Following Kununurra, work takes me next to Carnarvon for a few days. You can’t fly directly between the two places, which means a night in hotel near Perth Airport and a flight out the next morning. Although I could have flown directly to Carnarvon I decide to fly to Learmonth instead and drive down. The flight is cheaper and more regular than the Perth-Carnarvon route and I also planned the work trip to allow me to have a few days off and spend that time in Exmouth. Learmonth is the nearest airport to Exmouth (30 minutes) and a 3 ½ drive to Carnarvon, which isn’t much in WA terms.
If you’d asked me after I travelled around Australia in 2005 where was the worst place I visited, I think there would have been little hesitation in replying with Carnarvon. I only meant to stay there the one night, driving up from Kalbarri and heading up to Coral Bay the next day. It was Friday night so I ventured out to hostel and up to the pub. I think there might have been a covers band playing but remember talking to some truck drivers and discussing the finer points of driving across the Nullarbor. Next morning I set off but had hardly got over the bridge out of town when I had a puncture. I decided that I didn’t really want to drive more than 300km in north west WA without a spare tire so after I’d changed the flat, I drove back into town, only to find that as it was now after midday on a Saturday, everywhere was shut and nowhere was open again until Monday morning. So I ended up getting stuck there and it was all a bit ‘Wake In Fright’.
I don’t know what it was about the town. It just didn’t seem to have much sense of purpose or much going for it. I guess that maybe it’s just what you get with small, isolated farming areas.
A decade on, I don’t think anything has changed and Carnarvon is a depressing place. I arrived on a Sunday lunchtime and the place was like a ghost town. It wasn’t just the town centre itself, there was no one around in the residential areas. The drawcard for living in regional Australia seems to be the outdoor life and fishing so I guess maybe everyone was away for the weekend camping somewhere up/down the coast. I also think there might be a few holiday homes near the waterfront which might not be occupied all year round.
In the town, nearly every other building was some government department or other. With all the talk of shutting down indigenous communities because they’re not financially viable, you take one look at Carnarvon and think if the government was serious about reducing costs it should probably close down most of WA north of Perth. Although I’m sure it operates as a regional centre, if you took the government out of Carnarvon, there would be little left.
I didn’t have a lot of spare time in the town so the photos are mostly camera photos from the town centre taken on that first afternoon and some photos from the walk along the very rickety/quite scary One Mile Jetty on the last day I was there. Part of me regrets not having enough time to go and visit the space centre museum, so I only ended up with a rubbish photo of the dish that I stopped to take out of the car window as I was driving out of town and heading back north.