Perth, Australia Travels

September 20 - October 16, 2014 

We are on a new adventure (Joel, Elaine, Tom, Rick and Levonne).

A few years ago, we spent some time in Australia concentrating on the eastern half of the continent.  This time, we decided we would focus on the west coast arriving and departing from Perth the capital of the state of Western Australia.

Rick & Levonne Gano joined Joel & Elaine Daniels and left in the early morning of Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, from Portland for San Francisco where they met up with Tom Daniels for a Cathay Pacific flight to Perth via Hong Kong.  We had used this airline before and had been pleased with their service.  The aircraft are new.  Unlike other airlines we’ve traveled on, these reclining seats actually gives MORE legroom to the person behind you since the seat slides forward. 

We buckled up, mentally preparing for a loooong flight, 14 hours.  We had no concerns since we had 2-3 hours layover in HK.  It was hard to keep our internal time clocks synchronized since we had dinner about 4 in the afternoon and then another after midnight.   The airplane has a camera mounted beneath the plane, which was especially interesting during takeoff and landing. Our individual screens allows us to watch movies or look at a nice map of the plane's route, altitude, speed, outside temperature, etc.  When we were about 4 hours out from HK, we noticed this route map showed that we would be landing in about 20 minutes!  The pilot came on and informed us that because of strong head winds, we were running low on fuel and would have to divert to Narita airport in Tokyo for refueling.  Suddenly our layover time in Hong Kong was down to minutes. We were afraid we'd have to stay overnight in Hong Kong. 

Refueled and airborne, we continued to worry about how we would make our Perth flight. We only had about 20 minutes.  When we deplaned, the Cathay Pacific staff was there grouping passengers by connecting flights. For Perth, they put orange stickers on us and someone escorted us all of the way through special security screening and on to our gate at a fast pace.  It turned out that that flight was delayed so there was plenty of time for us to board the flight and for our luggage to make it too.

This time it was 7 hours straight south from Hong Kong to Perth, a night flight.  Most passengers slept except to wake up for the two full meals.  We arrived at about six in the morning.  Our hotel had a special deal, 4 nights for the price of 3, so for the first night we were able to check in as soon as we got to the hotel (8am).  We could have easily fallen into bed, but to combat jet lag we showered and spent the day walking around the city.  We did some people-watching, of course, and observed a young ethnically diverse population, stylishly dressed in a style more European than American. 

Perth is a boom city of nearly two million on the Indian Ocean with construction taking place everywhere. It is called the most remote big city in the world.  The next nearest Australian big city is Adelaide over 1700 miles away.  Our hotel is close to the center of downtown and is very pedestrian friendly. We spent some time taking care of shopping for some electronic goods such as purchasing sim cards for cell phones.  Later in the afternoon, we took the bus up to King’s Park and Botanic Gardens where we could stroll through a 1000 acres of beautiful flowers and landscaping.  It is on higher ground providing beautiful vistas of the city.

Perth is on a latitude that would correspond to San Diego with a similar climate.  Today is the first day of spring and it is on the cool side.  There has been rain, but it is now partly cloudy and a jacket feels good. Today we heard someone say "Perth has the climate that Califonians think they have." In the late afternoon we ate at the Mad Mex, a Chipotle type restaurant but with a more hip energy.  The staff was friendly and told us about the franchise that is popular in Australia.  The made-to-order burritos were very good. 

We went back to our hotel and fell asleep by 6 p.m.  It had been 47 hours since we started out in Portland.

If you would like to opt out of our emails, "no worries" ... just let us know.  Joel usually does the writing, Elaine chooses pictures, and Tom takes care of the logistics of putting it all together. 

Rick, Tom, Elaine, Levonne ... our hotel (Rydges) in the back ground.

Pedestrian shopping street near our hotel

Elaine, Joel, Tom, Rick, Levonne at Kings Park and Botanical Garden.

Panorama of Perth taken from Kings Park.

DNA Tower in Kings Park ... looks like double helix

Tom at top of DNA Tower

Rick at Kings Park

Rows of Lemon Scented Gum trees (Eucalyptus)

Australian Magpie in Kings Park.


September 23, 2014 - Hop On Hop Off

September 23-24, 2014
Perth is our home for several days until we head out on a flight to Broome way up in the northwest of Western Australia ("WA", we keep thinking Washington).  The company we are working with is renting us a car and providing us with places to stay as we explore for a couple weeks while driving back to Perth. 

