Landed, feet up in Perth
And then....cheap flights to Australia. We left pronto especially as winter was setting in. So here we are, 12 weeks in WA. Started in Perth and as luck would have it my old teaching friend from Redwood wanted us to come and stay after I asked her if she was free to meet for a coffee! Moreover she is moving back to NZ so has given us a huge tent, cooking gear, 2 bikes, some rugs as it is winter here though we do have to pinch ourselves about the truth of that. We stayed with her for a couple of weeks while we organised buying a car. Sightseeing around Perth on bikes, taking the 30km bike trail round the sea wonderful. Jo got spanked by the guide around the Freemantle goal demonstrating the cat o nines punishment. That was a laugh. We managed to fit in many tours round breweries. Can't beat those craft brewers.
Photos of some of the activities we enjoyed during the two weeks in Perth. Also memorable for all the right reasons, was the brewery tour at Little Creatures in Freeo learning about all the ingredients, along with our self guided bike trip round the Swan valley breweries.
Eventually got it together and headed south to our dear Peppy Beach friends we had met in wandering the hills of Vietnam then again in Laos. They put us right, showed us their paradise then sent us straight down to Margaret River to put up the tent for the first time. Though chilly at night we were so lucky to get away with camping at that time of year that far south. We biked the rail trail, walked the Cape to Cape and partook. It's a fabulous country.
Head em up
Headed North to get some warmth, 'I wanna go swimming!' Stopping at every National Park we can find. The wildflowers are already out, is that global warming or luck? The camping; one night we are in a park all alone under the billabong trees, the next we're surrounded it grey nomads with oh! so fancy camper trailers and smart 4wds as we park our 2004 Nissan PulsarQ and pull out our 'Sun Camp 'palace, a discontinued line from 1987, huge tent with perished and loose shock cord and bungees. Its perfect for us and we are very proud of it. Staying in parks we are often the youngest, now that's a turn up for the cards. In Geraldton we enjoyed the excellent museum where the guide told us harrowing tales of shipwrecks on the the Dutch East spice route to Indonesia and how some survived.
All the way up, one gorgeous beach after another, all swimmable.
Near Cervantes, thousands of limestone pillars rise from the yellow sands. The natural forces of water and wind that shaped the Pinnacles which are made up of shells. They date back millions of years to when the sand was beneath the sea.
Kalbarri coastal town in the Mid West region 592 km north of Perth
Set beside the sea and river, Kalbarri town is the gateway to the National Park and our first experience of the red rock gorges that were to become highlights later. From the carpark we left the crowds behind for a jaunt round a 5 hour circuit through a gorge with spectacular rock formations and colours.
The most westerly point of the Australian continent, Shark Bay
Onto Shark Bay where a chance opportunity at the visitor centre rewarded us with a maiden cruise to Dirk Hartog Island in a new boat with the owner... We had learned all about Dirk Hartog who was the first European to land on the western side of Australia in the museums. Now here we were in the flesh! The trip crossed the sea grass meadows of the bay, past dolphins and out to the western most point of Australia. We landed on the island for a barbecue crayfish and prawns and a bumpy tour of the windswept desolate terrain. Once a sheep station, the tour operator also lives on the island with his family and tourists can stay there.
Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area, where the reef meets the range
This was the prime destination we had been looking so forward to. Our goal was to swim with the whale sharks who migrate up the coast to feed on plankton and small fish. We had a young man on our boat who didn’t get to see one the day before and got a free return trip. Anxiously we sat poised on the edge of our seats on the boat until the announcement was made ‘Whaleshark spotted, get ready!’ With an awkward maneuver of fins, I waddled to the edge of the boat until command ‘jump!’ Heart bouncing in my chest, not knowing what to expect, out of nowhere a huge speckled whale shark (they can get up to 21 tonnes and 18m long) appeared out of the blue water, gliding with little effort towards me. There are rules when it comes to swimming with whale sharks, like giving the shark a clear forward path and a 4 m side clearance. Easier said than done when the shark swam with scant regard to all the fuss it was causing, I finned like mad to stay up with these mighty and enigmatic animals. We had seven swims, four with different sharks. Each time I could not take my eyes off until it finally dived down or swam completely out of sight. While we waited in the deep water we could hear the calls of Humpbacked whales that were in the vicinity sharing the ocean with the whale sharks. Just like on an Attenborough doco.
