Western Australia Five - 1 to 11 May 2011

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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia
June 3rd 2011
Published: June 2nd 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

We left Exmouth where we had spent the last couple of weeks and will have wonderful memories of the area for a long time. In particular our encounter with the huge Whale Sharks out on the Ningaloo Reef and our swim with the endangered Green Turtle in Turquoise Bay in Cape Range National Park. We headed South to Coral Bay where we had stayed on our way up the coast and had pre-booked into a campsite directly opposite the beach. It took us a couple of hours drive and we were back in Coral Bay and settled into People’s Park Site. We were allocated a lovely pitch overlooking the coral bay with only a few steps to the beach and reef. We snorkelled out near the coral glass viewing boats where there was huge underground ‘boulders’ of creamy coloured hard corals as well as hundreds of colourful fish. The bay had good coral beds just yards from the shore and when the tide was out you literally went from inch deep water to eight foot of water making it really easy to get in and out. The area was a ‘no fish’ zone and the fish were large, some huge snappers ‘lorded’ along the edge of the sea knowing that they were safe from being caught and also lucky enough to be fed each day - which entertained the children and some of the adults to! On our travels in WA we had not met many people from the UK but had spoken to a couple in a carpark near Augusta a few weeks ago and we were hoping to meet up with them in Exmouth. However their campsite was some distance from ours and we did not manage to get together. Small world though, as we noticed their ‘Autobarn’ Motorhome by the beach in Coral Bay and spent ages chatting to them on the seafront. We invited them around for drinks later as they were now staying in the campsite next to ours. We had a lovely evening with Jim and Sue who like us were travelling around the world and planned to be away for about a year. Whilst we sat chatting outside our van we were invaded by some huge moths which seemed to take a liking to our cheese and wine! Jim and Sue were from Eastbourne and had previously lived in East Dean but had moved after their house was devastated in the 1987 storm. They planned to return to the UK in October but were unsure where to settle once they had finished travelling and spoke to Paul about the Norfolk area. They were leaving the next day but we may meet up with them again in Kalbarri in a few days time. The next morning we wandered up to the little shopping area to exchange some books. It’s quite handy as you do not need to carry many books with you as most campsite have a ‘one for one’ exchange or gold coin donation. Although the choice can be limited it does make you read different authors to what you would normally and sometimes they can be quite good. The next day we walked South along the beach to Paradise Bay, the sea was extremely calm but the water was colder than what it was at Exmouth where the Liuwen Current kept the water quite warm even on the outer reef. We snorkelled for ages and saw more of the coral gardens that cover most of the Coral Bay area. Later when the tide was out and it was accessible we walked North to Skeleton Bay where from October to March the waters of the bay turn into a reef shark nursery as up to 200 reef sharks lurk in the waters. The annual appearance of a large group of reef sharks at this site is of particular national interest. Previous research indicates the ‘nursery area’ near Skeleton Bay (South of Point Maud) has been frequented by large numbers of black tip reef sharks since at least 1925 and the area is obviously very important in the life cycle of this species. Two other species of reef shark also frequent Ningaloo, the white tip reef shark and the grey reef shark and the abundance of these animals close to shore allow you to see them in their natural environment whilst snorkelling and diving. We had another further snorkel in the bay and noticed some huge turquoise and green coloured giant clams just off the shore. The next day we spent lazing around the campsite and snorkelling off the reef – another relaxing day – but they are all this now! We chatted for a while to a couple who had just arrived and came from Denmark near Albany where we had been a few weeks ago. They had travelled up to Coral Bay to get some ‘sun’ saying it was cold in Denmark, although when we were there it was quite nice. They had a delightful daughter aged 7 called Rosie and we thought she said her name was Maisie but her mother said that she had liked both names, but choose Rosie. We walked down to the bay as the sun was setting over the deep blue ocean, a truly beautiful place; we had so enjoyed it in Coral Bay and would be somewhere we would return if possible in the future. We awoke early next morning and set off on our journey south just after 8am - it was going to take 7 hours solid driving. We also