Out of sheer excitemet after our recent encounters with dolphins, we decided to make the long detour west to the extremities of Australia and visit Monkey Mia. We arrived in the Shark Bay area at dusk and camped at Eagle Bluff lookout, right on the edge of a huge cliff. We then had a night in a carvan park in the most westerly town in Australia, Denham. We were up bright and early the following morning for the half hour drive to Monkey Mia, in time for the 8 am dolphin feeding session. The beach was already packed by the time we got there, so we had to be satisfied with a view of the dolphins from the jetty. The rangers do 3 feeds a day from 8am onwards, whenever the dolphins come back. They only feed the adult females, but the mothers also bring their babies into shore. After the first feed, we hung around the beach as it was nearly time for our trip abord the Shotover catermaran to find some wildlife
. While waiting some dolphins came in for a feed, so this time we got a really close look at these beautiful and graceful creatures. They are very undisturbed by humans being there, and even look interested in us, lying on their side with their eyes looking at us. It was a real prividge to get to see these animals up close. Eventually though it was time to board the Shotover, and after a brief safety talk from out skippers, we were on our way. We were hoping to see some dugongs, and possibly some sea turtles and dolphins, but unfortunately, nature being nature, we saw nothing. Absoloutely nothing. And it was a cold overcast day, so we froze in the icy wind. But despite the lack of animals and the cold wind, the trip was nevertheless enjoyable. Back on dry land we booked into the caravan park and huddled in our caravan for the rest of the day, out of the wind. The following day, we were up again early, hoping that we would be the lucky ones chosen from the crowd to feed the dolphins. Unfortunately, we weren't. A little sad we left the beach, but spirits soon picked up with a fiesty game of tennis. After our exercize we left Monkey Mia and headed for the nearby Francois Peron National Park. Our first stop was the old homestead. The remenants of a working station are left here and Joel was taken back to his days at Nhill with the old shearing shed. The station also has an artesian water hot spring spa. The water flowing into the spa is a constant 40 degrees and continuously comes up from 500m underground under its own pressure
. It can supply 170,000L per day. It was absolutely lovely sitting in this hot spa, but we were soon forced to get out as it was just too hot! From the homestead we travelled further into the national park. Only 4WD are allowed on this track and there were plenty of signs up saying no caravans. Did that stop us? No. The first part of the track was not too bad, a bit of soft sand but with the tyres down, we flew through. The trouble started when we headed up a track that ended up on the beach. The sand before we got to the beach was extremely soft, and we inevietably got bogged. Deep. Normally this would not be too much of a problem, but even if we managed to get out, the soft sand just continued onto the beach and there was nowhere hard enough to turn around to get out of there. So Joel went for a walk and devised a track that he thought would be best to try and get out and turn around. But it would only work if the track was taken at high speed to avoid being bogged again. It was definately a sight to see, the caravan bouncing up and down vigerously over the sand bumps, flying round corners at full speed and nearly taking air at one point. But we got out! We back tracked and then continued to head through the national park, getting bogged once more (not quite so badly) before we found a camp spot not far from the point. We had a relaxing few days here, driving to the lookouts for a view of the spectacular cliff coastline. After gathering some supplies from Denham, and some water from the desalination plant, we camped just down the road at Fowlers Camp
. Arriving there reasonably early we decided to get the kayaks off the roof and go for a paddle in the bay. Once out in the middle of the bay, Joel decided it would be fun to kayak over to Eagle Bluff, where we had previously camped. It was fun at first, but what you don't realise when you are in the water is actually how far away things are. Eagle Bluff was a long, long way from us! And despite all our paddling it didn't seem to be getting any closer. But, not to be defeated, we continued, and finally reached our destination. We paddled across to the tiny island just below Eagle Bluff lookout, and managed to scare away the thousands of birds who have made the island their home. The island is surprisingly flat, and we discovered that it used to be covered with mountains of bird poo. Apparently in the olden days, bird poo was a valuable item and people used to sail from the accross the other side of the world to scrape it off to use as fertilizer. Hence the reason the island is now flat. After scaring off all the birds, Joel and I had to high tail it home to try and beat the setting of the sun. It was an exhausting kayak, only made bearable by the sighting of a dolphin. When we looked at a map we worked out that we had paddled 10km! The following day we dropped our caravan off at a station and began the 300km return trip to the most westerly point in Australia, Steep Point. After some beautiful scenery and rolling hills, we hit the rally track, or so Joel thought. He had a ball manouvering through the twists and turns and we only came close to hitting another car on the single lane track once. Reaching the rangers station, he took a liking to us and let us through to Steep Point for free, normally $20. Reaching the point had been a long drive, but it was well worth it. The view was spectacular, made even more special with a whale sighting. Joel and I commemorated the achievement by having a beer and signing the guest book before returning to our caravan and leaving the Shark Bay region. As it was getting late, we camped at Gladstone Lookout, just after we turned back onto the main highway. We were very lucky to get there with the dozens of kangas that were on the shoulder of the road! The camp was up a steep hill, the highest lookout point for miles, and as usual, it was dark when we arrived, so we woke up to great views to the north, south, east and west.