We awoke to a cloudy day with temperatures around 60.  A sweatshirt or sweater (jumper) might have felt good, but we managed with light jackets.  The double-decker London bus beckoned for a city tour, and we learned that it had been driven from Melbourne at a constant speed of 50 MPH and took 5 days.  It was the type of tour where we could get off and on at different destinations. 

Waiting for the Hop On Hop Off bus, we met an English couple from Bournemouth, who were in Australia visiting their son in Brisbane and taking a side trip.  They are renting a camper (caravan) to explore southwest Australia before going to their son’s.  They commented that as soon as he put a toe on Australian soil, they knew they had lost him to a new land.  She told how in the ‘50’s Australia had offered passage from Great Britain for 10 pounds ($40) to help build up the population.  Whether you liked what you found or not, there was no going back since that would have meant full fare.  She thought that helped account for why there were so many British descendants here.


Perth sight seeing bus tour

"Photo Bombed" on top of the bus by the husband of the English couple!

One of the stops was a large casino entertainment complex.  We didn’t try our luck.  We did spend some time at King’s Park where Elaine and Levonne visited a gallery and the men went looking for coffee.  Coffee is a challenge here for Americans.  We haven’t yet seen a Starbucks or any others.  We recall that on our last trip it took a while to figure out how to order and we’re not quite there yet. 

We ended up leaving the tour at the waterfront of the Swan River where they are in the early stages of building a large development like Fisherman’s Wharf in SF.  It is mostly dirt and heavy equipment.  The attraction now is a bell tower to house a special set of bells.  They date back to the 1700s and came from St. Martin in the Fields church on Trafalgar Square in London.  They were too heavy and mounted too high in that church causing lots of damage and had to be removed.  The plan was to melt them down and cast new lighter ones, but someone saved them and brought them to Perth where they were stored until this new venue was built.  Unique to these bells is how often they are used.  It takes a number of trained people to pull the ropes so it is remarkable that they can keep this going.  It wasn’t convenient for us to hear them at this time, but we plan to go there again on our return to Perth.

Bell Tower - Home of the Swan Bells!

Bell Tour where waterfront development is taking place.

On our walk back we strolled through the gardens of the old Supreme Court Building, now a museum and historic law library.  Many flowers are in bloom and many more set out. 

Old Supreme Court Building

Our dinner was chicken and falafel gyros.  Very good!  There is a still a strong impulse to go to bed early and get up before the crack of dawn. 


Kings Park Art Gallery

Flame at World War I memorial in Kings Park

September 24-25, 2014 - Rottnest Island tour

We awoke to a beautiful sunny day as we began our journey to Rottnest Island.  We went to the station not far from our hotel and caught the train to Freemantle, a deep-water port on the Indian Ocean about 10 miles from Perth.  From there we were able to get tickets to a 25 minute ferry ride to the scenic vacation island of Rottnest.  It is about 10 miles long and 5 miles wide and until 1902 served as an Aboriginal penal colony.  It now has a limited number of cottages and condos making it a great vacation spot.  There are few motor vehicles and most visitors use bicycles. 

Tom, Levonne, Rick, Elaine Joel at Perth train station on way to Fremantle and Rottnest Island.

Train station

Ferry to Rottnest Island

We only had a few hours to tour, so we bought tickets for the hop on, hop off bus which we used to ride around the island.  It is a protected area and a lot or restoration work is going on.  We had time to make one major stop at West End where they have built a board walk to take you out on the promontory.  We were to stay on the walkway not only to protect the plants, but to keep us from running into the indigenous snakes which are emerging from winter.  Though shy and timid, they are very poisonous.  We didn’t see any, but did see a black skink, about a foot long. 

Off the bus that goes around Rottnest Island

Black Skink found near path.

The reef, the ocean, terrain and the wildflowers are spectacular.  There are beautiful beaches and the water is 76 degrees at this time of year.  There is a lot of scuba diving.  Along the way we saw poles with triangles mounted on them.  A man by the name of Smith invented a system long ago on this island where ships could navigate dangerous waters by lining up the points of two triangles.  It was later used in other parts of the world we understand. 

Protected plantings to prevent erosion.

Walking to West End

Flora and Fauna

Boardwalk at West End

West End Boardwalk

When we returned to the settlement area we saw lots of Quokkas, a small animal with a rattail and shaped like a tiny wallaby.  The name is Aboriginal and means food.  They were easy to kill and a delicacy.  The settlers thought they were rats (hence the name Rottnest) and didn’t like the taste preferring mutton and beef.  Quokkas only survive on a few islands.  The food market had short Lucite swinging doors to keep them out.  Crows kept up an infernal racket with a much harsher “caw” that we have at home. 


