Fremantle

Australia, Western Australia 4 Comments »
Planet View: S32°32.830′ E1165°44.777′
Street View: S32°32.830′ E1165°44.777′

The graffiti artistsMi-Life shoe storeWe spent about a week in Fremantle (with a quick weekend trip to Melbourne for Jarrod and Stacey’s Wedding) where we enjoyed some fantastic hospitality and tour guiding from Sam Harkin.  Sam and I worked Working on the graffiti wall down the side of Mi-Life shoe storetogether at a surf shop when I was at university in Adelaide, he’s since settled in Perth and become quite the little entrepreneur.  Sam and his partner B own a surf shop of their own as well as a hip little shoe store in the bustling centre of Fremantle.  The day we arrived Sam had organized a team of graffiti artists to paint the wall down the side of his Mi-Life shoe store, we went by to see them work their magic late into the night, the amazing mural below the result (credit to Tim Swallow for the collage below and group shot here).

The graffiti wall down the side of Mi-Life shoe store Working on the graffiti wall down the side of Mi-Life shoe storeWorking on the graffiti wall down the side of Mi-Life shoe storeWorking on the graffiti wall down the side of Mi-Life shoe storeMi-Life shoe store 

Cottesloe BeachThe beautiful historic buildings of FremantleFremantle has a lot of history to it, it’s one of Australia’s oldest port towns and has had the majority of the beautiful old buildings maintained, adding a lot of character to the main business district.  Central Fremantle is filled with hip clothing stores, a plethora of coffee shops as well as a fun weekend market where one can buy anything from fresh pastries to local artwork.  Lisa and I borrowed a couple of Sam’s bikes one afternoon for a tour of Fremantle and some of the Perth city beaches to the north, a great way to see the coastline (although neither of us will ever be building fixed-gear single-speed bikes like the one Sam lent us!). 

The beautiful historic buildings of FremantleThe beautiful historic buildings of FremantleThe beautiful historic buildings of Fremantle Grabbing a coffee in one of the plethora of coffee shops in FremantleGrabbing a coffee in one of the plethora of coffee shops in FremantleGrabbing a coffee in one of the plethora of coffee shops in Fremantle Grabbing a coffee in one of the plethora of coffee shops in FremantleAn eclectic book store in FremantleHouse along the beachfront near Cottesloe 

Boats in the port of FremantleLittle Creatures BrewingWe all took a trip to Little Creatures Brewing one evening, a brilliant brewery on the docks of the Fremantle harbor where all of the beer manufacturing is visible from the bar and restaurant via huge glass walls.  The beer’s not half bad, too!  One of Sam’s mates we met at the table works as the first mate on Luc Longley’s yacht, which was docked a few hundred meters from Little Creatures.  To finish the evening we all enjoyed a beer on the yacht, an amazing vessel, interesting to see what kind of toys one can buy after a successful NBA career next to Michael Jordan (unfortunately I didn’t have my camera with me that night…). 

The beach at Triggs PointThe beach at Triggs PointJackWe couldn’t have asked for a better host in Sam, he toured us around the better part of Perth one day, showing us the city’s main beaches as well as the fantastic views of the city from King’s Park.  We both had a great time with Sam and his housemate Cal and we’re both already missing Sam and B’s dog Jack!

Perth from King's Park Cal, Sam and Lisa sitting down for dinnerThe war memorial in King's ParkSam and Jack

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Jarrod and Stacey’s Wedding

Australia, Victoria 5 Comments »

Jarrod and Stacey's Wedding: QueenscliffJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: QueenscliffJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Sam and Matt Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Matt and OwenJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Jarrod and HeathJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Lisa and Erin Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Jarrod and HeathJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Jarrod Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and Jarrod Jarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and JarrodJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and Jarrod Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and JarrodJarrod and Stacey's Wedding Jarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and JarrodJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and Jarrod Jarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Stacey and JarrodJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: GregJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Queenscliff Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: Sam and LisaJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand HotelJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand Hotel Jarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand HotelJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand HotelJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand Hotel Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand HotelJarrod and Stacey's Wedding Jarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's WeddingJarrod and Stacey's Wedding: the Vue Grand HotelJarrod and Stacey's Wedding

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The Swan Valley

Australia, Western Australia, Wines 2 Comments »

