Michael Sullivan Online

Roadtrip across Australia: Broome to Perth

PERTH AUSTRALIA - 16 November 2002 - From Broome, we drove to Port Hedland. This is where the Pilbara starts. The Pilbara is a very mineral rich area and Port Hedland is the point where much of it sails out of Australia. They have lots of iron ore in the area. The town is a rusty town that doesn't seem too great to visit but it's a full day's drive from Broome. The caravan park there was pretty nice and we hit some slightly cooler weather which made the tent more bearable.

The next day we headed inland to Karagini NP for some spectacular gorges. We found some great swimming holes at the foot of Fontsque Falls and Fern Pool. After checking out a couple a fantastic vantage points above the gorges, we headed down Weano Gorge. The place is in the middle of nowhere and you go down a bunch of steps to reach the bottom. We followed the gorge as it wound around for a bit. We thought we'd lost the trail especially when the gorge narrowed to a couple meters (yards) wide. In this section, you could see where the water continues to erode the sides of the gorge. This passageway led to a drop off and a fabulous pool surrounded on all sides by a drop off. We'd reached our destination. There was a couple sitting above the water on a ledge. Being really hot, we stripped down to our swimmers and crawled down the rope to the water. It was so refreshing. After we spent an hour swimming, we decided we better make a move. We went back the way we came and drove on the unsealed road towards the mining town of Tom Price. The thing with finding a place to stay in a mining town is that there are lots of miners. They don't stick around too long and don't need very good accomadation. We had a look at the caravan park and it didn't seem like a very good place to stay. We then went to a pub hotel/motel and they were booked. This left us with one choice: an over-priced motel room with very basic facilities. We ended up using our camp stove in the bathroom to cook our supper. At least we had a roof over our head.

On the following day, we drove out of the Pilbara to Exmouth. On the way, we had a stretch where we didn't see a car for nearly an hour (54 minutes). I was the only car on the road. We set up our tent and headed to Ningaloo reef. We snorkeled at Oyster Stacks and at Turquoise Bay the next day. Between the 2 places, we saw a stingray, turtle, and lots of fish (catfish, moray eel, pike fish). It was paradise.

I took an introduction to diving so I could dive with Irene at the Navy Pier. Apparently, it's one of the top dive sites in Australia. In the morning, I played around in the pool with my scuba gear. In the afternoon, we headed to the pier for the dive. As the van drove out to the end of the dock, we saw a shark swimming in the water and later a whale further out to see. Okay, I missed the whale but everyone else saw it.Our group had a little pre-dive talk about where we'd go in when a whale surfaced close to the pier but out of my sight (missed again). We then got our gear on and had to make the 2 meter (6 ft) plunge from the dock into the water. (It was a pretty low tide.) Irene went first with no problems then I stepped up to the plate. I was a bit nervous about the jump and stepped back to take a deep breath. Then I stepped to the edge and walked off the ledge and into the water. No problems other than I couldn't find the button to inflate my floation device but that wasn't too big of deal as I swam quickly to the surface. Once we went under the water, it was quite incredible. There were fish everywhere. We saw lionfish, moray eels (both of which are usually rare to see), cod, sea perch, barracuda, and parrot fish, among others. I should rephrase that. Those fish were down there but I was too overwhelmed to identify this or that fish. In addition, I was having trouble sinking. My inexperience made it difficult for me to get down to the bottom. We swam around the frame of the pier and we had to be a bit careful not to run into it. At one point early on, I was making his way through the lattice when there was a reef shark about a meter to a meter and a half long (about 4 ft) just below. Ironically, it was the only time I was sinking and almost "stepped" on him. (Okay... I was probably about a meter (yard) or 2 away.) He swam away without incident. There were huge schools of sea perch that swarmed around Irene when she swam amongst them. It was so cool. The dive master found the hammer that some workers on the pier had dropped. They claimed it was new but it looked quite corroded already. Being the rookie and having trouble sinking, I was the first to run out of air and had to head up first. While we were driving off, we saw some whales blowing water up in the distance and dolphins closer. That is quite an amazing place.

The following day, we headed down to Coral Bay and that was interesting as well. That area is good for snorkeling but we didn't have time so we just walked to the whale shark nursing area. It's a shallow sand-bottomed bay where the baby sharks learn to swim and hunt. Along the way, we could see lots of fish and crabs just in the water as we walked on the shore and pretty fish too (stingrays, garfish, parrot fish, zebra striped fish, etc.). Once we reached the bay, we could see the shadows of about 30 sharks swimming in water no deeper than waist deep. People were walking out to them as well as snorkelling. We were fine watching them from the shore. On the way back, we saw this crab that was really funny. It had gotten caught in some foam and was slowly walking up the rock. Once the sea foam had cleared and it saw us, it hurried off in a haphazard way that was quite hilarious.

We drove the rest of the day until we reached the Shark Bay Region near Monkey Mia. We had a look at the stromatolites at Hamelin Pool. These are rarely seen evidence of the presence in high concentration of some of the oldest forms of life on earth. They are microbes that descended from similar organisms that existed 1900 million years ago. They're interesting scientifically, but they aren't too exciting to look at. We spent the night Nanga Bay Resort and had a dip in the hot spa. The beach is made up of crushed sea shells. First thing next day, we went to Shell Beach where the shells are 25-30 feet deep. They use the shells to make lime for cement. Nearby, there is an electric fence to keep out the rabbits and goats that run wild there.

Our next stop was Kalbarri NP (pronounced Kal Berry). It's another lovely national park with colorful gorges. We went to some of the look outs including Nature's Window and Z-Bend. The National Park continues on the other side of the town along the coast where there are some spectacular coastline that reminded us of the Great Ocean Road near Melbourne.

Leaving this area and the sealed road took us to the Principality of Hutt River. An independent state made up of Prince Leonard's Farm. In 1970, this WA farmer filed papers asking for independence from Australia because the government was limiting wheat exports at the time. The Australian government ignored it which meant that they accepted it and the Hutt River Province was a recognized nation. Basically they are a big farm with only 20 residents, no taxes and 13,000 "citizens" worldwide. We were greeted by Princess Shirley who showed us around and stamped our passport. They have tour buses visit them now and have consulates all over the world. They have also switched to sheep raising and the sons now run the farm. Prince Leonard was abroad that day in the nearby town of Northampton some 75 km (45 miles) away. That night we spent in Geraldton, the first town with proper stores, a MacDonald's and traffic lights since we left Broome. It's good for windsurfing. We didn't do too much there.

The next day brought us to the Pinnacles, large limestone pillars. They were as tall as 4 meters (15 ft) and some look like big grave markers. Surrounding these rocks was sand and sand dunes. Dutch explorers thought it was a lost city when they sailed (literally) passed. The sun came out and it was quite eerie going around these things. The wind was kind of strong and would kick up sand which made Irene's swimming goggles handy for her.

That night we arrived in Fremantle on the other side of Perth. It's a big shipping port and a lovely area.

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