There's not much to see on the drive to Port Headland or in the town itself which exists as a salt and iron port but it was a convenient place to spend the night. Just out of town there are massive domes of salt containing up to 550,000 tonnes and salt lakes or 'fields' where the salt is harvested from.
Exmouth and Coral Bay are on the North West Cape. Most of the Cape is National Park and the Ningaloo Reef surrounding the land is Marine Park. Driving around we saw stunning views of the Cape and the beaches but we had to make sure we watched the road aswell because wildlife kept running in front of us - first an emu, then a small red kangaroo and then a massive goanna which was about one and a half metres long. Richard just managed to stop before we hit it but it seemed to think that it could take on the car and nonchalantly swaggered across the road in front of the car. We snorkelled in beautiful bays like turquoise bay where the coral reef was just metres from the shore. The type of coral here is different from the Great Barrier Reef and so the colours are different. There are no reds and yellows but more subdued blues and mauves.
Coral Bay has a population of just 120 but it is turning into a really popular spot on the tourist trail because the area is just so beautiful and all sorts of activities on sea and land are offered. We did three activities and two of them were really good.
that wasn't so good was supposed to be swimming with Manta Rays, I'd swam with one by accident on the Great Barrier Reef on the East Coast
of Australia and thought it would be amazing for Richard to see them in the water aswell. The trip had a spotter plane so they said that
it was pretty likely that we'd get to swim with them. Only problem is that the one Manta Ray they spotted obviously wasn't in a sociable mood and kept
swimming away from us and the boat faster than we could catch up with it. The way the trip was organised was part of the problem because
there were 28 people on the boat and only 8 were allowed in the water at one time. The water was freezing and very choppy and as soon
as we were in the water, our guide, who I reckon could have given Ian Thorpe (the Aussie swimmer) a run for his money, legged it after the
ray. Nobody could keep
up and as a result we had to jump in and out of the water a few times. I think I saw the Manta Ray a metre or two below me in the water
on my fourth swim but we'll have to wait for the photos to see whether I was hallucinating from the exertion. It wasn't all bad though
as we did see some huge turtles through the glass at the bottom of the boat and also caught a glimpse of a tiger shark, glad we didn't see
one of them when we were swimming as they can be quite dangerous - we saw an empty turtle shell that had had a close encounter of the shark
A more enjoyable trip was in a semi-submersible, a really good way to see the coral and fish because rather than looking down through the bottom of the boat you are actually under the water level and looking forward at the bottom of the sea. The glass windows are tilted so you can take good pictures without getting any reflections.
But the really exciting trip was when we went on a two hour quad bike tour where we drove along the coastline, over sand dunes and along the beach getting magnificent views and scaring ourselves slightly by going far too fast over the dunes. At one point we came down a really steep dune and from the top it was pretty scary but you've just got to go for it. We met up with a couple on the trip in the evening at the only pub in town and proceeded to drink rather a lot moving into the back room with some of the locals as the night wore on and witnessing them play pool with a mop - not the mop end! We had a go at pool later in the evening but had to give up because we were so bad, probably not helped by one of the locals coming around every so often with a lethal looking fluorescent green cocktail called Illusion.
We didn't actually know anyone in Carnarvon but we had a phone number, a tenuous link - a teaching colleague of my Mum's, Caitlin is from
WA and her fiancee, Adam, lives in Carnarvon. Now we haven't met Caitlin either but hey she's a friend of my Mum's so she must be alright
and therefore so must Adam. So we phoned him up and did the whole, you don't know me but we're in your town tomorrow night routine and,
hey presto, got an invite to the pub with him. Turned out to be a really fun night meeting up with his friends and then a trip to the
cinema, a private screening no less for someone's birthday. Quite an experience ducking in through the back entrance and sitting with
only about 10 other people waiting for the 'projectionists' (I don't think they really were projectionists) to work out how to play the
film which took about an hour. The film 'The Sweetest Thing' was just a chick flick but how often do you get a cinema opened up for
you? Knowing we shouldn't have been there made it all the more fun.
We spent a few nights in Carnarvon as there were a few things of interest around. Adam, was one! He took us on a guided tour of the fish farm where he works and also had us around for a barbie even though he is in the middle of doing his house up - hope it's ready in time for Caitlin's homecoming! Thanks Adam. We also drove around a nice bit of coast north of Carnarvon where there were blow holes and emus then found a nice spot by Chinaman's Pool in Carnarvon for lunch with lots of pelicans and galahs around. We went to look at the OTC dish there but we couldn't find any information about it.
Leaving Carvarvon we were headed for another beautiful Cape, Shark Bay Marine Park. I was hoping to try powerdiving there which is
a cross between diving and snorkelling. Instead of a tank you have a tube which delivers the oxygen to you and means that you can only
go down a few metres but it it better than snorkelling so it's a good option for asthmatics. Unfortunately when we got to the powerdive
shop it was shut even though I'd spoken to the owners earlier in the day it seemed the sea had got too choppy and they wouldn't be
able to run the powerdive. The weather forecast wasn't promising so we decided not to stay but to move on. All was not lost though
because it was a beautiful drive and we did get to see some 3.5 billion year old stromatolites, built by colonies of micro-organisms and
one of the Earth's earliest life forms.
Kalbarri is a beautiful spot and we didn't stay long enough to do it justice. A pretty harbour and it's right in the middle of a national park which has coastal features such as gorges, natural bridges and other rock formations and if you drive inland down a dirt track you get spectacular canyon views. Only one thing spoilt the atmosphere and that was the FLIES. Richard fled back to the car but I stuck it out to take pictures. These flies were vicious, trying to go up your nose, in your ears, eyes and don't even think about opening your mouth.
In spring this area is supposed to be carpeted with wild flowers in blossom but only a few were remaining in November. What there were
were a welcome and unusual sight among the greens, yellows and browns of the dry scrubland and desert that covers a lot of Australia.
The Pinnacles are another bizarre natural feature. As with the Bungle Bungles and Uluru they are caused because of the rock types in the
area weathering at different rates. The Pinnacles consist of 1000's of, um, pinnacles (limestone pillars) dotted around an area of desert and they kind
of look like gravestones from a distance.
Next stop Perth