Break 1 – Day 10 Coral Bay

We packed up and took the shortish drive headed to Coral Bay. We took an unscheduled detour into one of the gorges on the way. It was a very nice surprise.

Charles Knife canyon was about an 11km drive into the gorge. The route in was spectacular. We must have stopped 20 times up and down to admire the view and take photos. In the photo above you can see Kyle on the right if you look closely (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge!) It was mid day and the lighting was not perfect for photos, but hopefully they will still capture the dimensions even in the harsher light.

Once finally at the destination, we were a bit disappointed in the view – but the views on the drive up made it worth the journey at any rate.

We had managed to find Cindy in Exmouth, and once in Coral Bay, we also managed to locate Jeeza (a teacher with Mike) despite the privacy concerns of the staff who would not reveal his location! We had a swim in the ocean to cool off, booked a Manta Ray tour for Monday for the 3 of us, and did a bit of groceries. On the walk back from the shops, Kyle and I were treated to a visit by the local lizard. – he’s about 4 feet long. He sauntered over to where the sprinklers were running and paused under a tree for a cool down – it was very hot by the afternoon.

Looking forward to a chance to get out onto the ocean tomorrow to see the reef life further out.

Break 1 – Day 9 Snorkel at Lakeside

Kyle had been feeling under the weather for much of the trip. Given his general discomfort when driving, it could be that, or it could be something he is fighting – at any rate, he decided to stay home for the day and read while we ventured out (or maybe he just wanted a break from us :-).

So Mike & I headed off for another snorkel. We took a drive back to the reef side of the point, and decided to visit a couple of other sites first.

Again we spotted several wild emus. These ones were much less accustomed to humans and scurried away as soon as we left the car. We paid a visit to a local shipwreck (after a couple of wrong turns to other interesting spots). The ship was a cattle ship which wrecked around the turn of the century (1901 that is). It was salvaged for wood to build local houses, and then was used for bombing practice during the second world war. We then checked out a point to see the lighthouse, then to lakeside for a snorkel.

Lakeside was a bit more effort to get to, but was worth it. We had to travel a few hundred metres up shore from the parking lot. All along the way the beach was covered in jellyfish. The winds had shifted and they were being blown in shore. There were lots in the water too, but once you got out into the reef they were not as dense.

Despite the numbers, we were extra careful and only Mike got stung, just once.

At one point, all the fish in the area where I was swimming darted in away. I decided not to find out why and followed them. Mike meanwhile was over a bit and caught the cause for concern – a large reef shark had come in. Reef sharks pose no threat to humans, but still trigger the natural response to a shark . Once you let your brain take over, it’s neat to watch them cruise. Actually, the reef is so healthy here that most of the fish don’t panic much when the shark approaches – they just saunter away.

Again there was lots of diversity of fishes. Puffer fish were quite common (photo’d at right). The little fluorescent

blue ones which we had seen in Turquoise Bay were common here also.

There were some larger fish also – may have been mulloway (same as we saw caught off the jetty in Carnarvon).

We also spotted several rays – you have to be careful closer to shore since they blend in with the sand and you have to watch not to step on them (they sting).

Having snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef it is difficult not to constantly make comparisons. I really had expected the experience to be the same – but am surprised at how different it is at Ningaloo. We are lucky to have seen both to see the diversity.

And after a fair amount of searching, I finally found our anemone and clown fish. They are different here than the Great Barrier Reef, so it took me a while to spot them. These are tomato clowns and the anemone are much shorter and duller in colour. But their behaviour is the same – the clowns hover around the anemone for protection and anytime a threat comes near, they hunker down into the anemone.
We’ve decided that after our 2 days in Coral Bay, we’ll head back to Mandurah – we’re getting vacation saturated πŸ™‚ But for tomorrow it’s off to Coral Bay and more adventures!

Break 1 – Day 8 Yardie Creek

For something a little different, we decided to check out Yardie Creek. We stopped and picked up info on the trail at the tourist centre – where they also had lots of info about the park in general and the flora and fauna.

On the hike in we came upon these roos resting under the bushes. We stood observantly watching them but most of the locals don’t even give them a second look. Kangaroos here are about like squirrels in Canada – some people pay them attention, but mostly they are regarded as cute pests.

