.....Monday 24th January 2011
The drive to Monkey Mia only got interesting after we entered the Shark Bay region, there are a number of roads off the main highway that take you down to unusual beaches or up to fantastic views. We stopped at the waters of Hammelin Pool to see the Stromatolites, the oldest living organism on the planet. Apparently this discovery made a lot of scientists wet their knickers in excitement..... to us it looked like a scene from the film Cocoon. It was interesting to see the ruts in these Stromatolites where the early settlers had taken wagons out into the water laden with wool before loading them on to boats out to sea. There was also a quarry site, the whole beach is made up of tiny little shells and these shells have been here for thousands of years, so long that in parts they have compacted down and were strong enough to use as building bricks for the early settlers houses.
We drove on missing out the town of Denham (honestly we are not travelling round the UK) and carried on straight to the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort another 28km down the road. In 1960 a group of fisherman were surprised by a pod of dolphins who swim in close to the shore and wanting to interact with them. The fisherman fed them some of their catch and the dolphins return the next day. The same family of dolphins have been visiting Monkey Mia beach ever since. Monkey Mia is a national park and an entrance fee of $8pp is required even if you are staying there. They have an excellent self-contained resort which caters for every budget, from backpackers, to campers, to a variety of cabins, also a well stocked supermarket, bar and restaurant.
Weather Windy 34 degrees
There was a lovely breeze blowing through the camp-ground and we parked the van so it would blow nicely in through the back door giving us natural air conditioning, then we went off for an explore. All the action is at 7.30 in the morning, this is when the dolphins arrive for breakfast on the beach.Tuesday 25th January 2011
My mental alarm clock woke me up at 6am but I dosed off again and nearly missed the dolphin feeding. We dressed quickly and were on the beach by 7.30am. There was already a huge crowd gathered at the water's edge and we tagged on the end. There were two dolphins in water already, a mother and baby (only 2 month old) and another couple join them once the rangers started their commentary. They told us the history of the bay and the dolphins that visit, what they do to conserve the area and a bit of information about dolphins. Unfortunately the microphone system was very poor quality and we could only hear every other word, so we just took photos and enjoyed watching the dolphins frolicking in the water. I was very impressed with the feeding, they picked no more than three people per dolphin out the crowd and handed them a fish to feed the dolphin with, bearing in mind that a dolphin needs to eat up to 20lb of fish a day this is not affecting their diet in any way. Which means that these dolphins really do just love in interact with humans and only come in for the attention.
We packed the van up and left the resort but parked in the visitor centre so we could have a walk along the beach. There are two more feedings but that’s only if the dolphins come back in, they often don’t. We had a walk up the beach, looked round the visitor centre and souvenir shop. Then we watched a video on dolphins which was playing in the TV room. We had one last check to see if the dolphins had come in for a feed before heading into the town of Denham.
Weather Strong wind 36 degrees
We found a lovely campsite right on the beach with our back door open we could see right over the sea. There was a strong wind coming off the water and we enjoyed our natural free air conditioning again. We set the van up and then jumped on our bikes to take a tour of the town. The wind was very strong but it was a pleasant change to be cool rather than the usual sweaty mess. We popped in the visitors centre and rode to the end of the seafront and back. Gary was impressed by the big stainless steel fish gutting tables and I liked the spotless grassy areas and picnic tables. It was a small but clean town and we decided to stay here for two nights. Tomorrow is Australia Day and a bank holiday. Not knowing if everywhere shuts down or not we didn’t want to take a chance of getting to a petrol station on route only to find it shut. Back at the campsite we cooked dinner in the camp kitchen and then chilled in the van. It actually got too cold in the van with the back open and we had to close it down before we went to bed.Wednesday 26th January 2011
We had to get up early again this morning as we had arranged to Skype our friends Andy and Terri at 7am which was 11pm for them. It was great to see them and chat and we were on for nearly an hour.....you have to love Skype it’s been a godsend for us.
Once up we showered and packed the van for a drive out. We are going to Eagle bluff today which is about 30km out of town. Driving down the road we passed Ocean Park and pull in. It’s a marina that gives a tour and really interesting facts about ocean life. We paid our $17 and the charming Ranger took us round all the tanks, pointing out the different species and giving us some details about them. The turtles all have deformities, fins or flippers missing but they are being rehabilitated and will eventually be let out into the wild again. All the fish in the tanks are from the surrounding waters and are only kept for a while before being released again. The sharks were Gary’s favourite, again they are only kept for a short while before being released into the ocean. Sharks don’t need as much food as Dolphins, they are cold blooded and don’t use as much energy to swim, so one good meal a day is enough. With this in mind the rangers only feed them very small amounts of fish during the tours because anymore and they would all be asleep at the bottom of the tank.
We really enjoyed Ocean Park and chatted about it all the way to Eagles Bluff. This is a cliff edge that looks over a small island and has clear shallow water where you can often see sharks and rays swimming along the water’s edge. There is a walkway built along the top of the cliff and the scenery was beautiful. We saw a few sharks cruising lazily through the shallow waters.
Back to the campsite, Gary turn the cricket on and we spent the rest of Australia Day sipping wine and watching England win the One Day International against Australia. We staggered on to the beach at sundown to watch a perfect sun sink into the sea.Thursday 27th January 2011
Shark Bay is the name of the region we are in, and it is the site of the first recorded European landing on Australian soil. In 1616 a Dutch captain called Dirk Hartog arrived on these shores and nailed an engraved pewter plate to mark the event, it was another 80 years before Dutchman landed on same shore and found the plate. Ships often lost their way in storms when looking for Java or the East Indies. There has been evidence in the way of artefacts and clothing to show that people have set foot on shore but there are no records so no way of documenting what happen to these people.
