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Exploring the Kimberley

Dampier Peninsula, Broome

sunny 32 °C
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After a relaxing weekend in Broome, we headed north on the Cape Leveque Road to explore the Dampier Peninsula. We had been pre-warned that roughly 90km of the road are not paved, but it was still surprising to see that it was not really in a very good state. Lots of corrugated sand board along the way.

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Along the way, we passed lots and lots of termite mounds. And quite a number of abandoned cars in various states of destruction. Shortly after we hit the sealed part of the road, we had to pass through a bush fire. We could see the bushes and the ground burning right up to the road and could feel the radiation. Luckily enough, after a couple of hundred meters, the fire stopped again just like that.

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We stopped had lunch at the local store of Beagle Bay and noticed with a bit of amusement the sign saying that children are not allowed in the store during school hours. While we were sitting there, school ended and a whole group of aboriginal kids entered the store before they got picked up from their parents. We then had a peek into the church, which is beautifully decorated with mother of pearl. Considering the selection of books for sale in the church, it seemed that the catholic church is conscious of its role in relation to Aboriginal development and specifically the ‘stolen generations’. Still, knowing that Beagle Bay played a role in history in that respect, did put the very nicely decorated church into a context that was anything but shiny.

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Our next stop was Gambanan bush camp in the very north east of the peninsula. We picked a nice spot for our van on a rock just above the ocean. We could see a very strong current going out into the sea, so even though it looked like being low tide already, the water was still going out. After consulting the tide chart, we realized that tonight the high tide would be almost 10m above low tide. We were not quite sure anymore if we’d be cut off on our rocky outcrop and rather did not want to take any risks. So we found ourselves another spot which was for sure high enough above the ground not to be affected by the high tides.

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That evening, we had full moon. Even a super moon, very close to the earth. With the full moon rising over the mudflats at low tide, a phenomenon called ‘staircase to the moon’ is created. It did look pretty cool.

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Up to that point we had been alone at the huge bush camp and were already looking forward to a quiet night. Well, shortly after the moon came up, a group of German girls arrived and set up camp 20m away from us. That was strange – after all they could have picked from dozens of free campsites. Sam eventually came up with the theory that they were afraid of so few people being around, such that they set up right next to us for security / safety reasons.
Despite the heat and humidity, we had a good night’s sleep. But we had to rise early as well: with the direct sunlight hitting the tent around 6am, Max was wide awake.
We took it very easy and had a slow, relaxed and lazy day. With the heat, humidity and the pestering bush flies, the place reminded us a bit of Motu Mahare. Even though mosquitoes might seem at first glance more of a pain than flies, at least they don’t crawl into your ears, eyes and nose. It was more than just a nuisance, it was nerve-wrecking. We could have set up our awning with the screen room, but unfortunately due to fairly extreme wind gusts (seems like bush flies don’t mind the wind), this was not an option. Unfortunately the frogs only lived in the bathrooms whereas the bush flies only stay outside. Otherwise they could have had quite a meal.

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Eventually we left for Cape Leveque and spent the remainder of the afternoon at the beach and the edge of the water – luckily without any flies around.

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A bit later we moved to our campsite high above the cliffs with a nice view of the sunset. And luckily enough the sunset also marked the point in time when the flies retreated for the night. So we were able to enjoy a very nice, pleasant and calm evening pretty much on our own – thanks to it being low season.

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The next morning, the sun was up again and with it, the flies were back. And we were happy to just pack up and leave after breakfast. We had originally considered spending a day in One-Arm-Point and to see the beach huts and the fish hatchery there. But we figured that our patience to endure these potentially beautiful sights while being constantly pestered by flies would simply not be sufficient.
We just want to leave and we knew already where to: our beloved spot in the ‘Cable Beach Caravan Park’ with the beautiful pool and – what we had not even realized during our first stay – no flies at all. Instead a nice variety of birds: ibis, finches, cockatoos, parrots and even a flying fox.

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At the caravan park, Sam was also able to get some parts which had been missing on Max’ bike such that Max could finally try it out. It will take him a bit of time getting used to the new bike. Even though it has exactly the same frame as his ‘Cars’ bike in the US, it is a steel instead of an aluminum frame and it has huge (and heavy) sand tires. And after six weeks of not biking, Max is definitely out of practice.
Our first outing with the bike was to Cable Beach where we had dinner in a nice restaurant with an excellent view at the sunset.

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After one more day of just enjoying being in such a nice place and enjoying all its luxuries, the adventure genes started itching again and it was time to bid Broome and Cable Beach good-bye and to head on South.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 05:49 Archived in Australia Tagged birds sunset park beach pool moon flies lighthouse cape gravel corrugated Comments (1)

Nothing. Except endless bush, beaches, mines and stations

Broome, Eighty-mile Beach, Port Hedland, Indee Station, Auski Roadhouse

sunny 34 °C
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Broome is very remote even by Western Australian standards. Just an example to illustrate this statement: when searching for used bikes on gumtree.au.com, I had a couple of results for Broome and Cable Beach. And then the system offered to check also the following offers in the surrounding suburbs – the first of which was 598km away, the next ones 1050km away…
So, we made sure to fill up our supplies and to make sure that our tank and the jerry cans are full of diesel. We had really enjoyed our time in Broome and surroundings and could have easily stayed even longer. But after nine days we felt the itching again to get out and explore.
Even though we had seen only a bit of the Kimberley, we’d be heading south now. On the other hand, the Kimberley region is enormous. After all, just this one of nine regions of Western Australia is larger in size than 70% of the world’s countries – and is inhabited by less than 40,000 people out of which a third lives in Broome.
The closest town south-west of Broome is Port Hedland. As we were not keen on a 600km drive, we planned to stop along the way after 375km at Eighty Mile Beach. We were driving all that distance through flat bush with literally nothing along the way. I’m not sure to ever having experienced such a long stretch of nothingness.
To be fair, the nothingness was interrupted twice: after 25 km, we turned onto the Great Northern Highway and there was a gas station. And after 330 km we stopped at Sandfire Roadhouse to refuel.

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It was a relief to eventually turn off the road and to head the last 10 km on a gravel road to the beach. The beach sure seemed endless, but presumably it is in fact 80 miles long. What impressed us right away, were the sizable turtle tracks leading from the sea into the dunes and back. So, we definitively wanted to have a look ourselves at night to see some turtles nesting.

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As it was rather low tide and light outside, there were no turtles around yet and we kept ourselves busy with collecting shells. And there were really beautiful ones around and even some skeletons of starfish. The sunset at super low tide a bit later was simply spectacular.

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Unfortunately, that meant as well that high tide would only be after midnight and consequently the prime time for turtles coming up to the beach to dig a nest and to lay their eggs would only be very late. Still, Sam and I were extremely lucky when we went out to the beach at around eleven to see the first turtle coming up the beach after just a couple of minutes of being there. We were very impressed. To make sure that we don’t interrupt the turtle, we held our distance, but were able to observe the process nicely. Good, that moon was out at least part of the time – after all torches or any other form of light would scare the turtles away.

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The next morning, we had fun watching the birds at our campsite and eventually headed on to Port Hedland.

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About halfway, the scenery started getting more interesting with some hills and rocks dotting the otherwise boring bush. In Port Hedland, we headed to a park right next to the harbor inlet. Quite frankly, I had never heard of Port Hedland until a couple of days earlier and the guidebooks were not really enthusiastic about the place due to its industrial flavor. Still, we found it fascinating, as there was so much to learn that we had not realized or known previously.
After all, Port Hedland is one of the world’s top ten cargo ports shipping Western Australian iron ore and other mining products mainly to China and Korea. It is also the destination of a private train track, owned by BHP Billion, the world’s largest mining company. It is holding the record for the longest and heaviest train in history transporting over 82,000 metric tons of iron ore in 682 wagons at a total length of 7,2 km. Nowadays, these trains have just about 260 cars and a total train weight of over 43,000 tons. Even though this seems tiny in comparison, it is still about twice the length of the BNSF or CN trains we had seen in the USA – even though those were impressive as well with two sea containers stacked on top of each other.
Also, the iron ore freight ships were fascinating. At first the two anchored ore ships did not really impress us too much. This is, until another empty ship was navigated by several pilot boats into the harbor and we only then realized that the other two ships would have looked just as big when empty and were just mainly submerged in their full state.

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Last but not least, also the huge mountains of salt at the entrance and exit into town were fascinating. We left towards the suburb of South Hedland such that Max could ride his bike in the largest skatepark of Western Australia.