Near to Exmouth, Cape Range National Park had beaches with the most crystal clear waters I have ever seen, held all we had hoped for and then some. We loved Yardie Homestead with galahs and corellas screeching and swooping through the trees, and a patch of green grass on which to pitch our tent. A luxury compared to some spots – on dust, dirt or red clay. Staying for the week, we snorkelled among a myriad of marine life, swimming straight from the shore. At Turquoise bay we saw moray eel, massive groper and a longish reef shark camped up in a cave in a bommie scant metres away from unsuspecting families and small children splashing around in the water. We walked Yardie creek and saw rock wallabies and ospreys above the gorge.
Tom Price iron ore country
Heading inland we had our longest day of over 500km on the road to Tom Price, a long distance for us kiwi! Weird that a town would be poked in the middle of where there’s little to see but that’s a mining town for you. It was a luxury to walk among the air conditioned aisles of the supermarket pondering over food after a week of roughing it on the Cape. We found a hardware to buy a mallet to drive tent pegs, well overdue as the ground was getting harder and harder the further north we got. We climbed a couple of peaks in the area and joined a mine tour; interesting to see a fully operating mine and get an impression where all the big road trains with equipment were heading to and where the trains with iron ore are coming from.
Kirijini the traditional home of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga Aboriginal people.
Nearby was Karijini NP where we explored narrow gorges, hidden water oasis and deep chasms cut into the rocky red ranges. Our campsite consisted of hard baked red dirt, seems grassy camp-sites are thing of the south. We did have good weather on our side, and felt for the families just a few days before who had to carve trenches to channel away what must have been a cascade of thick red, clay water. I have never seen such an expanse of sky with ever changing colours. Freezing by night we hunkered down after a great meal and ‘Crocodile Dundee’ movie at the eco retreat which is 100% indigenous owned and a great model for sustainable tourism. Nearby Punurrunha (Mt Bruce) at 1235m and WA’s second highest mountain, a long ridge walk with massive views from the summit where we enjoyed a hearty lunch. The climb was an excellent reminder for the body of long forgotten muscles, the two of us were pleased to get back down after a day of relentless heat.
Broome or Bust
We survived the Gibb River Road
Because we sold the car so quickly we had to come up with another plan, to use up our remaining weeks. Lucky for us, Kimberly Adventure Tours had two places left on a trip that was leaving Broome in a couple of days. So off again, bound for Darwin, far further than we ever hoped to go.
The Gibb River Road is infamous for its true remote outback experience. The deeply corrugated red earth lead to private wilderness camps, where we swam in shady creeks and wide deep rivers, explored remote gorges, jumped off waterfalls and saw secret aboriginal art. Highlights included Tunnel Creek, Windjana, Bell, Manning, Emma & Barnet River Gorges, The Pentacost River & El Questro Station. Slightly chilling were the rusted out skeletons of cars, abandoned when they broke. We could never have done the trip on our own so we were thrilled with our group of ten likeminded fellow travellers for they were fit and fun. From the Gibb we headed for Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles), a spectacular World Heritage listed geological wonder with Cathedral Gorge and Echidna Chasm. Then our Lake Argyle experience cruising the lake staying at a wilderness camp on a private island. Lake Argyle was created by damming the Franklin River for irrigation. From Lake Argyle we carried on to the Northern Territory and into Darwin via Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park. After nine days together we said our farewells with a beer to wash down the Kimberley dust.