Exmouth and Karajini
  • Day18


    June 12 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 13 °C

    Ruby truly surprised me. When we talked about camping about a year ago, the issues we had were scurrying creatures, shared toilet, dirty drop toilets, not being able to wash ourselves, and having enough stuff. But now, what bugged Ruby the most was zips... Go figure.
    We camped in the car on our last night at Garden Rock in our car. We were the only ones camping over night but all locked in, it felt safe. We had instant noodles for dinner then star gazed and watched Netflix till bedtime. At midnight there was a sudden downpour, worried that there might be flooding, we moved the car nearer the road out.
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  • Day17

    Heading Home

    June 11 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We've cancelled the last 3 nights stay at Karajini Eco Retreat and are heading home now. We've seen all the gorges we can access, and even did Joffre Gorge twice There was a fatality just before we arrived, so park rangers will declare the gorges closed on the slightest threat of rain, and there's been some unseasonal rainfall this week. Also, bad and terribly corrugated gravel roads have made other gorges inaccessible to us in our Forester. Big 4WDs like LandCruisers that are driven by experienced drivers who have traversed unsealed tracks around Australia have struggled with those roads, resulting in blown tyres, wrecked solar panels, and a vehicle even having to stay the night to wait for a tow in the morning. Certainly not for us.

    I'm looking forward to doors. I miss doors. Yes, doors. Those simple rectangular nondescript portal that leads from one room to another. The one where there's a knob or handle that I don't have to bend, just turn with a twist of the wrist , and just kick shut with a flick of the knee or foot. Simple, open door and kick shut. Never take that for granted ever ever again. When camping, there are no doors. There are zips. Big, long zips. To get into the tent, you have to unzip from top to bottom or bottom to top. No unzipping a small hole in case you break the zip squeezing your body in. Worse than the zip whilst camping is a broken zip. So, it's a long stretch and bow to unzip the tent. Quickly get the body in, and the quickly repeat in reverse, bow and stretch to zip up the tent so flies, mozzies and other uninvited guests don't get in. All that just to get into the corridor of the tent. Repeat unzip and zip to get into the bedroom or vestibule storage area. Once you've finished your tent business, it's bend and stretch again to unzip, and then stretch and bend to zip up tent. Apart from all that zipping and unzipping is finding the beeping zip! It's never in the same place. More bending and stretching, is the zip at the top or the bottom? Those possessed bleeping things move themselves once a human walks away, just for the fun of it. And glamping is not any better. It's worse. Instead of one long zip that does vertical and horizontal of the doorway, there are 2 zips! Unzip the vertical, unzip the horizontal ........ You see why I've enough of paying bowing and prostration homage to the zip gods, and just want a door to kick shut! When I get to Perth, I'm not doing zips for a long time. I'm wearing tights so I don't do zips of jeans. No more zips!!
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  • Day15

    Karajini Ecoretreat Glamping

    June 9 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    It was very overcast when we woke up this morning. So after packing tent and equipment away we decided to check at the visitors centre which gorges we could visit before checking into the Ecoretreat. Unfortunately due to the forecast of rain, all the gorges were closed except maybe Joffre Gorge. So we decided to head to the Ecoretreat to get more information. When we got here at 11am, they told us Joffre Gorge is still open but will close when it starts to rain. Although check-in is normally at 2pm, our tent was already cleaned and ready. We were so happy to be able to check-in, unpack and headed for Joffre Gorge before it rained.
    It was definitely worth a visit. The gorge leads to a waterfall and a swimming water hole. It was clean, pristine, beautiful and majestic but so cold. We had to wade hip high in water for about 20 metres around a bend before the waterfall and pool could be seen.
    We did not swim because the water was numbingly cold but I slipped on the slippery mossy floor and got totally soaked. It was a cold but very enjoyable explore. We got back to within sight of our car before the drizzle started.
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  • Day14

    Karajini Dales Gorge

    June 8 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    From our campsite, it is a 2hr return hike to Dales Gorge, but we took 5hrs because we decided to walk down to the bottom of the Gorge and stop for a swim at Fortescue Pool, have a long lunch and then another hike to Fern Pool but decided not to swim there because it was by then freezing and then a hike back on the rim of the Gorge. It was very scenic and the Gorge was awash with colour and was magnificent.Read more

