Published: March 16th 2012March 16th 2012
The apology is for getting Alice to swim with black tipped reef sharks but i'll come to that later (More like abandoning me to the sharks....).
After returning from NZ we spent a total of 2 weeks staying with the wonderful and generous Liz & Nigel (the same people who looked after us over Xmas). They were kind and thoughtful to a fault, the only break we gave them was around 24 hours when we drove to Margeret River looking for fruit picking work and were told, in essence to get stuffed. We signed up to their list of workers and to wait for the call, 3 weeks later we still haven't heard anything from them.
Rather than press any more on their generosity we headed north to Broome (3200km the way we were going) via the most interesting things the west coast has to offer. In our wonderful car that is begining to show its age.
The first stop was the Pinnacles - strange columns sticking out the sand covering a huge area, all had been weathered slightly diferently making each unique, some were 8 feet tall and 6 feet round, others were just odd looking stones
poking out the ground. From there it was north to the resort of Monkey Mia, a sentence which sounds so simple but can involve driving for 2 days to get to some of these places. The weather was stinking hot, 38 degrees, and this entire part of west australia crawling with flies. Monkey mia was well worth the drive though, we spent an amazing day reading on the beach in shade and ocassionally hand feeding the dolphins that come up to the shore with fresh fish (with total DEC supervision i should also point out). It was at a private resort but all very well done and we were able to spend the day hanging out and using their facilities.
The next day was my birthday (the ripe old age of 27) and due to a quirk of the itinerary we had the dullest day of journey. It was in the town of Carnarvon which is nothing more than a fishing town and a stop up the long and lonley highway but we spent a quiet day there cleaning ourselves up and swimming in their cool pool.
We had only planned at brief stop at the village of
Coral Bay on the way up to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef but the setting was so good, the snorkeling so beautiful and the beach so fly free we spent the whole day exploring the coral and sitting in the shade; it was a great day made all the better by the fact we weren't expecting anything more from the village than somwhere to take a break and have a cup of tea. Snorkeling here we saw several sting rays, a psycodelic green giant clam and lots of fish.
The first recommendation we got after arriving in the country was to go to the Ningaloo reef; we were told it was just like the great barrier reef but within swimming distance from the beach, rather than the 40km you have to travel to the great barrier reef, and much much quieter. It's always dangerous to go to these places with very high expectations as they are very easy disappoint. However, the Ningaloo reef totally surpased excpectations. The reef is accessed from a national park so we spent 4 days alternating snorkelling and sitting in the shade reading then camping in the park at night. There are several beaches that you
can snorkel directly in front of all had beutiful coral and a lot more fish than the great barrier reef, every time we went in we saw something new. Over the time we were there we swam with several turtles, sting rays and a couple of reef sharks. My last view of the Ningaloo was two black tipped reef sharks between me and the beach (don't worry mum the biggest we saw was only 4ft long, I swam over to Chris quick smart so he could fight them or be eaten while I escaped). It was an incredible experience being able to spend so much time going back to the same reef.
After Ningaloo we drove away from the coast to Karajini national park. We were setting out with the expectation of only seeing a really small section of the park for two reasons. Firstly, it was stinking hot on the coast and the idea of walking around gorges in the 38 degree heat didn't appeal. But second and more challanging was that most of the roads (about 100km) in the park are unsealed and we were told undrivable in a 2 wheel drive. However, it turns out that we are the luckest people ever, not only was the weather a lovely 28o and overcast but the grader had just cleared the roads so Berite managed to get us to all of the gorges.
We found that seeing the gorges wasn't so much of a walk as a water ride. Each gorge was different. At the first one we were lucky to come across a woman who lived in the area who explained the best thing to do is to leave your shoes and clothes, swim though the water and walk bare foot the rest. So we swam several wide pools walking between, climbed down little chutes, then the gorge narrowed to about 2 metres wide before opening out into a huge aputheatre with a hube pool at the bottom. It was a little like the jungle rapids at centre parks but with less slides and more carefully working out if you are able to pull yourself back up the slippy chute to get out. The second was similar but we managed to wade through further to get some good photo's before swimming the last bit. The next few we didn't have to swim but climbed around pools on the gorge walls. We still can't believe the Australian national parks let people investigate the gorges alone we were told at peak season they have to do a rescue every three weeks. We had a great time at Karijini, it is definatly one of the best places we've been, the rock was like nothing I have ever seen before.
While we were at Karijini we heard there were several tropical lows off the North coast meaning possible cyclones developing. So we kept checking the weather with people especially when we headed back to the coast at Port Headland. Arriving we were told a cyclone was predicted for the weekend and if we wanted to leave we should leave NOW incase the road flooded. So we followed advise and headed straight off, then discovered on arrival at Broome that the cyclone had never materiallised. Better safe than sorry though and since Port Headland is just a mining town we didn't miss much.
Broome is very humid but also very wet, there are still a couple of lows around which means instead of the classic wet season huge downpour between sun, we have had 5 days of rain nearly constantly with huge downpours every now and then. We had arranged a wwoof for near Broome; well near Broome is a little miss leading its only 200km away but 100km of that is unsealed road, in the wet so the road was shut even to 4x4s yesterday. We had to get a lift out here as Bertie wouldn't have made it 200 yards on the unsealed road. I have today, for the first time, driven a 4x4 and this is no Chelsea tracker. We are staying with a family who on a pearl farm so we have an interesting mix of being quite isolated at their house but also having 30 people down at the farm 15 minutes away. We haven't had the full pearling farm tour yet (too wet none of the tourists are making it out here) but watch this space...