Critters

Four months on the road – countless critters seen and photographed. These are our favourites from this trip:

The water critters

With most of our times spent at the ocean we saw some amazing sea life. Amongst them lots of pretty blue spotted Rays at Corol Bay.

Ray at Coral Bay

We saw several sea snakes on the shores of Cable Beach as the tide receded. This one was actually quite small, but we saw some that were more than a metre in length. Although deadly poisonous, there’s little chance of being bitten by one. They have tiny mouths, so just keep your fingers away from their mouths and you’re pretty safe. Should one get you though, they say you won’t make it to the telephone to call for help. I’ve heard it said you get about 10 seconds……. Needless to say I kept my fingers well tucked in.

Sea Snake

We saw turtles swimming in Roebuck Bay, and also resting in the mudflats when we went on our Hovercraft tour.

Turtle in mudflats of Roebuck Bay

And then there were the smaller critters, lots of starfish on the shore at low tide,

Starfish buried under the sand when stranded at low tide

and several of these  amazing looking critters in the rock pools at low tide on Cable Beach. I’ve never seen anything quite like these Feather Stars. They look like a Fascinator that one might wear to the races. Apparently they start life like a flower attached by a stem to the ocean floor, then as they mature they break away from their stems. Dozens of feathery arms (or are they legs) dance around in the water. They actually walk around. That’s if you can call in walking, but definitely they move along the bottom of the rock pools with purpose.

Feather Star

We saw crocodiles, some saltwater, and some freshwater. The Johnstone Crocs (Freshies as they’re known colloquially) are relatively timid and harmless, unless cornered. Then, like any wild animal they will try and defend themselves, often doing themselves more harm than they do to their victim. They can inflict nasty damage, but in doing so are likely to do irreparable damage to their own narrow snouts. Wide snouted Salties, however, prey on larger animals. To them, any animals entering their hunting ground is fair game, and to them humans are just another animal.

Don’t be fooled by their common names either. Contrary to what some people believe,  Salties don’t only live in saltwater. They’ll make their homes in fresh water swimming holes, and if you see crocs in any potential swimming hole it’s important to know which kind. Salties won’t usually tolerate Freshies, so if you see a potential swimming hole with several freshies in it, you’re most likely safe. However, we always go by local knowledge, and will only swim in water holes known to be safe.

Freshwater Crocodile at Windjana Gorge

The Birds

We spent several hours watching Sea Eagles tending their nest in both Cape Range National Park, and at the lighthouse at Gantheaume Point (Broome). It was while watching the eagles in Cape Range that we realised our need to invest in a better camera so as to increase our chances of getting photos that do justice to these amazing critters. The need for a better camera was re-enforced many times whilst on this trip, and never more so than when trying to photograph birds. So, apologies for some of the following photos, I know they’re not up to scratch. We’ll get some better ones next time.

Sea Eagle’s nest

Darter with dinner

Peregrin Falcon

Owl Faced Finch

And flying creatures of the a smaller variety

Red dragonfly

Land animals

We saw lots of emus, kangaroos and wallabies, the stand out of which were these wallabies on the outskirts of Broome. The small female with the Joey in her pouch had apparently been hand reared as a baby, so had no fear of us when we approached for a photo.

Joey in the pouch

Mum bent over to nibble some grass allowing the little Joey to also graze safely without having to leave the safety of his snug pouch. Some great close-ups of some very trusting wild animals – I only hope they never pay the ultimate price for their faith in humans.

Mum and Bub sharing a meal

So, that’s the stand out critters from our trip.

We’re home now, almost four weeks earlier than we’d intended to arrive home. The reason for the earlier return – another little critter is about to enter our lives. ‘Mr Tilly’ wasn’t going to be with us until early next year, but an extra large litter of all boys meant there was one for us sooner than expected.

So, we came back early, and are currently cleaning out the caravan and getting ourselves and our house ready for our new arrival. We have lots to do – four months has given the weeds a chance to grown with wild abandon. We’ll try and get the garden sorted out a bit before we get side tracked with our new arrival.

Watch this space. Shortly we’ll be introducing, ‘Mr Tilly’.

