Thursday 28 March 2013

Perth to Coral Bay - Part 3


We woke up early to be able to be in Monkey Mia, (21km away) for the 8 a.m dolphin feeding.

Monkey (from a pearling boat called Monkey or after pet monkeys owned by the Malay pearlers who lived in the area) Mia (aboriginal word for shelter or home) is located 800km north of Perth. The reserve is within the Shark Bay Marine Park and is a World Heritage Site.

Of course the main attraction of Monkey Mia is the daily feeding of the bottlenose dolphins that have been coming to shore for over 40 years. In the 1960's a fisherman and his wife began feeding the dolphins when returning from sea with their catch.
As news of the dolphins visits spread, the visitors started coming. In 1985 an information centre was built and in 1988 roads, carparks and facilities were built.
The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) supervises the process and manage the Marine Park. In 1982 researchers started a lab to study the dolphin's behaviour and biology.
The visitors centre also shows movies about the dolphins and history of the area

My daughter and I in front of the entrance

The visitors gather at the edge of the water and trained rangers in the water give talks about the dolphins. Suddenly a couple of dolphins swim close to the rangers. The rangers pick a couple of visitors to go further into the water to feed the dolphins; they take a fish out of a bucket and the dolphin takes the fish from their hand. A truly magical experience, and this is all free!

The day we were there, there were only 8 dolphins around, but this number varies daily. Of course the rangers know their names and can identify them just by looking at their tail fin.
They get fed up to three times each the morning, but only the same 5 dolphins get fed. They only get 1/3 of their required daily requirement, so that they can also fish for themselves and not just rely on their carers. That morning we got to see them come close to shore 3 times.
Three of the dolphins swimming around

A volunteer feeds a dolphin

A ranger talking about the dolphins

The bucket of fish for the dolphins

another volunteer feeding a dolphin

Hurry up, I want my fish....

Daily recordings about the dolphins - we were there Tuesday 12th, up to 8 dolphins showed up.
There are also a few Pelicans around trying to steel the fish meant for the dolphins, so they get lured to the sand and given a few fish too, so the dolphin feeding goes undisturbed.

Emus were also on the beach
A few Emus were also around on the beach and around the restaurant trying to steal food from the unwary.
After the second dolphin feeding, we went to the Boughshed cafe/restaurant, right there on the beach and ordered a continental breakfast that only cost $15 each. 
We sat down on some comfortable wicker couches outdoor and enjoyed the breakfast, the lovely beach and sunny weather. Of course we had to keep an eye on our food as the Emus try to stick their beak through the fence, or if you leave your food unattended a seagull will sweep and take something from your plate.

The Boughshed Restaurant
Monkey Mia beach
Other activities you can do in Monkey Mia are:  organized four wheel drive trips, Aboriginal cultural tours, fishing tours and of course swimming in the beautiful clear waters of the bay.
Hope you enjoyed seeing the photos of the dolphins.
I was thrilled to have been able to see them close by, although I wish I had been chosen to give them a fish so I could be even closer. Maybe next time...

Monday 25 March 2013

Perth to Coral Bay - part 2

532km - 8h with stops

Leaving the town of Geraldton, we got on to the North West Coastal Highway, the Brand Highway having ended at Geraldton. (Both highways have only one lane in each direction and overtaking lanes every 20 or 30kms).
Although not too busy with traffic, we came across a couple of road trains that we overtook. Road trains can be up to 36,5mt long.

A road train - 5km ahead an Overtaking lane
Overtaking a road train
In Northampton, 52km north of Geraldton, we turned left to take a coastal road, the George Grey Drive, that took us to Gregory, 44km away where we stopped to see the pink waters of the Hutt lagoon. I had seen photos and was curious.

Hutt Lagoon is a salt lake 14 km long and 2km wide, just north of the mouth of the Hutt River. The lake has a pink or red hue due to carotenoid producing algae, which thrive on the lagoons high salinity. These algae are a source of B-carotene, a powerful anti-oxidant, and commercially farmed as a food colouring agent, for dyes and Vitamin A supplements.
The same company also raises brine shrimp (Artemia) that get freeze dried for fish farms or to feed aquarium fish.

Hutt Lagoon

The pink waters of Hutt Lagoon

Beach in Gregory - a van is being loaded with lobster from a fishing ship
After taking photos we went into the tiny town of Gregory 6km away, to have a look at the beach, where we saw a truck being loaded with lobster from a fishing boat.
My husband inquired about buying lobster, but was told it was all accounted for and no private sales were permitted. 

