A Travellerspoint blog


15 Perth, WA

State Capital of Western Australia

sunny 13 °C

3rd August
A very cold start to the day with 6 degrees in the van, so Brian & Maureen’s canvas van would have been even colder.
First task was to take Mary off for X-rays nearby to verify what injury she had. Some shopping followed and then we drove to the Royal Flying Doctor base at Jandakot airport (south of Perth) so that Mary could finally buy her RFDS T-shirt. Fortunately that shop had what she wanted so at last was happy!

Headed off into the city to find the famous King’s Park to see the sights, especially its view of the Swan River and the CBD of Perth. A beautiful day and so we managed to get some good photos. Of course there was a Park shop so more postcards etc.
Tom tom then got us back home with no problems. A tiring day.

4th August
First task of the day was to return to the doctor to get his verdict on Mary’s X-rays, which was not very conclusive, so, a scan was organised for the Thursday.
Looked in the shops for a while and then headed off to see the Botanical Gardens part of Kings Park, this time by train.

Wow, what a pleasant surprise after so many years of ancient transport in Brisbane. The Perth transport system seems to be streets ahead in terms of modern trains and almost no ancient buses. The Joondalup Line trains that we used were very quiet, modern, and virtually graffiti free. The only vandalism we saw were a few scratched windows (that is bad enough) but no sign of the carving and idiotic scribbles that we see all over Brisbane’s transport vehicles. On this train line the tracks were situated in the median strip between the in and out motorway lanes. An excellent idea indeed.
A brief look at the CBD and then back to camp for an early shower before it got too cold again.

5th August
A few chores and then to the scan place for the next round of medical appointments. I managed to get some silver/grey undercoat spray to provide protection from rust as a result of my backing into a tree back at Denham CP. Just in case of rain starting off the corrosion process.

Booked at the RAC garage, which was next door to the scan clinic, to arrange an appointment to have my van brake lights repaired (again) before we headed off south on the Monday following.
Back at the camp I managed to get three sides of the van properly washed and cleansed of the caked red dust accumulated from the previous several weeks of travelling up north. Rather tiring but the van looked so much better for the facelift.

6th August
A final visit to the doctor revealed that Mary had a few aging problems in her lower vertebra mainly due to aging (!) and about which not much could be done other than take shorter journeys with more short breaks to fix the nerve pain.

Headed off into the city again to check out some of the remaining older buildings. Got some good photos and enjoyed a short ferry ride over the Swan River to South Perth. Had an ice-cream there and then headed back to the CBD. We made an interesting comparison with the Citycat ferries on the Brisbane River in that the Perth ferries carried more passengers with only a skipper on board and no ‘crew person’ to sell/check tickets or assist with mooring the vessel at the dock. Adjacent to the ferry terminal was a Carillon and as we approached across the large park to the terminal we could hear the beautiful music drifting across to us. The bells had originally been a part of the famous London church, St Martin in the Fields (I think).
A tiring but interesting day.

7th August.
Mary and I made an early start to the nearby Stirling Rail Station, to catch the two trains to Fremantle for a day’s sightseeing. Very easy to manage and enjoyable too.

As we arrived about 0900 and many shops didn’t open till after 9 we ordered a coffee and then looked through the E Shed markets, near the Rail Station. E Shed had been a large wool store in a ‘previous life’ and now housed a range of T-shirt, food, knickknacks and so on.

Then to the WA Maritime Museum for a quick look. Wrong! What a fascinating museum it is, housing Australia II, several famous round world and similar yachts, and tones of maritime memorabilia. As we had booked in for the HMAS Ovens submarine escorted tour we left the other items until after that tour was completed. A Scots chap was our very knowledgeable guide who gave us a detailed insight into a submariner’s life on board Ovens, and similar submarines.

We clambered up steps and into the bowels of this once in-service submarine, seeing how cramped and claustrophobic the working and rest quarters were for the crew. Even the captain’s bunk had an extension through a wall into a working area so that he had enough room for his feet! Vivid descriptions on shipboard life, the torpedoes (various sizes), the massive electrical systems and the absolute need for silence at all times, were explained. Those of us who were taller than ‘normal’ had some interesting time climbing through small doors and up and down ladders. A most memorable visit and one that I would recommend highly to any Fremantle visitor.