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Eventually we had to leave such that we’d not need to drive at dawn to Indee Station. Even though we had not seen a single kangaroo so far, we did not want to hit the first one we’ll encounter. But once more, we did not see a single kangaroo. Instead we were greeted at the station by a very young fowl, several calves, chicken and geese.

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A quick run up the hill provided us with a nice view of the sunset. Great!

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The next morning, we met Emily, the young French interior designer, who is helping on the farm for a couple of months before travelling through Australia. She explained to us how to get to the ‘Red Rock’, located about 10km south of the station. We took the sandy track to get there.

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Soon found ourselves in front of a mini-Uluru / Ayers Rock. Contrary to the big famous one close to Alice Springs, this one may be climbed and we headed up to have a look at Aboriginal etchings. What a nice place in the middle of the rather flat landscape – and how much easier to access vs the enormous trip out to Alice Springs that we had originally wanted to do…

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The drive towards Karijini National Park was dominated by road trains fully loaded with iron ore or other mining products. Typically, a truck was pulling three to four trailers with between four and six axes. At Auski Roadhouse we saw an enormous road train. Doing the quick calculation, we realized that the truck and its trailer have a total of 124 wheels. Just imagining the time, effort and cost to change all of them is a pretty crazy thought. Luckily enough, in these latitudes no winter tires are required!

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:53 Archived in Australia Tagged trains beach red port rock road bush station nest mine turtle cattle nothing Comments (2)

The gorges of Karijini National Park

Karijini NP, Tom Price

sunny 38 °C
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Shortly after leaving Auski Raodhouse, the road passed along Karijini National Park and the landscape started to get interesting. The highway passed through the mountains following a small creek and we were treated to nice vistas along the way.

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The Campground at Dales Gorge reminded us of the national campgrounds in the US and Canada. The choice which site to pick was easy: at one site the folks had waved very friendly to us and Sam was certain that they are friendly and fun Aussies. That assessment certainly held true. Before too long, Sam was standing together with Jesse, Jeffrey and Angeline and was having a beer. Max was entertained by playing baseball and Sam even joined the group for a quick sunset trip down to Fortescue Falls.
For some reason, both Sam and I had a really hard time going to sleep that night. Presumably, we were just not used to the outback heat, even though we had hoped that after acclimatizing in Broome, nothing could shock us anymore.
After breakfast, we did the short hike from the campground to Fortescue Falls. At the edge of the gorge, we parked Max' bike and headed down the steep staircases to the bottom of the gorge.

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From Fortescue Falls it was a short hike through the river gorge - which felt like a dense jungle - to Fern Pool. We were amazed - what a beautiful secluded place with lots of shade around. We liked it so much that we stayed all day. To cool off, we went swimming a couple of times, climbing behind the waterfall at the other end.

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We learned to watch out for the two risk factors in the pool. When swimming out straight from the dock (vs. diagonal towards the waterfall), there was no risk of getting hit by the droppings of the dozens of cockatoos sitting in the tree above the dock. And when constantly treading water or swimming (vs. just floating in the water), the tiny fish would not start nibbling at your feet. The other animals in large quantities presented no risks though: the hundreds of flying foxes tended to just hang in the branches of the trees, flapping their wings to cool off once in a while and sometimes changing places.

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Later in the afternoon our quiet place suddenly got rather crowded and we headed on to the pool below the Fortescue Falls before heading home for BBQ.To get a break from the flies, we tried our awning with the screen room. That really helped and was the success model for an enjoyable evening.

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The next morning, we packed up and headed towards Circular Pool. Even though it looked beautiful, we hopted to have a swim rather at Fortescue Falls, such that Max could play again in the shallow water. From there, we hiked through Dales Gorge along a nice path leading us along the stream, climbing rocks and balancing over stones in small streams.

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Eventually it was time to head on. At the visitor center we got warned that the gravel road towards Weano Gorge was not in a good state. They were right, but we took the direct road anyhow and were much faster that way vs. going all the way around on the sealed road.

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The view from Oxer and Junction Pool Lookouts was really spectacular. Even though it was tempting, this time we limited ourselves to just having a look into the gorges from the lookouts vs. going all the way down.

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The drive out of the National Park to Tom Price, the highest town in Western Australia, was longer than expected. Still, we passed some beautiful scenery and a lookout.

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At the campground, we realized that our campground neighbors of the last couple of days were there as well. That was the guarantee for an entertaining evening. As it was their last day of traveling, they had to get rid of their remaining beer and we gladly offered to help in that quest. We were having lots of fun. We told them, that we had chosen the campsite next to them, because they seemed like friendly Aussies. And Jesse told us in return that he had waved so nicely to us, as he had hoped for 18-year old German chicks. He was open about his disappointment once he realized that even though the nationality was well guessed, that one of them had a goatee and that we were not really in the expected age group. By the time I was in bed already, the fun continued. Angeline cooked a late dinner for everyone including Sam, steaks were used to symbolize kidneys and there was wine to be enjoyed. And like all really nice people we meet on the road, they were kind enough to write in our travel guestbook – a nice memory for the future that will help us remember fun evenings like this one.
As usual, by the time we were just getting up, our neighbors were already packed up and ready to go. What a pity to see them leave. Despite being on the road for a couple of months and being used to constant good-byes and no longer lasting acquaintances, we’re still not really big fans of that. Meeting known people again and having better and more fun conversations with every time we meet is something that could happen much more often. And whenever it does not happen, we need to hope for a good wifi or mobile connection such that we can call friends or family.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:29 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfall aussie swim pool hike gorge neighbors Comments (0)

From classical outback to the coast

Tom Price to Exmouth

sunny 32 °C
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Contrary to most other people in the campground, we took it easy and had a relaxed swim in the pool before heading off. The plan for the day allowed to take it very easy: we went shopping, had lunch in town and Max got to ride the local skate park. Just like in our campground, there were lots of galahs around.

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After that we headed off in the direction of Exmouth and the coast. As Exmouth is over 600km away, we planned to break the journey in two parts and would only start with the smaller portion for today.

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Our stop for the night was Cheela Station where Pauline greeted us nicely. She explained that the station consists of half a million acres of land on which 5000 cattle / stock are grazing. The cattle is only there on a temporary basis to feed them up before returning to their home stations. Wow – these dimensions seem incredible. And we had thought that Bill from Arizona (who we met in Loreto, Mexico) with his 10,000 acres of land and 1000 cattle had an unbelievable huge area of land. And compared to German standards, this is really hard to imagine.

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We were the only guests for the night and had all facilities for ourselves. While Max enjoyed running through the sprinkler, I did our laundry and Sam cooked dinner. Everyone using the washing machine is asked to make a small gold coin (i.e. 1AUD) donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Considering the remoteness of these stations and small towns, most have an airstrip which are used e.g. for medical emergencies. And that’s one of those topics I try not to think about too much – given the huge distances you just don’t want to imagine requiring urgent medical help. So avoiding accidents and trying not to cross the path of any venomous snake (or other animal for that matter) is key. In some way, we are spoiled in that respect growing up in densely populated Western Europe with excellent medical assistance everywhere.
We were all ready just in time to hike up to sunset hill for the perfect viewpoint. The sunset was great, enhanced by lots of clouds and rain that does not hit at the ground, but evaporates before.

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The next morning Max and I saw a huge goanna – at least a meter, if not two meters long – sticking its tongue out. We were really impressed and kept our distance. By the time Sam headed over to take a picture, it was unfortunately gone. But with birds, old cars and station equipment such as the branding irons, he had enough other objects to take nice pictures of.

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The rather boring six-hour drive to Exmouth was interrupted with the excitement of Nanutarra roadhouse. Well, not too much happening there, but at least it was sometime. I was intrigued by the large monument for the late Lionel Logue – seemingly someone bearing the same name as the speech therapist made famous by ‘The King’s Speech’, who also came from Western Australia, but died in London.
By the time we finally arrived in Exmouth we were all ready for a jump into the pool. Max and I headed off right away, while Sam realized that our Swiss acquaintances Doris and Eric were at the same campground as well. After Broome, 80-Mile beach and Karijini, this marked the 4th time we met them and what should I say – we had a fun and entertaining evening with them. There were so many topics to talk. Traveling for one, but also sailing the oceans of the world and found lots of reasons to laugh. Great – let’s hope we’ll meet up again on our way south…
We spent the next day at the pool without venturing out to other places. At least Sam was curious enough to hike to the beach. And while he was excited to see footprints of many animals including snakes, I would not have been too excited by that. I was already shocked enough when the lady at the campground had explained to me that we should watch out for snakes, as with the start of summer they are now coming out of hibernation into the mating season.
Even without the snakes, we were happy with what the caravan park had to offer in regards to wildlife. There were quite a couple of emus wandering the park and they did get quite close. In fact, the emus seem to love bread and it was cool to see how they were following some people around and even ventured into the camp kitchen in their quest to get some.