  • Day13

    Karajini Dales Campsite

    June 7 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Surprisingly, sleeping in the car was very comfortable. We woke when day was breaking and that was so beautiful. Amazing sunrise. Topped it off with the appearance of a rainbow. Since we were in the Cheela Plains, we decided to take a little drive on the property to Mussel Pool, which was a tiny water hole, a tiny waterfall and The Wall which was the face of the gorge with vertical rock formation. Did all this without breakfast, thinking that we would head to the cafe at the reception for a proper cooked breakfast. We were so looking forward to it, and were devastated when informed the cafe stopped serving breakfast at 9am, and we were an hour too late. We snacked on cornthins and crackers till we got to Parabadoo, about 45 minutes away, and found a lunch bar for a quick lunch. We shared a burger and got to Karajini 2 and a half hours later, starving.
    After setting up camp, we finally cooked what we had planned to have for dinner last night.
    Had dinner, washed up and put away our dinner and dessert stuff by 5pm. Our first meal in 36hrs. Happy now.
    Then Ruby found our neighbours from Kenya and started chatting all about their travels, their migration, and family. They have a great camping set up all built, fabricated and put together in the car by the one of the 2 young man. The car was kitted out with a refrigerator, 2 batteries, drawers, pull out cooking station, roof rack and awnings, 2x20l petrol jerry cans, and all the bells and whistles that go in a zooped up camping 4WD.
    We are now sitting outside our tent, star gazing and writing our Penguin footprint.
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  • Day12

    Cheela Plains

    June 6 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 26 °C

    It is a five and a half hour drive from Exmouth to Cheela Plains Station where we had booked into the Woongara Bush campsite for the night, enroute to Karajini National Park. It rained steadily till the last half hour the drive which worried me as I was not confident that our tent would keep out the rain. I was very much encouraged by the patches of blue sky when we checked into the reception at Cheela. Brian at reception confirmed that our Subaru Forester could get to campsite which was 55km from the reception. I forgot how big Australian stations are. It was a beautiful site, nestled amongst trees, cocooned within very characteristic colour banded Pilbara hills.

    It was a breeze setting up camp when there was no wind. Our camp neighbour was a couple from Kalbarri who decided to "head north" for an indefinite time. Not an hour after arrival at campsite, we were sitting on our camp chairs congratulating ourselves on a beautifully set up tent and admiring the view of the hills and the little water in the riverbed. Tables and cooker was set ready to cook dinner.

    "The Ranger is here, where is the camp permit?" Permit in hand, still ever so pleased that we've done well with our campsite, bedding and necessary bags already in the tent.

    "I'm sorry to inform you girls that you have to decamp and move to higher ground. We've just got word that we're expecting 5-7mm rains here, and if it rains upriver, there could be a flash flood and you girls will either be washed away, or stranded as the river will swell. I'm so sorry, but you have to move anywhere up there, NOW. Last week, 2 families were stranded for 5 days when we had 5mm rain. The river filled up and they were not able to drive across for 5 days till the water receded." Right on cue, drops started to fall. Rather big rain drops, and the sky darkened.
    *** PANIC! ***
    We have never moved so fast.
    Very quickly, we decided to sleep in the car.
    The tent came down, and pushed into its bag.
    Tables and chairs folded, in the car.
    Bedding in the car (fortunately that was not unpacked,.
    All the bags and stuff from behind the driver and passenger seat piled into the boot so we could push our seats back and recline.
    Heavier rain!
    What's for dinner?
    Quick. Decide.
    We skipped lunch.
    We'll just share the one plain Turkish roll and the small box of 10 mini meatballs with the packet of lettuce.
    Heavier rain
    Get dinner and Prosecco (we deserved it) into the front seat.
    Don't want to leave the car for the rain.
    Everything else shoved into the boot.
    Check. Check that we've left nothing behind.
    We need sleeping bags in case it gets cold. Rearrange.
    Quick. Quick.
    Evacuate to higher ground.
    Rain stopped.
    Rain stopped!

