Day 106 – Wednesday 28th September 2011
First, apologies for forgetting to mention Hilda’s birthday on last week’s blog! I didn’t forget her birthday, just to write it on the blog because it was only the day before and I thought it would go on the next week’s blog. So Happy Birthday Hilda! Hope you’re feeling well. We’re thinking of you and can’t wait to see pictures of your beautiful little girl.
We left Robe River rest area this morning and headed around 200kms down the road to the next nice looking spot, Barradale rest area on the Yannarie River. This is the biggest rest area we’ve ever come across! At first sight, you see the toilets, dump point, tables, etc, but then you notice a few little tracks going off further and you can drive for ages out into the scrub or even into the dry river bed if you wanted to. We set up about 500 metres away from the main area and had a massive area all to ourselves. I think the closest vehicle was about 200 metres away. It was nice not to have to worry about how much noise the kids were making! I even managed to drag Daniel away from the red dirt and get him to play in the nice, clean riverbed sand instead. Bliss!
Our home amongst the gum trees.
Day 107 – Thursday 29th September 2011
This morning we headed off for our day trip to Coral Bay. This tiny town has a few houses, two caravan parks and an overpriced supermarket, and that’s about it. Apart from the beach of course, which is gorgeous. This is our favourite beach so far (yes, much more so than the ‘famous’ Cable Beach) and was an absolute toddlers delight. The shallows stretched out for ages and were so crystal clear. Just after it dropped off a bit deeper there was a coral reef, great for snorkelling, and this protects the entire bay from big waves, big sharks, etc. Apparently it’s a great place to snorkel and see lots of marine life and even the boys, who were playing in the shallows up to their knees, had a stingray swimming around with them! It was really cute. Andrew went in deeper to check out the coral and swam right next to a really big fish. Even Ethan and Jack were allowed to swim up to their necks – it was just that calm and clear. We managed to spend the majority of the day just swimming and relaxing on the beach – pretty much a first for us to spend that much time at a beach without going, yeah, okay, let’s go now. We all really enjoyed it. (Thanks, Renee, for the heads up to make sure we checked it out!).
Heading out of town, we were able to fill up our caravan water tanks for $1 per 10 litres at the caravan park, which was great as we were nearly empty and had a few more days of free camping planned. We stopped for the night at the closest rest area with a bunch of other travellers who had spent the day at Coral Bay. Sadly, just before reaching the rest area we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. For those who remember, the last time we crossed this line was heading out of Alice Springs, and it marked the immediate cessation of wet, rainy weather and the introduction of t-shirt weather every day. We have not had one rainy day since. Crossing back over onto the ‘wrong’ side felt very ominous. The topic of conversation amongst fellow travellers that night turned to the dreaded crossing as the wind started to pick up and the evening became chilly! As many of us women went and put jumpers on, several of us started discussing whether we oughtn’t turn around and start heading back the other way again.
The kids didn’t seem to notice the chill, and after ‘losing’ them temporarily, I found them all having their own ‘camping’ experience behind the van with their mouth organs and their sultanas.
Day 108 – Friday 30th September 2011
Happy Birthday Chloe! 4! What a big girl!
Today we drove towards Carnarvon, but took a turnoff to the right just before reaching the town so we could go and visit the ‘blowholes’ where sea water shoots about 20 metres high from holes in caves below. We set up camp just next to the blowholes at Point Quobba, a quirky little campsite for $5.50 a night where you’re camped right on the foredune amongst funny little fisherman’s shacks that look like they’ve been built from scrap metal and other bits and pieces. It’s looks like they’ve been put together very ad hock and kind of reminded me of something you might see in South Africa, not on the beach in Australia! We learned afterwards that the Shire of Carnarvon is working to get these shacks removed and the campground shifted further back so as not to damage the area so close to the water (apparently the shacks don’t even have any waste water management at all). I see the point but I’m glad we got to stay there the way it was.
True to our expectations, the sky looked bleak as we settled in for the afternoon.
