Posts Tagged With: Canon

Algebuckina Bridge, on the Oodnadatta track

This rusting monument to the Victorian era spans the Neales River, an area prone to flooding, and the impressive engineering still dominates its surroundings 125 years after its official opening. Long disused three graves lie nearby, and a rusty 1948 FJ Holden that was hit by a train as it tried to cross the bridge in a flood

With a total length of 580m long, built in the remote heat of an area west of Lake Eyre and near the southern reaches of the Simpson desert, its worth a stop, if only to cool off in the river.

 

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Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, South Australia, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , | Leave a comment

And so it ends….for now

I knew that once we crossed the border into NSW again psychologically everyone would be thinking of home, and once you do that travelling it’s hard to keep going. Across the border Amanda and I knew we could just drive home in a day, though neither of us aired it openly. We had had to kill a week getting home on a trip that would normally be done in a day. We had deliberately tried to take our minds off it by visiting people and getting to some more out of the way places but with a couple of days left it was increasingly hard to plan.

We had planned to visit Barrington Tops but some navigation errors saw us turning off towards Tom Creek, shortly after Mt Seaview, and before we knew it we were switch-backing our way, in 2WD, up a narrow unsealed road, over 1000m again. Once again the road less travelled rewarded us with magnificent views of remote farmland and national park forest but it wasn’t in the plan. At the end of the day we stopped overnight in Barrington, kicked a footie around to let off some steam and got to bed early.

Over 13 months since we had left Sydney, and 56,000km later we realised the next morning that it was time…..we couldn’t delay it any more, and with that we waved goodbye to the outback and the countryside and crawled back into the slow traffic that congests Sydney’s streets every day.

Arriving home again was a bittersweet experience. I knew Amanda needed to get back to see her family, and a fair bit of maintenance was required on the car and belongings, but it also meant the dream was over. The kids needed to invest some time re-acquainting with school friends too, so we arranged for them to attend the last two weeks.

Sydney Distance Education Primary School were fantastic with their support, understanding and flexibility with the teaching as we travelled. Often having no telephone reception for days, even weeks, created challenges but the kids teachers were always willing to adapt to our needs and this was appreciated. It wasn’t always easy as we found being on the move so often meant we didn’t get into a daily routine. Lack of that discipline made it more challenging for us and the kids.

Our Camprite trailer was a workhorse that never faltered, and with the support we got from Perth for a few minor things, on a couple of occasions, it was one less thing to worry about. Having a trailer that can be set-up and dismantled easily in under 5 minutes (I timed it) is great, particularly in adverse weather, and being able to house 2 adults and up to 4 kids in bunks off the ground (no worrying about snakes or crocs required) is something few camper trailers can provide.

The Mitsubishi Pajero did us proud too, never shying from its job to get us into remote and rough terrain, as far off the beaten track as I dared. The scratched and dented paintwork is testament to this and if anyone knows how to get rid of bulldust please let us know as even the interior has a red tint throughout.

Everyone asks “What was the favourite place?” so I might get Fifty Toes Walkabout members to answer the obvious questions in a few more blogs to follow – just in case you’re wondering, and if anyone has a burning question or two let me know and I’ll include them. Hope you enjoy the quick recap of some of the photos from some of the great places we visited.

Back home we can now start planning for the next trip, whilst looking for work, and who knows where that might be!

Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Road trip, Sydney, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu)

It is a long drive from Mataranka to Alice Springs, with not much in between, and the major town, Tennant Creek, by all accounts is not worth staying in. We chose to ease ourselves into the cooler climate gently with two stops before Alice Springs. The first day we made a stop in Daly Waters to see the Stuart’s Tree, basically a tree stump with a large “S” engraved in the trunk (clearly visible if you squint both eyes and turn your neck at 45 degrees), supposedly engraved by John McDouall Stuart’s party on his third attempt to reach Darwin from the south in 1861/2. Then we had a quick look at the Daly Waters pub. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is adorned with caps, police badges, bras, foreign currency notes, rugby shorts, and much more. A cold beer would have been welcome but we still had more driving to do.

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Very close to the town of Elliot, we stopped for the night at a magnificent birding spot known as Longreach billabong. This long waterhole allowed waterfront camping and as we sat there stately jabiru storks, spoonbills, and brolgas strutted along the water’s edge. Meanwhile, darters sunned themselves with wings outspread, and rainbow bee-eaters scanned the sky for their next meal while sitting on dead branches.

The sunset was one of the best we have seen on the trip and our fellow travellers from home, Joel and Abelia “Our Roaming Home” finally caught up with us to exchange stories around a campfire. A great finish to the day.

