The west coast of Australia is filled with colour both on land and in the sea. Our many hours of driving was made easier by the gorgeously colourful wild flowers that made fields look like carpets of purple, pink and yellow…
When I wasn’t driving the colour continued in the coral reefs of the Ningaloo, the blue and green ocean that contrasted against the white sand during the day was replaced by orange sunsets at dusk or the moon casting a yellow stairway mirage on the blackened water below. We were lucky to witness this last phenomenon – named the Staircase to the Moon. Advertised like crazy in Broome we did wonder if the true thing would be as great as the many posters displayed around town but we waited with hundreds of others on the beach for the moon to rise. It was worth the wait but it took many photos and wading into the water to get only 2 good shots. Oh, I forgot to mention this phenomenon only happens when it is full moon so our timing was just perfect.
This all sounds so idyllic I know and it was from Broome down south towards Perth we saw so many beautiful things including an abundance of wild life. My highlights:
Watching Humpback whales breaching in Lighthouse Bay, Exmouth.
Snorkelling on the Ningaloo Reef amoung the coral, tropical fish and the occasional Ray.
Driving in Cape National Park at a slow speed allowed us to spot the uncountable number of grey kangaroos, red kangaroos, two Echidnas crossing the road and some Emus.
Swimming with Manta Rays in Coral Bay. These graceful gentle giants of the sea are just beautiful to watch, I spent a good 30 mins following this 4 meter wide ray – which was total goosebump material.
Watching green turtles and spotting a tiger shark on the out Ningaloo Reef just before we dived in for a snorkel – scary stuff!
Feeding the Dolphins at Monkey Mia and the Pelicans at Kalbarri NP.
You could never be bored down the coast with all the things to see and do, but at the same time it is peaceful with its sparse population. The people are incredible friendly, views amazing and the seafood fantastic.
Liz and I celebrated our final part of our trip together at Freemantle, Perth over a glass of wine in the harbour – after all we had just driven all the way from Darwin together – approx. 5800km!!!!
It is the middle of winter and the temperature reached almost 30 degrees. I was at the top end of the Northern Territory in Darwin looking longingly at the ocean wishing I could cool down, but the mere thought of accidentally bumping into a box jellyfish kept my toes well above the shoreline. It was not the only dangerous thing to look out for on this trip as every waterhole, billabong, river and small pool held the threat of ‘Salties’ (Saltwater crocodiles) or according to the locals if you were lucky the non-human attacking ‘Freshies’ (Freshwater crocodiles). Either way I was determined not to go anywhere near the water let alone swim! Having said that I still did venture into the plunge pool at Wangi Falls in Litchfield NP. Liz and I must have got the record for the quickest cool down swim ever.
From Darwin my friend, Liz, and I and our new found friend, Wicked Maureen, headed in the direction of Litchfield and Kakadu National Park. Wicked Maureen provided us with transport, camping equipment and a comfy bed (well after 3 weeks maybe not so comfy) and a bright bodywork design that everyone felt the need to take photos of. Her only faults were her gluttony for car oil and the occasional wobbly she threw when going over 90km/h. But we loved her anyway as it was a great way of getting around and stopping wherever we wanted.
Litchfield NP was very peaceful with lots of waterfalls and pools. It was also home to the fascinating termite mounds that towered above you. Two types stood just across the road from each other – the common cathedral mound and then the magnetic mound that resembled a cemetery across the plain. It was in Litchfield that we camped for the first time with Wicked Maureen. The campsite was run on a honesty system so we popped our money into the box and went and found a spot as close to the ablutions as possible so we did not have to venture too far in the dark. We had a lovely meal of Chilli ConCarne made from kangaroo mince. At 98% fat free it became our favourite at our camp dinners as we cooked hamburgers, more con-carne and had some fantastic Kangaroo steak on the BBQ.
Leaving Litchfield we stopped off at the Famous Jumping Crocs. It was closed when we got there in the afternoon so we had a nose around and met one of the employees who gave us permission to camp the night. We were offered the use of his kitchen and the best yet – a hot shower. The evening was very entertaining as we listened to our host tell us stories of other travellers and his job at Jumping Crocs. Having spent the night on the premises we were first in line and got the best seats on the boat so we could watch the show.
The guides were very knowledgeable as they told us about the nature of the ‘Salties’ and how they are one of the oldest surviving animals from prehistoric times. It was fascinating watching them jump their own body length out of the water to grab the piece of pork dangling in front of them. I am however unsure how I feel about partaking in the feeding of wild and dangerous animals. I have strong views of the practice of feeding sharks for the tourist cage dives in South Africa and would never condone it, yet here I was doing something very similar in Australia! A long drive to Kakadu NP let me battle with my conscience .
Kakadu NP was filled with beautiful landscape from billabongs and wetlands that were the home to colourful water lilly’s, birds and naturally crocodiles. We explored as much as possible on a 2WD and walked up to viewpoints, through forests and to see some great rock art that included the lightening man. Not sick of National Parks yet it was on to Nitmiluk NP that is home to Edith Falls and Katherine Gorge. We had a good relaxing time at Edith Falls before going on a 8km walk around Katherine Gorge. Leaving the National Parks behind we started on our long and desolate drive to the Kimberley’s.
