Guess what’s for dinner

After spending a couple hours with Derek in Coral Bay then saying our good-byes we planned on making a relatively straight run for Carnarvon for a one night stay. However we did make coffee stop in Geraldton in the Dome Cafe not so much for the coffee more for the 45 min. of free wifi if you purchased a coffee. They gave us two password slips however Steve was trying to book our flights to Melbourne we definitely needed more slips. I went up to the counter saying I forgot to get a slip for myself while my dad bought a cake as he must have a sweet with his coffee and said he needed internet access. With the extra slips Steve was under less time pressure to book flights  and we could use my laptop to find a place to stay in Carnarvon and send a email to my mom letting her know internet acces would once again be limited (spoiled in Exmouth). Steve having booked our  flights we stepped outside and searched for a picnic table along the waterfront.  Geraldton has a fairly large waterfront with many open public spaces so finding a table did not take long. An aside here for you would be travellers who want to save money by making their own meals. Save all large and small containers from yogourt, hummus etc. They make great containers for pasta salads or other various cold salads you would make for a picnic lunch. Between Katrina, Derek and myself we were able to make some good stomach filling lunches, kept our food expenses down by having theses containers. Having finished our meal of pasta salad, cheese and veggies we were on the hwy. to Carnarvon once more. Our drive to Carnarvon would be the only part that was going to be retraced from our route up to Exmouth. The rest of the drive back to Perth would be closer to the coast line. Even though school holidays were over we almost unable to find a place to spend the night Can. Seems Seniors were heading for warmth and the beauty of the wildflowers that were just starting to bloom. That’s the great thing in Australia if you are feeling too cold in the winter all you do is drive north and you are back into beach weather. Oddly enough the place we managed to get is right beside the caravon park we stayed in on our way up to Exmouth.

By the time we unpacked we were definitely ready for supper or as they say here tea. We tried the local pizzeria/restaurant as it offered gluten-free pizza what a wonderful surprise we had.   We ordered two pizzas to share, Steve with my dad  and I with Katrina. My father who is not a big fan of pizza declared it was the best pizza he ever had eaten. The real wow was the gluten-free pizza Katrina and I shared. My hat goes off to the chef as I have made gluten-free pizza dough and it is no easy task to make it taste like regular pizza dough. But this chef has it down pack I would say it was the best pizza period I ever had. We felt we could not go wrong with the desserts that were on the menu and we were absolutely right.

On a Friday night one would stay out late enjoy another glass off wine this was not the case for us. As we wanted to be up bright and early to check out the Farmer’s market which we were unable to do the last time we were here. The Farmer’s market was a bit of a let done after dreaming about all the wonderful fruits and vegetables we could buy. It was half Flea market so there was not quite the array I was hoping for but Katrina was delighted to see that fresh herbs were being sold. With our arms filled fresh eggs,vegetables and herbs we left for the car knowing we had plenty of time enjoy coffee one more time at River Gum’s cafe. Another aside sometimes it is best to visit a place only once. The great tasting coffee we enjoyed last time definitely lost it’s good flavour this time around. But one good thing came out of our second visit I was able to find out where I could buy fresh papaya.

After buying the papaya we should have left town but as it was well past lunch time we need a fairly filling meal before leaving for our next destination. What happened next is I found myself in a game of musical lunch bowls. As we often do when eating out we taste the other person’s meal. Katrina offered a taste to Steve of her chicken noodle meal whereupon Steve says it’s nice but tastes fishy. For your information Katrina is allergic to shellfish so the alarm bells went off and I was asked to taste. While I was tasting Katrina starts digging through her meal and discovered little brown things. Upon which I grabbed the bowl from and said those are shrimp I will eat your meal you can have mine. All seemed to be well after a couple of fork fulls of Katrian’s meal Steve then says his throat feels itchy. Katrina then jumps up grabs her and Steve’s meal to question the cook. After much hand waving Katrina was able to find out that her chicken meal was done with a fish sauce and Steve’s done in a Satay sauce which is a peanut sauce. Musical bowls started again this time I am given  Steve’s meal, Kat. has mine and Steve was to eat Kat’s. By now both  Steve and Kat are just staring at the food hoping they won’t become severely ill. Unfortunately we had become a bit complacent with asking questions concerning their allergies as we had not run into any difficulties. Big mistake I kept saying while I am running down the grocery aisle looking for ginger beer to help settle their stomachs. After a 3 hour wait, Steve having eaten a meal from another restaurant and no major reactions from either one of them we felt it was safe to make our way southward. For me it will always be the day of musical bowls with me waiting to see what meal would finally be mine to eat and it wasn’t the one I ordered.