We resumed our visit around the many other fascinating exhibits, including lifeboats of significance, a history of naval exploration of Australia, how lighthouses worked – the list was extensive.
We passed by the Round House (previously a nasty prison) with a cannon adjacent that was fired at 1300 each day apparently.

We decided to eat our own lunch rather than obtain the famed fish and chips on offer nearby.
Then came the main Fremantle Prison with its forbidding walls and gates. The admission price to take the ‘inside’ tour was too expensive so we satisfied ourselves with looking through the few rooms not included in the official tour. The Art Gallery had a very sad display of Prison Art of Older Prisoners, mostly from the USA, with many pathetic histories of the special problems for aged prisoners.

The Fremantle Markets nearby proved quite interesting and we bought one or two knickknacks that caught our fancy.
A walk through the old shopping precinct brought us to the WA Shipwreck Museum. Although similar to the excellent one in Geraldton (mentioned above) they had a wide range of historic items for perusal, including the development of the range of navigational tools such as chronometers, and various measuring devices. All with well scripted material and actual items or copies of these instruments. The historical relevance of these developments was also explained. Some exhibits, such as the Batavia ship were similar to Geraldton Museum, but most added a great deal of fascinating information. Another world-class museum not to be missed.

Mary had to check out E Shed again and then back to the trains and so to home and an early night.

8th August
We had decided to attend the North Beach Baptist Church as it was quite near to our van park, and so we managed to obtain a rare car park in time to arrive as the service started.
The whole service was very well presented by quality musicians and singers, meaningful prayer time, and an excellent address by the pastor. A most uplifting time indeed. This church was looking at employing a fourth pastor to their ministry team and was exploring ways to increase services to benefit everyone.

Maureen and Brian had family commitments and so Mary & I headed to North Beach so that Mary could add even more shells to her massive collection! We were persuaded to get a reasonable fish and chip lunch at the local shops, and then Mary spent quite a time beachcombing while I took a photo or two and waited.

Next was the much needed visit to the laser carwash as, with some 11,000 Kms on the trip clock, the car was in desperate need of a makeover. That was accomplished and she looked the better for it, at least for the time being.
Back to camp and I completed washing the awning and the remaining side of the van before a quick shower before it got cold again. A few quick chores completed to prepare for an early start in the morning and then a good night’s sleep.

Posted by psstevo 04:25 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

14 Heading for Perth

Kalbarri, Geraldton & Cervantes

semi-overcast 18 °C

28th July
Mary & I went to see the Australian Parrot Breeding Centre just out of Kalbarri where they breed mainly endangered parrots. Between us we spent a very enjoyable hour or two there enjoying the many birds on show. There were one or two exotic birds such as South American macaws, but the remainder were Australian breeds. The fantastic range in colour and behaviour kept is clicking away on our cameras and we were surprised when we counted up something like almost 300 photos between us! As with any live creatures they frequently do not stay posed long enough for a photo (although one or two species seemed to enjoy the attention!) and so we had to delete quite a few poor shots. We still have a lot of editing of all our photos taken so far, so the parrots will receive their culling too at some time.

We had looked for a seahorse breeding place next door, however, it seems to have closed down, which was disappointing.
After lunch we went for a very pleasant walk along the beach in the warm sunshine and enjoyed the views from the lookout at Chinaman’s Point.
We arrived back home to news that my mum was unwell, which was not too good to hear, as the medical outcome looked fairly grim at that point.

29th July
We set off for our next destination, Geraldton, a town of some 30,000 people. The trip was pleasant especially nearing Geraldton as we finally encountered green fields with many hectares of newly planted grain crops. The Big 4 Sunset Beach Caravan Park was a very pleasant place to stay with a good range of facilities and was right at the beachfront.

Geraldton is the site of the recently opened HMAS Sydney memorial in memory of the 645 Australian Royal Navy’s greatest loss in any conflict. The Sydney was sunk offshore from the Geraldton area in 1942 by the German warship, posing as a peaceful trader, Kormorant. All hands on Sydney were lost and many German sailors were lost in the fierce battle, but many more made it ashore where they were taken into internment camps until after the war.
The Sydney was only found in 2008 and so families who had lost loved ones at last had some closure. The memorial is on a hilltop looking out over the sea and it is a moving experience to be there with each seaman represented by a seagull in the main feature.

We also visited the Old Geraldton Gaol, which was somewhat disappointing as the numerous cells are usually staffed by volunteer crafts people, but most were closed when we visited. The copies of some of the records kept on treatment of prisoners were rather scary to say the least! Crooks in gaol these days seem to have it made in comparison!
News on mum, when we reached camp again, was not good.