Advertisements

Dampier to Pardoo Station

On our second day at Dampier we took a day trip to Point Sampson, for research. And what are we researching I hear you ask? Dog friendly caravan parks! Paul and I have decided after almost a 1/4 of century of being dog free that it’s time to add a four legged companion to our household. We’re both extremely fond of cats, but cats aren’t as practical as caravan travelling companions, nor will they take kindly to the occasional few nights being pet sat at Alice and Paul’s when the need arises, and I’m sure there will be an occasional need. We have our name on a waiting list for a miniature Labrodoodle. It’s almost a nine month wait, a bit like waiting through a pregnancy, and almost as exciting.

We’re spending much of this trip researching pet friendly accommodation in the North West, and yes, having a pet is going to restrict both where we can stay, and where we can go for day trips. So far we’ve found between Perth (but not Perth itself) and Carnarvon will be a breeze. The Winter Sun in Carnarvon will be perfect for a week or two for sure.

There’s plenty of overnight free stops that are good enough for a night or two between major destinations. We just need to determine the best places to put on our list for longer stays of a week or two. We’ve worked out Point Sampson looks to be the nicest of the pet friendly parks in the Pilbarra. There’s nice beaches there for playing with a dog on, good for a paddle or a swim too, and certainly good for fishing. So, Point Sampson will most likely be our 2nd major place to stop after Carnarvon on next years trip. While at Point Samson we called at Tata’s restaurant for a light lunch – good service, a pleasant lunch, and interesting decor, and so, so clean.

Life sized horse sculpture at Tata’s

and beautiful ocean mosaic wall.

Meanwhile back at the caravan park in Dampier the corollas were waiting for Paul to return. We’d no sooner returned to camp and sat outside with a drink when one came visiting.That’s what you get when you give them a nut or two, they remember for the next night. Several watched from the trees while the first one came in to test the waters. Yep! once it was established that Paul was indeed a ‘soft touch’ for the second night, the whole family/flock quickly descended upon us. I’m not sure if some had found water to have a good bath in, or if some had just taken a dust bath.

Clean and white

Clearly this one’s been enjoying the Pilbara dust

‘Soft touch’ Paul

Next stop,  Pardoo Station which gets great reviews for being pet friendly. As it turns out it wasn’t a good week-end to try it. Being a long week-end in WA, every man and his dog from Port Headland, only about 100 kms away, had decided to have a fishing week-end at Pardoo. It was jam packed. We were lucky to get a site, many that arrived later in the day weren’t so lucky and were turned away.

The station was in the middle of mustering, bringing the cows into pens directly opposite our caravan for re-tagging. Being confined to small holding pens after roaming free on the station didn’t make for happy cows. They bellowed their discontent well into the night. The wind was up, in fact, it was blowing a gale, carrying the noise, along with the smell of a couple of hundred penned cows directly towards the campers – but one has to expect that as a possibility when camping on a cattle station. Obviously the cows needs must come before the needs of the campers, and rightly so.

We drove down to the beaches to check out fishing spots. The tide was out, so what we saw I’m sure didn’t do justice to what the spots would look like at high tide. Perhaps, we’ll give it a second look one day, but for now from our first impressions, and despite the glorious sunset on our last night, it hasn’t made next years list.

As the sun drops over Pardoo

And dips a little further, turning from yellow to deep red

Tonight we’re camped in a free roadside camp at Stanley, approximately 200 kms from Broome. It’s a great overnighter with heaps of space and plenty of level areas for parking on. There’s lots of tables under shelters, and the toilets are in reasonable condition. A good, clean freebie before we head into Broome tomorrow is most welcome. After tonight, we’ll be paying Broome’s ‘high season’ prices of more than $50 a night. The caravan parks  fill up despite the high prices, so the cost is just a reflection on how much people love Broome – including us. Can’t wait…..

Cape Range National Park

We’ve recently finished five nights at Kurrajong campsite in Cape Range National Park. There’s several campsites in the national park, all not that far as the crow flies from Coral Bay. However, not having the benefit of wings, the trip to get there from Coral Bay takes considerably longer for mere mortals than it does for the crows. Accessing the campsites means a road trip up the east coast of the Exmouth peninsula, through Exmouth, around the cape, and then down the west coast of the peninsula to reach the campgrounds.

The arid surroundings of Cape Range.

Local wildlife abounded.

The arid landscape means there’s no fresh water there, and the campgrounds have no electricity. There’s no phone or internet cover, and no TV reception. Our solar panels ensured sufficient power for our needs, and by being economical with our water we survived the five days using only our 180 litre tank, plus 4 additional 15 litre jerry cans. In fact we had water to spare, and so treated ourselves to a really good shower on the last day. TV, wasn’t missed at all, but the internet….. I think I had withdrawal symptoms. I think I’m addicted!

