Exmouth to Perth

WARNING! WARNING! What you are about to view is a SUPER post, jam packed with pictures. Read on at your own risk!

Heading west from Karijini, the landscape started to make some noticeable changes. The red dust faded to a pinkish orange and we started to get the distinct feeling that we were getting close to water.

Sure enough, we made it out to Exmouth and some of us were sure excited to be back by the sea.

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We drove around the peninsula to the Cape Range National Park, which borders onto the Ningaloo Reef, and also had several camp sites that we could stay at. We booked into one and then mosied over to Turquoise Bay where we went snorkeling in the beautiful clear water. We first went over to the more sheltered bay area, as it was afternoon and the open water was getting very choppy – and boy were we glad we did! We were lucky enough to see a stunning turtle swimming around gracefully as it looked for food on the ocean floor. It really was special! We swam around the big fella for a while, watching him do his thing before hopping out to hear that the people over in the open part had seen a reef shark, and in fact, a lady had been bitten by one earlier that day! Reef sharks are quite small and definitely nowhere near as dangerous as some of the sharks out there, but I was definitely stoked to be in turtle town rather than shark strip.

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We stayed overnight in a camp spot right on the beach, meaning beautiful sunset walks.

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The next morning, we had time for a quick play on the beach before heading into town to pick up our hitchhiker who was to be traveling with us for the next while.

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On our way our to Cape Range National Park, we had picked up two German backpackers, one of whom needed to make her way down to Perth in the next week or so. As it happened, that’s what we were wanting to do to so we offered her a ride with us. She gladly accepted and we picked her up in the morning and started our trip south.

Our first stop was Coral Bay to take a quick dip in more sparkling blue water (sigh…), before jumping back in the van and getting down to Carnarvon (after a minor breakdown which the Bear was able to resolve with his pocket knife and some handiwork). We stocked up on supplied and kept going south until we found a suitable camp spot.

The next morning we were up early and off on our mission for the day – Shark Bay. We drove up the peninsula, stopping at the Hamelin Pool to check out the stromatolites, which are super duper old ‘living fossils’, created by single-celled microbes called cyanobacteria. These stromatolites are thousands of years old!

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Further up the peninsula, we stopped at the aptly named Shell Beach. Rather than fine sand, the whole beach was made up of tiny white shells. It was quite incredible!

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The water was beautiful and clear, but not at all deep. We walked for a couple of hundred metres off the shore and the water level was still below our knees! We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves for most of the time we were there. The children went crazy building shell castles and throwing shells into the air.

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We continued up the peninsula, stopping at lookouts, taking selfies and spotting emus.

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Don’t be alarmed, this is not an amputee emu. It was just chilling. There were about six emus here, but I couldn’t get them all in one shot. I’ve never seen so many emus (in the wild) in the one spot!

Next up to the Francois Peron National Park at the top of the peninsula. We could barely go into this park without a 4WD, but were told we could go as far as the homestead, where there was a natural hot tub which we couldn’t miss (even though it was probably too hot to be getting in a hot tub…ah well).

It was pretty outback. Drinking beers in a corrugated hot tub drawing water from an artesian bore. Yep, pretty sweet.

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We made it off the peninsula and found a campsite to rest for the night. The next morning we were absolutely INVADED by flies. I am not kidding you, we threw all our stuff in the van without even packing properly and put the pedal to the floor to get away from them. There were like, 40 flies just in my facial region. It was such an invasion of personal space…flies just have no idea of social etiquette.

On the plus side, we arrived early to Kalbarri National Park and were able to have breakfast overlooking this beautiful gorge.

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We checked out a few different sites in Kalbarri National Park, namely ‘Nature’s Window’, which was a pretty sweet rock formation. I guess it’s sweeter after there’s been some rain and the river behind is flowing, but we weren’t going to let that ruin our photo shoot. After all, we almost murdered our van getting down the track to it – all our belongings flying around the van and our bones shuddering over the corrugated path.

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Next stop was the Principality of Hutt River – Australia’s second largest country. Yep. You heard me.

People from our generation may not be so familiar with Prince Leonard of Hutt River and his trials, as it was a bit before our time. In very VERY basic terms, this dude (Leonard) was in the wheat farming business back when they introduced wheat quotas (how much wheat they could sell). The quota they were allowed was only a small percentage of their actual crop size, so they asked for compensation for the crop that they would not be able to sell. The government refused, and from then on, Leonard used his solid knowledge of the legal system to secede from Australia and become Australia’s largest micronation. It is pretty freaking awesome.

We didn’t get to meet Prince Leonard, as he was in hospital the day we visited. We did, however, get to meet his oldest son, who happily showed us around the place and gave us lots of info (and answered our stupid questions like “what is your national food?” “is it legal to drink on the streets of Hutt River?”, etc. On grounds they have a chapel, a post office and more. They also have their own national anthem, currency, stamps, etc. It was out of this world (or country)..

