Saturday, September 15th, 2001
We slept all night but were both perspiring sometimes, and it was 8:30am before we awoke to a warm cloudy day which gradually blued as the morning rolled towards 30°C. I walked across the road and booked us into a coral-viewing trip for 11am. So after breakfast and a salty shower we walked to the beach awaiting the Sub-Sea Explorer. This vessel is built such that spectators sit lengthwise along seats on the bottom of the boat facing outwards through glass panels which are angled at 45°, to see the fish and coral.
First day in Coral Bay
Coral Bay beach seen from the lookout. The glass-bottomed boat operates just off-shore from here; the two fisherman in the water (lower right) were catching the same Spangled Emperors that we saw and fed from the tourist boat! The Ningaloo Reef breakers can be seen in the distance.
The boat went no further than 200m from the shore, but we navigated closely through the tree coral in vivid electric blues, many shades of brown and amber antler-like coral, vivid green-yellow tree coral, and mushroom-shaped and brain coral of mainly muted tones, yellows and blues. A multitude of fish, from tiny electric blue, and black and white striped fish called Humbugs, small wrasses, cods, angel-like fish, up to large buffalo bream, swam freely about. There were many bÍche-de-mer sea-slugs at the bottom of many mini-canyons, but we were surprised whan schools of large spangled emperors (a tropical kind of snapper) surrounded us, apparently ready for the fish-feeding to come. For up onto the deck we trooped, throwing little bits of berley over the side to be pounced upon voraciously by large numbers of spangled emperors.
All this was exciting, colourful and so photogenic that I shot a whole film! Happy, we wandered back home with some bread rolls for lunch and a paper to read. It was hot, and we were so sleepy that we slumbered the afternoon away. Later, a stronger breeze sprang up, so we had tea of curry and eggs after wolfing down a large Carnarvon avocado which was nice and ripe.
Then we phoned the family, at Peter and Gaby's for Victoria's birthday, did some photo-sorting and diaries, and went to bed happy. What more could we want?
Sunday, September 16th, 2001
A lovely warm day today encouraged us to take a walk up to a lookout, and along the beach, where someone caught a spangled emperor just like the ones we saw from the boat yesterday. Then we bought the paper and had lunch, and read and slept in the early afternoon.
Second day in Coral Bay
The main beach at Coral Bay.
Later we donned our swim togs and went to the beautiful green and turquoise beach, where the water was a little cooler than expected, but we enjoyed our subtropical swim, after which we both dried off in the sunshine then did it all over again, with great relish! We swam out together to a buoy some 100m offshore.
After another laze around and a bit of avocado and sherry, we got dressed and wandered down to the Coral Reef Hotel Resort for a couple of glasses of wine and some fish and chips, namely, Red Emperor, which was very delicious. There were a lot of people dining outdoors near us, and being surrounded by happy people, the palms, the black velvet night and the stars, with the sound of the sea not far away, we were both very content with each other.
After that we went for a slightly daunting walk in the dark up an ill-marked sandy track to a lookout, where, alone in the stygian blackness in the glint of the starlight, we gazed over the glimmering sea, the sand, the sky, the heavens above, and the warm breeze blowing across our contented faces, happy in each other's company.
So our last day at Coral Bay was restful, satisfying and a great pleasure. Tomorrow we push off to Carnarvon to stock up on supplies and cheap fruit.
Monday, September 17th, 2001
On this hot, sunny day we travelled from Coral bay to Carnarvon through the now-familiar red, dry, harsh, low-scrub-speckled bush studded with rocks in some regions, like bones, which are a good match for the also-familiar real bones of red kangaroos and wild goats. We've seen plenty of goats, but not one live red kangaroo (the big ones), but plenty of bodies. You could almost call this the Blood-Stained Highway! As we passed the spot where we had seen the wrecked caravan on Day 28, we found two men packing the wreckage into a large truck presumably belonging to the local council.
Coral Bay to Carnarvon
It was interesting in that we are at last retracing our steps, but of course from the opposite direction, so that route is still the same, but the direction of view and the angle of sunlight (now from behind at midday) are different.
Settling into the same spot in the same park, the Tudor caravan park, in Carnarvon as on the way up, we hopped off to town to the Commonwealth Bank and to put a film in for processing, plus some shopping. The shopping arcade was again populated mainly by aborigines, and they were also very noticeable lounging around the streets and parks.
Back at the van I was tired, painful in the back, probably from yesterday's swimming, and somewhat depressed, so I was sleepy, painful and withdrawn. Poor Glenyce was probably puzzled, but as usual, patient and accepting, but it was hard to climb back out of it. We did go to Munro's and Bumbak's plantations to stock up on lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
I read a bit and listened to the radio - I can get Radio National again - hooray! I have really missed the intelligent, in-depth discussions thereon, as the local ABC stations are pretty light in content, and the commercial stations are drivel. I woke up several times during the night with back pain, but half a Mersyndol Forte and a Panadeine helped me to sleep.
