Sunday, August 29, 2010

Exmouth and Carnarvon

Ningaloo Lighthouse
Three nights in Exmouth gave us plenty of time to explore this small town and its surroundings. On one side, the Exmouth Gulf and the other, the Indian Ocean and the beginning of the Coral Coast including the Ningaloo Marine Park. Glimpses of blue water of the gulf to the north and to the south views of Cape Range National Park as we headed in a westerly direction towards North West Cape. The friendly natives here are emus, emus and more emus who wander everywhere, always in pairs, and are right at home with the the two legged visitors in their territory. They appear to be a smaller variety than their eastern cousins. I might be imagining that.

Towards North West Cape & Communications Base

Australia and the US established a communications base in 1967 and Exmouth was born. The facility is a radio relay station passing messages between Australian and US command centres and their respective submarines and surface ships in the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific. The low frequency transmitters' central tower stands 387.6 metres high, weighs 800 tonnes and can withstand winds up to 500km per hour and is surrounded by 12 similar transmitters and its a very impressive sight. Today it is known as the Australian Naval Communication Station, Harold E. Holt, named in honour of the late Australian Prime Minister - and the US Navy continues its involvement.

The coastline and beaches are just beautiful, with turquoise water and miles of white sand - my kind of place. You can swim with the Manta Rays and Whale Sharks who eat plankton, not people. There are also Black Tip Reef Sharks, White Tip and Grey Reef Sharks, and no doubt they are the people eating varieties so I figured it's best to avoid them. The Green, Loggerhead and Hawksbill turtles have rookeries along the coast and come under wildlife protection laws as they are threatened species. Vlamingh Head Lighthouse built in 1912 at the point of North West Cape wasn't built early enough to save the SS Mildura from the reef during a cyclone in 1907. The wreck is still clearly visible from Lighthouse Bay at the point. We drove up to see the second lighthouse called Ningaloo Lighthouse and had fabulous views of the surf beaches up and down the coast and we were also able to watch Humpback whales again.

Almost forgot to mention, Ade finally managed to throw a line in, but the fish must have seen him coming!

Fishing for Nothing

We detoured into Coral Bay on Tuesday on our way south to Carnarvon. Another magic place for swimming and snorkelling on the Ningaloo Reef and more white sandy beach - so hard to take. The coral viewing boats were all lined up loading passengers for an outing and I so wished I was going too.

174 kilometres on we once again went over the Tropic of Capricorn. Definitely no chance of showing off my suntan in Carnarvon with the temperatures much cooler and rain. Delightful town on the Gascoyne River and the heart of the salad bowl where 70% of Western Australia's fruit and vegetables are grown. We followed the Gascoyne Food Trail and stopped at plantations, (they are not called farms here) and bought fruit and veg from the growers. Not only are they cheap but so fresh. Bananas are the biggest crop and mangoes, strawberries, star fruit, melons, citrus, tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, beans, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, pumpkins, grapes, (just to name a few) etc. are grown, but no spuds!

Quobba Coastline

To top off our first day in Carnarvon, we had a feast of freshly caught seafood for lunch - magnifique!. We devoured blue swimmer crabs ($2 each) and king prawns (shrimp to my US readers) and Ade shucked his half dozen oysters, a new experience. The snapper was held over for dinner the next night and that was also delicious.

Point Quobba Blowhole

Day two we took a run north 70 kilometres along the coast this time to see the blowhole at Point Quobba. The rugged coastline and the sea rushing into shore and forcing the water up through the blowholes was spectacular as was the deafening noise.

Next destination is one of the worlds heritage listed areas, Shark Bay.


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