Elaine and the Quokka (marsupial). Rottnest means "Rats Nest" named because ealy explorers thought these were rats.


Returning to Freemantle we set off in search of a restaurant famous for its fish and chips.  We found it and ate way too much.  While there a few dozen school kids came with uniform jackets that said “Country Week”.  We talked to a teacher and he said it was a time when kids came from remote areas to interact with other kids in a wide variety of activities. 

Walking back to the train, we passed the Notre Dame University campus.  The architecture has been preserved from an earlier time and is very beautiful.  It was too dark to get good pictures, but we may return in a couple weeks to get some.

The next morning was spent close to the hotel since we were leaving for a flight to Broome, a city over 1300 miles away, about the distance between San Diego and Vancouver, BC.  As we arrived the sun went down at 6:00 and it was instantly dark.  We picked up a van we will have for the next two weeks and made our way to the Oak Coral Beach Sanctuary.  We will be here three nights.  The guy at the car rental agency recommended the outdoor movie, feeding the crocodiles, riding camels and having a drink and/or dinner at one of the restaurants at Cable Beach and watching the sunset.  We will also plan some excursions by car.

Distances from Perth to ..

Return to Fremantle

September 26, 2014 - Broome

We landed yesterday evening in Broome, WA northeast of Perth on the northwestern coast of Australia.  It was established in the 1880’s mainly for the mother-of-pearl industry established there.  Many lives were lost (mainly Japanese) diving for pearls.  Broome is on a narrow spit of land and it is one place where you can see both the sunrise and sunset over the water.  The population is around 12,000 to 14,000 swelling to 45,000 during the tourist season.  We are at the end of this year's season.  It is at about the same distance as Hawaii is from the equator and would reminds us of Kona.  Cable beach goes on forever getting its name from the first telegraph cable laid between Australia and Singapore connecting with London in the 1880’s. Cable Beach is a 22 kilometer-long stretch of pure white sand, set against a backdrop of red ochre cliffs and fringed by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean.


Our hotel: Oaks Cable Beach

We drove our van carefully on the left side of the road to the downtown, stopping at the visitor’s centre. From there we walked to the Dragonfly Café for breakfast.  The prices seem quite high to us ... somewhat ameliorated by the exchange rate that is becoming more favorable to us each day.  We’ve heard that prices in Western Australia, particularly in the north are the highest in the country.  We gulp and pay it.  $US3.15 for a bottle coke in the supermarket, $US8.50 for about a quart of mayonnaise, $6.25 for a gallon of milk.  Fish and chips at a restaurant might be $US23 and up.


Breakfast at Firefly Cafe (Elaine, Joel, Rick, Levonne, Tom)

We’re adjusting once again to being the only country in the world except maybe Burma that uses the English system of measurement.  Even the English have abandoned it.  Western Australia considers itself to be backward, but they have already adopted the chip in credit cards to fight against fraud.  We’ll have it in several years.  Usually they can make ours work, but it takes some fiddling.  The new cards will require a pin. which we don’t have.  The poor lady behind me at the supermarket had to wait while I went through about 4 cards.  When I apologized, she said, “What else is there to do in this town!”

We found some things to do.  We drove out to a beach and walked along looking at the beautiful rocks and waves.  People were fishing and swimming.  We noticed that near the sign for the beach was a small box that had emergency kits for stinging jellyfish.  The instructions said to apply vinegar and call the equivalent to 911 and get to the hospital.  It didn’t inspire my confidence though the water did beckon.  We read that Broome has one of the world’s top 5 beaches.  We were told that the "stingers" come with the rainy season so we should be okay.

Then it was off to 12 Mile to visit the Mango farm. It was about 100 degrees and we enjoyed eating frozen mango pops and waiting for the park to open.  It is just the beginning of the mango season.  

Next we went the Malcom Douglas Wildlife Park, which attracts lots of people to see the feeding of the crocodiles.  There is a large lagoon with about 70 large 25 year old saltwater crocodiles.  They have been kept in captivity and adapted to being fed.  Usually they would be territorial, but have learned to get along.  An archetypical Crocodile Dundee named Chris came out. First he passed around a half dozen 2 year old specimens for us to handle.  They have sharp teeth so their snouts were banded with what girls would use in their hair.   Kids of all ages enjoyed this knowing that these cuties were going to turn into expensive belts and purses in future.    They went back in the bucket when it was time to feed the huge ones.  Many of the adults had crawled up on the shore anticipating what was to come and hoping a fish head would be thrown their way.  A lot of thrashing and gnashing accompanied the activity.  Crocodiles have a valve in the back of their throats and must raise their heads out of water to eat otherwise they would drown.


