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

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