Debbie & Geoff's

Australian Safari

__________________________________________________________________________________

Travel Blog - June 2017

__________________________________________________________
For previous mounths go to the Blog Archive Menu

Click on a photo for larger view .

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday June 2nd - Sunday 4th June 2017

As it is a long weekend for Western Australia, seems they don’t celebrate the Queen’s Birthday weekend but have a Western Australia Day on the first Monday of the month, we decided to head to the bush. We are staying at Ellendale Pool for a few nights. This camp is $5 per night per vehicle. We were worried that being a long weekend we might not get in but as it was 65km from Port Denison we arrived early enough to pick our spot. The pool itself is formed by a river that has a massive cliff one side. The colours and layers of the cliff are again amazing and there are a few Peregrine Falcons nesting there which Geoff enjoyed photographing. We also had hundreds of Corella chatting, screeching and performing in the trees above us. Sometimes they would all take off and swirl and screech above us before settling back down on the trees around the pool. Just like the black cockatoos we had at Lake Indoon they arrive in the morning and leave at dusk. Where on earth do they decide to go and why they would want to leave is a mystery to me.

 Ellendale Pool      Ellendale Pool      Peregrine Falcon
Ellendale Pool                   Camp at Ellendale Pool                   Peregrine Falcon

The pool had warning signs that if the water was above 24 Celsius there was a danger of viral Meningitis. Do not put your head underwater, cover your nose if you decide to jump in, keep your ears out of the water, etc. We just won’t go swimming but I don’t think it was too bad as the water was no way near the danger temperature. There are lots of people with dogs as this is not a national park and they did also supply for our $5 flushing toilets and dump point, all the comforts of home.

 Little Corella      Ellendale Pool      Camp at Ellendale Pool
Little Corella                               Ellendale Pool                   Camp at Ellendale Pool

Now the reason I bring up the above is the next day we went for a drive to the Miners Camp site which is 60km east from here. It was a nice day trip and we were so surprised that there was only one camper there. The park does not have a lovely natural pool and the river was dry, the flies were extremely friendly, they did have drop toilets instead of flushing ones and the biggest draw back for a lot of these people would have been no dogs allowed. National Parks have this policy but in some parks like the Flinders Rangers we know a lot of people broke the rules. But I must admit the open space and walks we did were great and I enjoyed the solitude as we sat at the day area under a tree and ate our lunch. Only the birds chirping and us, bloody lovely. As we walked down the river bed we could see the beautiful colours of not only the cliff that soared about us but the stones that we came across in the river bed itself. Not being a geologist I would pick up the pretty ones, white ones that sparkle, quartz with veins of pink or orange but no gold, coal has a sparkle also and this is what they mined there. Fortunately for us the coal seam was not wide enough to pay its way for mining, so we got a national park instead. Oh and we left nothing but footprints unlike some slobs that left bottles and rubbish in one of the sites. Makes me angry that people are just so lazy, you bought it in, take it home with you.

 Wind Farm near Ellendale      Wild Flowers      Little Corella exit
Wind Farm near Ellendale                               Wild Flowers                   Little Corella exit

One last day at Ellendale Pool when we went for a long walk around the area then came back and had a real chilled afternoon. I sat and read a book whilst Geoff worked on his computer, then as the afternoon arrived we waited outside for the galahs performance of leaving the site. I got video and Geoff took photos, though not as good as the other evening it was still a noisy, chaotic and amazing spectacle.

 

Monday 5th – Tuesday 13th June 2017

Our short trip is to Geraldton for a few days to be back in a town and van park. As it was a public holiday we made our way down to the port where we watched the festivities and celebration. There was plenty of food stalls so we dined on Paella for lunch and sat watching the entertainment. One girl was singing original songs and I quite liked her music, after the singing came the belly dancers and the sparkle dancers which were the children dressed in costume and dancing appropriate aged dances with lots of arm waving and magic wings. We didn’t stick around for the young cheerleaders that were limbering up in front of us and walked down the jetty to watch a freighter being coaxed into a berth by 3 tugs. As we watched them turning this large ship it was like a ballet being performed. Spinning, pushing and pulling the great ship till she rested against the wharf.

