When we last left you, we had just arrived in Perth, and were embarking on a Wine cruise up the Swan River. Well, the Wine cruise has gone a ways towards repairing our opinion of Aussie wines. Up until now, every Aussie red that we had bought was to light and sweet. The sort of wine you would mix with fruit and soda to make Sangria from as opposed to a nice thick Red full of Tannins and goodness. But the Reds from WA are MUCH better than those from NSW or Vic (haven't tried any SA wines).
The cruise was quite good too, as the Swan was unseasonably flooding - about 2 meters over the banks! Way cool.
The next morning we took care of business - Getting Daisy fixed. If you remember, The Great Southern Railways people had managed to pull off her front bumper. Alls we needed to get this fixed was a welder - Should be easy to find right? WRONG! Oh we found plenty of welders alright, but they all had some excuse as to why the couldn't or wouldn't fix Daisy - my favorite was from a place advertising itself as the "Bull Bar Specialists! - We do all Sorts" (the big bumpers you find on the front of 4WD's are called bull bars. This is the type of bumper that Daisy has) - "Oh no Mate, we Can't weld your bull bar back on - it's made from Steel" - Like what did he expect PLASTIC!!!! We eventually found a guy who has his own auto body shop who was willing to weld it for us - Interesting coincidence is that this guy was born in a little village in Italy where my Father's-Mother's-Father died.
Now that Daisy was whole again, we quit Perth and headed to Fremantle. Not much of a change as it's only 25k away, but the hostel here has a proper car park and will let us leave Daisy in it whilst we go to Rottsnest Island.
Rottsnest was definitely worth the trip. It was named Rottsnest (Dutch for Rat's Nest) by some Dutch sailors who saw the little endemic animal called a Quokka and thought it was a rat. The Only cars on Rottsnest are public busses - so everyone bikes everywhere. Way cool. We lazed around for a couple of days snorkeling and riding our (rented) bikes. The Quokka's themselves DO look like rats
After Rottsnest we began the long journey "Over the top". We headed north to Cervantes, home of the Pinnacles desert where these weird stone formations dot the landscape. From Cervantes our next stop was Kalbarri - We were quite looking forward to checking out the river gorges here, until we found out that in order to get to them we would have to drive some 26k's down a washboard road. It was described to us by these guys we met as "Corrugated the whole way - way worse than Pinnacles" and they were in a Toyota Landcruiser (The Pinnacles road was so bad that the vibrations caused the doors on Daisy to open!)
From Kalbarri we headed north to Sharks Bay and Monkey Mia. This place was amazing. SGK hand fed a WILD Dolphin. Way cool. There are also Dugongs here (although we didn't see any) and Stromatolites - the Worlds oldest life form. Well worth it.
From Sharks bay we continued northwards to Coral Bay - which I liked even more than Monkey Mia. Coral Bay is where the access to Australia's OTHER barrier reef (the Ningaloo Reef down the North West Indian Ocean coast as apposed to the Great Barrier Reef which goes down the North East Pacific Ocean coast) is the easiest, so we did some diving! First time in yonks on scuba. The reef was OK; our first dive the visibility kind of sucked, but the second was much better. More importantly, SGK's ear problems seem to have (FINALLY!) cleared up! One down side to the diving is that the only dive shop in town that was open (the other was closed for the season) DOES NOT GIVE A PROFESSIONAL DIVERS DISCOUNT, so all of you dive masters or better out there - Don't dive at Ningaloo Experience if you can help it.
The other neat thing about Coral bay is the turtles - They nest here and were busy hatching when we arrived, so we forked out the dough and climbed aboard some ATV's and watched them hatch and make their way to the sea. I went overboard with the camera and took way too many pictures! (to all of you staunch Omnians out there; The Turtle MOVES!)
From Coral Bay we headed to Karajini National Park - more gorges - We had hoped to be able to hike in them, but as we drove through the park it started to rain and getting caught in a gorge during a flash flood would have not been pleasant. One day I want to come back here and hike down into them properly (Dad you would love it!)
From Karajini our next stop was 80 mile beach - recommended to us by Rachel and Ellis whom we met in Canberra. 80 mile beach is actually much longer than 80 miles, but what the hey. SGK had been looking forward to crashing out on the beach doing nothing but reading, so off we went. When we arrived, we found that it's not really the sort of beach that you swim at - it's VERY shallow. So shallow as a matter of fact that when we tried to walk to the water during a low tide, we had to walk OVER A KILOMETER from the high tide mark before hitting the water. Weird.
From 80 mile beach we were off to Broome - Check your back issues of National Geographic for a great pictorial on the Kimberly region to see what it's like here. about half way between Sandfire and Roebuck (two "road houses") disaster struck - Daisy had a blow out. So I had to change the tire in 50°c heat! the temperature of the road surface had to be in excess of 65°c. WAY too hot! To make matters worse, when the tread peeled off of the tire it managed to fuck up something else too as the entire underside of the van was covered in oil. So, here we are on a 300km stretch of deserted road (the total population of the 645km stretch of road from Port headland to Broome is only 65 people) with a car that cannot hold it's oil. Good thing we had 6 liters of oil in a jug for just such an emergency. Even so, when we pulled into Roebuck, our jug was empty and so was Daisy. Roebuck is only about 50ks from Broome, so we bought another jug of oil and headed into town (it was Sunday and nothing is open - why does this type of thing always happen to us on a holiday or a Sunday when everything is shut?)
So, here we are on the North coast of Oz, eating Bananas and drinking cold VB's.
Monday, February 7, 2000