The show lasted over an hour as we walked around the park listening to the guide’s narration while he fed other animals. 

Heading back to town our destination was dinner at Zanders Restaurant, a café overlooking Cable Beach at sundown.  We found a table with a perfect view and decided to order a meal.  Joel and Elaine ordered a share plate of a variety of things to sample a la tapas.  It included crocodile served cold as a salad, very tasty.  As the sun slipped beneath the waves, more and more people gathered for the spectacular event.  We couldn’t stop snapping pictures.  Before we could get to the car, it was completely dark.  We understood why the rental car guy said this was one of the top things to do in his book. 




September 27, 2014 - More Broome
Another absolutely beautiful day in the north of the Down Under.  We ventured out to do a little shopping at the hardware store and then visit a Saturday market at the Court House.  We thought there might be produce, but it was mostly local crafts.  Several things were fun to look at—carved seedpods from the Baob Tree (similar to the Baobab we saw in Africa with the large trunk to store water), carved Emu eggs and jewelry. 

We visited the hardware and grocery stores to find a small, cheap ice chest that will be good to have on our long drives pretty much out in nowhere.  We found what we needed at a good price since it is the end of the season.  We got a large container of water to have in the vehicle and soft drinks, etc. to have in the cooler.  We wanted a thermometer so we know how hot we are at all times, and a paring knife (probably also useful for stabbing snakes). 

A visit to the wonderful Visitor Centre was next where they made reservations for us to ride camels on the beach.  We chose the shortest one in midafternoon.  We needed to drive to Cable Beach and walk around the rocks to the staging area.  Soon the camel train came into view and got in position for us to mount.  We were assigned a camel.  Since Joel was the largest and oldest of the party, he was assigned Aslan, the oldest and biggest male who is quite bossy and was assigned near the end of the line.  Some camels held 2 people, but they weren’t full and spread us out.

After we climbed on, we had to hang on tight and push our arms straight out as the camel arose, back feet first and front next.  Because of the flies, they would through sand up with their feet, but the handlers sprayed them first.  Levonne’s camel was a little cantankerous and they sprinkled water on its head to get it to stand up.  We could begin to imagine what it would be in a caravansary trekking across the desert mile after mile.  We were ready to get off after 30 minutes.  One of the handlers is from Cologne, Germany and has been here for over 2 years adding to his resume and perfecting his English.  There seem to be lots of kids from Europe working here. 

We ate dinner again along the beach to watch the sun go down.  Though beautiful the previous night was the best.  Just at sunset, a huge wedding party walked by to have pictures taken as the sun disappeared. 

Dinner at the Sunset Grill at Cable Beach

Taking wedding photographs at sunset at Cable Beach

Flower Girl

We needed to get up early on Sunday morning to make one of the longest drives on our trip, 381 miles to Port Hedland.  We determined that we didn’t need to gas up although we were aware that gas stations weren’t that plentiful.  The Great Northern Highway is two lane and practically straight for the whole distance.  In places it is about 10 km. from the ocean, but one would have to have a 4-wheel drive to see it.  The topography is flat scrub and red soil.  Many places there was evidence of fires.  We only crossed a handful of bridges but there were many warning signs of flashflood areas.  This is cattle country and there are warning signs to be on the lookout for kangaroos and cows.  We only saw a few of the latter.
Our rental agreement only allows us to drive in the daylight outside of city limits, and we can see why.  In addition to other hazards are truck trains we met and passed.  They are large trucks with up to 4 trailers.  I had read about them before usually described as these behemoths that nearly blow you off the road.  Actually it was more like any ordinary truck only larger.  The traffic was light and in the whole distance we were never passed once.  We were going the speed limit of a little over 68 mph.

There were a total of 2 roadside concessions for food, restrooms and gas about evenly placed between the two towns.  Besides that there was 1 rest area with restrooms and of course the bushes aside the road.  Until we neared Port Hedland, there were no buildings of any sort, no power lines, occasionally a solar-powered communications tower, no railroad tracks, nothing but endless miles of highway.  We did see a convoy of Lions with Angel Flight stenciled on their vehicles.  This is one of the areas of the flying doctor, and the schools of the air that still operate on the remote cattle stations.   