 Dance Geraldton      Ship entering Geraldton      Sunset Geraldton Beach
Western Australian Day                               Ship entering Geraldton                   Sunset Geraldton Beach

That afternoon I went for a walk just to get my steps up and a bit of exercise besides a stroll that I seem to be doing, and then I returned to meet Geoff on the beach for the sunset. He was down photographing an Osprey nest where the mum seems to be sitting on eggs and the dad came back to visit. Geoff said all she did is whinge, and I don’t blame her, being left alone for ages and he didn’t even bring her back a fish.

 Osprey      Off shore wind at sunset      Sunset Geraldton Beach
Osprey                               Off shore wind at sunset                   Sunset Geraldton Beach

Our next day was a drive 20 minutes south to Greenough. I am not sure if this town is famous for its leaning trees, which I thought was very cool, or the historic buildings that dotted the area. The trees are river gums and the strong southerly winds have caused them to lie down. We stopped at the historic village and ate ice cream whilst watching a family of Alpacas and two Llamas. When you see them both together you realise the difference in size, Llamas look like a horse compared to the dainty alpacas. Then there was the historic pub, which was closed and an old shop and church which both were from 1850 and boarded up waiting for restoration. We started the river walk which went for a total of 17km but it never seemed to be close enough to the river so turned back and decided to head back to Geraldton.

 Leaning Trees      Greenough      Alpacas and Llamas
Leaning Trees                               Greenough                   Alpacas and Llamas

Still on the road north our next destination is Kalbarri, we started out thinking of three nights here but decided to stay a week. On the drive there we stopped at the pink lake just north of Port Gregory. This is not the most inspiring lake and it did have a pink tinge to it but would not on this day be something I would boast about. But after I say this it is a commercial supply of brine shrimp which like to feed on the algae which gives the pink hue to the lake.

 Birthday Lunch      Birthday cocktails      Natures Window
Birthday Lunch                               Birthday cocktails                   Natures Window

Kalbarri is a lovely little coastal town that the Murchison river runs into. Also the Kalbarri National Park is right on the doorstep and one we will visit quite a few times. June the 8th has arrived for a double celebration. One year ago we left our home to start this trip and also it’s my birthday so it makes the date an easy one to remember. We had a lovely day starting with a coastal walk, then fish and chips for lunch in a little café overlooking the water. From here we strolled back down to the pub where we had a cocktail and finished off at another café for cake and ice cream. It was a wonderful way to celebrate the day.

 Murchison river      Murchison river      Murchison river
Z Bend Murchison river           Sandstone overhang Murchison river               Murchison river

We had booked a tour to go to the National Park as they are having major upgrades with roads so it was the only way we could get in to see the remarkable rock formation called Natures Window. Davo was our driver for the day and his one liners made it a very funny adventure. We also stopped to look at Z Bend a bend in the river shaped like a Z also another lookout, where we could admire the beautiful rock formations into the gorge. Unfortunately with the timing of the tour the sun was not high enough to give enough light into the gorge to have the pictures do it justice. Davo supplied us with morning tea and homemade cake before we walked to Natures Window. It really was breathtaking and I am so glad we didn’t miss it with the road closure. This rock formation is one of the most photographed sites on the Coral Coast and it perfectly frames the river below.

 Goat shooting by Parks      Murchison river      Murchison river
Goat shooting by Parks           Murchison river               Sandstone cliffs Murchison river

Our next day’s destination took us for a lovely drive down the south and off shooting to the coast cliffs. We drove to Natural Bridge and followed the board walk to the Island Rock. From there we kept heading north sometimes doing the boardwalks and enjoying the sandstone colours then peering out to sea hoping to spy on a pod of whales which should be making their way northward. We did see some dolphins so that was a plus and was told that a pod of whales had passed by earlier that morning, late again! Then Pot Alley which was named as the cray pots would wash into the bay, followed by parking at Rainbow Valley where we did a 3km loop walk down to the beach to see Mushroom Rock before completing the loop. Again we looked at beautiful rock formations that I never get sick of exploring. The colours always amaze me as bands of oranges, reds, whites and sparkles show up in the sun We also came across fossilized burrows created by ancient worm like organisms known as Skolithos . These pipe rock formations looked like Stalactites clinging to the side of the rock. We stopped in a total of 7 different coastal areas, all with the sandstone cliff formations and all beautiful.