Tuesday, September 18th, 2001
We left Carnarvon on a hot day (33°C) with a strong southerly blowing. A quick wash of the car and caravan got some of the dust and salt off. We picked up the film and some rolls for lunch at the arcade in Carnarvon. There were even more aborigines in the shopping area, and we both saw a police car arrive, at which quite a few of them scattered! We were both glad to leave Carnarvon, which is a bit run-down in appearance and atmosphere.
Carnarvon to Kalbarri
Travelling south to Kalbarri, we went for lunch to Wooramel Roadhouse - sandwiches (ours), delicious danish pastry (baked right here at the roadhouse), and coffee. And flies while we ate lunch. The scenery is as before, boring and monotonous, with scattered dead animals. My back is pretty sore. But we came across miles of shrubs bursting with delicate pale mauve pompom-like flowers which are probably Cottonbush (Ptilotus obovatus).
Closer to Kalbarri turnoff we started to see more wildflowers, and we photographed quite a few along the way. It's a long drive (500km), and with a hard-blowing head wind I noticed the fuel gauge dropping rather alarmingly! And it seemed an eternity to the next stop, a tiny little spot called Binnu - but at least there was petrol at this place! The owner told us that lots of people run out of petrol here when they meet a southerly head wind like we did - and she'd had a few that very day. Our twanging nerves, straining eyes, furrowed brows, sweaty palms and white knuckles were justified, for it took 69.5L to fill, and the tank only holds 72L. We had had enough fuel to go about 12km more!
As we drove west towards Kalbarri, still tense because we had almost run out of petrol, the sunset seemed very welcoming indeed!
So, greatly relieved, we motored happily to Kalbarri, driving into the setting sun, which I photographed. Our chicken and avocado salad was superb!
Back pain should improve tonight, I sincerely hope!
Wednesday, September 19, 2001
Kalbarri to Western Flora Caravan Park (near Eneabba)
We enjoyed our night at Kalbarri, in almost the same spot in the van park as on the way up. But you can feel the nights getting cooler on the way south. Retracing our steps down the road from Kalbarri to Northampton, we enjoyed the increasingly green and pleasant scenery on a beautiful warm day. A snack in a park at Northampton saw us then through a tourist variant of the highway, from Nabawa to Geraldton, which looks nicer than we perceived before.
Then we lunched at Point Burnley near Greenough, and pushed down to Western Flora Caravan Park, 22 km north of Eneabba, near the Arrowsmith River. We settled in and went on a guided wildflower walk from 4:30 to 7:30pm. Alan Tinker is the owner and guide, and through the fading evening light he took a couple of dozen of us for a close examination and illustration of the many plants native to the region.
He was authoritative, friendly and well-spoken in all manner of the minutiae of the structure and function of plants, their flowers, and birds, insects and animals involved in their pollination, all done in the the context of the ecological picture. He finished up with a display, in a small lecture room, of the small parts of plants, seen through a dissecting microscope equipped with a high-resolution TV camera. This latter display was very engaging, and quite able to elicit gasps and oohs from many members of the group. I was extremely impressed by this man, and we enjoyed our tour together. This is a beautifully-planned caravan park and was a delight to stay in.
After cup-a-soup and innumerable slices of toast, we wrote and slept.
Thursday, September 20, 2001
Western Flora Caravan Park (near Eneabba) to Coorow
A breezy and mild morning greeted us as we awoke at Western Flora Caravan Park, and after showers and breakfast we set off for a walk which took us 2hr for 5.6km through various types of heathland replete with a wide variety of wildflowers, from the very tiny, tiny everlastings, sundews, trigger plants and the like, to the buttercup-coloured orchids, many kinds of everlastings (not, alas, in droves), many other kinds of flowers in whites, yellows, pinks, violets, blues and reds. I took a whole film today on that walk, with many close-ups. There were many Creeping Fringe Lilies (bright pink), many kinds of banksias (mainly past their prime), and xanthorrheas (grass trees), macrozamia palms, thryptomene shrubs, callistemons, feather flowers (red and orange Verticordia), grevillea, etc.
We saw this dead gum tree near Three Springs. It was painted yellow, apparently as publicity for the Landcare project. That must have been quite a task!
We pushed off, lunching at Carnamah after an enjoyable drive through the wildflower territory around Three Springs. Carnamah is where I lived my first year of life, but I recall none of it, so it was interesting, but ultimately not that important for me.
