Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Kimberley’s

The Kimberley’s - 28th – 30th May

Boab Tree, Gibb River Road
Boab Tree, Gibb River Road Western Australia
From Gibb River

We spent the morning in Broome and were still umming and ahhing whether to do the Gibb River Rd (GRR), we drove to Derby and decided to stay there the night. We came to the conclusion that we would do the first section of the GRR and then make our way back to the highway as we wanted to see Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek and then The Bungle Bungles. After a bit of a hot and sticky nights sleep (the humidity) we headed along the GRR. It is only a 100ks or so to the turning to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek and most of it was bitumen (it looks like they are going to bitumen a lot more of it too). We felt a bit cheated as we always thought the road was notoriously rough. We were told it was pretty good for about ¾ of the way and seriously considered carrying on, but with out a second spare and time issues we decided to keep to the original plan.

Windjana Gorge
Windjana Gorge Gibb River Road Western Australia
From Gibb River

Carl described Windjana Gorge as Mordor (from Lord of the Rings). I must admit, it was very strange looking and black. Many many moons ago it was a reef under the sea. It looked like a black wall of rock rising out of the ground, very spectacular looking. You can walk right into the gorge and it must be the best place in Australia to come face to face with Freshwater Crocodiles. These ‘freshies’ are considered harmless and are a lot smaller than and not as aggressive as their larger, dangerous cousins - Saltwater Crocs (unless of course you provoke them). We got our first sighting as we walked along the river bank and could see lots of freshies on the other bank. As we walked down a bit further and out on to a sand bank, we managed to get quite up close and personal with a couple.

Freshwater Crocodile
Freshwater Crocodile Gibb River Road Western Australia
From Gibb River

The gorge was quite fascinating to look at with the black rock and sandy bottom – it kept making us stop and look at it. Very different to anything we have seen so far.

After the hot walk back and a quick bite to eat we headed for Tunnel Creek. Tunnel Creek (the name describes itself very well) is a tunnel underground that has been carved by a river (or creek as you aussies say). After a quick clamber to the cave it was soon apparent that the advice to take some waterproof shoes was good advice. We stepped into the cold water and entered the dark of the tunnel. Then it was obvious that the other advice to take a torch was even better advice!!

Tunnel Creek
Tunnel Creek Gibb River Road Western Australia
From Gibb River

After 200m or so in the dark and what we discovered not to be a great torch, we arrived at a great big opening in the tunnel that rose away upward and let in a massive shaft of light. Trees and plants were visible at the top, their roots coming all the way down to the water in some places. All the while the bats buzzed around busily.
Whilst we thought this was nice to see, we couldn’t really understand why many people raved about this place. Never mind, we left by the same route and headed off down a rough corrugated dirt road to Fitzroy Crossing and our chosen campsite for the night.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Port Hedland and Broome

Port Hedland and Broome - 25th – 28th May 09

Road Train Western Australia
From Port Headland & Broome

As we climbed back up Dale’s Gorge we bumped into couple of Irish and a German backpacker (Kieran, Caroline & Anna). We started off joking about the heat and then got talking about travelling and the direction they were heading. We said that we had planned to spend the afternoon driving to Port Hedland. Kieran said that they were doing the same as they had to replace a tyre on the Ford Falcon Ute they were travelling in. They had driven on the dirt road to Weano gorge, the first and last time that they had been off the bitumen! I thought to myself “how can 3 people be in a Falcon Ute?” sure enough as we got back to the car park there it was an old 1986 ute with 3 seats in the front and the back luggage bulging under the canvass. We bid them farewell and joked that they would be overtaking us shortly as we drive OJ at 85km/h to preserve fuel. Kieran said that may not be the case now as he had decided to slow down from 120 to 90km/h for the same reason. This was after finding out he had spent nearly twice as much as some guys he met in a camper that had done the same journey, just slower.
We were 6kms outside Port Hedland when we pushed the fuel gauge to the limit once more – 10 mins and a jerry later and we were back on our way (Yes we had run out of fuel twice in 3 days!). As we looked for the service station we saw a familiar looking red ute go passed. We waved, filled up the car and set about looking at one of the 4 caravan parks in town. The sat nav showed us to Black Rock CP and off we went. As we pulled in we rolled up next to a red Falcon Ute and thought “What are the chances?” (25% logically). We set up camp next to the guys and had a few beers, putting the world to rights.
Port Hedland is a very industrial town with lots of mining vehicles running around. It was here we saw the longest road trains of the trip so far (4 trailers long) There was nothing much to see here and we set off for Broome the next morning. We exchanged numbers with our new co-travellers and got a head start as they had to get a new tyre. After a very healthy start to the day in Maccas we set about the 600km trip to Broome.

