..... Monday 17th January 2011
When you have a day as great as this one it's hard to know where to start but the beginning is usually the best place. The day started early as the sun forced us out of bed by 7am, there was still a good strong breeze blowing so an ideal day to do the laundry. I wanted to wash our v-shaped cushions because they were beginning to whiff, so a hot windy day was perfect to get them dry in time to use again that night. I had also bought some covers for them and was eager to get them on once they were clean and smelling sweet again.
We had also discovered that morning a number of ants wandering around the van, Gary went outside to investigate and found a marching army of them using our electric cable as a drawbridge. There were hundreds of ants coming and going but only a few odd ants in the van....so where were they disappearing to. We checked the cupboards, the cooker, the fridge and no sign of them. Gary went out armed with bug spray and cut off their access but there was still the problem of a hundred or so ants somewhere inside. A walk round the front of the van solved the mystery, they were happily dismantling the array of bugs stuck in the front grill and windscreen.....we left them be.
Once the washing was hung out and the ants cleared up we began our big day in Cape Range National Park, but not before stopping for petrol. There is a big thing in Exmouth, well actually it’s more of a little thing. In the petrol station there is a model of a Whale Shark but it’s actually smaller than a Whale Shark would have been in real life, so therefore a Small Thing rather than a Big one. Whale Sharks are actually a large fish, in fact the largest fish and can grow up to 18 metres long. Between March and July they swim into the plankton rich waters of the Ningaloo Reef to feed. These completely harmless, zooplankton eating sharks can swim right up to you while snorkelling off this coast. Gary is gutted we are here too early to witness this, in the diving world this would be a big tick on the bucket list.
Exmouth is a peninsular with an amazing coastal road going up one side and coming down the other, all along it there are pull-in’s and things to see and do. The views are awesome the sea is turquoise and the sand is pure white. There is a mountain range that runs down the middle of the park giving you a combination of rocky hills, meeting olive grassland that blends into pale sand which merges with the crystal clear water......this makes up the Cape Range National Park and is very beautiful.
We stopped at the Lighthouse for a 360 view of the area, high on the hill you could look out over the Indian ocean and up the white fringed coast and then on the other side over the rugged terrain of the mountain range. We carried on along the coast to the next stop which was a large sand Dune, luckily we didn’t drive down the whole track as the sand got so soft that even a couple of 4WD’s struggling to get out. The sand dune looked massive from a distance but was easily accessible from the base. Piles of snow white sand that shimmered and travelled in the wind, within minutes of us reaching the top our footprints had already disappeared behind us. It was so beautiful that our cameras couldn’t do it justice.
Back in the van and on to the next pull in, a bird hide on the edge of a mangrove, we have not had much luck with these and this one was no different, wrong time of year and not a bird in sight. That is until we are back on the road and round the next bent we nearly run down two emu’s who are happily plodding down the middle of the road (see video – it was a shame seconds before I took this they were both walking in sync, it looked very funny). There are a lot of Emu’s in Exmouth, we saw five walking down the main road when we first arrived.
Turquoise Beach was our next destination and it was picture perfect, the Ningaloo reef just off the shore, edged with shallow turquoise water and smooth white sand, you couldn’t imagine a more perfect setting. You know I have always said Australian beaches are always empty well that’s because they are all swimming in Exmouth. We walked up to the quieter end of the beach and set up camp. With no Jellyfish to worry about there was nothing holding us back from diving straight into the very inviting sea.... oh and the water was really warm too. We snorkelled off shore for about an hour, not the best house reef we have been to as it was mostly dead coral but it had brought in a few big fish like Parrot and Emperor fish and lots of small ones like Angel and Box fish. Ningaloo Marine Park covers 260km of coastline and is Australia’s larger fringing coral reef. It is perfect for snorkelling as parts of it are only metres from the shoreline.
Lunch in the van and a time to dry off before driving up to Oyster Stacks, another snorkelling site but totally different from Turquoise Bay which is just minutes down the road. This is a rocky area that drops straight into the sea, it has no sand or gently incline to help you in the water. It did have some fascinating crabs, which were amazing colours and very nimble as they jumped from rock to rock when we got closer.