It was not a long hike – many flies, but great scenery. The first section was paved, but then we continued further up the gorge. The path was well marked, but you did need to watch your footing. All along the path, you could look down into the gorge and onto the facing wall. Only one side of the gorge is accessible – the other is protected for the wildlife. Rock wallabies often rest in the caves along the gorge walls, so we watched keenly hoping to catch a view.

It’s funny that this should be called a ‘creek’. It’s the most substantial body of inland water we’ve seen despite having passed numerous dried up lakes and driven over many dry riverbeds – all which appear large on maps and bear significant names.

Kyle really wanted to head back due to the flies, but we plodded on to hike down to the water level. As we ventured down to the water level we saw some more kangaroos. We could see fish in the water, but alas we failed to spot any rock wallabies on the facing wall in the caves. There is boat tour you can take into the gorge, but having walked down into the gorge, we didn’t bother taking the ferry as we saw the full route it takes.

The trees were quite amazing in their survival though – you can see the exposed roots. Given the limited rain and constant winds and sun, I’m not sure how this one here survives.

Kyle was not feeling well – he seems to be coming down with something – so after the hike, we headed back and changed hotel rooms. For minimal extra charge, we moved from a single motel style room to a 2 bedroom with kitchen and sitting area – MUCH nicer – wish there had been availability the whole 4 days, but things book up quickly here (I booked back in beginning of February!) We even had our own little patio with bbq and patio set – very comfortable. And we were closer to the pool – which Kyle spent many hours in over the 4 days here. So we sat back and enjoyed a bbq dinner and chilled out for the rest of the day.

Break 1 – Day 7 Ningaloo Snorkelling at Turquoise Bay

Side note – we have visited several places with photography exhibits and postcards, and Kyle always is drawn to the clown fish in the anemone. Our room has just such a photo in it by chance. Now off to see if we can find some on the reef!

We had breakie in our room and then headed out for our first snorkel on the Ningaloo Reef. The brochures (and Cindy) recommended Turquoise Bay for starters, so off we went. Of course photographing under water is a different ‘kettle of fish’ (sorry). Mike has done his best with the ‘regular’ digital in it’s ‘baggie’, but the quality of these photos is naturally not the same as his Nikon, and it is much more awkward to use. Regardless, I was quite pleased to see that he was able to capture as much as he did.

We headed straight into the waters and as we have come to expect, we were not to be disappointed. The corals were very diverse – lots of different types. And there were LOTs of different fishes – many familiar from the Great Barrier Reef, but some new ones too. Compared to Great Barrier Reef, both Mike and I agree that there seems to be more volume and variety of fish, but the colours are not as dramatic. The GBR consists mostly of soft corals where the Ningaloo reef is mostly hard corals – which results in a subtly different environment. The best difference, is that Ningaloo is accessible from the shoreline – so you just walk into the water and are in the reef!

Right away Mike spotted a Manta Ray in the shallow waters. Kyle and I were just getting in and missed it, although we saw from above the water at a distance. Later both Mike and Kyle spotted other rays in the sandy bottom, but I was not so lucky (or possibly observant). I did spot an octopus though which was interesting to hover over and observe as he (or she) sat blinking and observing us.

There were lots of sea slugs, butterfly fish, angel fish, parrot fish and several other species I could not name. Kyle did get a small sting from a jelly fish – but not enough to scare him out of the water (luckily several folks at Rottnest had experienced them also, so it was less β€˜unknown’).

It was fun to swim amongst schools of darts as they perused the reef. One woman on shore spoke of how they even nibbled on her to see if she were edible. The darts along with many smaller minnow-ish fish went into very shallow waters and were easy to play along side of.

After a rather long first snorkel, I was feeling very queasy – not sure if it was the salt water getting up my mask into my sinus’ or what. Anyway, we broke for lunch but were anxious to get back at it. After lunch we snorkelled over to the right and the coral diversity was even greater. I was again nauseous, so headed back early. By the time Mike came in, he felt the same. We passed out on the beach for a bit as Kyle played with the small schools near shore. Then we headed back to our room for a rest to try to regain our mobility, which we did. Kyle was not nauseous right off, but did feel it later. In hindsight, we think it may have been the snorkelling gear which came from China coated in an oily film. Susbequent snorkelling has been fine – we think the oil was the problem.

