Travel Blog: Week 18

Australia

Week 18: 11.03.2013 – 17.03.2013

Monday:-

I was still feeling knackered from the long day on Saturday. Didn’t do much of anything. Although I did manage a trip to the cinema – Beautiful Creatures. I was the only one in the screen. Well almost, 2 women turned up just as the film started. It was an OK film!

I made Spag Bol for dinner. Everyone would be eating it – I think the meat would just about stretch to 5. There were 2 sittings, 1 for Ewan and Gareth and them me, Ange and Nigel later. I’m not used to juggling my cooking skills this way.

I got Gareth and Ewan sorted – everything was in hand and I was feeling in complete control. Then……..there was an eerie silence……Ewan’s entire plate of food had slid off the plate and onto the floor – it went everywhere!!!!!!!

Plan B. I split the remaining plate of food between and set to making another plate. Now the meat would have to stretch to 6. Whilst pondering this little challenge i forgot about the garlic bread – yep, you guessed it, burnt. Anyway it all worked out in the end and everyone survived my cooking.

I had decided to see if it was possible to change my flight so i could stay a little longer in Oz. I phoned the airline and posed the question only to find they had gone and changed the flight. I was only going to see if it was possible!!! So it seemed I was staying until the 4th – at least I could go to the Script gig at Perth Arena. Standing ticket at the front – woo hoo!!!

After all that excitement in was definitely time for bed.

Tuesday:-

A quick breakfast before Ange and I headed out for spin. Another great class with a truly motivating in structure. “Make pain your friend and pick up the pace”, “Feel the burn and know that your are not losing but winning” – its amazing what you fall for when your body is screaming!

Home to change and then out to the famous Cottesloe Beach to see Sculptures By the Sea. Some strange configurations but also some wonderful ones staged all along the beach in the wonderful sunshine.

    

  

    

  

  

  

  

Lunch was a mind blowing burger and chips at Grill’d – marketed as the healthy burger! I guess a little like Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

  

Home, via school – I claimed the front seat much to the boys disgust.

A quick snooze before heading out for dinner and a movie.

Wednesday:-

La-zy day

Late breakfast, and get this……in front of the TV! Probably the first time I’d switched the TV on in 10 weeks. A spot of laundry and hoovering. Must be time for lunch!!! Snooze! Then I set to and made dinner for us. The boys were having fish and chips so I only had to cook for one sitting of three. Or so I thought. I received an invite from Adam (from the Rottnest trip) to join the guys for a $10 steak dinner – would be rude not to. I just needed to get there as it was in Scarborough Beach and there’s no direct route. Nigel helped me work out the train and bus. I was off, leaving Ange and Nigel to eat my dinner – hope it was OK.

Ange dropped me at the station – I’m sure they treat me as though I’m one of their children. (I just won’t get grounded for not doing my homework). I got the train to Glendolough station then the #400 bus. If only I was standing at the bus stop on the right side of the road. Oh, dilly daydream.

Any I got to Zanders restaurant at dead on 8 and booked a table for 4. For $10 I got a great steak, mash, gravy and some twiddley deep fried carrot. Marvellous! Shame the beet cost the same as the meal.

I got back on the #400 bus only to find they were working on the train line so they weren’t running all the way to Currambine. Onto the train for one stop then off again to pick up the replacement bus. All was going so well until the bus broke down. I eventually got home just before midnight after 2 hours of travel. So much for getting home early so I could finish packing for tomorrow’s trip to Exmouth.

Thursday:-

Up early to finish packing. I had a super big brekkie then Ange took me to the airport after dropping the boys off at school. I was flying from the new domestic airport and it was very swanky. They were a bit hot on carry on – I was 1kg over and had to check my bag. Security was the easiest for some time – I didn’t even need to take my shoes off.

I boarded the plane – woo hoo, extra leg room as I had the emergency row AND all to myself. I never realised but you get a little extra personal safety briefing if you sit in these seats. Just so you know what to do!!!! Another little bonus – we were given a light lunch. Not bad for a 2 hour flight.