The beautiful setting at Upper Reach WineryAfter seven weeks in Southeast Asia and our travels through the barren countryside of western Australia, I was more than ready to taste some wine.  Traveling south from New Norcia we stopped in a little town called Bindoon where Sam of course spotted a bakery (there aren’t too many we drive past Kangaroo pie for morning tea at the Bindoon Bakehousewithout him sampling a pie).  This bakery has been the most impressive by far, I’ve heard Sam tell multiple people about it, raving about his kangaroo pie which he claims was like eating a kangaroo steak.  After our mid-morning snack we arrived in Swan Valley, which is just north of Upper Reach WineryPerth.  The John Kosovich Wines with hand-dug cellars to boot!Lisa perusing the selection at the Bindoon Bakehousevalley has two main roads running north south that are lined with many small wineries.  As we were there on a Tuesday we had some difficulty finding wineries that were actually open.  We stopped in at four different wineries all producing tasty Verdelho’s.  The first winery, Upper Reach, is in a beautiful setting over-looking their vineyards and a massive eucalyptus tree where it appears they host many events.  The 2009 Verdelho is a fresh, clean wine with lime notes, a nice change from the many Sauvignon Blancs we have tried.  Our next stop was John Kosovich, one of the original producers in the valley, the hand-dug cellar excavated in in 1922.  We had a good chat with the winemaker and enjoyed his In the underground cellar of John Kosovich Winerymodest wines while admiring the extensive wine library behind the tasting bar.  All producers in the valley are using screw-caps and it was interesting to note that their 1970s vintage wines were all screw-caps as well, an old technology making a comeback.  We Houghton Winerypurchased a Kosovich Chardonnay which is very elegant with well integrated oak.  Further down the road we stopped in at one of the larger producers in the area, Houghton.  While many of their wines are available around Australia, they offer tastings of their Wisdom Range and Bandit wines in the tasting room.  I enjoyed the Pemberton Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir and Frankland River Shiraz in the Wisdom range.  The Bandit range consists of three wines that are blends and the package is just fantastic: each label has a different story-book type illustration on it.  The blended wines are: Chardonnay/Viognier, Sauvignon Lisa tasting at Jane Brook Estate WinesJane Brook Estate WinesBlanc/Pinot Gris, and a Gold-infused sparkling at Jane Brook Estate WinesShiraz/Tempranillo.  The most informative tasting room was at Jane Brook Estate Wines, the tasting room manager was very enthusiastic and shared a lot information about the greater Western Australian region.  He tasted me through an extensive range of wines with the highlights for me being the 2009 Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Atkinson Family Reserve Shiraz, and the Tokay.  They produce a bottle of The Margaret River Chocolate Companysparkling that contains flecks of 23 karat gold apparently offering dietary benefits and looking quite showy.  A client in Dubai is the best customer for this unique bottle of bubbles.  After all of the tasting, we ventured to the Margaret River Chocolate Company which felt as if we walked into the Willy Wonka factory with every type of chocolate dessert available, over-whelming really.  We attempted to sample some of the local brews but all of the breweries were closed, much to Sam’s dismay.  Looking forward to continuing the wine tour through Margaret River next week.

Houghton WineryThe Margaret River Chocolate CompanyHoughton Winery

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Gallery: The Midwest

Australia, Galleries, Western Australia Comments Off on Gallery: The Midwest
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The Midwest

Photos from our travels through Western Australia's Midwest region during October and November, 2009. The gallery contains photos from Exmouth, Cape Range National Park, Ningaloo Reef, Coral Bay, Kalbarri, Northampton, Geraldton, the Pinnacles Desert and New Norcia.

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The Pinnacles Desert and New Norcia

Australia, Western Australia 3 Comments »
Planet View: S30°58.497′ E116°12.832′ (New Norcia)
Street View: S30°58.497′ E116°12.832′ (New Norcia)

Sam and a lucky Shingleback Lizard in The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkNambung National ParkFrom Geraldton we had our sights set on Stockyard Gulley National Park, a little known expanse of 2000 hectares 50 kilometers north of the seaside enclave of Jurien Bay.  We have one theory why it isn’t very well known: there are no directions to the damn place!  We horsed around for the better part of an hour, looking down every dirt track and road into the dunes, but to no avail…  In the end we decided that we could spend all day looking for Stockyard Gully and instead continued south to take a quick look around Jurien Bay before making our way through Cervantes and onto Nambung National Park, the home of the famous Pinnacles Desert. 

The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkA Shingleback Lizard in The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkWhen we drove into the Pinnacles we both immediately commented how surreal of a place it is, hundreds of pillars (formed from sand, water, limestone and quartz) standing erect amidst plains of yellow sand.  The Department of Environment and Conservation has put a lot of money into the area around the Pinnacles, a brand new visitor centre and newly-paved roads extend throughout Nambung National Park.  There Pinnacle Drive, a 4.2 kilometer loop through the rock formations, was a great way to see the extent of the area, we almost squashed this Shingleback Lizard on our way around the loop!