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That evening Sam and I stayed up late. We used the opportunity of having free wifi to upload pictures and updating the blog. After all, eventually we felt it was time for the blog to leave the Cook Islands and getting updated to arrive in Australia… Still, there’s just too much going on and too much to be enjoyed such that updating the blog is definitively not our first priority. There’s much nicer things to occupy ourselves with than worrying about the blog being updated with a three week ‘jetlag’.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 11:13 Archived in Australia Tagged rain sunset coast hill station goanna emu Comments (2)

Kids, kangaroos and corals

Ningaloo Reef – Exmouth, Cape Range NP

sunny 28 °C
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In Exmouth, we met quite a couple of interesting people and nice families traveling around Australia.
One morning, we were joined by eight-year old Cooper for our trip to the skate park before heading to the pool. He is traveling with his parents for a year doing the tour of Australia. To keep up with school, he is spending about 30 min per day studying and learning, mainly to keep up his maths. While this sounds like not too much, Freya (5) and Pearl’s (9) mom told me that they are not doing any home schooling at all, as the girls learn so much while traveling. She’s sure that both of them will have no trouble at all catching up with their friends once they’ll be back after their year of traveling. And after all, they had done long trips like that already in the past…
Coming from Germany with its strict enforcement of all kids going to school, this is very, very different. In Germany parents are not only risking fines, but eventually jail if their kids don’t go to school. Whereas in Australia the government might cut subsidies / pensions for parents not sending their kids to school – but anyone who is not receiving any money from the government, there is no risk. And I fully agree, that kids do learn a lot when traveling and that at least in the first years of school probably an hour of home schooling a day is largely sufficient to keep up to date in line with the curriculum.
After another relaxed day and evening of editing pictures, eventually we decided to leave Exmouth to explore the Ningaloo Reef and the Cape Range National Park. We were shocked to realize that the local supermarket was closed – as it was Sunday, but headed off anyhow hoping that our remaining supplies would be enough such that we could stay for at least two nights.
As we headed from Exmouth to Cape Range National Park, we stopped at the first landmark along the way, the Vlaming Head lighthouse. From there we already got the first impression of the peninsula with its fringing reef close to the shoreline.

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After a quick stop in the dunes, we explored the displays in the information center. That’s also where we finally saw our first kangaroos. Specifically, Max was excited about them and kept watching out along the road to see more of them.

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But despite the excitement about the kangaroos, our key reason for coming to the Western Cape was the Ningaloo Reef. We headed to Turquoise Bay for snorkeling. Despite the fairly low visibility due to the heavy wind and subsequent sand in the water, we saw really nice corals and lots of fish. But not only the snorkeling was nice – it’s for a good reason that Turquoise Bay usually features as one of the tow three beaches in Australia.

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Eventually we had to head off in search of a place to stay for the night. Given the excellent reviews on our WikiCamps app, we chose Osprey Bay. What a great choice: we ended up coincidentally next to Max’ friend Cooper and his family and as such Max was happy and busy without Sam or me having to get inventive - excellent.
But we also had other friends visiting our camp: a legless lizard wound its way to our spot. He was very welcome - much more than a King Brown or other venomous snake would have been.

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The next morning, we could not resist to go snorkeling in Turquoise Bay once more. This time we went to the drift area. It was a pretty cool snorkel getting into the water and letting us drift along the beach for a couple of hundred meters. The corals were simply spectacular.

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After so much activity in the relatively cool water, we went for a hike at Yardie Creek. Fortunately, the flies there were just sitting on our cloths vs. bothering us. Otherwise the hike would not have been as much fun.

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After the heat of Yardie Creek, we were happy to be back at home at Osprey Bay to take a refreshing bath in the sea. And we realized that not only we were hot - the kangaroos were also seeking shelter in the shade of the toilet building.

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But best of all was our afternoon snorkel in Osprey Bay. We started from the beach just below our campsite. From there we discovered a sleeping turtle underneath a small ledge, watched a white moray eel wind itself along the edge of the reef and saw more diverse and colorful fish than in most snorkeling trips we had done so far.

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Obviously, we wanted to repeat this excellent snorkeling trip once more before leaving Osprey Bay the next day. But our morning snorkel was more than disappointing. In fact, with the big waves and wind, it was quite exhausting. In return we at least got to see a turtle swimming in the water, but that was about it. At least, this helped to feel less regrets about having to leave. After all, we had run down our supplies so far that we simply had to go shopping to stock up.
After another stop in the windswept dunes, we headed directly into Exmouth. Lunch, shopping and off we went to relax at our already well known caravan park with its nice pool and the emus.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 23:11 Archived in Australia Tagged fish national creek dune kangaroo reef snorkel coral turtle moray Comments (0)

‘Blowember’ – a good time to meet other traveling families

Coral Bay

sunny 34 °C
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After a couple of days in and around Exmouth, it was time to explore the southern part of the world heritage region of Ningaloo Reef. We drove to Coral Bay, a tiny town nestled next to a fabulous beach with a coral reef that is very close to the shore.

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At the caravan park, we set up camp and were a bit reluctant to go down to the beach due to the wind. In retrospect, that was a very smart move as we got to meet our camp neighbors Anthony, Max, Cassius (6) and Orson (3). They are on their way from Darwin to circle Australia anti-clockwise for the next year. Eventually, we ended up going to the beach together with them. Before too long, the kids headed off to play with other kids a bit further down the beach, such that their parents were able to sit together and have nice chats. All of us really enjoyed that moment (which was actually more than an hour) of quiet solitude without having to worry and actively entertain the kids.

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It was fabulous. Except that Max (Cassius’ and Orson’s mom) told us of her close encounter with a King Brown Snake at Ospey Bay, just a couple of days earlier than when we had been there. Lucky us that we only heard about that now, otherwise I would have probably had second thoughts about the otherwise just perfect camp spot right along the beach.
Given that the kids were so happy playing together and the adults were really enjoying being able to have a proper uninterrupted conversation, we headed down to the local pub ‘Fin’s’ after dinner. The kids had an ice cream, the adults some drinks – life is beautiful!

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So just in case you ever wonder why our blog constantly lags about three weeks behind where we are – this is it: we’re simply meeting way too many nice and friendly people along the way. In comparison with the ‘duty’ of keeping a blog up to date, we simply prefer enjoying life. And if that means that a blog entry gets published a day or two or three later than what we targeted, that’s just what it is… I’m not sure if I could do professional blogging when the blogging takes over the actual experiencing of a place, situation and fun evening.
The next morning, our new friends unfortunately had to leave already. As a good-bye breakfast, Sam treated them to his Kaiserschmarrn / ‘scrambled pancakes’, which was well appreciated, not only by them, but also by Max and me.
Once we had said our good-byes, we packed our stuff and headed off to the shark nursery. After a pleasant walk along the beach we arrived at a sand spit creating a sheltered shallow lagoon. And there they were, probably about 30 to 40 small reef sharks. Contrary to some other tourists, we chose not to get into the water and rather observed from the dunes next to the lagoon.

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Once we had observed for quite a while, we hiked back and even stumbled upon an enormous dead turtle.

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Unfortunately, the walk back seemed much longer and definitively much more unpleasant, as this time we had the wind in our face. And it was not just a light breeze, but really strong wind. According to the weather forecast, it must have been about 40 km/h. It was definitively strong enough to be just a bit unpleasant, which resulted just in the perfect excuse for the boys to head up to the roof top tent to play Lego.
The approaching sunset was eventually convincing Sam that it was time to leave the tent and to head off to take some pictures. Originally, Max and I were supposed to go as well, but as the wind continued to blow as hard as in the afternoon, Max simply refused to go. Which was fine for me.