We landed early. A tiny turtle airport so finding the bus transfer desk was easy. It was right next to the luggage belt (you could actually see the guys taking he cases off the plane and onto the belt), and the toilets. That’s all there was. I was asked where i as staying and when I answered “I don’t have anything booked” I was asked “backpacking? – you’ll be staying at Blue Reef”. That was that then! The guy who took my bus booking also turned out to be the driver – I wondered why I wasn’t given a ticket. It was a 40 min ride into “town” and the driver gave a little guided tour. ATM, post office, IGA (aka grocery store) and well that was it – unless you count the gas station. There was one other backpackers but not nearly as nice as mine turned out to be.

  

I checked in and while I was at it I booked a whale shark tour for tomorrow (with Exmouth Dive Centre EDC) and a Learmonth pier dive for Saturday with Exmouth Whale and Dive. Sorted!!

I found the dorm – a 4 share with only one person staying in it by the looks.

  

  

I unpacked and headed back into town. Boy it was hot – in the 40s. There really wasn’t much here. I found another grocery store, right next to the first one. Both of them were IGA – go figure! I bought lunch from a bakery – oh yes, there was a bakery too – and took a wander. Finding the ATM I got more cash.

I got back to the room around 4:30 and decided to have a snooze – which turned out to be 3 hours. A woke to the sound of my room mate coming in. Alex from Switzerland. She seemed OK. And she told be where the bottle shop was. I found it and bought a couple bottles, then joined Alex and some of her friends in the kitchen area. All German speaking – I left them to their conversation. I needed to book the next nights accommodation – oops the reception was closed. I’d do it in the morning. Despite my snooze I was ready for bed.

Friday:-

Up at 6:30 – which was still a struggle – I was ready and waiting at 7 as requested. Unfortunately, reception didn’t open until 8. I needed to pay for tonight by 10am which was going to be tricky as the whale watching was all day. I pegged it back to the dorm and gave my money to Alex as asked if she would pay my subs – fingers crossed she’s honest.

The van came to collect me – Jess was the driver. There were 8 of us on the trip and we met up at the office to get kitted out – fins and wetsuit (I had my own mask and snorkel). We were taken to Tantabiddi Boat Ramp and were met by Shane in a small boat. He took us out to the big boat. I think we were lucky its low season and there were only a few of us. They had only just started these tours this week. What great timing!

  

  

We had a short snorkel practice to ensure we knew all the signals and the shark etiquette. The corals and fish were amazing even it the water vis wasn’t great.

  

  

  

  

Back on the boat to wait for the spotter plane to take off. They spotted one – this was it, we were off.

  

Wetsuits, fins, and mask on super quick then waiting at the back of the boat to be given the OK. Jess, not only the bus driver but the instructor too, went in first and saw the shark. Sadly it dived and this chance was over.

  

After that we were really lucky and got the chance of 4 swims, with 3 different whale sharks. Once we were given the OK to get in the water we had to swim like the clappers to find Jess and catch up with the shark. The shark looked majestic with slow powerful swing of the tail, but boy was it moving. We all had to swim pretty fast to keep up whilst trying to keep a responsible distance away (3m from the body and 4m from the tail) and dodge each other.

  

  

  

We got to swim alongside the sharks for a good ten minutes before they decided to dive. Their spots and stripes camouflage meant they disappeared right before our eyes when they were just a few meters down. One of sharks circled us and came closer so we had to get out of its way.

 

 

 

This was an amazing experience and was coupled with sightings of large bait balls which were caused by tuna shoals curling small fish and driving them to the surface.

 

Lunch was scrumptious and I had by fill as it would be my main meal of the day. Then we had the chance of one last snorkel – just before we got in the water a huge eagle ray appeared and swung right under the boat before heading out to sea.

  

  

  

Our time at sea was over and Shane, the boat captain, took the dingy out to the transfer boat. We all got in and were taken to shore, then back in the bus.

I got back to the backpackers tired but elated. First things first – I went to check out the showers and wash my salty clothes. Everything is very convenient here. Fresh and clean I headed for town to get some fruit for dinner ( lunch was big enough to last most f the day) and something for breakfast. I made it just before closing. I stashed the food in the communal fridge and went back to the dorm. Everywhere was so quiet I stayed in and updated my blog (offline – no Internet or vodaphone signal here) and read. Ange had lent me the Great Gatsby.

Saturday:-

I was up early and ready for the mornings dive.

I grabbed some yoghurt, cereal bar and banana and waited. If only I realised the pick up was 8:10 rather than 7:15 I could have had another hour in bed. Anyway, I put my feet up and read for a while.