30th July
We were woken by phone calls advising that my mum had passed away at 6am New Zealand time that morning. While not unexpected this shock was not a pleasant one to receive when we were so far away. Checking on driving to Perth and the flight times and costs soon showed that reaching Wellington expeditiously and without breaking the bank were not viable. My passport being at home in Brisbane also added to the potential travel delays and costs.

As our time in Geraldton was limited Mary & I eventually went into town to visit the Batavia Coast Museum, about which we had heard many good reports, including from Brian & Maureen from the previous day.
The main theme of the Museum was the Dutch East India Company’s trading ship, the Batavia that was wrecked on the nearby coast. The horrific story surrounding the mutiny, shipwreck, rape and murder is the stuff of many a film genre, however, the 50 minute DVD re-enacting the events was a very graphic tale indeed and depicted the brutal treatment of those who had caused so much death and pain amongst their fellow survivors.
The many exhibits added to the fantastic tale of ‘justice’ of many who survived and highlighted why the Dutch trading companies to Batavia (now Jakarta/Java) induced seamen and business people alike to take enormous risks in the hope of very rich rewards.

Did you know that, near Geraldton, they mine a particular rock that soon becomes Johnson’s Baby Powder? Neither did I until I saw the details at the Museum. Anyway travelling this way without visiting the Museum misses out on a mass of history from the 1600’s to the present day. Well worth the $5 recommended donation.
A large cruise ship was in port that morning also and many passengers availed themselves of the opportunity to view a magnificent feast of historical material.
This distraction helped us to manage what had started out as a very sad day for both Mary & myself, especially when adding Mary's elderly aunt who died in England exactly one week prior.

31st August
Geraldton to Cervantes was a relatively short day’s drive and so we enjoyed the opportunity to stop and take a break and a photo from time to time. The last portion was a bit tedious however as we travelled through some apparently boring scrubby trees in the Cervantes National Park.

Arriving at the Cervantes CP we got set up quite quickly and Mary & I set off along the beach as the tide gradually receded. Massive amounts of seagrass were washed up all along the shore and the evidence of serious erosion of the sand dunes was clear for all to see.
We picked up a number of interesting shells to add to the growing collection! It was very peaceful along the lengthy beach with a view of Cervantes Island, just offshore, and within the rocky reef. The island was named after the vessel Cervantes was wrecked there a long time ago, and subsequently the town was named Cervantes also. Although a small village is there today it is quite a vibrant one existing on tourism and lobster fishing primarily.

1st August
Today dawned cool but clear and so, before lunch, we all bundled into our car and headed off south to see the famous Pinnacle Desert in the National Park. The trip was a very pleasant one and we were able to use the new road (only partially completed, but which will take about 2 hours of the Perth to Pinnacles travel time later this year) and entered the Park proper. I had previously visited the Park about 1972 in a 10 seater minibus as we travelled over rocky roads into the main Park area. Today we drove on a sealed road right up to the toilet block! How some things have changed for the better.

After lunch we paid a visit to the ‘Interpretive Centre’ where some information about the Park was presented, and after which one was encouraged to buy very nice artworks and knickknacks at an appropriate price.
We were able to drive over the four kilometre sand road through the pinnacles and stopping places were arranged at frequent intervals. The rest of the team were suitably agog at the huge number of sandstone type pinnacles there were in an area many hectares. That took us some time as we were forever stopping the car and taking more and more photos. When we eventually returned to the Centre we had a cuppa before walking the 1+ Km among the pinnacles with a view to selecting the best spot to take sunset photos (yes, more of them are on the way!).
And so, as sunset approached we watched as the sun sank quite quickly over the pinnacles, the surrounding bush, and the distant waves crashing over the rocky reef out in the Indian Ocean.

As the sun disappeared over the horizon we immediately began the walk back to the car before we lost all sunlight and became lost in a spooky cemetery. The drive home to camp was fairly low-key as we were all tired, and because we had to beware of kangaroos who are notoriously bad at dealing with vehicles in the fading light. Safely back in Cervantes we decided to celebrate, and take advantage of the massive discount on a lobster and seafood dinner. No desserts were called for as we decided that enough was enough! And so to bed.

