Friday, December 30, 2011


First stop back on the coast was Cape Range National Park/Ningaloo Reef for a few day, then down to Coral Bay.  We hired snorkels etc at both places and went swimming amongst the coloured fish and coral.  It's easy to get to - only a few metres off the beach, not a boat trip like the Great Barrier Reef, however it's not as colourful at GBR. On one of the beaches near Cape Range we were fortunate to see a lot of huge turtles both on the beach and in the shallow water just off the beach.  Some were still mating, but many had come ashore to rest before laying their eggs.  The ones up on the beach looked like they were dead and half buried in the sand but after standing around quietly for a while we'd notice an eye blink, or another one take a few steps and settle down again, so they were obviously just having a good rest after coming ashore from a long sea voyage. 

A bit further down the coast was Quabba Homestead with a large area of rock above the cliffs, and a further rock shelf below just above the water, with a lot of blowholes in it.  Some were only little, but others were shooting water way up into the air well above the top of the cliff.  From there we called into Carnarvon for a day to catch up on grocery shopping, then down to Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites.  Another interesting natural phenomenon and one of only a couple left in the world (stromatolites are what made our oil deposits that we all depend on these days)

There are two caravan parks there, one at the Old Telegraph Station site and the other one at the nearby homestead.  We opted for the homestead and had a wonderful time.  The facilities were 5 star.  A beautifully clean, tiled amenities block that looked brand spanking new (but about 3 years old actually), another building housing a big commercial style kitchen for campers to use, an adjoining dining room and big verandah with gas barbeques.  (They also have rooms to let and do fully catered accommodation for groups of geologists coming to study the stromatolite pool.)

The couple hosting the campground were very friendly and joined in with the campers for happy hour etc.  On the morning after the first night we set out to go into Denham, but only a few kilometres up the road we saw the sky ahead was very black and then a severe storm warning came over the radio - expected to cross the coast at Denham with severe lightning, large hail, high winds, a lot of rain and possible flash flooding.  People were advised to stay indoors, get their cars etc under cover - and we were driving straight towards it.  So we decided to make a U turn and go back to the homestead where we would have some shelter.  When we arrived back Jock, the camp host checked out the weather web site and saw that it could possibly come over there too, so everyone "battened down the hatches", parked vehicles close up to the buildings etc, and people who were about to leave decided to stay.  Consequently it turned into an all-day happy hour on the verandah and everyone had a good time.  Fortunately the wind changed slightly and it crossed the coast further down, so we only had some heavy rain for a little while where we were. That was two nights there instead of one.

Next morning we set off again to Denham, and Francois Peron National Park and spent two nights camped there.  There had been a lot of rain out at Peron Point and the camping areas the day before so it was a good decision to turn back the day before.  It was an interesting place, both at the end of the park - Peron Point and Skipjack Point, as well as a few lookouts along the coast before Denham where we could see humpback whales out to sea plus sharks, rays, and one dugong swimming in the shallow water and at the edges of the huge areas of sea grass.

We decided not to go the the highly publicised Monkey Mia to "swim with the dolphins".  They charge a fee just to get into the area and apparently once there it's all very "commercial" and you can't actually swim.  You can stand in the water up to about knee deep, and someone comes down with food for the dolphins, which will swim in close and around you if you are lucky.  This is done about 7:30am and a couple of times later in the morning if there are enough dolphins about.  We were advised that as most of them had babies, they were not coming in to shore much, and they were only doing the one feeding at 7:30.

After the National Park we went back again to Hamelin Pool Homestead - third night... because we also wanted to go to Steep Point, the most westerly point on the mainland, just to say we'd been there I guess.  We were lucky enough to get a camp site after being told the day before that it was booked out for the next 2 or 3 weeks.  They had a cancellation and we were there in time to get it.  It's a 'fun' drive in through the sand hills but it wasn't much fun camping that night.  Late in the afternoon the wind got up and by dinner time it was blowing a gale - one of the times we were glad of the extra feature our camper has of being able to slide the kitchen inside the tent, as well as the normal outside position.  We just heated up tinned Irish Stew and went to bed, but couldn't read in bed because I thought I'd be seasick we were being rocked around so much by the wind. After thorougly exploring the area, seeing the Zuytdorp Cliffs, False Entrance and another area of blowholes (which weren't blowing because the swell wasn't right) we headed back again to Hamelin Pool, planning to leave the next morning.  But ..... next day was Melbourne Cup and the property owners had organised a lunch, inviting some of their nearest neighbours (up to 60 kilometres away) and any of the campers who wanted to stay.  So we decided to stay, have a few drinks and a good time and stay for another night, making it five nights in all.  So hard to drag yourself away from some places!

When we finally got away we went to Kalbarri where we stayed three nights, seeing all the sights of the National Park and enjoying what was left of the famous wildflowers.  Although it is getting late in the season there were still quite a few very nice patches of colour.  And from there on there has been quite a bit of coloured flowering plants of all types along the roadside and out into the bush, where is is not under crops or being grazed.

Kalbarri is definitely the best of all the National Parks and also the most accessible.  There are a few very easy walks to some river gorges and even the climb to "The Window on the World" is not difficult.

After exploring everything there, we had a couple of days just relaxing at Coronation Bay where we caught up with people who had been at Ningaloo with us.  Then it was off to Geraldton for a 20,000k truck service and the usual grocery shopping etc.