Lunch at the Sandfire Roadhouse!

Port Hedland is about the same size as Broome, 14,000, a natural deep water port with the largest tonnage in Australia.  A major export is iron ore from mines in the mountains nearby.  We arrived mid afternoon and spent some time strolling on the walkway along the beach.  There is a new beautiful park and it was fun to see the families picnicking with friends.  Though the temperature was around 100 today, there was a very nice breeze and it was not uncomfortable. There isn’t too much for a tourist to do here and after a one-night stopover, we will be on our way.

We see lots of 4 wheel drive pickups and suvs here, in fact, everyone seems to be conscious of the condition of the roads in giving directions.  They are very clearly marked, sealed, unsealed and 4wheel drive.  We have been noticing these snorkel like devices near the hood of many vehicles.  We first assumed that they were air intakes above the dust.  They may be that, but we’re told they are for water.  In the rainy season there is water over the roads and this would actually be a snorkel. 

Snorkle on this Toyota SUV


September 28, 2014 - Port Hedland

This was the most automatic toilet I've even seen.  Lights, music, voice commands, buttons.  Worth a visit even if you didn't really need to use it.


September 29, 2014 - Port Hedland

We had to be up early this morning for another long drive S. E. to one of the most beautiful parks at the highest point in Western Australia, 2100 + feet.  At first there were long straight stretches very level; then low hills and rocks, and the ever-present red soil.  The red indicates massive quantities of iron ore and we saw truck after truck coming from the mines to port.  Mistakenly we called them truck trains, but actually the sign on the front and back said “Road Train.”  They all had four trailer of ore.  Aside from a few tourists, the other vehicles were light trucks from the mining company. 


We put an eye glass case over the windshield wiper control because that is what we automatically reach for when we want to signal a turn. The actual turn signal is on the other side. We bought a thermometer which "blew up" on the hotest day while hanging in the car!


One of many "Road Trains"

We have adjusted pretty well to left-hand driving and only occasionally turn out into the wrong lane.  The barriers and signage are well done and that’s a big help.  Since we left Perth, we have not seen a traffic light.  It’s all roundabouts and there are hundreds.  At every entrance there is a “Give Way” (Yield) sign and the rule is to look (right) and be sure no one is in the circle.  If not, keep going.  It seems that at home, people can’t get that and they have to use stop signs defeating the purpose.  The other rule is that pedestrians have to yield for cars.  It’s hard not to stop for people ready to cross, but that just confuses everyone. 

Self heating can of tomato soup.

The open road is another matter.  We drove 381 miles and never saw a highway sign of any sort except where there might be a flash flood.  In all that way (about the distance from Portland to Ontario, OR) there were only 3 or 4 turnouts with 1 or 2 toilets.  The only gas was at a road house called Auski named for the guys that founded it, an Australian and a Kiwi from New Zealand.  We stopped for gas and snacks.  We were reading a poster that leads to the next topic SNAKES!!!  A young woman from the kitchen said we had really better pay attention to it.  Outside the kitchen the day before there had been a brown snake, one of the most lethal.  Later we were at the Visitor’s Center to the park, Joel was getting information about things to do and asked if there was anything to be concerned about: SNAKES and loose rocks. 

The road was much smoother today making it possible to listen to music from the iPod and converse.  The further we got, the redder the striations in the emerging hills.  There are lots of grass and low trees with some purple flowers.  People are so friendly and engaging here.  We missed our turn and drove too far.  We stopped and were looking at a map (no, there’s no GPS in some of these parts) and this man got out of his fire truck (there is a bush fire apparently) and came over to the car helped us with directions.  The response to “Thank you” is often “No worries.”

Karijini is 2nd largest national park in Western Australia. This is our home for the next 2 days. 

We are staying at the Karijini Eco Retreat which has camping sites and tents.  We are in the tents which have en suite toilets and showers.  There is a small restaurant where we have complimentary breakfast and can buy lunch and dinner.  There is an emphasis on being eco-friendly so we have a solar powered hot water tank and are encouraged to conserve water. We are required to take all our garbage with us.   We have lights, but no places to plug things in.  There is a charging station at reception and minimal internet service.  It’s probably a good thing since we should be experiencing nature without distractions.  The young man who checked us in is from Italy, our waitress from France. 

Our tent cabin.

Inside Rick and Levonne's Cabin

Preparing snacks

Rick, Levonne, tent cabin and our Kia Carnival van.

