The drive south to Kalbarri, is our first real glimpse of the promise of the famous wild flowers of WA. Again we only spend 2 nights here though another night would have been good and include another walk and a bit more sightseeing around the place. First off we went for a drive around town and stopped at Chinaman’s Rock, the point where the river meets the ocean. It is a wild section of the coast. Breakers were huge but with the rock shelf all along the coast it is far too dangerous for surfers to take advantage of the tubes there.

Bob at the Nature's Window
The next day we tackled some of the trails including the steepest trail we have encountered so far on this trip with some of the ‘steps’ 700mm deep. My legs were still protesting a week later in some positions. This was down to the river at the Z Gorge, however before that we went to see Nature’s Window, a natural hole in the rock that looks down over parts of the nearly dry river gorge.
Part of the steep descent at Z gorge

At the bottom of Z gorge

Shark Bay, Monkey Mia and Denham

One of the dolphins at Monkey Mia
We stayed at Hamelin Homestead for 2 nights. On the first day there we went to the old telegraph station nearby an saw the Stromatolites which look just like rocks only they are one of the earliest forms of life in the world. We also saw the quarry from whence these blocks of compressed shells are mined however today this is basically just for the continual restoration of heritage buildings in Denham that were originally made from these quarried shell blocks. From here we will drive the 100km to Monkey Mia and Denham. We are so glad we decided to go straight to Monkey Mia first as we only just made it there in time for the last dolphin feeding. It should be advertised more that the 3 morning only feedings only at variable times that is basically determined by the dolphins’ arrival with the mostly likely times being from as early as 7am and the last generally around 10-10.30am. We had 5 dolphins come in including 2 young ones. I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky ones chosen to hand feed a fish to a dolphin. We don’t have a photo to record the event as my back was to the camera and it happened so fast it was sort of disappointing that the buzz didn’t last longer.

The sea hare
We received the greatest kick out of patting a sea hare. This is like a huge snail wider than the palm of your hand and it has a small shell on its back like a snail. When you pat it, it releases this bright purple inky liquid that colours the waters surrounding the animal. This is a defence mechanism. We also got some good photos of pelicans there too. We ran into Kevin of Stuart Coaches there once again. After leaving Monkey Mia we went driving around the area visiting such places as Shell Beach a beautiful wide white beach of millions of the tiniest cockle shells; Denham and Nangi.

2 birds?

Tiny cockle shells of Shell Beach


1 mile wharf at Carnarvon
We left super early the next morning at 6.15am for the 170km trip to Carnarvon so that we could attend church there. (It is one of the few times Bob has seen the dawn on this trip!) We arrived and quickly found the Church of Christ. We had a good 45 minutes spare to relax and have a cuppa before church started. We met 2 Aboriginals there as well as James & his wife. James is the Principal of the Carnarvon Christian School. One of his daughters goes to SMBC (Same college as our daughter Camille). He invited us to come and look at the school after 3pm on Monday. After lunch and a bit of a lounge around we decided to hop on the bikes and go for a ride around the bay and town which was less than 1km away. Being Father’s Day we eagerly awaited the anticipated calls from the kids.

Our friend, Richard “Dad”, rang just for the fun of it and started the conversation with “Son, this is your father calling”. It set the tone for a fun conversation. Basically Richard called to let us know their plans to meet us in Perth have changed yet again. We also received the call from our friend, Erik, recovering from an operation on his arm, encouraging us to come sooner if at all possible. The next day we had a sleep-in and thus a late start to go sight seeing upto Point Quobba and the nearby blowholes which are smaller, shoot higher in calmer weather and are totally different to Kiama Blowholes.
Quobba Blowholes

all 4 holes blowing at once!
We saw a whale off in the middle distance and his flute for a good time as he travelled up the coast towards Ningaloo or further. Off we go further up the coast to Quobba Station. They take campers too almost right on the beach. Soon it is time to head back to town. We noticed that since there are no trees in the area, the birds had nests at the top of the power poles. Bob reckons he saw at least 25 bird’s nests up on the poles. Some poles even had old wheel rims attached to the side of the poles below the wires for the birds to nest in. We stopped at a road side fruit & vege farm for fresh produce. We had a short rest before heading off to the school to meet up with James at his school. The school has been blessed by God abundantly. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with James.

quabba coast lighthouse
 From here we were due to meet up with another BCA supporter couple, Joan & Michael, but first we took a quick trip to see the 1 mile jetty which is only 3 km past the school. Lo & behold we see a Stuart’s Coach there and knew the driver, Kevin, back from our days working with Crossroads, more than 15 years ago. Bob & Kevin recognized each other immediately. (This was helped by Bob having grown his beard again whilst on holidays). Finally we went on to meet Joan & Michael.  They are the ones who started up Christ for Campers (which is a breakfast & fellowship/God spot done in the caravan parks in various locations as many southerners travel north for the winter and spend 3-6 months often in the one or 2 places and are quite bored /aimless). We had such a great time listening and talking to them that they kindly invited us to stay for dinner and we ended up staying with them for 5 and half hours before we left them alone. I hope we didn’t out stay our welcome as I will love to keep in touch with these wonderful people.