It was from here that you notice how isolated you feel on the long roads and hundreds of kilometers that separate each town (which was normally a petrol station and roadhouse) and attractions. We were pleased to have ‘Wicked Maureen’ with a well stocked food cupboard and water supply. Kununurra was the biggest town we stopped at and the first town to have mobile network coverage in days. It was the start of the Kimberley’s with terrain that changed every so often from flat to rugged and then flat again. It did feel like there were vast amounts of nothingness as we drove but looking back we still managed to see and do quite a lot like visit :
the big croc and dreamlike statues in Wyndham,
the hidden valley which housed the mini bungle bungles and the head-lice dreaming statue (not sure why one would be dreaming of head lice though)
Boab Prison Tree near Derby and
Halls Creek was entertaining not just for the China Wall, the old ghost town and the fascinating story of an aboriginal, Jack Jugorie who operated on his friend while following instructions sent by Morse code by a Dr Tucker who was based in Perth, but for the road that got us there. Suitable for 2WD the tourist information insisted, we made our way along the unsealed road only to have our teeth rattling from the start – it was like driving on corrugated iron and driving fast or slow did not seem to help the effects. We forgave Wicked Maureen after that for her now and again wobblies that were mild in comparison to the rattling experienced on this road.
Our last night in outback of the Kimberley region we stayed at one of the free camps on the cliffs and watched the sun slowly set and cast a beautiful red tinge over the landscape. It would be our last night in such a setting as we headed further west to the ocean – gone was the dust!
The Red Blitz
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
You don’t realise how big Australia is until you get here – the world map does it no justice and it is only when you start comparing that you notice it is practically the size of the USA. It also made me realise that I had set one big challenge -getting from Adelaide to Darwin in just four days!
Excitingly for me my friend, Liz, was joining me for 4 weeks while I was in Australia and after spending a day and a half in Adelaide exploring the art scene and working out just how we were going to see the much talked about ‘Big Rock’ in just 24 hours we boarded our bus for a 20 hour journey to Alice Springs. As the sun starting coming up we soon realised we were in the back and beyond and the start of red dust country. There was not too much to see on the road other than small one building towns, a few shrubs, warning notices to not fall down old mining shafts, road trains and of course lots and lots of red dust.
Arriving in Alice Springs we dashed with our backpacks to the car rental place where we picked up the only car left to hire – a Ute. Bagging our backpacks in black bags we flung them in the back and hoped they would not take off when we whizzed at maximum speed down the road only stopping to see the camels on the side of the road and to fill up the car with some expensive petrol. We had quite a journey in front of us and it was made shorter by the fact that you could not drive too late at night or in the early morning because of the Roos that like to bounce across the roads.
I was unsure just how spectacular Uluru was going to be and did wonder if this rush of a journey was going to be worth it – In my mind it was just going to a big rock sticking out of the ground. But as it come into view I was genuinely surprised at how big and over powering it seemed to be and I was equally awed by the dream-time stories and the importance of the rock to the aboriginal people. Every hole and shape is depicted in their stories with my favourite being about the snakes – Kuniya and Liru – which I have shared with you below:
A long time ago a young woma python (Kuniya) boy was sliding along when he was surprised and ambushed by a group of Liru (poisonos snake). The Liru were not very friendly and started throwing spears at the Kuniya and murdered him. They threw the spears so hard that the spear heads made the big holes that you can still see in Uluru today. The Boy’s aunt a Kuniya woma python woman was so angry she chased the Lirus. She slid along the rock and caught up with them and killed the one Liru with a blow to the head. You can still see where the Kuniya woman Python slid along the rock as a dark wavy line in Uluru.
We only a few hours to get around the Rock and look for the signs of the Kuniya and Liru before we had to head back to Alice Springs – so straight forward I thought until one last picture resulted in us getting stuck in the sand! It took a lot of persuading for us to get a ranger to come and pull us out of our sticky situation as it was not their policy. With less time to get back to Alice Springs we made the mad dash hoping all the way that the Kangaroos would stay off the road and not add anymore dramas to our day. It turned out to be a mad but fun journey and I do think we were both pleased to get on that bus to Darwin even though it would be another 20 hours before we got there.
The camper van was booked and I must admit I was very excited about it being my home for the next four days as my friend, Angie, and I made our way up north to explore the ‘Twin Coast’ or the Northland as it is officially known. Our little van (which I will refer to as Nomad) was well cozy and came equipped with fridge, stove, kitchen sink, bed and a portable heater. The main selling point being the heater as the nights were a bit chilly but sadly we found out on our first night that it just did not want to work – at least we had our snow chains so we would not get stuck anywhere for too long!!
We started off by making our way along the west coast which was made up of beautiful coastlines, narrow and windy roads and Kauri Forests. It was a long drive as we wanted to get as far north as possible but we still made time to see the famous Kauri Tree – Tane Mahuta – wow it was tall! We did not get to see the pet dolphin at Opononi but we witnessed a sparkling sunset across the ocean as we headed to Rawene for our first night stay.
The excitement of reaching 90 mile beach in less than an hour got us up bright and breezy to catch the 7:30am ferry. I am sure the surroundings would have been spectacular but as it was so misty we could not see a thing but things soon changed. The views on our drive were spectacular as we followed rainbows in the sky and watched the mist lift eerily from the ground. I was not too sure how many times we would turn the corner and see yet another amazing view before us, but for sure the words ‘wow’ never tired from leaving my lips.
Our stomachs were grumbling by the time we reached Aripara, so we made ourselves some toast and a cup of tea before walking on the wet sand which mirrored the sky above perfectly. What a way to spend a morning. We did toy with the idea of driving Nomad out on the sand but we soon came to our senses and decided it was better to look at everyone else taking a drive than having to dig ourselves out of any sinking sand.
Aripara was the start of beautiful beaches as we headed towards the east coast admiring Doubtless Bay and getting out occasionally to stretch our legs on the white sands. It wasn’t all about beaches so we stopped at Waitangi for a bit of culture and to see where effectively ‘the modern New Zealand’ began.
Our east coast part of our journey we slowed down the pace a little and explored some of the coastal towns of Paihia, Russell and Waipu Cove and of course many more stunning beaches that I certainly could never tire off.