intended to make a ‘long’ detour, adding another couple of hours to our journey time to see the blowholes at Port Quobba. About half an hour after we left Coral Bay we passed the Tropic of Capricorn sign we had seen on the way up and we continued on along this long straight road with only the termites nests for company. We turned off at our intended detour which was yet another straight road and we kept going until the road literally ended at some rocks near a beautiful lagoon where we noticed some locals camping nearby. Paul asked where the blowholes were and they said it was further back down the road where we had just come from and where we had noticed a road closed sign. We stayed for a while to look across the bay at a small island when a local lady stopped and told us that it was the best place in the whole world and she had been coming back here for years. She said the snorkelling was superb but the bay had been devastated by the recent hurricane but nonetheless it had started to grow again and the fish were colourful and abundant. She said Coral Bay used to be like this but was now too commercialised! Also you could get right out to the reef and could even get over the other side here. We did not have any fins and Paul’s mask was leaking so probably not advisable. She did offer to lend Paul her mask which was very kind but we were decided we would just have a snorkel around the bay. As we chatted several large sea eagles flew over us and she said they had nested on the island for the past 12 years and currently there was a young chick learning to fly. We wandered down to the beach and dived in – straight away we noticed the re-growth she had mentioned but what was quite noticeable was the vivid colours of the coral itself much brighter than we had seen elsewhere on the whole of our journey. The lagoon was also covered in giant clams and multicoloured fish. We would have liked to have stayed here but there were no facilities at all, no loos or even fresh water which was a shame. We dried off in the sun and then continued back along the coast road and found where the blowholes should ‘blow’ but alas not today, although the scenery on this rugged section of coast was pretty spectacular. It had been worth the detour though just for the superb snorkelling in the lagoon! We continued back and rejoined the main highway towards Carnarvon where the area had been devastated by the recent severe weather. The main roads were still being repaired and were not in very good condition and we noticed that a lot of the crops along this stretch of road were ruined – fields of bananas completely dead. Also one of the petrol stations near the town was closed due to recent flood damaged but luckily there was another one nearby where we could fill the tank – you do not want to get low on petrol in this area and we had already used half a tank since we left Coral Bay and we still had a long way to go…………… Again the roads were straight and we therefore made very good time getting to our next destination. Finally we arrived exhausted in Kalbarri in the early evening. We had stopped here on our way north but had only spent a night but this time we selected a different campsite as we were hoping to meet up with Sue and Jim again. We met up with them later and had a few drinks and wished them happy travels as they were leaving in the morning to get back to Perth and then on to Bali. We noticed on the telegraph wires by our motorhome a couple of dozen Galah parrots roosting and thought ‘oh dear’ we are going to have a noisy night, but they all seemed to be quiet when we retired to bed. However in the morning the motorhome was covered in ‘poo’ which took ages to clean off. Finally we got it relatively clean and made our way to the Visitor Centre to find out about what to do in the area. We wanted to go on cruise up the Murchison River but they were not running this for the next few days so we selected a bus, hike and canoe tour into the National Park – it said it was quite strenuous and you had to be relatively fit – which we think we are! The rest of the day we spent looking around the area and visited several lookouts points. First we did a short walk which should take two hours but took us only one from Mushroom Rock to Rainbow Valley (Paul still walks fast and is always miles in front of me). The walk was around the coast and the scenery was pretty amazing with red rock formations stretching for miles. Along the track there was interpretive signage providing information on the botanical and geographical features. It would have been a delightful walk but we were plagued by awful little flies all the way round. We then, with head nets donned, carried on to Pot Alley which was a short rocky gorge walk down to the sea where the waves were crashing against the red overhanging rocks and the views truly captured the splendour and beauty of this remarkable coastline. Our next stop was the Blue Holes where we were hoping to have a snorkel but the waves were high and more attuned to surfing so we continued back toward town and