Thursday, 28 August 2008

Exmouth

26/08/08 Paraburdoo – Exmouth 553(9489) kms

A driving day to Exmouth.

Not much to report other than we made great time without exceeding the speed limit – in fact I drive under it for better fuel consumption. Stopped briefly for photos several times and for an ice cream at Nanutarra Roadhouse where the petrol was expensive but as I was still running on Paraburdoo fuel, I had no need to worry. Two ice creams totalled $9.90. Our only other stop was for a twenty minute lunch and load up of one drum of fuel. It was a messy, forgettable roadside stop where I had originally intended staying a night.

We reached Exmouth mid-afternoon and in the course of the hours before bed we gathered information at the appropriately named centre across the road, had a swim in the giant-sized resort pool, went out for a Chinese dinner in our best threads and then Sue hit the sack and I wrote blogs.

27/08/08 Exmouth – Cape Range NP   140(9029) kms

The “mostly cloudy with a 50% chance of light rain" day promised for tomorrow arrived early and promised to send "mostly sunny" along tomorrow. As a result, the sparkling blue waters around Exmouth and the Ningaloo Marine Park were less than their usual luminescence but as we knew no better, we were still impressed. I dropped nine films in this morning to have them loaded onto a data CD and Sue packed some viddles for the day.

Driving along the peninsular, the Naval Communication base is soon obvious with its multitude of plane killer tall towers. From here, the Navy stays in touch with all its submarines. Planes look after themselves. Just as we reached the base, we crested a hill and a lone policeman was directing traffic and also using a snatchem’ strap on his Landcruiser to pull a small sedan from a culvert. He wasn't making much progress.

After ten km, we headed west for the opposite coastline of the peninsular and my most important stop of the day. Still grieving the loss of my Mum, I'm probably a little better off than the rest because I began my grieving the week before our trip, about Mum's last birthday (24th June) and nearly six weeks before the rest. Visiting to see them both before we went west, she and I both knew this was our last goodbye and we made the most of it. This meant I got to say goodbye, unlike my siblings. It also means I am a lot further into the healing process. Despite this and despite the formal farewell that her funeral provided, I'm sure each of us has had their own way of marking the end of our relationship with this grand old bird. Mine, involved an old habit. From an early age, when carnations grew in the garden, I would come home from school and pinch one and then present it to her with my love. It's a habit I broke today when I took a single red carnation to a beach with a turtle rookery - a wonderful example of motherhood - said a few words to the old girl and cast my final gift into the water. I returned to the car where Sue had waited for me and told her several of my most powerful memories about my Mum. It was a good day.

After we gathered ourselves, we drove up to the lighthouse lookout above this spot and whilst Sue looked for and spotted Quassiemotos in the Indian Ocean to the west, I examined the old radar tower which had been placed here during WWII. Whilst Japanese bombers were unsuccessful in damaging it in May 1943, a cyclone blew it in half two years later. The original lighthouse still stands, built of local rock and cement in 1912 and no cyclones have ever dented it.

We continued down the western side of the peninsular and called in at several beach spots before arriving at the Cape Range NP information centre. Excellent displays, helpful information and a terrific twenty minute DVD on the animals of Ningaloo Marine Park. It also had a covered place for us to eat the goodies Sue had packed for us. Unfortunately the info placed the death knell on our intended snorkeling adventure tomorrow as best advice was we shouldn't try it without supervision. We immediately booked a glass bottom boat cruise of the reef instead.

After lunch we kept driving away from home and looked over Turquoise Bay, which given the bleak day, was less colourful than it should have been. We viewed first hand the main snorkeling area and immediately understood why this was not for us. On this day of a small swell and low high tide, the current was running swiftly - too swiftly for a couple of mugs like us. We'll return there tomorrow for a swim in the safe area and get some pictures when conditions will advantage the natural wonder. To provide balance, we also ventured onto a mangrove beach but despite the info boards present which urged our excitement, it was just smelly old mangroves to us. We could have been at Lake Woolaweah or Kurnell ... they were still just pongy mangroves. By this stage we were 70km from Exmouth, so we turned for home as the rain began.

Some time later and interested to see how the policeman had faired, as we topped the crest in question, we both laughed to see the car now deep in the culvert on the side of the road. Must be a story there I would think.

We picked up our photos and went to the local rubbidy dub to view them on the laptop with a few cleansing ales. Some very good ones, lots of shots I'm happy I took, a few duds and a few which have been affected by a smudged lens and water damage. Some will make their way onto these pages in time.
TODAY'S PHOTOS

Cruise of the reef in the morning, a swim at Turquoise Bay before lunch, lunch on the dunes and perhaps a bushwalk in the afternoon. Should we be happy, that will be our bloomin' lot and Friday will be a shorter road trip, this time to Carnarvon.

