I arrived in Darwin, Northern Territory yesterday (Feb. 28th). But it was a long journey to get here.
I left Perth with my Swedish friends Anders and Martin and Martin’s girlfriend Misung on Tuesday Feb. 10th. We rented a car from the same place we had rented one for our trip down south, but we got a red Ford Falcon station wagon instead. We finally got outta town around two in the afternoon and headed North, intending to make a five hour cruise north to Geraldton. There were four other vehicles of people who we had met at the hostel in Perth and we were kind of all traveling North together. They had all left the day before and our plan was to meet up with them in Geraldton.
We took the wrong highway out of town and ended up headed north-west when we just wanted to go north so we had to take another road once we got out of town to cut over and join onto the main highway. We decided to stop off at the Pinnacles, which was about an hour off of the main highway. The Pinnacles is a small area, probably like 50 acres or so, where for some reason an ancient forest was petrified and turned into rock. So there are these tree shaped rock formations ranging from a few inches tall to four or five feet tall. There were a few that were bigger but most were not as tall as me. Before it was turned into a national park it was used as a motocross track! But now it is all protected and there is a loop to drive around and spots to get out so we could take a walk around. So we snapped a few photos and were driving out of the park when we passed two of our friends cars who had left the day before us. They were just heading into the Pinnacles and hollered for us to follow them. So we turned around and went back in and watched the sunset over the beach and Pinnacles. It was getting dark then so we all went to a little lookout spot a few kilometers down the road and camped on the beach.
The next morning we made the drive up to Geraldton along the coast and met up with the rest of the crew at the campground there. We stayed there a night and the next day headed north to Kalbari. Kalbari is a small town near the Kalbari national forest. We stayed in a caravan park there in two trailer homes with bunk beds in them. The next day we went and visited some of the different gorges there. All very nice.
Then we kind of split up from there. With a large group some people always want to do different things so I found myself in a car headed north with four other guys. The rest of the crew was going to stay in Kalbari that night and meet us in Monkey Mia the next day. So we headed off and made it to Hamlin Bay that night. We camped there and in the morning checked out the local attractions. Hamlin Bay is the home to the Stromatolites, which to put it briefly are these little organisms who grow only in Hamlin bay and one spot in the Bahamas in the whole world. They were one of the first life forms on earth however many billion years ago and once covered the whole earth. What do they look like? Like a little pile of rock that once in a while has bubbles coming out of it. But they were very cool and I am glad we stopped there.
We headed up to Monkey Mia from there. Monkey Mia is just a little campground and hotel with a beach. But the attraction is that they feed the dolphins there everyday and the dolphins will just come up to the beach to get some food and swim around for a while. Everyone told us to get there really early, like 7am to watch for the dolphins. So we got there along with about 100 other people and a film crew. Two dolphins came up and swam around for a bit. Anders and I decided to take a sailboat cruise to get a better look at some wildlife. It was a two hour cruise for A$50. The only thing I saw was a one second glance at a sea turtle and a duck. When we returned back to the dock around 12:30 we saw that there were now about eight dolphins swimming around and there were only like six people there who all got to hand feed them. Then we headed off for our next stop, Carnarvon.
Carnarvon was kind of a hot hellhole. It seems to me that is the point where I started to notice the heat and humidity beginning. There were also lots and lots of insects there. They had these big flying scary looking things that made a loud noise and were all over the place. Misung said they had the same bugs in South Korea (where she is from) and she called them Locust. She said that they only lived for one day and then they died. It did seem to be true because it seemed like about half of the Locust around were moving slow and dying and the other half was flying right by your head and practicing dive bombing campers heads. The next morning we left Carnarvon and were planning on going to some blowholes (holes in the rocks near the ocean that under the right conditions have waves shoot through the holes and come surging out the top) north of town before heading up to Coral Bay. However our car battery was dead that morning so we got a jump start and when we were filling up with petrol we noticed our car was profusely leaking radiator fluid. We took the car around to three different garages and they all said it was the water pump, but the first two could not fix it until the next day. So finally the third place we went could fix it a little bit later so we got to spend some quality time in downtown Carnarvon until the car was ready at 5pm.