Up early the next day, after a chilly night, we set off for Kunjarra (The Pebbles) a sacred women’s site just north of Tennant Creek. The site itself offered little more than a chance to stretch our legs and stroll along a short path through a hillside of small rocks, so we didn’t stop long.

Just beyond Tennant Creek is another hillside covered in rocks, but Karlu Karlu, or the Devils Marbles are more impressive and worthy of a stopover. The campsite was very popular (full) but we squeezed in a spot and set off to explore before the sun went down. We all had a lot of fun exploring the rocks, climbing all over them, and Xavier read us the Dreaming stories of the Devil Man, Arrange who spat on the ground, where it turned into the granite boulders that now litter the surrounding landscape. Plenty of photo opportunities kept me busy, even early the next morning before we left.

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Bitter Springs(Mataranka)

It was nice to get back on the bitumen road again. The prospect of soaking in crystal clear hot springs after 700km of dirt road from Arnhemland was the major appeal drawing us to the tiny village of Mataranka. There is an odd hobby of the locals to dress termite mounds with T-shirts, rugby shorts, dresses, in fact quite a lot of different costumes. We saw a great selection from Santas to wedding dresses as we drove along but none of it was actually more visually appealing than the sight of the original unadorned version.

Mataranka was where the film “We of the Never Never” was filmed, a story about a Melbourne born upper class woman adjusting to life in the outback, set in 1902. Arriving in the village many half size characters, presumably from the movie, are scattered on the communal area opposite the shops and roadhouses. Half way down the main road a giant termite mound is signposted, though difficult to miss as it sits almost on the roadside.

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We settled into a pleasant campsite nearby in Elsey National Park, next to the Roper River, famous (apparently) for Barramundi, though we caught nothing once more. On the 8km walk to nearby Mataranka Falls we noticed a crocodile trap, and then saw one just below the falls, so despite the clear waters once again it was a no swimming zone. Apparently there are normally swimming pontoons in the river but their absence was replaced with crocodile traps. The falls themselves were a little disappointing being a metre drop over a rock platform, but the walk along the pandanus-lined river bank was pleasant enough. The National Park appears to have large pests infesting the forest and I wasn’t expected to be kept up each night by wildly braying donkeys. Quite amusing in the location and far more preferable than having caravans on your doorstep as was the case in the parks near Bitter Springs. There was also evidence of feral pigs along the river.

Bitter Springs is a constant 30-32 degrees of sulphurous, gin clear water, that seeps from a deep aquifer and slowly meanders through a forest. People arrive in droves to sit on floating “noodles” and drift slowly down. Once or twice is probably enough but the kids insisted we revisited three days on the trot and spent quite a few hours there exploring every nook and cranny up and down stream. We found turtles and fish, and dived under the logs until all toes and digits went totally wrinkled in the warm water.

After some peace and tranquillity for three days with minimal driving it was time to start thinking about heading south into cooler climes, to collect school work from Alice Springs.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Northern Territory, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

East Arnhemland (Part 4 – Cape Arnhem)

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A special permit is required to enter Cape Arnhem, over and above the transit permit required to travel there. Only 10 vehicles are permitted at a time with no trailers, width, height and weight restrictions also exist due to some of the tracks passing through low hanging bush, between trees or over soft sand. This meant having to abandon our beloved home, the Camprite trailer, and pull the emergency tents from the roof pod. We even bought an esky for the trip to keep our food cold.

The trailer was parked at Chris and Emi’s house in Nhulunbuy and Amanda was excited at their kind offer to do a clothes wash for us while away.

Entrance to the Cape was via a rugged dirt road along an escarpment with glimpses through the forest of beach and mangroves below. A lookout several kilometres in is where the fun starts. Having taken in the views up and down the coastline the road drops steeply down the escarpment into the forest below, weaves through narrow gaps between tall trees before becoming sandy. Taking no chances I dropped tyre pressures below the recommended 20 PSI and pressed on. Without a map there were a surprising number of trails leading off, though most of them return to meet, and without too much difficulty we headed in the right direction. There are over 50 sacred sites on the Cape, the main one known as Twin Eagles, where visitors may drive by but not stop to picnic, camp or fish. The drive north up the Cape involves beach and dune work, sometimes particularly soft and there was plenty of evidence of “boggings” along the way.

