K2inCanada's Blog

May 30, 2010

Australia Report – WA Part 8

Filed under: Australia, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 8:35 PM

This is the last post for Western Australia – last 3 days, sigh. But we are not done yet with traveling through Australia – 18 more days to go through tropical Queensland, yeah.

It took a while to write it all up so far and I am sure it takes a while to read it allas well. If you feel like you want to see a million more pictures from WA check out these links:

http://AustraliaWesternAustraliaPartI20Oct11Nov2009

http://AustraliaWesternAustraliaPartII20Oct11Nov2009

Day 21/39 (Nov 9, 2009): It was still dark when the birds woke us up – and it was really loud. I climbed out of the tent before 5am to see what all the raucous is about.

What a mess!!!

The culprit – a whole flock of Black Cockatoos

Brittle limestone cliffs in Hamlin Bay

Early morning – the beach was all ours

A whole flock of Black Cockatoos were indulging themselves on those red flowers all around us – literally making a mess spilling them all onto the grass below. Initially it was too dark to take pictures but they stuck around long enough for some good shots – too many if you ask Jeff who already had breakfast, brushed his teeth and put the tent away by the time I was done taking pictures J. As usual it was early when we left the caravan park – most people were still asleep. From here on we traveled north along the Cave Rd. The area between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Naturaliste is known for its good wines, its limestone caves and beautiful surf beaches – we were now back to the Pacific Ocean. It was too early for wine or the caves (not open yet) so we started with checking out some beaches first. The limestone cliffs looked quite a bit different than the rounded granite we were used seeing along the Southern Ocean.  The beaches were just as beautiful and empty early in the morning as they were along the south coast – and it was too cold to go for a swim. I am sure I saw my breath when we got up in the morning. Continuing on driving through some medium size Karri forest and wine country we made it to Lake Cave – one of the most popular limestone caves – for the first scheduled tour. The guided tour wasn’t cheap but we hadn’t really spent much so far on our trip expect for gas and food. First we had to climb down into this huge sink hole or “doline” to get to the cave opening. Apparently the roof caved in 500-600 years ago.

Lake Cave opening (doline)

The famous suspended table – reflections in the lake

Lake Cave straws

Inside the cave was one big chamber with most of the floor covered in water – hence the name “Lake Cave”. All around and above us were very beautiful looking limestone creations (caltrate or calcium carbonate) – stalactites, stalagmites, straws and shawls – the most impressive formation was a large table suspended over the lake attached to the ceiling by a large stalactite.With caltrate being a very dense material the whole things must weight a couple tons. I also like the myriads of thin straws hanging from the ceiling. Apparently native to the lake are unique little crayfish but with the water level is constantly dropping – faster over the last few year – and researchers believe those creatures will soon disappear forever. Nobody really knows why the water started to drop quicker in recent years than it has done over hundreds of year before that – they are still looking into ways of saving this unique ecosystem. Just adding fresh water from somewhere else could introduce all sorts of “foreign” things.

Conto’s – famous surf beach

The area is most know for its good wines – we didn’t have any 🙂

Next on the list were a couple more beaches – Conto’s and Margret River Mouth. Jeff wanted to try surfing since this is THE surf spot in WA. So we stopped in Prevelly but lessons started at $120 for an hour – didn’t seem worth it. Stopped at Channel Rocks to look at the current raging through the rocks – first time I heard Jeff mention kayaking since we left NSW. It also looked like a good snorkeling spot but people at the campsite last night suggested to go to Yallingup. But when we got there the water was too rough over the quite shallow reef and we figured we’ll leave any further snorkeling to QLD. We decided to do another cave tour instead – Ngilgi Cave. Here the tour was self-guided and you could spend as much time in the cave as you wanted to. This cave was entered through a tiny hole and was all in all narrower but with multiple chambers – tones of cool looking multi-coloured shawls lit up from behind by dim yellow lights creating colours all the way from light orange to red-brown. We stayed for quite a while. It’s a mythical place:

Ngilgi Cave entrance – for the sporty types

Beautiful shawls

Like running water…

The big chamber

Arboriginal Art: Ngilgi chasing Wolgine out of the cave

“The Story Of Ngilgi

Ngilgi Cave is associated with a rich Aboriginal legend describing a battle between a good and an evil spirit. The local Wardandi people tell the story as: Ngilgi, a good warrior spirit, lived near the sea and Wolgine, an evil spirit, lived in the cave. Concerned for the welfare of his people, Ngilgi gathered together the spirits of the waves, lightning, rain, thunder and wind and they created a huge storm. Ngilgi attacked Wolgine and he gradually drove Wolgine back through the cave. So fierce was the battle that a tunnel collapsed, cutting the cave off from the sea.

The collapsed tunnel can still be seen today as a deep gully a short distance from the cave. Eventually Wolgine was driven up through the earth creating the present entrance. Wolgine was banished from the cave and Ngilgi claimed it as his own thus the cave became known as Ngilgis Nurilem (cave).”

We spent the night on a private campground near the last cave – not as nice as the last one but better than some other choices around. And we were able to do some laundry. I was awake half the night scratching my mosquito bites from the day before.

Day 22/40: Kookaburra wake-up call at 4:30am – hihahahahaha, not funny. We started the day off with a walk around Cape Naturaliste – the bush around the lighthouse had burned down completely a few weeks early – a few green sprouts were just starting to grow.

Lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste – landscape recovering from recent fire

Great views over the Indian Ocean – even saw some humpback whales

My favourite grass trees seemed to be under the first plans to come back to life again. The cliffs offered a great view over the ocean and we finally got to see whales again – humpbacks traveling south to their feeding grounds. Apparently the Bay starting to the right of the Cape – Geographe Bay is a resting place for humpback, southern wrights and blue whales on their migration routes from the northern breeding grounds to the feeding grounds in the south. Continuing driving towards Perth we kept hugging the shore as much as possible rather than taking the highway – that way we discovered Eagle Bay and the beaches along Mellup Rd. THAT’s the place I want to live. The ocean was calm, it was a warm day, we saw humpback whales resting just 100m off the beach – mom seemed to be dosing off just with the tail sticking out of the water while her calve circled around her having to breathe way more often. One could spend hours just watching them. At the next beach on route – Meelup Beach – Jeff went for a swim in the ocean – not far enough out to get to the whale though, I am sure he didn’t even see it – and I went for a walk along the flat coast to take pictures of the plants around and the whales off course from the few vantage points I could find.

Eagle Bay – Jeff and I will move there one day

Beautiful beaches

…and swimming with the humpback whales – except Jeff doesn’t know there is a whale in the background

Between Meelup Beach and Castle Rock

As usual our schedule pressed us to continue on – having penguins on the agenda for tomorrow. The rest of the day was spent driving up a 2 lane in each direction highway – our GPS didn’t know that it existed – until we reached the town of Rockingham, less than 50km or so south of Perth. This was our last night in WA and although our flight wasn’t till late the next evening we wanted to be not too far away from the airport. The travel guide made this coastal suburb sound like THE spot to go for a day trip from Perth – with great snorkeling and an island just of shore with the smallest penguin in the world.

Shoalwater Marine Park – Rockigham.