Cable Beach, Broome
Cable Beach Broome Western Australia
From Port Headland & Broome

It was just getting dark as we arrived in Broome and still no sign of the Ute..?
We had no desire to set up camp and cook in the dark, plus food supplies were running a little thin so we popped into Macca’s for the 2nd time that day! As we sat down to munch on our cheeseburgers, talking about the wall of heat and humidity we had just hit the phone rang and Caroline asked where we were. They came and met us and Kieran exclaimed that we must have been doing more than 85km/h. He was right, we had for the first time in a long while increased our speed – the drive was just so damn boring!
We arranged to go to the same campsite and then went out for a few beers in Broome centre on a Tuesday night! Predictably it was not very lively but the beers in Pearler’s bar were on special and COLD so we stuck around for a while under the ceiling fans.
To go from so cold to so hot in a couple of days took a little while to get used to!
After we were kicked out of the closing Pearler’s Kieran was keen to carry on drinking (no one else really was) so we went to Macca’s for a 3rd time!!! And then on to an Irish bar where we left Kieran and went off to bed.

Camel Ride, Broome
Camel Ride Cable Beach Broome Western Australia
From Port Headland & Broome

The next morning we had a walk around Broome doing a couple of necessities. Broome is a pearling town (where the world’s best pearls come from) with strong Chinese links. There are pearl shops everywhere selling gorgeous pearl jewellery, but no matter how much I tried, Carl wasn’t having a bar of buying me any of them!!!
That night we headed for Cable Beach just outside Broome to watch the sunset and to see the Camels. A visit to Broome is just not complete without seeing the Camels on the beach!
It was a lovely sunset and we got some great pics of the camels as the sun went down. The beach is very flat and wide and many kms long. We didn’t know, but you can take your 4wd drive on to the beach which many people had done, set up with chairs ready for the sunset. After stocking up, we were ready to set off towards Derby and the Gibb River Rd.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Karijini National Park

Karijini National Park - 22nd May – 25th May

Tom Price, WA
Tom Price Western Australia
From Karijini

We set off from Exmouth as early as we could; our next destination was Karijini NP. It was 500ks to the town of Tom Price - the park and its gorges were a further 60-100ks. The drive was fairly uneventful apart from the last 70ks or so which were dirt. It had been raining on and off and the dirt road was a little wet. This is usually a nice thing (as long as it is not too wet!!) as it keeps the dust levels down. Unfortunately road works are being carried out at the moment and they have flattened the road ready for bitumen to be laid. This has the effect of leaving a layer of muddy slime on the road. We had only around 10ks of this but to say OJ was in a mess would be an understatement! Every time we jumped in or out of her we had red slime on our legs and clothes – Not nice.
We arrived at Tom Price Caravan Park late in the day and decided to stay and somehow clean the car. They had a car wash bay and we had to queue for it. By the time we were half way through cleaning the car it was dark and Heidi was spraying the hose by torch light!

A very long train - Tom Price
Long Train Tom Price Western Australia
From Karijini

In the morning we left the caravan park in search of fuel as we had avoided roadhouses yesterday, due to their high prices. The car was very empty but we did have 2 jerries on board. The sat nav said the garage was close but then all of a sudden the car gave a little cough and died. ‘Oh No’ we had run out of fuel. We untied the jerry can and set about pouring in 19 litres of fuel on the side of the road. After a couple of goes OJ started and we drove under the bridge to see the Coles servo right there in front of us – We had run out of fuel less than 200 mtrs from it!!!
After a bit of a giggle and a fill up we explored Tom price for an hour or so. We found a big mining truck for Heidi (she has wanted to see one up close since Kalgoorlie). In this area there are also trains that can be 3-4 kms in length (Yes kilometres – that’s 1.8 – 2.5 miles for you UK readers). Well as it happened we followed one out of town on our way to Karijini NP. Hearing how long these things are is one thing but seeing it is another - Amazing.

Hamersley Gorge, Karijini National Park
Hamersley Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

There are 3 main gorge sights in Karijini (there are others but we would only see these if time permitted), Hamersley, Weano recreation area and Dales recreation area. Our first stop was Hamersley as it was to the north of the park and not on any through road that we wanted to take. We arrived in the afternoon after the Tom Price exploration to find a lookout down into the gorge. The gorge had a cascade type waterfall at one end a swimming hole in the middle and a narrow ravine at the other end. It was an amazing sight from above but we knew that the perspective would be completely different once we were down inside it.
There were some steep steps down into the gorge and we ummed and ahhed about taking our swimming gear down with us. We had a bag packed with camera stuff and water and decided not to. Once down in the gorge we were very taken by the size and beauty of this place. Red rocks against blue sky, green trees fringing the pool full of little fish and the sights and sound of the waterfalls.