    Whilst we were looking for somewhere to park, a lovely guy invited us to join his campfire once we got settled. So, our small bottle of Prosecco in hand, one 200ml bottle between us of course, we headed to the campfire. It would be rude to not accept that kindly invite, and who can resist a campfire. We had a lovely commune around the campfire with the other campers. When the rain started again, we headed back to the car to watch a movie on the iPad.

    For the record, the river did NOT fill. We'd not have been washed away nor stranded. Like 10 year old Ollie from Bunbury whose family moved to Onslow said, "Better safe than sorry".
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  • Day11

    Whale shark swim

    June 5 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    It is the morning of the whale shark swim! I am both very excited and petrified at the same time.
    I will be fine.
    We are back from the whale shark and snorkel tours with Ningaloo Discovery Tours. I am still a little scared of the ocean but feeling a lot more confident. The guides Lily, camera woman Katia, Mitch captain of the vessel and staff were so professional, informative and young.
    We were first taken on a short snorkel so that the guides could gauge our snorkeling and swimming ability. Then with the help of a spotter plane, the captain is told where the whale sharks are, and 10 mins later we are in the water, completely mesmerised by this great beast.
    The whale shark is neither whale nor shark. It is actually a fish. The one we saw was a young male, 6-7m long. We got to jump in 5 times as quite a few in the group were happy to just go once. On the second jump in, the whale shark was coming straight towards me with mouth open. Had to quickly swim out of his way. The current pushed Ruby about a metre away from the shark, and I saw her paddling away from the shark and she had to be yanked away by one of the staff.
    The experience of swimming with him was both exhilarating, humbling and amazing. I did all the swims without my pool noodle, at depths 50-60m.
    Snorkeling was amazing too because the skipper anchored just inside the break, at a deep part of the reef. Despite a lot of red jellyfish, we snorkeled around massive corals called bommie. The guide pointed out a 1.5m tawny nurse shark and an inquisitive octopus. The camera woman swam down to put her camera on the sand and the octopus came out and crawled over it to check it out.
    We are ending this fabulous day with a nice dinner at Exhale Cafe again.
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  • Day10


    June 4 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    We set out to snorkel at Lakeside today but due to road closure from flooding, we went back to Turquoise Bay instead. It was a lovely day for snorkeling because the sun came out and it was much warmer than the past snorkeling sessions we've had. Ruby saw an octopus and a (like an Aboriginal painting) puffer fish. The photo is downloaded from the internet, and it's called a boxfish, a fish that is permanently puffed.

    The lady of the couple who is in the other room of this beautiful house we have a room in recognised Grace and I, and she was the demonstrator for an Enjo party we hosted at least 17 years ago. If that was not small-worldly enough, up at the lighthouse and Vlamingh Memorial, we met a man from Singapore who now lives in Winthrop, the suburb right next to ours. We bumped into him again at the fish and chips shop, and ended up having dinner together. I think it must be the air in Exmouth that is making people all so friendly. We even got chatting with Hilly, the talented painter at the beach.
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  • Day9


    June 3 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Had a wonderful lazy, do nothing day at Shanti retreat, as it drizzled all day. We could not even get laundry done. Did not even do a baby hike.
    Visited 2 local art galleries and did a small walk around town.
    We did eat well. We had lunch at Exhale Cafe and bought 600g of endeavour prawns and tiger prawns,caught locally, for our dinner. Good prices at the cafes are about $5-$10 dearer for mains but the portions are generous.
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  • Day8

    Cape Range National Park (part 2)

    June 2 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

    I do "get" this camping thing, I did have a great time. There is something organic about camping. You are really IN the outdoors, and develop a connection to The Out. We really got down and dirty with nature. We did not shower for 3 days, did not even wash hands but just hand sanitised before food preparation and after toilet. My toiletry bag was not unpacked. No soap, no creams, nothing but brushing teeth. Joe, our camp neighbour, observed that people in campervans and caravans tended to be more inside, but tent-campers tended to do most things like cooking, eating, washing, sitting, outdoors. Grace and I were only in our tent to change, sponge down with baby wipes, and sleep. When we came back at the end of the day, we'd sit outside our tent or walk down to the beach. We were blessed with clear skies, so after dinner we'd sit for an hour or two in the darkness and watch the constellations.  Due to the winds, we had to pack away everything, including the tables and chairs, at night and before we left for the day. So we take everything out again when we get to our campsite, and when we emerge from our tent in the morning. I must admit that I'd probably have a different conclusion if it rained. Not so comfortable bringing in the out if it was raining.