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Just hanging out with royalty, don’t mind us.

We were on a bit of a high after our visit to Hutt River, so we splurged on a site at a caravan park in Geraldton and chillaxed with some ciders by the beach.

Then it was off again. Our next major stop that I recall was the Pinnacles.

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These bizarre rock formations cover the land, and are really impressive to see. It kind of feels like you’re on some strange post-apocalyptic planet as you walk amongst them.

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Oh my holy! What a post! After the Pinnacles we shot straight down to Perth, bid farewell to our hitchhiker (until later that evening, anyway) and checked in with my Nanna and Grandad in Claremont, settling down for some temporary familiarity.

I’ve got a whole heap of delicious foodie related posts to come from our time in Perth, I’ll hopefully be rattling them off over the next few days. Phew!

Nitmiluk and Litchfield National Parks

We arrived in Katherine early in the morning, and decided to head out to Nitmiluk National Park first thing, before it got too hot. The heat (and the HUMIDITY) was really starting to affect us, and we were now planning our days around where we would swim. Nitmiluk National Park is most famous for the Katherine Gorge, which is a series of gorges cutting through the rock. There are various walks you can do through the park, and we picked a pretty basic 1-2 hour one which took us up to a lookout above the gorge, and then back around through part of the park.

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The view from the top was pretty breathtaking, it was quite incredible to see the vibrant river cutting through what is quite a harsh (yet beautiful) landscape.

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The walk was not too strenuous, but the heat that was developing already at only about 10am was insane. We were dripping with sweat from just being out there. It was quite a phenomenal walk though, with some amazing rock layerings and formations as well as an entirely different landscape from where we had just been in Far North Queensland.

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While there was a spot you could swim at the gorge, we had already decided that we would go back into town where there were more thermal springs, and cool off there. Quite a few backpackers had the same idea, and you could see why. It was a lovely peaceful little spot, where you could float around in the crystal clear water.

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Unfortunately, my phone also decided it was a great spot for a dip, and somehow unbeknown to us jumped in. It sat on the bottom of the pools for probably about an hour, and amazingly, after pulling it apart and leaving it in rice overnight, it worked just fine! At first I thought it had become all warped, it was telling me I had messages that I couldn’t see and so on. Then I discovered that it simply had the Y2K bug, about 13 years too late. For some reason my phone went back in time to 1/1/2000 and so all my messages and photos and stuff were at of whack. Bizzareo!

After Katherine, we headed a bit further north to the Edith Falls (our next swim destination). Edith Falls is still within the Nitmiluk National Park, and we discovered upon arrival that you could camp there for something like $6.60 each a night, so we ended up doing that. It was such a lovely spot, right on our doorstep was one swimming area that was just the most perfect temperature.

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We thought it was pretty amazing, and just splashed around there for the afternoon. The next morning when we got up we went on the 30-45 minute walk up to the top pools, which was where the main falls actually were. And oh. my. goodness was it worth it. It was SO out of this world beautiful.

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We stayed up there for a couple of hours, splashing around and chatting with others as they came up there. Nearly all my fears of being eaten by crocodiles subsided just in the sheer beauty of the place. Plus we were above a waterfall, and I am pretty sure crocs are usually downstream of them.

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It’s pretty crazy finding such lush places like this, and then walking back into dry bushland under the scorching sun.

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After Edith Falls, we kept on our way north up to Litchfield National Park. We spent the afternoon wandering around these humungous termite mounds and finding more swimming spots (of course).

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This was our first swim spot, a series of tiered pools called the Buley rockhole. We lazed around in this one a bit higher up which was quite shallow, but was away from all the people – there was quite a crowd down the bottom.

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A little further along the tracks was a campground at the Florence Falls, which we set up at as it was getting dark. The night was a STINKER, we had the doors open and the mozzie net up and we just lay there sweating our butts off. It was crazy. All we had to comfort us was the thought of getting up and going straight down to the falls. The colours as the sun set were pretty awesome though.

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Billy either caught a little bug or had a bit of heatstroke, and was not feeling too flash hot, so we had to get him into the water stat. Others had the same idea…all of us poor folks sleeping in stinking hot vans or cars were the first in the water.

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Next up were the Tolmer Falls, which you could only view from a lookout, as down the bottom there are several rare species of bats that are being protected. While the amount of water was not that spectacular, the height of the Tolmer Falls was really something, and you can imagine in the wet season the water would just be streaming down.

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The lack of being in cool water was not appreciated much by a withering Bear, who didn’t look like he was going to make it.

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We went on to our last destination for our time at the park, the Wangi Falls.

