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  

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