The 3 hour delay made our drive into the interior an interesting one as it was pitch dark, no lights on the the road and it was not smoothly paved think the old mid-west days. We were headed to the Riverside Sanctuary which is near a section of the  Murchison River that is protected. It once was a sheep farm of up to 15,000 sheep, still an operational farm but now offering farmstay  accommodations. Former shearer lodgings that have been transformed to 1 or 3 bedroom self-contained units and in our case the actually lodgings. These were refurbished and had two nice sized bunk beds. The 4 of us felt quite cozy sleeping in our sleeping bags. Luckily no else was staying in the other lodgings so we could grab some extra sleeping bags which we definitely needed as it was quite a cold night. We cooked out dinner and breakfast in the former shearing camp kitchen which is actually inside the shearing shed/barn. The owners set up the barn with many historical news items and many articles of the shearing life. One news photo that caught my eye was a photo taken during 1999 draught. It showed thousands of Emu running along the Emu barrier trying to find water which was on the other side of the fence for the farmers and their crop. The death toll must have been huge.

The next day we walked through 10,000 acre property that the family have been rehabilitating by planting over 100,000 over 30 years and protecting the natural landscape. Once we reached the river both Katrina and I were wanting to get out of there. We were feeling such sadness and I was feeling such tension in my chest that felt my heart was going to jump out. I truly believe many terribly things happened here to the first people of the land and to the native wildlife itself. Both Katrina and I were feeling that and I think perhaps the family who owned the farm. Perhaps this why they have spent the last 30 years giving back what was taken away.

After weeks of driving on the dry open lands of Western Australia (WA) where one had to worry that sheep or cows were going to cross the highway yes I said cross. We did during part of our drive out of Exmouth come across cows that had been killed hate think what the car looked like. Here in the WA fencing in is not a operative word which is quite odd after having spoken with a lady whose property is beside River Gum’s Cafe. In 2010 there was huge flood (Gascoyne River) which caused a fair amount of damage. When it was safe to go back to her home the lady discovered a huge cement mixing trunk just on the edge of property (her kids painted it as a sign for the Cafe) but off the road. Recently she received a letter that stated she would have to remove it as there was potential for a serious car accident. Who would of thought that a cow crossing the main highway had less probability of causing serious harm than a cement mixer that is not even on the road. I know there is logic in there somewhere just haven’t found it yet. But as I was saying it was nice to be heading toward the coastal roads.

Cervantes would be our next stop for a two night stay. The point of interest here was the Pinnacles Desert, a desert where rocks have erupted out the sands. It is believed that they formed underground 500,000 years ago. Scientist believe they either remained buried or went through a cycle of being exposed then buried again. Research also seems to show that about 6,000 years ago they appeared but were buried again until a few hundred years ago. It was a stunning site to see and to walk amongst these mysteries that stand in the sands. What had me perplexed was if these Pinnacles are such natural wonders why are cars and small buses aloud to drive through the area. It was abit surreal to watch from the lookout platform the cars/buses drive around stop, people jump out take a picture get in their transport and drive on to repeat the whole process.  It makes sense to allow people who have a physical disability to drive on the sands but everybody else who can walk should go out and enjoy it for all it’s wonder. Not sure how you can truly appreciate what you are seeing by doing jump out and snap. It serves more the purpose I been there and seen it here’s the picture.