H Relaxing in Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

We hopped around on the rocks taking pictures and watching others swim in the pool – it looked good.
Heidi said that she had always wanted to swim in one of these gorge type pools but was worried that it might be a little cold. I suggested that if she ran back up to the car and then came back down, all those steep steps would make her want to cool off! So off she went. After carefully changing (without exposing ourselves!), Heidi was first to brave the pool. She said that she was going to go in slowly and set about climbing down the slippery rocks at the waters edge. After some very graceful clambering(!) she pushed off and swam over to the other side exclaiming “It’s not too bad actually”

Swimming in Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

I was next and decided that I was not messing about with the shallow slippery rocks to the side of me and just dived into the deeper area in front of me. The pool was very refreshing and crystal clear; we splashed and swam for a while. We then had to head off to camp, happy that we had ticked off another must do experience in such a wonderful setting.

Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

Our camp for the night was to be ‘Savannah Campground within the NP. These camps are normally very basic and not very expensive. As we drove towards the camp we kept seeing signs for an ‘Eco camp’. As we pulled in we saw a reception area, BBQ’s, flushing toilets, those cabin/tents that people pay a lot to stay in and a restaurant. We looked at each other and thought “this is not what we expected, looks expensive!”
After a trip to reception (which was also an air-conditioned bar selling alcohol and meals!) we found that the camp area was now privately owned and a touch more that the $13 we were expecting! ($25) Never the less we were in the area of the park we wanted to explore so we paid our money and set up for the night.

After one of the coldest nights we have had so far we made the short drive to Weano Gorge Recreation Area. There are a few walks in the area of varying degrees of difficulty. Neither of us are big walkers, usually a challenging walk involves long distances, however all walks were short and we decided that a challenge would be fun. We had heard that one of the walks even had a shortish ladder climb on it!

Hancock Gorge
Hancock Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

We started off with a quick stroll to a lookout over a chasm where 4 gorges meet in what I have seen described as ‘a marvel of geology’. It was pretty spectacular; the area was so huge though it was difficult to take in the scale of what we were looking at – a feast for the eyes!
We then headed off on the level 5 walk down into and through part of Hancock Gorge to Kermits Pool. The walk started off on a level 4 walk down into the gorge. This consisted of some steep steps with little else (No handrails for instance). On completion of this we arrived at the level 5 section. (Just as an aside level 6 requires an official qualification in abseiling! WOW).
The level 5 section started with the ladder climb down onto the gorge floor. Safely negotiated we carried on through the gorge, we had worn our proper hiking boots and there were some patches of water. It quickly became a fun challenge to keep close to the walls and out of the water. After a few hundred metres there was what seemed to be a section that was impassable in the dry and people were taking their shoes off and wading. After some deliberation we followed suit and were just about to get wet when we saw a group go up and over the top and get safely down – all dry. We quickly pulled our shoes back on and followed their route over the top. It was a bit of a clamber but nothing too difficult. This gave us the confidence to carry on and we did a bit more ‘sticking to the sides’ over another deepish section of water.

Hancock Gorge
Hancock Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

We then arrived in ‘The Amphitheatre’ – a large hollow in the gorge that looked like it had seats for some sort of show, “What a weird and wonderful place this Park is!” we thought.
The Amphitheatre was the start of the section of the walk called ‘Spider Walk’.

Spider Walk
Hancock Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

Spider Walk was basically a very narrow section (never more than arm span wide) with a shallow slippery water flow running down it. Looks like we were finally gonna get wet! But wait what happened to the guys that were doing it in the dry? They must have done it. After checking up high and deciding that it was just not safe we saw ‘the dry guys’ coming back through holding themselves up just inches above the water with arms and legs across the gap. – Walking like SPIDERS!!
So with a little trepidation we set about spider walking the 100 or so metres to the next clear landing area. After clawing our way down Spider Walk we were rewarded with the very picturesque Kermits Pool. Kermits Pool was gorgeous, a green pool with red rocks under the surface and the gorge towering high above it on all sides.
At one end of the pool the water slipped away down a waterfall that was more like a rocky chute. The pools down the bottom looked excellent too. However you needed to have qualifications in abseiling to go any further. We bid farewell to this amazing little spot and headed back up the same route we’d entered the gorge. It was a little warmer by now and the climb back up the gorge side was quite hard work!

