No Monkeys At Monkey Mia

Trip Start Aug 06, 2011
Trip End Oct 06, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One of the charms we've noted about Australia is that the country, perhaps because of geographic isolation, seems somewhat behind the times (with the exception of their prices which are 20 years ahead of anyone elses). There can be a 70's and 80's feel to the place- there's probably too many men wearing the short shorts (I didn't know you could even buy those iconic three stripe Addidas shorts anymore) and Speedo's are worn without shame, neon orange and green clothing is something of a must-have closet item, mom-and-pop stores, cafes, and restaurants greatly outnumber the chain and big box stores (with the same uncompetitive pricing that set the table for the chain and box stores in North America). You half expect the Village People to show up wearing Crocodile Dundee gear and singing "Macho Macho Man" so it was no surprise that horse racing is still a big deal in Oz, and one race in particular, the Melbourne Cup, dominates the calendar. Think of the Kentucky Derby, or Queens Plate in the racing heydays of the 70's and you still don't have the impact of this horse race. There's a national holiday and absolutely everything comes to a halt in all of the major cities and small villages- people who couldn't differentiate between horses and kangaroos are making big bets on the Melbourne Cup. We're just not sure where this all takes place.

We were in Denham on the day of the race and the only things we saw moving all day were those Aussie tumbleweeds that were rolling along the main drag- everything was eerily closed and you almost felt like you were in one of those horror movies where you don't want to know what happens when the sun goes down. We were using Denham as our base for visiting Monkey Mia (unfortunately for Chris M, who is a big fan of my monkey photos, there are no monkeys in Monkey Mia- 'Mia' is the Aboriginal term for home or shelter, while the 'Monkey' part of the name is allegedly derived from a pearling boat called Monkey). As a bit of good news for Chris M, there are pelicans (which he adores), emus and dolphins in Monkey Mia so an excessive number of photos of these critters have been attached to the blog. We also jumped on a catamaran and picked up a number of blurry shots of dugongs as they surfaced for a quick inhale of air. Closely related to the manatees of Florida and apparently mistaken for mermaids by sailors who had obviously been at sea far too long, these shy herbivors are thought to be nearing extinction in most areas outside of Australia (there's a large stable population off the shores of NW Australia).

We also attended the somewhat legendary dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia- not so long ago you could actually swim with the dolphins as the feeding took place but some unbelievably appalling behaviour by touristo's has changed this to more of an observation and less of a feeding. Apparently people were caught trying to put cigarette butts and bottlecaps into the dolphin blow holes, there was inappropriate touching (don't want to know what that was!!), and overfeeding was making the dolphins aggressive. Now you simply stand on the shore and observe- it was fun to watch the dolphins show off as many of them weren't interested in the food at all and just came to see all of the goofy people lined up on the beach (were we the tourists or were they the tourists??).

On our way out of the ghost town of Denham we stopped in at a an aquarium/marine rehab centre and got to see a shark feeding that was done from the safety of a bridge. A couple of thoughts resulted from watching the toothy viciousness:
1- The inappropriate dolphin touchers should have been immediately transfered here to try their hands on approach with the resident Tiger Shark.
2- Against our best advice, our favourite Paralympic Gold Medalist in Melbourne is finally clear of her performance enhancing substances and is going ahead with the underwater walk in the shark tank at the Melbourne Aquarium (although I'm sure the sharks in Melbourne are much tamer than their cousins around Shark Bay?). Just remember Carol C- they're more afraid of you than you are of them....or maybe that's the dugongs.

And to all those readers who showed an interest in the living rocks (stromatoliths) in a recent post (a total of 0), we got to see an even larger grouping (herd/pack/colony??) in Hamelin Pool that are even older at a reported 3,000 years old. And clearly under the title of "Believe It Or Not" the nearby caravan park has what is reported to be the only stromatolites living in captivity (in an aquarium) in the world- can you really have a rock in captivity??
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Carol C on

Well I would like to clear up a few is so expensive here because most things have to travel so bloody far to get to us! We love our speedo's because most people wouldn't know but Speedo was an Australian invention and company! So we will wear them forever! And about the short's too bloody hot to wear anything longer!

Elaine & Doug on

We understand that the Speedo is also referred to as the 'budgie smuggler' in Australia. Now that's bloody amusing!

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