Left Cervantes first thing in the morning as we had a plane to catch in Perth that would bring us to Melbourne. Just when I think there are no more National Parks to be seen we discover one less than  a hour north of Perth Yanchep National Park and Koala Sanctuary.  I was almost beside myself when I found out about the Koala sanctuary.  When we came to Oz the first time we did not get a chance to see any. Steve barely had parked and I was already out of the car camera in hand. The park itself has 9 walking trails we walked the wetlands trail (2 km) after having lunch in a Inn (a former estate) which was celebrating Xmas in July. After having a nice relaxing time in the park it was time for me to be stressed out again. When we checked in with the ticket agent I discovered that Steve had purchased my ticket using Renee Leahy and not my legal name Renate.  Thought here I go again if security looks at both my passport and ticket they would say you are not boarding the plane. A 110 additional gray hairs later with my business cards in hand where I use Renee Leahy I am ready to give the spiel of my life. My boarding card is taken I calmly (ha ha) await “passport please” but wait minute he doesn’t ask run onto the plane as fast as you can.  One word of advice aside from making sure that name on passport and ticket match. Tiger Airways if they can find a way to charge you extra they will. In our case the online booking tickets did not go through properly for the 3 us we were unable to check our baggage in. This resulted in us paying an extra $90.00 per ticket did not matter that their website screwed up. It is a battle we still have to fight once we get home.

The 3 hours of flying time we landed in Melbourne after 10:30 pm to be greeted by cousin (3rd) Barbara. It was great to see her again. By the time we arrived at her home in the suburb of Altona we were almost ready for bed did chit chat for an hour. We enjoyed a wonderful few days with them in fact one evening we had a wonderful dinner with some of their friends who belong to a VW car club. Think hoarders and then visualize a shed filled with Kombis (Bus), Beetles along with10 other classic/antique cars, another shed with an original designed Meyers fiberglass Dune Buggy and all the tools and parts to build or re-build cars or engines. Next in the living room a floor to ceiling show case about 8 feet long with every vw toy you can imagine. I believe that evening was every VW owners dream especially since I got to see one of Herbie’s stand-ins as well.

My cousin and her husband Andrew were kind enough to loan us their car for a weekend. We put the  car on the Great Ocean Drive Road heading for Apollo Bay. The road was built by soldiers who returned from World War I between 1919 and 1932 and is the world’s largest war memorial to the fallen soldiers of that war. The problem with this unbelievably curvy road is built for cars that did have tremendous. Drivers would not be able zoom around the bends the way they try to now. This time you had to pry my fingers of the arm rest after we reached our destination. It is a small coastal town on the eastern side of Otway Cape. From here one can go to the Otway National Park to see glow worms in the dark of night and in another area Koalas way up high either eating or sleeping so that they can digest their meal of eucalyptus leaves. The next time you put your about to decorate your Xmas tree do something for me especially if you have the miniature white lights. Before putting on the tree set a couple or strings on the floor plug them in turn off your lights step back abit and say to yourself the following.  This what Renee and her family saw the night they went stumbling in the dark looking for glow worms. If this doesn’t give you an idea of the magical moments we had that night. Then you will just have to fly to Oz drive the crazy Great Ocean road and go to Otway National Park and enjoy the experience first hand. I am pretty sure James Cameron did going by some scenes in Avatar.

Another attraction in this area are the 12 Apostles which are limestone rock stacks protruding out of the water. Sadly due to wave erosion there are only 8 left but still a wonder see even if you are about to be blown off the walkway (very, very stormy that day). A few kilometers further one can view the beauty of Lock Ard Gorge just as stunning.

The most interesting and bizarre thing I saw in Melbourne was in a police museum. In fact I never thought I would ever see such a thing. Three guesses……no, no and maybe the answer a 18th century Vampire Slaying Kit which the police obtained during a 1994 drug raid. A lovely wooden box containing pistols, wooden stake, crucifix, silver bullets and holy water.  Melbourne’s botanical garden had changed since we were there 8 years ago by adding a wetlands area which just adds to it’s beauty. The best part about being in Melbourne was having the chance to unwind for awhile after many so long drives on the WA highway. But most importantly being able to  spend time with my cousin and her husband.

The question you have to ask now is did Renee have any surprises awaiting her at the airport before the plane flying to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The answer awaits in my next installment.

