Our journey to Carnarvon on Sunday was without incident. We say that because most of the highways on this coast are unfenced so there is always the opportunity for cattle, sheep, goats or emu to be roaming the road. Over a distance of 180km on one day of last week, we counted forty-three dead cattle on the side of the road that had been hit by vehicles. No matter the time of day, driving in Australia presents a range of deadly hazards.
We are finding that the distances between our overnight stops down the west coast are normally in excess of 300km and there is very little to stop for on the way. The road to Carnarvon was no different. The countryside is made up of red earth and scrub but what broke our journey was the constant stopping to photograph wildflowers. Once we have completed the journey to Perth, and have named all the flowers, we will put them up on the blog through SmugMug.
Carnarvon is a coastal town situated approximately 900 kilometres north of Perth and lies at the mouth of the Gascoyne River. The popular Shark Bay world heritage area lies to the south of the town and the Ningaloo Reef lies to the north. One of the first things you notice in driving into the town is the thriving agricultural industry – especially the fruit and vegetable crops. This is in complete contrast to the scrub covered land surrounding the town. Carnarvon also has a thriving cattle, sheep, goat and prawn industry. The town’s is famous for its’ One Mile Jetty. Build in 1897, the jetty is one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere.
On Monday morning we took the jeep and drove 70km north of Carnarvon to Point Quobba and the blowholes. The blowholes form a natural spectacle as the ocean is forced through sea caves before exploding out through holes in the rocks. During our visit, the seawater being forced through the holes was reaching at least 20 metres in height. A sobering part of our visit to the blowholes was the number of memorial plaques fixed to the rocks in the area where fishermen had drowned while participating in their passion. It stuns us how people are willing to die for a fish!!
On Tuesday morning it was back onto the North West Highway and toward Denham. On our way we made a brief stop at Shell Beach. The beach is close to Nanga Bay and 45km southeast of Denham. Shell Beach is so called because of the natural water phenomom that allows the tiny cockle or Coquine to grow. Trillions of tiny shells have accumulated up to 10 metres deep and 1km wide to form a beach made of shells stretching 120km.
Denham consists of a small main street, a population of 600, is the western most town in Australia and is located on the beach on the west coast of the Peron Peninsula 831km north of Perth. It is a stunning part of the coast with an equally stunning beach. We found a great spot at a local park and spent a couple of days in the town. We also caught up with our Waiheke Island travelling companions, Steve and Jane, in Denham. They left us in Broome and had been making their way slowly down the west coast. They are now on the last part of this leg of their Australian journey as they fly home to NZ on 1 October to spend summer on Waiheke.
On Wednesday we took a short drive to Monkey Mia. Monkey Mia is located 23km northeast of Denham and its main attraction is the bottlenose dolphin population that play along its’ shore. Generations of dolphin have been coming close to beach for more than fifty years and while still ‘wild’, they have no hesitation in being within a metre or so from the beach and the people standing in the water. It was a truly brilliant experience and only topped off by a male emu and his chick walking around the beach while we were there. Again the Australian wildlife is fantastic. We would have loved to spend some time in the Francois Peron National Park at the northern tip of the Peron Peninsula but unfortunately a 4WD with a high clearance was considered necessary to make a visit and the little jeep would not have passed the test. Maybe another day.
There was big excitement on Wednesday. There were clouds in the sky and rain. We haven’t had any clouds or rain since our visit to Coober Pedy in very early June this year. It wasn’t a big fall but enough to wash a bit of dust off the motorhome and jeep and to dampen down the roads. By lunchtime it was back to blue sky and no rain.
On Thursday morning we departed the Peninsula and drove 130km south to Hamelin Station where we had decided to stay the night. Hamelin Station was first settled in the 1870’s and consists of 200,000 hectares of grazing land. The station farms 20,000 sheep and 5, 000 goats. We arrived about midday and once set up we unhooked the jeep and made a visit to the Hamelin Pool Telegraph station on the Hamelin Pool Marine Reserve. The Telegraph Station was built in 1884 on the Perth to Roebourne telegraph line. The original building is now a historic museum and well worth a look.
Close by the Telegraph Station is an old shell block quarry. In days past the quarry provided compacted shell blocks for use in building station homesteads, civic buildings and landmark buildings in Denham. The quarry still provides blocks for repairs on existing shell block structures but the block is no longer used on new buildings. Interestingly, the Hamelin Station homestead is made of shell blocks. The compacted shell blocks were cut from the quarry with a chainsaw.
Have you ever heard of stromatolites? We certainly hadn’t until our visit to Hamelin Pool Marine Reserve. Here goes our explanation and remember we are not scientists. The stromatolites – literally layered rocks – are the oldest form of life on earth dating back 3000 million years. The warm shallow waters at the southern end of Hamelin Pool Marine Reserve favour the growth of microorganisms, particularly cyanobacteria, the simplest single-cell life form known. Stromatolites are the result of cyanobacteria trapping fine sediment and because the cyanobacteria need sunlight to grow, they have the ability to move toward the light thus their growth keep pace with the accumulating sediment. A viewing walkway provided excellent access to stromatolites in the Hamelin Pool area. Take from that what you will!!
This morning we departed Hamelin Station and made our way 270km to Kalbarri. Kalbarri is a coastal town located 592 km north of Perth and is found at the mouth of the Murchison River. There is quite a bit to see and do here so this will be our home for the next three days.
Don’t forget to take a small detour about 30 mins north of Geraldton to see one of my work places – also a must in Geraldton is the HMAS Sydney II Memorial – very moving. It’s also a superb cray fishing port – fill the freezer up !!