in the Gascoyne and they did not seem bothered by their reddish tinge. I also had my eye out for road trains, but they weren’t something I was going to miss. Geeze they fly. You can feel your car move as you drive past them. Cudos to these road warriors for getting all that big rig moving done for our state and across the country. They clearly are very skilled drivers, actually seeing them in action was impressive stuff.
I had left Exmouth, well Learmonth Airport, just before 3pm and I was racing the sun to make it to Carnarvon in the day light. After three hours singing along to Classic Hits 666 I just managed and it was actually so beautiful to arrive into town as the sun was setting over the banana plantations. I was happily smiling when I pulled into the Best Western to check in. While not quite the day I had expected, I made it to Carnarvon, which was where I had really wanted to be. My room was nice, spacious and clean. I quickly got changed and headed along to the Beach BBQ, which was next door at the Carnarvon Yacht Club (location wise, I was very happy with the convenience of the Best Western, totally ideal).
The Beach BBQ had been going for close to an hour when I arrived and the place was buzzing! It was beautiful to see twinkly fairy lights strung up across swaying palm trees and soft glimpses of sunset lingering against the clouds, as more and more stars started to appear. Eager diners were lined up to fill their plates with all the delicious dishes that Don Hancey and the Panoramic Catering team had prepared. It was an impressive menu! From what I could see as I joined the queue there were plump, marinated Mt Barker free range chicken legs and a lovely vegetarian pasta dish, jam packed with plenty of fresh Carnarvon ingredients like brightly coloured eggplant, tomatoes and capsicums. The pink snapper tacos were very popular, with their healthy dollop of guacamole (made with Carnarvon avo of course!), as were the pulled pork and slaw bao buns and there was a mountain of them! Along with that there were plenty of fresh, tasty salads and bread rolls, followed by some sweet treats for dessert, which included an enticing selection of lovely tropical Gascoyne fruits.
For $35 per adult and $10 for children it was exceptional value and was clearly well embraced by locals and was a sell-out event. There was a lovely relaxed vibe to the BBQ, as people sat and chatted while enjoying their delicious dinner (sneaking up for seconds or thirds because there was plenty to go around) and grooving away to the live music, all while enjoying yacht club priced drinks. I felt myself slowly, but surely starting to relax. It was hard not to with a glass of red wine in hand, tucking into my highly anticipated and ample dinner, all while I enjoyed Fleetwood Mac getting a run by the talented musicians. I hadn’t spent quite as much of my Thursday as I hoped in Carnarvon, but I’d eventually made it and the starlit beach BBQ was a stunning introduction.
Please Note: I was the guest of Gascoyne Food Council for my visit to Carnarvon. My thanks to them for this amazing opportunity.