We had a bit of a relax back at the room where Mike did some work and I did some documenting (it takes time to write all this stuff down – there is just too much to remember till we return!) We had a nice Chinese dinner in between writing sessions.

Alas, no clown fish or anemone today – that will be the quest for the next snorkelling day. Tomorrow we plan on visiting Yardie Creek and its gorge (the only one with water right now).

Break 1 – Day 6 Road to Exmouth

Back on the road again for a rather lengthy drive to Exmouth with breakfast and lunch on the road. En route today we saw more road kill than cars. Carcasses included in no particular order; sheep, goats, cats, rabbits, kangaroos and cows. They came in all states of decay; fresh kill the night before (still in the road, not too damaged); bloated beyond what you could imagine the skin stretching with legs splayed at ridiculous angles; mildly decaying with crows or occasionally an eagle happily munching; mummified with ribs and skull clearly identifiable; disjointed with limbs and body parts dissected – either by carrion or human hard to know…; in the final stages of decay with the odd crow searching for a morsel; or just plain old bleached bones. Between dead bodies and live animals, the driving requires the utmost attention even in mid-day (but especially at dusk and dawn).

We also spotted a large β€˜dragon’ – name still to be determined – at the side of the road, but unfortunately could not stop as there was a car behind us (which did not happen often, but Murphy was with us). We stopped at one photo-op to drive up to an incredible look out spot. We also stopped for termite mounds which are extremely large and plentiful. This time lunch on the road we were smart enough to do inside the car. (Poor Michael has to suffer the flies every time he gets out to take a photo though!)

Arrived at Potshot Resort Hotel (our home for 4 days) mid afternoon. We were too pooped to head out snorkelling (hard to believe that driving can be so tiring!). Kyle was keen for a swim, so off he and I ventured to the pool – there are 3 here (all small and one out of commission). We passed an emu walking down the road – and had a very relaxing time by and in (Kyle primarily in) the pool. Mike joined us later – as did 2 lost young emus squawking for their guardian. You are never quite sure what you will see here! We have now spotted smaller colourful lizards around the hotel also.

We ran into Cindy and her cousin in town as we strolled around waiting to go for dinner. They have been here since Monday – have gone solo snorkelling and dive/snorkel with a tour – found on their own to be just as good. They are off tomorrow for the whale shark swim, but are quite concerned whether there will actually be whale sharks – spottings have been few, and if you miss out, you only get to come back next day – which is not an option for them as they fly out on Friday.

We had a nice dinner at the restaurant recommended in the Eyewitness book. Lots of fun with Mike taking photos of us (like our tans??!) – several waitresses offered to help, but Mike was having fun.

Cockatoos are plentiful here – and quite vocal and entertaining. When walking back from dinner, we passed under one of the many trees where they congregate in the evening. Mike decided he wanted a photo of them fleeing the tree, so he and Kyle headed back out for a photo opp. Unfortunately, just as they were finally all set up for the shot, a cop car pulled someone over and most of the birds all left without Mike getting his shot. He still managed to salvage this attempt however which captures the effect.

To end the day Mike & I visited Cindy and Nathan for a couple of drinks – didn’t stay long as he was still feeling jet lag since he only arrived a few days ago.

Off snorkelling tomorrow – can’t wait!

Break 1 – Day 5 Carnarvon Jetty & Blowholes

Rose a bit more leisurely and packed up – managed to check our hotmail account (EXTREMELY SLOW CONNECTION) at the reception kiosk. Several emails – read the one email from Trees, none from Pat….sigh.

As you leave Shark Bay area, you pass through the vermin proof fence (refered to in the museum details of yesterday). We have passed through many fences meant to keep feral animals out, but this one is serious. As Mike approached it to take his photo, the motion sensors triggered and it started to bark at him. Quite funny….
We had a relatively short drive to Carnarvon today. Next we stopped by at Shell Beach which as expected was absolutely solid shells. The beach was quite wide and long, and apparently goes down 8 to 10 metres. The volume of shells in mind boggling. It has taken many thousands of years to create. The waters here deep in Sharks Bay are hypersaline and so most species cannot survive. One of the only species is the coquina bivalve which is the reason for the unique beach. (This is also close to the area where the stromatolites grow).

