Monday, April 24, 2017

West Coast Roadtrip

A point that I failed to mention about my time in Western Australia, is that I crossed something off my bucket list!  Well, 2 things really, but only one is listed on my blog bucket list.  I have now been in the Indian Ocean!  I only have the Arctic Ocean left on my list, and to be honest I'm not that keen to cross it off; although, I hear there have been some amazing technological advancements in wet suits.  And yes, some of you might be wondering why I left out the Southern Ocean.  To be honest, I have no idea.  Although, in researching this topic I found out that some Australian "cartographical authorities define the Southern Ocean as including the entire body of water between Antarctica and the south coasts of Australia and New Zealand".  So, if I go by that delineation I still only have the Arctic Ocean left to check off my list!

On Sunday, we drove 820km (about 509 miles) from Exmouth down to Kalbarri.  We arrived at our hostel around 4pm and I headed to the pool to cool off.  Ann and I chatted for a bit and then decided we'd head to the beach to watch the sunset.  We were early so Terry, Ann, and I walked down to the pier to see what was happening.  To be honest, calling it a pier might be too generous; it seemed to me to be more of a large dock.  The setting was quite idyllic with two young families fishing and having fun.  We made it back to our starting point in just the right amount of time.

We took some photos, in-between swatting flies, and then headed back to get ready for dinner.  I realize  now that I'd failed to mention in previous posts about the flies.  From a bit south of Kalbarri to just south of Coral Bay there are flies, lots and lots of flies (despite that fact that there is a near constant wind)! I'd been warned about the flies before my trip to Uluru a couple years ago, but had thankfully not encountered them (due to my visiting in winter). The prevalence of flies has led to the common use of flynets in many parts of Australia:
If you'd like one of your own you can purchase one here - they ship to the U.S.
I had certainly enjoyed my reprieve while further north, and the decrease in fly activity.  Anyway, back to the facts.  This was our last night together and we enjoyed a phenomenal buffet dinner at a local hotel just a short walk across town.

Our first stop, on our last day of the tour, was at a lookout over the coastal cliffs; a spot called Pot Alley.  From there we headed to a pink lake.  It's not the famous Pink Lake, but it was fascinating none-the-less.  No-one really knows why the lake is pink. Scientists speculate that the colour comes from a dye created by bacteria that lives in the salt crusts.  Most of the lake was empty since a local company extracts the bacteria and uses it in health & nutrition products.

On to Greenough, to visit a Wildlife Park owned and operated by a woman named Michelle.

 We got to feed the animals that she's rescued, including a camel, a horse, kangaroos, goats, and sheep.  We were also able to hold a joey (baby kangaroo) named Rosie - she was incredibly adorable!  Our last stop of the day was at Lancelin to visit the sand dunes.  Several in our group tried sand-boarding (no connection to water-boarding), but I'd done it before and don't like the end result, so I declined.

And so, our trip had come to an end - I got dropped at the train station in Perth and quickly caught the train to Freemantle. Demi had mistakenly told me that the YHA was just across the street from the station in Freo and I for some reason had no map that listed my hostel!  A rookie mistake.  I had a map, but it didn't extend far enough to show the area where my hostel was located.  In addition, everything in Australia (except in perhaps Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane) shuts down after 5pm, especially on a Monday.  The first gentleman I asked had no idea where it was located, but God sent me a lovely lady on try number two.  She looked it up on her phone and after a few minutes of trying to figure out how to direct me she just walked with me!  When Google maps proved to be no help she called the front desk; unfortunately that gentleman was just as un-helpful.  I was staying at the Freemantle Prison YHA (which had seemed like a great idea until I was lost in a strange city, at night looking for a prison), so she got me as close to the old prison as possible (we were standing along the old walls) and said that if I walked along the walls I should eventually find the part that housed the hostel.  Long story short, I did eventually found it and despite their desperate lack of signage guiding you to their location it was a nice place, for an old convict prison.

 2 days, 1,000 miles, and one prison stay - not bad for a road trip :)
Exmouth to Perth

For a little perspective :)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

West Coast Beaches

We spent most of the day on Saturday visiting beaches in Cape Range National Park.  They were lovely, but none of them had any shade (and I sunburn easily).  No trees, just a lone umbrella that Ben had purchased under which he could hide (he'd been sunburned the day before).  We had rented snorkel gear, so at the first beach I waded in and snorkeled away, only to be stung by the jelly fish that were quite proliferate at the particular location.  Thankfully it wasn't a bad sting, and I did see a turtle and some fish before that happened.  I wasn't "jonesing", as they say, to snorkel so I decided to walk the beach instead.  It had a two-fold purpose since it also kept me cool - it was a scorcher of  a day and I can only stand to lay in the sun and cook if it's not too hot.  I believe the average temperature in Exmouth for this time of year is about 95°F.

After lunch at a second beach (this one thankfully had a small picnic shelter that we were able to snag) we headed off to one last snorkel spot.  Since I'd reapplied sunscreen recently I determined that my wisest move would be to stay out of the water for a bit to let it soak in some more.  This beach was mostly large rocks and there were tons of crabs scurrying all over the place.  If you weren't paying attention I'm sure you could easily have missed most of them, they do an excellent job of camouflaging themselves (although, as soon as I typed that I thought, "God's really the one who camouflaged them").  This beach had less jellyfish, so I did eventually get in the water; it's much cooler in the water and you can't get burnt under the water.  We didn't last long at the beach though, everyone was too tire, hot, and cranky.  Thankfully, I only seem to have some sunburn on my feet and ankles, which I quite certain is from yesterday's adventure (there's a distinct line around my ankles where the wet suit stopped).  After arriving back at our hostel Arpana and I headed to the pool to enjoy the rest of our free afternoon.

"Exmouth is situated at the tip of a slender peninsula, enabling you to watch the sun both rise and set over the water.  The best view is from the lighthouse." This little note was on an advertisement for Exmouth that I had ripped out of the 'Qantas Spirit of Australia' inflight magazine on my flight home in March of 2015, and it was certainly a good tip.

We all hopped in the bus and headed up to Vlamingh Head Lighthouse to watch the sunset.  Exmouth was first used as a military base during WWII.  "During the Second World War the North West Cape became a very valuable refueling depot for US Navy ships, and the Air Force developed a base at nearby Learmonth."
There were several of these with lots of fascinating facts about this area

"Navigation along the north west coast had long been known to be hazardous
 (it is one of the most dangerous coastlines in the world)"
Although it was certainly not the most amazing sunset I've ever seen, it was beautiful - especially the after-glow.