Time was getting on and we had already seen lots of evidence that there were roo’s all round the park so we started back home while it was still light, so we didn’t run any of them or the emu’s over. One last visit to the bird hide just in case it got busier late afternoon. Still no sightings except for a Sea Eagle a long way over the other side of the water. Then Gary got bit by a mosquito so we headed home. We picked some chippy chips up on the way back and saw a couple of emu’s walking down the road and into the pub....no word of a lie....made for a great photo. Got in just as the sunset over the campsite, the end to a perfect dayTuesday 18th January 2011
We only have a short journey to the next to the next town today, Coral Bay, just a couple of hours down the road. The road out took us pasts some termite hills and one in particular had been turned into a face. We have noticed a lot of termite hill abuse on our way round Australia, mainly people putting hats on them, over Christmas there where fair amount covered in tinsel and we saw one with beer bottles sticking out all the holes. The termite hills in this part of the county look like melting snowmen and the funniest abuse we have seen so far was a field full of hills all wearing hard hats.
Weather Sunny 37 degrees
We arrived in Coral Bay and pulled into the camp ground. This is the smallest town we have ever stayed in, there are two campgrounds, a hotel, a small shopping centre and a boat ramp but that was about it. The beaches looked fabulous and we couldn’t wait to go and explore them, but first we needed to check in. Even though it is low season the campsite was really busy, the receptionist sent us off to find our site with a map and information about where the drinking water taps where as the campsites normal tap water isn’t drinkable. I didn’t pay too much attention to this as we don’t drink the water in Oz, Aussies don’t get offended, I don’t drink the tap water at home so I am not going to start here.....plus in these remote places the water is piped all the way from Perth 1132km away. What I didn’t understand until I read the back of the campsite map was the tap water is from an Artesian Bore, 830 metres down and is salty and hot an unsuitable for even cooking with.
We unpacked the van and then went for a walk down to the beach. The campsite is over the road from the beach which is perfect, at first we thought there was no beach as the water was really high but then we saw the sand bank and realized this was the beach area. There were lots of families around, most of them had set up canopies on or in the water to get some shade. We carried on round the coast over some rock to a very secluded part of the beach. The water is gorgeous here, we are still on the Ningaloo Reef and again it is just off shore. The sea is three shades of blue and crystal clear in parts, prefect for snorkelling. We had a long swim and cooled off in the water before headed back to the van for a shower and some lunch.
Gary came back from the bathroom with tales of roasting hot water coming out the cold tap in the shower and how it didn’t cool down. I assumed it was him just making a fuss as even at home he likes his showers cool, but when I went for mine I couldn’t believe how hot the cold water was. I had to try both taps just in case I had turned the wrong one on, you could have run a bath with it and never have to put hot water in, it was that warm. Not what you need when the temperature outside is 37degrees in the shade. As the water was unsuitable for cooking with we filled one of our empty 10L water bottles up with drinking water to use for cooking.Wednesday 19th January 2011 – Friday 21st January 2011
We spent the next three days snorkelling in on the Ningaloo reef, sunning on the beach and enjoying the cool evenings sitting outside out van under our nets....way too many flies here. The flies actually are the only annoyance (other than the man in the tent next door who plays drum and base music at full volume on his stereo every afternoon....ashamed to say he was English too). There are no mozzies or insects of any sorts around so we are very comfortable behind our fly nets. The weather is hot during the day but cools off to a low of 28 degrees at night which with our back door open makes it perfect for getting a good night sleep. Still on our health kick we have started the diet now and have already noticed the difference in our clothes even just after a week.
We enquired about doing a dive on this fabulous reef but there is only one dive shop in the town and he was charging $210 for two dives and that was too much for our dwindling dive budget. We do intend to dive on this side of the country but the price has to be right. There are more dive sites further down this coast.... some wreck and cave dives, so we haven’t missed out yet.
We had a walk to the north of the beach where there is a shark nursery which is a reef sharks breeding area. It was a long hot walk which got harder half way along because the sand became really soft and it felt like you where climbing a Stairmaster rather than walking up the beach. We reached Skelly Bay where the nursery was but could see any sharks, I am not sure what I expected, I think hundreds of baby sharks playing at the edge of the water. We stopped for a rest and a drink before heading back. On the way back Gary saw a metre long shark in the water, swimming slowly and gracefully along shore line, we stood and watched him swim past happy we had actually seen one....typical I had just put my camera away.