Renee

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Giant Slalom Australian Style

Heading towards our final northerly destination where the sun shines for almost 320 days year one could easily see why it is described as the place where the “outback meets the ocean”. In no other area does this occur but in north western Australia which Coral Bay and Exmouth are part of.

We had decided that we would not do a lay over in Coral Bay in order stay longer in Exmouth. After having a lunch break there we were glad to have made that decision. Coral Bay has become a over priced tourist resort. As a one day outing  with your own packed meal, sunbathers, swimmers and snorkelers can spend a wonderful time on the lovely beach and in the ocean waters.   Swimming  in the beautiful turquoise colured waters is ideal as there are very  few high waves or heavy under currents. Thankfully they don’t charge for using the beach as the rest of the resort area is all about charging the highest prices possible. My dad just about fell over when he saw the price for 1 liter of  bottled mineral water $4.00.  It is a good thing minimum wage in Australia is around $16.00 per hour with exchange that we would be $16.78 cdn.  Me thinks Ontario and  the rest the provinces can do better.  Another thing that I say kudos to Australia for is even people working  in the service industry i.e. waitress/waitor are paid either minimum wage or more. They do not have to rely on tips to keep themselves out of poverty. Unlike our poor souls who make below minimum wage. The restaurants and cafes are doing quite well here with no or little mention of being unable to make a profit due to the hourly wage they pay their employees.

Our arrival in Exmouth was around 4:00 pm at the Sea Breeze Resort/Apartment. It was formerly Chief Petty Officers Quarters to the US Navy which sits inside a active naval base. The land is still own by the US government for whatever reason the US decided to sell the quarters to a family. Which they turned into a very nice resort that has about 28 individual apartments or in OZ speak self-contained units.The rest of the base is like walking through a ghost town with shuttered up bars, restaurants, businesses and and a unused sport fields. Mind you the kangaroos are not complaining the land surrounding the resort is fenced off  with a sign reading no trespassing and no shooting over the fence.  About 200 naval people are still running the base which includes a naval communication station. One thing we started noticing upon our arrival is that entire building was well lit. Even units that were empty the lights and air conditioning were left on to help the US Navy out. Due to the fact that the generators for the communication station are producing an abundance of electricity which needs to be used up or the generators will sit idle causing the engines to “glass up” and that is  an expensive repair. Of course my first thought is can’t one generator be shut down permanently. The logic of asking the owners of the resort to keep all lights and air conditioning running because they are producing too much escapes me. The building materials for the Quarters came from the states so for the Oz citizens all switches are upside down which is normal for us.  All the units are one large room with a kitchenette and a separate bathroom. It was a bit cozy but we managed quite well. Something most resorts, caravan parks and even public parks do here is provide a barbeque area. The barbeque was  pretty top notch which was great as I put Derek to work soon after unpacking. He grilled up a fantastic tasting vegetable dinner yummy.

The next day was one of relaxation and doing laundry before things started smelling ripe. After doing such hard work one has to  re-energize with a hearty lunch. So while doing laundry I put Derek once again to work on the barbeque.  In the meantime I went to hang up the second load around back of the building  stopping dead in my tracks as right before my very eyes was a Emu with her 2 baby chicks. No I did not drop the laundry but came very close when I ran back to our room to grab my camera. I later found out that the people who work at resort  have over the past few years left water filled buckets on their grounds for the Emus.  For the wildlife in the outback, finding water is very difficult and during a drought almost impossible. We would later discover how important a single drop water can be.

