Week 16 14/11/06 through 20/11/06
Day 106 Tuesday 14 November 2006
We started today out with snorkelling at Turquoise Bay before we decided to head a little further south along the coast. We could see a sail from a distance at Sandy Bay and stopped to watch. Steve grabbed some great photos of the acrobatics which must come only after years of experience. Alison had noticed a track heading inland behind the beach, with a huge hill climb, that we needed to investigate . What a track this turned out to be!!!! The first part was steep and rocky, but the payback was the incredible views back over the reef and coastline. We continued along the track over some really rough parts where you could only drive at a crawl or risk being thrown from the vehicle. Eventually we found Cape Range No 3 Oil Well (abandoned), and not a drop of oil insight. Our Oziexplorer (real time mapping software) told us we had travelled to the range behind Learmonth (the RAAF Base) and were very close to end the of Charles Knife Road. How wrong it was! We were on the other side of the canyon with no chance of connecting up to the road due to the geography, but the views of the canyon were unexpected and beautiful . From here we back tracked 10kms and headed for Learmonth. The track wound down the ridges giving some excellent views and eventually ended at the fence on the RAAF base. The base appeared to be so quiet with its deserted hangers and empty machine gun posts. We kept expecting to be stopped by MP's due to our close proximity to the base. Eventually we passed through the razor wire and emerged on the main road before we headed back to Exmouth.
As it was now dinner time we had hamburgers from the cafe called the Blue Lips Fish and Chips. These must have been the best burgers we had enjoyed in a very long time! From here we then decided to visit John and Margot and see how their photography had turned out over the last couple of days. They managed to find the emu chicks we had found and also got some great pictures. We viewed the rest of their holiday pictures on our laptop which was the first time they had seem them on such a big screen. Another enjoyable night!
Day 107 Wednesday 15 November 2006
We are settling down into a routine each day, snorkelling, emus, 4WD and photography. On our way to Turquoise Bay today we stopped and had a long chat to the ranger about 4WD tracks in the area and she was telling us that they do not publish them as people with vehicles like ford falcon station wagons would want to attempt them. It seems like there are 2 major crossing points that climb over the Cape Range Mountains, the first being the Sandy Bay to Learmonth and the second Holt Naval Base to False Island Point (Approx). Once we had finished our chat, we were off snorkelling again. Alison found her turtle and spent quite a bit of time watching it feed. We saw brain coral and even a huge piece of coral that was 5m in height. We have lost track of the number of different varieties of fish we have seen. They come in just about every colour you can imagine, and in many different patterns.
We had another stop to see the emu chicks (and wash down our snorkelling gear). Alison gets down so low to get these pictures o the chicks. They are quite trusting. We then headed to North West Cape to see the Mildura wreck that is just off shore here via Vaiming Headland Light House. The Mildura was an old sheep carrier that was wrecked off the coast. There is not much of the Mildura it left, as the sea slowly reclaims the rusting steel. We then took a 4WD track which took us very close to the main communications array before it turns towards Exmouth. The size of these towers is amazing. The main tower is 387m in height. There were also so interesting rocks on the flats which glowed in the afternoon light. From here we headed to the internet to post week 15 and then off to find our illusive 4WD track across the point through the sand dunes. As usual, when we use the internet we end up spending a lot longer than planned, so when it came to finding the 4WD track it was dark. Not a problem!! We headed off with Oziexplorer switched to night mode that gave the whole cabin a blue glow. Eventually after a couple of wrong turns we slowly rock hopped down the range in low low before calling it a night. Can't wait to do that track again during the day light to see the views it has to offer.
Day 108 Thursday 16 November 2006
Without trying to sound monotonous, today we surfaced late from a great night sleep, met a wonderful ranger named Cassandra, snorkelled until afternoon at Turquoise Bay, 4WDrived to a Telstra tower where the view was incredible over both the Indian Ocean and Exmouth Gulf, up loaded the next weeks web page, visited the pub for a few quiet drinks , took a few photographs and had a relatively early night.
Day 109 Friday 17 November 2006
Ok you will be all happy to know that we did NOT snorkel today, but Alison explored a couple of caves! Today was an administration day, a few more photographs (naturally), washing, grocery shopping, post office, vehicle clean up, drinks with Margot (no John as he went fishing with his son Chris) and computer fun with Jake. Who is Jake?
Well Jake is one half of Jake and Esther who are camped next to us in Exmouth. Our first image of these 2 was Esther hanging onto the the side of the car while they circled the caravan park looking for a spot. Esther obviously loves a thrill and certainly is getting that with their trip around Australia. They had their "King Off the Road" camper up and assembled in no time. We were so excited to hear they have been following us on this web site for many weeks and were only a couple of days behind us in Kununurra. Jake and Esther are travelling around Australia the same direction as us, except they started in Melbourne, went to Cape York and are taking 12 months to complete their holiday. They have taken 7 months to get this far. Jake can certainly drive their vehicle well and they are certainly seeing some great areas not visited by the multitudes. They also told us they plan to visit the most westerly point of the Australian mainland which will complete the set of compass points for their journey.
Below is a small selection of Jake and Esther's pictures from Cape York - they have taken some awesome shots!