2nd August
A cold and windy morning greeted us as we prepared to depart Cervantes for Perth. As we got ready to load up Mart noticed that one car tire was quite flat and so I raced around to the garage and checked all the tires on the car and increased the pressure.

The trip was pleasant, apart from the blustery winds that seemed to come from all directions. Rolling hills, wildflowers in their millions, and an almost English countryside welcomed us on our way south. After weeks in which we may only see one or two cars per hour, we rapidly became enmeshed in the rush of urban traffic, and freeways, and traffic lights. The sunny afternoon did not fairly represent how we all felt with this new challenge, however, Tomtom again managed to get to the Top Tourist Karrinyup Waters Resort for check-in. By this time, however, Mary was in agony from pain in her hip and leg, so, after getting the basics set up in the van we raced off to try and find the recommended medical centre, eventually arriving there late to be met by a very nice lady who used to live near us in Brisbane. Money changed hands and then an X-ray for the next morning, followed by another visit to the doctor.

In the meantime the NZ family had been to mum’s funeral. A cold night was looking very likely in Perth that night.

Posted by psstevo 03:51 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

13 Shark Bay - Denham, Monkey Mia & Kalbarri

overcast 20 °C

24th July
I was up early, had a quick breakfast, and headed down to the jetty to have another try at catching fish. Three hours of many nibbles and bites – but nothing to show except smelly hand and a cold body!
After lunch we all trundled off to the Ocean Park shark show. At $15 entry it was not very cheap, however, after an unpromising start with the sharks deciding not to eat the fish the keeper was providing, we were taken around the other exhibits available. A range of local fish was kept in separate tanks and we found this quite an interesting display. The local squid managed to change into various colours to ensure that it blended into it’s background as camouflage.

The one sea snake in the exhibition proved quite tame – at least as far as the keeper was concerned!
The weather remained fine and the wind finally dropped so that it was a very comfortable stay. About 4am I noted that there was a beautiful moonscape on the ocean, however as it was rather cool I headed straight to bed for a bit more sleep.

25th July
On a fabulous morning we very reluctantly departed Denham for Kalbarri, some 370 km south on the coast road. The landscape was low rolling hills which played havoc with my cruise control on the car. As we neared the crest of a low hill the engine suddenly surged as more power was added, and usually as we passed over the crest we had well and truly exceeded the control speed, and so there was a quick deceleration! It wasn’t worth the scary ride so I cut the automatic and drove normally as at least I could read what speed we were travelling at and assess the size of the next small hill. Eventually we reached the level plains again (at least for a while) and so I re-engaged the controller again.

After turning on to the Kalbarri road we were suddenly facing a completely new phenomena – arable farms with hundreds of hectares sown in wheat. The sight of bright green shoots after about 9,000 Km came as a pleasant shock. However, that was quite short-lived as we then entered the Kalbarri National Park with a drab olive green and brown plant life from horizon to horizon. We soon reached the beautiful beach resort of Kalbarri in the latter part of the afternoon and found our van park and got set up complete with awnings tied down in less than an hour. A nice cuppa was a welcome relief after a very tiring day! It was fine but turned cool as the sun set and we had a pretty cold night (at least by our standards).

26th July
We started out with getting the washing up to date and then planned the next stops to Perth. After hanging out the washing Mary & I headed off to nearby Red Bluff from whence we had a fabulous view of the coast, the sandbar and the town of Kalbarri. While enjoying the views I was most surprised when my mobile rang and it was Larry from Royal Brisbane Hospital Chaplaincy ringing for a business chat – what a strange world we live in to be able to do that simple task in such diverse locations. It was only slightly windy but it was also a bit overcast, however, we really enjoyed the spectacular views. (Photos on our blog should appear in the next day or two).

In the afternoon we headed in the other direction to visit the Wildflower facility. West Australia being renowned for its wild flowers in spring. We waited while the staff prepared their next batch of hot scones and soon were enjoying large, hot and very delicious scones with a coffee. While waiting and then while eating out on their veranda we enjoyed the beautiful bird life (mainly honey-eaters) in the nearby branches.
It took much longer than we expected to view all the variety of local wild flower plants there but we managed to take a lot of photos, and some actually came out very well.

On return I managed to book two of the next three stopovers, including the critical week in Perth so that Mary & I could do a lot of sightseeing to Freemantle and the Royal Flying Doctor base, and so that Brian could make some family appointments there.
Back at the van park I prepared a dinner of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast for dinner, before another cool evening.