It was good to see one person had managed without the benefit of being able to use their mobile phone. We found a message written in the sand at one of the bays – clearly the meeting place had changed to Turquoise Bay.

A message spelled out in stones.

Being just up the coast from Coral Bay, Ningaloo reef is just offshore, so water based activities are high on most peoples agenda. Despite several fishing attempts, Paul only managed to bring in one Dart, which was one more fish than I managed to hook. Other people, however were bringing in some beauties. One of our fellow campers reeled in a Golden Trevally that fed two for four meals. Another caught a 60cm Spangled Emperor one night, and another of similar size in the middle of the afternoon the next day. The fish were there, just not for us.

Paul did a bit of snorkelling at Turquoise Bay, but somehow I couldn’t seem to get in the mood. Perhaps it was the wind that blew each and every day while we there, or perhaps it was those internet withdrawal symptoms….. Eventually, I started to feel sorry for poor Paul, out there looking at the pretty fish and coral with no-one beside him to share the experience. I donned my mask and headed out there to join him, only to discover as soon as I took my first underwater breath that the seal had disappeared from the end of my snorkel. Coughing and spluttering I returned to my towel on the shore and left poor Paul to it.

There’s plenty of walks in the park, and had the wind not being blowing incessantly perhaps we may have tackled a few more of them. We did one short walk at Yardie Creek. Yardie Creek is at the southern end of the park and signals the end of the accessible area on the north western side of the peninsula. The red shoreline provides a striking contrast between the deep blue waters of the creek and sky above. The photo below hasn’t been enhanced at all, so the colours you’re seeing are just as they were to our naked eye.

Yardie Creek flowing out to sea.

The winds usually blow all along the WA coast from around September until around Easter, and then they drop. This year they seem to be continuing on much longer than usual. On one of the days the wind was almost gale force, and blew for the entire day. Most other days it either blew up strong during the night, continuing into mid morning, or it blew up in the mid afternoon. So, sorry folks – we didn’t get to experience the park as much as we could have, and don’t have the amazing photos that I’m sure were there just waiting for us to snap. Perhaps next time…

 

 

A day of cooking

Cooking on the road is different than cooking in a house. Consideration needs to be given as to what is cooked inside the caravan, and when. Fish, curries, and other highly fragrant meals aren’t pleasant in your bedroom! Additionally, cooking anything that requires several hours heats up the caravan considerably more than it does a household kitchen. Meals are more often than not something that we cook up quickly outdoors, with barbecues being the obvious choice.

Sometimes we miss the slower cooked meals, and will spend a day lazing around the caravan, doing normal household chores like washing, and doing some good old ‘slow cooking’ to stock up the freezer. Nothings cooked quite the same as it is in a household kitchen, as can be seen from today’s effort. Cooking in a confined space with limited  bench space and cooking implements means making do. It doesn’t look as pretty, but still tastes okay.

The bedding’s been changed, and all the linen’s freshly laundered and drying in the sun. Don’t you just love the smell of sunshine on your sheets after a day of drying in direct sunlight.

A rich, red bolognaise is simmering in the electric frypan outside, almost ready to portion up for freezing in small meal size quantities. I’ll cook up a box of penne to freeze in similar sized portions separately from the bolognaise. If we’re in a place without power I find it better to have the sauce separated from the pasta. After both are defrosted, I’ll heat the sauce in a large saucepan first along with any vegetable additions (frozen spinach if nothing else is available), then at the last minute stir through the pre-cooked pasta.

Sauce ready to freeze in meal size portions.

Later this afternoon I’ll cook a roast chicken with veggies. The left over chicken will make us a salad tomorrow, and also provide some cooked chicken and left over veggies to add to another couple of meals. As you can see everything is cooked in the one frypan. Firstly the chicken, then the potatoes and pumpkin. Then at the end I place the cauliflower and broccoli flowers stalk down with the flowers supported by the rest of the roast. Not as I’d do it at home, but it works a treat in the caravan situation.

A one pan roast dinner – cooking is very different on the road.

Paul (our bread baker) has made a couple of  loaves . He makes his own recipes in a Panasonic bread maker. He slices them up before freezing.

Yum, I’ve just been handed a crust from this fresh loaf spread with butter and honey.

