CJ - Having panicked my Mum and my Step Dad (Peter) half to death (as usual!!) with my accident on the Jilleroo course, I then flew over to Perth to meet them - they had always wanted to come and visit Australia, and with me now being here it was a good enough excuse to come over for a holiday!
The first part of the trip was going to be a 5 day drive up the West coast starting in Perth and finishing in Carnarven, 1200kms! It was a lovely drive up the West coast, certainly a vast contrast from the more heavily populated and commercial coast in the East, the West is defintely more picturesque in most places with stunning views, but very remote as well as we soon found out!! You could be driving along the 'very straight' freeways and be lucky if you saw another car in the space of an hour!! It was a pleasure to drive along though. You did have to be careful driving at dusk/night though because of the wildlife, especially the kangaroos which weren't much fun dodging!!
Our first stop was to see a very bizarre sight, a desert of limestone pillars which is called The Pinnacles, a most amazing sight to see these formations that have been formed over centuries!! And then we stopped off for some gorgeous views down over the gorge on the Murchison River.
Our first major overnight stop was at a place called Monkey Mia where a family of wild dolphins come in 3 times a day to be fed and to interract with the public and the marine park rangers. Having overcome the main hurdle of the day - a puncture in one of the car tyres (and then another in the spare!!), we missed the dolphins on their first feed but luckily saw them on the 2nd and 3rd feeds. At the marine park, the public are invited into the sea bare foot to see the dolphins. After about 20 mins of the dolphins swimming around your feet in the shallow water, and the rangers talking about their breeding and history etc, the food is then brought out, and each dolphin in turn is fed by the volunteers in the audience! Meanwhile in the background, there was a large colony of pelicans that sit on the beach eagerly waiting to see if there is any left over fish for them!! We were very lucky because at this time of year it is considered their low season, and there were only about 20 people there who had come to see the dolphins, but apparently in peak season, the park can have up to 600 people which can't be much fun for the dolphins! I have swum with dolphins before but they were in captivity, but to see them in the wild in their own surroundings, it's just amazing!
On the way up the coast to our next port of call we passed by a couple of unusual sights, the first being a 'pink' lake, and when you see the photo you will know what I mean, and it really is a pink lake!! Apparently the mineral Garnet is mined nearby and when it mixes with the water along with a few other substances it causes the water to turn pink!! The other unusual sight was what looked like just a load of black rocks scattered along the shore of a beach, and were called Stromatolites. But in actual fact, Stromatolites are thought to have been the first living organisms on the planet!! They don't grow very fast either, something like about 1cm every 20 years! But they do make a nice photo even if they don't move much!!
'Shell Beach' was a place that we had earmarked in the guide books that we wanted to stop at on the coast but I hate to say we were a bit disappointed when we got there. I suppose we were expecting to see a beach full of loads of beautiful shells in all shapes and sizes, which to some degree we did find, but the shells were so small! It took us a while before we realised we were actually standing on the shells when we got onto the beach!! But these shells do have their uses!! Over the years the beaches full of shells eventually calcify and then the shells are dug/mined out of the ground in the shape of bricks and then used to make buildings etc. One of the most famous ones being the Old Pearler restaurant in Denham (not named after Denham in England but an English sea captain!), where we had dinner. It is quite amazing to see the bricks made up entirely from all these tiny shells!!
Our last port of call on the West coast was an area called Ningaloo which is on the west coast alongside Ningaloo Reef (which is supposed to be the next best reef in Australia to the Great Barrier Reef!). It is a lovely little resort on the coast where in places you can snorkel right off the beach!! We stayed here for a couple of days and had a great time. On the first day we took a boat out to the reef on a 'Manta Ray' spotting tour! Having spent the first couple of hours searching in vain (me and mum feeling a bit seasick) almost having given up hope of finding a Manta Ray, we finally found one. It was a huge ray that was on a 'cleaning station' on the sea bed (an area where larger fish go to be cleaned by the smaller fish), and it was just circling very gracefully around the sea bed. We all got on our snorkelling gear and slowly dived in and floated there for about 10 mins watching this huge but very graceful creature below us! An amazing experience and one that we won't forget for a while! On the second day we went on a 4 WD tour and were lucky that it was just us 3 and the tour guide. He took us right down the coast to the start of the reef, and showed us lots of wildlife including a family of Emus and plenty of Kangaroos! And just generally gave us a real insight into western Australia.
From Ningaloo Reef we then headed back to Carnaven where we had to drop the hire car off, and then flew back to Perth.