With our stomachs full once again and me having taken plenty of Emu photos and I mean plenty we drove to Cape Range National park. The park  is about 50,581 hectares with striking panoramic views of the rugged limestone terrain, several stunning canyons and to top it all off 50 km of enticing and immaculate beaches with the spectacular Ningaloo Reef not to far off in the distance. We thoroughly enjoyed our late afternoon/early evening walk along the beach discovering interesting things such as sea cucumbers while the tide was out and a sea shell with an interesting occupant. By the way sea cucumbers are not aquatic plants but a actual marine animal.  The drive out of the park by night was story of a different colour. It had all the drama of playing chicken on the road however it was not us playing rather it was the kangaroos. Once twilight hits the kangaroos come out to forage along the road and then play chicken. Picture this 4 sets of eyes  kangaroo spotting for Derek, blinking headlights, car horn honking and Derek yelling out. After all that especially Derek’s shouting at the Roos, they would just look at you with have a facial expression that said “like what’s happening man”. Many times Derek had to come to a complete stop. Their other game was “changed my mind” when Derek saw them heading to the side he started moving the car forward then all of sudden the kangaroo would change direction and hop across to other side. With these crazy antics going on it was a miracle we didn’t hit one of them  only twice did we have a close call. By the time we arrived back we had to peel Derek’s fingers off the steering wheel.

After a night of dreaming kangaroo chicken we were ready for snorkeling in Ningaloo Marine Park. Ningaloo Reef has over 200 species of hard corals and about 50 species of soft coral. It is home to about 500 species of fish, manta rays, turtles and humpback whales. It is one of two places where the whale shark migrate annually.  The coral spawning of the Ningaloo Reef is what brings the Whale Shark in large numbers as there is a high quantity of plankton which they mainly feed on. This 260 km long reef is the only large reef that is located very close to an area of land as it is a fringing reef. This means the reef may grow not to far from shore  making it a wonderful place for snorkeling. Just walk into the water and within a few strokes there are wonders to behold.  This would be the first time that my father ever snorkeled in ocean water. He would soon find out that snorkeling around the cottage would pale in comparison. But first we had the fun of on putting on our full length wet suits to keep us warm in the water. The best part was watching Derek zip up my father his Opa, he was doing it with such caution. As you know with age comes loose skin and this worried Derek when he pulled up my dad’s zipper that is in back of the suit. You can envision what Derek was thinking it definitely gave us all a chuckle. How to describe the sight we  beheld while snorkeling. Imagine you are listening to Louis Armstrong and he is singing What A Wonderful World. The line that says it best for me is this “The colours of a rainbow so pretty in the sky.” We saw the colours of the rainbow in the ocean and I did “think to myself what a wonderful world.” In this wonderful I saw so many different fish and to my amazement a couple stingrays and octopus. I came out the water that day just saying wow, wow and wow. My father I know had an unforgettable experience.

As the sun was hiding behind the clouds another day of snorkeling was put aside for a hike above Yardi Creek in Cape Range National Park. After centuries of erosion there is now a spectacular gorge. The walls of the gorge is home to a colony of black-footed rock wallabies. This is one time I wished I had a long range zoom lens of at least 700 mm (hope Santa is listening). They were a sight to behold with there giant leaps from one rock to another. The clouds held till the end of our hike it wasn’t until we entered the parking lot did raindrops begin. As it was still an hour before sunset we thought it would be fairly kangaroo free on the drive back. Remember I had written earlier “we would later discover how important a single drop can be”. Barely had we driven on the  Park road  to discover that we had just entered the kangaroo slalom. There were kangaroo everywhere on the road and to make things more difficult it was also raining pretty steady hampering our visibility (so photo through front window a bit fuzzy bit gives you an idea). As we slowly made our way through the course we kept wondering why so many were out and why they were not moving off the road and their noses were almost touching the road. We soon realized the road had become their drinking fountain every puddle that formed and every droplet of rain that landed on the road the roos were lapping up.   As nerve wracking as it was we also had the delightful sightings of mother kangaroos with a Joey in her pouch. Thanks to the rain the roos were able to get much needed water and we had the opportunity to see mom with her baby.