The sandy beaches looked attractive on approach but our hearts sank somewhat at the volume of sea-borne debris and detritus that littered most of them. Then sadness turned to dismay when we spotted a bottlenose dolphin washed up on the beach. We pulled over and dashed to see if we could save it but it looked like it had only recently died. Not knowing what had killed it (no obvious visible cause) we paused and walked down the beach collecting thongs (flip flops for those reading in the UK) that covered the sand. Over one hundred were recovered and placed on the car roof. Most of the debris has been brought from Asia by prevailing winds and ocean currents, or dumped from ships passing.

We found a campsite known as the Penthouse, at the furthest point north that visitors are allowed, set up camp and then found a dead turtle on the beach below. Some rangers had obviously stayed prior and had enjoyed a feast of mud mussels and turtle eggs, judging by the discarded remnants on the edge of the camp.

A small crocodile swam in to shelter behind the reef as the rough ocean was still being stirred up by strong easterly winds.

The hammock was brought out and we switched into relaxed desert island chilling mode. The kids explored, we fished (Oscar was happy to catch a queenfish) and Amanda sat in the hammock reading.

The next day we wanted to make a further impact and we chose the same beaches, this time targeting cigarette lighters. Over 300 were retrieved and disposed of. The children were somewhat distracted by their search for Chambered Nautilus shells that they had started to find but all helped fill the bucket. We noticed the difference but we couldn’t collect all the ghost nets, toothbrushes, light bulbs, and a plethora of miscellaneous glass and plastic bottles, jars and other items. And all the time the winds were bringing in new items. We found two more dead turtles too on the beaches. Others had obviously tried before us and had left the debris in a tree. We chose to dispose of it.

On returning to camp Xavier found a fossilised chambered nautilus in rocks nearby making us all ponder how long these animals have been around, long before humans polluted these beaches.

The sandy tracks allow a couple of days exploring. To the south there is another camp near caves beach and whilst folk do swim the crocodiles are there as we saw so extreme precaution is recommended if entering the water.

Despite the rubbish on the beaches this is a great place to escape and experience the beauty of Arnhemland.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Beach, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Car, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Fishing, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, Natural World, Northern Territory, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Road trip, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park) and beyond

Soon after a restock, and refuel stop in Kununurra we headed south for Purnululu National Park, or the Bungle Bungles. Stopping briefly at an overnight rest stop where a little spotted snake visited our camp, we headed onto the fairly corrugated road early next morning. We past a Ford Triton with three wheels in a dry creek crossing, another victim of the corrugations, and set up camp.

 

The Bungle Bungles are irresistible and unforgettable. With every twist and turn of the painfully corrugated road going into the Purnululu national park you are looking for the famous orange and black stripey beehive shaped hills. When you finally get there, at least an hour’s drive from the highway, the sheer magnificence of the outcrop demands that you stop and absorb the visual feast for a few minutes. It’s nonsense to believe that it can only be appreciated from the air and many of the walks within the park allow the visitor to appreciate the narrow gorges and other gems hidden from an aerial view.

We chose to spend our limited time in the park exploring, as usual, as much as possible, which meant a lot of footwork. Eight months into this trip our footwear was looking pretty sorry for itself and we are all promising that the next big city, Darwin, will bring new shoes. Xavier has even resorted to walking barefoot through some rocky gorges, whilst the rest of us hobble through with runners sporting gaping holes in the sides or sandals with more holes than when we bought them.

Echidna Chasm is a narrow gorge, in some sections barely a few metres wide, hidden behind a stand of palm trees, that penetrates a bastion of rock for hundreds of metres. A resident great bowerbird has its bower on show right next to the footpath near the gorge entrance. These ritual display sites are artistic masterpieces, built and used by the male to attract a mate. They run back and forth through the arch made from carefully positioned upright twigs. At both ends the bower is decorated with silver, white and green artifacts, the latter placed either side of the bower entrance. Often white objects will also be placed in the centre of the bower. Broken glass, bones, plastic, snail shells, tin foil, paper, seeds and even metal pipe can be found lying amongst the debris. The kids have tried placing yellow flowers amongst the objects and watch in delight from a distance as the bird grumpily discovers and removes them promptly.

For a couple of hours around midday a shaft of sunlight penetrates the gorge, and the resulting warming orange glow is a visual spectacle not to be missed. A chamber inside the gorge lights up at this time making it a popular place for photographers. Beyond the chamber the narrow gorge continues to wind its way through the rock but becomes impassable due to massive boulders.

Travelling back south from here we stopped to walk to Mini Palms gorge, again accessed via a palm forest concealing the entrance.

