When we got to Coral Bay, we pulled into the People's Park caravan park as recommended by Maggie and Joe, who we met up with again.
What a gorgeous spot this is, the caravan park is just over the road from a beautiful beach and we were lucky enough to be on the second row back so almost prime position.
We spent 3 days enjoying all the delights of the area, walking, swimming, snorkelling and the highlight was the glass bottom boat trip. We were out on the boat for 3 hours and saw lots of turtles, dolphins, rays, fish and coral. Beautiful!
The coral was not the pretty colours that you would expect to see, as they are the soft type and not found in this area. What we saw were the hard form and looked like fields of cabbages and occasionally large brain looking ones.
We snorkelled from the back of the boat and saw hundreds of fish. Two of our three crew members came into the water with us and the young french crew member, Charlotte, dived under me and released fish food. It was amazing, big fish darting every where in front of my face. Loved it!!
With our snorkelling skills much improved we are now more confident to venture out on our own and Coral Bay was ideal for that. When the tide goes out over the sandy beach, there is then a drop off, so easy and great for us beginners.
We left Coral Bay with Maggie and Joe behind us as we head for Quabba, a free camp (not quite-$5.50 a night) right next to the beach. Again we got a really good spot and enjoyed a couple of days there, eating oysters fresh from the rocks.
The many blow holes at Quabba were amazing and put NSW Kiama's blowhole to shame. We saw a big whale just off the beach as it made it's migration down the coast and we collected large clam shells that were in abundance at the shore line. Reluctantly, we did leave most of the shells behind, only taking one. There is only so much space in a caravan!
From Quabba it was off to Carnarvon and the Plantation caravan park. We had just finished setting up and were sitting down when who should arrive but Maggie and Joe. We thought they were still in Coral Bay and they thought we were at Quabba. Such a coincidence that we choose the same park, again!
Carnarvon is known as the "food bowl" because of all the fruit and vegetables that are grown in the area and the fresh seafood from the waters around.
We watched local crab fishermen getting their pots ready to take out and have never seen so many crab pots in the one place before, hundreds of them.
We managed to buy some supplies from local growers, prawns, cucumber, peaches, nectarines, bananas, tomatoes and pink grapefruit but the mangoes, which we love, were still quite small on the trees.
We saw a different type of mango that we hadn't seen before, it has a purple colour skin and apparently, a more citrus flavour. Another thing to look out for on our travels.
We walked out to the end of the Carnarvon jetty, over old, loose boards and marvelled at how the little "coffee pot" train travels it every day. Well, we decided to do the train ride anyway, even though a big sign at the start states very clearly that no responsibility is taken for our safety. Needless to say, we lived to see another day.
Our little Cornish lady driver was a real character and played her part well, even down to stopping on the way back to offer us lollies. (sweets or candy, depending from which part of the world you're from.)
We visited the space museum in Carnarvon, where years ago, a dish was set up for the American moon exploration. It was interesting reading the history and watching DVDs on the happenings. The part we liked best though, was some old black and white TV footage of families both in Australia and in the UK.
It was realised that when the different satellites and dishes were aligned, there would be 12 minutes where it would be possible to transmit between these two countries, so with great speed and planning they brought together migrants and their families from the "old country" to see each other. It was good to watch. Grandparents seeing grandchildren for the first time and elderly parents seeing their sons for the first time in many years. Wonderful!
By now, we and our fellow travellers (m&j) have given up saying our fond farewells only to meet again so now we just say "see ya later" and are continuing to enjoy happy hours in each others company.
From Carnarvon, it's on to Gladstone free camp. Wow, the flies!! The head nets have really come into their own here.
The beach at Gladstone is different, a salty mixture and seems very clay like. The rocks were so slippery. Think of what you imagine the surface of the moon to be and that's pretty close. We needed our reef shoes on to walk around the beach and to paddle, too shallow and not the best for swimming. Strange place, but we still managed to have a good time there. We were also given a free fish (mullaway) from some fishermen there which was very tasty. Thanks guys!