stopped at Chinaman’s Beach were we had lunch and a cooling swim in the bay a few feet from our campervan. We stayed for ages and noticed a large grey heron on the rocks looking for fish but he seemed to miss them as the fish were jumping out behind him but he never seemed to be looking the right way……... Out in the middle of the bay there were some torturous rocks with rapids and the sea was crashing over these right in the middle of the boat channel. A lone canoeist was trying to ‘ride’ the waves – looked pretty dangerous to me! We settled back at the campsite and were joined again by the noisy pink and grey Galahs but we noticed if you directed our powerful torch up into the trees they flew off so we continued to do this until they were all gone – I expect once we are asleep they will return…………… Hoorah they did not return and in the morning the van was clean! A useful tip if you are ever asleep under a parrot roost! We had to be up early the next morning to be picked up for our Kalbarri adventure tour at the reception on the campsite. Our transport arrived a huge 4WD Truck and we proceeded to pick up a Swiss lady and her two teenage sons and an Australian couple, so it was quite comfortable on the bus, for a while. As soon as we pulled off the main road on to the unsealed National Park it got a bit bumpy to say the least and our first stop was 27km along this road. The National Park gorge system had been carved over millions of years to form dramatic sandstone cliffs which plummet into the Murchison River far below. Our first stop called the Loop was amazing we walked along the rock edge to the much photographed Natures Window, this rock border beautifully framed the rugged upstream river view and marked the beginning and end of the Loop a six hour walking trail providing different views of the gorge below. We were not doing this today thank goodness as it was extremely hot and the flies were being a pain again. We then travelled on to the Z-Bend where from the safety of the lookout there was the most breathtaking view with the gorge plunging 150 metres to the river below and on the edge of the river Red Gums providing a contrast to the earthly hews of the Tumblagooda Sandstone rock formations. Whilst we walked to the Z Bend our driver guide (Wayne) prepared cake and orange juice which was quite refreshing after our walk. We then drove back on to the unsealed dirt road and a little further down this road Wayne stopped the truck. We could not see any other route but he jumped out pulled down a barrier to this small track on the side of the dirt road. Well you would not believe it this track was just wide enough for the truck and was made up of sand embedded with huge boulders not really fit for walking let alone a vehicle! Luckily the truck was really heavy and Wayne was expert as we travelled down this track extremely slowly along the edge of the gorge itself. We finally arrived at a dead-end with just enough room to turn the truck around and then we all got out. The truck had picked up a huge rock boulder between its two wheels but Wayne managed to get it out with a large wrench, otherwise he said we would have had to help him change the tyres!!!! We then proceeded to hike down the gorge to the bottom which was quite steep with loose rocks and boulders but I was extremely pleased to get down without too much difficulty. Half way down though Wayne thought he had left the truck lights on so he had to climb back up the cliff and returned a while later (he had not left them on) and we managed to get a rest. At the bottom of the gorge we walked along the river bank on the rock edge for about 30 minutes and then reached a delightful sandy area where the canoes were kept on the edge of the Murchison River. It was lovely to be able to rest up and we had lunch on the river bank a real treat. Wayne brought us some natural water in a bucket to try, the overhanging rocks had little rivulets of water and a bucket soon filled with fresh water. Apparently this is constant all year round so if you are stranded down here at least there is water! After lunch we could do what we wanted and enjoy our surroundings and could either swim or use the canoes. We decided to canoe first and set off on our own down the river. Wayne said we should go no further than 3 km and to be back by 1400 hours. Once we got used to paddling, we meandered slowly down the river with the steep sided red gorge all around us, you could see kangaroo tracks in the sand on the edge of the river bank and also we saw a couple of parrots, apart from that it was so quiet and peaceful a true delight. We turned back eventually and joined the others for a swim in the river which was cold but refreshing. Whilst we were away Wayne had been looking for a better route back out of the gorge and said that he had found one but it would mean some ‘climbing’. We thought he was joking - but he was not, we literally climbed up out of the gorge scrambling over thin red rock ledges, and sometimes using Wayne as a foot hold to get up to the next ledge. Again I was delighted