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At least the good news is that all Australian caravan parks have camp kitchens that are not only well equipped for cooking, but usually also have a nice seating arrangement. This was also true for our camp ground. So, Max and I headed to the camp kitchen to have our dinner and to enjoy being sheltered from the wind.
The camp kitchen turned out to be also an excellent meeting place with other campers. There we met Jörn and Ines with their kids Fiona (5) and Fabio (2). They are from Munich using a couple of months of ‘Elternzeit’ / parenting time to travel through Australia.
And we also met Lucia and Guido with their daughter Emia (7) from Switzerland. They were the first family we met, doing a round the world trip like us. Actually, they are traveling the other way around and have been already to Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mongolia, Borneo, Thailand and Nepal before getting to Australia. They will continue onwards to New Zealand, stay once more in Australia and are still a bit undecided if they should continue via Fiji, Hawaii or somewhere else. Letting the plan develop reminded us of our own style of traveling. With so many commonalities, we found lots of things to talk about. It was simply great.
The next morning, it was an easy decision to prolong our stay for one more night. We headed to the beach and were lucky that in the morning the wind was not as strong yet as in the days before. We went snorkeling and were amazed by the beautiful corals in the bay – nicer than most other places we had seen so far.
In the afternoon, we joined the fish feeding session which is organized three times a week. Even though it was mainly trevallys coming to the feeding, there were some nicely colored parrot fish as well.

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That afternoon, I also learned that the strong winds around this time of the year resulted in the nickname ‘Blowember’. And yes, this name fits perfectly. But even though the wind might be unpleasant, in the end it helps to keep the temperatures at bay. Otherwise we might have potentially complained about the heat.
After another nice evening with the other travelers in the camp kitchen and a final get together over breakfast the next morning, it was unfortunately time to say good bye. After more than a week at the Ningaloo Reef, it was time for us to head south.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 14:50 Archived in Australia Tagged world family bay shark reef snorkel coral wind travelers Comments (0)

The dolphins of Shark Bay

Carnarvon, Monkey Mia

sunny 32 °C
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Admittedly, we have been spoiled by the warm and pleasant temperatures back in tropical Broome. As a consequence, we are a bit hesitant to continue moving further south, as this inevitably means cooler and cooler temperatures. But after a couple of days in the same place, the curiosity to see something new is usually taking over again. And that means that we left Coral Bay and headed south.
Along the way from Coral Bay to Carnarvon is – as we already expected – pretty much nothing. Well, to be fair, there was a sign when we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. We have one of these pictures already - from Namibia. And it feels like ages ago when we took the picture of the sign 'Tropic of Cancer' on the Baja California in June.

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And there is a roadhouse to fuel up. Other than that, it was a really boring drive once more, forcing Sam and me to change drivers repeatedly. Already after less than an hour of driving these really boring stretches of road, we felt unable to continue driving with the required attention. After all, once in a while there were goats, emus or cattle seen somewhere in the bush. And as they might as well stand next to or on the road, we should watch out.
The last couple of kilometers into Carnarvon were actually representing a change to the endless bush we passed through before. Due to Western Australia’s largest river passing through the region (which seemed actually to be dry when we passed over it), Carnarvon and surroundings is a very agricultural region producing a large part of Australia’s tropical fruit.
We had lunch at a great playground right next to the town beach overlooking the Fascine. While the playground was simply excellent, the locals around it were quite strange. We had the impression that most of them were spending their afternoon doped in the sun.
After an extended shopping at Woolworths to stock up our depleted inventories, we headed towards one of the town’s campgrounds. Once again, it was windy. But that did not stop us from jumping into the refreshing pool.
That evening was focused about getting stuff sorted back at home. A couple of things had piled up that needed our attention. Part of that was fun, part of it less so. So we wrapped our minds around things like Christmas calendars, selling my Passat, sending out bank details to the US as Phil was successful in getting our van sold (Hooray!!! Thanks, Phil!), realizing that there are some issues with shares, talks with work, the tenants of flat... We had a night with less sleep than usual and managed to get the most urgent stuff sorted.
Using the opportunity of the fruit growing region, we picked a couple of mangoes and then moved on. The drive along the North Western Coastal Highway was boring – as expected. The only was a nice lookout which also served as a location for RIP stones and other paraphernalia.

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Once we turned off onto the ‘World Heritage Drive’ towards Shark Bay, the landscape got more interesting and we were treated to nice views of bays with white sand and turquoise waters on both sides of the road. As we learned, Shark Bay is one of the very few (16 out of 203) world heritage sites that meet all four natural criteria (btw, the Grand Canyon is another one that meets all four criteria).

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After a short stop in Denham to meet our campground neighbors from Coral Bay Anthony and Co, we headed on to Monkey Mia. There we found a nice spot right with a perfect view to the beach and the sea. The beach was just a few steps from our place and it was lovely - a great place to take pics of Max with his elf hat. He only had to watch out not to run into one of the many pelicans resting at the beach.

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And as we soon realized our neighbors were Desi and Alex from Munich – who we already knew from Osprey Bay. We really enjoy meeting so nice people all along our way – and even better when we’re crossing paths multiple times. So, we ended up sitting together in front of their campervan having nice talks until late in the night.
The next morning, we participated in Monkey Mia’s main attraction, the dolphin feeding. While the Parks and Wildlife Ranger explained all kinds of interesting information about dolphins, the dolphins already swam along the shore.

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And soon afterwards, it was feeding time. And Max was lucky enough to be chosen to feed Piccolo. He waded into the water to meet Piccolo, got a fish and gave it to the dolphin, who carefully took it from his hand. And an hour later he got to feed again on of the dolphins, this time pregnant Shock. Sam also had a go and fed Surprise.

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Back at our tent, Max found a new friend: another four-year old boy called Max who was dressed as Batman. Soon enough our son Max emerged from their tent dressed as Captain America. They ran round the campground chasing the ‘baddies’. Surprisingly enough, they ran around in their warm costumes in the hot midday heat. Eventually they did agree to cool off in the pool though.

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That evening Sam treated us to an excellent Thai Curry – a much better value than the Thai Curry that was on offer in the resort’s Monkey Bar.
By the time we got up in the next morning, Max and his family had left already. That was fortunate, as otherwise our Max would probably not have liked to leave either. But like that we were happy to go on new adventures, heading into Francois Peron National Park.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 18:24 Archived in Australia Tagged fruit dolphin mango playground pelican feeding elf batman Comments (0)

Sandy off road adventures

Francois Peron NP, Denham

sunny 30 °C
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After two days at Monkey Mia with the dolphins, it was time to pack up, as we wanted to head up into Francois Peron NP. Knowing that most of the national park is only accessible by high clearance 4WD, specifically Sam was looking forward to the national park.
After a couple of kilometers, it was time to reduce the tire pressure and off we went on the red sand towards Cape Peron. Along the way, we passed through some gypsum salt pans before the sections with the really deep sand started. Sam had fun, Max loved the excitement and I was glad that I did not have to drive myself.

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On our way north, we stopped at a beach with an excellent view of the adjacent red and white sand dunes. The landscape was simply great.
For lunch, we stopped at Cape Peron (which is named after a French naturalist who explored the area in the early 1800s). As it was really hot and the midday sun was burning down, we enjoyed the shade of picnic area until we were ready to head on. The lizards provided some entertainment while the mountains of small black beetles were rather static.

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Later in the afternoon, we hiked the nice trail along the coast to Skipjack Point. While we saw lots of tracks in the sand of various animals, most of them were hiding in the shade. All except the cormorants, which populated almost the full lengths of the shore.

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At Skipjack Point we were stunned by all the sea life we could observe from our viewpoint. We saw mantas, sharks, dugongs, turtles, cormorants and lots of fish. Wow – we could have stayed there for ages just observing.

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Our camp for the night was not far away. The Bottle Bay campground seemed almost empty and we had the pretty beach just for ourselves. What a beautiful sunset! And how windy…

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The next morning we headed again to Skipjack Point hoping to once more see lots of animals. But we soon realized that with the south easterly wind, there were huge waves coming in. And without visibility, there was no marine life to be seen (even though it was probably there). Still, it was a very pretty sight with the whitecaps in the rough sea.

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Eventually we decided to start our drive out of the national park. Once again we had to pass the sections of the road with deep sand. In one of those sections we were able to just barely pass by a car that was bogged in the sand and had its hood up. But shortly after we had to stop in a section with fairly deep sand ourselves, as there was a bogged camper van blocking the road. Its driver had gotten frustrated by the deep sand and had taken the absolutely wrong decision to try to turn around where the sand was deepest.

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As there were some Aussies already helping the Germans in the camper van, we headed back to the group of girls with the open hood. They had gotten bogged already so often on their way in that their clutch started smelling. The solution was pretty easy: we helped them to deflate their tires to 15 psi. Thanks to the pressure gauge Sam had bought the day before that was pretty easy. Then we told two of them to stay with us and advised the driver to go on to the next intersection and to turn around in the rather firm sand there. And the plan perfectly worked!
By the time this was done, two more cars were stuck in the sand behind them. So, two more times to deflate tires. And this time we also used the sand boards which are part of our 4WD accessories. And at least on the second try both cars were able to get away.