We had no time or inclination, but if you are into "royalty", halfway between Gregory and Kalbarri you can turn right into a road that leads into the "Hutt River Province" where you can meet Prince Leonard and Princess Shirley, in their self-proclaimed Principality of Hutt River. 
Yes, can you believe it? There is a small kingdom of 75 square kilometre within Western Australia.

Back on the road, and another 51km north to our next stop in the town of Kalbarri.
We had travelled 150km in 2,45 hours, and it was time for lunch.
We settled on the Kalbarri Motor Hotel restaurant, having arrived just 15 min. before the kitchen closed.  Ooops...
We could see that the waitress at the counter wasn't pleased with the late arrivals, but my husband made a joke and she managed a smile.
We ordered fish and chips and beef burgers from the menu of the day, and the food was reasonably good.
Kalbarri beach

Eagle Gorge - there is a small beach down there

Nature's Window at the Kalbarri National Park, with dry Murchison river
A fee of $11 has to be paid to enter the Kalbarri National Park, if you want to visit the big rocks of Z-Bend and Nature's Window or walk the nature tracks. The 30km road to reach these huge rocks is untarred and slow driving.

Leaving Kalbarri  via the Ajana Kalbarri Road we again joined the North West Coastal Highway 65km later.
Looking around us as we drove, we found there were lots of discarded bottles - glass and plastic - on the sides of the highway. I cannot understand why, as at about every 10 to 20km there are rest stops and all of them have at least one rubbish bin! So why would people litter the road?
Also road carnage was very much in evidence! Lots of kangaroos and goats on the side of the road, or sometimes the middle of the road.
We also saw a few wild goats crossing the road or just munching on the verge. If we hooted they would scoot away into the bush. Only once did we actually have to stop while 3 or 4 goats crossed the road in front of us.

We had to stop for these wild goats to cross the road
179km north of Kalbarri, Billabong Roadhouse was our next pit stop for coffee, toilet and leg stretches. There is a motel and bar in the building next door.

Billabong roadhouse - for coffee, food and petrol
48 km later and we stopped again at the Overlander Roadhouse to fill up the tank. The petrol was now 1,699$. Back in the car, we turned left into Shark Bay Road, our destination now only 129km away!  Yippiii I shouted!!

At times the long straight stretches of road can be a bit boring and when just sitting next to the driver I found myself shutting my eyes frequently. For the driver the concentration and constantly being on the lookout for suicidal kangaroos or crazy goats or cows is also quite tiring!
A few years ago we had an "encounter" with a huge kangaroo on one of our trips to the southern coast of WA, and our car was greatly damaged and we had to fly home (luckily it was a company car!). So we didn't want that to happen again, even though most kangaroos came out of the bush at sunrise or sunset, and we made sure we weren't driving at those times. 
The straight and long roads made for boring driving
We arrived in Denham 8 hours after leaving Geraldton and 5 hours after leaving Kalbarri, having travelled a total 440kms. 
We settled on a 2 bedroomed cottage at Shark Bay Holiday Cottages, costing $130 night, which we booked for 2 nights.
The cottages are across the road from the beach and within walking distance to the town centre, but were quite minimal and the furniture in need of replacement with some broken wicker lounge chairs, minimal tv reception, we had to use a chair as a side table in the bedroom as I didn't want to put my bag or mobile/alarm on the floor...but still at this price for 2 couples we couldn't expect fireworks! The landlady was very friendly and helpful with information. (the interior must have been very uninspiring because I didn't even take photos)

The Shark Bay Holiday Cottages
After we unpacked, we went across the road to use the under cover barbecue facility on the grassy area in front of the beach, and grilled some steaks and sausages we had in our cooler box, and sat down to dinner right there.

There was also a strange contraption next to this bbq area which I discovered the next day to be a fish cleaning area. So I presume there must be lots of fishermen here. Once again no lobsters available to buy!
The barbecue area in daylight, 2 grills and 2 tables with benches and was illuminated at night

The fish cleaning area, with running water and brushes

The grassed area by the beach with the bbq and fish cleaning huts
After dinner we were ready to have a shower and jump into bed for an early rise the next day to travel to Monkey Mia 21 kms away, to watch the dolphins being fed from 8 a.m.

Watch out for my next post about Monkey Mia and the dolphins.