The Tank amidst The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkThe Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkLisa in The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkThe Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkA Shingleback Lizard in The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkThe Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkLisa in The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National ParkHay bales on the drive south of New Norcia 

The monasteries of New NorciaCamping on the monastery grounds in New NorciaOne of our guide books indicated that the road between Nambung and the main highway to Perth had four rest areas available for camping.  Upon arrival, however, it seems the local council has decided against camping in its district and we were thus forced to continue on our journey toward Perth during the late afternoon.  The closest spot for the night we could find was in New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town run by monks of the Benedictine order.  The town is basically a large monastery, a fine museum boasting some of Australia’s most previous religious artifacts, a range of buildings supporting the day-to-day needs of the monks, The monasteries of New Norciathe elegant New Norcia Hotel and a service station bisected by the highway.  About the last place one would expect to find in the bush!  The monastery and surrounding 8000 hectare farm was established in 1846 by Spanish Benedictine monks.  It was even more of an interesting stop off for us as it was the monks of New Norcia who were responsible for the establishment of the mission at the remote Kimberley Aboriginal community The New Norcia HotelThe New Norcia Hotelof Kalumburu, where we visited on our recent travels through northern Western Australia.  The New Norcia Hotel was quite a trip, maintained in The New Norcia Hotelits original style with red-carpeted entryway and brilliantly maintained decor, it has an extensive bar and restaurant as well as room for $95 a night.  In the spirit of offering rest to wary travelers the monks allow campers to spend the night free of charge on the monastery property, Lisa and I ventured up from our campsite to the hotel after dark for a gander at the building and had a game of pool in the bar whilst we were there.  An enthralling place, we’re glad the council of Cervantes decided to stop camping in their district otherwise we probably would have never ended up in New Norcia for the night!

 The monasteries of New NorciaThe monasteries of New NorciaThe monasteries of New Norcia

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Kalbarri, Northampton and Geraldton

Australia, Western Australia 1 Comment »
Planet View: S27°43.521′ E114°10.131′ (Kalbarri) and S28°42.364′ E114°38.273′ (Geraldton)
Street View: S27°43.521′ E114°10.131′ (Kalbarri) and S28°42.364′ E114°38.273′ (Geraldton)

Western Australia After our brilliant week in Coral Bay with Mum and Steve we had our sights set on Perth in time to catch a flight to Melbourne next weekend.  We’ve covered a little over 1000 kilometers over the past couple of days, cruising past more arid endless plains of west Australian scrub for almost 800 kilometers south of Coral Bay.  We stopped off at Carnarvon to refuel, make a quick visit to the supermarket and replace one of the three batteries (the starting battery) on The Tank.  We almost had to jump ourselves yesterday morning as we left Coral Bay, Carnarvon is the first spot we’ve visited in the past two weeks where there’s been an auto parts store! 

Our campsite in Kalbarri Fifty-or-so kilometers north of the coastal hamlet of Kalbarri the landscape quickly changed from red dirt and saltbush to beautiful rolling hills of wheat and barley with small farms dotted across the horizon.  Some really beautiful country…  We veered off the highway and through Kalbarri National Park to the town of Kalbarri, a quaint coastal settlement at the mouth of the Murchison River with three pubs (way too many for the small size of the place!) and a plethora of restaurants lining the shorefront.  One restaurant was offering the ‘You Can’t Handle The Truth Burger’ which, if you could eat it all in one sitting, was free.  If not it cost $25.  Click on the photo below to take a look at the list of ingredients…  Kalbarri is a major tourist destination during the summer  A beer watching the sunset at one of the pubs in Kalbarri The biggest burger I've ever seen! months, we were in town a little before the high season so it was still pretty sleepy during our visit.  After covering almost 800 kilometers from Coral Bay we treated ourselves to a gourmet pizza at the pub closest to where we parked The Tank for the night, good stuff…  We spent a day exploring nearby Kalbarri National Park and all the beautiful wildflowers that were in bloom for spring.  The two main attractions of the National Park are the Breakfast by the mouth of the Murchison River in Kalbarristriking inland gorges formed by the Murchison River as it snakes its way through the countryside, and the brilliant turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean as it meets the red cliffs of the  Tide pools in Kalbarri coastline.  We undertook one of the two lengthier gorge walks early one morning, The Loop Walk is an eight kilometer hike through the gorge formed by the Murchison River, traversing cliffs and then down to the sandy riverbed.  We also explored some of the scenic spots along the coastal cliffs, absolutely beautiful views from some of the lookouts, it reminded us both of the Great Ocean Road and some areas of the California coastline.

Panoramic of the town of Kalbarri with the Murchison River winding its way into the ocean Kalbarri and the Murchison RiverThe Kalbarri boat harbourThe Kalbarri boat harbourThe mouth of the Murchison River in Kalbarri The Kalbarri boat harbourWildflowers in Kalbarri National ParkWildflowers in Kalbarri National Park Wildflowers in Kalbarri National ParkWildflowers in Kalbarri National ParkWildflowers in Kalbarri National Park Lisa in Nature's Window in Kalbarri National ParkZebra-striped rocks in Kalbarri Naitonal ParkLisa hiking The Loop Walk in Kalbarri National Park Panoramic of Nature's Window and Murchison River Gorge in Kalbarri National Park The Loop Walk in Kalbarri National ParkKalbarri National ParkThe Loop Walk in Kalbarri National Park The Loop Walk in Kalbarri National ParkZebra-striped rock along the Murchison River Gorge in Kalbarri National ParkZebra-striped rock along the Murchison River Gorge in Kalbarri National Park View from Red Bluff in Kalbarri National ParkNatural Bridge in Kalbarri National ParkCastle Cove in Kalbarri National Park

The beautiful Catholic church in Northampton The convent in Northampton From Kalbarri we headed south along the coast through the rolling farmland of the Midwest, stopping off to take in some of the heritage buildings in the tiny farming town of Northampton.  The Catholic church was quite a sight.  From Northampton we trudged on and headed to Coronation Beach, around 30 kilometers south of town, but upon finding that the idyllic little campsite next to the beach was full we turned One of the true blue drinking holes in Northampton around and continued south to the rural centre of Geraldton. 