At the other end of the park lies Piccaninny Gorge, and within this area there are a number of walks. An easy introduction was a 400m walk to the Domes, ending at a small murky puddle in an enclosed chamber. Despite looking hard we couldn’t find the rock art here. Further down the track was Cathedral Gorge. Xavier counted 37 dead cane toads in the dry creek bed, solid evidence of the alien invasion that the Kimberley is experiencing, and destroying the local fauna. The pool at Cathedral Gorge was bigger but equally uninviting due to a layer of scum on the top. Bored tourists tossed stones into the pool to break the scum layer. The immense rock roof, supported only from the surrounding walls, almost totally encloses the space, giving it that cathedral feeling.

Beyond Cathedral Gorge, some longer walks take you up Piccaninny Creek, and Snake Creek. Piccaninny Lookout and the Window were all we could manage before I realised I had misplaced my camera tripod. Despite retracing my steps without luck, our time here had run out and we had to leave the park to head south.

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, West Australia, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Gibb River Road – Part 8 (El Questro)

With the end of the Gibb River Road adventure in sight (100km to Kununurra) we had one last planned stop at El Questro station. We were all excited about crossing the Pentecost river too so we packed up camp early and jumped in the car …… the engine wouldn’t even turn.
Our neighbours obliged and after a long charge on the battery finally got us going.
The river crossing was easier than expected, actually being quite shallow. We secured a private camp down by the river, one of the nicest campsites we’ve had with not a soul in sight.

Pentecost river crossing

Pentecost river crossing

The station, like Home Valley has much to offer the visitor, with the usual helicopter and plane rides, horse riding, 4WD tracks, hot springs, fishing, gorge cruises, exclusive accommodation and quite a few bush walks in stunning gorges.
Our first morning saw us up early to enjoy the hot springs before the hordes arrived. Even at 7am there were a handful of others already there at Zebedee Springs. Basically you pick a pool, the warmest being at the top of the cascades, getting cooler as the water descends. We hit the top two pools where a comfortable 32 degrees meant we could relax for what turned out to be three hours.

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Moonshine creek gorge was a little bit harder, but there was a fun deep water crossing getting there, water coming over the bonnet for the first time! Maybe I should have slowed down just a little. Our enthusiasm to conquer gorges was tempered by ill preparation in the footwear department and Amanda had to turn back halfway with a broken thong (flip flop to those reading in the UK) and took Hannah with her. The boys trudged on very carefully finally negotiating the rocky gorge.
Emma Gorge was just off the bitumen road on the other side of the station entrance. Another resort lies at the entrance to the gorge. A boab tree near to the carpark had a water tap poking out of the trunk, with an out of order sign hanging above it. I couldn’t resist, turned it on and there was water! Gimmick or maybe the trunk had engulfed an old water pipe?

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El Questro gorge was a challenging walk, requiring climbing up rockfaces, across waterfalls and wading up to waist deep water. Many people turn around at the half way mark but the reward for continuing is a secluded deep pool and falls at the head of the gorge. In the last 100m we encountered half a dozen golden tree snakes. Hannah nearly trod on one giving her quite a scare.

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With the kids exhausted after a number of walks it was time to test the 4WD tracks out on the station. The first involved very rocky crossing of the Chamberlain river to access Explosion gorge, and Brancos lookout. The lookout commands spectacular views from a precipitous cliff-edge along the river. It does require a steep climb to get to, making the drive more interesting. With a pair of binoculars we spotted a large saltwater crocodile downstream sunning itself with jaws wide open on a rock ledge by the river’s edge. On the opposite side upstream, a much smaller freshwater crocodile doing the same. Explosion gorge was another beautiful gorge, supposedly a good barramundi fishing spot where you can hire small boats.
Another 4WD track takes you out to another fishing spot called Pigeon Hole. We only went as far as the lookout, as by all reports it was a very rough track beyond this. A warning sign by the lookout confirmed what we had been told so we left this for next time. Finally we switch-backed our way up to Saddleback lookout which gives the visitor excellent views over the station and down the river beyond the river camps. Whilst not hugely demanding, the three tracks we drove allowed you to escape the crowds for a while and enjoy the outback expanse in peace.
One evening we teamed up with the “Grismacks”, Marty and Crystal, and “JKSJ”, a family from Newcastle that we had met at Emma gorge, in the Trivia night, coming in a close second place behind, believe or not, to two couples from the Northern Beaches in Sydney. One drives my local bus to the city, while his wife works at the kid’s school. Small world!
Oscar and I tried a little fishing, hooking several barramundi, but only landing a small one that was swiftly returned after a photo. Oscar nearly landed a legal size one but it snapped his line only two metres from the bank, then proceeded to jump clear of the water several times trying to shake the lure.
Having found out that we had lost a number plate I was concerned as to how we were going to replace it as the prospect of getting a single replacement plate sent to WA was highly unlikely. After a bit of driving around I deduced we must have lost it in the deep river crossing and decided to go in search. I drove out early to get there before any cars had gone through, when the water would be clearer but at 7.30am a single car track on the far bank meant I would be “bog snorkelling” in the murky waist-deep water. Running my hands through the sandy river bed with only swimmers on I was hoping no-one would witness the event. I felt a flat metallic object and quickly retrieved it with excitement. A South Australian plate! My heart sank a little. A few steps further and another plate emerged from the murky depths. Victorian this time. Another step and a Northern Territory plate emerged. The sixth plate retrieved was ours and this was from the first wheel rut. Had I checked the other rut I probably would have found more but I decided to get out before I needed to explain what I was doing to anyone. Chuckling in elation I headed back to camp, dropping off the spare plates at reception to the lady whose eyes nearly popped out when presented with five number plates from four different states.