to be able to do this without any trouble although the Aussie lady struggled a bit but the two Swiss teenagers were in their element as they were used to climbing in the Swiss mountains. Back in the truck we had to return along the rock strewn track to join the dirt unsealed road before we finally got back on the main highway, you felt like you were in a washing machine but enjoyable nonetheless. It was an amazing day and we really enjoyed our adventure in the National Park– again another day we will remember for a very long time. The next day we headed south and stopped at Geraldton where we had viewed the excellent seagull memorial on our journey north. We did intend to stay but decided to continue down the coast and finally stopped overnight at a place called Leeman, a small town where summer winds provide excellent conditions for surfing. The beach had an abundance of seaweed as we had reported in other blogs all along this stretch of coastline which was a shame. We walked along the headline towards the jetty and back before retiring for the night. It was quite a noisy night as a couple of ‘permanent’ residents at the campsite were having a ‘party’ say no more but they did retire to bed in the end. The next morning we travelled further south but not too far stopping first at Green Head for lunch which we had visited on the way up and then finally stopping overnight at Jurien Bay which we had visited on the way north but had not stayed. Jurien is a small fishing town near the Lesueur National Park. The beach here had been cleared of some of the seagrass, the jetty which was being recontructed when we visited before was finished and the area was much more pleasant. We spent a pleasant afternoon chatting to some locals who were travelling north. They told us that at this time of year lots of ‘grey nomads’ travelled north to follow the sun as it was cooling down in the south and this also happened on the other side of Oz in Queensland. It was a very popular thing to do once you were retired and they had the ideal opportunity with their huge country and different weather climates. Pretty hard to do in the UK as we only have cold north and cold south! This probably explained why we had seen quite a few heavily laden caravans, trailers, boats etc travelling up the coast on our way down. Later Paul went for a dip, swimming out to the diving platform just off shore and we met a family of five on the beach; mum, dad, twin girls aged 8 and older sister aged 11 who were travelling north and they had come across the country from the Blue Mountains where we had spend our first few weeks in Australia. We were talking about all the plagues of insects we had encountered on our way around the country. They told us they had met up with a family who were enchanted with some ‘sweet’ tiny field mice outside their caravan and gave them a few crumbs. That night their caravan was ‘taken over’ by hundreds of mice, they were crawling all over them and the van and had even eaten through the baby’s wet wipes as well as everything else they had in the van!!!! The moral of the story is ‘do not feed’ any animal, bird or insect, or you may live to regret it!!! The next day we set off towards Perth, we only had one night left in the motorhome before our final evening in WA to clean out the van before handover. We followed the newly sealed Indian Ocean Road which was only opened last year and links Cervantes to Perth along the coast and saves going inland to join the Brand Highway. The road has been cut through huge pure white sand dunes and was quite a scenic drive; we came across huge deserts of white sand on the sides of the road with beautiful yellow wattle bushes (see photos it looked like they were growing in snow). We stopped at a couple of beaches in the morning and had lunch overlooking the turquoise sea before arriving at Ledge Point in the early afternoon, our overnight stop at a Big4 Campsite with good facilities. The campsite was extremely quiet with only a few other people staying. We had a dip in the pool which was empty and although it was blue skies and sunny the water was freezing but refreshing after the drive – no wonder it was empty. We met a few people from Perth and chatted to them for a while before we retired early to bed. The next morning we travelled into Perth and stopped at a campsite where we had booked a cabin so that we could unload the motorhome and clean it out ready for the handover in the morning. It was really strange being inside a building but we soon got used to the luxury and Paul soon got used to the TV! Later in the evening we walked along the Swan River which was located just a couple of blocks away. There were not any restaurants around us and we had to get a Big Mac Supper – ugh. The next day we drove the short distance to handover the motorhome and got a taxi to the airport for our flight to Broome and our camping adventure in the Kimberley. Although still in Western Australia it would still be a three hour flight - see you there.


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