I was very grateful that mother nature was looking after us during our walk the next day through Charles Knife Road Canyons. It was a fairly warm day and we arrived at the our starting point around noon time after a 11 km drive up the canyon on a narrow gravel pot holed road. A jaw clenching drive would best describe it. After that drive I understood why there local governments didn’t spend much on infrastructure as most of the outbackers drive 4×4’s.  Our guide book recommended one should do their hike in the morning as it could get quite warm in the outback terrain with very little shade to get a break from the sun. With gentle breezes blowing across the dry lands of the gorge we kept a slow but steady pace. Wisely Derek packed extra water so we had plenty of water to drink during our walk and for our snack breaks. During our walk I could not imagine how anyone would even attempt walking in this area during their summer time as temperatures reach 50 degrees celsius. I am not sure how breezy it normally gets in these canyons but I am pretty sure mother nature sent a few extra our way. As with all the gorges we have seen during our trip these were just as stunning. Just in case you are wondering our 11 km drive down the road was just as hair raising. Beer and wine were definitely required once we made it to the bottom especially for Derek.

Two days of seeing wonderful sights and enduring some nail biting drives a rest day was in order. With an easy drive into town we wandered through the town centre and had a full course meal for lunch. As we planned to do a late night picnic in the National Park on the beach near the Jurabi Turtle Centre. At the turtle centre there is a covered outdoor display providing information on the three species of sea turtles that inhabit the waters of Ningaloo Reef  the Green, Loggerhead and Hawsbill. Their nesting season is from November to February so we did not have to worry too much when running onto the beach as Steve had spotted some whales. There were at least 4 to 6 frolicking in the ocean. Even though they were far off there was no mistaking their big splash.  After our whale entertainment we walked along the rocky shore for awhile watching  crabs scurry back to their hiding places and finding many different coloured shells.  After watching the sunset  we put out our picnic and enjoyed a late evening snack with wine  on the beach and waited for the stars to come out. The night sky was not totally clear of clouds but eventually they partially broke open and we were to the see splendour of the milky way.

We had two days remaining before leaving Exmouth and bringing Derek to Coral Bay in order for him to catch his bus to Broome. It also meant we would be heading back to cooler weather too cold for jumping in to the ocean.  It was unanimous we would spend another day snorkelling. The Cape Range National Park has many snorkelling sites we hoped to try two sites. The first is called Oyster Stacks as the coral was fairly close to shore in this spot it was recommended to be there when the tide was at it’s highest lessening the chances of us touching the coral. The wait was worth it as there was a double rainbow of colours.

Our next stop was at Torquoise Bay where you could drift snorkel. You start at the south end of the beach swim out a few strokes and just let the current take you along to north end while seeing colourful coral and fish. But thanks to Derek who had yelled out to me I saw a fantastic site. A sea turtle feeding on the aquatic plants, it was so close that I thought I could reach out and touch this wonderful marine creature. I gave Derek big hug thank you when we came out of the water. It is something I will not forget for a long time.

We all spent a relatively quiet last day except for myself everyone went in town for coffee. Later in the day Steve and Derek, Katrina and Dad enjoyed their books while to some photos of Galah’s doing their version of speeding dating.

After spending almost a month with Derek it was time to drive to Coral Bay and say good bye once again. A little of my heart is taken away everytime I have to say good-bye to my children. Raising kids to fly like a bird so they can see the world for all it’s beauty and yes ugliness is alot seems to me alot harder on that parent compared  to the parent who raises their children to fly like a kite as they are never far away it just takes a pull of the string. In another months time a little bit more of my heart will be taken as my other tiny bird Katrina will do her flying in New Zealand.

The road back to Perth had a few exciting moments thanks to Steve and Katrina. Till next time bye for now.

Renee

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Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 7:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Making Our Own Way

After 4 lovely days in Kalibarri it was time once again to head north. Are aim was to be in Carnarvon by Monday as we would be picking up Steve after his long 15 hour bus ride from there.  Kalibarri is not to far from Carnarvon being there within  4 days could easily be done. This meant we could do a stop over in the Shire of Denham for 3 days.

Before I continue on let me give you a small explanation on what a shire is as well as  historical information on Denham. Here in Australia Shire is the common word for “rural local government area”. So Denham is the local government area of Shark Bay where we decided stay.

