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.


Published in: on August 6, 2012 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Always make a hard copy

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A little voice in my head said make a hard copy on the day I received my Aussie visa. Which was with in 10 minutes of the credit card payment having gone through. I was sent a message that my application was accepted and during the whole process no red flags came up. But that little voice just kept nagging me to print a copy. As I don’t really have great faith or trust in online services I did exactly that and printed a copy.

All was going well  in the ticket line everything checked out okay for Steve, Katrina and my father. Then came my turn as the ticket agent swiped my passport I watched with intrepedation as the startled looking agent said to me according to Australian immigration you are already in Australia. After I picked up my heart off the floor I showed her the email message I received saying that I have a visa. After a few minutes what the immigration message meant she decided to see if my boarding passes would print up. If they did it meant there really wasn’t a problem. They all printed out and we went on our merry way thinking all is well in the world.

Our six hour flight to London was uneventful not that I managed much sleep. Whatever position I slept in my back and shoulders muscles would scream at me to assume another position. Fortunately for all us Steve in his travel wisdom booked rooms for us at Heathrow airport in a Yotel as we had a very long lay over. What is a Yotel you may ask. Unlike a hotel it provides small sized accommodations with everything in it but the kitchen sink. Aside from my father we all managed to catch a few ZZ’s. Feeling somewhat rested we chowed down on a hearty breakfast ready to endure the next leg our flight  11 hours to Singapore.

Within a few minutes of checking in for boarding the agent comes around the corner and asks me if I have a VISA for Australia as it has come up not to allow me to board. My heart punched out of my chest and dropped to the floor once again with me barely getting out the word YES!! With my hard copy in hand the agent tried to sort things out for me by a having a three way conversation with a ticket agent in Australia who was conversing with someone from immigration at the same time. The problem was that when I visited Australia 8 years ago my departure was never registered hence the reason for the message in Toronto stating I was still in Australia. Now that little voice has turned into a nagging headache knowing our plane was about to depart in 20 minutes. Everyone in my family is telling me to breathe and stay calm but that all went out the window when I was handed the phone to speak with the Australia ticket agent. Her question do I know the exact date when I left Australia otherwise nothing can be done? Now I am ready to crawl through the phone and scream are you kidding me then puke on her feet as I was feeling nauseated by this point. Then my fairy godmother arrives the Supervisor on the London side of things. Once informed about my predicament she starts to work two phones at the same time and within a few minutes tells me Rick of the Immigration department in Canberra has over ridden the don’t allow me to board notice. With about 5 minutes to spare and my stomach starting to do a dance we walked on the plane. A couple of gravols later I am sprawled across Katrina and Steve  sleeping  on and off  during our 11 hour flight. While thanking my little voice that said I should print a hard copy.

In Zombie like fashion I entered the Singapore airport and immediately felt peace. Singapore airport is one of the best airports in the world. Which I can understand why as it’s design and purpose is to provide calm for hectic air travellers. They did so with style by having a beautiful butterfly garden to walk through and enjoy.  Even though I was feeling much better I still wanted to be at the gate well enough in advance to make sure I did not have to do the pick my heart of the floor dance again. Rick from Canberra had done his job, he will never know how indebted I am to him. I am also considering framing my hard copy.

The last leg of our trip was uneventful which was okay by me. Funny the smallest plane provided the best meals and a yummy chocolate fudge/chocolate covered ice cream for dessert. After what I had been through it seemed like a gift from the gods. We arrived in Perth a little before ll:30 pm. Picking up our luggage we still had a half our taxi ride before arriving at our rental which by that time was 1:00 am on July 28th. We all did a swan dive into bed and covered ourselves with lots of blankets as winter was upon us.

Thankfully I managed 8 hours of sleep, I woke up to find that Steve had bought provisions for breakfast. Even though it was cool outside the sun was shinning and the was a good enough invitation for to go for a walk. Luckily for us there was a beautiful park nearby called Hardey Park.  Hardey Park is one many beautiful city parks you find through out Australia. The aptly named Swan river flowed through the park where one can easily see downtown Perth. But to my surprise and delight the park is a haven for water fowl and birds alike within minutes I discovered these wonderful birds.

Perth also has the one of the world’s largest city parks King Park with a botanical which must be absolutely stunning in their spring and summer, have to keep reminding myself it’s winter here. However I did manage to see some flowering plants and shrubs. This is the one thing I do envy the Australians for is the wonderful plant life the can enjoy year round.

Tomorrow we pick Derek up at the bus station in downtown Perth, Steve gets to test out his Australian driving skills as we drive south to Kendenup, Western Australia.

G’day to all until next time.


Into The Jungle We Go

The day before heading off to the jungle Derek, Katrina and myself decided we would go snorkelling. Puerto Morles has the 2nd largest coral reef in the world which is now a national park. Off we went for what was suppose to be 2 hours worth of snorkelling. We saw a great number of fish in all sizes and colours.  Our guide even lifted up a stingray from the ocean floor that was amazing. Unfortunately because the weather for the past week was cooler than normal we only lasted an hour in the water. We came out absolutely frozen with chattering blue lips. I never looked more forward to a hot cup of tea than I did that day. But what we saw was well worth the frozen limbs.

