Married bliss is finding great surf

By ANDREW McKINNON

SCORING good waves on a planned surf trip can be hit and miss, especially if it's a new location and a remote one at that. When Megan and I went to the Indo G-land surf camp for our honeymoon, not only did I score epic waves but successfully averted divorce!

Twelve months later, I talked my understanding wife into going to one of the most remote surf locations in the North West of West Australia to celebrate our anniversary.

The three mile surf camp at Gnaraloo where the desert meets the ocean makes GLand look like Hayman Island.

Gnaraloo is 24 hours north of Perth, the road is mostly flat and straight ahead, punctuated by gruesome animal road kills.

Driving at dawn and dusk can be a worry as the big red kangaroo's cross unannounced while the road train trucks bore up your rear like a Mad Max movie.

Megan agreed to go to the desert only if we booked a deluxe camper, unfortunately there were no 4 wheel drive campervans available although that might have been a blessing as petrol prices were as high as $1.30 a litre! When we picked up our new mobile home in Perth, the service guy said that the company had gone belly up and we were the lucky last customers!

So like a couple of happy campers, we cruised off into the sunset and four hours later pulled into Geraldton for our first pit stop and a chance to see how the camper really worked at the Tarcoola Caravan park.

At $20.00 a site, I was able to fill up our water storage for the in built shower and toilet and plug into power to charge up the batteries. We were in camper heaven. Next morning I thought I'd be ambitious and empty the portable septic.

I approached the amiable maintenance man John, "Where's the Park poo pipe mate?", and he just looked at me with an incredulous reply, "the what?" "You know mate, where you ahh, get rid of the poo?" and he simply instructed me to flush it down the public toilet. After a night on the Margaret River Reds, my next task almost made me jointly puke in the mens.

Geraldton has had some famous surfers like Indigenous champion Ken Dann and recent pro junior champ Drew Wright. It also hosts the spooky Abrolhis Islands where a local diver was recently taken by a shark.

Our next stop was Kalbari, home of the famous Jakes, a lefthand barreling reef break and one of Australia's best junior surfers Ry Craike.

The waves were pumping with a 1.2 metre south swell and I had a scary surf to myself at little Jakes where a resident tiger shark frequently cruises up and down the coast. By this stage Megan and I were feeling like ex- perienced campers, little did we know what was in store.

The first sign was the dark and cloudy sky and the Kalbari camel lady said that bad weather from the north can stick around for days.

But we were on a mission and like a couple of Ken and Barbie campers or Dumber and Dumber go to the desert, we blissfully headed off into the increasingly ominous weather.

Our last petrol pit stop was Carnarvon, a famous satellite town for the Apollo space missions - from there it's 170 ks to Gnaraloo and 110k's is a sandy corrugated track with no signs.

Luckily ol' mate George Simpson had drawn a mud map, otherwise we would have been lost as from the time we turned onto the dark and dusty track, and the rain tumbled down. What should have taken two hours ended up taking three and a half hours.

George told me about a 4 wheel drive race he'd had with well known shaper Maurice Cole ? Maurice won in 1hr 10 minutes, 10 minutes ahead of George.

It was 11pm when we arrived at Gnaraloo and the Three Mile camp, pouring rain and not a soul in sight apart from a nasty centipede that greeted me on arrival.

For the next three days, the Camel lady's forecast proved to be accurate ? rain, onshore winds and unnrideable surf.

The Margaret River wine collection, food and water supplies were dwindling fast and on the third night, the weather cleared just in time for our 12 month anniversary on the 1st of May.

"Look darling, the stars are out and the weather is clearing, let's celebrate outside" and after three days of being cooped up in the Campervan, we sat outside thinking our luck had changed and then Megan got unexpectedly stung by a centipede!

"Quick, call the Flying Doctor!" she screamed.

Luckily Bob the caretaker had a good supply of vinegar to quell the bite. Next day it was offshore and sunny, I surfed Turtles with Yallingup physio's Eddie and Mike, driving there in their forby, there was no way the campervan would have made it.

Mike had told me in his last four trips to Gnaraloo he'd never seen it rain.

The word was a two metre swell was on the way unfortunately we had to pull out as our hire time with the camper was up and we had a plane to catch to Victoria.

We were actually lucky to get into Gnaraloo as the road in was closed after the rain and there was some unhappy campers stranded in Carnavon for three days, so while I got skunked on surfing Tombstones, at least we got to see it and more importantly Megan's keen to go back, but better equipped and in a 4 wheel drive.

If you were wondering just how hard it is for the young rookies competing on the fiercely competitive WQS, Byron Bay's Johnny Abegg has made a movie about last years circuit and how he sponsored himself with four credit cards to the value of $25,000. Johnny's WQS surf doco is screening at the Byron Bay community hall this Friday and Saturday night.



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