Denhnam named after Captain Henry Mangles Denham who arrived sometime in 1858, during this time pearling and sheep farming were the main stay for the Denham/Shark Bay region. Pearling and sheep farming still is an important part of their economy but  they have taken a bit of a back seat now to fishing and tourism. Shark Bay which is a World Heritage Area derived its name I am sure can guess from the huge shark populations. It is the traditional home of 3 aboriginal groups that lived in different areas within the bay, where artifacts have been found at several sites over the years. It is said their descendants still live in Shark Bay helping preserve their history and fishing methods, they are involved in the tourism and fishing industry as well as conservation management. Their role is vital to the health of the tourism industry. Which is being recognized through initiatives being started or run by them. Mind you there is still along way to go when you consider the fact that Australia is about to make historic changes to its constitution, by recognizing Aborigines as the country’s original inhabitants and removing the last clauses of state-sanctioned racial discrimination. Three Aboriginal groups have made title land claims here and are waiting a response.  Like Canada Australia has a black spot in their past, present and future when it comes to disrespect and mistreatment of the original peoples of their land. Sadly from what Stephen has experienced on his last visit here two months ago and now.  Is that many aborigines here have been treated so badly that they have lost respect for themselves and have a mistrust of the white person. In one instance the aboriginal people Stephen met at a conference were extremely grateful that  he was treating them like equals by speaking and having discussions them. They were so impressed by this that they invited him back to their camp for a few days. An invitation that Stephen was more than happy to accept.

Back to our arrival in Shark Bay, once there we immediately went to the visitor centre to inquire about accommodations fully aware it might be a little harder to find something due to the school holidays. Unbeknownst to us was the fact that it was their big racing derby weekend.  We came close to sleeping in the car as we just managed to get one of the last few remaining accommodations. Which upon reflection might not have been so bad. Our accommodation for the next three days was in a backpacker hostel in a shared dorm room for 8 people. The place itself was clean, the kitchen was meant for people who only ate out of a noodle boxes as the 4 other occupants did. The cooking utensils especially pots and fry pan made we wonder from what battle ground they came from. But the worse part were the bunk beds especially the one that Derek and my dad were sleeping on. Every time they moved or it seemed even when my dad breathed the beds would squeak horribly. Katrina was sleeping above me, her bed was not silent as a lamb. In effect I had surround sound squeaking I could not partake as my bed hardly made a peep.  I was in a chronic sleep-deprived state definite Zombie material. Our experience was really disappointing to me as 8 years ago when we were in Australia we stayed in a great hostel. For now the four us are a little gun shy when it comes to staying in another hostel.

As per usual with us when we arrive in a new location once unloaded we are on the hunt for a cafe. Like before most were closed or about to close. This time luck and trust was on our side. We walked into this eclectic cafe that was formerly a garage. Derek found the owner who said she was about to close but she could give us coffee to go. He said thanks but no thanks and was about to leave.  Without hesitation she said alright you can stay and have coffee as long as you don’t mind locking up the cafe as she had family business to attend to. Derek jumped at that offer  we had a whole cafe to ourselves while drinking our cappuccinos and we would later close up.

Next the day we hit the visitor centre once again to find out what walking trails there were in the National Park. Only to be told there were none as they had to many silly people. I am sure what she meant to say is that they had way too many stupid tourists who would go out on trails on a hot day with very little water and wind up nearly killing themselves (this did happen Kalbarri at the gorge).  If  we wanted to do anything  in the park that involved any kind of distance we had to use an all terrain vehicle. As we are Leahy’s we figured at some point we would find some place to walk around on our own. In the meantime we started our quest for adventure by touring the Peron Homestead Museum in Francis Peron National Park.  The 52,000 acre park is named after a French Zoologist who arrived in Shark Bay in 1801.  Originally the park was a sheep station that was run by the Pepper Family. The father and son were considered the best stockmen around it is said they are the  reason why the station was  successful. Their lives on the station and those of the shearing crew was hard. The only one who worked harder was the cook he rose hours before the crew and did not finish his work till well after the evening meal. It also must have been a lonely time for people running sheep stations (ranches) as their properties could be thousands of square kilometres.   Though sheep shearing meant hard work it was also a time to see old friends and workers even then it was only once a year. We did see one thing there that we were not expecting a “caterpillar train”. To our amazement there were 17 caterpillars forming one tight line never breaking apart while crossing the path. These particular caterpillar are called bag moth caterpillar. It amazed us that they were out in broad daylight with no birds going after them. They may look cute and fuzzy but their hairs act as a deterrent and if touched they cause severe itching. These caterpillars have ravenous appetites, once you see them moving together in a line they are out searching for the next plant to devour.

