The big road trip – Perth to Exmouth

Day 1 – Perth to the Murchison River At last. The promise I made to the kids that we would travel for 3 months when I finished my study. Just a shame it took so long that The Drummer isn’t interested in travelling with us. University and work and the BF all come before camping with mum and The Piper. Nonetheless, a great way to use up my long service leave.

A long day in the car, covering over 500km, just to get a fair distance behind us. The Piper did some spelling and maths homework, so we can start off on a good foot and perhaps (?) establish a study routine. I’m not cut out for home schooling, but I don’t suppose driving at 100km/h and trying to read the algebra intro or check the list words really is conducive to teaching. Oh, and the fact that my Masters Degree is in Adult Education and Training.

Anyway, we are stopped for the night on the banks of the Murchison River in a 24hr road stop. It’s a good spot although a wee bit muddy from the rain today. Never mind, it turns into an adventure for the The Piper, fishing and making a bow and arrow. If you have Camps 4/5/6 this site is certainly in there, Gleena Bridge, 13km north of the Kalbarri turnoff or about 100km north of Geraldton, on the Brand Hwy. For the record, there are toilets and tonight, they are clean. There’s also picnic tables, some undercover, and fire pits with swing around cooking plates. All free. Not bad.

It’s 7.30pm. My favourite thing about camping is the early nights. Although I’ll be doing all the driving and set up / take down and the cooking, at least I get early nights. And wine … Good night

Day 2 – Murchison River to Carnarvon Our first night under canvas wasn’t too bad. I think it rained a fair bit but we were high and dry. Another reason I have a hard floor camper; the water goes straight under it. We were awake early though due to a pair of visitors scurrying around. Clearly the failure to secure the canvas under the floor left “windows” of opportunity for The Moose’s relatives. Did I mention The Mooseis along for the ride? Although he sleeps in the car. Nocturnal animals and humans sleeping don’t mix. So, awake before 5, the directive was to get packed up and on the road ASAP. Ok really need to remember what that actually means. In the dark and the rain I collapsed the trailer and we were on the road by 7am.

The early start meant we rolled into Carnarvon early and had lunch by the river before checking into the van park. I’m not big on van parks but when that’s all there is, there’s no choice. Fortunately we stopped near Len who fixed my busted pole in the camper in no time. The prerequisite for the park was a pool. Therefore a swim was had before some shopping, and then sunset fishing. With great success, once we scrounged some bait. The Piper caught 5 great sized blue headed something … And that was Carnarvon

Day 3 – Carnarvon to Coral Bay Not such an early start thankfully but on the road by 10. I hear they may have found MH370. The lack of news and TV is no hardship. We have radio in each big town as we go but we’re compiling play lists for each trip. Today’s was The Pipers and included the chicken dance, gangnam style and something with the f bomb in it. My turn next trip.

And now we’re in Coral Bay. I missed the obvious but I shouldn’t have. It’s a bay, full of coral. Some great snorkelling was had this afternoon and all the fish I’ve seen in tanks and aquariums were right there in the water. Barely a meter from the shore line, swimming over huge coral formations. As well as the wee ones there were grand big fish, cruising the shoreline, waiting for the daily feeding session.

We are hanging here for two nights, maybe more if I keep enjoying it this much. But I hear Exmouth is even better and that’s our next stop …

Day 4 Coral Bay was as great today as yesterday. The snorkelling here is hard is to describe. Perhaps for seasoned divers and snorkellers there is better but I’m 46 years old and I’ve never seen a world like it. The fish abundance and variety is amazing given that they are all within 3-4m of the shore. No need to pay for a tour or swim out a mile. Just stick your head in the water. So we snorkelled twice today and then experienced the fish feeding. Huge fish that come in for the food and swim between your legs and gobble the food off the surface. Amazing and a real thrilling experience. I loved it and because my attention span was longer than most I got three opportunities to feed them. The Piper had them swimming between his legs.