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We had lots of fun in the process, digging the cars out and using the sand boards. On the way out, we took the two girls with us in the car to the next gypsum pan, where their friend waited for them. In other words: we were the only car out of five that did not get bogged in that section!
After a well-deserved stop at Peron homestead to soak in the hot pool, we headed to one of Denham’s campgrounds. Max had already been looking forward for the last couple of days to use the jumping pillow there. And before too long, he met his new friend Charlie, and both raced around the campground on their bikes.

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But also, the playground in town was quite an attraction in itself. Max was happy to meet his old friend Cooper there again. And Sam and I enjoyed the nice setting along the beach and marveled at the excellent playground, which was potentially the nicest one we have encountered so far on our travels.

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That evening we had an excellent dinner at Australia’s most westerly hotel. The old pub served us a great seafood platter, but also Max was very pleased with his fish and chips.

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In principle, we had planned to stay in Denham only for one night before heading south again. But Max insisted to stay another night and soon enough we realized that a day without much sightseeing helped enormously to get our calendars and cards for Christmas done and uploaded. In the meantime, Max jumped endlessly on the jumping pillow, before we headed to the nice playground again.

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That evening we were invited at Max’s friend Charlie and his parents Chris and Debbie. What a nice evening with nice talks and good food! Once more Sam and I were amazed how friendly people are here and how easy it is to get in touch with others.
While packing up the next morning, Max was up at Charlie’s before going for a final round of jumps on the jumping pillow. Other kids are just the best babysitters!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 19:48 Archived in Australia Tagged sunset coast pub sand west jumping shark playground deep manta pillow dugong bogged Comments (0)

Discovering history - windows into the past

Hamelin Pool, Kalbarri

semi-overcast 29 °C
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After more time than planned, it was time to leave Denham and its nice playground again. We suspect that it was probably just installed a couple of weeks earlier for the 400-year celebration of the first documented European landing in Western Australia. In October 1616, Dutch captain Dirk Hartog on the Eendracht was on his way to Batavia (today’s Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies when he discovered land. He named the land Eendrachtsland / unityland – a name that obviously did not stick.
We stopped at Eagle’s Bluff to check out the boardwalk with its great view of the sea. Being spoilt by the marine life we had seen from Skipjack Point, the two mantas we observed we did not make us stay too long.

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The absolutely white Shell Beach made us stay much longer. As its name says, it is a beach made out of tiny white shells that pile up a couple of meters high. Without any predators in a hyper-saline environment they thrive. Even though we did not suspect to see any animals in the water that is roughly twice as salty as regular sea water, Sam noticed a jelly fish. Max and I held our distance, but Sam was keen enough to take a picture.

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At Hamelin Pool Caravan Park, we immediately headed to the pool. At 38 °C it was one of the hotter days since we had left Broome.
Only shortly before sunset we headed out to explore the stromatolites. While they actually looked like rather pretty but boring stones in the sea, their history is stunning. Some 3.5 bio years ago, the cyanobacteria covering the stromatolites were some of the earliest life forms on earth. They are also supposed to be responsible for increasing the amount of oxygen in the early phases of earth's history, eventually leading to the development of higher life forms. Today, they are only found in areas with extreme environments such as the hyper saline waters of Hamelin Pool – one of the reasons for Shark Bay being a World Heritage Site.

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Also the rest of our hike provided some interesting insights. At the shell quarry, early European settlers had easy access to light, well insulated building materials made of compacted shells.

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After an excellent dinner with some of the best burgers we had so far on our journey. After all, only Australians seem to be using beet-root in their burgers – an excellent addition as Sam thinks.
We then joined a tour of the Hamelin Pool telegraph station and learned a lot about the history of communications technology in general. And in addition, we heard a lot of anecdotes about early Western Australian communications. A long and interesting evening!

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The next morning, we headed towards Kalbarri. Shortly after starting, we already discovered two emus. A good start into the day!

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Up to our lunch break at Murchison River, we drove along the typical roads we have driven on already the last couple of days: A grey road framed on both sides by red sand cut mostly straight through the endless bush. The river surprised us, as it was not dry, but flowing continuously. There were ducks, black swans and other birds enjoying the cool waters.
Admittedly, we were not prepared at all for the sudden change in landscape once we had crossed the river. Suddenly, there was no more bush, but fields of grain. We had reached the Western Australian wheat belt. Even if that might sound rather strange, but we were really excited!
As we eventually reached National Park, the bush was back. And it was colorful: the orange flowers of the Australian ‘Christmas tree’ dotted the landscape together with the smaller bushes with pale violet flowers.

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Despite the heat, we decided to hike down to Murchison River. We all liked the scenery and Sam was thrilled to find gigantic spiders in their nets. At the second lookout, we just took in the view before retreating to the car and putting the aircon to the highest setting.

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Fortunately enough, our campground in Kalbarri featured not only a bouncing pillow to keep Max happy, but also a pool. And with its setting between large eucalypt trees, it smelled really nice.
The only downside to the otherwise excellent campground were the ubiquitous ticks. And they were not just normal ticks, but gigantic. And if there’s one thing I really hate, that’s ticks! Luckily enough, in the two days we stayed there, I only discovered one that was trying to crawl up my leg, but was not bitten.

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The next day was our first rainy day since we came to Australia. And in fact, it was not raining continuously, but rather on and off.
Later that day, we ventured out for an excursion to the skatepark and the river foreshore. On the way, we saw a couple of kangaroos and lots of galahs. Contrary to us, the galahs seemed to be thrilled by the rain. We were not. At least we were lucky to get back home just before a major rain shower.

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The next morning, it was time to explore the coastal cliffs of Kalbarri NP. The Red Bluff lookout provided some nice views of the cliffs and the beaches.

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Close to Red Bluff, at Wittecarra Creek, the first European residents of Australia are believed to have set foot ashore. Once again, we discovered an intriguing story: In 1629 the Batavia of the Dutch East Indies Company shipwrecked on her maiden voyage. What followed was a mutiny and massacre among the survivors. Eventually, the most of the mutineers were sentenced to death, but two youths were cast ashore. There are no written records of what happened to them. But a clan of rather fair haired Aborigines in the area might be an indication that they were integrated in the local community.
A bit further down the coast, we stopped at another lookout and also had lunch there. The view was great and as a bonus we even got to watch some dolphins playing in the waves underneath us.

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The road to Geraldton was a real highlight in itself and not boring at all. Around every bend of the road, we got treated to new scenery. The highlight along the way was the pink lake. Its color is due to the presence of a carotenoid producing algae. As it is a source of Beta-carotene, food coloring and vitamin A, the lake is also home to the world’s largest microalgae production plant.

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Still, after a full day of exploring and driving, we were glad to arrive at our new base in Geraldton.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 16:38 Archived in Australia Tagged history canyon heritage algae telegraph tick galah stromatolite mutiny Comments (0)

Bye, bye bush - hello town

Geraldton, Sandy Bay, Pinnacles NP, Cervantes, Wedge Island

sunny 28 °C
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As we reached Geraldton, we ended up in afternoon rush-hour. This had not been an issue in our travels so far. Latest by then, we realized that we had left the bush and reached the more populated areas of Western Australia. After all, Geraldton with its 25.000 inhabitants is the largest town between the 4000 km that separate Perth and Darwin. Still, a couple of traffic lights later, we reached our campground close to the harbour and the lighthouse.

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It had been on purpose that we stopped in Geraldton and did not simply pass through. After all, it was only ten days until Christmas and we wanted to get our shopping done. Geraldton was a perfect place for doing so. We were successful in all respects. While Sam and Max did the grocery shopping at Coles, I had enough time at Target’s next door to choose potential presents. And as Max then headed directly to a TV, Sam and I were able to go through together and to choose what we wanted to actually buy. Perfect! Christmas shopping had never been so easy!
After our successful session of power shopping, it was time to get Max some exercise. We went to the foreshore and were astounded by the multitude of playgrounds for all ages. Once Max had explored the first playground, we walked five minutes for him to tackle an even bigger play structure. And in its back we even discovered an animated feature that allowed us to play against each other trying to touch as many light up points as possible - very cool and lots of fun also for adults. I had never seen such sound and light speed games before, but it was definitively a lot of fun. And the location at the foreshore with its calm beaches was excellent as well.

