Day 196 to 200 – (18th – 22nd Mar) WA Road trip (part II)

11 04 2011

Slightly frustrated by our failed exploits north, we, upon arriving back in Perth decided to hire a car that day and take the coastal road north. We had had enough of the outback.

The Pinnacles weren’t too far north, and made for our first stop. It’s not totally clear how these pillars of rock were created but it has something to do with an ancient forest and leaching limestone – I don’t really remember the three mechanisms.

That night we found a hotel in Dongara. The guide book described the town as having ‘nice old olive tree lined streets’. How does a town having old trees make a worthy entry into a guide book? – sometimes I really wonder about the Lonely Planet. Yet another visually bland, culturally void, banal town with a great little bakery would be a more apt description. In the morning, we went to see Greenough’s very interesting colonial buildings, a now abandoned village established in 1862 made for a very pleasant mid morning visit.

Melchett:        ‘God it’s a barren, featureless desert out there, isn’t it.’

Darling:          ‘The other side sir.’

Large parts of Australia are flat, baron and featureless. One could very easily think you were reading the reverse side of the map. As a consequence you can often find yourself driving down a dead straight road for ten’s of kilometres. The longest we experienced was give or take 100km! Cars over here should be sold with steering wheels as optional extras.

After a swim at Little Lagoon we took a sunset catamaran cruise around Monkey Mia, Shark’s Bay. Shark’s Bay is a well deserved coastal world heritage site and a truly beautiful place to be out on the water at sunset, comprising of two bays that are formed between two peninsulas and the WA coast line. At Monkey Mia there is a dolphin research centre, and every morning you can watch the dolphin feeding and if you’re very lucky get to feed a dolphin. It was pretty cool being so close to wild dolphins.

In the afternoon we boarded another catamaran for an ocean wildlife sightseeing trip. We were both lucky and unlucky, seeing more dolphins than you could shake a stick at. However, we failed to see any of the endangered dugongs (aka the sea cow). Dugongs are very similar in appearance to manatees and spend most of their time munching on seagrass. We saw a couple of sea snakes, rays and turtles who unknown to me are actually very quick swimmers. Monkey Mia and Shark’s Bay as a whole were big hits with Jen and myself, and at low season was very peaceful.

We spent a very hot day in Kalbarri National Park. The Murchison River that runs through the park and subsequent deep gorge are the standout highlights of the park. Kalbarri National Park is well known for being a hot place with temperatures easily reaching 40oC and after a long walk to the bottom of the gorge a whopping 50oC – yet another way this country kills unwitting tourists. The unimaginatively named Z bend and the loop offered us the best views of this stunning natural attraction. We could have spent hours admiring the view, maybe even having a picnic on the cliff ledge; however, the unholy numbers of flies had us wildly flailing our arms in the air in a desperate bid to rid ourselves of the hundreds of flies.

I can’t work out if flies are very stupid or very brave. There can’t be many animals that after coming close to a near death experience (my hand trying to squash it), would come straight back to the sight of the incident, time and time again. Anyway, the fly numbers were insane, forcing us under our mosquito net (thanks Calum). Needless to say we looked ridiculous, enough so for some German tourists to take a photo.

Back on the road heading south we made time to pop in and see Dave Teakle’s folks on the family farm just outside Geraldton. Both were very nice and extremely hospitable, insisting that we stay the night. It was nice to see one of those vast Australian farm stations.

The next day we continued our journey south back to Perth, stopping at Lancelin on the way, a well known surfing spot for Perth locals.

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