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What can I say? Another incredible swimming spot with beautiful waterfalls. That moment you step into the water and all the heat and sweat and lethargy just washes away…it’s indescribable.

Well that’s two big photo posts for you in one day, I’ll post again soon on our time in Darwin – where we headed straight after Litchfield, but that’s all from me for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed travelling with us 🙂

Crossing the outback: Queensland to the Northern Territory

After our lovely tropical beach, rainforest, and lush waterfall experiences, it was time to head off on our long journey to Darwin. It was pretty exciting, neither of us had been to the NT before, however, the excitement only lasts so long when you have two-four days of driving ahead of you. In saying that, it was a really cool experience watching the landscape change and it just solidifies my amazement at the variation of the landscape in our country. Not to mention the sheer size of this place!

We set off early in the mornings to try and beat some of the heat. We were really starting to feel it now as we sat in the van for 8 hours a day with the sun beating in on us. We took the Savannah route (which is above the main one which goes from Townsville) with the plan of heading south to the main road at Normantown, after which the road becomes a bit dubious if you don’t have a 4WD. We saw THREE emus on our first day of travel. I’ve only ever seen one in the wild before, these guys are crazy prehistoric looking birds. They kind of camouflage against the landscape, huh?

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Our first main stop was Georgetown, where we got a new tyre to replace a balding one. Then we drove all the way across to Normantown, where we snapped a shot with this ‘big’ thing…an apparent replica of the largest crocodile ever caught in the area. Look at the size of that thing! Crazy!

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Georgetown had not just one but TWO big things, so we were grab another snap before we headed south. Yep, it’s a big barramundi.

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We headed as far as we could before the sun got too low (and all the little wallabies started to emerge by the side of the road) and stayed overnight at the Bang Bang rest stop. You can find street art in the strangest of places…

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The following day, this happened to our tyre (not the new one, thank goodness).

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I’ve never burst a tyre QUITE as bad as this before. Thankfully we had a spare to get us into Cloncurry where we could pick up another. We went a little further to Mt Isa and set up camp, as we had some other car issues that we had to attend to. This being our last stop in Queensland, I realised that I was yet to drink a XXXX beer (THE beer of Queensland), so we quickly remedied that. There is actually something to be said for drinking mid-strength beers in hot climates, that’s for sure.

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The next day was back to outback driving. The scenery doesn’t change much for long stretches, so you get kind of excited when you see something like this.

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I know…wild, right?

Oh, this one time we also got surrounded by cows.

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FINALLY, we made it to the border. WAHOO!!

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Then it was pretty much back to outback driving, with a roadhouse punctuating the trip every few hundred kms. One of them, smack bang in the middle of nowhere, had about four peacocks. Again, the things you see….

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We found a rest stop just in time for sunset, and got to watch the sun go down on central Australia. It was pretty cool.

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The next day it was all systems go. We were kind of tired of driving and being in the middle of nowhere, so we were on a mission. We had a kind of interesting drive, as coming the other way were all these solar cars for the world solar races. Some of them were crazy, they looked like little space ships. The poor drivers, it was about 40 degrees and they didn’t have any air con in those tiny little bubbles. They would have been ROASTING.

Finally, we hit Mataranka where we were blessed to find the thermal springs. We melted into the water and floated around for an hour or so, which really revived our bodies and spirits. It is not easy driving for days in 35-42 degree heat (with no showers). There’s definitely nothing glamorous about this lifestyle (but it’s rad fun!)

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And with that, I’ll leave this picture heavy post there. I’ve got plenty more to add, so I’ll try and sneak another one in tonight while I still have reception. We’re actually in W.A. now, so I’ve got a bit of a backlog to get us up to speed…I’ll see how I go.

Travels up the coast

This post will be a little picture heavy, as we crammed so many cool things into the time since I last posted. We left Nelson Bay on the afternoon of Billy’s birthday and started heading north again, though with no intention of going very far that day. The weather had turned pretty sour, and I prefer to stay off the roads when there’s decent rain if it can be helped. We set our sights on Bulahdelah, managing to make a quick stop to take a snap with what we sort of considered to be one of the big things that Australia is notorious for. This might be the only ‘big thing’ we see that is not actually bigger than the real thing..

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After battling darkness and rain and roadworks which made it very difficult to tell which part of the road you were supposed to be on (unhelpful), we finally found the rest area we were searching for, cooked some falafels and ate some leftover birthday cake, and settled back into being on the road again. The rain made way for lush blue skies and sunshine the following day and we felt that ‘ahhh, it’s going to be a good day’ feeling. We set of for some exploring, first stop being the Grandis, which is the tallest know tree in New South Wales, located in the Myall Lakes National Park. On the way, we got a little sidetracked playing in this huge hollowed mossy tree stump…

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I was pretty excited to see the Grandis, as it is estimated to be over 400 years old and about 86m tall. To be honest, I thought it was going to look bigger when I was standing in front of it, but still, there’s no denying that the Tree is tall (and beautiful!)