In order to dive the Navy Pier there were some forms to fill in. The pier was used by the US navy up until a few years ago when it had a staff of 2500 – hence the barracks, squash court, bowling alley, grill bar, and swimming pool. It’s still owned by the US but now is managed by 50 Australian federal police. It’s still pretty important as it has 13 huge signal masts, the tallest being 387.9m ( knowing that won Ben a chocolate prize). These masts are a set of 4 dotted around the world. They can pick up, and exchange, submarine signals from anywhere on the planet. Pretty impressive. Anyway, after the formalities had been taken care of and we’d had our dive briefing we were off. We had to show photo ID to enter the area and it was strictly no photos.

The pier itself was very impressive. It was so tall that a number of flights of stairs were required to get down to the water and even then we had to do a huge stride with about a four meter drop. Ben helped me get kitted up, thank goodness, and we had decided to buddy up and do an unguided dive.

  

The place was amazing. So many shoaling fish and some really big ones too. One Queensland grouper came right up to me – it was huge.

  

We also saw reef sharks, wobegones, barracuda, nudebrancs, scorpion fish, butterfly fish, angel fish the list was endless.

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

 

We were doing well on our air but all too soon our 50 minutes were up and after the 3 minute safety stop we surfaced. It was pretty choppy and so a bit of a struggle to reach the steps and haul ourselves and the kit out of the water. I’d forgotten how heavy the tanks were.

  

  

  

  

There was no lunch provided on this trip but we did get cake and fruit to I tucked it. It would need to last me.

Back in the minibus and back to the dive shop. Time for a beer with Thibaux from the dive shop, and Bertron from the cafe. We headed to the nearest bar, which was also a betting shop – bit of a risky combination if you asked me.

 The dress code seemed to be shorts, wife beaters and all over body tattoos which might explain why I was the only woman in the place. Too many pitchers of beer later we headed back to the backpackers. Ben had planned to move on today but unfortunately the beers got in the way and he was no longer able to drive!! He ended up cooking a lentil and steak dinner for us all at the campsite kitchen. Somehow I managed to get invited to join Ben on his trip to the national park tomorrow. My only caveat was that I needed to be back at the airport by early afternoon.

After another beer I was done and headed for bead. Excited at the prospect of unexpectedly going to the park.

Sunday:-

I actually had a bit of a lay in this morning. Ben wanted to leave around 8 so the alarm was set for 7 rather than 6. I packed then finished off the left over yoghurt and cereal bar for yesterday. I was all set. Just a quick stop for provisions and fuel.

It was blistering day again – the norm for this far north.

  

We drove along the coast road for about 30ks, seeing emus and kangaroos along the way, until we reached the Ningaloo National Park entrance. $7 each to stay overnight.

  

We parked up and unhitched the trailer then headed out for Turquoise Bay. It was, as the name would suggest, the most amazing colour. We wasted no time in dumping out stuff on the white sand and heading out to sea for a snorkel. My words will never do the place justice – the ocean was thriving. So much to see absolutely everywhere you look there is something new. We even got to see a 2m white tipped reef shark and a couple of blue spotted rays.

  

    

  

  

  

  

Next stop Oyster Stacks. Another beautiful spot for snorkeling. The corals here were so huge that a number had broken at the base and toppled over. Another shark AND a turtle which we followed for a while before it gracefully and easily out swam us.

  

 

 

  

Lunch was crisps (chips as they’re called here), plum and a banana – that’s a balanced meal!!!! We needed some energy as we were going to walk the Yardie Gorge Trail. It was hot. Really hot. We didn’t quite reach the end of the trail but that was due to the trail markers disappearing, so we made our own trail. Fabulous views and a few rock kangaroos to boot.

  

  

    

Back to the truck and onto where we’d parked the trailer. Time to set up camp. There were about 4 other vehicles parked up but there was plenty of room for all. The evening was passed playing Pétanque, which I was completely trashed at, setting up the hammocks, washing (of a fashion), cooking dinner and dancing in the light of the electrical storm that threatened on the horizon. A fun time was had by all. Even the 20 minutes when we were hit by a swarm of flies didn’t damped our high jinx.

  

  

 

 

Time for bed. The two hammocks shared the same central tree. Hope it was strong enough to support us both! Just as we got in it started to rain – only very light but strong enough to make Ben put up the tent as a plan B.

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