By the time we got to the blowholes and drove up to the lighthouse, it was raining on us. Our first rain in months! It was a bit sad to be saying goodbye to our long streak of sunny weather but at the same time, if it’s going to rain, I’m glad it’s a stormy looking afternoon, camped 10 metres away from the choppy, roaring ocean.
Blowholes blowing – it made a great, whooshing sound as it came up.
The rain didn’t last long and subsided early enough for us to have a nice walk on the beach, which was deserted bar a couple of fisherman. A really peaceful and interesting place to stay the night.
Day 109 – Saturday 1st October 2011
This morning we got up bright and early as we wanted to get to the Carnarvon fresh produce markets. On the way in to Carnarvon were lots and lots of banana plantations and my mouth was watering at the thought of being able to buy bananas for the first time in almost a year! The markets were small but quite nice – there was some craft there as well, a sausage sizzle (thank goodness as we had left before breakfast) and a little kids colouring in table to keep them busy while you made your purchases.
Not wanting any to get wasted, I bought two hands of bananas thinking that would be good for a few days, a big punnet of strawberries and a bag of apples – total spend $12. We also had a sausage sizzle and a mango smoothie for breakfast. Mmm! Saw several familiar faces at the markets. It’s amazing how often you bump into the same fellow travellers over and over again.
After a full day at Coral Bay not putting the solar panel out, and then a rainy one at Point Quobba, we were due for some battery recharging so we booked into the Coral Coast Caravan Park. We had initially planned on checking out the town, but after catching up on washing and schoolwork, playing on the playground and lazing around eating a full punnet of strawberries and 3 bananas each (that’s them gone, wish I’d bought more!) we didn’t really find the time.
You wouldn’t guess it from the photo, but Daniel found a new love – the flying fox. He loved being pushed back and forth on it, and wanted it over and over, but for some bizarre reason his face always looked like this during the actual ride. It was only afterwards that he laughed. It was hilarious.
Day 110 – Sunday 2nd October 2011
We left Carnarvon this morning in two minds about what to do next. We were still tossing up whether or not to do the 300km return trip up to Monkey Mia – during school holidays – to see the dolphins being fed. Deciding not to make a decision until closer to the turnoff, we had a quick stop at Wooramel Roadhouse to purchase a freshly baked Apple and Custard danish for me – the man who runs the roadhouse used to be a pastry chef! It was delicious, and even more enjoyable because you were able to purchase it in the middle of nowhere. We then stopped at Gladstone Scenic Lookout for the night, where the weather turned foul again and we spent the entire afternoon inside the caravan. The wind was enough to give me an earache and it didn’t stop drizzling. It was a great test to see how well the caravan was designed and she passed the test beautifully. Not once did we get on each other’s nerves or underneath each other’s feet. The boys played on the floor for hours. We also matched our record of only one other vehicle joining us up on the lookout for the night (and they were hundreds of metres away anyway). The only other time we’ve been joined by only one other was our very first night on the road where we were silly enough to stop at a rest area right next to the highway. Maybe no-one else camped up here because of the wind?
Day 111 – Monday 3rd October 2011
Happy Birthday Shane!
This morning the rain stopped long enough for us to get out and explore our surroundings. You could see all the way to the ocean from the lookout and the boys found another rock pile to add their rock to. A lot of people had written their names on their rocks, or written little RIP’s for people who had died.
And just behind the rock pile we made another discovery. A bunch of gnomes and other characters have made their home up here overlooking the vastness of Western Australia!
Along with numerous gnomes, there were toy soldiers, a surfing man statue, some children’s toys, a spanner with names on it, some coral, a shell, various rocks with RIP’s written on them and a proper, marble plaque with an RIP on it. Not wanting to visit without making a contribution to the developing community, we thought it only fitting to leave our very own ‘Ayita’ doll – who was meant to be our mascot on the trip and who ended up being shoved in a cupboard and forgotten. She will be much happier here and we sat her next to a friendly looking chap with his leg cocked in the air (after filling her with rocks so she wouldn’t blow away).