The chef

Dinner (pork ribs, Thai salad, Veggie Stack, grilled shrimp)

Since there is so little light for hundreds of miles around, the stars are incredible.  Unfortunately it is a bit cloudy tonight and many are obscured.  We were told that one of the first space flights with John Glenn came over Western Australia and everyone was encouraged to turn on their lights since it was one area from the space orbit appearing quite dark.  It wouldn’t have changed much since then.  We see lots of 4 wheel drive pickups and suvs here, in fact, everyone seems to be conscious of the condition of the roads in giving directions.  They are very clearly marked, sealed, unsealed and 4wheel drive. 


September 29, 2014 - Karijini National Park

We had talked to the host the first evening about taking a bus tour of the park, and were waiting after breakfast to see if he could book us.  Suddenly, a woman driver rushed up and said they could take us if we could go immediately.  We ran to our tents to grab anything we would need including bathers and towels and get back to leave.  We wouldn’t have the lunch packed for those already on the bus, but the lunchroom would quickly make us some sandwiches.  We climbed aboard and were off, dust a-flying.  Lisa, the tour leader, was very knowledgeable and we started out to see the canyons.  There are a number of them all sheer deep red rook cliffs with many pools at the bottom of the gorges for swimming.  The degree of difficulty getting down to the water is rated by the experience necessary to be safe.  A Bushwalker 1 would be the easiest going up through a 5.  They range from gentle walks to the spider walk down a narrow cleft where you edge down with hands and feet out on either side.  For most of the day we went to observation platforms where we could look down on swimmers and climbers.  Sometimes we could see small yellow triangles affixed to rocks to indicate the best route to go up or down.


People swimming in the pools far below our lookout point.

We were well-informed about the flora and fauna.  There are huge dark red termite mounds that would indicate water is nearby.  The termites are blind and forage for food at night, the seeds from the speniflex grass that they forage and store for their food.  We saw some speniflex pigeons that look a lot like California quail with a topknot.  Our concern about snakes began to dissipate as we walked all around and climbed down rocks only seeing snake tracks in the dust. 

Snake "tracks" in the red dust

The pretty Speniflex Pidgeon

After lunch, we went to look down on the circular pool where two drunken mine employees got out of hand a year or two ago.  One walked out on the rocks, climbed down as far as he could, yelled down to the swimmers about how the water was and jumped.  Unfortunately the water was only 9 feet deep.  He was unconscious, but swimmers pulled him out and he only suffered a broken rib.  He did have to pay for the rescue and the two lost their jobs. 

Circular pool at the bottom of this cliff is where the guy jumped (from a ledge in the sunlight near the upper left part of this photo.) The tree with the white bark at the top edge of the cliff is a Snappy Gum and this one is the most photographed tree in the park.

One stop was the Visitor’s Centre, a very modern building with steel fins that have rusted the color of the surrounding rock.  It was designed to fit into the landscape.  We weren’t sure where the steel was manufactured, but the ore must have come from the area and it was processed in Switzerland with some kind of high tech method to speed up the oxidation.  ,
We were told about a boy who was leaning on a fence that was not meant to be supportive.  He fell, and his father followed trying to save him.  The father died and his son landed on top of him suffering brain damage and becoming a paraplegic.  We did see a lot of that kind of fence, just like woven wire we would use at home.  We had to keep telling ourselves not to hang on it as we went along.

One of our Bush Walker trails

Later in the afternoon, we went to an area where we hiked down a long series of steps to a waterfall and pool.  We went further to another swimming hole with yet another waterfall.  We could swim or sit on a dock and dangle our feet in the water and watch the fish.  We saw cockatoos and large bats hanging from the trees.  The walk back up turned out not to be as strenuous as we had feared and soon we were back on the air-conditioned bus. 
We saw may snappy gum trees that we found fascinating.  First, their shape is incredible.  While they are mostly white, parts of them will be black where the tree has preserved moisture by not supplying certain branches.  The white tree has s talc-like powder that Aborigines used for baby powder.  It has a distinctive fragrance which apparently is especially noticeable after a rain. 

Knox Gorge lookout

All the others on the tour were Australians, and it was good to interact with them.  One man was staying in the nearby mining town called Tom Price visiting his son, and he is working on travelling around the circumference of Australia on Highway 1.  It is 25,000 kilometers, about 15,000 miles and is a dream of many here.

Dales Gorge Lookout

One of the many gorgeous gorges we visited.

