Monthly Archives: May 2015

Shell Beach and Hamelin Pools (Shark Bay)

Returning back down the Shark Bay peninsula there were a couple of spots that we also were keen to see. Amanda had been raving about Shell Beach since we left Sydney, how the beach was several metres deep in shells and how gorgeous the photos looked. It was almost ten metres deep in places, predominantly with salt tolerant fragum clam shells, the water being particularly salty in this part of the bay, but by WA standards the beach was nothing spectacular. We took some obligatory beach shots then moved on pretty quickly.

Next stop was Hamelin Pool, a place I was keen to visit, having seen it in books as a kid, famous for its stromatolites.

Stromatolites are “living rocks”, microbial mat growths that grow very slowly upwards in the inter-tidal regions. At Hamelin the extreme conditions, high salt content of the ocean, heat and UV of the sun at low tide have made it hard for other life forms to survive and compete, allowing the stromatolite columns to grow very slowly over thousands of years.

A boardwalk takes you over the best area, providing optimal viewing. These were more impressive than the ones at Lake Thetis in Cervantes. Whilst they may just look like slimy algae-covered rocks the bacteria that form them are among the oldest lifeforms on Earth and would have been major contributors to the first oxygen in the atmosphere.

From there on to a very spacious beach location at Gladstone to camp, and endure more fly-blown madness. With all the flies we have been putting up the complete awning including walls and this just adds to the time to setup and de-camp, a nuisance when only planning an overnight stay.

 

 

Categories: australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Francois Peron National Park (Shark Bay)

The nearest town to re-stock fuel and supplies was Denham, though it turned out to be smaller than expected. It is on a well-worn tourist route for travellers heading for the Dolphin Conservation resort at Monkey Mia within Shark Bay. We used the campsite at Big Lagoon, in the Francois Peron National Park, as a base to explore for a few days. We were excited at the prospect of seeing Bilbys, Mallee Fowl and Dugongs in the wild, but they all proved to be very elusive.

 

After a long day’s drive we got horribly bogged at the campsite looking for the perfect spot. We ended up having to unhitch the trailer to get the car out then winch the trailer out. A bit of extra practice is always good!

The lagoon was surprisingly devoid of fish life but most mornings a solitary dolphin would cruise past the channel before any boats got launched. A couple of eagle rays cruised beneath me as I swam across the channel. The flies had not abated and to keep it interesting there was also a scattering of biting march and sand flies loitering in the Francois Peron National Park.

An afternoon’s excursion took us deeper into the national park on a 4WD track. At the northern tip, Cape Peron we encountered the worst concentration of flies yet making our stop purely long enough to see the cormorant rookery on the beach beneath the cliff. Rather than walk the 1km to Skipjack Point we drove. From there two lookout platforms offer fantastic vantage points to view sharks, turtles, dolphins, and sometimes dugongs. We saw all but the latter.

On the return we checked out the beaches at Bottle Bay, The Gregories, and South Gregory, all beautiful and great campsites, then on the east coast at Harold Bight the free camp looked very quiet but the sand was also very soft and deep.

We enjoyed Skipjack Point so much we returned the next day for more shark spotting and were not disappointed. We also saw a giant shovelnose ray in the shallows and an eagle ray treated us to an aerial acrobatic display, leaping clear of the water repeatedly. We fished at The Gregories on the way back and caught dinner (whiting and a 34cm yellowfin bream). We also visited Krasker’s Tank and learnt about the unfortunate one-legged entrepreneur, Leon Krasker, who perished trying to get to the water tank in the middle of the arid landscape. On one of his weekly 70km trips from Denham to Harold Bight, in1916, to buy pearls and collect mail, his horse, Battler, threw him, breaking his good leg (the other was made from cork). Before  he died he documented what had happened.

A visit to snorkel Little Lagoon was followed by a look at the mangrove outlet. Supposedly full of stonefish this is the place to snorkel as the main lagoon itself was surprisingly devoid of much life.

We caught squid from Denham jetty one night (well Hannah did) and visited the artesian bore hot tub at the old homestead in the park. This 40 degree tub is a must visit place but takes time to get in!

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bushflies

Firstly, this blog comes with a warning. There is some detail that may induce nausea with those of a delicate disposition.