And to top it off, a batch of pancakes for today’s enjoyment – what a pleasure!

 

A stack of irregular shaped pancakes cooked in the electric frypan

Pancake topping – chopped banana and fresh mandarin in a sauce of mixed maple syrup and bitter orange marmalade.

We’re fortunate that our caravan has a good sized fridge and freezer. I don’t know how people manage months on the road with only a tiny fridge. Our fridge is usually full, and that’s without drinks. We use the Engel for our drinks and for any spill over of fresh produce that won’t fit in the fridge.

We have almost two weeks ahead of us without power, firstly a week at Cape Range National Park, starting tomorrow,  followed by almost a week of free roadside camping as we make our way to Broome. Starting out with all the laundry up to date, and a freezer, fridge and pantry well stocked with the ingredients for easy meals is going to make the trip easier. We’ll  be out of range for phone and internet as of tomorrow, so if things go quiet – it’s only because we haven’t any internet connection. I’ll update with where we are and what we’re doing as soon as technology allows me to.

 

Coral at Coral Bay

As promised, a few shots of the coral accessible just twenty metres or so out from shore at Coral Bay.

The water’s had a bit of chop on for most of the week, but yesterday it was a bit calmer so we took the opportunity to photograph some of the coral. We’ve seen fish in far greater numbers on other occasions when we’ve snorkelled the reef. Isn’t that just Murphy’s law though, the day you take your camera, they all become camera shy and go into hiding.

A short walk from the main beach around to the start of Paradise beach, don your snorkelling gear and swim out a mere 20 metres,  (actually you can walk most of it). Then drift slowly back with the current…

The dark horizon is the coral reef.

Tropical fish – this one must be an under water Eagles supporter!

Soft mauve tipped coral.

An underwater field of cabbages

Blue tips

A gigantic Rose

Twenty minutes or so later we were back at the main beach. Time for a  welcome drink of iced water, an apple and then a good read relaxing in the shade of our beach shelter on our beach chairs – talk about living the Life of Riley – what a pleasure.

Looking out from our beach shelter.

 

Coral Bay – a Ningaloo Marine Paradise

Book a week at Coral Bay and I can almost guarantee your first impressions will be, ‘what on earth am I going to do for a whole week.’ It won’t take you long to realise how wrong you are. For such a tiny town there’s a heap of adventures to be had.

Our first major trip here was twelve years ago when we rented a house for a week and came up here with eight friends and relatives.

Twelve years ago dressed for our Hawaiian night to celebrate our 50th milestone.

After dinner we watched the sunset over the bay.

and after the sunset -the ladies dancing in the moonlight – it was a great night, great memories!

The trip was to celebrate Paul and I reaching the mid century mark, and to commemorate the occasion we decided we’d like to swim with the Whale Sharks. What an experience that was – AMAZING!

There’s so many experiences to be had. As I mentioned there’s boat tours from here that take you out past the reef to swim with the Whale Sharks. If you enjoy snorkelling – this is definitely a ‘bucket list’ experience not to be missed. They visit Ningaloo from around April to June to feed on the coral, so plan your trip here at the right time of year to coincide.

There’s also boat trips that take you out to swim with the Manta Rays – gentle giants not to be confused with Sting-rays. This is still on our bucket list, but we’re undecided if we’ll do it on this trip, and whether we’ll do it from Coral Bay, or a little further up the peninsula from Exmouth.

There’s quad bike tours that take you out adventuring through the countryside and to surrounding bays where you’ll see turtles swimming.

There’s deep sea fishing charters. We’ve seen people coming back with some fish worthy of a photograph or two for their albums, not to mention several tasty meals from each fish.

There’s canoe coral snorkelling trips too. On our 50th birthday trip here we went on one of the canoe tours courtesy of our daughter. It was something we would never have looked at doing ordinarily, but I’m so pleased we did it. The coral we saw was awesome. I’d suggest another bucket list adventure for any snorkelers – it won’t disappoint.

And for the Littlies (and the not so little) there’s afternoon fish feeding of the North West snapper that live a protected life, in the protected bay. The crowd gathers in the shallows at 3.30pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, standing with legs apart. Small portions of fish food is distributed to the visitors to drop for the fish. Squeals of delight abound as the 50cm long Spangled Emperor dart in and out of legs with the sun bouncing off their iridescent blue scales. What a delight!

One of many Spangled Emperor, most of which are around 50cm long.