The roads are mostly graveled (unsealed) and are not in very good shape.  We were told that the road grader goes over them several times a year at a cost of $80,000, but it only lasts a few weeks.  Lisa believed that it was better to go very fast over the washboouard (corrugated) road, and we felt like we were having a massage or checking for loose fillings.    It took us back to when we were growing up and gravel roads were everywhere.  We arrived back at camp in one piece ready for a bit of a lie down before dinner.

Lisa, our guide for the day serving tea.

Both breakfasts we had a chance to visit with a young couple and their eight year old son, Charles, who is on spring break from school in Perth. The father works in the mining industry and they live in Perth.  She is Canadian by birth and they visit her family every year.  For Australians that usually means flying on around the world.  They said their son had been around the world 9 times in his eight years.  They were a wealth of information about things we should do.



Everything we have is covered in red dust which doesn’t come out easily.  It reminded us of our childhood at Silverton park where we liked to climb and slide on the red dirt.  Our mothers would not be very happy as they tried to wash it out. 

In the morning we had to leave early since it was our longest drive of about 400 miles.  The first few were on unpaved road, but we elected to go a little further and have pavement.  Again we were dumbstruck by the remoteness.  400 miles and aside from 2 small towns in the first 50 miles, there were only 2 or 3 toilets, one roadhouse with gas and small restaurant.    Our drive was uneventful and we arrived at our destination, Coral Bay, in late afternoon.  Since we can’t drive our rental car after dark in incorporated areas, we wanted to make sure we made it in time.  The prohibition is based on all the animals out at night. 


A dome shaped mountain that looks like Urulu in the center of the country.


On the open road

It was not really correct to say that the drive to Coral Bay was “uneventful” since as we were motoring along we did see a lot of interesting things.  We drove for about 50 miles to a town called Tom Price, built by the mining company to house miners and their families.  It has about 5000 people and is very neat and tidy.  There are several gas stations, supermarkets, schools, clinics and a hospital, which has no doctor. The town doctor is on call. If this doctor can not handle the emergency one is flown in or the patient is flown out.  Otherwise nurses handle most of the cases.  Lisa lives there and had told us that if they subscribe to the company’s health insurance, you would be flown to Perth if you needed further treatment.  We gassed up and were on our way through the only other town, Paraburdoo, about 50 more miles away. 

We passed a huge mining truck that has been decommissioned and put on display.  We were disappointed that we could not take a mining tour, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Stopped in a town named Tom Price, near Karijini National Park

Once we saw a section of road with very wide shoulders.  The sign said “RFDS Emergency Air Strip” and had white lines at each end.  A number of times we had to slow down for one way bridges.  In some places the road was quite narrow with no shoulders and meeting a road train was a challenge.  One, at least, didn’t give an inch.  We also crossed many cattle guards (grids, they call them), but we didn’t know what purpose they served since there were usually no fences.


The termite mounds here are brown, matching the soil which has less iron in it.

Continuing on, there was only one roadhouse and gas for the 300 miles to Coral Bay.  We stopped, of course, and saw two road trains full of cattle.  There were several families whom we imagined had come with the cattle for spring vacation.  It was about 100 degrees, but we don’t know for sure since our thermometer broke while left in the car in the sun.  Cattle stations could be several hundred miles away on dirt roads. We had to slam on the brakes as we approached an Emu (we were going to say a mother, but since learned that the fathers take care of the young) and his half-grown young.  It happened so fast that we did get much of a chance for pictures.  So far the only kangaroos we have seen on this trip are on the road sign warnings or dead. 

Cattle road tain at the road house on the Minilya-Exmouth road.

Huge truck on display in Tom Price


Emu family along the highway

Juvenile emu

One lane bridge ... watch for oncoming traffic.

There are numerous flash flood warnings, some with sticks that would indicate the depth of the water, helpful if you had a “snorkel” on the car.  We have now gone over a 1000 miles and have yet to see the police, at least that we were aware of.   We had to be on our way since we had to be to our next destination before sunset.

This stake marks the height of the flood water.


Fish and Chips (and Caesar Salad) at Coral Bay


Oct 1 & 2 Coral Bay

What a contrast.  Coral Bay is a resort on the Indian Ocean with a beautiful crescent beach with a variety of rooms, caravan (camper) parks, and tenting.  Since it is spring vacation, everything seemed pretty full.  A family built this oasis made possible by drilling a well 2400 feet deep where they got slightly salty water which we used for showering and washing dishes.  For drinking and we had a third faucet dispensing desalinated water provided by the government in recent years.  We understood that there had been a 10 year moratorium on building and remodeling which has been recently lifted allowing some new development with careful planning so as not to endanger the ecosystem. 