Friday 22 March 2013

Perth to Coral Bay - Part 1

420KM - 4,45h

All packed and settled, and we (my husband, I, daughter and her partner) left Perth after lunch on Sunday 10th. It was still hot at 34.C!

The boot was packed!
We took Roe Highway and later joined the Great Northern Highway that later changes name to Brand Highway in the Middle Swan wine area.
Around 5 hours later after having driven 420km we arrived in Geraldton to spend the night.
We had decided not to pre-book any accommodation for our trip, as it was off peak time, so we would have no trouble finding accommodation. 
As we entered Geraldton we turned on our GPS to search for a Bed and Breakfast option for the night, and soon we were knocking on "Wheelaway" door. 
Whealaway, was a self-check in B & B, so we had to phone the owner who came over for a chat and to show us around.

A King and Queen bedrooms were booked, both with en-suites, and we left Jackie (the owner) to make the beds, and went to dinner at Skeeta's Restaurant, at the Foreshore. 
Three of us had the Lobster Thermidor and I had the Gluten Free Fig and Fontina Chicken. We were almost the last people to leave at 9 p.m. and the staff was already setting the tables for breakfast and eager to leave.
We had packed our coffee machine and coffee pods, so we set up the machine and had coffee in the B & B kitchen.
The kitchen was pleasant and had all the mod cons, even a spare fridge for the guests to store their food.
Unfortunately hubby and I didn't sleep too well, as the corridor light was on the whole night (we didn't know if other guests needed to see their way around, as it was on when we arrived after our dinner) and there was a big gap under the bedroom door through which we could see the light shining. The mattress was far too soft for our liking as well, and we couldn't find a blind or curtains to cover the window, and as soon as the sun came up through the drapes we could no longer sleep. There was also just one bath towel per couple in each the second one to shower had a wet towel.
The house and rooms were wonderful though, sumptuously decorated, a lot of brochures and books were displayed with information about the town and surrounding areas, the suburb was quiet and price wise it was cheaper than some of the hotel rooms I had looked at. 
($130 for the King suite, and $125 for the Queen suite) The two bedroom cottage they have would have been ideal for us and cheaper at $165, but it was booked for the night already.

The King bedroom had a private courtyard too (Randolph Stow suite)

The Queen bedroom (Xavier Herbert suite)
The following morning after breakfast, we packed the car again and headed to the top of the hill where the H.M.S.A.  Sydney II Memorial is located.
Inaugurated in 1999 it was designed by Irish pair Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith.

I had on more than one occasion seen televised Anzac Day services from this monument, but it was quite moving to see it in person.

This memorial honours the 645 sailors who lost their lives in the Western Australian coast, in November 1941, during World War II, in a battle with the German raider HSK Kormoran, who was also lost, although some of it's crew survived.

The dome with 645 seagulls represents all the sailors, the wall of remembrance shows photos of the ship and names of all the sailors. There is a bronze statue of a woman looking out to sea awaiting news, and there is a tower representing the bow of the ship.

Detail of the 645 seagulls on the silver dome
The wall of remembrance with the names of all the lost sailors

Ship's bow
Woman waiting for news of the Sydney II
In November 2011, another element was added to this monument - the Pool of remembrance - with 644 seagulls lining the base, and another one 2 metres high above the pool, the wings indicating the spot where the wreck was found with the longitude and latitude coordinates.
There are 30 minute daily tours at 10,30am guided by volunteers. There is also a yearly memorial service on 19th November, date when the Sydney II disappeared.

Pool of Remembrance with 2 mt high seagull and coordinates of area where Sydney was found
The wrecks of both ships were found in March 2008, 12 nautical miles apart, 112 nautical miles off the coast of Steep Point in Dirk Harthog Island. Just across the island is the Peron Peninsula where Denham and Monkey Mia are located, which we visited on our trip.(discussed in future post).

Steep Point, where both wrecks were found and Coral Bay over 550km north.
Across the Dirk Hartog Island, is Denham and Monkey Mia where we also went (later posts)

Before leaving Geraldton we filled up the tank, with petrol at $1.579/litre, already higher than what we had paid in Perth the day before at $1.439/litre.
The further north you go, the more you pay for petrol!
This placard at the petrol station, another sign of the Australian humour made me smile. 
We certainly waved a lot at all passing traffic on our way north, some drivers waved back, others didn't...but I'm sure we made some people smile, and we had fun too while we did it.

Wave and brighten someone's day!
Part 2 - Geraldton to Denham - to follow soon