We were here at this same time of year in 2005 as we’re here this time. However, last time it was considerably warmer. This time the breezes are a bit stronger, and any breeze seems to drop the water temperature several degrees. My memories from twelve years ago are that we were all in the water virtually from sun up till sun set. With the breezes up this year, we are getting in most days, but it’s not ‘bath warm’ as it was then, so an hour at a time seems to be the longest we can manage.

As the main bay is a sanctuary zone, there’s plenty of tropical  fish swimming in the shallows just a metre or two off shore that will keep you spell bound for as long as you can stay in the water. There’s still remnants of the coral that used to abound in the bay, but unfortunately most of it has been eroded in this section now. Sadly things like coral reefs and tourists don’t co-exist very well without sanctions, and, in this case, the sanctions came a little too late to preserve the reef in it’s entirety. I’m pleased that the sanctions did come though, and in time to still preserve enough of Ningaloo Reef for us still to enjoy.

Fish living the life of Riley in their protected zone.

Tropical Zebra fish.

Pretty Sting-rays happily grazing on the sea floor.

Unlike the Great Barrier Reef where you have to visit on a big boat taking an hour or two to get you out to the reef, the Ningaloo Reef comes almost up to our shore. As I’ve said you can row out in a canoe taking less that half an hour to get to some amazing coral structures. However, you don’t even need a canoe. Apart from the small bits left in the main bay, a short walk around the point will bring you Paradise Beach.

A short walk past this point to Paradise Beach – amazing coral only twenty metres from shore.

Drop your towel at the point and walk about 100 metres south, don your snorkelling gear and swim out about 20 metres. Then drift back with the current – I’ve seen more fish and better coral on this 100 metre drift only 20 metres off shore than I saw on several snorkelling stops at the Great Barrier Reef. We haven’t as yet done the shore to Coral swim this trip as the breezes are creating a bit of water chop – but watch this space in few days time when hopefully we’ll have some awesome pictures of coral for you to see.

Galena Bridge to Coral Bay

After our night at Galena Bridge we headed for world heritage listed Shark Bay.

Green ‘twenty eight’ parrots at Galena Bridge

Reading all the Wiki camp reviews (our travel bible), it appeared that Hamelin Station had the best atmosphere, so that’s where we headed. We gather after our two night stay, that most of the positive Wiki reviews had been written by patrons who had been lucky enough to be there when a sociable crowd had gathered. On the two nights we were there, the travellers seemed to be more solitary, and stayed in their own caravans, so the reported atmosphere of commoradie wasn’t in evidence.

With Hamelin Station being close to the main highway, and over 100kms from the townships of Denham and Monkey Mia, we felt too far away from everything. However, we did enjoy the birdlife on the station.

A Rainbow Bee-eater

Zebra Finch

We took a drive to Nanga Station on Mother’s day, approximately 50 kms away, for an ice-cream. Then a visit to Shell Beach, and the Stromatalites. Shell Beach is literally a beach of undulating Shell dunes, millions and millions of tiny shells.

Small shells that make up Shell Beach.

If you’re not familiar with Stromatatlites, they’re the oldest living organisms known to exist on our planet, and I gather are one of the main reasons Shark Bay captured the attention for World Heritage listing. All interesting, but not as captivating for us they would be to Marine Biologists. There’s a boardwalk that goes out over the warm, shallow water so you get to look down on the rock-like, living, formations. While for us it was only mildly interesting to see, the ambience created by the water softly lapping over hundreds of Stromatalites was amongst one of the most peaceful ambiences I’ve yet to experience.

Rock-like living Stromatalites.

From Hamelin Station we travelled onto Carnarvan for another two nights, staying at the Winter Sun Caravan Park. An enjoyable two days there that included a successful mornings fishing. Paul caught a lovely flathead, several good sized whiting, and a few undersized bream. I only managed a couple of undersized bream, so nothing to keep for me. We’ve ear-marked Carnarvon and the Winter Sun for a return visit, with a longer stay next time.

Yesterday we arrived at Coral Bay. Temperatures are expected to be around 30 most days, the skies are blue, the water’s pleasantly warm, and there’s a gentle breeze blowing. We’re here for a week. What a pleasure!

A mix of blue waters in Coral Bay

And more of the same….

I’m pleased to say, so far we’re sticking to our plan of shorter travel days. All trips between destinations so far have been between two and a half and three and a half hours. Not exhausting at all.