Thursday, 30 September 2010

Denham

Although Denham is only 100 kilometers away from Carnarvon as the crow flies, those of us who can't fly have to make the trip by road which is over 300 kilometers. The ride certainly wasn't boring. We came across a feral cat and goats, and had to slow down when a group of cows crossed the road in front of us and again for a couple of crossing emus.

It was SUCH a hot day, reaching 38 degrees just after 11am. We got out of the car to take a photo of the surrounding scenery and it was like stepping into an oven.


As we approached shark bay the mercury mercifully dropped a few degrees.


The scenery improved too!



After getting settled in we spent some time going to the visitor's center and having a look around the town. We booked a "mermaid cruise" where they focus on spotting dugongs for later in the week at Monkey Mia, and they were running a special where they included a sunset cruise which should be a nice way to wrap up our visit.

This area has one of the greatest concentrations of sea grass in the world, which is part of the reason it's heritage listed.  Dugongs, who feed on the sea grass, are also known as "sea cows"  We're really hoping to get a chance to see one of the gentle giants.

We spent the past couple of days enjoying the beach and some of the sites in and around Denham.

Shell Beach is made of of millions of cockle shells.  The cockles reproduce at an amazing rate and the shells are about 9 meters deep and growing!  Some of the buildings in Denham have been constructed using bricks made of the shells.



We also visited Eagle Bluff.  We walked along the boardwalk where they have informational signs and fantastic views.   Fish and various sea life (including dugongs if you're lucky - we weren't) can be seen frolicking in the clear water.



The areas that look like land are actually the sandy bottom of the sea
as seen through the clear water.  The dark patches are sea grass.
Ocean Park was well worth a visit, and the guides were terrific.  We saw a shark feeding and learned a lot about all sorts of fish in their aquarium.  Did you know that moray eels actually have a second jaw that they jut out to grab their prey?  Shades of Alien...


Lunch Time!

We drove into Francois Peron National Park and took a self guided tour of the Peron Homestead which gave us an idea of what life was like when the homestead was a working sheep station.

Old Sheep Shearing Shed
The artesian hot tub was a big draw to the homestead.  After visions of a resort-style spa, the metal tank was a surprise, and the green water a bit confronting.   We hesitated, but we had so looked forward to a hot soak.  Can you blame us?  It's been three months since we've had a proper bath! 

In the end we reminded ourselves that this wasn't the chlorinated spa we were used to, but rather water being pumped up straight from the ground, and more akin to swimming in a river. We couldn't resist taking the plunge.  It was quite hot (40 degrees C), and a bit difficult to get into at first, but once in was wonderful.


Having said that, I'm off to hit the showers.  Tomorrow we move on to Monkey Mia.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Carnarvon

The 234 kilometer drive from Coral Bay to Carnarvon was fairly uneventful. We passed what seemed like endless sand dunes brightened up by the occasional smattering of wild flowers.


Carnarvon is known for it's plantations of bananas and tropical fruits which are watered with water pumped from underneath the dry sand bed of the Gascoyne River.

Perhaps we've been spoiled, but it's not exactly a tourist destination.  You know you're in trouble when the "20 things to do in Carnarvon" pamphlet features things like "post a postcard from the post office" (not dissimilar to Derby's list which included "hug a boab").


Although it wouldn't rank a place on my list of "must see" places, Carnarvon is a pleasant enough town and does have a few interesting things going for it.  One is the mile-long jetty which is rumoured to be a great fishing spot.  We didn't try, mostly because we couldn't be bothered to walk a mile carrying all our fishing gear.  They're in the process of refurbishing the jetty and to help raise money for the project their's a fee of $4.00 to walk to the end of the jetty and a tram that will take you back for $7.


Another suggested attraction was the Old Post Office Cafe which they claim has the "best pizza in the world".   We took a drive past the cafe and sure enough there was a sign proclaiming the cafe's pizza as having been selected as one of the top 5 in the world by The Lonely Planet.

Having visited Italy and being raised in New York  I was more than a little skeptical.  As a pizza lover there was no way Mike was going to miss trying it, so off we went to share a pizza for dinner one night.  I don't know about "best 5 in the world", but I've got to say that they do make a really good pizza.  Probably the best I've had in Australia. Quite surprising to find in such a small town, but there it was.

I think Mike must have been inspired by the meal, because as I write this he is cutting up a pizza he made (from scratch!) for tea tonight.


The Blow holes, located 73 kilometers north of Carnarvon were well worth a visit.  We walked to the rocky edge (which looked more like a walk on the moon),  to see the holes in the rock which water is pushed through with such force that it erupts into a spout of twenty meters or more.



Thar she blows!
One of Carnarvon's claims to fame is the huge satellite dish which was established in 1966 and was Australia's first satellite communications ground station.  Now part of Telstra, it transmitted the first overseas television broadcast and was involved in the first moon landing and in controlling a probe of Haley's Comet.