 

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The bad news is that the flies have finally got under our skin. Not literally, thank goodness, but close as they are crawling into our ears, and they love squeezing their bodies into the corners of our eyes, nice and snug, so that legs get left behind when you wipe them out. A fly rapidly making its way into your ear is alarming enough but when several of them attempt to do so simultaneously it becomes quite distressing. Worse still the amplified crunch that results when your finger finally denies them further access. All of us have also experienced the doubled over coughing and spitting fit that brings tears to the eyes as we try to dislodge a tracheal intruder.

Any cuts will be swarmed with voracious flies within seconds of exposure to the open air leading one to wear new fashion accessories that we have christened “fly rings”. Poor Amanda, at times, felt like  her skin was crawling.

We all have fly nets, though mine (an SA model) appears to only filter out the big blowflies and not the recent wave of smaller bushflies that have arrived in their swarms.

It started just after the cyclone just prior to Easter. At the Pinnacles we were initiated into the outback fly plague. At Sandy Cape they got a little more persistent. From then on they have been consistently bad, the locals even conceding that this is the worst and most prolonged that they can remember.

I’m jumping ahead of my blogs but at Cape Peron it became unbearable with Fifty Toes constantly running back to the car where we could control their numbers. Uncomfortable yes, but  one  evening camped on the beach at Waroora Station, a few days later, we didn’t bother with the awning. The weather was beautiful and yes, there were plenty of flies, but by now we are used to having at least a dozen flies crawling over our faces at any one  time, crawling across  your lips, in the eyes and seeking entry into ears, whilst having a conversation with someone. We have all perfected our own personalised versions of the “Australian Wave” but as soon as the dinner was served into bowls, wave after wave of kamikaze bushflies plummeted into the sauce. For each one that was  scraped out with a knife or finger,  three more had sacrificed themselves. We tried in vain to eat from our bowls under our fly nets. I gave up, figuring that the additional protein would add an interesting crunchy texture. When the crunchiness became the dominant texture, revulsion got the better of us all and in unison we dashed for the car again, cranked up the aircon and ate dinner in the car.

As we sit out Cyclone Quang, we are optimistic that the winds will have sorted the flies out. In recent days we have laughed at people wearing fly nets because we no longer need to wear them. Words can only begin to describe what it has been like but to conclude on a positive note if you ever see me chuckling to myself I am probably remembering the sight of the ladies in bikinis sunbaking on Kalbarri beach with fly nets on their heads, or the canine in Carnarvon walking around wearing one.

Categories: Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, WA, West Australia | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Steep Point – Most westerly point of the mainland

A long dusty unsealed road took us from Wooleen Station back towards the coast.

Almost six months into our trip and over 23,000km later we finally arrived in the proposed Edel Land National Park with our sights set on completing the second compass point challenge from our good friends Pete and Zoe. The first one to South Point had been a gruelling two day, 40km hike for the kids, but this looked like a straightforward 35km drive from the unsealed road turnoff. Sure it said 4WD but we’ve had a bit of experience by now. We looked for a campsite around the Zuytdorp Cliffs (named after the Dutch ship that sank nearby in 1712), near False Entrance, found a lot of sand, enjoyed the blowholes, but then decided to go straight for the campsite at Steep Point.

Fifty Toes voted the track the “most corrugated and bumpy ride” ever. Then we turned off at the wrong house (1km before the ranger’s house) got stuck, lost two mudflaps reversing back, and found out from the ranger that all campsites were full and needed to be booked in advance. Given that it was after 5pm they found us a single spot that was available for one night only. An osprey nest sits perched atop a communications tower 50m from the rangers house. Swallows were flying through the house and the kids spotted a mouse running around inside, clearly a common occurrence as the ranger enquired whether the mouse was the “fat one”.

Shelter Bay was aptly named and we settled in for a calm pink sunset, looking out towards Dirk Hartog Island to the north east.

Rising early the next morning we headed straight to Steep Point. The visitors book was signed, photos taken as proof, then we drove down to the nearby camp at the Oven / Faultline where hard-core fishermen camp on the cliffs. This is one of the best land-based fishing spots in Australia, particularly for Spanish Mackerel. Lures are carried out on prevailing winds by balloons filled with helium. If a big fish is caught it needs to be hauled up the cliff and the fishermen have plenty of ropes and devices to do this. Brown helium cylinders, generators, fishing rods and swags were scattered around the craggy limestone cliffs, looking like a great venue for a lad’s trip, but less so for a family friendly vacation.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Car, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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