And we drove on to Carnarvon. We have been listening to books on tape (actually mostly on MP3) which has been a huge success in passing the miles. We have under our belts on mystery by Agatha Christie and The Raft, along with a good chunk of Bill Bryson’s Thunderbolt Kid. We borrowed a bunch from the library before heading out – definitely something to repeat!!

The landscape during todays driving sessions was definitely very arid. There was one lookout stop where Mike could not resist taking a few shots to try to capture the aura.

Mike quite liked Carnarvon – it is the hub for the area linking Exmouth to Sharks Bay, and there seems to be a fair amount of industry to keep the town alive – not just tourism like the other towns. There were many aboriginals in town here also. We settled into our humble abode and then checked out town for lunch options as we were hungry.

After a simple burger / grilled sandwich lunch, we headed off for the blowholes. They were not to be missed. Despite the hotel check in clerk recommending the jetty (which we did later), the blowholes were definitely the highlight. One of Mike’s students had recommended both the blowholes and snorkeling nearby. After the β€˜dud’ blowholes near Albany, these were especially amazing.

‘Blowholes’ are created as the ocean wears away / dissolves through the limestone to form holes which the ocean blasts through. There were many small, one huge, and one β€˜just right’ to blast several metres into the air. The whole area was like another world. The terrain was full of ‘nodules’ which were very strange to walk on. The area is prone to β€˜king waves’ which occassions sweep away and kill people – caution signs were posted.

Just a bit further down the road was a caravan park, plus more. Several locals from Carnarvon have chosen this place to play squatter for their camps. There were many shacks constructed within the park. After chatting with a lady who lives at this spot, we learned that they have been there for many years, and she believes they will be evacuated in the very near future. We had been looking for the safe snorkeling bay (the area experiences the Indian Ocean fury) and found it in a bay that was protected by a small island with an Osprey nest. Given the winds, it did not look overly safe, nor did it look like there was much to see given the churned up waters. So we gave it a by and returned to town.

Mike and I were up for more, so we ventured out to the jetty while Kyle hung back for a rest (or more likely a break from Mum & Dad). The Jetty started off appearing to be empty apart from Mike & I, but ended up being quite populated. We witnessed the catching of two very large fish off the end of the pier. First was someone who appeared to be a local – he had a very large fish on and his buddy climbed down the ladder to gaff it. It was about 4 feet long – a malloweigh?

We strolled further down to the very end of the jetty to find a German fellow who had a very large fish on also. He suspected that it was a shark, but had not seen it. At this part of the jetty, there was no easy way to get down with the gaff. We suggested that he try to walk it over to the area where the other fish was brought in, but he could not make the way across due to broken down sections. The first β€˜gaffer’ helper heard the commotion and made his way over. He managed to find his way down to the supports of the jetty and helped the guy land his fish. The German guy was ecstatic – he had been deep sea fishing in the Bahamas and never caught such a large fish – it was up to his armpits. He was convinced it was due to his braided German fishing line. He wondered if they had such a thing here in Australia – the locals replied β€˜Yeah, and we have electricity and running water too’. Given the proximity and dependency on the ocean, I wonder if his superior German line was not actually from here πŸ™‚

Then it was back for dinner. We had a smallish dinner of pizza at the Post Office restaurant and returned to our room for the evening.

Break 1 – Day 4 – Dophins of Monkey Mia & Museum

Up and out before 7am again – this time headed to Monkey Mia to see the wild dolphins being fed. Our early feeding visit was good – we saw the dolphins come in to visit and be fed. There are about 14 regular dolphins that visit at this point, but up to 30 will come in. Only females are fed – not males, and not calves. The calves need to learn to feed on their own, and the males are not encouraged since they don’t normally associate with the females and can get aggressive during mating time.

The feeding is well monitored and they only are fed about a quarter of their required intake which forces them to be less dependent on humans and still fish. We headed for 2nd breakfast to the local cafΓ© – very nice coffee and scone and then to the dolphin centre and shop. As we were there, someone came in saying the dolphins were back….so back down to the beach.