27th July
At 0830 all four of us managed to cope with the cold breeze to see the local pelicans get a free feed. After about half an hour, and again no pelicans, we headed off in Brian’s car to do an 8km walk along the cliff top a few kilometres south of the town. Mary, Brian and I headed out to walk while Maureen drove back to camp with a pickup rendezvous for us at 12 noon. However, the wildflowers were everywhere, so we needed to take more photos, and we were entranced by the frequent sight of humpback whales frolicking all across the ocean. Very spectacular indeed. The pathway, although well marked, went very close to the edge of the vertical cliff face in many places, and with a serious health risk when gusts of wind hit! We got even more photos of the spectacular red and multi-coloured cliffs all the way on our walk. We noted three men who had miraculously managed to descend the cliff at one place and were busy rock fishing beside large swells crashing onto the rocks.
Because we took extra time taking photos we were an hour late at our rendezvous, and Brian in particular was very pleased when we reached the end of the walk. Altogether a most exhilarating trek.

We arrived back to camp for a very late snack and an easy afternoon uploading our many photos and deleting the small number that turned out less than great. For dinner we went to the local fish and chip shop for a feed and ate it on the seats outside while enjoying yet another Indian Ocean sunset! However, it turned quite cold as we walked home for an easy evening.

Posted by psstevo 04:49 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

12 Carnarvon and Denham (Shark Bay World Heritage Park)

semi-overcast 21 °C

17th July
We departed Exmouth for Coral Bay, a journey that would involve retracing our steps back to the North Coast Highway, however, we decided to stop at the fisheries shop enroute to restock on the prawns!
The journey was quite uneventful and so we arrived at Coral Bay for the one night. We managed to get setup in time for a quick ride around the few sights there, and then Maureen, Brian and Mary decided to watch the fish feeding ‘show’ at the nearby beach. I didn’t bother as I had spent many hours feeding fish, who didn’t respond to my bait enough to actually get caught! The weather was windy and overcast and so we decided that as the weather on Sunday was more of the same to head on south to Carnarvon. It was a pity as, on a warm sunny day, there was plenty of snorkelling available on the Ningaloo Reef that came very close to the shore.

The peaceful evening was broken by a bunch of alcohol affected old chooks cackling away until very late, and another van had a crying baby, so departure was eagerly looked forward to the next morning!

18th July
Off we set with the intention of having a free site stop that night, but, when we reached it it was open to every wind and dust-storm, so we decided to make straight for Carnarvon.
The trip was normal with long flat roads that never seemed to end and familiar shrubby landscape, punctuated with quite strong cross-winds again.

We decided to then try for the Point Quobba cheap van site but, as it was very exposed to the strong winds decided against that also. However, we did take a few photos of the very interesting blow hole that resulted from the big waves and wind that day. Very spectacular indeed! We then headed up a dirt road and found a memorial to the HMAS Sydney’s sinking in 1942 by the German raider ‘Kormorant’. The 600+ crew on the Sydney perished and many German seamen also that fateful day. This is not the ‘official’ memorial that is further south near Geraldton but one raised by private groups.

Another significant salt works lay along the way, as we journey back along the side road to rejoin the highway.
We arrived in Carnarvon to find that our chosen (but not booked) van site was full! A quick U-turn and we managed to obtain the last two sites at the Carnarvon Big4 Plantation Village CP. It didn’t take us long to get set up and ready for a break.
During the night we were ‘serenaded’ by a rooster from the property next door!

19th July
A slightly late start before we headed back up the road to check out the famous fresh vegetable farms in the district, located on the banks of the 764 Km long Gascoyne River. A real curiosity of the Gascoyne River is that, as we drove over the bridge approaching the town, we observed that the river bed had no water flowing through it. Apparently the dry season river flows underground to the nearby sea.

Anyway, we looked at one or two possible vegetable places and finally decided on one we had seen featured on a caravan DVD a while ago. The Bumback family have done serious market research and now had a very tidy and professional business running. We bought a range of real farm-fresh vegetables at prices way below Woolworths or Coles, and the quality was superb. I bought a mango smoothie that was the best that I have ever had!
We then checked out one or two other properties for ‘missing’ vegetables but couldn’t find what we needed.
A quick trip to see the old OTC NASA tracking dish, now in retirement was interesting.