After feeling the heat of living on a sheep station we drove to Little lagoon. The lagoon is fed by the ocean through a tidal creek the beach and lagoon are a swimmers paradise. I am sure by now you must be saying they must have lunched on the beach you are absolutely correct. Afterwards we walked around the lagoon to see what wonders it beheld. One thing we found on one part of  the lagoon where the water was low were these  large green/brown slug like things which appeared to be dead. Turns out they are sea slugs yet even in their comatose state no bird seemed interested in eating them so either they taste bad or they are poisonous. I did manage to find one partially in the water and it looked a little happier (as it was moving slightly) than the ones sunbathing on the beach.

Remember I said we are Leahy’s and we would find our own walking trail. Before heading back to town we stopped at Denham Lookout. We took one look over the edge and decided the walk down to the ocean would be relatively easy . Would it surprise you that we did exactly that? I know it didn’t surprise my dad after a couple a weeks with us he slowly understood what to expect. Our hike down did not disappoint us as we found  lovely things on the way down to the beach and special treasures on it. A perfect ending to the day which was also my birthday. Okay maybe not the perfect ending as I was taken out for dinner by Derek, Katrina and my dad. Where we all had wonderful meals and great tasting wine now that’s a perfect ending.

The day we left  Shark Bay we made three quick stops before driving the road to Carnarvon. The two most interesting ones were Shell Beach and Hamelin Pool Marine/Nature Reserve both with unique stories. Now picture a beach that stretches over 120 kilometers but it is not made of sand but  small white Coquina Shells that  reach a depth of 7 to 10 metres. The shells  first deposited on the beach about 4000 years ago and it is still a mystery as to why then and still now. Ah it was a  sight to behold. At the reserve we went back in time for here are the largest and oldest living fossils. They look like rocky lumps sitting in the water in reality  they are Stromatolites which are colonies of micro-organisms which resemble the oldest and simple life forms from 3.5 billion years ago. The ones we saw were just babies as they are only 3,000 years old! After our board walk through the beginning of life it was time to make our way to Carnarvon.

Now you would  think after our close call in Shark Bay with finding accommodations we would try to book in advanced. But with no access to internet we thought we take a chance one more time with the visitor center when we arrived in Carnarvon. The lady at the center rolled her eyes with a you got to be kidding me look when we said we needed accommodations for 5. Thankfully luck was on our side and we werevable to get what they call a self-contained unit in a caravan park. It was a little cozy but a big improvement from the hostel. Turns out our cabins were made out of shipping containers. Derek and Katrina picked up Steve at his drop off point by gas station at 8:15 pm by 8:30 pm we were back to being 5 travellers once again. The following morning we checked out what is called the Gascoyne Food Trail. Western Australia is a huge food production district and Caravon is the regional centre. The plantations here provide an array of produce and during high season you can go to  the entrances of some these plantations and find  little stands or refrigerated units where you can buy their produce. Most go on the honour system that you will put the right amount of money in their pay box. After buying some produce we wished it was Saturday, as the Farmer’s Market is held then in the town centre. Not too far from one of the plantations is the Gascoyne River, as it was dry we walked on it. Gascoyne is the longest river in Western Australia for about 120 days of the year the water flows on top and remainder of the year it flows below the dry river bed due to the many aquifers. This means we actually walked on water. Even with no water flowing above there was still wildlife to be seen such as a flock of Ibis, several Kites and eagles.

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On our last day in Carnarvon our hunt for a cafe was fruitful and why I say that is because the River Gums Cafe is actually on a fruit plantation. We enjoyed lovely coffee along with scones and jam. I was surprised to learn that is was a nectarine jam it was oh so good and yeah I bought a jar.

Next up where the outback mets the ocean.

Bye for now.

Renee

Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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