The second visit was even better. There were lots less people to start off, and so we had a prime position. At first there were just 2, but then 2 more came in and eventually there were 6 as it was time to feed them. They were very playful and obviously inquisitive. They would put their head up and just watch us. Kyle was feeling very self conscious as Piccolo stared at him.

There were 3 generations of the same family. The young one was being weaned and the mother was having to β€˜smack’ her daughter away to let her know that nursing was no longer available. But baby kept coming back and swimming circles around mom to try to get in – it was very entertaining and you can see a lot of similarities to humans. The oldest female there was 31 – and they generally live to mid 30’s so she is getting on in age. The youngest was born on Christmas day. The mother came in on Christmas eve still pregnant, skipped Christmas and was back with her new baby on Boxing day – proudly swimming back and forth showing her off. You certainly get the impression that they have us trained rather than the other way around – they have trained us to feed them…..

And the highlight for me – I was selected to hand feed them (I must have looked desperate). I got to get in the water right beside her and hand her a fish – which she very strongly secured in her mouth. Despite their gentle appearance and friendly nature, they can be very aggressive. You can sense that they truly can be quite dangerous if you happen to be a menu item in their diet!

On the drive home we passed the local golf course – very unique! This is the ‘green’ which gets sprayed with oil to keep the surface puttable. The whole course is desert. Between the extreme wind and course terrain, it must be quite a different game!

Monday afternoon we headed to the museum in Denham. The museum was not overly large, but was jam packed with information. Naturally, there was info on the dolphin history here – but that is the fairly recent history. There were also exhibits on the other wildlife in the area – which is extensive, the Eden project, and the history of the area, which is especially rich as the island nearby is where western civilization first set foot in Western Australia in 1616.

There was a computer based interactive map centre where you could access a timeline with select active years. You could call up the year you were interested in, see the map of the time (which were highly variable from pre 1616 through to current day). In another window, you had access to a series of clips on a variety of topics – aboriginal history, natural history, history of industries in the area, interviews with knowledge experts, wildlife topics and more. We monopolized these two centres for quite some time – lucky the place wasn’t too busy!!

Two other media centres were set at opposite ends of the museum where videos were constantly running – each one 1 Β½ hours in length about consisting of short interviews on a very wide variety of topics. There was an interview with the aboriginal woman who had donated her shell collection to the museum – it was a very impressive collection which she had collected as a young girl and her grandmother had saved it for her to pass on to her children. She spoke of life as a young girl living near Shell Beach – her daily chores, trips into the outback with the grandparents, how she acquired the knowledge of her ancestors.

There were many such clips; all very interesting. They included:

  • a couple who run Dirk Hartog Island. His family has run a sheep farm for several generations and he and his family continue to raise sheep, but also run a tourist centre for 14 people. They have occasional long term visitors – including 2 Canadian girls who (with permission) camped at one end of the island for 4 months studying a species of bird
  • experts on dolphins – the history of how the Monkey Mia dolphins came to being such regular visitors.
  • archaeologists studying the camps of the Zuytdorp survivors and how they first found the settled area, and the excavation of the site. This link also contains lots of interesting info on the shipwreck.
  • studies of shipwrecks and the history of their finds – especially the Zuytdorp which was carrying a very rich silver cargo (much of which has been pillaged).
  • The story of the bottle at right – left by a captain who was shipwrecked – there was originally notes inside, but the seal broke and the paper dissolved. The bottle was found after extensive searching with hightech equipement.
  • marine biologists who spoke of the diversity of the area. This area is the southern most point for warm water fish, and the northern most waters for cold water fishes. As a result the biodiversity is extensive.
  • how water is collected – aboriginals used to expand on the kangaroo scratches. The kangaroos would scratch an area where fresh water existed – the salt water would seep in also, but the fresh water floats on top. So they just siphoned off the top water. This same method was expanded on by the ranchers for their sheep and cattle. A windmill was connected (lots of wind here!) with a float and the fresh water was siphoned off for the animals. As wild goats became more plentiful, they would destroy the kangaroo scratches with their hooves (kangaroo have soft paws). In addition, the water stations for the sheep were then used by the wild roos and they stopped making scratches. Eden project has eliminated the ranches in the park, and kangaroo scratches are reappearing.
  • Eden project (several clips) – the introduction of the fence across the peninsula has allowed the elimination of many of the foreign species. Foxes are mostly gone, rabbits also. Feral cats have been harder to eliminate since they only eat fresh meat (baits won’t work). Goats are also being eliminated. This has allowed several native endangered species to be reintroduced – with varying success (Cats still eliminated a couple of species)
  • The waters of the area – hypersaline in the deepest areas, supersaline in the mid section which results in the cyanobacteria ability to survive to create the stromatolites and Shell beach existing.