I drove us all down to the famous ‘one-mile long jetty’ that juts way out into the ocean. No sooner had we arrived and checked for the next trip of the ‘coffee train’ than we were told that stronger winds had arrived that made the trip unsafe. So we headed back to town to buy some urgent medical supplies for Brian. Mary managed to spend $35 on one small item that we needed, but justified the many other purchases by noting the special bargain prices valid that day!

As the weather continued bleak we headed home after a hot coffee at the coffee shop and spent the night quietly. Some light rain fell during the night, but it did not stop our friendly rooster from challenging his rival down the road very frequently!

20th July
The light rain ceased fairly soon after daylight leaving us with a windy and cool day that gradually cleared. My email and a follow-up phone call to Avan in Melbourne about our van electrics system brought the usual big business zero response.
Brian and Maureen, keen to ensure that they had the ‘coffee pot’ train ride on the jetty headed off early to catch the first run. We managed to get there in time for the 1100 trip in a cold breeze. Quite interesting on this famous old jetty built about 1897 to export sheep and other farm produce.
The adjacent Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage in the historical precinct also had some interesting material. Chief of the exhibits was a most unusual chain pump that was used to bring water to the surface for the stock to drink.
Back home for lunch and time to upload the hundreds of photos and create new folders to keep track of everything!
Slept infrequently - thank you Mr Rooster!

21st July
Mary & I headed for the Woolworth store for fresh supplies and the bank to pay for them. Not much else that afternoon as we all just put our feet up and read books or just rested.

22nd July
Our usual journey with cross-winds and scrubby trees along the lengthy journey to Denham in the World Heritage Shark Bay park. We did see a number of emus and many feral goats. Apparently the feral goats not only eat up the grass that is destined for the local sheep, but cause erosion because of the appetites. The feral goats are worth $60 alive or $35 dead – so it would be a worthwhile business for the right person as there are certainly many goats along the highway.

We nearly suffered the same mishap as Brian a few days previously, when we came unexpectedly upon a flock of galahs feeding on the road. Several toots on the car horn managed to avoid a major road-kill event. As we neared Denham, our destination, we came through endless boring scrubby trees to finally see some spectacular sea views. We pulled in at one beautiful spot and unpacked the table and chairs, got out the lunch box and lay back enjoying a priceless view! Not every day brings such joy, but they are diamonds among the many stones. I saw a rare white-wing wren among the bushes, which was exciting. Meanwhile certain others went searching for shells – again.
We checked in and after some shuffling of sites for us we were allocated two beachfront sites. Or so we thought, however, after I had set us up on our million dollar view site the park manager came along and insisted that we were in a no-site area reserved for the daily rubbish collection truck. Very unhappily we resited the van behind some trees that at least provided some shelter from the wind. In doing the moving I managed to back into an obscured tree branch and ding a couple of spots on the back of the car. Not happy Jan!

We then all went on a beach walk to calm down. A beautiful sunset again in the most westerly town in Australia helped to make this a very pleasant spot to be.
Unfortunately our cooker (not the cook!) hadn’t functioned properly so that meal was postponed for 24 hours and we had hot soup instead.

23rd July
Managed to book in two sites in Kalbarri for next stop, however, everywhere was full or almost, but finally successful. Brian then drove us out to the Francois Peron National Park, however, we managed to get some great photos along the way of Little Lagoon. We arrived at the Peron Homestead after a dusty dirt road trip of about 4km. A very interesting place with old shearing sheds, a historical display, a hot pool (40C) and numerous other fascinating items to see. We decided to take lunch a bit early as we had missed our morning tea break (life is so hard when you are travelling) and set up in a nice shelter to eat. Brian decided to rest his legs in the hot pool to help with the discomfort in his left leg.

He returned to our table to advise that there was an adult emu with several chicks walking towards a close by pool of water. We turned to see a number of adult emus, and then a large emu with some chicks come to drink. The adult emu with the chicks then became very aggressive with another adult and the dust flew as they settled the score. Soon after we noted several more adult emus come to the pool to drink, and after they had moved off two adult emus came, and one walked into the pond until only its neck and head were above water! Never had anyone present seen this phenomenon before. Soon the other emu joined and they were almost sinking from view before they rose up and shook themselves several times before again becoming almost submerged. One of the emus then lay on its back and started splashing its legs around, looking just like a backstroke swimmer. Everyone present looked on in astonishment at these antics.

