Where is everybody?

Trip Start Apr 13, 2011
Trip End Jul 13, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today, we woke up to find ourselves the only people on the planet, or so it seemed. For the first time in three nights, the wind had decided to give us a break, so instead of needing earplugs to stop the incessant wind from smashing our eardrums as it threatened to tear our tent out of the ground, we had slept soundly like little babes in the wood. We woke to another uncharacteristically overcast day, and it seems everyone else has heard the call to evacuate, but noone thought to wake us. The place is deserted, there's no sign of the sun, and the only sound is the crashing of the waves on the beach below us. We thought about this for a while, then figured there was nothing we could do anyway, so we settled in for another slow day in the wilderness. We have enough food for about three weeks in the trailer, after that we will have to start eating kangaroos and goats, but there are plenty of them about!

We have been camped out at Red Bluff,  about 120 km north of Carnarvon, for three nights and it seems we really have stumbled upon the end of the earth here. Mind you, if this is the end of the earth, there are far worse places to be! When we drove in, we had another of those "WOW!" moments, momentarily letting our clenched teeth (from the bumps in the road) loose to stare open-mouthed at the bay and the cliffs stretched out in front of us.

We had been lured in here by the promise of real beach and coral snorkelling that was apparently twice as good as what we could expect in Coral Bay, minus the Noosa atmosphere and queues to get into the caravan parks. Needless to say, we did not need much persuading to head out on the corrugated road to Quobba Station, where the lady took one look at us (too young and clearly not fishermen) and shooed us further up the track to Red Bluff. So, here we were, but it seems Murphy has caught up with us again. The atmosphere is tranquil and the setting idyllic, but we are not sure how we are meant to snorkel without shredding ourselves like human coleslaw for the sharks circling in the bay below us. The waves are crashing into the shore with such venom it’s a wonder the beach doesn’t split open under the impact. It’s a surfers’ paradise, and apparently they are in the know right up and down the coast, the population ballooning the minute the swell rises. On our first day here, there were some crazy dudes surfing off the rocks on some pretty amazing waves, but they have all slunk off now that the swell has died down. We have been in the water twice for a tumble-wash, as there is no water here apart from what you brought in, and I am not washing in my expensive cask water, no matter how dangerous the water looks!

Actually, the beach here is the best we’ve had yet – we have finally landed in a place where the sand really is white as snow, and the water really is that clear turquoise you expect of each and every beach on this coast. The water is warm, and even the roughness of the waves is just enough to make you laugh at how helpless you are against Mother Nature, without being dangerous enough to dump you on your head and kill you – well, most of the time! We’ve had a few of those hilarious moments when your bathers don’t cope with the stress and you stand up shakily after a tumbling, not realising your clothes are still in the surf. It doesn’t actually matter here, as we are the only ones on the beach. The only thing stopping us from skinny-dipping is the fear of gravel rash. This morning was a little trickier than most, as we had to manoeuvre around three sharks to have our morning wash. The water had actually calmed down enough for us to take our snorkels down to the beach, thinking we would get a bit of practice in, even if we couldn’t get to the real fishy bits along the rocks. We had no sooner changed into our bathers and got organised when we realised we were not as alone as we had first thought. Three shark fins were cruising around right in the spot where we had been planning to check out the wildlife. Theoretically, I guess that means we had picked the right spot, but these guys had chosen to have lunch at exactly the same time, so our chances of seeing some tasty little fish were now down to about zero. We decided to settle for a swim just to freshen up, and walked up the beach about 50 metres, having a bit of a chuckle about how quickly you get blasť about things. We jumped in and had a quick swim about 50 metres away from the sharks, but when the gap seemed to have miraculously closed to about 30m, we decided not to push the friendship, and headed off to assist with the local economy. Turns out the only other people here today are indeed the two families who run the show – that is, they take your money when you arrive, they clean up after the kangaroos (who routinely trash the bush dunnies during the night) and one of them runs a little shop for a couple of hours a day. We enjoyed a fruit smoothie and a toasted cheese sandwich, both of which tasted like the best food at a high-class restaurant out here.