The rest of the group had gone ahead that morning so we decided to skip the blowholes (They were about and hour and a half off the highway) and just go straight up to Coral Bay. It started raining during the drive and when the sun started setting we still had about 45 mins of driving left. Martin was at the wheel white-knuckling it as we started to see Kangaroos jumping around in the bush on the side of the roads. Kangaroos are kind of like Deer in the USA. They will jump out in front of a car and just stare into the headlights and then when the car gets close try to kick it, not realizing that the car will win the battle. Once we got a little bit closer and it was pitch black out and the rain was pouring down we came across a herd of cattle in the road. We were going nice and slow so we stopped with plenty of room and waited for them to move along. We finally made it to Coral Bay and the rain helped us decide to stay in the hostel instead of the campground. We ended up staying in Coral Bay for two nights. We went on a glass bottom boat out onto the Nigaloo Reef and went snorkeling. There were two different kinds of fish hanging around the boat (due to the boat crew throwing handfuls of fish food into the water) and some coral about twenty feet below us on the sea floor. At the time I thought it was pretty cool. Until I went snorkeling in Exmouth that is.
So on Wednesday Feb. 18th we left Coral Bay headed up to Exmouth. Our car had a dead battery again so we got another jump start and decided to head out before the rest of the crew (they were on the snorkel trip a day later then us). So we got into Exmouth and since it was nice and sunny we decided to camp again. It was really hot there as well but they had a pretty nice swimming pool so I lounged around there for the day. The next afternoon we all rented snorkel gear and went to Turquoise Bay which was supposed to be a great snorkeling spot. My car had rented snorkel gear and flippers from the campground for A$12 for the day. The rest of the group went to a place across the street and got there’s for A$5. Once we got to Turquoise Bay we walked along the beach for a bit and then swam out into the ocean. The current there carried us all the way down the beach and over a utterly amazing forest of coral and tropical fish. One trip down the beach took around 20 minutes to complete and afterwards everyone who had rented the cheap snorkel gear was complaining that their stuff leaked and was no good. So Anders and I headed out to swim out to the break of the waves which was way out in the water. That was where the inner reef turned into the outer reef. So we swam and swam and swam and pretty soon it became so shallow that if we were not careful we would not ourselves into the coral because it was just inches below our stomachs. It took us an hour to get out to close to the break but then we started to get hit by waves and couldn’t easily make it out any further so we headed back in. Which took me 40 minutes. The whole experience was awesome though. Easily the best day I have had on my trip so far. That day was also the birthday of one of the girls who was traveling with us. So that morning we had gone into town and bought a small cake and candles and some balloons. That night we all went out to the restaurant across the street and had dinner and some drinks there.
Exmouth was the end of the road for the group as a whole. So Anders and I decided to go on the Easyrider Backpackers Tour Bus from Exmouth to Broome. Which was another 1,200 Kilometers up the road from us. It was basically three days of riding in the bus and stopping once in a while to take a break at a roadhouse or see a beach. Except for our hiking trip in the Karajini National Park. We hiked down into a gorge and to a waterfall for about four hours and everyone got just covered in sweat and mud. Lots of fun though.
We got into Broome on Monday night and were finished with the bus tour. Once we got to Broome Anders and I learned that the road was closed in two places headed north east to Darwin. So our only option was to fly. So we bought tickets for Saturday and had a week to kill in Broome. Tuesday we went to the oldest operating outdoor movie theater in the world and saw the movie Big Fish. Then Wednesday we woke up to the rain and it rained pretty much until we left on Saturday. The whole week we just kind of hung around and relaxed. One day we went to a crocodile park, which was really cool. It was a farm where they grew crocs for their meat and skin and they had some on display. We went on the little tour during feeding time and the tour guy told us all about them while throwing chicken halves into their pens to feed them. They had a McDonald’s in Broome, so I ate there a few times and that was about all the excitement there was in Broome.
Well, that sums up the last bit of my Western Australia journey.
I arrived in Darwin, Northern Territory yesterday (Feb. 28th). But it was a long journey to get here.