Location, location, lying low in Denham ...
Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
32Trip End Jul 13, 2011
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Where I stayed
Bay Lodge Backpackers
Where better to start than the back yard of the sheep station where we had camped the night. Just down the road was Hamelin Bay, home of the stromatolites. Some of these critters are about 1,000 years old, although they have apparently been around for as long as 350 billion years! They look like rocks and sea sponges to the untrained eye, but are actually very simple bacteria that grow in layers, trapping sediment and slowly increasing in size over many years as they repeat the process. Pretty groovy, really, that they are still just doing what they did millions of years ago; and equally amazing that humans have not managed to destroy them.
Shell Beach was another must on the tourist itinerary, and looks great, but the shells hurt your feet if you try and walk on them
We pulled into Denham in the mid-afternoon and did a couple of laps of the main drag, looking for something appropriately luxurious to justify leaving the tent in the car. The two caravan parks certainly did their bit in terms of persuading us that this was a good move. Although one was reasonably well-situated and the unpowered tent sites looked very inviting, the rest of the place was just a sea of caravans which stretched further than the eye could see up the hill – there was obviously no privacy to be had there. The other doesn’t even really deserve a mention, as it was just a barren poxhole in the middle of the town – using the adjective “uninviting” for this impression is my first real understatement for this blog, I think. It would have been like pitching a tent in the parking lot of a motel somewhere like Tailem Bend; although to be fair, this place was shinier and whiter than Tailem Bend would ever be, thanks to the shell grit that formed both the basis for all the pathways and the walls which lined each of the tiers
However, in a nice stroke of luck, we found two venues we liked the look of – a set of little ocean-front villas, and right next to them, the backpackers’. The backpackers’ won the toss for economical reasons, and we have moved into a little one-bedroom unit, which is literally only 20 metres off the water’s edge! We walk past our car, cross the road and plop straight into the water. It’s clean, comfortable, and we have our own beach! Why pay extra to have the same thing just next door, only with fancier paintwork? I can’t get over the fact that the backpackers’ is, in fact, the nicest-looking building in the whole town centre (OK, with the exception of the “Old Pearler” restaurant, which is built of shell-block). We’ve been here five days now (writing this on May 15), and we both agree that it was worth every sleepless night in the Kalbarri caravan park. If we’d gone posh there, we would have felt compelled to camp here, and that just isn’t an option. The fact that the weather turned a bit dodgy 48 hours into our stay here put the icing on the cake in a big way
We hit Denham in the midst of the annual Fishing Fiesta, so that’s been interesting. During the day, the place is a ghost town, but after dark, all the fishermen and their families emerge for a bit, then disappear again – for an early night, I guess. Maybe not, but I’m glad we are not in the caravan park with them. I don’t think I could bear being camped in the midst of a mass of fishing enthusiasts just now. The fiesta finished on Friday evening with a fireworks display that would rival any in a big city, and luckily the rain that had been falling on and off all day decided to hold off for a bit, so we wandered around and soaked up the atmosphere, although we did not go into the special enclosure where the real enthusiasts were partying like crazy
We’ve had a lot more contact with the locals here, which is also something we like when travelling. The IGA four paces down the road is staffed by three older ladies, either on rotation or all there at once, so you get a whole different shopping experience to the places staffed by reluctant and disinterested teenage boys, which has been the case for much of the coastal journey. The ladies banter with all the old blokes who come in off the boats to get their meal-in-a-tin and jolly the tourists through their various crises with a friendly laugh
I must be getting old, as it was also nice bantering with the two older ladies who ran the “Old Pearler” where we went for a posh nosh-up one night and treated ourselves to a platter of all the local seafood – yum, yum, yum! It was a nice change to many of the establishments in Melbourne where everyone’s too young and hip to actually serve you properly these days, or at the other end of the spectrum they are faking interest in you to the point where you want to ask for a spew bucket. Yep, I think it is official – I am definitely getting old and grumpy, even on holidays where noone is provoking me!
We met some more old-timers on Saturday night, as we searched out the “Town Hall” in order to attend the Film Society’s screening of “My Boy Jack”. For $5 a head, you get a movie and a glass of wine, as well as some jovial interaction with an eclectic but small bunch of locals and mixed ring-ins like us. Unfortunately, Denham is in dire straits – 70% of its population is over 60 – but hopefully someone will find a way to keep it alive, as it’s a nice little place with a really good vibe.
After our planned cruise was cancelled, we followed up a lead on a 4WD tour to Point Peron with an indigenous slant, thinking we would come home skilled at hunting and finding bush tucker, and having seen the most amazing sights. Well, we did see amazing sights, and Keith was a great host. He was friendly and a very nice bloke who certainly shared a good amount of knowledge about himself, his people and the area, but it was fairly clear that a number of areas remained unexplored, and for the money, you really expect to come home feeling reasonably enlightened. It was pretty low-key, and he even admitted that his brother was more into that side of things, so if anyone is looking for a truly genuine look at indigenous life in Shark Bay, head for Monkey Mia and find Keith’s brother!