Day 5 – Exmouth We are now in Exmouth and set up for four nights at Yardie Homestead. It’ll be good to stay put for a while, have a break from driving and setting up the camper, and just look around. We’ve stocked up and have plans to snorkel Turquoise Bay and Oyster Shack tomorrow, perhaps head to the lighthouse and surrounds on Monday and hopefully swim with the whale sharks on Tuesday …I’m excitedly nervous. Other than driving and stocking up, The Piper did some “fishing” this afternoon and we had a game of tennis, of sorts, before dinner. All quiet early again so we will get a good nights sleep and head out to snorkel before the wind whips up tomorrow.

Day 6 A nice day exploring to the south of the western side of the peninsula. The first stop was for The Piper to dig a hole. Now don’t think for a minute that I mean with a kids bucket and spade. Of course not. He needed a spade of adult proportions, something Grandad would have used to mix some mud for brick laying, so we bought one in the hardware shop. So, a big hole was dug, expending a good amount of energy. Next stop, the National Park where I bought the annual pass and we cruised the various stopping points until we hit Turquoise Bay. Very aptly named and a great place for a snorkel. With one set of flippers we took a single one each and drifted from the south end to the north end over amazing coral. The fish species visible is unreal and my absolute favourite was the wrasse. The one I liked the most was easily a foot long and pink, blue and green. The other fish that we liked were the long skinny ones that it’s hard to tell their head from their tail! Even the fish in the very shallows were delightful, silver and big, dart and others.

Next stop, Oyster Stacks but with the tide right out there was no snorkelling there so we headed to Mandu Mandu Gorge for a short walk into the dry creek. We left a cairn and headed back to the van. Not far along we came across a beautiful echidna contemplating a road crossing. The silly thing chose a very low point in the road so we stayed until he was safe just in case any cars came along. Back on the road we had a close encounter with a kangaroo, but both avoided each other. Thankfully. The Piper was already quite distressed about the road carnage.

Day 7 The opposite end of the peninsula was explored today, including a trip to Exmouth to do a few things. We visited the wreck, the SS Mildura, and spotted a turtle in the shallows and hump back whales offshore. The lighthouse is a great vantage point for whale spotting. I had hoped to see a turtle so I was extra thrilled that it was so close to shore and so obvious. They really are grand creatures. I wish we’d seen one yesterday when we were snorkelling but now I’ve seen one! Maybe I’ll see more tomorrow on the boat trip. We’ve paid up for the day and have our extra cash ready ($100 each) in case the whale sharks are around. They better be! I can’t believe we’re seven days into our trip. There’s a load of washing on and The Piper is starting his project book. His web page has been abandoned as all too hard. Hopefully the project book gets completed. We’re arguing a bit but he is really being stubborn and I’m not being adult enough. Not a good mix …

Day 8
Kings Ningaloo reef tours was fabulous. We had a great day snorkelling and whale watching. But no whale shark unfortunately. Never mind. Its not Sea World so there no whale shark on demand. Instead we saw hump back whales breaching into the air, tail slapping and fin slapping. We saw a hammer head shark cruising the water and turtles. When we were snorkelling we saw fish galore and a turtle below us with a missing back fin. The day was glorious and the sun shone and the breeze was very light. The ocean was quite calm and the water temperature was perfect.

The crew on Kings were exceptional and we were treated very well. The gear was all perfect and the boat itself was a wonderful ride. And there’s one way to make the Solo Avocado happy. Make The Piper or The Drummer happy. The Piper got to drive the boat back. All the way. For well over 45 minutes, maybe an hour. He was thrilled and did a great job, avoiding humpies on the highway, steering clear of the reef and smiling like all his Christmases had come at once.

Now, we’re contemplating our future. The next two days traveling to Karijini before hitting Hedland some time over the weekend. It’s been super here in Exmouth and we’ll be back with The Drummer in a season not too far away.

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