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Back at our campground, it was time to deal with some planning topics. After all, a month later we’d be leaving Western Australia and before leaving it helps to have the next leg of our adventure prepared: i.e. I booked a flight, a place to stay in Sydney and we discussed how to approach transport in NZ. And despite the fact, that Jetstar had given us a 300 AUD voucher for answering late on my complaint and for our troubles on the journey from the Cook Islands to Sydney, we preferred to book Virgin Australia for our flight back to Sydney.
After a good night’s sleep and a nice chat with Scotsman Alan, who’s been traveling around Australia in their bus already for more than two years, it was time to leave Geraldton to discover the last stretch of coast before getting to Perth.
There were lots of turn offs to the beach along the turquoise coast. Eventually Sam picked the one leading to Sandy Bay for our location for lunch. The beach was great and also the campground looked pleasant. The only downside to the campground was, that it seemed very full. It was time to realize that getting closer to Perth and getting closer to the Christmas holidays which were to begin in the next days, this will clash with our current style of traveling. After all, up to now it had never been an issue anywhere to get a campground last minute. Since we had come to Western Australia, we had not reserved a single camp site in advance. And we were not quite ready to change our approach to traveling radically: prearranging campsites for the remainder of our trip would have meant to give up the luxuries of staying longer where we like it and passing through if we did not feel like stopping.
Sandy Bay surprised us with its fine white sand. We had not stood on such fine sand since Cable Beach back in Broome. The beach was very sheltered from the wind and the water was extremely calm, reminding us of Bahia Conception in Mexico. A nice combination!

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Up at the look out over the peninsula, it was very windy again, but the view was certainly worth it. And Max enjoyed running up the dunes and jumping down. With Jim from Canberra, he had his perfect partner in crime and both were having lots of fun. After all, Jim and Debbie were just waiting for their grandson to arrive a couple of days later and Jim was keen to get some practice already in advance.

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Even though it was tempting to stay in Sandy Bay, we had still some more plans in the pocket for that afternoon. We wanted to see the Pinnacles in Naumburg NP in the afternoon. And it was a good decision to go there so late in the day, as the light was just perfect and made the yellow sand and rocks glow.

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For the night, we stayed at Cervantes close to the beautiful and deserted beach. But as soon as the sun had set, we got chilly and were ready to head to our camp for the night.

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On our drive south the next morning, we were pleased to see the vegetation changing once more. We were passing through endless fields of grass trees, sometimes with blindingly white dunes in the middle of the landscape.

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Eventually, we turned towards Wedge Island. Not knowing what exactly to expect, we were very pleased when the road suddenly ended on a great beach. There was hardly anyone around except a couple of fishermen. And the beach was glorious. Well, in fact there was a beach to both sides of the long stretch leading to Wedge Island. What a great spot and without a single other tourist around.

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It’s the discoveries like this which make traveling so exciting – very often we do not know what exactly to expect. It might be just an ‘interesting’ spot or a real gem. And as tastes are different, guidebooks might be helpful in pointing out nice places, but they will never replace the fun of just having a go and checking things out ourselves.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 20:37 Archived in Australia Tagged shopping island sand rock dune lighthouse playground Comments (1)

Around Perth

Yanchep NP, Joondalup, Freemantle, Rockingham

sunny 30 °C
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As we reached the Northern suburbs of Perth, we were keen to have lunch. It was not really on purpose that we ended up at Yanchep NP. It was probably just good fortune, as we realized soon after getting there. First and foremost, we did find the BBQ station we had been looking for in order to grill our burgers for lunch. There were a couple of cheeky cockatoos around, keen to get a bit from our lunch. They were not lucky – we ate everything ourselves.

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Well fed, we headed towards the grove of gums that is home for ten koalas. We managed to spot seven of them up in the trees. After all, sleeping up in the trees, they are camouflaged very well.

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Even though Max was keen on finding all ten koalas, we convinced him successfully to rather check out which other animals we can find. And soon enough, we came across lots of kangaroos and observed cuter birds playing in the water of the lake. The hike around the lake was beautiful and we were happy that we had stayed to explore the park.

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Anyhow, we liked the national park very much and also wanted to stay for the night. And soon after we had set up camp, we were in for a big surprise: Guido, Lucia and Emia, who we had met already back in Coral Bay were there as well. While Max was excited to play with Emia, Sam and I were happy to talk with our nice friends again. And we had great conversations about traveling in Asia – after all we were just in the process of making up our mind where to go after New Zealand and having traveled Asia extensively, we got some excellent input from Guido and Lucia. While we talked, we were treated to a colorful sunset and could listen to the sound of some laughing Kookaburras in the trees above us.

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The next morning, were in for another surprise. Getting into Perth, I wanted to do some shopping at Aldi. With Christmas coming closer, we were all keen to get some typical German sweets like Lebkuchen. The Joondalup Aldi seemed to be along our route, so we went there. We had not realized in advance that it is located in Western Australia’s largest mall. And a week before Christmas, the place was packed with people. We were quite overwhelmed and fought our way through the crowds until we eventually found the Aldi store.
The mall also featured a huge food court. It was very noisy, but at least we got excellent and quick food. And once again, we met our Swiss friends, who were just as surprised about the size of the shopping center.
Coming from the North of Western Australian, we were not really used to so many people anymore. So we decided to keep the discovery of Perth until the very end our stay in Western Australia and headed directly to Fremantle.
Fremantle is not only a bit smaller and cozier than Perth, but it also features a busy port. Just to find out a bit more about the size of the container ships in the harbor, I googled the MSC Flaminia and found myself engulfed in a thriller like story of a big fire in 2012 with dangerous goods on board, many European harbors not wanting to accept a disaster ship like that and eventually being unloaded in a German port before having the middle section of the ship repaired in Romania. What a story – and what a coincidence that I had not googled the name of any other ship laying in the harbor.
Our destination was the Esplanade Youth Skatepark. It had been Max’ idea and Sam and I were perfectly fine with that idea. After all, we did not feel like doing lots of sightseeing anyhow. Just sitting as the side of the track with hot tea and cake and having a chat was just the right thing to do.
We soon got talking with some of the locals, such as Tony who emigrated from Italy and has was pretty vocal about ‘hating’ his mother country. In comparison to the collusion and corruption there, Australia is the perfect place for him to be. Luckily for us, he knew exactly what kids (and as a result of that also their parents) like and made me write down a list of the best playgrounds in and around Perth. Perfect!

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This being the first weekend of school holidays, we were lucky to have called our campground in advance (a first), as otherwise we would have not gotten a site anymore when we arrived.
The next day was dedicated to exploring Fremantle. Starting from the skate park, we explored the fishing boat harbor. Sam pointed out the statue of AC/DC founding member Bon Scott to me, who was long dead by the time we went to the Bucharest AC/DC concert six years ago.

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We got to the Round House with perfect timing to experience the firing of the 1pm cannon ball. This is still performed daily, in memory of the times when ships required to have the precise time in order to being able to navigate.

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We had lunch in town at the excellent SpudBar that had been recommended to us – potatoes with lots of different fillings. For anyone like me who loves boiled potatoes, this is just a great idea!

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A tour of Fremantle would not have been without a stop at the historic prison – a World Heritage Site - and the Fremantle market. And Max’s highlight came at the very end: we had promised to him that he’d be able to spend some more time biking in the skate park again.

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Back at camp, every one of us had plans: Max biked around the park with other kids, Sam went for an extensive run to Woodman Point and I did a bit of typing and researching - a good base for a nice evening in which everyone was happy.

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The next morning, we headed south along the coast to see what is there to be explored. Our first stop was at Peron Point in Rockingham, a nice peninsula with great views. But as it was very windy, this is not where we wanted to stay for lunch.

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We rather went to an adventure playground that was located along our way south. What a great playground. Max was happy and very busy. We enjoyed watching him play. After all, very often he is happily putting up with our ideas of what we’d like to see and do, so it’s just fair when he gets to go to places he loves.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 10:23 Archived in Australia Tagged koala harbour fort market town shopping prison hike mall kangaroo playground skate Comments (0)

In possum habitat

Yalgorup NP, Busselton

sunny 34 °C
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After two nights at a commercial big caravan park, we longed for a quiet place to stay for the night. We found exactly what we were looking for at Yalgorup National Park. The Martin’s Tank campground was fairly big and almost empty, so we got to pick a great shady spot close to the camp kitchen.
We had known that the national park is protecting a couple of lakes that are important wetlands for migrating birds. But we were surprised to learn that it is also the home for a couple of endangered marsupials.
We were in fact lucky and got to see some of them. A quenda passed through our campsite on our first evening. And later that night when Sam and I were still sitting outside working at the laptop and reading, a small possum family visited our camp. The furry animals were not afraid of us at all, exploring everything and even passing underneath the chairs we were sitting on. Very cute!