We finished lunch and looked at the rest of the exhibits before heading towards Monkey Mia. As we travelled down the dirt road Brian suddenly jammed on the brakes and called out ‘snake!’ There, beside us and moving quickly up the bank was a venomous red-bellied black snake. As we stopped to take a photo, a ‘cowboy’ in a 4WD flew past us in a cloud of dust and ran over the snakes tail, fortunately for the snake the road was deep in dust and so no apparent damage occurred. We managed to get a couple of quick snaps before angry snake disappeared into the brush.

The road to Monkey Mia was fairly boring and when we got to the entrance we were confronted with a $6 entry fee. We managed to confuse the lady taking the fee that we were on a very quick visit and it was already too late to see their primary feature, the dolphins. We got in for free, had an ice-cream, a look around, and as we leaving in the car we saw several dolphins just a few meters away swimming peacefully away.

Sadly, the day ended on a very sad note with a phone call advising us of the death of Mary's 96 year old aunt in England.

Posted by psstevo 05:14 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

11 Exmouth & Cape Range National Park

semi-overcast 21 °C

11th July
It may have been a Sunday morning, but we were up and off to the showers before 0500 to ensure a quick getaway to the national park. It was pretty cold as we trudged off to the shower block. The men’s’ block had plenty of lights on already so I jumped in the shower, and as I was rejoicing in having hot water the lights went out. It was pitch black, apparently because they had one of those timer light switches somewhere that I had not seen as I entered. Never mind, I finished getting dry and dressed but when I tried to unlock the cubicle door the lock just kept rotating! I was locked in the shower in pitch darkness while trying to get an early start.

After a while I managed to ‘escape’ and we got going along the 40km road to the Park Ranger Station. Because we knew that it was first come best dressed we travelled as fast as we could along a completely unknown road, and avoiding the growing number of kangaroos that were still out and about in the dark. We arrived at the Ranger Station and joined the queue and noted that Brian, without their van, was in the queue ahead of as at place number 5 or 6. We waited patiently as the dawn finally approached and finally, at about 0800 the ranger appeared and we all waited anxiously for the results. Soon she reappeared and told the first two people that they were ‘in’ and then told the rest of us that we could “come back tomorrow” if we liked. The chap who was third in the queue was the most disappointed as he had been there since 0300!

Brian headed back to a nearby caravan park and we followed him and managed to obtain two unpowered sites at the Yardie Homestead CP. The old Yardie Homestead had been the headquarters for a large cattle station but a large part had apparently become a portion of the Cape Range National Park that also incorporated the famous Ningaloo Reef.

We set up and I drove the four of us back towards Exmouth to visit the nearby Vlaming Lighthouse perched on a high point of the peninsular. (The lighthouse was named after a Dutch explorer of the region in the 1600’s). It was a perfect day with little wind (what a lovely change!), and the view of the reef was simply breathtaking. We could also see several offshore oil and gas platforms, and with the aid of binoculars we counted about seven or eight platforms with their distinctive gas flares.

From the lighthouse vantage point we could clearly see the significant Harold E Holt ‘Communications Centre’ used by a joint Australian USA defence force organisation, apparently to ‘communicate’ with allied nuclear submarines and other vessels operating in the Indian Ocean.

Prior to visiting a nearby beach to see what remained of the SS Mildura, a vessel that ran aground on the shore rocks in 1907, Mary and Maureen scoured the beach area for even more shells or rocks or whatever(!) to add to their rapidly growing collection. A rather weary but very satisfied group of four headed back to camp for dinner.
As it became dark Mary turned on the van lights to finish dinner preparations only to find out that our large battery was almost out of power, so we had to turn off the van lights and finish the cooking almost in the dark with only a small rechargeable battery light to work by. So, we ended up without battery power for four nights, including no power for the water pump. Fortunately we had plenty of safe drinking water that was obtained from a nearby tap.

12th July
We tried to book a powered site in nearby Coral Bay but, due to the July school holidays everything was booked out for another week.
Brian drove us the 70 Km south to Yardie Creek, a part of the National Park. Fortunately it was all sealed so we enjoyed the journey. There we enjoyed a rather difficult rocky (very) walk overlooking the Yardie Gorge. However, it was increasingly windy and as the track deteriorated we turned back. We did enjoy the sight of the 4WD vehicles awaiting the ebbing tidal creek level to drop sufficiently for them to cross over.