 Looking north to Kalbarri      Mushroom Rock      Rainbow Valley
Looking north to Kalbarri           Mushroom Rock               Ancient worm tubes Rainbow Valley

Each day is spent exploring the region and taking our time to enjoy each experience. Again we drove back to the national park to have another look at the river but a different area than on the guided tour. We headed further south in the park to Hawks Head lookout, it was named by the shape of the rock structure seen from the lookout, but I think that person must have been on drugs or had a good imagination. The lookout was picturesque and whilst we were there the Emergency Services were having a training course on how to drag a stretcher up a cliff with ropes and pullies. It was also quite windy so probably a good day to test their skills. From watching them I think they needed a bit more training before I let them pull me up a cliff face.

 Looking north to Kalbarri      Mushroom Rock      Rainbow Valley
Coast south of Kalbarri

After Hawks Head we did the Ross Graham Lookout named after the first school teacher at Kalbarri. He was a devoted conservationist and a key player in exploring the Murchison River. After the lookout we walked down to the river bed. There was water in the river but not much was flowing, but again the rocks and boulders that lined the river bed were amazing. Large, flat, small, colourful sandstone. River gums lined the banks and it was peaceful and quiet even with quite a few tourists climbing their way down the river. Oh and the flies, they are mighty friendly at this park.

 

Wednesday 14th – Sunday 25th June 2017

With a quick stop back at Geraldton we headed towards Shark Bay with one stop at Hamelin Pools Station Stay. This was a quick one night stay to break up the journey and we found it a great stop over. The farm is now owned by Bush Heritage who is trying to bring the landscape and native animals back to how it was prior to farming. They have a lovely lake in the grounds where we saw a myriad of birds. One of my favourites was the Bee Eater which I haven’t seen since the top end of Queensland. From here we did get to see the Hamelin Pool which is on the coast and known for its Stromatolites. These look like rock formations but are a living organism and over 3,500 million years old. Sorry but they don’t do a thing for me.

 Rainbow Bee-eater      Hamelin Station      Stromatolites
Rainbow Bee-eater                       Hamelin Station                           Ancient Stromatolites

Our next destination is Denham and like Kalbarri we extended our stay as there was plenty to keep us occupied. The town is tiny but did have 2 petrol stations and 2 supermarkets. It is a 35 km drive to Monkey Mia which was our main destination for Shark Bay. Monkey Mia is famous for its wild dolphins that come to visit and are fed by rangers. This is strictly run to make sure the dolphins do not get over fed and only adult female dolphins are fed. The dolphins are recognised by their fins and our early morning feeding experience was wonderful. The dolphins come into shore and are fed from 7.45am to 12 noon. In this time they will only have 3 feeds and a minimum of 10 minutes between each feed. If the dolphins keep coming back to the bay and the maximum feeds have been done they will not get any more food. Oh and only 3 fish (150gm) per dolphin so it’s only a snack for them. Our first morning we watched the three feeds and treated ourselves to pancakes for breakfast, we then headed back to Denham to don some extra clothes as we had booked onto a sunset cruise for the evening. The cruise did not disappoint as we were on a large catamaran and the sunset was colourful even without clouds in the sky. As we motored back to the jetty hundreds of fairy martins and swallows followed us swooping around the boat, seems they like to roost on it every evening and were waiting for their home to return.

