How are you at navigating? Are you any good with reading maps? Do you use the sun to gauge direction? I’ll admit navigating has never been my best attribute, yet as hubby is the driver that leaves me as the navigator. Sometimes that is not a good idea especially on the other side of the country. No matter how many times we have visited Perth, I can’t get the hang of the sun setting over the Indian Ocean when I have grown up watching it rise over the Pacific. This seems to throw my sense of direction out every time. I know the sun sets in the west, but my brain tells me it rises over the ocean, so I have this internal argument whenever we are in Western Australia as I just can’t determine north in my mind. It’s an internal struggle that baffles me.
I was in the midst of working through one of these navigational struggles when we departed Perth. Hubby as usual, just started to drive not waiting for my directions. He knew where we were heading. I’m glad one of us did. Our next planned stop was Geraldton, a 4 1/2 hour drive north if we didn’t detour. Only problem was, I wanted to go via the coast road and it took me some time to work out exactly which road hubby had taken. We were further inland than I had hoped. After some discussion, (and convincing on my behalf) I found a road to take us across. An hour later we were back on track heading towards the Pinnacles.
The Pinnacles Desert is an amazing place that we have been to before, but I wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Information Centre in the hope that they might be interested in considering my books. We did take advantage of being there and drove through the site again. The Pinnacles are stunning limestone formations that jut out from the desert floor in a fashion similar to a termite nest. They rise from the yellow desert sands in various heights up to 3 m tall and number somewhere in the thousands. As you wind your way through the drive, there are places to pull over, allowing you the opportunity to walk around and take spectacular photographs. It is believed these limestone Pinnacles were formed from the shells of an ancient sea bed. At various locations you can see the superb aqua of the ocean as a perfect background. The visit did prove worthwhile, the manager of the Information Centre was delighted with Emma the Eager Emu and Frazzled Freya and to my excitement placed an order to stock both books. After all, if you are lucky and stay in the area overnight, you will be more than likely to see both emus and frill-neck lizards so my picture books are perfect for their gift shop.
Geraldton to my surprise was a much larger town than I had expected. My Grandfather had been stationed there during WW2 so I was interested to see what it was like. It is a very well maintained town with beautiful old federation architectural buildings down the main street, but there are also many new modern buildings around as well. The harbour is filled with an abundance of fishing boats and yachts. I thought it was really quite pretty. We only stayed overnight though as the plan was to reach Shark Bay and Monkey Mia the next day.
The drive from Geraldton to Shark Bay should have been easily done by lunchtime, but there was so much to see we didn’t arrive until well after dark. We detoured off the main highway across to the coast to see the very small fishing village of Port Gregory and its amazing Pink Lake. The lake becomes pink at certain times of the year due to bacteria in the algae that gets trapped in the salt granules that cover the ground instead of sand. A bit of local sense of humour was on display, look closely at the fisherman in the photo. Everyone stopped to take a pic, myself included, I couldn’t resist.
We continued along the coast road to be able to stretch our legs and do the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs walk. This walk should come with a warning, it’s not for the faint-hearted. There are several walks to choose from, all along sandstone cliffs that plunge around 100 m to the ocean below. They do provide spectacular views and you can choose the short walks to some of the lookouts. However we decided to take a path between lookouts that leads along the edge of the cliff top. About halfway around I realised this was perhaps not a good idea. The wind felt like it was almost gale force and hubby is frightened of heights. The path was so close to the edge he was terrified. There are no railings to protect you from falling off the edge. He gripped my hand so tight I thought I would lose circulation. He was so relieved when we reached the end of the trail, until the moment he became aware he would have to turn around and make the trek back along the path to reach our car parked back at the opposite end. I should mention also, be sure to take plenty of water with you if you ever do this walk. The path is very exposed, there is no shade and it is quite hot, even with the wind.
To my delight, even though my son had said it was a bit late in the season for wildflowers north of Perth, we found many stunning examples. I couldn’t resist asking to stop the car to take photos of wildflower displays the likes of which I had never seen before.
Swimming with the dolphins at Monkey Mia had been on my bucket list for years. On arriving at Shark Bay I was so excited, the time had finally come. To top things off, as we drove around the back streets of the small town we came across a couple of emus grazing in someones yard. Unfortunately Monkey Mia did disappoint me a little. It has become too touristy. What was once a pristine wilderness area is now set up to make money. Be prepared to pay to enter the National Park, pay to watch the rangers feed a small handful of the older dolphins, pay to go out on a boat to see the dolphins. No longer are you allowed to swim with them either. In fact you are not allowed in the water at all if the dolphins are there. I understand the need to protect them as the place has become very popular and it would be far too much for the dolphins if everyone were allowed to touch them. Our understanding of protecting animals has improved so much and it is good to see them well cared for. An English tourist tried to wade into the water to touch the dolphin we were photographing, the park ranger appeared in no time to demand he step back and leave the water. Still couldn’t help being a little disappointed, I had come so far and was so close, but could not join this magnificent creature in her watery world.
We had lunch at the Aquarium and had a fascinating tour by a marine biologist who shared so much knowledge of the marine life of the area. To complete our day we took an off road drive through the red sand dunes. Once again we came across emus, this time a whole family, with chicks as well. They were gorgeous. I loved finding them out in their natural habitat.
My lack of navigation skills had proved not too much of a problem. We made a few unnecessary detours, but in the end, they proved to find some wonderful worthwhile places to see.
Have you managed to navigate a trip successfully or discovered amazing unplanned places? Where did you go?
Next week: The return trip begins. Gold mining towns and back across the Nullabor.