Speaking of which though, we have really eaten exceptionally well so far, which won’t surprise any of you who know me well! If you’ve been reading up to now, you know that the trailer is stocked with a few basic staples from north of the Yarra, and you know that we are both fond of a good feed. Turning camp food into gourmet dining has always been one of my special passions, and having 12 weeks to hone these skills is proving to be a very enjoyable pastime. There’s only one judge in this reality show, but Paddy, who often leaves food on the plate at home, is polishing off everything he’s given here, and the compliments are flying thick and fast, so I’m going to have to work hard to keep the standards up. It’s lots of fun working out which odd little leftovers might lend themselves to a new combination with whatever else is currently in the trailer, and having to shop judiciously for space and storage reasons at the same time as having to seize the moment in terms of what is available has elevated what is usually just a manageable obsession into a whole new art form. In Carnarvon, we went all out, dining on freshly caught snapper and red emperor with Asian greens and sweet corn so fresh the cobs were dotted with white sugary bits. Up here, we have discovered that the end of a salami combines effortlessly with the last of the Asian greens if you toss in some red kidney beans (they have to be Bio Nature, carted from home, though) and the last of Mrs Morel’s fresh basil. Ainsley Harriott and his various couscous blends have also taken on godlike status, as they transform a simple tin of tuna with some chopped up veges found in the bottom of the fridge into a dish that would make Neil Perry weep with envy!

When I said we haven’t seen many fish yet, that wasn’t quite true. On our first day here, we had quite a few weird experiences with the wildlife, and one of them was decidedly fishy. We were walking on the beach, just soaking up the atmosphere, when out of the blue we spotted a school of small, blue fish jumping in tandem along a wave. We were so surprised that I forgot to even lift the camera up, even though it was hanging around my neck, but they were also moving way too fast to capture. They all moved together in formation for about 20 metres parallel to the beach, jumping in a series of arcs to get along the shoreline, then they vanished off into the waves. It was spectacular. About 50m behind them might have been the reason for their excitement, as the aforementioned sharks were cruising around that day, too.

We’ve had some similarly weird moments with the kangaroos, too. We arrived here a bit worn out from all the crazy people in Carnarvon – well mainly Barry (see my random rant about nomads elsewhere in the blog) – so as soon as we had pitched the tent, we both lay down for a nanna nap, surfacing just as the sun was going down. Missed a spectacular photo that reminded both of us of Ireland, but that’s life. Noone else will miss that shot in the numerous albums I force them to look through! All of a sudden, it looked like the entire hillside was moving, which it turned out was actually true – we were surrounded by grazing kangaroos, and a whole herd of goats was on the march along a rocky little track across the side of the hill. It was a little surreal, being in the middle of all this purposeful activity, but effectively invisible. Most of them seemed to be completely oblivious to us. 

Then Paddy woke up on our first morning and unzipped the tent to find himself in the middle of another gathering of grazing kangaroos. Then when he went to the loo, he had to jump out of the way of a crazed roo that had somehow wrapped itself up in an entire roll of toilet paper in the dunny. It then shot off up the hill, slowly shedding its wrapper as it went. The loos here are 100% bush dunnies, but very clean and accommodating with their palm frond walls, so much so that the kangas obviously don’t mind ducking in for a bit of privacy, either. 
A bit of a plan has formed since we arrived here in paradise. We have decided to camp rough until the fridge runs out of power and we have eaten everything in it, then we will see how long we can last on the dried and canned stuff in the trailer - that is, after all, why half of it is here...
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Lucy on

I did the same as you when I saw that whale in NZ, I had the camera but was so gob smacked that a whale had just popped out of the water, I forgot to take the photo and Michael was just saying, "Take a bloody photo!"
The mental image of the kangroo covered in loo roll is a classic!

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