It was getting toward evening when we got there after a long day of driving and we were tired.  The place just didn’t seem too appealing, very dry with sand everywhere.  We had a fish and chips dinner at the lodge where we could get internet and went back and fell into bed.

The next morning was beautiful, not too hot due to a stiff breeze.  We stepped out on an incredible white sand beach with turquoise surf.  We had heard that if we walked about a kilometer, we would find reef sharks.  We waded in the water which was pleasantly warm and walked on the sand and rocks.  When we decided we had gone far enough, we concluded there were no sharks and turned around and started back.  All of a sudden we saw a man taking a picture and looked out and saw two, 2 ft. reef sharks about 10 feet away.  As we walked along, we saw more and more, at one point as many as 10.  That was exciting.  We also saw 8 inch sting rays and a water snake or eel.  It didn’t seem too active and someone thought it was dead or dying.  As we were walking by a sand dune, a couple young boys said they were going to climb up and do a roly-poly.  One did the other ran back down.


Reef sharks

As we approached the resort, we feasted on the sight of the incredible colors of the sand, water, people with colorful beachwear, boats, boards, kayaks, etc.  We ran into Rick, who had been swimming and snorkeling.  Later in the afternoon we drove a little ways away to the boat ramp. Where we had been told that a very large groper (grouper, we would say) comes by when the boats return.  Sure enough, he was there and someone threw him some fish which he snapped up. 

Feeding "Merv" the big old grouper

Boat ramp ... to see the giant groupoer.

Breakfast and final e-mail check.


Oct 3, Carnarvon

Our last long drive took us further south to the town of Carnarvon.  Just before we arrived, we turned off and drove 30 miles to the Blow Holes.  It is an area somewhat like the spouting horns of Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast only much larger.  Even though the tide was on the low side, there was quite a show.  There was a sign saying “King Wave Kill,” and a rope and a life saver ring that seemed futile to me if one were washed off.  Over 30 people have died due to freak waves along the coast.  During the day we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.

In the early days, Carnarvon was a port for shipping wool, but it was too shallow.  They had to use smaller boats, lighties, to ferry it out to larger ships.  Before 1900, the government built a mile long jetty on pilings, logs that came from a long distance.  It had a small railroad, with a very narrow gauge, 2 feet, later widened.  The jetty is being rebuilt and each of the thousands of pilings are being replaced at a very high cost.  Friends of the jetty are raising money.


Carnarvon is a seacoast town of about 5000 people, a size that hasn’t changed much for many years.  Its main industries are shrimp fishing, salt mining, and agriculture including bananas, papaya, as well as sweet corn, berries and various other crops.  We saw a large salt lake and mine on the way to the blowholes.  The downtown, near our Best Western Motel, is very pleasant with a Woolworths (Woolies) and assorted other stores.  We saw a building that said something like Radio School for children on distant cattle stations (ranches).  We would probably use the internet, but the stations would be too remote and internet expensive.  I hope we have an opportunity to talk to someone about it. 

Blow holes near each other.

We had seen some Model T Fords earlier in our trip up north pulling small trailer houses that said Angel Flight.  We saw them again at the small Saturday market.  They are from the Lions Club and they are raising money for Angel Flight, an organization of volunteers providing free flights for medical emergencies.  They provide a chance for pilots to get enough hours to keep their licenses.  With support vehicles, they have been driving completely around Australia, leaving from Brisbane on the east coast counterclockwise back to Brisbane in Queensland.  They started Sept. 1 and plan to be gone 90 days.  One couple was from the US. 

The market was fun and had local produce and a few crafts.  They will be open one more Saturday then before Christmas and regularly next fall, their fall.  As we drove away, we were reminded that this self-contained town is very remote. 
Still the only kangaroos we’ve seen are dead ones. 

Farmer's market in Carnarvon.

On the road again.

Kite surfing in windy Carnarvon

Best Western Hospitality Inn, Carnarvon

Fancy houses in Carnarvon along the waterfrount

In the 1960’s NASA choose Carnarvon as the site of a large satellite tracking base located in the southern hemisphere.  It was used through the Apollo program and closed in 1975.  It’s not hard to find in a mostly flat town. Now it is the location of their Space and Technology museum.

Click here to continue on to part 2 of our trip to Western Australia.