Geraldton is a central Lucky we had dinner! hub for grain export as well as the Western Australian rock lobster industry.  The massive grain silos in the town’s port are a clearly visible sign of the presence of the farming industry, and the flash cars and multi-million dollar houses around town give an indication of the amount of wealth generated by the exquisite west Australian lobsters that seem to be Town Beach in Geraldton prolific off the coast.  It was recommended that we visit the memorial to the HMAS Sydney near the city centre, the ship sank in the 1940s killing everyone aboard (645 sailors) and was not found until March, 2008.  We took a quick walk along the newly renovated shorefront district of town, stopping for a beer at the Freemason’s Hotel in the afternoon sun before calling it a day and heading back to The Tank for the night.  (The photo of the lamb chops here was taken at the HMAS Sydney Memorial.  We discovered the chops sitting there on the front fender, where I’d put them hours earlier to defrost at our campsite.  They stayed on the fender during the whole time we drove around Geraldton!)

Memorial to the HMAS Sydney in GeraldtonGeraldton's city centreGeraldton's city centreThe Freemason's Hotel in Geraldton

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Coral Bay

Australia, Western Australia 4 Comments »
Planet View: S23°08.670′ E113°46.246′
Street View: S23°08.670′ E113°46.246′

A welcome delivery from Sam's dadGiving The Tank a good cleaning at one of Coral Bay's caravan parksMy mum and her partner Steve met us for a brilliant week in the sleepy resort town of Coral Bay.  After our trek around Cape Range from Exmouth it was great to relax for a few Letting down the tyres on the way to Five Finger Reefdays in the relative luxury of the spacious beachfront apartment that Mum had organized.  My dad sent a batch of beautiful wines along with Mum and Steve as well as a couple of tasty Muscats, Lisa was almost drooling at the selection of reds she was going to be able to sample when they arrived!

Lisa in the water on a secluded beach at Five Finger ReefPrior to Mum and Steve arriving Lisa and I ventured south from Coral Bay through the dunes to a nearby secluded cove and the waters above Five Finger Reef.  It was the deepest sand we’d driven in with The Tank, after letting some air out of the tires we didn’t have too much of a problem in low-range, a fun bit of driving through the dunes.  We had the beach all to ourselves for the morning, a very picturesque spot, the water color is amazing along the reef.  I took my spear out with us when we snorkeled over the reef, Five Finger Reef is outside of the Coral Bay sanctuary zone and it seems the fish know it.  I saw some good-sized Spangled Emperors cruising over the reef but there was no way they were letting me anywhere near them!

 The Tank in the dunes above Five Finger Reef south of Coral BayLetting down the tyres on the way to Five Finger ReefNingaloo Reef south of Coral Bay

Ningaloo Reef ResortCrab races on Melbourne Cup Day at Ningaloo Reef ResortWe found ourselves staying in Coral Bay on Melbourne Cup Day.  There are no racecourses anywhere near Coral Bay so in the spirit of the big event our hotel, Ningaloo Reef Resort, holds annual crab races.  Punters can purchase one of the crabs, which are caught the night before, in an auction-like event where all the money not doled out in prizemoney goes to support local charities.  With first place receiving almost $700 there was quite a bit of interest in the race, most of the crabs sold for at least $100 and the crowd was all cheers once the race got underway.

Crab races on Melbourne Cup Day at Ningaloo Reef ResortJenni and Lisa watching the crab racesJenni and Lisa 

