It was a wrench to leave Kalbarri but it was also good to get back on the road. However, we were a wee bit tired as the previous night we'd got the BBQ out for the first time for ages and had a good old fashioned camper type feed, and a latish night.This (the BBQ that is) is another aspect of our travels that we're looking forward to resuming as we travel north into the warmer weather.But it does seem that we are out of kilter with the rest of the camping fraternity who, by the time we're settling into pre-dinner drinks, are shuffling to the shower block in dressing gowns and slippers, and who by the time we're eating are in their beds with lights out.We're merrily chomping away in virtual silence around the caravan park.We clearly still getting into the main time cycle of Australian camping life. Another example of this is when we ask restaurants, cafes etc when their kitchens close they reply "Oh ?? late".But when pressed, because our definition of late IS late, they come back with "Oh ??.. last order for the kitchen is about 7.45 to 8pm."On the subject of food, one thing we forgot to mention in the Kalbarri blog is one of Eric's favourite dishes.Conspicuous by its absence in supermarkets, butchers and restaurants, has been liver.Both of us really fancied a nice bit of liver, onions and mash so E headed to the local butcher to seek some out.Although, typically, none was on display on the butcher's slab his request for calves liver was met with an affirmative.But they didn't sell it thinly sliced - what was on offer was a WHOLE calves liver for God's sake at $5.That's just over £2 for 3.5kg. The butcher asked (as did later that week the owner of the EchoBeach restaurant upstairs), "What do you do with liver?"When E explained that it's a top Italian/European dish in its various forms he could see dollar signs rolling in their eyes.So E headed out of the butchers $5 the poorer but one 3.5kg liver the heavier - which M had to balance on her handlebars to get back to the camp site.Must say, the liver was delicious and the contents of our tiny freezing compartment now comprise liver, liver, liver???.
But back to our journey north.The road at this point is not the most interesting until you turn off the highway for the road to Shark Bay - a World Heritage area.First stop was Shell Beach.Immediately before the beach the road goes through an electric fence which is part of the successful Eden Project to eliminate non-native animals from the peninsula.Shell Beach is actually part of a 120+ km coastline comprised of the bleached shells of one particular bivalve - see Shark Bay photo album.It's an amazing site and incredible to imagine that one living creature can produce so many shells in one area. Everyone knows about the Australian flies and as you get further north they do seem to get worse, more persistent and irritating as they crawl all over your face - why do they always seem to aim for your eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears!?But we are coping - one of our strategies is to learn to speak like Alex Douglas Home!
As we approached our planned stop for the night - Denham (Australia's most westerly town) - a passing car threw up a large stone which unluckily cracked the windscreen.Once we'd settled into the excellent pitch right down by the beach at the Denham Seaside Tourist Village caravan park, we made some enquiries about repairs.One thing about this part of Australia is the distance between services and you can't reasonably expect to get things locally.For instance, at cafÃ© in Kalbarri we got talking to a girl who was complaining about not being able to buy her make up and underwear in town.She'd had to resort to getting her boss (a bloke) to buy her things on his periodic 400 km round trip to the nearest big town.Not surprisingly, we weren't expecting to find a windscreen replacement place in Denham (population 1,400).We would need to travel to the 330 km to the next nearest town, which luckily was going to be our next stop anyway.A quick phone and we were booked in for Monday morning, allowing them time for order and delivery of the said windscreen.Business attended to, we were straight on to the beach to enjoy the last warmth of the day before a spectacular sunset.Then it was back to Annie for some freshly caught local Blue Swimmer and Coral crabs and salad -mmmm scrummy!
One of the reasons for coming so far off the highway was to visit Monkey Mia and its dolphins.So the following day we set off on the 25km to the other side of the peninsula to stay overnight at the Monkey Mia resort camp site.A few people we'd met on our travels had told that Monkey Mia had become very commercialised, so we headed there with mixed feelings.It's true that Money Mia is nothing more than a commercialised resort where you have to pay a significant cost for everything, but they do seem to have the welfare of the dolphins very much at heart and firmly control the crowds who want to experience the dolphins.One of the main things to do is a trip out into the bay on the catamaran to see the wildlife.We were very fortunate to see loads of dolphins swimming alongside the boat, loggerhead turtles popping their heads out of the water as we approached and, extremely fortunate to have a sea snake swim right below us (see Shark Bay photo album.We were disappointed not to see any dugongs (sea cows), but as we returned to the jetty were treated to the spectacle of a fish feeding frenzy involving cormorants, pelicans and dolphins - quite some sight to see. Earlier we were taken to an off-shore black pearl farm for an interesting demonstration of how pearls are cultivated. After we came off the boat it was time for our daily coffee, and as Eric's eyes are bigger than his belly (but only just) he decided also to have scones, jam and cream - a Devonshire Tea as it's called here.Question - How many Australians does it take to eat a Devonshire Tea?Answer - Two, one to wave their hands about frantically to swat away the flies and one to scoff the lot as quickly as possible.Guess who got the job of swatting the flies! We ended a perfect day watching another wonderful Rothco-like sunset.
The following morning we were up early to head down to the beach at 7.30 to watch the first dolphin feeding session of the day.There are estimated to be around 2,700 dolphins in Shark Bay.About half a dozen adult females come every day to the beach to receive a small amount of fish - only a fraction of their daily intake - from rangers employed by the Department of Environment and Conservation.This has turned into a big tourist attraction, but the good point about this is that it is strictly controlled - no overfeeding and no touching - so their hunting and fishing instincts are intact.Only the adult females are fed so the youngsters don't become reliant on human handouts.It was great to see them so close up and to watch the youngsters cavorting around playfully.Then it was back to Denham Seaside Tourist Village and another stint on the beach.We really enjoyed this caravan park.Some caravan parks hit the spot and this one really did - a combination of its layout and location right on the beach and people (both locals and campers) who were really friendly and more than willing to stop for a good blether and a joke. There's something about camp sites that allow pets.That afternoon we paid a visit to the Shark Bay Discovery Centre and after another BBQ, spent the evening in a local pub to hear live music from a very good live band (Dirty Blonde). But the evening wasn't end there as we had the last three episodes of series three of '24' to watch on our in-van DVD player.Thrilling stuff - and if we didn't have to climb a ladder we'd say we then fell into bed, exhausted.
Saturday morning, again a wee bit bleary, saw us off on the road north for Carnarvon.For those of you who read the Cervantes blog you will have heard about stromatolites.Hamlin Pool is an even more impressive collection of these ancient living organisms (the oldest living organisms on earth).Without them we wouldn't have evolved as they produced the necessary levels of oxygen which enabled life as we know to evolve.
Australia, strangely, loves pies.But those few we've sampled so far aren't anything to write home about.So why, you might ask, are we mentioning them now.Well, a book which we bought here in Australia and which accounts for a couple's journey round the country pointed us to a good coffee stop.Wooramel Roadhouse apparently makes excellent pies and we decided to stop there.Imagine our dismay when they had no pies - their oven had broken and by the time it was replaced they had not managed to reinstate stocks of the required ingredients!And we'd travelled all that way to sample their products!!