The next day we headed toward Akumal to our new place that we called home for the next 13 days Organic Yoga. In the Mayan jungle this ecological resort offered us solitude while enjoying wildlife outside and inside our huts (get to that later). You could attend  Yoga 3 times a week along with trails to explore, birds, bugs, butterflies and lizards to photograph. One definitely needed a machete for walking in the dense jungle.  As I was not equipped with one and was not keen on getting lost I stuck to the main roads and paths. Taking pictures in this area was a challenge the density made it difficult at times to get a perfectly clear shot of the birds. And they almost always seemed to be in areas that were impossible to get through. All I could do was listen and imagine what the birds looked like. While hoping luck would be on my side to get a shot or two of some of the wildlife.

Had to be very stealthy to even get this shot of  the elusive  Blue Crowned Mot Mot.

Our  main road into our jungle paradise Steve called the butterfly freeway. Like cars on a freeway they went zooming past you however did manage to catch a snap or two. My favourite ones were the ones I dubbed tree bark butterflies you really have to look carefully to spot them. The best thing about where we were staying is that nature came right to your front door step. Many mornings I would be sitting in our screened in porch and hear a flock birds rustling in the leaves on the ground and in the trees.  To my delight it would be the brightly orange coloured Altamira Oriole.

These guys could be just as elusive unless they found a gold mine of seeds.

Learned during our time in the bird filled jungle that even when just reading a book to bring the camera along just never know what bird might drop in for a small snack. Seems I am not the only one who likes papaya. Though this is not woody-woodpecker he sure is a close second.  This hungry fellow is a  Golden-fronted woodpecker.

Before you think I have completely gone bird crazy I did manage to get a couple of green things in my wanderings. This particular guy I thought was a Humming bird because when it flies (yes flies) you see red wings. Otherwise known as a Differential grasshopper quite the appropriate name.

Next we have straight from the Mexican jungle Mr. Green Jeans himself who didn’t mind being photographed.

Where we were located involved about a 5-10 minute walk to the main highway. Upon which you stood at the side of the road and waited for a colectivo to pick you up. Mexico was smart in developing this form of transportation. It is  geared towards moving the population around Mexico’s vast labyrinth of roads and highways. Usually the colectivo is a mini-van. There are no specific stops you just flag them down where ever you are standing and the driver will drop you off at any spot on his route. Now if Ontario would only use this system for our suburb and rural areas. Instead of waiting for a high volume of people requiring transportation before providing a bus route with their monster buses. Just have  several colectivos going up down the back roads and then you would have a transit system that provides for everyone plus inexpensive to start up.

The colectivos we used fairly often in order to get into Akumal to do grocery shopping and hit the beach. There were 3 beach sites we walked to from Akumal. From the town it involved about a 20 minute walk under palm trees. The first one was a haven for swimmers, snorklers and Egrets. This place was wonderful for all level of snorkelers a few strokes out and there was plenty to see.

The second location was Half Moon Bay here the water was very shallow which made snorkeling tricky at times. But if you want peace and quite this is the place. As well if you are lucky you get to spot a sea turtle (we did) and you can find plenty of shells and corals.

The only thing that disappointed me here was the amount of plastic bottle caps and other garbage I found while searching for shells. After seeing that I am convinced we should be banning plastic bottles or at the very least charging a deposit. The only way you would get deposit money back is if the bottle is returned with the cap still on it (that’s my rant). Plus there was alot of  washed up oil from ships that flushed out their tanks.  It really was a sad sight.

The third site was called Yal-ku Lagoon here you did not even have to snorkel plenty of fish could be seen just off the edges of the rocky shore line.

Our other outing was to the Muyil ruins about 25 km south of  Tulum.  These Mayan ruins are not big this meant less tourists which we preferred. But there are a few interesting buildings and most importantly they are looked after by their descendents the Mayan people themselves. The entrance fee went strictly to the people and conservation needs of the area.

Most of the buildings on the site date back to 1100-1200 AD.

The Castle  stands 17 meters high making it taller than any of the buildings in Tulum or elsewhere on the coast.

The buildings are not far from the Muyil lagoon.  A board walk was built for easier access to the lagoon and to the look out tower.

An interesting climb up for those who have a fear of heights but well worth the steep, steep stair climb.

During our walk back on the board walk where you are canopied by the trees.

I again was very stealthy and managed to get this shot of a Toucan to my delight.

Another wonderful find was a short walk away from our huts in the jungle. It is a cenote. There are no visible rivers in the Yucatan Peninsula and as the area is a porous limestone causing caverns and caves to form where water would collect. The water is crystal clear and if  you arrive at the right time you will see the turquoise color.

The water was a very pleasant temperature which Katrina, Cheree and I discovered when we decided to have an impromptu swim minus some clothing.

If you are ever in Mexico the cenotes of  Yucatan are a natural treasure that you should experience it is well worth taking your clothes off for.

As I said before in my previous post to truly experience and see Mexico. One should rent rooms, condos or huts and eat out a the local eateries. Resorts have you locked in their world  with little opportunity to walk down the road and make a few discoveries of your own like I did on several occasions. Plus enjoying Christmas Eve dinner under the stars in the jungle with my family is memory no resort can duplicate.

Ferruginous Pymy-Owl   Yucatan Jay  These last two bird photos are of a Red eyed vireo and a Roadside Hawk.

Oddly enough I was on a small road heading to the cenote when I came upon this hawk.

Good-bye from the jungles and beaches of  Mexico  I hope you will join me on my next adventure where ever that may be.

Oops almost forgot this was some of the wildlife that we would find in our huts especially if the nights were cold. This guy I discovered on the day we left for home in the wee hours of the morning. I could hardly focus on it as it was still pretty dark and my eyes were still half shut. Needless to say after taking this photo my eyes were wide open and I made sure I was not bringing any Scorpions to Ontario.