Cape Range National Park and adjacent Ningaloo Reef

The 1904 wreck off the point near Exmouth
Winter is popping its head in. Mornings are cold & chilly usually between 12 and 15 degrees. The temperature is bad enough but the wind is strong. It has been that way since the afternoon we arrived here at Cape Range National Park just near Exmouth. It is a lovely spot as far as the beaches go. It is adjacent to Ningaloo Marine Park which as coral reefs close enough for you to snorkel along. Unfortunately we don’t have our snorkels with us. (We have asked around and found that there are more snorkelling areas south of Perth so when we go back home in November, we will bring it back with us.) These are the nicest beaches we have seen since we have left the east coast. The fishing is supposed to be good just north of here where it is allowed but we are not fishermen. I am not even sure how to tie a hook on let alone throw out a line or what bait to use. I certainly won’t gut a fish – I probably wouldn’t do that properly either since I have never done that before either.
The beach at Exmouth
We have met up with another couple, John & Kathy, back at Robe River (Barradale free camp) and have since camped together first at the lighthouse campground just outside of the Cape Range NP and now at Cape Range. We relaxed here with walks along the beaches, reading in the sand dunes, drives along the National Park and watching brave souls snorkelling. After three nights we parted ways and moved south stopping along the way at Pebble Beach which lives up to its name being only pebbles. Just south of Exmouth we couldn’t by pass the Fishermen’s co-op and we just had to buy 1.5kg of cooked fresh prawns. Yummy!
Lighthouse at Exmouth
Next we called into Coral Bay. The bay itself is nice though it is very much a caravan park town. I don’t think I saw one residence there at all 3 or 4 caravan parks line up next to each other facing the bay. The only grassed picnic area is insufficient and crowded as anything. We decided not to stop there but stopped on the side of the road just out of town to have our lunch in the van before moving off further south to a free camp site at Lyndon River where we met up with another couple in particular that gave us lots of recommendations of as they have travelled this area many times over the years.

This was John & Barb's church???

Karratha, Dampier & Millstream National Park

Another beautiful sunset on the way to Karratha

Try counting all the Correllas in just this one tree and nearly every tree had similar numbers

Weird moonscape approaching Pythin Pool - not a tree or bush to be seen anywhere

Not much water in the Python Pool

Michelle beside the Fortescue River at Millstream National Park
We arrived in Karratha back on Thursday 26th. We were made welcome & invited in for a cuppa with the Anglican minister, Ian. Though there was no work to be done there they were willing to let us park next to the church and use the facilities here. We went for a sightseeing trip to Dampier the next day and also took in a visit to the Gas plant nearby which we found fascinating. From here we went on to see the aboriginal rock carving area. This whole area looks like God dumped piles of rocks in large clumps to form rocky hills. I even thought at first on the way into the Gas Plant that the rock piles were literally dumped from the installation of the facilities for the gas plant. The rocky hills support virtually no vegetation on the slopes though you will find plenty of spinifix grass clumps at the bases and the odd small stunted tree – mostly dead trees at that! Though we didn’t see any Euros, there was plenty of evidence (poo scats and lots of road kill on the approach) to let you know the rock wallaby is plentiful in that area. We did see some crested rock pigeons. Of course there was the rock carvings which ‘they’ reckon could be as old as 6,000 years old. There were a lot of carvings , many were indecipherable mainly due to natural erosion, but there were also quite a few that you could make out. If one climbed the rocks, you could see even more rock carvings. Bob climbed one bit but I declined as I was in thongs that day. Yet I still managed to see well over 30 carvings, some as big as 2 metres, but that was only about 4 of them as most were about 30-80cm that I saw anyway. After clambering amongst the rocks we went into the small town of Dampier itself with its very busy port. On the way back we stopped at the lookout over the Karratha Salt Pans and saw the huge trains taking iron ore to the port. I counted well over 200 cars before I lost count. I reckon there was 250 carriages behind 3 engines and a some other carriage size engine/machine which I have no idea what it was but a type of engine but not a train engine!
On Saturday we travelled to Millstream/Chischester National Park. It is a small NP on part of the Fortescue River. It is a little oasis in an otherwise very rocky barren landscape. The road is basically a loop around the river. There are 2 good swimming spots with adjacent camp spots. The unmanned visitors centre is housed in the old homestead and there is quite a historic display of the region that is quite interesting. There is still plenty of water in the Fortescue River even though it is quite low for this time of the season. The associated wetlands are an important part of the ecosystem here supporting a range of fauna many of which are indigenous to the region and some are even rare. We had lunch by one of the swimming holes with literally hundreds of corellas sleeping up in the trees all around us. It was hard to see them at first as they blend so well into the white paperbark. I counted over 33 in just one tree. We considered ourselves lucky not to have been pooped on, yet later in the day I did notice that Bob had some bird poop on his shoulder. On the return to Karratha we decided to go a little (19km each way) out of the way to the Python Pool. We are so glad we did. If we had thought the landscape barren before, now we were to see what a totally barren land is. The whole vista is just mountain size piles of rock. It is so fascinating. Bob even refers to it as being a moonscape. The pool is at the base of 2 huge sheer rock faces. It must look marvellous when the waterfall is going. You used to be able to swim there but algal bloom has been discovered and swimming is discouraged. We recognized that we must have seen at least 10 trains on our trip that were in excess of 200 carriages long. I tried counting one of them and got as far as 234.
Absolutley lovely Sturt's Desert Pea - not all have the black 'belly'
On Sunday we went to the host Anglican Church. A great sermon with a decent size congregation for the outback towns of about 30 people with a lovely morning tea spread afterwards. After lunch and some craft time we went for a drive to Cossack and Point Samson to the north east of Karratha. Basically it is the beachside escape for the people of Karratha. We found sat in the shady lee of the rock face watching the people at one of the beach coves. It must have been cold in the water as we saw people shivering, even though the outside temperature was probably in the low 30’s. Jolly hot! Cossack is an abandoned town that has been restored and has several buildings registered with the National Trust. Great for history buffs!