Coral Bay sunsetCoral Bay sunsetMy dive instructor on Ko Tao suggested that I should definitely try to put my newly acquired SCUBA Open Water Certification to use along Ningaloo Reef.  The four of us organized a day of diving with Ningaloo Reef Dive, Coral Bay’s sole dive shop, Steve and I went diving while the girls spent the day snorkeling.  Our first dive was near Five Finger Reef where Lisa and I had explored in The Tank, seeing both Hammerhead and Grey Reef Sharks in the water whilst diving sure got my adrenaline pumping!  From our spot near Five Finger Reef we trolled past Coral Bay to the reef at the tip of Cape Maud.  There are a number of ‘cleaning stations’ for Manta Sam entering the waterRays dotted across the reef around Coral Bay: the huge animals come into the shallows to areas of the reef where small Cleaner Wrasse reside, the Sam getting geared upSam getting geared upCleaner Wrasse swim into the gills and mouths of the huge rays to clean any unwanted deposits.  (I got quite annoyed with Cleaner Wrasse on Ko Tao, it seems there weren’t enough large fish to keep them occupied so instead they found their way into my ears a number of times whilst diving!)  The Manta Rays are a huge draw for tourists to Coral Bay, surprisingly they seem quite comfortable with snorkelers observing them at close range while they hold still for a cleaning.  The four of us were part of a group of Sam waving hello from the surface10 snorkelers swimming with the rays, we hovered above the cleaning station observing a Manta which would have been at least 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) between the tips of its wings.  While we were watching another one of the huge rays came in for a clean, an awesome experience to see these huge animals up close in the wild.  Our second dive was near the edge of the outer reef, a fantastic location with huge walls of coral and an amazing array of fish life: massive schools of Trevally and Darts and some giant Spangled Emperors who enjoyed hovering beneath the shadow made by the hull of the dive boat.  At our second dive site there was another ‘cleaning station’, this one a shark station, we were lucky enough to see a couple of smaller Black-Tip Reef Sharks as well as a sizeable Grey Reef Shark cruising the deeps.  It was a fantastic day, I remember how excited sharks made the employees of the dive shop on Ko Tao, we didn’t see any in Thailand but scored several close sightings on our two dives in Coral Bay.

Off for a day of SCUBA diving with Ningaloo Reef DiveOur jovial skipper Graham for our day of divingSteve and Sam ready for a dive  Lunchtime on the dive boatMusic night at the pub at Ningaloo Reef ResortThe pub at Ningaloo Reef Resort

The sandy track on the way to Five Finger Reef that almost had us all walking back to Coral Bay!On our last day in Coral Bay we all piled into The Tank for a third trip to Five Finger Reef.  On our first two trips I’d come up with nothing more than a small King George Whiting with the spear and Mum hadn’t seen the beautiful beach next to the reef, Our secluded beach near Five Finger Reefso a third trip was in order.  I was determined to come home with some dinner for us all!  In my attempt to drive as close as possible to the beach I managed to get The Tank in quite a precarious valley in-between some very soft sand dunes, I’m pretty sure we all were thinking we’d be walking back to Coral Bay after numerous attempts to get The Tank to climb its way out of trouble.  With everyone except me out of the vehicle, tires let down to almost 15PSI, differential locks engaged and as much momentum as I could muster The Tank climbed its way out of trouble (sigh of relief…).  It would have been a long walk back to town!  I also managed to score a nice Spangled Emperor and a bream for dinner to boot.

Sam with a Spangled EmperorSpangled Emperor and a bream for dinner from Five Finger ReefThe four of us playing dominoes on our patio at Ningaloo Reef Resort Dominoes on our patio at Ningaloo Reef ResortSpangled Emperor and a salad for dinnerSpangled Emperor for dinner

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Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Reef

Australia, Western Australia 4 Comments »
Planet View: S22°08.994′ E113°52.917′
Street View: S22°08.994′ E113°52.917′

Ningaloo Reef

Huge sand dunes near Jurabi PointWind.  Wind, wind and more wind.  From 10:00AM to at least midnight for our six days exploring Cape Range National Park and the wonders of Ningaloo Reef we endured gale force winds typical to this area of Western Australia during spring.  The winds did keep the flies at bay, but when we were walking along the magnificent beaches of Cape Range with the sand stinging our legs as it was blown so viscously by the gales it wasn’t so much fun!  The Great Barrier Reef is almost synonymous with Australia but few foreigners, even Australians themselves, are familiar with the almost 200 kilometer stretch of coastline beginning north of Exmouth and ending south of Coral Bay in the central region of The Tank next to the sand dunes near Jurabi PointWestern Australia.  It has, without a doubt, some of the most extensive coral gardens either of has seen anywhere in the world.  Wind aside, we enjoyed some magnificent snorkeling and beautiful beaches on the stretch of coastline, taking our time to experience all the area had to offer. 

Cape Range and the coastline adjacent to Ningaloo Reef is an extremely arid area with little to no protection from the Lakeside campsitewind and sun.  We spent our first The beach in front of Lakeside campsitenight at Lakeside campsite, an exposed patch of dirt next to one of our favorite snorkeling spots along the entire coast.  The current at Lakeside reef was strong enough to send Lisa back to shore after a few minutes in the water during our first afternoon swim at the site, but after my accounts of the amazing ocean life we returned to the water at 7:00AM the next morning when it was calm so she could have a look for herself.  Within 200 meters from the shore we were swimming with turtles, a Manta Ray, sting rays, Lionfish, Black- and White-Tip Reef Sharks, schools of Australian Salmon and Golden Trevally and a grouper whose head was at least as big as my own!  Lakeside also gave us our first dose of the extensive terrestrial native wildlife of Cape Range; we took a sunset walk around the bush adjacent to the campsite and spotted scores of wallaroos feeding in the waning light as well as an Echidna moseying through the low-lying scrub next to the dunes. 