Day 110 Saturday 18 November 2006
Today was tinged with sadness as we started south again down the Exmouth Peninsular and bid goodbye to some of the people we met like John and Margot. We decided to just see how far we would get down the coast and at one point we certainly entertained staying near Turquoise Bay for another day or two. The first barrier we needed to get our vehicle across was Yardie Creek. Now we had heard that the depth of the creek could be 1.5m deep or greater so we were all geed up for a water crossing. The anti climax came as we approached the crossing and realised the creek was dry and it was just loose sand we would be negotiating. Undeterred we pressed on seeing some wonderful scenery and multi shaded blue ocean. From Yardie Creek you venture into Commonwealth land again, namely the Leamonth Air Weapons Testing Range. No arguments from us about staying on established tracks here, believe us! Soon after here, negotiating the badly corrugated tracks you arrive at Ningaloo Station, with its goats and sheep. This area is spectacular and we certainly enjoyed ourselves here. At one point we saw a huge series of sand dunes, devoid of vegetation, and the race was on to climb it and find some great photographic shots.
The next stop we decided on, thanks to Oziexplorer, was the abandoned whaling station at Norwegian Bay. Locating the track was difficult as sand dunes move and swallow everything in their path. Eventually we found a track and it was a lot of fun. The track took us up onto the sand dunes and over others. Without 4WD you would not escape the dunes as some were soft and difficult to transverse. The reward of a great drive was the whaling station with its rusting machinery and holding tanks. The was one huge piece of rusting sheet metal that reminded us of the Karijini Vistors' Centre! with its darkness of colour, upright position and immense size. As we walked back to the vehicle, traversing several dunes, we could see a shark dorsal fin very close to the beach slowly moving southwards as well.
Day 111 Sunday 19 November 2006
We were buffeted by winds all night and we both slept badly, so an early rise, a cup of coffee each and we were off to the old Ningaloo Lighthouse which is located near the Ningaloo Homestead. There is not a lot left of the lighthouse except the remnants of the keepers house and the tower itself. But of what is left the stonework were a piece of art, even in today's standards. Sadly the years are taking their toll on this historic landmark, with cracks emerging in the tower and parts of the top rim losing their struggle with gravity. A short distance from this grand old lady of our past stands its replacement of some 4m in height manufactured from fibreglass and run on solar panels, all humanity removed from its persona. This new lighthouse will not reach the heights of fame of that which it has replaced, and the era that it represented.
From the old lighthouse we worked our way slowly along the coastal dunes towards Coral Bay. The turquoise waters were slowly growing in width and depth as we approached the township. In one place the road had been engulfed by the sand which is always on the move. Arriving at Coral Bay, we headed through the little village towards the head land with some amazing photo opportunities. We must admit to having difficulty in choosing the pictures to present on the page, but here we go.
Leaving the Ningaloo Coast was very difficult and we had to push ourselves onto Carnarvon for the night or we felt we would never leave! Of course, we needed to stop for the photograph of us crossing the Tropic of Capricorn.The back road we were on didn't have a sign left on the post for it, but Oziexplorer helped out and Alison inserted the line in the photo for good measure.
Day 112 Monday 20 November 2006
Once again the winds were strong last night, but as we get more tired we find it easier to sleep through! We planned an action packed day today, with a few of the attractions around Carnarvon followed by us heading north again, this time to the coastal side of Lake Macleod, towards Quobba Station. Lake Macleod is 2072km2 and is used to produce salt and gypsum.
Our first stop was 1 Mile Jetty which is in the historic precinct for Carnarvon. The jetty has been recently restored and has a little steam engine that takes tourists the trip out to the sea end of the jetty and back. The Carnarvon Lighthouse is also next to the jetty with its keepers cottage. The lighthouse tower is now a steel fabrication as the original tower was weakened when it was infested with termites. The lookout which has been fashioned from a disused water tower gives an excellent view of the area.
From here we moved onto the OTC dish, which at the age of 21 years was closed down in 1987 after finishing it's final project, assisting the tracking of Haley's Comet. It is sad to see such a tourist attraction, which could be a huge draw card to the area, not being utilised to it's fullest potential or to Carnarvon's benefit. You are allowed to climb to the first landing of the dish, but that is it. There must be so much more history associated with this dish, just beckoning to be seen and enjoyed.
On the way to the Quobba blow holes we detoured via a fruit and veggie stall for which the area is renowned (Steve had a feast of grapes - most of the other fruits had finished their seasons). We also checked out Miaboolya Beach (a popular fishing beach, which was also a hatchery area for an endangered species of turtle), the Bibbawarra Bore and the Quobba Station Lighthouse. We really feel we are going from the "just another gorge" syndrome to "just another lighthouse"! We must admit though, lighthouses still hold the fascination of times past, and show how technology can really change the face of some industries by dehumanising them.
The blow holes, which are about north 75kms of Carnarvon and the associated coast line were quiet unexpected. We have been travelling behind the Ningaloo Reef for so long we had forgotten how the waves without a reef to slow them, can carve a coastline. This coast is just awesome, and put a setting sun on it - knockout!! The winds have remained strong all day and this has at last worked in our favour, with the blow holes putting on a great show, assisted by the choppy, stirred up ocean. This area of the coastline is also famous (infamous??) for "King Waves" that can sweep unsuspecting people from rocks when they crash over the rock ledges.
Stay tuned as the adventure continues......