Next stop, Shark Bay, a world heritage area. We booked into Denham caravan park, explored the small seaside suburb and watch the many emus that wander around the place.
Denham is on the left side of the peninsular and very windy. Monkey Mia is about 26 kms away on the other side and more sheltered but because of the dolphins, also much more expensive. We made the best of both spots and enjoyed everything.
When we first came to Australia we had thought to stop off in Perth to visit Monkey Mia before heading to Sydney, now, nearly 19 years later we've made it at last.
We watched the dolphins in the bay and I was lucky enough to be chosen to feed them. The guide pointed to me and said "the lady with the young boy" I had been talking with this young lad and she thought we were together so we both went down. (The moral of the story is, if you want to get picked, borrow a child!)
Jack's parents were at the restaurant, missing this, they thought he was exaggerating and didn't believe him, so were pleased when we spoke with them later and emailed photographic evidence.
Denham is situated on the edge of Francois Peron National Park so we decided to go 4 wheel driving and explore. Taking two cars with Maggie and Joe, we set off on a 110 km round trip to Cape Peron and Skipjack point at the tip of the peninsula.
The track was very sandy in places, but with low tyre pressure and determination we made it there and back. Others were not so lucky, after getting bogged the french people we met had decided to turn back. We think there had been more than one "domestic" in their car that day!
What dramatic landscape and contrast in colours we saw, from the terracotta coloured earth on the cliffs, the golden sand, dark blue ocean and lighter blue sky. It has to be seen to be believed. Again we saw turtles and rays but also hundreds of cormorants that were lined up at the waters edge and on the rocks.
After we got back to the old homestead and refilled the tyres it was a quick dip in the old artesian pool before heading home. The pool didn't look anything special but the water was beautiful, so warm, verging on hot and a great freshen up after the heat of the day.
We did another boat trip at Monkey Mia, this time we were on a mission to see the dugong which frequent the area at this time of year, mating and feeding off the sea grass meadows in the ocean.
The weather was perfect with very little wind as we set off and we soon saw dolphins, eagle rays, turtles and yes, dugong. As we had seen all these creatures so early into the trip we then had time for a swim. We had been told that we would not be swimming on this trip so I only had part swimwear on. Not to miss out, I borrowed an old tee shirt from one of the crew and jump in. The swim was great until it was time to get back in the boat. There was a strong current and I think the tee shirt didn't help, but I was swimming like mad and getting nowhere. Two strong young men had to swim over and help pull me in. (There's always one!)
We later did the sunset cruise which was a "special" free with the other boat trip. By now the wind had got up and the water was much rougher. What a difference a couple of hours make. We went out a little way and then Sparkie, our skipper cut the engine so we could drift a while before turning around to fight the waves back into shore while watching the sun set and getting wet from the occasional wave slashing over the side. A very different experience from the earlier trip but both very good. We enjoyed a good feed of fish and chips from the local take away when we go back to Denham and then bed after a full on day.
Here's an interesting fact. Did you know that lobsters/crays shed their shells? They crack their back shell and somehow manage to wriggle out leaving the old shell plus all it's claws intact. We saw an empty shell at the aquarium in Denham but stupid us, forgot to take a photo. Incredible!
Now we are on the road heading out of this beautiful area and heading for Kalbarri and what ever new adventures await us.
We have made a couple of stops on route today, one was into shell beach (where we bumped into a family that we had met in Darwin) and the other at the Billabong roadhouse to refuel and I have to say the flies are even worse in these two places than at Gladstone. (Who would have thought that was even possible!)
There were lots of fly nets for sale in the service station so the flies are obviously a problem but the guy working there says more so at the moment than usual! I wonder what Kalbarri will be like?
Note, Thanks to Rachael for the photo of Broomes "staircase to the moon"