We left Denham and drove back to the highway, stopping at a lookout and Shell Beach on the way out. Shell beach was extraordinary, miles of what looked like a perfectly white sandy beach but when you looked closer it was made up of the tiniest little shells. We read that the shells are up to 10m deep and spread over 140km, and there is no obvious reason why they are here. We spent a bit of time here before getting back on the road.
We are on our way to Kalbarri which is about four hours away so we shared the driving....at last Gary has lifted my driving ban after my two minor slip-ups!! We drove through some lovely countryside as we turned into Kalbarri national park. We could have been in England with cornfields one side and rolling hills the other. There are a number of strange bushes that line the road and we stopped to take a few photos of them. This part of the country has a number of plant species that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.
Weather Strong Breeze 38 degrees
We picked a caravan park and set up camp, we are not going to get the lovely breeze here that we have had for the past few days, so we got the fan out of retirement. We spent the rest of the day reading up on the must do’s in Kalbarri.Friday 28th January 2011
Cyclone Bianca (I really can’t say Bianca without sounding like an Essex girl) is about 500km off shore and heading for Perth, we shouldn’t have any problems here but it is unusual for cyclones to come this low down at this time of year.....I think we attract them. We are out on our bikes today to visit the Information centre and have a look round town. Kalbarri is largely a beach town rel
ying on tourism for its main income. It is also situated in an amazing national park where you can abseil down cliffs or canoe in the river. Their biggest attraction is a rock formation called Natures Window, which is simply a rock with a hole in making it look like a picture frame. I was looking forward to seeing this but unfortunately the road to it is unsuitable for campervans, so we are going to the Information Centre to book a trip.
The Information Centre as always was extremely helpful, and we booked a reasonably priced trip with a local guy for the next day. An early start for us in the morning, we are being picked up at 6.45am outside our campsite. Back on our bikes and off to see Chinamans Rock lookout, a small cliff near the town beach. It was a hot day with hardly any breeze, but when we got to the lookout the wind off the sea was fabulous, so cool and refreshing, we stayed up there for ages. There was a great view of Red Bluff which when the sun catches it lights up.Saturday 29th January 2011
You know what it’s like when you have to be up early you wake up five times in the night to look at the time and then still wake up twenty minutes before the alarm goes off. We met Dav’o our guide for the day at the campsite gates along with nine other campervan owners who can’t do the drive. The agenda was to drive into the National Park to see the Link lookout, Natures window and the Z-bend lookout. Dav’o gave us interesting information about the National park on the way in, they are closing the park next week for six days while they cull some of the wild goats that roam the park. He also explained that the controlled burning of the bush all round Australia has been going on for centuries, the Aborigines would often leave a fire to burn an area so it would clear out the thick bush, helping remove vermin and insects. The sweet new shoots and leaves that come up from the ashes entice larger animals like emu and kangaroo to the area, making it easier to hunt. Most of the plants and trees in Australia have evolved so they need fire to release their seeds or their bark regenerate every year, which is why we have seen so many naked white trees mixed in with black burnt trees.
We had a fantastic day, the tour was well presented and the scenery was incredible. Dav’o was an interesting character who reminded us of our Aussie friend Mark but I think that was more to do with his bad jokes. We were dropped back off at the campsite and walked back up to the van having said goodbye to our new friends for the day. Back at the van we discovered the power was off and the whole town was without electricity. We sat in the van for a while but with no fan and no breeze we soon started to melt. Gary had fancied some snorkelling in a bay called Blue Holes so we packed the van up and headed out. It looked like most of the town had the same idea as the beaches were full and with no Air con on in the houses it was the best place to be. We drove down to the Blue Holes carpark and went to have a look before getting changed and grabbing the mask and snorkel. It was a good job we did, with the cyclone out to sea the shore line was suffering the effects with massive waves pounding the beach. The waves were enormous but with the strong undercurrents the surfers were keeping clear.
We walked on the beach for a while but with the tide so high there was nowhere to sit and relax, so we went back to the van and drove to Chinamans Rock lookout. It was deliciously cool at the top of the lookout but down in the carpark there wasn’t a drop of air to be had. A drive down the coast brought us to a beach front carpark where you could hire boats or canoes, the carpark had flags that where waving in the wind, we pulled in and parked up. We open the back of the van up and let the breeze sale through. This was us for the next four hours, reading our books in the back of the van looking over the beach in the cool air.
The power still wasn’t on by the time we got back to the caravan site and the rumour was it was out for another 24hours. The sub-station in the next town of Geraldton had been hit by lightning and that had brought the whole district down. We had planned to have a seafood dinner from the local takeaway but with no power we were out of luck, just tuna pasta for us. The power came back about 9.30pm, it then flicked off again for a couple of seconds before coming back on, as it went off and on we heard the whole campsite groan and then cheer.....how funny.Sunday 30th January 2011
I can’t believe another month is almost over, we have been away from home sixteen months now, it’s weird we read through a blog page from Thailand and it felt like it was from a different trip. We have done so much in the last year it’s going to take us years to digest it all after we get back.
We were planning to move towns today but Geraldton was still tidying up after their big storm so we thought we would wait one more day...no hurry!! So we had a lazy day, the Cricket One Day International was on, the weather was cool and the skies overcast. The only strenuous thing I did all day was ride my bike down to the seafood shop to get our supper. A glass of wine welcomed me upon my return, the rose is actually not bad for a cheap wine, certainly drinkable. Tomorrow we visit a Pink Lake.