Weano Gorge
Weano Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

After a spot of lunch we then headed back into the gorges this time Weano Gorge for a go at the walk to Handrail Pool – so called because there is a handrail (and rope) to negotiate a tricky slippery waterfall before you can descend into the pool (for a swim if you wish – we didn’t). The walk through the gorge also involved climbing up high to avoid getting wet, then a little passage between fallen rocks. We were both amazed at the amount of trees and plants that grow down in the gorges considering there are not many hours of sun down here. I slipped on the surface a couple of times this walk, wetting both my feet, Heidi thought this was very amusing!
Next was the job of negotiating the handrail and rope. Not too difficult you would think however there was a small cascade running over your feet that made things very slippery. In the end we turned, facing away from the drop off and slowly lowered ourselves holding tightly on to the rail. This took us to a little ledge where there was a rope tied to the hand rail that went over a 2m drop. 2m doesn’t sound like much but lowering yourself over the ledge backwards holding only on to a moving rope was a little unnerving. I have to say Heidi made it look a lot easier than me! Must be a big chicken!

Heidi Above Handrail Pool
Handrail Pool Weano Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

This was pretty much the end of the line unless you wanted to swim the last couple of hundred metres – Pool looked cold!
We sat and marvelled for a while at the towering red rock on all sides, watched a crazy guy free climb up to at least 20m above the pool with his camera (bare foot!), laughed about what fun we had had today in such a beautiful natural place.
Once back we set off for camp at the National park owned site of Dale’s Rec Area. This was the area of the park we wanted to explore next and we spent another very cold night recuperating after an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable day.
That night whist at camp in broad daylight a Dingo wandered in and had a sniff around. This was our first clear sighting of a Dingo (larger than we expected!). We were warned by the camp host that they were around and to hide our shoes as they chew them! In the morning we were awoken at 5am by the eerie sound of many Dingoes howling together – not a pleasant sound. This was also officially the coldest night that we had experienced as the thermometer in the car showed a new minimum temp – 5C. That meant it must have been even lower outside of the car (we believe around 2-3C).

Dales Gorge
Dales Gorge Karijini National Park Western Australia
From Karijini

It was still pretty cool when set off for the Dale’s Gorge walk. Swimming was also possible on this walk but there was no way we were thinking about that at the moment – The warning signs of hypothermia still fresh in our minds!
This walk was not as fun as yesterdays but it was more picturesque and seeing the waterfall and tree lined pools was well worth it. Karijini NP is truly an awesome place, if you are ever in the vicinity you would not regret the small detour for a couple of nights – Brilliant, one of the highlights of the trip so far.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Exmouth - 19th to 22nd May 2009

Carls 30th Birthday!!

Unfortunately that morning we had to leave Coral Bay for Exmouth. Exmouth isn’t far so we arrived pretty early and got ourselves sorted with a campsite and booked ourselves on to a Whale Shark tour for the next day as our Birthday pressie. We then treated ourselves to lunch at a cafĂ©, which was very nice. We then relaxed by the pool on the campsite for the afternoon. Whilst Carl was in the shower, I decorated the tent with streamers, balloons, 30th birthday banners, a cake and candles as a surprise. I was running around like a mad thing, blowing up balloons whilst tying up streamers!! It was quite hard trying to do it as a surprise as we spend every minute together - It’s hard to keep anything from him!! It all went well and Carl was actually surprised. We then phoned Mariana to wish hew well on her trip to England and sang happy birthday before going out for a meal. We had a great time and the food was excellent.

Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

Whale Shark day! WOW, what a day!
We got up early for our pick up at 7.15am and then had a 30 min bus ride to the boat. After a quick dinghy ride we got on to the boat and were kitted out with snorkelling gear and stinger suits. It didn’t seem long before we were in the water for our morning snorkel. This was to make sure we were happy with our equipment and our ability in the water. We saw loads of marine life, a huge puffer fish, catfish, masses of tropical marine fish and a sting ray (but didn’t see Aquamarina (Carl’s pun…..????)). After about 40 mins we were called back to the boat, the crew very happy that the whole group were capable swimmers and snorkellers (little did we know the importance of being able to swim until later!!)
We had some morning tea and then had our Whale Shark briefing. We were told that the boat would position itself in front of the Whale Shark so the back of the boat was facing the on coming shark. We were to jump off of the back and look in the water for the shark and then get out of the way, turn around as it went past and swim, swim, swim with it. This all sounded a little scary as these are the biggest fish in the ocean and can grow up to 18m long. Everybody looked around with nervous smiles.
We were split into 2 groups (there can only be 10 people at any one time swimming with the shark) each with a crew member (a spotter) who would swim with the Whale Shark with their hand in the air at all times - our ‘spotter’ was Todd. The boat headed out into the deeper water ready for information from the spotter planes.