We also visited the National Park visitor centre where one could buy a range of appropriate park memorabilia – so Mary did! Actually I think that we all bought something as the items were reasonably priced and also interesting.
We returned to camp and had a pretty early dinner to be tidied up before dark. Another stunning sunset! Noisy neighbours meant a lack of sleep and this was not helped by a decision to pull the van awning in at 2300 as the wind was increasing and it was making a bit of noise.

13th July

I managed to obtain one night’s site at Coral Bay, and two nights back at Exmouth for the Thursday night, so we all would have opportunity to literally recharge our van batteries.

Today I drove us all back down to Yardie Creek to enjoy their lunchtime one hour cruise up the gorge. While even windier than previously we did enjoy the trip and saw small rock wallabies (a rather rare animal) and several bird species. We made the compulsory visit to a beach or two so that our supply of shells could be added to!
As we approached the camp site late that afternoon we saw some emus at the entrance so we had to stop and take photographs of them. As we had no power we sat outside and had a competition on how many satellites we could see that night. A record number of eight were observed. At the same time we enjoyed a beautiful sunset and the stars increasing until the whole, magnificent, Milky Way was gradually revealed. What a wonderful creation we have to enjoy.

14th July
Today we spent reading, relaxing and chatting! No, we didn’t celebrate Bastille Day but we did manage a siesta. Brian had decided to take down all his awnings to stop them from incurring possible damage should the wind rise further, and also to speed up his departure the next day.

15th July
A leisurely start to packing up to move back to Exmouth still saw us departing in plenty of time to arrive at the earliest available time of 1000.
It was so much easier travelling back along the same road upon which we had raced on the previous Sunday morning. No kangaroos to be wary of and only light traffic to contend with, so we arrived right at 1000 and got established quickly. I quickly set up the battery recharger that we had to kick-start our power supply. Normally it took about 24 hours to get everything up to full power.

Mary and I decided to walk the short distance into the town centre to buy stamps and post a large number of postcards, and were taken by surprise when a large emu wandered out of the gate of the local school (it still being school holidays) and strolled onto the busy street in front of the local traffic. We managed to encourage it back into the school yard to join its three mates who were enjoying the spectacle.

Mary prepared the vegetables and I cooked outside on our little gas camp cooker. What would we have done without bit the previous nights!
I managed to clear most of my emails before 1900 as the Park was showing a DVD of Charlotte’s Web that evening so we then headed off for some light entertainment!
Mary managed to clear her emails before bedtime. Oh the joy of electric lights!

16th July
We had arranged for Brian to drive us to two canyons on the Eastern side of the Cape Range National Park, and so we headed south from Exmouth to see whether the camping DVD of the area was worthwhile. We turned up the rough gravel road to Shothole Canyon, named after the vain attempts, some years ago, to find oil there. It was a quite interesting trip into the canyon and we had morning tea at the end of the trail. The clouds had looked increasingly threatening as we had headed into the canyon, but the sun soon cleared them away so that the sunlight highlighted the multi-layered rocks structure that looked extremely fragile.

The next was a few kilometres south to the Charles Knife canyon drive. What a thrill to find that the road was sealed and so travelling was very easy. However, as we approached to higher reaches suddenly it became a rough gravel road that edged very close to the canyon precipices. I was not especially happy going further but we did while noting possible photo stops for the return journey.

We passed the weather radar station and headed further into this Grand Canyon-like arid hill country. We noted a picnic spot where we could stop for lunch after completing the full length of roadway available. The last kilometre was on an extremely rough road, even a for a 4WD vehicle, to see a Lancer street car had somehow managed to reach the end of the road. Some photos and we turned back for a picnic lunch under some shady trees, shortly to be joined by a couple, also from Brisbane, who then sat down to enjoy a large portion of fresh prawns obtained from the fishery at the road turnoff! How our cheese sandwiches seemed inadequate after that!

The journey back down the canyon heights was fairly slow as it would be all too easy to skid and disappear over the unsafe cliffs into oblivion. We all managed to obtain some good photos, so we returned to ‘ground level’ safely, and immediately headed for the fishery for some prawns. As we approached the entrance gate we were surprised to see about a dozen emus strolling through the grass alongside the road. Another photo opportunity was taken before buying plenty of fresh local prawns for a special treat for dinner.
On returning to camp Mary and Maureen drove off to the small shopping centre to obtain fresh supplies for the next few days.
Altogether a most interesting day was had by all.

Posted by psstevo 04:26 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors Comments (0)

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