El Questro left a very good impression with us, particularly as we came with high expectations and left with those expectations having been exceeded. This is a place we would happily return to, but with school holidays commencing we needed to move on to roads less travelled again.

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Natural World, Offroad, Photography, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Kalbarri National Park and surroundings

Murchison House Station borders Kalbarri National Park making our exploration easy. On our first day plan was hindered due to flooding of the river preventing access to Nature’s Window, so we drove along the coast to see the Natural Arch, Island Rock, Mushroom Rock, Rainbow Valley, Red Bluff and Eagle Gorge.

 

On the side of the road to one of the sites we found the cutest Thorny Devil which made Amanda’s day. The coastline is stunning and the geology changes frequently, presenting different rock formations, and colours all within a short stroll from the car park.

Another excursion saw us driving back to Port Gregory to revisit the Pink Lake there. The Pink Lake in Esperance hadn’t been pink and driving past Port Gregory the first time it hadn’t looked much better. Assured that it wouldn’t disappoint in the sunlight we picked the day and wow was it pink (especially with polaroid glasses on).

The Blue Holes just outside Kalbarri provided an opportunity to get some snorkelling in and despite the small area it was full of sweetlips, cod, mullet, small crayfish, nudibranchs and heaps more. The funniest thing I ever saw were the people sunbathing in bikinis with fly nets over their head. I wish I’d taken a photo! Did I mention the amount of bushflies around now. Between the march flies (slowbiters), bushflies(just pesky), mossies (discrete biters) and now sandflies (small sharp biters) our patience is really being tested.

When the road re-opened we made an early start to capture Natures Window before the hordes arrived, and there were hordes by the time we returned from The Loop walk. The Loop walk stopped abruptly by the river where the trail sign pointed into the river (see photo). Z Bends provided an outlook over the river and a walk took us down a shaded chasm to the water. People abseiled down the cliff face as we wandered past.

Hawks Head juts out above the river valley at another site, but for me Ross Graham was possibly the most photogenic, after Natures Window. The National Park was stunningly beautiful and hard to do justice through a camera lens, but well worth at least a couple of days exploring.

 

Categories: Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Diving Busselton Jetty

Busselton Jetty is 1.8km long and has it’s own train service to deliver tourists to the end where they can visit the underwater observatory. I wanted to scuba dive the famous jetty and with the nearby Dive Shed having trolley and gear hire I was keen as mustard to get in the water.

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Unfortunately my camera strobe malfunctioned during set-up so I had to improvise by using a torch instead. This meant increasing my ISO settings and opening up the aperture, not what I like doing for underwater shots, but I was stuck with what I had. I put the trusty Canon 100mm macro lens on and started the long walk from the dive shop.

The Dive Shed rent out trolleys to transport your gear to the dive site, and whilst I don’t mind a bit of a walk with my gear I was glad I rented one. The entry pontoon lies 200m from the end of the Jetty, with two well designed ladders for exiting with fins on.

The underwater life lived up to expectation. Whilst many old jetty pylons lie on the floor providing cover for many different critters, corals, and sponges adorn a large proportion of the upright ones. Many of the fish were new to me, being Indian Ocean based but there were a few familiar ones and I was happy to find a number of very colourful nudibranchs(sea slugs). The water was shallow at 8m, allowing along dive but after 2 hours in 19 degree water I was ready to get back in the sunlight to warm up. Visibility was pretty good (over 10m), the only thing you need to be aware of is to keep over 10m away from the underwater observatory (for obvious reasons).

A big thumbs up to the Busselton Jetty dive and thanks to The Dive Shed for being so helpful with the gear and briefing of the dive site.

Categories: Adventure, australia, Big Lap, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Natural World, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, West Australia | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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