Tiger Shark
Tiger Shark Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

The inner reef is amazing, the water is so clear; you could see the coral and the fish from the boat. As we made our way out to deeper water we were lucky enough to see a Tiger Shark (approx 3m) in the shallows, the boat circled it a couple of times - what an amazing sight!!! We also got to see a ray and a couple of turtles.
It wasn’t long before they got the call from the plane that a Whale Shark had been spotted and off we went. Carl and I were in group one and so even more nervous that we had to go in first. We were told to get ready with our snorkel gear and sit at the back of the boat ready to jump in. Then the call came, “Go Go Go!” So we all jumped in the water all looking around for this shark, you couldn’t actually see that far in the deeper water - it was a bit nerve racking. I kept looking up for Todd who had his hand in the air, but when I looked under I couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden, this huge Whale Shark appeared from no where! I quickly moved to one side and just floated there in awe as it went passed, I then suddenly remembered I had to turn around and swim with it so off I went. What an amazing sight.

Swimming with Whale Sharks
Swimming with Whale Sharks Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

Meanwhile Carl, who had jumped in behind me was also desperately looking around for the giant fish amidst a sea of legs and flippers. All of a sudden looming from the depths it was swimming straight towards him. After a quick think of whether to go left or right he got out of the way. As he turned to see the shark go passed, he was in front of everybody else and started swimming with it. Unfortunately almost straight away the shark started to dive down into the depths and went out of sight, Todd followed it for a minute or so and then came back to say it had gone, we all waited for the boat to come and pick us up. We hauled ourselves back on to the boat desperately hoping we would get another go.
Then the call came almost immediately for group 2 to get ready, so we watched as they all jumped in the water frantically looking for the shark. This time it stayed on the surface and they got to spend much longer with it. It was great to see their faces when they came back in.
All of a sudden Todd shouts “right then lets go, get ready. We’re going with this one too. Go! Go! Go!” Again we all jumped in the water, and again this shark just appeared from nowhere. This time we got to spend much longer with it, about 10mins. It was such a fantastic sight, just watching it gliding through the water. It was surrounded by lots of smaller fish, which we later found out were little sharks and flute fish. Todd then passed the shark on to group 2 and we got back on the boat. It wasn’t long before we were getting ready again, as we had this Whale Shark all to ourselves. (sometimes boats will share, passing it between groups).

Ningaloo Reef, Great conditions for snorkelling
Snorkelling Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

It was just amazing and we didn’t seem to bother it at all. Obviously we had to keep our distance and couldn’t swim in front of its gills in case we spooked it. I guess to the Whale Shark, we were just smaller fish swimming along with it. We spent the next couple of hours hopping in and out of the water and must have had about 7 or 8 swims in total.
We did sit one out each just to catch our breath again as it was quite energetic all the swimming involved, but it was truly fantastic.
After each groups last swim, we headed back into the sheltered reef for lunch. Lunch was a good spread and we all sat around talking about how great the day had been. After lunch we got to have an afternoon snorkel, as we swam over the clearness and brightness of the coral and fish were amazing. It was like being dropped into an aquarium, the water was so clear, we saw so many fish, lots of clown fish in anemones, and so many schools of colourful fish. I was gutted we didn’t take our camera in with us. Never the less it truly topped off the day. Apparently that was one of the crews favourite snorkel spots and we can see why! The whole day was fantastic, we got to see some amazing sights, it was truly a memorable experience, made all the more perfect by great weather, great crew and everything going exactly to plan.

Turquoise Bay
Turquoiose Bay Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

The next day we headed to Turquoise Bay, another recommended snorkel spot. There is a ‘drift’ snorkel on one side of the bay but you have to be careful to exit the water at the right time or you can get dragged out by the strong current towards the end. As we don’t have flippers we didn’t want to take our chances so settled for snorkelling in the bay. This was good but we were spoilt the day before!! We did find Nemo though!!! After days of searching, although he didn’t seem a friendly Nemo and wasn’t happy at 2 strangers gawking at him! It was with sadness that we were leaving the next day, but lots more to explore, and as ever not enough time, so we said good bye to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay

Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay - 15th to 19th May 2009

Coral Bay
Coral Bay Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Coral Bay