28/08/08 Exmouth – Ningaloo Marine Park 140(9169) kms

Sturt's Dessert Pea
What a great night's sleep! So much so that I was out of bed and in the laundry for a 6:00am start. Clothes sorted and both washing machines fired up and pounding away. It was then I noticed the sign saying no washing was to be done before 7:00am. I quickly shut all the doors and windows and turned out the lights and scurried back to the tent for a cup of tea and the preparation of excuses I would ultimately not have to use. I was back to the laundry when the machines finished and had all the washing on the line - thanks for the collapsible laundry basket our agent in Broome gave us - by 6:55 ... just as the old biddies arrived to do theirs. Yes!!!

Sue had us packed and out the door by 8:00am and the forty minute drive to the Tantabiddy boat ramp, located just outside the Cape Range National Park but within the Ningaloo Marine Park. About nine, the glass bottom boat of Ningaloo Ecology Tours arrived for our hour long cruise in search of coral and fish. Sue's highlight came early when she spotted a green sea turtle before the boat arrived and we watched it surface half a dozen times as it went from inshore to the bay.

Our skipper steered the glass-bottomed boat to the sandy shore and was soon saying his hellos and marking the roll via a range of accents. He was originally from Poland but half a dozen different nationalities have stamped their authority on him and his lexicon reflects it. He assured us this morning he was from Exmouth. He was very keen for us to make the transfer from sand to boat quickly and then gradually took us out into the one metre swell. I started out trying to capture photos but it was close to impossible with a combination of the reflections from the glass, variable sunlight and the speed with which we moved to combat sea sickness from the swell. Each coral feature and fish shot past. The skipper told those of us with cameras and disappointed expressions not to worry, he had a CD of images for sale at the end of our trip. Strangely, when I holstered the camera, we seemed to be going slower! Odd that. As you would expect, I didn't buy the CD.

That aside, it was a wonderful experience, with beautiful corals just metres away and lots of little and big fish in all shapes and sizes dropping by. These included two sea turtles which glided gracefully past and a three metre white tipped bay shark, which lay quietly on the bottom. There were corals sketched with all the pencils in your Derwent set. We even found Nemo. In the end, I was glad I put the camera away and just enjoy the experience.

Still pondering whether we would snorkel, the final word came with his admission that a five metre Tiger shark lives in the area and has been seen regularly. The last sighting came as our skipper was loading tourists on this very boat at the same spot we had clambered on just twenty minutes earlier. That particular morning, it was the longer cruise, which includes almost an hour of snorkeling out on the reef. Just as the first customer stepped on board, the Tiger shark attacked and ate a sea turtle only three metres offshore (in about two metres of water) and right beside the boat. It took a fair bit of work to get his customers on board and even more to get them into the water an hour later!

We went to Turquoise Bay after the cruise and had morning tea. Whilst there I captured some lovely images of Sturt’s Desert Pea – the red elongated flower with the dark purple tear drop. We didn't snorkel. We didn't swim.

Yardie Creek
From Turquoise Bay we drove out to the full extent of Cape Range, Yardie Creek Campground and had lunch in a pretty ordinary picnic area. Whilst there, we watched a bloke in a Landcruiser cross Yardie Creek - a saltwater creek which is ocean fed and the national parks advise against crossing. It was another Tim The Toolman moment and every bloke there – including one from Tamworth – cheered and shook hands with each other when he climbed the opposite sand bank. Women present stood shaking their heads. Poor things didn’t get it. I also climbed the dunes and snapped a quick picture of the Yardie Creek Gorge, disappearing into the escarpment. We could have taken a cruise but we are just about over gorges. After Karijini, it seems a waste of time making comparisons.

We drove back the 50kms to the Navy Coms facility and detoured to look at the wreck of the SS Mildura, a lasting reminder of the American influence in the area. This facility had originally been theirs. Now it’s the Harold Holt Australian NacComs Facility ... “Harold Holt is missing, check your fish and chips”. The impressive rusting skeleton of the Mildura lies about two hundred meters offshore. No idea of the history of this wreck as we could find no reference to it anywhere. Back to camp in time to tie everything down for an impending storm which never happened but at least our preparations were exemplary.

TODAY'S PHOTOS
A night off for the cook and the best fish and chips we have ever had. I may not eat for another week.

Carnarvon tomorrow and swimming with the dolphins by Monday at Monkey Mia.

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