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The next morning, we decided to stay for one more night. After all, we had not had a really calm day for almost two weeks and we were happy to take it easy and just do nothing special. Max enjoyed playing with his cars in the sand, while we read, typed and edited pictures.
That evening, the possums stopped by again – this time even early enough such that Max was able to see them.

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It’s really nice to have wildlife so close and that’s probably one of the reasons we like staying in national parks. Still, as long as we’re talking about cute marsupials, this is certainly true. The statement is not true at all though, in regards to the creepy small animals around. The monster ants were leaving me alone, so that was no issue. But I just hate ticks and as soon as I discovered, that there are some gigantic ones around, I simply tried to keep my feet away from the ground when seated. Only once Sam started excitedly to take pictures of the spider that was just crawling up the back of my camping chair, it was enough and I headed up into the roof top tent. Luckily enough, the tent is far enough away from the ground and equipped with window screens, such that I was able to feel safe there.

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The next morning, Sam was keen to get some exercise and went for a run with Max biking next to him. A couple of km further along the road I picked them up again and we headed to the beach in Bunburry.
We had lunch right next to the beach and took a dip in the water before heading on. Getting into South Western Australia, it was time to start tasting some of its renown wines. The Capel Vale winery was a nice place with excellent wines. We were the only guests and Anja from Heilbronn served us around ten different wines to taste. The first two wines were the best and after a fun hour of tasting and having great chats about lots of things, we ended up buying a bottle of each.

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At the Busselton RAC campground, we were welcomed by Lucia. Back in Yanchep NP we had agreed to stay at the same campground with our Swiss friends for three nights. And even though the office staff had not known about us knowing each other, they had placed us directly next to each other. Great!
Once we explored the campground, we realized that it had perfect facilities. Behind the playground which also featured a big bouncing pillow, there was also a big bike park. In addition to that, there was a nice camp kitchen, just a couple of steps from our camp, a game room and a daily movie night with kids’ movies.
While Emia and Max were sitting in the hammock playing TipToi, the adults had a great time talking about traveling, building methods for houses, kids… We could have talked the whole night, but eventually it was time to take the kids to bed and to get some sleep ourselves.
The next day it was burning hot, a consequence of the first tropical storm of this season in Broome. That was a good reason for us to take it easy and stay at the campground and in its pleasant pool.
Also the evening was very quiet with reading, blog writing, picture editing, movies.
After a lazy day, we were keen to explore Busselton. We started at the biggest attraction: the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. The jetty looked long, but only once we had walked all the way out to the end, we realized that it was almost 1800m long. On the way back we noticed some dolphins in the water below the jetty. And Sam got a nice snapshot of an eagle with his lucky catch.

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After our lunch break at the playground, it was time to cool off. The water bounce park was just too tempting and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

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Back at the campground we had an invitation to dinner waiting for us on our table which Emia had nicely written for us. What a pleasant surprise – especially as we were anyhow very hungry already.
The next morning, it was our time to cook Kaiserschmarrn for them as a good-bye breakfast. It had been very nice to meet them again and we’ll see if and where we’ll meet again – Australia, NZ Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 22:41 Archived in Australia Tagged park beach walk spider possum jetty bounce Comments (1)

Aussie Christmas

Cape Naturaliste, Margaret River

sunny 28 °C
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After two relaxed days in Busselton, we were keen to explore the coast on the way to Margaret River. Our first stop was at the Cape Naturaliste lighthouse for taking a walk to the whale lookout. As whale watching season is over already, we were it was not too surprising that we did not see any. Instead we got to see a seal playing in the waters below us.

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A short ride in the car brought us to Bunker Bay, where we found a nice and secluded spot for lunch. Our only companion was a big lizard that seemed not to take notice of our presence.

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At Sugarloaf Rock, we had hoped to see a couple of phaetons that are supposed to nest there. Even though we did not see any, the detour was certainly worth it: the coastline was spectacular with the waves hitting the rocky coast. And it was not only us enjoying the waves: a pod of dolphins surfed the waves seemingly having lots of fun in the process.

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But not only the dolphins were keen to surf the waves. At Yallingup Beach there were lots of kite surfers enjoying the powerful wind and the breaks coming in.

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Finally, it was time to drive the last couple of kilometers to Margaret River, where we planned to be over Christmas. Along the way, we passed at least 20 wineries, some distilleries and a couple of specialty food places, like a very tempting chocolate factory. We resisted the temptation to make a stop at any of the nicely landscaped places and headed on.
After all, our campground featured not only a pool, but also a bouncing pillow. That is a guarantee that Max will have fun and consequently we’d be happy as well – an important prerequisite for Christmas.
Also the weather treated us to a special pre-Christmas present. As we soon realized, it was not windy anymore. Since back in Exmouth and Coral Bay, we’d been getting used to (and sometimes upset about) the constant heavy winds that made even the hottest days feel chilly and uncomfortable. And suddenly, just in time for Christmas, the wind was gone!
Life is good. And even more so when it’s Christmas Eve and the day starts already with a traditional and relaxed breakfast: rolls with salmon and horseradish with sparkling wine from Capel Vale. Max was happy with his choice of jam instead of salmon and apple juice instead of sparkling wine.
Another tradition of the Dorner family is to take a hike up a mountain in the afternoon. Due to the acute lack of mountains around Margaret River, we skipped the mountain part of the tradition and went for a simple walk into the town of Margaret River instead. We made it all the way to the River and the Rotary Park before going back to our campground.

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After all, we were ready for having our Christmas Eve dinner. And contrary to what we usually have, this time we went for the classical Aussie Christmas meal. In other words: we headed to the ‘barbie’ and had steak and sausages with mashed potatoes and a glass of white wine to go with it.
It is not necessarily straight forward to create a traditional Christmas celebration, when outside it’s sunny and warm and there’s not even a living room to set up a Christmas tree in. Despite the challenges, it still seemed like an almost ‘normal’ Christmas, starting with the ringing of a bell up in the rooftop tent. And when Max got to check what’s up there, there was a (painting of a) tree, there were presents, cookies and mulled apple juice.
Once all carols were sung, wishes exchanged, presents opened, we had a very pleasant evening. Calling home, playing with Max’ new presents and simply enjoying the moment.

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Christmas Day is the big day for the Australians and we were surrounded by Christmas carols and greetings. As we had celebrated already the day before, we took it easy. Sam edited probably two weeks’ worth of pictures while I swam, jumped and played with Max.

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It had been a very peaceful Christmas indeed. Different than usual, but very close to the ‘normal’ version we’re used to.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:53 Archived in Australia Tagged river walk breakfast kite christmas aussie lighthouse dolphin surfer present barbie Comments (2)

Empty beaches – access with 4WD only

D’Entrecasteaux NP - Black Point, Beedelup NP, Warren NP, Northcliffe, Moore’s Hut, Valley of the Giants Ecopark

rain 23 °C
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After our relaxing Christmas Holidays in Margaret River, we headed off on Boxing Day. Our first stop was Surfers Point, one of the most famous breaks along the Margaret River coast. The waves coming in were really big and there were lots of surfers tackling them. At first we were surprised how many senior surfers were in the water (or rather going in and out), but we soon realized that such kind of waves are not suitable for beginners.

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As we were sitting in the sunshine next to our Swiss friends, we did not realize that this would be the last sunshine for a while. And considering that we had sunshine almost all along, checking the weather forecast for the coming days has never become a habit.
We took the nice drive through the old jarrah forest along Boranup Drive. At the lookout, we had a nice view towards Cape Leeuwin the South-Western most point of Australia. And we realized that it did not make a lot of sense to go all the way down to the cape, as rain clouds were looming in that direction. In a sense, the bad weather was at least very helpful in our decision making, as we had not been able to make up our mind so far in regards to going to the cape or not.

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So we filled our tank and headed off to D’Entrecasteaux National Park. After all, Sam had been wanting to do some more offroad driving anyhow and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take the 4WD tracks to the campground at Black Point.
After a bit of rather normal graving road, we were in for a surprise: the road was blocked by a car that was just being loaded onto a trailer after having managed to lose a wheel in the deep sand ahead of us. We used the waiting time to let our tire pressure down and then headed on along a very beautiful, narrow one way path that eventually led us to the campground close to the beach.

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Once arrived, we were happy to get everything set up in time before the rain set in. It was really unpleasant cold rain, enhanced by mighty gusts of wind. As we were mentally prepared to just head up into the roof top tent for the remainder of the day, the rain stopped and we had a hike to the beautiful beach.