After a night in a free rest area we arrived in Coral Bay, a resort town next to the beach right on Ningaloo Reef. Luckily we managed to get a spot in one of the caravan parks. The place was packed and so busy. We were told that we were lucky to get a spot for 3 nights.
From here we set about exploring the wonderful beaches and spent the rest of the first day on the beach across from the caravan park snorkelling. The beach is gorgeous, such clear shallow water for ages before dropping off a bit deeper where the reef starts.
Coral Bay is set amongst the Ningaloo reef and the real attraction is that you can snorkel straight off the beach. We were a bit nervous to start with, as the first things we saw were these huge Spangled Emperor fish swimming along the edge of the shallow water - it was soon apparent that these were friendly locals. As we swam out a bit further, there were lots of fish amongst the coral. The coral was at quite a depth so it wasn’t that clear, but good to get back into the water.

Five Finger Reef, Coral Bay
Five Finger Reef Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Coral Bay

The next morning we set off to Five Finger Reef, accessible by 4wd. Ningaloo Reef is an amazing sight with all the different blue/turquoise colours, the water is so clear. After having some fun driving in soft sand, we found ourselves a spot on the beach and went snorkelling. The coral was not so deep this time and we got to see lots of different fish. Their colours are amazing, bright blue, yellow, pink, purple, green, stripy, spotty…… well you get the picture, lots of colourful fish! It was great being able to park the car on the beach and just head off into the water, there was hardly anybody around and we had a wonderful afternoon. On the way back to camp we stopped to feed the Spangled Emperor on the beach. They were crazy and would just swim madly around your legs (you had to hide your toes in the sand in case they got mistaken for food!)

4x4 ONLY!
4x4 Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Coral Bay

The next morning was Heidi’s birthday, so we set about having another lazy day, snorkelling. We had been told about a place called Oyster Bridge and how good the snorkelling was there, so we headed out to find it. We were told to follow the signs through the sand dunes. Well we tried our best, but we didn’t see any signs and then we got bogged in very soft sand!! Typical! It took a while to get the car out as we were stuck in a dip that we just didn’t have the speed to get out of. We set about digging ourselves out, from there we decided not to go any further and turned the car around. We got OJ back up the hill after a bit more digging, a bit of pushing, a bit more digging and some sweating!
We did manage to find another place that was recommended, however the sea was full of seaweed so we decided not to venture in and headed back to the campsite and to the beach across the road. Next stop Exmouth and the Whale Sharks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shark Bay - World Heritage Site

Shark Bay - World Heritage Site - 13th to 15th May 2009

Whalebone Bay - Free Camp
Whalebone Bay Shark Bay World Heritage Site Western Australia
From Shark Bay

Shark Bay is listed as a World Heritage Area and most famous for the dolphins at Monkey Mia.
We spent our first night in this area at a free camp - Whalebone Bay camped right on the Bay front, with water lapping gently at our feet. It was a lovely spot and we were hoping to do some snorkelling unfortunately it was a little stony and a bit late in the day, so we just enjoyed the tranquilness of the spot.
We then headed to Monkey Mia; it wasn’t really what we were expecting as the whole place is a resort (with a $6 entry fee per person) built around the dolphins that come in daily to the beach. We had missed the dolphin feeding that morning, so after a quick look around and catching a glimpse of a dolphin still at the beach, we decided to stay the night on the resort and watch the feeding the next morning which takes place at 7.30am. We then headed out to Francois Peron NP.

Francois Peron National Park
Francois Peron National Park Shark Bay World Heritage Site Western Australia 4x4
From Shark Bay

The National Park is only accessible by 4WD (aside form the first 6kms). After we lowered our tyre pressures for the soft sandy tracks we explored the park taking in a lagoon and a couple of lookouts with red cliffs dropping to sandy beaches and then in to clear blue waters. The driving was great fun as we slid around in the soft red sand.
After what felt like a long days drive we stopped in Denham for fish and chips by the water before heading back to Monkey Mia and our camp spot for the night.

The resort seemed very commercialised, the campsite extremely busy and we felt it was a bit expensive. We were unable to drive on to the grassy camp area, and had to set up in the car park alongside many camper vans in the last parking spot available, this was despite booking in early in the morning! ($28 was paid for this privilege!..... Sure we had done this for free on a few occasions!)