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From there we made our way out to Seal Rocks, as several people had mentioned it as being worth checking out, and we were not disappointed. We entered onto this stunning little cove beach and immediately spotted three or four dolphins playing not even twenty metres from the shore. The water was sparkling and crystal clear, the sand was soft, the sun was out, it was perfect! We even did a little rock climbing

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Next we stopped in at Elizabeth beach for lunch and a cuppa, before heading further up the coastal route, which led us up a thin strip of land between Wallis Lake (to the left), and the Tasman Sea (to the right). We decided we would aim for around Taree that night as there were a few different rest stops to choose from, so we got a wriggle on and headed straight for it. We managed to get there in time to take a quick detour out to Old Bar, which Billy’s Nan had mentioned as being nice. We headed straight for the beach, and while it was pretty cold by then, we managed a brisk walk which revealed some lovely pebbles and stones to be collected. I’ve taken to collecting nice bits and pieces – stones, feathers, shells, beach glass, seed pods etc which I can incorporate into my jewellery making. Going into Taree gave us an excuse to tick another big thing off the list – the big oyster, or as the locals call it – the big mistake. I can kind of see why..

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We took this photo from the opposite side of the road, as we couldn’t be bothered crossing the road in peak hour traffic. As a result, we kind of look like giants here. We were actually way more excited by this fairy ring that we found on the oval across the road.

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Weeee so cool! Fairy rings form when the spawn of a mushroom falls, and a whole bunch of little underground threads spread from it in every direction, creating a circular subterranean network. Mushrooms develop above ground from these threads in a circular pattern. As the central spawn dies, the mushrooms up top keep growing, but without their little creator dude to hang onto, the diameter of the ring gets bigger and bigger until it eventually dies below and above ground. How cool is that? You can kind of see the imprint on the grass where this ring has probably partly died already.

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After staying over night near Taree, we zipped straight up to Port Macquarie the next morning. We spent most of the day there, as Billy found a skate park that he was quite taken with, and then we found a pool we could take a shower at (showers can be few and far between sometimes, so this is always a noteable event). We decided to venture a little further up before we bunked down for the night, and found a rest area near Macksville. When we woke up in the morning, these little chickadees were surrounding our van!

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We decided to go over to Nambucca Heads to have brekkie by the beach instead of by the side of the road. It was a gorgeous day and an awesome way to start it, with breakfast and coffee sitting on the rocks, followed by a walk along the beach – which was absolutely covered in shells and pebbles. I had a field day collecting them in the morning sun!

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We wandered around the little town of Nambucca, but not much was happening as it was Sunday. They did have an amazing mosaic along one of the walls in front of the police station that we spent ages looking at, it was just gorgeous.

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Billy was excited to find that Elvis even made an appearance…

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Next, Coffs Harbour as we had an old nemisis to check in with: the big banana. Now don’t get me wrong, we LOVE bananas, but a few years ago we stopped in and were disappointed by its size (not even that big), the weather causing the toboggan run to be closed, the hoards of shitty souvenirs, and the crappy frozen bananas on a stick. However, since we said we would stop at any big thing we were in the vicinity of, we thought we had better give it another chance. Also, the sky was clear and the toboggan run was open! I had never been on a toboggan before so it was pretty cool, but Billy berated me for using the brakes, saying it was against the rules. He also told me horror stories of people having their fingers cut off if they held onto the sides (BEFORE we went on). Thanks Bear.

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That was taken by a lovely lady who offered to take a photo of us. We acted happy to be at the banana again for the sake of her little girl. When she left, we set up the self timer and took this one, which expressed our feelings a little more accurately..

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Heading further up the coast, we stopped at more little beaches – Corindi Beach had a few more stones to add to the collection. We stayed at this weird rest stop overnight called ‘Little Italy’, which had a museum, cafe, gift shop, court yard and more…right in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately it was shut for the long weekend, so we missed out on poking around inside. Checked out Evan’s Head the next morning, before heading into Ballina to get supplies, get access to some wifi and get a picture with the big prawn, who is currently under construction in order to become more anatomically correct (seriously…the story of the prawn getting a tail was on the front page of the local newspaper).

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We also managed to pick up some cheap bikes while we were there, plus a bike rack to attach to the back of ZZ. They need a bit of work, but Billy is already onto it. I’ll leave it there for now, as this feels like a bit of a super post, but we are now in Mullumbimby, doing the helpx thing again which has been really great so far! More on that later I’m sure. Until next time…!

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