Not happy with the gale force winds at Lakeside campsiteLakeside campsiteLisa escaping the wind at LakesideBreakfast at Lakeside campsite

Osprey BayOur campsite and million dollar view at Osprey BayOsprey BayAfter spending a night wondering if The Tank’s Blue Room (that’s our bed) was going to collapse on us in the gale force winds at Lakeside we continued south to the beautiful locale of Osprey Bay.  We arrived early in the morning in an attempt to secure one of the ocean view campsites, we were successful and spent Sam fishing at Osprey Baytwo nights on the edge of the sandstone overlooking the pristine turquoise waters of Ningaloo Reef.  Such a beautiful spot…  A small gap in the sandstone below our campsite made a protected little beach, where we spent the afternoons fishing and relaxing.  I managed to reel in a few mullet for Lisa’s lunch one day but wasn’t so successful trying to hook some of the Australian Salmon we saw when snorkeling over the reef near our campsite.  A few of the plethora of wallabies and wallaroos making their home near the campsite were quite tame, the mother and joey pictured here came sniffing for a handout a number of times during our stay.  At one point when I was eating breakfast the mother had her front paws on my knee and nose almost in my bowl vying for a bite of my Weet-Bix!

 Lisa with an inquisitive mother and joey Wallaroo at our campsite at Osprey BayOsprey BayOur campsite at Osprey Bay Lisa relaxing on our private beach below the campsite at Osprey BayOur campsite and million dollar view at Osprey Bay 

Kayakers in Yardie Creek GorgeThe beach and reef at Turquoise BayWe used Osprey Bay as a base for a few days to explore some of the other offerings of Cape Range National Park as well as most of the other snorkeling sites inside the park.  Turquoise Bay, made famous by Elle Macpherson in the 1990s, was the winner for coral, an amazing array of seemingly endless coral gardens between the sandy beach and outer reef we viewed while floating peacefully in the current of the receding tide.  We also dove at Oyster Stacks and South Mandu, at the latter I finished my swim after making it almost to the outer reef and finding myself encircled by five or six Black-Tip Reef Sharks!  Oyster Stacks also had some brilliant coral, but the highlight for me was a bit of fun with a very inquisitive turtle who frolicked in the water within an arm’s length of me for more than 10 minutes, seemingly quite happy for me to touch his flippers and shell as we swam.  An awesome experience…  We also spent some time inland, exploring Cape Range’s two largest gorges: Mandu Mandu Gorge and Yardie Creek Gorge, hiking the length of both while enjoying brilliant views of the coastline from the cliffs bordering the gorges.

 Turquoise BayTurquoise BayThe gorge bed of Mandu Mandu GorgeSam hiking up Mandu Mandu Gorge Mandu Mandu Gorge with Ningaloo Reef in the distanceSam and Lisa above Mandu Mandu GorgeSouth Mandu beach and snorkeling site

Yardie Creek GorgeKayakers in Yardie Creek GorgeYardie Creek is the end of the road for most travelers to Cape Range National Park: the bitumen ends and on the other side of a deep, sandy, saltwater creek crossing is a coastal 4WD track that winds its way across a couple of sheep stations to the resort town of Coral Bay approximately 100 kilometers south.  Armed with the might of The Tank we waited until the Sam catches Lisa a Yellowfin Bream for dinner on Ningaloo Stationtide had drained enough water out of the creek to cross without dowsing our undercarriage in On the coastal track heading south to Coral Baysaltwater and, in low-range first gear, trudged through the boggy sand of Yardie Creek and onto the coastal 4WD track.

Cape Range National Park extends for a few kilometers south of Yardie Creek, at which point the 4WD track traverses the Learmonth Air Weapons Range (a test facility for the nearby RAAF base) on its way to Ningaloo Station.  We stopped off at a few secluded beaches along the way, taking a dip in Lefroy Bay where I caught Lisa a nice Yellowfin Bream for dinner on a spear (it’s illegal to spearfish at most locations along Ningaloo Reef but at Lefroy Bay it was game on!).  We stopped off at Ningaloo Station (S22°46.426′ E113°46.452′) to pay our $5.00 each per night for camping on the station property and after receiving some very shoddy directions from the station owners found a somewhat wind-protected site in the dunes for the night.

The Tank exiting the Yardie Creek crossingBoat Harbour BeachThe Tank in the dunes on Ningaloo Station Ningaloo Station HomesteadNingaloo Station HomesteadOur campsite for the night amongst the dunes on Ningaloo StationThe track usurped by the dunes on the way to Coral Bay 

The arid expanse of Ningaloo Station with goats and sheep to the rightCivilization: Coral BayFrom our campsite amongst the dunes on Ningaloo Station we continued south across Cardabia Station, some desolate landscape where we encountered plenty of Emus, wallabies and some extremely muscle-bound male wallaroos.  A few of the tracks through the dunes looked enticing, but after getting The Tank stuck in the deep sand along one track we decided it was time for civilization again and made a bee-line for the resort town of Coral Bay (S23°08.670′ E113°46.246′).  After checking-in to one of the two caravan parks in Coral Bay we washed the sand off of The Tank and both lavished in much needed showers, our first for five days.  I washed my hair, what little of it I have left, twice!