After our long walk we hit the beach the other side and took a long swim and cooled off in the water. Up until today I have been very good with my water consumption, if I don’t drink enough in the hot weather I get light headed and then bad migraines, even at home if I am busy at work and forget to drink during the day by the time I get home I’m a mess and have to go to bed with all the lights off and a packet of Nurofen. If forgot to drink a litre of water before heading out for our walk this morning so by the time we got back to the van I was suffering badly, my head was pounding and didn’t ease up even after I drunk 2ltrs of water. The migraine hit and I was flat on my back in the van with extra strong Nurofen, an eye mask and sunglasses on to keep the light out....Gary enjoyed the quiet time.
Our last night in Coral Bay and we decided to go out for a quick drink in happy hour at the hotel down the road. My migraine was a distant memory and what better cure than a couple of schooners of cider. It was a lovely bar with outside seating and a nice holiday atmosphere. We shared a Jug of cider and watched a brother and sister of about four and six play cricket on the grass....they both knew the rules and could hit the ball well....Dad had to help out with the bowling.Saturday 22nd January 2011
Firstly Happy Birthday to my Bro, I don’t usually do birthdays wishes on the blog but his is a big one this year so deserves a special mention. We are driving to a town called Carnarvon, there are a few things to do here and they have a Woolworth’s supermarket so we will get a big shop done as our cupboards are very bare. We have to drive over the Tropic of Capricorn again, there isn’t much of a sign to acknowledge this and the one they have is covered in stickers and graffiti..... Still worth a photo seeing as I am a Capricorn. We arrived in town and drove straight to Woolworths to stock up, on the way out we popped in to the bottle shop just to see what offers they had on as Wednesday is Australia Day (A bank holiday and major drinking day) they had an offer on rose wine two 5l boxes for $24 that’s about £8 a box for 5l of booze.....probable tastes like crap but it’s cold and wet!!
Accommodation $29.70 & $32
Weather Sunny 37 degrees
Booked into a Big4 campsite, not the nicest once we have been to but the whole area is still cleaning up after massive flooding in December. There are pictures in the shopping centre of the main highway with massive holes torn through it where the power of the water has run across the road and broken it into bits in its path. The owner of the campground showed me a marker in the office of how high the water came, it was also visible on the static caravans in the park. We parked up and unpacked the van, setting up the table, chairs and nets so we could cook dinner.Sunday 23rd January 2011
We had a slow start this morning, not for any particular reason but it was 10am before we left the campsite. We are having a drive round town and then heading out to our next destination Monkey Mia. We started with a drive to the longest pier in Western Australia, so we come to the other side of the world to see something we can see every day at home (home town Southend has/had the longest pier pleasure in the world). This pier is only a mile long and is now only used by fisherman, in its day it was the main port from Perth and transported livestock and passengers. The town looks like it would have been a bustling port town with two big hotels and lots of shops. The walk down the pier was a bit hair raising as the wooden boardwalk is a little neglected and a lot of the boards were loose and well worn. We met a fisherman at the end of the pier who had just caught a baby shark, I took a few photos before he threw it back in again. Back on dry land there were lots of discarded engines and rail stock just rusting where they were last used. The train once ran up and down the pier and on into town, but it’s no longer in operation.
It was time for lunch so we drove to the OTC communication dish which dominates the Carnarvon skyline. It is now out of commission but was active during the space race and the moon landing in 1969. It closed in 1987 after assisting in the tracking of Halley’s Comet. We could drive right up to the dish and parked under it as it gave us great shade while we had our lunch. We took a few photos and watched some Japanese girls taking hundreds of shots of it. Having done all we wanted to do in Carnarvon we put the next town in the satnav, but we had got it wrong. Monkey Mia was over four hours away and that was without rest stops, feasible but as it was 2pm it would mean we arrived after 6pm and driving on the roads at dusk. Without too much discussion we drove back into town and stopped at a different caravan park and set up camp. We had a lazy afternoon of watching cricket and dipping in the pool for a cool off. The weather is unseasonable hot, according to the receptionist, this time of year they have strong winds which brings in the cool air. The wind always comes from the same direction and bends all the trees....what a fascinating country this is, every town has a tale to tell.