Let’s put it like this – those travel guides lie. The snorkeling wasn’t great. For once it was too rough or too shallow and murky with eel grass and some other lettuce like looking marine fauna being the only things to see. Secondly only one of us could snorkel at a time since the other person had to watch the truck. Apparently we were in drug and crime central – as one of the security guards that was checking the beaches frequently told us about. The guy was a bit of a nerd I thought – complaining too much about gun and smoking laws in Australia, as examples of OZ being a police state. Well the later might be true but the examples I thought weren’t proofing his point. He was an emigrant from Poland, in the country for about 18 years. I almost offered to swap places with him but I am sure he would call Canada a police state as well given our gun and smoking laws. But his advice about the break-ins was appreciated. On to top of all this we found out that those penguins I really wanted to see are only to be seen in the discovery centre on that island – hardly ever in the wild – and only in the mornings during feeding time. They spend the day in burrows in the ground.  And of course we had missed that show by the time we got into town at around 2pm. Great, why didn’t we stay in Eagle Bay? And of course it was my fault since I was the travel guide in Jeff’s eyes.  We decided to stay in town for the early tour to the penguins the next morning. The campgrounds we found were by far the worst we had seen so far – crowded with big permanent trailers – Perth’s weekend getaways I guess. We found a tiny spot cramped right next to the only other tent in the park. Well at least everyone around us was very friendly and we got rid of some of the stuff we couldn’t take with us onto the plane – like the fuel canister we never used and the water canisters we did use a lot. At least it was quiet. For the budget travelers – Rockingham is not a place to linger.

Day 23/41: Our last day in WA dawned foggy and grey. We were up early as usual and packed all our gear for the flight to Brisbane that night. But even though it took a while we were still too early for the first boat to the penguin island. So I finally gave up on seeing my penguins. We left this weird town and headed north past Perth to Yanchep National Park. If you remember from Day 1 in WA, we had passed it that day but decided not to stop. Since we had all day today we thought we’ll rectify that mistake rather than walking around a whole day in Perth – we are not city people. And was that ever worth it. The weather improved considerably as we drove past Perth. The park itself has a botanical garden as well as a Koala sanctuary next to wilderness areas. The koalas are not in cages but roam the tall trees as if they were in the wild (okay it is some sort of fenced in area but nicely done so you don’t feel like being in a cage). And you really had to look around to find the animals sleeping high up in the trees – just as difficult to see as in the wild. We managed to discover 15 out of the resident 17 animal but it took a while. Next we went for a longer walk through the bush – I fell in love with this type of bush on day one and I still am. The sun was out and it was hot – flies were also out in huge numbers.

Yanchep NP Botanical Garden – Red bushy flower

Tiny orange flowers

Big yellow Banskia

Koala Sanctuary

That does not look comfortable

You can almost see the whole animal

Now that looks more comfortable

Playful Galahs

Kookaburra

Jeff walking through the bush – it was a hot day!

We stayed till just after 1pm having lunch under an eucalyptus tree before we headed back into town. Our GPS got as lost one last time in WA – looks like the same address is used in multiple towns all with a similar name – weird. We washed the truck which took some time, return it to the rental outfit, went to the airport and dropped off all the luggage – Virgin Blue was really nice about us checking in luggage more than 5 hrs before our flight at 11pm. Instead of hanging out at the airport for that long we took the bus back into Perth. The whole trip so far I always had a plan what to do, where to go etc – except I didn’t spend any time on what one could do in Perth for 5hrs. We got off the bus somewhere around Kings Park. We walked around aimlessly at first but finally made it to the part where you have a great view over the city and the Swan River from high up.

Cleaning up after 23 days of dust, sand and mud. The truck sure was a good idea!!

Downtown Perth

We followed the cliff for a while before climbing down a steep trail – Kokoda trail – hoping to get to the water. But a big highway was in the way. So we slowly made our way back towards the downtown area to find a place to eat – not the most scenic walk. The Lonely Planet Guide wasn’t too helpful finding restaurant offering only had limited choices – plus our feet were getting sore from all the walking by now. So we picked the first place we could find. Some trendy, wanna be high-end, downtowny place with small portions for lots of money. Food was okay but after 21 days of one pot meals I was looking for something different. We continued walking through the by now mostly shut down downtown area and FINALLY came to a ice cream shack – now that was good ice cream and the guys were joking with us which lifted our spirits again (never mind the couple Thai and Indian places we so on the way). After we finished our ice it started to drizzle again and it was finally time to say good bye to Western Australia. What a great country to explore – not enough time to see it all. We’ll be back again for sure.

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