That's one huge dish!  Can you spot Mike standing on the platform?

The platform at the top gave us a great view of some of the local plantations.  We visited one and bought fresh fruit and veggies, one of which we'd never heard of before called "Black Sapote - The Chocolate Pudding Fruit".

Tropical Fruit Plantation

Some people will do anything to get Foxtel!
We leave tomorrow morning for Denham, so I'll check in from there.

P.S.  Mike's pizza was delish!


Seeya!

:D

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Ningaloo Reef - Cape Range National Park and Coral Bay

As you've probably figured out by our lack of recent blog updates, we were able to get a site at Cape Range National Park!  We arrived at the queue just after 7am to find ourselves seventh in line with only a couple of cars arriving after us.  The people in the first few cars had been there all night and were asleep.

Friends in Port Smith had advised us to camp at the Pilgramunna campsite which is what we were hoping for, but having heard that many people were turned away at the gate, we would have been happy to just get a site anywhere in the park and move when a spot at our chosen campsite opened up. 

As we waited for the ranger to arrive we started counting cars coming out of the park and trying to work out our chances of getting in.  The two cars just ahead of us were traveling together and when we heard the ranger assign them to Pilgramunna we figured we had little chance of getting in.  Luckily for us there were 3 vacancies at Pilgramunna that morning and we were given the last spot.  We had a look at some of the other campsites and we both liked ours best. 

The entry fee for the park was a one-off $11 and camping was only $7 per person per night.  Once you're in you can extend as long as you'd like, up to 28 days.  You have to be self sufficient as there's little shade and no power or water other than bore water available from a tap near one of the camps.  There was a bush toilet which was incredibly clean (and not at all smelly!).  Our camp had only nine sites, and our camp hosts, Jeff and Avril, were lovely.  We initially booked in for 7 nights and couldn't bear to leave so extended for a couple more.

We were meters from the beach where we went boating and fishing and saw magical sunsets.  Paradise.

The view from our camper




Of course you can't go to Cape Range and not visit Turquoise Bay!  Our first excursion was to the Turquoise Bay Drift where we walked a few hundred meters down the beach and entered the clear water.  We swam the few meters to the reef and let the current carry us over the reef and back to the point we started.  It was incredible and teeming with life!

Needless to say, once wasn't enough.  We did the drift several times taking many many photos.  An experience I am so fortunate to have had and will surely never forget.

Our first visit to the drift also happened to be on my birthday.  We had come back from the bay and dried off when Mike asked if I wanted a coffee.  I didn't, but he seemed really desperate for one, so I agreed and off he went into the camper to make them.  Shortly after he called out to me and said he needed help.  When I went to help him he was in the camper doorway and as I walked up the steps he moved aside to reveal a birthday cake, complete with candles.  I still don't know how I missed not only the buying of the cake, but also his bringing it to Jeff and Avril to hide in their freezer overnight, and smuggling it back into the camper!!









Another highlight was a boat cruise up Yardie Creek and into the Yardie Creek Gorge where we spotted wildlife including the elusive Black Footed Rock Wallaby.  This was the first time on our trip that we were really wishing we had our kayaks with us.



Cute little bugger.

Several days of camping saw us running short of water for showers, so off we went to Ned's Camp to fill up some containers with bore water.  Apparently even bore water is hard to come by, and as we drove up to the tap the water security force came into view:


On the way back we ran into this prickly fellow.  I think he's a cutie, but Mike said he looks like a pile of thorns taking a crap.  Actually.. he kind of does!

Mr. Echidna
Once we were able to tear ourselves away from The Drift, we spent some time snorkeling at Turquoise Bay.  It's renowned for it's beautiful beach and superb snorkeling and didn't disappoint.










One morning we took a walk to Pilgramunna Gorge.  It's a dry gorge with huge rock walls. If you go in the morning or evening when they're more active you can get lucky and spot some black footed rock wallabies.  They are incredible creatures - hopping along on the crevices in the rock face high above the ground.  They're amazingly sure-footed, and adorable to boot!  We hit pay dirt. :)

They blend in well with the rock wall so you may have to click on the photo to enlarge it if you have trouble seeing them.


I love this photo!

We also saw more wildflowers



Although there were lots of snorkeling spots in the park, the other really great one is "Oyster Stacks", three large stacks of oysters that protrude out of the water, and which fish congregate around and feed on.  This was a fantastic spot with the only downside being the scramble over some rocks to get into the water.



I am SO glad we bought an underwater camera!










As I write this, we're in Coral Bay, where we've spent the last couple of days (you guessed it) snorkeling!








Finally, a photo of a land animal!
So now that you're up to date, we're off to bed. :)  Thanks if you managed to stay with us through this mammoth post!  Tomorrow we head to Carnarvon.  See you there!