 Debbie the Dolphin whisperer      Dolphin chasing fish      Sunset cruise
Debbie the Dolphin whisperer               Dolphin chasing fish                           Sunset cruise

 Sunset Monkey Mia      Swollows looking for their night roost      Sunset cruise
Sunset Monkey Mia               Swollows looking for their night roost                           Sunset cruise

Our next morning saw us back at Monkey Mia to do the wildlife cruise. We hoped to spot Dugongs but unfortunately they had gone to Denham where the water is warmer, the last one they spotted was less than a week ago, talk about bad timing. But we did see some amazing pods of dolphins and lots of sea turtles so we weren’t disappointed.
As we still had the afternoon free we ducked into the Peron Homestead which was previously a sheep farm. They also have a hot tub and BBQ area but as we didn’t pack our swimmers we decided to pass on the dip. They also had a track to a small pond and it was a bird hide so peeking through the slots of the hide we managed to spy and get photos of a Brown Goshawk. Though we were not allowed into the homestead as it was occupied we did get to go through the stock yards and shearing shed. I must say it was one of the best preserved sheds we had seen. Also the explanation of the yards which were used for docking, drenching and shade pens for the poor little sheep to get over the trauma of being shorn were all explained.

 Peron Station Shearing shed      Young Sparrow Hawk      Ringing the dinner bell
Peron Station Shearing shed               Young Sparrow Hawk                           Ringing the dinner bell

Our third day at Denham was rainy so we went to the Shark Aquarium. Upon your admission you join a tour held by a Marine Biologist that explained all the creatures in each individual tank. We also got to ask a lot of questions. We got to see turtles, cuttlefish, stone fish and of course sharks. Plus we saw a myriad of other creatures that I have forgotten their name. The hour tour seemed to fly and I thoroughly enjoyed it and could see why so many fellow travellers had recommended we go. Heading a bit further out of town we went to Eagle Bluff to do a short boardwalk looking down at the crystal clear water below where we spotted sharks cruising the coast and also sting rays. After that and a bite of lunch we went to the tourist information centre where we spent over 2 hours in their museum learning about the area plus they had a photographic exhibition on aerial pictures of the area using different glass lenses.

 Stone Fish      Flat Head      Lion Fish
Stone Fish               Flat Head "Dinner"                           Lion Fish

Our last day was a trip to Francois Peron National Park this was a full day spent doing lots of sand driving and you must have a high clearance 4WD to do the tracks. Though the coastal bush is not my favourite the cliffs are. Clear aqua coloured water and stunning red or yellow cliffs, a picture just waiting to happen. We visited Big Lagoon where we thought we might spend a few nights, it is a national park and has had newly renovated toilets and BBQ areas. I give them 10 out of 10 for the area and as they had camp hosts the area was looked after and maintained.

 Francois Peron National Park      Skipjack Point      Skipjack Point
Francois Peron National Park               Skipjack Point                           Skipjack Point

Checking out by 10am we headed south down the peninsula back to the Hamelin Pools Station. Geoff had previously done drone shots and promised to call in. We are staying three nights here and spent our first afternoon at the old telegraph station. They have a tiny museum which was the original station and for a fee of $2.50 per person you can watch a video of the Stromatolites and have a look over the old equipment of the station. From here we walked towards the quarry where the blocks of cockles that have been cemented together by nature are cut for buildings. This is now a heritage site and it is amazing to get close to this source of building block. They are sparkling white with millions of tiny cockle shells embedded into the blocks. The whole beach was just white tiny shells which was just amazing.

 Cockles Blocks      Hamelin Pools beach      Cockles Blocks
Cockle Blocks               Hamelin Pools beach                           Cockle Blocks

 Emu Hamelin Station      Goshawk attacking Native Hen      Brown Falcon
Emu Hamelin Station               Goshawk attacking Native Hen                           Brown Falcon

From beaches made of shells to more sand and corrugated driving as we took the trip to Edel Land, though the point is not far the road to get there is 130 km and lots of it is corrugated. Oh and a bit of useless information for you is the name of the road Useless Loop Road and there is even a town called that but it is limited access and unless you had something to do with the salt mine you were not allowed. It was a long day of bumps and sand but had a few highlights one being the blow hole. Set on a cliff there were two holes in the rock platform that we walk on that would take you unawares when it decided to send up a plume of salt water. The sound was amazing and most of the time it was more noise than action and scared me the first time I was near the hole and it boomed. It even made Geoff jump and that made me laugh. After lunch we headed back and set up the drone for a follow me. I drove and Geoff droned and then his phone started to beep. The thing lost signal and was heading home (which is where it took off from) lucky I stopped the car and Geoff managed to get signal to bring it back and land it close by. This park has the most westerly point in Australia and where you can catch the barge to Dirk Hartog Island. We decided not to go right up to Steep Point as it was getting late in the day and we had had our fill of corrugation. So you can say we were 43km short of being at the most western point of Australia.