There were also many other displays of shells, artefacts and more. We had a grand old time.

The local area is also a hotbed for pearls – black ones also. Walking back to our place we passed the ship at left which is a relic ship of the oystering days. At right is a sample of the many fishing boats also moored at the waterfront.

Then back to the ranch for din. We had tried to buy fish from the fish market (closed Easter Monday at noon), steak from the butcher (closed on Easter Monday), and ended up having a successful dinner of ravioli with roasted peppers and sauce.

Break 1 – Day 3 – On the Road to Shark Bay

We rose early and were on the road by 7am. We estimated between 600 & 700 km to drive today which turned out to be right. We’ve been almost hobbit-ish in our eating habits – we stopped in Geraldton for 2nd breakfast (our first visit to ‘Mackies’ – McDonalds in Oz) and then had lunch on the road at a rest stop. We had our first taste of the true outback experience. They flies were so bad that we had to eat in the car. I have since bought Kyle a fly net as he really cannot stand them and gets quite twitchy.

As we were making good time – the weather, traffic and our bodies all co-operated to make an β€˜easy’ drive, we stopped in at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites and telegraph station.

The Hamelin pool stromatolites are a different variety than those near the pinnacles. There are two major types here in Shark Bay, and they are out into the water. There are ones that look like moss almost – they grow horizontally in the shallower water. There are also ones in the β€˜deeper’ (still very shallow) water which grow upwards. These are not circular however, they are more columnar.

The telegraph station is now retired, but was the primary means of communication from 1884 till full telephone service (can’t find the date, but it was later than you would think – something like the 1960’s). Again lots of flies, but interesting stuff around the station.

Of great interest were the buildings – made of shell stones. We saw the quarry where they carved blocks of shell rock (don’t know what else to call it – it was pure shells formed into rocks) for building – there is very little wood here due to the small size of the trees. I suspect the combination of poor soil, little water and high winds combine to dwarf all the trees. Driving through the landscape is not really scrub – but more mini trees or bushes. At any rate, they built out of the shells. The quarry is no longer used except to restore the historic buildings.

Finally we stopped in at Eagle Bluff to see the views – spectacular, but the most memorable thing is the WIND. Mike figures he has never experienced such strong wind before (apart from sticking his head out of a moving car). The winds were so strong you could barely talk to the person next to you. The water was very turned up, so we did not get to see the dugong, rays or sharks that are often visible in the bay area. The lookout is a walkway high up along the coast looking down and the view is quite good into the water. There was also remnants of an aboriginal fishing pool. They built a long sand bar out into a pool in the bay and herded the fish into it (they think).

At last we arrived in Denham around 5pm and got settled in to our quaint little cottage in a resort. We took a quick walk into town to get oriented. We had a nice hot tub, shower, and dinner (local restaurant – seafood and chips for Kyle & I, Mike had prawn curry) before an early bed for another early rise to go see the dolphins of Monkey Mia.

Break 1 – Day 2 – More Pinnacles and Stromatolites (say that quickly 3 times)

Saturday morning we headed to the stromatolites. These bacteria (cyanobacteria) are the earliest form of life on earth and contributed vast amounts of oxygen to the atmosphere allowing many other life forms to evolve. They require supersaline water to grow – so it’s not everywhere that you will find them.

There are several areas in WA where these grow, but the ones here near the pinnacles are the most ancient form. They are the most similar to the most ancient fossilized ones.