Travelling to nearby Perenjori, we finally found the famous Wreath Flowers (Leschenaultia macrantha) in patches of up to dozens, 15-18km west of Perenjori, in the gravel on the side of the road. We also found two other carloads of tourists already there, admiring and photographing them. One Victorian couple were from Vermont (near our home suburb). Small world!
The famous WA Wreath Flower, Leschenaultia macrantha, grows in gravel sites especially in this Midwest region.
Diverging south, we passed Perenjori to Latham, then west to Coorow. This almost solitary drive along a narrow (but made) road was delightful, as we were into the setting sun, with glare. But this back-lit the grass, shrubs and trees with a beautiful halo of sunlight. Surprised to find a nice caravan park at Coorow, we had fillet steak and vegs - and Bill had 2 cans of beer, too!
Settled for a good sleep, at 8:30pm, with the temperature at 24°C.
Friday, September 21st, 2001
Coorow to Regan's Ford
Coorow dawned warm and still; apparently they are dying for more wind around here for the windmills to pump the underground water. This caravan park was originally built on the older Midlands Road until the newer Brand Highway by-passed the town. Now it is quite nice, but rather empty nowadays, which I found rather sad.
Driving west towards the coast, we enjoyed a lovely drive through dense but low sandy heathland, full of the usual banksias, woody pear, many flowering shrubs, and lower-growing wildflowers, plus an unusually large number of native conifers, like stubby pencil pines. This gave it what I imagine is a rather Mediterranean look. This was a delightful drive through a variety of sandy heath habitats in the Alexander Morrison National Park, some of which was very low - mostly waist-high, but intensely studded with wildflowers of various kinds, and at various stages of flowering. Again, the trusty Canon EOS300 clicked furiously, and we're sure we've captured a lot of beautiful things.
We lunched at the beautiful Green head beach.
TThis curious lizard was one of two that kept coming out of the bushes onto the car park at Green Head beach, facing the hazard of car tyres.
Crossing the Brand Highway towards the coast, we found even more varieties of wildflowers, and stopped at Green Head with an ocean view for lunch. During today we had seen about 10 bobtailed skinks (shingle-backs?) crossing the hot road as they come out of hibernation. There were even a couple of lizards wandering around the carpark at Green Head, in great danger from tyres; I kept on moving them off the gravel into the bushes, but they obtinately came out again, causing much aggravated consternation to the seagulls! Why do they do that?
Near Cervantes are the fascinating sandstone rock formations called the Pinnacles.
Running down to south to the holiday village of Cervantes, we unhooked the van to visit the Pinnacles; caravans are banned on the tourist road into there.
These unusual, needle-like, limestone formations are found in Nambung National Park, just below Jurien Bay, another holiday town and crayfishing centre. Again, wildflowers, but added to this was the fascination of the unusual limestone pinnacles protruding in the thousands through a yellow sand desert. Apparently this underground structure is common throughout the Perth coastal plain, namely limestone needles and pillars underneath the geologically newer sand layers.
Dame Nature created this unusually phallic pinnacle just for her own amusement. I know it certainly amused us!
Off we went, then, to Badgingarra, but we found the van park there not quite to our taste, and forged further on 50km through the gathering dusk to a tiny place, Regan's Ford, to a tea of hardboiled eggs and pasta. We thoroughly enjoyed the day, and we had seen two echidnas crossing the road!
Saturday, September 22nd, 2001
Last night, at Regan's Ford, we were puzzled by a continual banging on the aluminium side of the caravan. Investigation showed this to be due to a number of large Christmas Beetles which were being attracted to the brightly-lit side of the van, owing to a large fluorescent lamp in the park. Fortunately, this light went off at 9:30pm, so the kamikaze bombardment stopped.
Regan's Ford to Perth
At 5am it started raining heavily, and this continued all day as we drove down the coast to Perth, calling in to see a series of coastal hamlets. Firstly to Ledge Point (nothing much), then Guilderton, which was quite nice, but it was raining heavily.
Pushing on, we reflected how fortunate we had been with the weather prior to this, for photography, wildflowers, touring and walking. We called in to Yanchep, but owing to poor signage and new development areas, we got a bit lost and wasted time. Yanchep seems quite nice (when you find it!), with a beautiful little protected rock lagoon. There are many fine houses in the area, and many more on the way. But we never did find the shopping centre. However, we did finish up at a sister town, Two Rocks, which is about 5km to the north. We did find here a rather strangely-designed shopping complex, where it was quite hard to get the caravan in and out, but never did find anywhere to buy petrol!
We lunched in the van in driving rain on the Two Rocks foreshore. By this time my back was pretty sore, and what with the rain and getting lost, I got pretty terse and testy. It was a relief to reach Perth, and we settled again into Karrinyup Waters van park for several days, still with hard rain overnight. We'll recover tomorrow and make a few new plans.
William G. Leithhead 2006