 Useless Loop Road      'False Entrance' Blowholes      'False Entrance' Blowholes
Useless Loop Road               'False Entrance' Blowholes                           'False Entrance' Blowholes

Our last day we spent rambling around the station and went for a walk along a creek created by the bore water. As this area is run by bush care we were interested to see what had become of the area. The land itself was very stony and you look and wonder why the pioneers thought they could raise cattle here. The only animal we spotted was a herd of goats, and I mentioned this to Denise that evening and she just shook her head. They are still trying to eradicate them from the area and hopefully one day this will happen. The property is about 500,000acres or 2,026sq km, this is a big lump of land. Last year they had over 10,000 customers visit the station as it is known for birdy people and nice amenities which mean a lot when you are travelling. Geoff went back to an area that had more water in it and took form of a mini wetland in the afternoon to do bird shots and he was more than happy with the amount of birds that he spotted.

 Camera man view      Red-capped Robin      White-fronted Chat
Camera man view               Red-capped Robin                           White-fronted Chat

 

Monday 26th – Thursday 29thth June 2017

Time to move on and we only had a short trip of 150km to another station called Wooramel Station. This was a working station it ran goats, sheep and cattle. Again no power or water but we still had plenty of water in the tanks to last. We took the special of pay for 3 nights and stay 4 as it seemed a nice area to explore. The water is bore water and they have utilised old water tanks as their amenities. They are dotted around with toilets in one half and shower in the other. They also have a warm (30deg C) spring and have created a natural spa area as the water is supposed to be therapeutic? The river is bone dry and sandy and it only runs 2 to 3 times a year when there is rain inland. The property is very large and we did two drives during our stay which we had to report into the office before we left and be back by 5pm or they would send out a search party. The tracks are well marked and you would have to be stupid not to follow the signs and the rules. There is a great vastness out there and it seems to go on and on forever. We took a trip to the old shearers’ quarters and shearing shed. Neither had been used since 2006 and was built in 1911. Two things were spotted; the first was a White-bellied Sea-Eagle on top of the shearing shed which Geoff got lots of pictures before it took off. The second was in the quarters which had small individual rooms. Walking along the dilapidated veranda I peered into the rooms and I am not sure who was more surprised when I noticed a goat peering at me from behind a bed. Guess that must have been her room and she didn’t budge or try to run out. Again we took photos and left her in peace.

 Camp at Wooramel Station      Wooramel River      White-bellied Sea-Eagle
Camp at Wooramel Station               Wooramel River                           White-bellied Sea-Eagle

 Debbie checking the goat room      Wooramel Shearing Shed      Wooramel Shearing Shed
Debbie checking the goat room               Wooramel Shearing Shed                           Wooramel Shearing Shed

The nights and morning are very cool and the breeze can get a bit gusty and rock the van, but when you are in the sun during the day the temperature is just perfect, as long as the breeze keeps away. On Wednesday nights they have a communal dinner where you pay $20 per person and bring your own plate and cutlery. Every evening at 5pm they have a communal camp fire. We notice this mostly in the bush and it is a lovely way to get to talk to people whom we have said hello to during the day. We were lucky enough to have a chat with the owner of the station, without the campers the station would certainly struggle to survive. He did tell us that if it did not rain by July 7th they would have to sell some of the stock, then again if no rain by the 17th they would again have to assess the situation and probably sell more. Even though they had water with the bores without the rain there was no feed and the stock was starting to suffer.

 Black-brested Buzzard      Hobby & Butcher Bird      Wooramel Shearing Shed
Black-brested Buzzard               Hobby & Butcher Bird                           Wooramel Shearing Shed

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~