They grow in several forms. The ones here are circular. Only the outside is active and the inner area dies off. Their growth rate varies, but the average is about 30 years per centimetre.

Note – the remaining photos for the day are of pinnacles – so don’t be confused by the mismatch of text and photos please.

Next we headed to a couple of β€˜points’ within the Nambung Park. We visited Kangaroo point and ….. We took a walk along the beach at Kangaroo – lots of seaweed washed in and there were the β€˜buddy birds’ of pelicans and cormorants along the shore. There were also some other birds – wagtails, terns, and a couple of types of gulls – one quite large. We found some very large cuttlefish on the shoreline along with many, many kangaroo tracks leading around the sands in the area.

The next point was more protected and we lounged on the beach for a while. Kyle is becoming quite adept at constructing lounge chairs in the sand to lie back and read. From there we headed back to do some shopping and made a creative kangaroo curry for lunch. We packed a picnic for dinner and headed back to the pinnacles.

It was very overcast and even rained a bit on us – although just specks of rain. We took a different route this time and ventured into a less travelled area where there were lots of sand dunes.

Kyle had fun climbing and rolling down. At the base of the dune were some very large pinnacles which looked like Stonehenge. The first photo at left is of Kyle atop a sand dune – the pinnacles at the base are about 8 to 10 feet high to give you a sense of scale. And this is him in action rolling down the dune. Yes, he had a good shower that night.

The colours were totally different again today. We managed to eat our dinner at the lookout point in isolation – a few people wandered through, but mostly it was just the 3 of us. Very picturesque and peaceful.

We drove back in the dark – Mike took some shots in the dark as all the other vehicles were departing. There were spooky effects of shadows on the pinnacles which were hard to photo, but they looked really neat.

Again to bed early for a major drive day tomorrow.

First Break, Day 1 – Pinnacles

Well we are back home now with time for a couple of days wind down before next term starts. I will post our trip with one entry per day – sometimes more than one day at a time, and as always just click on any photo to see it larger.

First things first – Happy (belated) Birthday Alistair (on April 6 – our departure day). We saw your gift hunt video on your blog. It looked very exciting – we are sure that you must be enjoying your new scooter!!! Wish I had one…(actually, I wish I was young enough to use one πŸ™‚

As a prelude to our April school break postings, here is a summary of our itinerary. We planned to travel the west coast of Australia from Mandurah up to Exmouth. Enroute we hoped to see the Pinnacles, Monkey Mia/Sharks Bay, and anything else we happened upon which was of interest. At Exmouth, we planned on visiting the Ningaloo Reef – not the Great Barrier Reef, but pretty darned impressive from the accounts we have heard to date. We also were hoping to hook up with Cindy in Exmouth – a fellow Barrieite teacher on exchange near Perth also (who’d have guessed there could be more than one!!!), and with Jeez – a fellow Pinjarra teacher in Coral Bay.

With this agenda in hand, we set off on April 6 on our journey. Day one was actually Good Friday – a day when pretty much everything shuts down. So our plan to spend the day driving and to visit the Pinnacles worked well. Our side trip to pick up more honey in Gingin failed as they were closed, but lunch in Gingin back at Eliza’s cafe was successful.

Once settled into our room, we quickly headed out for Nambung park and the Pinnacles. We arrived in the park late afternoon so the lighting was quite good for photos. The Pinnacles are limestone formations left behind when the surrounding sands are blown away – you can read a bit more at this site.
We were quite surprised by the diversity and large area they covered. There was a wide variety of size and shape and colour. Some areas were densely populated and others spread out. Some had flat tops and were straight / cylindrical and others were clumps. Some were solid, some had holes tthrough them. In different sections, they had different hues – some areas they were pinkish, some areas yellow, others whitish and some were greys and blacks. As we moved through the park, the sun continued to drop in the sky and the colours were constantly changing the effect of setting sun made the colours even more dramatic.

We hung around through to sunset despite the threat of driving in the dusk/dark with kangaroos on the road. There were some families enjoying the sunset view with wine and a dinner spread. This looked divinely civil enough to prompt us to copy on Saturday.

On the drive home we did encounter roos (live ones – not the routine dead ones) at the side of the road – we took the drive at a much reduced speed just to be safe.