    The wind made setting up the tent a treacherous endeavour, and worried me through the first 2 nights as I heard and felt the tent flapping, shaking, squeaking and pitching. For those of you who have not experienced it, it is no exaggeration to say that it sounds like being inside a cellophane  wrap whilst it's being crumpled, all night.  By the third night, the windiest night, I knew that the tent would withstand the winds or maybe from sheer exhaustion, I slept much better. 

    Our neighbours in Tulki Beach campground were really friendly and chatty, full of information and interesting stories. Brian, the old man with the big caravan is going all the way up to Broome, and next year, he'll start a 2 year journey all around Australia. Joe in a swag, our kindly neighbour, saved us from taking off with our tent into the ocean, and me from being suffocated when the tent blew right over me and got me all tangled up within it. He is from Mandurah and told us all about the different spots for snorkeling, and what to expect, as he was here 4 days before we arrived. There is another couple in a tent, lady from Madrid and guy from France, who are here on an extended tourist working visas. They were explaining to me how Europeans can work in Australia for 3-4 months and save money enough to travel in Asia for a whole year. They have worked in Australia for 3 years and have now jointly  saved enough to buy an apartment back home, and travel for another 3-4 months around Australia. John, our volunteer camp host moved to Exmouth from Albany to host campsites all around Cape Range National Park, and Tulki is his favourite campground.

    Yesterday, Tuesday 1 June:

    We drove to the information centre just 5 minutes up the road from our campsite to get phone reception and booked the 1 hour  cruise up Yardie Creek. We saw Black Flanked  Rock Wallabies resting and sun bathing in the ledges of the gorge. They were tiny and looked only about 30-60cm high with a tail much longer than they were high.  Also saw an Osprey nest that was mentioned in a journal written over a hundred years ago. That nest is still in use, by another Osprey, of course.

    After the cruise, we walked up the Yardie Creek gorge. It was beneficial doing that walk after the information from the cruise.

    We tried Turquoise Bay drift snorkeling again before the cruise, to great success. The tide was coming in, and the current was nowhere as strong as it was the day before. It was like swimming in an aquarium with the number and variety of fish and coral. Grace saw a small ray, and I was captivated by a school of fake clown fish. We did the loop twice and would have gone again if not for the cruise.

    Today, Wednesday 2 June:

    We snorkeled at Oyster Stacks. Again, breathtaking. In fact, it literally took my breath away, as I was starting to gasp through my snorkel (asthma). Grace and her trusty green noodle-float followed me further and further from shore, and more than 100 metres from shore, it still did not seem to get much deeper. Unlike Turquoise Bay, where there were large patches of sand between coral formations, Oyster Stack had fish and coral almost all the way. We saw a Moray Eel, about 150cm long, slithering along. Beautiful, silvery-yellow and so very graceful. Huge fish about 1m in length were abundant. Colours were on the fish, not so much on the coral. It was every bit as amazing as the pictures you see in the marketing for Ningaloo Reef.

    Today, we checked into a room at Shanti Garden Retreat, booked through Airbnb. It is only a 3 bedroom house, and the owners have transformed a humble 1950s original weatherboard house into a lovely prestine oasis with a swimming pool and bali-styled outdoor living areas. After not showering for 3 days, it's luxurious to stand under a shower and wash. For the 3 nights of camping, we used only a total of 35 litres of water, including cooking, drinking and washing up. Crockery, cutlery and pots got more water for washing than Grace and I put together.  Our washing with water was done incidentally whilst snorkeling.

    In keeping with the luxury of our accommodation, we're going out for dinner at Adrift.

    Grace has declared very certainly that tomorrow shall be a day of nothing more than laundry. I wonder if I can convince her to do a hike. Just a small itty bitty hike.
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