Carl Feeding Dolphin at Monkey Mia
Dolphins Monkey Mia Shark Bay World Heritage Site Western Australia
From Shark Bay

We got up nice and early and headed to the beach to watch the dolphins being fed.
The rangers explained how they tried their utmost to keep the dolphins ‘wild’ by feeding them very little fish and only the same 5 dolphins were fed. We watched them swim up and down for a while and took some nice pictures.
During the feeding people from the crowd are selected at random to hand feed a fish to a dolphin. We were stood at the edge of the crowd and a little way from all the action and the last person to be picked for ‘Piccolo’ (after a long look in Heidi’s direction) was Carl! He felt very special!!

On our way out of Shark Bay we stopped off at Hamlin Pool to see the stromatolites (worlds oldest living organisms that grow up from the sea bed) and the shell blocks which were once used in local construction for buildings.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Geraldton & Kalbarri

Geraldton 7th to 9th May 09

Kalbarri National Park
Kalbarri National Park Western Australia
From Kalbarri

We were pleasantly surprised by Geraldton. We were expecting just another service town but it had a nice feel about it. We spent our time here relaxing by the beach finally finding some time to read, fixing the car (brake fluid leak) and getting supplies. Geralton is apparently the windiest place in WA and we certainly weren’t spared after 2 sleepless nights with the wind hounding our tent. It somehow seemed to disappear in the day only to return at night. After picking up some snorkelling gear in readiness for Ningaloo reef we headed onwards and thought we would stay at Coronation Beach about 30ks north of Geralton, however when we arrived it wasn’t what we were expecting and a bit crowded and overused, so we headed on to Kalbarri.

Kalbarri 9th to 13th May 09

Kalbarri Sunset
Sunset Kalbarri National Park Western Australia
From Kalbarri

We were really surprised by Kalbarri, it was a nice little holiday town set on the beach front, along side the Murchison River. We arrived about 5pm and managed to get the last spot in the caravan park opposite the beach. The sun was going down, so we dumped the car, grabbed the camera and went to the beach to watch sunset. They have some amazing sunsets in WA with the sun going down over the ocean. We then treated ourselves to a beer and pizza at the pub. After a windless good nights sleep, we were originally going to hire a paddle boat and head up the river a bit, but decided to book the breakfast canoeing tour for the next morning. We then headed to one of the beaches good for snorkelling to try out our new equipment. It was a little rough but there was an outlying rocky section stopping the waves and creating an area from the beach in which to snorkel. We headed out but didn’t stay for long as it was still a little rough and difficult to negotiate, but it got us back into it. After a bit of sun bathing we headed back to camp to watch the sunset, tonight’s better due to the clouds.

Our canoes for the day
Kalbarri National Park Western Australia
From Kalbarri

The breakfast canoeing tour was really enjoyable. They drove us up the river to where we would start out trip down the river. After a 10 min run down on how to control the canoes, we were let loose. I kind of thought it would be reasonably easy as we had had a go before, but after I got in up the front and then nearly capsizing when Carl jumped in I realised this wasn’t going to be the easy task I thought. We shared a canoe, one at the front and the strongest at the back who also controlled the stearing (lucky Carl!). We paddled up the river a short way first to get use to the boat and then down the river for about 45 mins to meet the tour guy for breakfast. It took us a while to get into it and we couldn’t stop going in zig zags or around in a circle as we both tried to stir the canoe in the correct direction. A couple of the others were having some fun as we came up behind them and one splashed the other to which their canoe capsized and turfed them out. We couldn’t help but have a little giggle as they were soaked from head to toe! It was really nice paddling our way down the river even if we did zig zag our way down. The water wasn’t deep and wasn’t flowing so it was very peaceful. We arrived at the half way point to a well needed cooked breakfast with all the trimmings and a bit of a natter to the others on the tour. After being suitable stuffed with breaky we headed back into the water. We realised by now that to get the canoe to go straight only Carl needed to steer at the back and not both of us, we were a lot more successful in going straight this time. After another 45 mins we came to the pick up point and they drove us back to the beach front. A thoroughly enjoyable morning.

Natures Window
Natures Window Kalbarri National Park Western Australia
From Kalbarri

Next morning we packed up with the intention of visiting the National Park on our way out of Kalbarri and then heading onwards. We had a good look at the lookouts over the gorges including Natures Window and Z Bend. We took a bit longer than we expected with 2 more lookouts to go so decided to stay the night in Kalbarri and visit the others on our way out the next day (definitely leaving this time!) We took in Hawks Head and Ross Graham the next morning and then made our way towards Monkey Mia and Shark Bay.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Pinnacles, Nambung National Park near Cervantes

The Pinnacles, Cervantes - 6th to 7th May 09

The Pinnacles - Nambung National Park
The Pinnacles Nambung National Park Western Australia
From The Pinnacles

