Leaving the national parks and pristine beaches of Exmouth in our wake it dawned on us that during the excitement we had totally forgotten that it had been an entire year since leaving the lush meadows of home. 365 days of adventure, cultural enlightenment and personal enrichment gained by experiences obtained across 27 countries. They say that time flies when you’re having fun and if that’s true we must have had a cracking good time as it only seemed like the blink of the eye. The celebrations would have to wait until the evening as this band of blokes had a busy day ahead.
|The southern reaches of the stunning "Ningaloo Reef"|
Around 150km South of Exmouth just off the “Minilya Exmouth Road” is the tiny holiday settlement of Coral Bay. Like Exmouth Coral Bay is famous around Australia for its close proximity to the vast Ningaloo Reef and as such offers is a great place to scuba, fishing and snorkelling. As we only had one day in town we focussed on the latter and grabbed some snorkels and masks from one of the tour provider outlets close to the beach. The beach was relatively busy and judging by the swathe of silver heads on beach towels it turned out the small hamlet is a popular holiday spot for Australians of an older demographic or those with families. A bit like the southern hemisphere equivalent of Skegness or Blackpool (If the malnourished donkeys were swapped for pelicans and the floating sewage replaced by abundant pristine marine life).
|Another turtle! I think I will call you Donatello (image courtesy of our friend Dave Fowler).|
|It helps to act like floating drift wood i you want to get close to these chaps.|
Keen to escape the overcrowding in the shallow bay we wandered south around the headland to a snorkelling spot the tourist information desk had suggested. Swimming a few meters out the first thing that’s immediately obvious is that this place definitely lives up to the name. The sections of reef we accessed from beaches in Exmouth were great but Coral Bay blows them out of the water. The sheer scale of the coral blooms is incredible. It almost feels like your swimming through an alien landscape from the movie “Avatar”. The healthy condition of the reef was backed up by the diversity of marine life. Tons of fish of multiple colours and sizes living in a complex habitat alongside a plethora of molluscs, bivalves and crustaceans. Like Exmouth the highlight of the day had to be the turtles which seemed to be all over the place. Dave and I stalked one of these incredible creatures for what seemed like hours. Hypnotised by its effortless motions and carefree demeanour. Coral Bay definitely tops our ever growing list of snorkelling spots and if you’re ever in the area it makes for a brilliant day trip.
If snorkelling or diving doesn’t interest you the talc like beach is a great spot to waste the day away and is pretty well sheltered by small row of dunes at the mouth of the bay.
With a lack of free accommodation in town we all helped ourselves to a free hot shower in the adjacent holiday park before grabbing a few crates of Emu and a birthday cake from the local corner shop and trundled 100km south to the closest free camp site. The small patch of dusty land ran alongside some bush land making it easy to find enough dry wood for a campfire. The birthday bonanza meant that we finally had an excuse to dust off the “shit shirts” we bought each other in Yangshuo, China all those months ago. We even bought some sparklers to complement the highly flammable polyester and create some awesome shapes in a landscape devoid of artificial light.
|watch the sparks doof you'll go up like a Christmas tree|
Sunday 7th June 2015
I suppose after a week of activities it was inevitable that we would have a day of boredom and Sunday 7th June 2015 was such a day. A day staring at the sun scorched tarmac isn't the most exciting thing in the world but at least it was comforting to know that just over the horizon sat the dolphin hot spot of Monkey Mia.
We stopped for lunch in the town of Carnarvon, which naturally lacks the historic importance of its Welsh counterpart but does share the same humble atmosphere as a safe refuge for leisure craft and those who live off the seas fruits. The town is a popular pit stop thanks to a decent sized supermarket and nice public parks with communal BBQ’s and washing facilities. If you’re stick of sitting in a smelly car, eating pot noodle all day just find such a spot, crack open the burgers and get your fill. It’s a luxury you can’t get in the UK thanks mostly to the damp climate and the fact that if there were public barbeques they would probably be used as disposal points for dog shit.
|scenic spot. I just hope the mosquitoes bug off|
The evening campsite was nestled on the banks of the Wooramel River and offered a pretty luxurious base considering it was free. With plenty of dead driftwood to burn, an hours’ worth of Wi-Fi and clean toilets it’s no surprise the spot was extremely popular with the aged campervan and Winnebago dwellers. If anything we were something of an oddity for these retired ramblers and it probably explains that contrary to the last few weeks many of them seemed keen to chat. By far the weirdest and eventually most annoying was a rough bearded Australian who looked like someone you would expect to see on a documentary about Big Foot sightings. He appeared from the gloom whilst we were tucking into our dinner and just stood in front of us starring into the flames of the camp fire. Stunned and scared out of our skins we stared back in silence until Dave asked him what he wanted to which the wiry haired chap said “just wanted a quick talk as we haven’t seen many backpackers about” (not sure why he said we as he was on his own). I think the definition of quick chat is a bit different out here because he continued to stand by the fire a talk for two and a half hours. This wouldn't have bothered us too much if the topic of conversation was interesting but he continued to stick to his guns and talk car mechanics (which none of us gave two shits about); foreign policies, which mostly revolved around how there are too many immigrants (again another strange topic to grace a bunch of foreigners with) and how their prime minister Tony Abbott was in his words “a c**t” (which I happen to agree with. He wants to drill for oil beneath the Great Barrier Reef). Eventually the chap ran out of steam and wondered back through the gloom to his campervan. I don’t mean to sound unapproachable and we have had many occasions where starting a conversation with other travellers is a great way to break the tedium but he was the sort of bloke that left me wondering whether his campervan was full of the belongings of murdered backpackers. We are after all in a country that contains paces like Wolf Creek and people like Ivan Milat (If you don’t know what I’m on about just Google it).