Heading south today, we decided to do the dolphin thing anyway, despite how busy we knew it would be, and so headed up the Peron Peninsula to Shark Bay. We camped for the night at Eagle Bluff, which is free to camp at but you have to register with the information centre first and they only let 4 vehicles at a time camp there. Before finding our camp spot though we checked out the lookout/boardwalk at the bluff, which overlooks some very shallow water so is great for seeing any marine life – of which there was none! It was a pity, as just off the shallows is large areas of seagrass meadows which are a feeding ground for dugongs (10% of the world’s dugong population are found here! Just not today). The wind up here was unbelievable. Luckily, Daniel was safely in his pram with the storm cover attached but Ethan nearly blew away.
We drove down to a little lagoon filled by an inlet from the sea and set ourselves up to camp. The lagoon was lovely and warm and shallow. It was a pity that it wasn’t nice weather for swimming but the boys had a quick wade anyway (fully dressed mind you) and found themselves their own private island. Daniel also enjoyed a dip in a puddle made by tyre tracks. Lovely.
Several cars came and went but none stayed to camp and we started enjoying the fact that we might be camping all alone for the first time ever tonight! We took a stroll on the beach in the late afternoon – our very own, private beach – and played in the sand dunes. This, apparently, is also Ethan’s ‘thing’ (along with the clambering over rocks and climbing mountains) and he was off on his own, exploring and not wanting to come back for ages. On coming back home, we noticed two more vans had pulled up after all, but were still around 100 metres away from us.
We spent the evening discussing whether or not we were in fact above the high tide line where we were camped, as the sand was quite wet (but it had been raining), we were quite close to the water, and no-one else was camped anywhere near us! Considering high tide wasn’t until 3am there was nothing for us to do but move anyway to be safe, or hope that we didn’t drift away (or more likely get bogged) in the middle of the night. We chose the latter and I think we all half hoped to wake up at 3am to hear water lapping at the wheels!
I did wake up at 3am but to Jack complaining of a sore throat, not drifting away, and he woke up in the morning feeling a bit worse for wear.
Day 112 – Tuesday 4th October 2011
Left bright and early this morning as the dolphins come in to feed anywhere from 8am and Monkey Mia was still half an hour away. After paying our $16 fee to enter the Monkey Mia reserve, we joined a tremendous crowd on the beach. This is only about half of them!
We chose not to stand idly with our ankles in the water, and instead played in the sand while waiting patiently for the dolphins. These dolphins are wild and have been coming to feed at this beach for decades, originally being fed by fisherman, and now in a more controlled environment. They only feed them a small portion of their total daily intake to ensure that they learn their own hunting skills. They also only let them spend about half an hour up near the shore at a time so as to not neglect forming social bonds and feeding their young (who can only feed in deeper water). As 8am headed towards 9am, one of the workers announced over a loudspeaker that we should all go and relax for a bit (maybe buy a coffee at their restaurant or a snack from their mini-mart?) and he would call everyone back when the dolphins came. The crowd moved in one big wave towards the restaurant and I wondered why they’d even bothered standing for so long with their feet in the water, to give up their place so easily as soon as someone brought it to their attention that the dolphins were, in fact, not here yet! We stayed on the beach and were one of the first to spot the dolphins swimming in, jumped up and ran down to the water and got to stand at the front anyway. The talk was very interesting and it was great seeing the dolphins up close, but with so many people and so few fish, not many got chosen to feed one. Ethan was petrified of being ‘picked’ and stood behind my back, and Jack walked away sorely disappointed that he didn’t get chosen (I had warned him beforehand that it was very unlikely, with so many children there, but it was still a bit sad).
We had originally planned to leave here and drive for four hours to get to a nice rest area recommended to us just outside of Kalbarri but after two hours we’d had enough – I was tired and Jack wasn’t feeling well – and stopped instead at the Overlander Roadhouse. Only $11 for an unpowered ‘site’, aka patch of mud out the back of the toilets, which at any one time may smell like diesel fumes, cow trucks, or sewerage pipes, or a combination of all three.
Tomorrow we are heading for Kalbarri where we’ll stay in the town for a couple of days and check out their national park. Is it warming up at home yet? Or should we slow down?
Speak soon XXX