We know we have said this before but in Australia, and over the matter of a few hundred kilometres, the appearance of the countryside can change considerably. The journey from Kilbarri to Geraldton on Monday further emphasised how the different climatic conditions impacts on this west coast. We went from dry tussock cattle country to relatively green sheep and agricultural country over a very short distance. Being a farmer over here would not be easy.
About half way between Kilbarri and Geraldton we passed the Port Gregory Pink Lake. Like many of its kind in Western Australia, the lake’s pink colouring is created by bacteria which becomes trapped in the salt granules. They say that the lake is best viewed at sundown but we thought the shot we got on Monday morning fairly represented what the lake looked like.
We arrived in Geraldton on Monday in light showers and the weather did really not improve much over the three days we were there. It was certainly not beach weather but it was a nice relaxing stay anyway. The town reminded us very much of Napier and New Plymouth. With a population of about 35,000, the city is home to the Port of Geraldton, a major west coast seaport.
Tuesday was a cleaning and maintenance day on the motorhome and jeep. Not that there was too much wrong with either but just being in one place for three days, having access to water and having good retail support, more of the necessities were available. We celebrated the end of a busy day with a dinner out with Steve and Jane at a local restaurant.
On Wednesday afternoon we made a visit to the memorial for the World War II cruiser HMAS Sydney. It is located near the centre of Geraldton on top of nearby Mount Scott. The memorial recognises the loss of the light cruiser during a sea battle with the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran off Shark Bay on Australia’s West coast in November 1941. None of the 645 sailors aboard survived the battle. The location of the sunken vessel had been a mystery for 66 years until it was found in March 2008. I cannot help wondering how a ship like that could lose all men. The dome of the memorial is made up of 645 stainless steel seagulls – one for each sailor lost. A granite wall listing the names of the ship’s company who perished is a reminder of the needless destruction of war.
We left Geraldton on Thursday morning and meandered the 200km south to Jurien Bay. As we drove down the coast we hooked a right off the main highway and made a visit to the small coastal town of Port Dennison. Port Denison is a crayfishing town of 3000 residents in the Mid West region of Western Australia. We got chatting to a couple of employees of the local crayfishing factory who informed us the 90 percent of the region’s catch was exported ‘live’ to China. It is a great little earner for the small town. Unfortunately for us we were unable to purchase any of the product from them. Ninety eight percent of the crayfish was exported and with the live export price to China at A$68 per kilo – we decided this was outside our budget.
We arrived at Jurien Bay just after lunch on Thursday. The coastal town is in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia and is 220 kilometres north of Perth facing the Indian Ocean. Like Port Dennison, crayfish, also known here as the Western Rock Lobster, are abundant in the area, and the town’s development was influenced by the crayfish industry. The towns multi-million dollar industry regularly exports to to Japan and the United States.
The Jurien Bay weather was very kind to us. We had stunning warm days and fine but cool nights. We were able to get out and about and have a good look around the area. The town is experiencing a house-building boom as its popularity as a holiday destination grows. It is only a short distance from Perth which makes buying a holiday home here an attractive proposition. Very similar to Whangamata, it is claimed that the town’s population more than doubles during the holiday season. We could well imagine that we would spend quite of bit of time here if we lived on this coast.
The Bay has a brilliant 7.5km cycle and walkway along the waterfront. It is concreted and passes through the main beach area and into the sand hills. One of the standouts on our rides was the reasonably large blue tongue lizards that we were coming across as they lazed on the path soaking up the sunshine. We were doing the decent thing and guiding them back into the sand before they were run over by marauding cyclists.
Tomorrow we continue our journey south as far as Cervantes. It is not that far and we are not sure at this point whether we will overnight there. It will depend on what there is to see. It will be another one of those ‘no plan’ days.
I remember years ago I was staying at my father’s beach house at Tapu on the Coromandel coast, when I decided to go across to Whitianga one day to get some crayfish. I was bitterly disappointed because every crayfish outfit over there was exporting it.
Another crayfish story at Kaikoura … the caravan crayfish outlet on the coast just north of Kaikoura sold crayfish to passing motorists. There was not one crayfish below $85 each! it was case of “Yes please, but no thanks”. Even the Maori girl selling it said to me “she would not buy it at that price”!