From Perth we headed north in earnest for the 1st time on our trip. Driving north in Oz is great for the fridge in the back, as it is out of the sun. One major draw back of this is that we have the sun blazing in through the wind shield all day. (It’s like having a south facing garden in the northern hemisphere – I am starting to get used to things being opposite the whole time!) It can make driving a hot and sweaty experience – not pleasant.
Cervantes was to be our first destination out of Perth and the road there was uninspiring to say the least – 200ks of nothing but tarmac and those bushes that grow in sandy soil. After arriving in Cervantes we headed straight to Nambung National Park and ‘The Pinnacles’.
‘The Pinnacles Desert’ is a little bit of a mystery and the scientific explanation is a little wishy washy. They say that these limestone formations were created by rain millions of years ago. They were then covered by sand and eroded further. Now the sand has been blown away to display this mysterious place behind sand dunes just south of Cervantes. We must say that we were impressed with the modern visitor centre and the fact that you could drive a loop right through the heart of The Pinnacles (a weird and wonderful place). Cervantes itself was small and fairly uneventful with a slightly overpriced caravan park.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Perth - 1st to 6th May 2009

Perth - Skyline at night
Perth Skyline night Western Australia
From Perth

We arrived in Perth a little elated to be back in a city and having access to everything, this was great as we had a few things to do and also did I mention cheap fuel!!
Perth is WA’s capital city and the 4th biggest city in Australia. The climate is very good with hot summers and mild winters. To us it felt very much like Brisbane without the humidity and the huge bonus of having beaches right there in the suburbs. Nice beaches too, not those almost beaches you can get.
We spent 5 nights at a caravan park in Karrinyup. It was nice (a little pricey – but we were only 12ks from the CBD) with all the amenities you could want. 3 days shopping in the city doing the jobs we needed to and getting a feel for Perth was nice. The first day was broken up with the afternoon being spent in a waterfront bar, trying to find the best deal for 2 of us to eat. After a good feed I (Carl) spoke to Dad properly for the 1st time in for what feels like forever. It was great to catch up and have the time for chit chat rather than hi and bye.

Freemantle Western Australia
From Perth

The 2nd day we went to Fremantle to have a look around (again finding a nice but inexpensive place for lunch). Fremantle is only 18ks south of Perth and is a nice change of pace from the city. We then headed north to Cottesloe Beach for a paddle and to sample the beaches of Perth – lovely place.
After the paddle we headed to South Perth to take some night pics of the city. It was here that Heidi got the chance to speak to her parents for the 1st time since we had been away. After 3 hrs on the phone we had all caught up and felt all of a sudden a lot closer to home once more. (Phone cards are worth their weight in gold)

The Perth Wheel
Perth Wheel Western Australia
From Perth

We both really enjoyed Perth and felt very at home there. It is a bit of a shame that we spent a lot of our time there getting those little things done and not being a bit touristier. We both agree though that if we had to pick another city in which to live in Oz it would be Perth, without a doubt – relaxed, yet still a city, great beaches, modern and a great climate. One problem – it seems to be miles from anywhere. I mean it is cheaper and quicker to fly to Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) than it is to fly to Sydney!! And if you drive 50ks north you are in the middle of nowhere!

Friday, May 1, 2009


Busselton - 29th to 1st May 09

Busselton was not far from Gracetown (Our base in MR) and we had only a short coastal drive there. Even though this was the case we arrived at our campsite in the late afternoon after taking in the white sand and turquoise waters at Dunsborough – beautiful – and then the amazing 2km Busselton Jetty with underwater viewing rooms (closed for our visit ). After all of the obligatory pictures (there is just something about jetties, they are a man made structure into the deep blue, it makes them somehow captivating) we found the perfect campsite for us – EMPTY with a heated pool! We booked in for 2 nights after only thinking originally it would be 1 and set about relaxing! We had a nice meal that night (cooked in a camp kitchen we had all to ourselves!) and headed to bed after a final sample of MR cheese and wine.

Busselton Jetty Western Australia
From Busselton

In the morning a swim in the heated pool was followed by eggs and bacon for brekkie, a walk along the beach (again all the white and turquoise!) then off into town for some grocery shopping followed by the purchase of some DVD’s! This was not something we had planned but watching a film in the campsites TV room (once again all to ourselves) was a really nice piece of normality in our ever hectic travelling lives!
The film was Oceans 13 and was thoroughly enjoyable.
The next day another swim was followed by the rest of the eggs and bacon and we headed off a little late in the direction of WA’s big smoke – Perth.

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