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Gallery: The Pilbara

Australia, Galleries, Western Australia 2 Comments »
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The Pilbara

A collection of photos from our adventures through Western Australia's Pilbara. The gallery includes photos from Eco Beach, Cape Keraudren, Karijini National Park, Tom Price, Onslow and Exmouth.

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Broome to Exmouth

Australia, Western Australia 1 Comment »

Back to the land of giant termite mounds...Western Australia We flew from Jakarta via Singapore back to north Australian city of Darwin, where we spent the day enjoying lunch with my auntie and uncle followed by a trip to see my cousin at work with her first and second graders at Nakara Primary School.  It was a fun trip, bringing back memories of the days when you could tell someone you disliked that you were going to bash them after school (I heard the threat of bashing after school twice during our visit!)…  From Darwin we flew southwest to Broome to pick up The Tank, which we were very happy to see after almost two months away from our little home on wheels.  From Broome it was 1869 kilometers (1160 miles) of not much more than red dirt, sand, Spinifex and no shortage of big blue skies as we drove south to Exmouth.  We stopped off at a few interesting spots along the way, the first of The ocean view pool at Eco Beachwhich was a small resort about an hour south of Broome called Eco Beach.  The resort had been heavily advertising its existence on the TV networks when we were staying in Broome a couple of months back so we thought we should drop in and have a look-see.  Tucked into the dunes 10 kilometers off the highway, Eco Beach has some beautiful stretches of coastline with everything from secluded coves to long stretches of white sand.  The proprietors advertise the beaches in front of the resort as turtle nesting grounds and also boast of some of Western Australia’s best fishing in the surrounding waters.  With a full-service restaurant and bar as well as a very picturesque pool, Eco Beach looks like it’d be a nice place to kick back for a few days…

Villas in the dunes at Eco BeachLisa on the beach at Eco BeachEco Beach

Sunrise at Cape KeraudrenSam fishing in Cootenbrand Creek at Cape KeraudrenDinner time at Cootenbrand Creek at Cape KeraudrenAfter enduring a day of gale-force headwinds along the edge of the Great Sandy Desert that pushed our fuel consumption up by around 15% we stayed a night at a secluded spit of land called Cape Keraudren (S19°58.402′ E119°47.240′), 150 kilometers northeast of Port Headland.  After crossing the Martian-like salt flats between the cape and the highway we found a beautiful spot at the mouth of Cootenbrand Creek.  Another chapter in our Animal Planet odyssey, the turquoise waters of the creek Cootenbrand Creek at Cape KeraudrenColorful mud crabs in Cootenbrand Creek at Cape Keraudrenwere a hive of activity in the waning afternoon sun: baitfish being chased by predatory fish and amazingly colorful orange-and-black crabs scouring the banks for a bite.  The most unique of our animal experiences at Cape Keraudren would have to be the hermit crabs: as we were sitting there enjoying a glass of red wine in the dark we noticed that the moonlit ground seemed to be moving.  We shone our headlamps on the sand near our feet and were amazed to see hundreds of hermit crabs making their way from Cootenbrand Creek into the surrounding bush.  We had trouble making our way around the campsite without stepping on them!  Never before had either of us seen such a concentration of crabs…

Cape KeraudrenSam at Cape KeraudrenSandy Beach at Cape Keraudren  Cootenbrand Creek at Cape KeraudrenSunset at Cape KeraudrenA kangaroo at Cape KeraudrenWe were in the minority in the Pilbara as a vehicle with only four wheels 

Lisa ready for a tour of the mining operation at Tom Price From Cape Keraudren we had a long day of driving, almost 480 kilometers (298 miles) to the majestic Karijini National Park.  After refueling at Port Hedland, the massive northern Pilbara enclave of BHP Biliton’s iron ore operation, we headed south into the Spinifex covered plains toward the mining town of Newman.  We were one of the few conventional vehicles on the road, road trains are the typical means of road transport in the northern Pilbara as they trek across the country to supply the massive iron ore operations dotted throughout the area.  Most of them had at least three trailers, some of them we spotted with four troughs fully-laden with iron ore.