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We soon realized why it’s called ‘stepping stones’: similar to the basalt columns we had seen at Devil’s Postpile in California, also here the cooling of a lava flow had created that phenomenon. But not only the columns were nice. We also enjoyed the scenery, the lonely beach and the nice sunset over Australia’s southern coast.

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In the night, a loud thunderstorm raged around us and it was raining heavily. While Max was sound asleep, Sam and I lay awake in the tent and where wondering if we’d be able to leave the national park again after so much rain. Eventually, Sam set the alarm clock for 6am to have a chat with the neighbors at camp to get their opinion on the conditions for driving out and which of the three tracks to choose. After consulting with them, we decided to take another track out vs. the one we had come in on the day before. And in fact, Black Point Road was only deep sand in a few bits, but was less of an issue in wet conditions than yesterday’s track would have been. Still, we were relieved that we had made it out onto the gravel road without any bigger troubles. Under the watchful eyes of a monitor lizard, it was a matter of minutes to activate the compressor and adjust the tire pressure back up.

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After our early start into the day, we explored Beedelup NP with the Beedelup Falls and a nice suspension bridge.

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Later we headed on to Warren NP to climb up the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree with its fire watch lookout at 65m height. Admittedly, both of us turned around halfway when realizing how high already those 30m felt on a tree that is moving with the wind.

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In Pemberton, we stopped at the local information center to inquire about the road conditions to reach Moore’s Hut, another 4WD track in D’Entrecasteaux NP that we wanted to attempt tomorrow.
As it was already rather late in the day and I was keen on having a phone connection to upload a new blog entry, we opted not to head into the National Park right away, but to spend the night in Northcliffe which featured a nice skatepark for Max.

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The rain forced us to spend most of our time in the camp kitchen in the company of a large huntsman spider and of a nice young couple from the UK. They are doing a year of work and travel in Australia, but interestingly they did come via China where they got with the Trans-Siberian Railway. It was great having a chat with them on their experiences on the train and in Mongolia and as usual, we were inspired ourselves after hearing first-hand what they had seen and done.

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The other attraction of the evening was a nice campfire. Surprisingly, all Aussies were really excited about the fire. We had not realized to which extent there are complete fire bans over months for whole regions. For Northcliffe, the absolute fire ban will only be starting a couple of days later. Thanks to the heavy rains of the last two days, a fire permit had been granted to the campground under the condition that the owner (a fire fighter) has a cubic meter of water with a pump located directly next to the fire.
The next morning, Sam got to do some more offroad driving. After a long stretch of gravel road, we eventually got to the deep sand bits to Moore’s Hut. And we were happy that we did not camp there ourselves, as the place was quite crowded. We continued the last two kilometers to the beach which we had for ourselves. The beach was beautiful and pretty wild. Due to the heavy winds, the looming rain clouds and the cold, it had a very special atmosphere. Who knows if we would have liked it as much on calm sunny day.

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The drive out of the national park was even nicer than the drive in. But still, it had been a lot of driving by the time we reached our place for the night in the ‘Valley of the Giants’.

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Posted by dreiumdiewelt 17:12 Archived in Australia Tagged beach tree sand camp fire offroad climb granite 4wd Comments (1)

Closing out a great year 2016

Valley of the Giants, Walpole – Nornalup NP, William Bay NP, Albany

overcast 22 °C
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The Southern Forests are dotted with national parks. Their most well-known attraction is the tree top walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park through one of the rare red tingle forests. As we reached the carpark, it was apparent that this is the time when all Aussies seem to be traveling. It was like a zoo with people. Luckily we somehow found a parking spot and got our tickets.
The tree top walk itself was simply spectacular. Via a ramp we walked up to 40m from where bridges connected various platforms at that height. It was a completely different perspective of the forest, but also the structure itself was fascinating.

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The walk along the bottom of the tingle forest was very nice as well. And luckily, the masses dispersed a bit as we hiked on. Still, it was really crowded and we only realized when leaving how lucky we had been to arrive early in the morning. By the time we left, the line to buy tickets ended all the way out in the carpark while in the morning there was hardly anyone in front of us. It had been nice seeing the tree top walk, but we were not sad to leave the crowds.

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We headed to the coves of William Bay NP. Elephants Cove was really nice and we enjoyed seeing the big rocks in the turquoise waters. Green’s Pool on the other hand was extremely crowded and after having had a glimpse, we decided to rather head on.

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After all, we did not have a reservation for a campground yet and it was already 4pm in the afternoon. While Sam and Max went shopping in Denmark, I called one campground after the other to find out that most of them have been booked out already for weeks. Eventually I was lucky after all: Carol at the Albany Holiday Park promised to keep a site for me if we arrived by 5pm. Even though Albany was still a 50km drive away, we managed and were happy to have a site secured in this busy holiday period.
With New Year’s Eve approaching, we did some research and found out that the only firework displays in that region will be taking place in Albany and in Esperance. Rather than rushing those 500km east to Esperance, we decided to stay in Albany until New Year’s Day.
Albany is a nice town to explore with lots of historical buildings from the early settlement of Western Australia remaining. It is also known for its role in world war I having been the last port of call for the troops heading to Europe and ultimately Gallipoli. That might also be the reason that it is the location of the national Anzac (Australia and New Zealand Army Corps) Center, that had been built for the centennial celebration of the forces leaving in October 2014.
We opted to rather explore the nearby Princess Royal Fortress vs. the Anzac Center in Heritage Park. The reinforcements in the hills with its cannons protecting the harbor reminded us a bit of what we had seen at Fort Casey or Fore Ebey in Washington State. Except that in the Us we would probably not have come across a bandicoot.

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Then it was time to go into town. We had deserved a break in a local café. When strolling by the old town hall building a little later, we were invited in. Just then an art exhibition of local artists was opening and we were among the first people getting to have a look.

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Back at the campsite, we had a great BBQ and worked on our blog in an attempt to catch up. Considering how far we’re behind, this effort continued also on New Year’s Eve. Anyhow, after a couple of days in a row of exploring, it helped to have a rather quiet day again.
In the late afternoon, we headed off to a rather special skate park called snake run, winding its way down a hill. There was quite a crowd of people at the skate park. The adults sitting together having relaxed chats while their kids hit the track.
Seeing some probably five-year olds hit the snake run on their tricycles at top speed, it was obvious that they did not do that for the first time. Otherwise their parents might not have watched them with such an ease of mind amidst the excitement and fun of all the other onlookers. But an older guy taking on the track sitting on a skateboard had the full attention of the crowd and caused a big roar of laughter when he eventually fell off.
Amidst that fun, Max hit the track with his bike. And a couple of minutes later Sam joined him on a bike he borrowed from one of the people watching who lived next door. Its hard to tell who of the two had more fun.

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Eventually, Sam had exhausted enough energy and sat down for having a chat again, while Max continued with his seemingly endless energy. Unfortunately, his concentration is not endless and eventually Max jumped and fell hard. Luckily, he had been wearing his helmet and other than a bloody lip, a bruise on the forehead and a scratched elbow.
While we would have preferred for Max not ending up in a fall like that, the incident got us invited at the New Year’s Eve party of the people living next to the skate park. The party also celebrated their good bye before heading off on a yearlong travel through New Zealand and Australia. We found enough topics to talk about.
Eventually, we joined them in hiking up the hill behind their house to watch the fireworks from Mount Clarence. Conveniently enough, most Australian cities offer two fireworks: the family fireworks at 9pm and the midnight firework. It was a great firework and we all enjoyed the displays. with its smiling faces and the outline of Australia lighting up in the harbor below us.

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An hour later, we were home again and Max was sound asleep in the roof top tent. With private fireworks being absolutely forbidden and not even available for sale and the official firework displays taking place a couple of kilometers away in the harbor, this marks probably the quietest year change we’ve experienced so far (and potentially ever will?!?). Also at the campground no one seemed to be celebrating, so Sam and I were on our own dancing the traditional Viennese Waltz at midnight and toasting with sparkling wine. And thanks to Irmi and Lotte’s well timed call at one minute after midnight, we even got to exchange new year’s greetings with family – just as usual. And yes, we could not refrain from sending out some messages to friends and family to tell them that for us the new year has already started seven hours earlier than if we would have been back home.
Despite the fact that 2016 was seven hours shorter than a normal year, it definitively was filled with many more impressions and learnings than probably every single other year in our lives so far. And the outlook is very positive for 2017: almost certainly, it will be an equally exciting year as well!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 21:13 Archived in Australia Tagged fort rock forest quiet firework anzac newyear cove skate treetop Comments (1)

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