Tom Price mineAfter an awe-inspiring few days in Karijini we headed to Western Australia’s highest town on the western border of the National Park: Tom Price.  Tom Price is named after the American prospector who led the establishment of the iron ore industry in the Pilbara.  At one Haul trucktime the iron mine on the outskirts of Tom Price was the richest known deposit of iron ore on the planet.  We arrived in town in time to catch the day’s mine tour, after passing all the ore road trains we both wanted to see one of the mines up close.  What an A retired dozer at the Tom Price mineOne of the crushers at Tom Price mineexperience, here’s a few of the statistics we can remember…  The Tom Price mine, owned by Rio Tinto, employs 900 full-time employees who, for the most part, work two lots of 12.5 Lisa in front of a retired dozer's shovelhour day shifts three days a week, followed by a day off, then three 12.5 hour night shifts followed by six days of rest.  The mine pays truck and excavator drivers around $AUD100,000 per year, while train drivers earn between $AUD150,000 and $AUD180,000 per year.  Employees have their housing in Tom Price heavily subsidized, company-paid private health care and allowances to fly their families in to the area from Perth during their six days off.  The haul trucks (pictured above left) have 2200 horsepower A sled with a full loadturbocharged diesel engines that run electric generators, which in turn run the drive train.  The massive tires on the haul trucks measure 3.9 meters (12.9 feet) in diameters, cost $AUD100,000 each and last around eight months!  The hauling trucks use approximately 20 liters of diesel per kilometer (that’s around 0.12MPG for all you North Americans) and the whole mine goes A retired haul truck on the outskirts of Tom Pricethrough one million liters of diesel per week!  The sleds (pictured right), used for transporting some of the slower moving excavators and shovels, can carry in excess of 400 tons.  The ore is moved from the Tom Price mine to the port at Dampier via train on the largest Lisa deciding on lunch at the Tom Price bakeryprivately owned rail network in Australia, stretching over 1600 kilometers across the Pilbara.  The rail system has up to 28 trains on it at any one time, each train is powered by three locomotives with combined hauling muscle in excess of 12000 horsepower, a fully laden ore train stretches approximately 2.5 kilometers.  For the type of ore that can be loaded into the train using a tunnel below the ore stockpile, at current prices approximately $AUD2.3MM of ore is loaded on the train per hour.  The electricity to power the mine, town, and all the other Rio Tinto mines in the Pilbara is generated in the coastal town of Dampier using natural gas mined offshore and delivered to Dampier via a 130 kilometer long underground pipeline.  The Tom Price mine has only ever stopped operating once in its history: the recent recession allowed Rio Tinto to close the mine for the first time for a 10 day period this last Christmas.  It was a great tour, a lot of fun to see such a gargantuan operation up close.  Oh, and the bakery at Tom Price is definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area (Lisa had a tough time deciding in the picture to the right)!

A sled making its way to the ore pit at Tom PriceThe main fuel depot at the Tom Price mineAn empty sled next to a regular truck at Tom Price mine One of the crushers at Tom Price mineShovels for loading the train at Tom Price mineThe workshop at Tom Price mine: boys and their (big) toys 

The salt mining operation in OnslowThe ANZAC memorial on the beach at OnslowAnother long day of driving took us from Tom Price to the sleepy coastal enclave of Onslow (S21°38.068′ E115°06.742′).  The inhabitants of the Pilbara seem willing to mine just about anything they can find, there’s no exception in Onslow where the main industry of the isolated town is a salt mine.  The extensive salt flats we passed on the way into town are harvested, refined in Onslow and then transported to ships using a huge conveyor system.  Onslow’s also popular with fisherman, a few of the inhabitants of the Ocean View Caravan Sam cooking up a storm at Ocean View Caravan Park in OnslowPark, where we stayed, had their fishing boats with them for their winter trips up north.  We took a walk through the dunes and along the beach in the late afternoon and spent the evening at the Beadon Bay Hotel chatting with some of the locals, enjoying a few welcome draughts and getting schooled at pool like we’ve never been schooled before.  Through our conversations with some of the bar staff we learned that Onslow is to be the hub for a massive Chevron-led offshore natural gas drilling project touted to deliver over $50B (yes, billion) in royalties to the Western Australian government over the next 20 years.  The staff mentioned that every few days teams of engineers make their way through the otherwise sleepy town, planning the infrastructure to support the gas operation.  The day before we were in Onslow a team of 10 engineers had been visiting, their task to design an international standard runway on the outskirts of town capable of handling jumbo jets.  I have a feeling Onslow is going to be a busy place over the next few years…

 Boardwalk through the dunes in OnslowThistles on Sunset Beach in OnslowThe Tank next to one of the many salt flats in OnslowSalt crystals on the outskirts of Onslow

Vlamingh Lighthouse north of ExmouthAn emu on the outskirts of ExmouthFinally to Exmouth and done with long treks for probably close to two weeks.  We arrived in town around lunch time, quickly refueled and restocked, then headed to the beach for a well-deserved swim and snorkel over some of the reef for which the area is so famous.  It was quite windy during our first afternoon so we ventured to one of the more protected beaches at Bundegi, the reef had some interesting fish and coral but the main attraction was a pair of lobster hiding beneath a large piece of coral about 50 meters from shore.  They were without a doubt the biggest lobster either of us has ever seen, the tails on them would have easily been as thick as my thigh.  Goes to show how big they can get when it’s illegal to remove them from the water (the reef at Bundegi Beach is a marine park…).  Tomorrow we’re off to explore Cape Range National Park and the famous Ningaloo Reef for a few days. 

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