Australia [week 4]

I've been lazy and this blog is now over a week behind. To speed things up I've tried to keep the captions nice and snappy.

Our fourth and final week in Western Australia was spent tracing the remaining 900 kilometers of coastline down from Shark Bay to Perth.

Our first stop was Kalbarri, where the pelicans are fed daily at 8:45am and have been for almost thirty years. Even after all this time, they clearly remain suspicious of the whole process.

Kalbarri's signature attractions are its gorges, which contrast dramatically with the surrounding plains.

You could say the views were GORGEous. (Because of the gorges.)

Continuing south towards Geraldton we arrived at banks of "Pink Lake". It gets its colour from the type of algae that somehow thrives in its salty waters.

Our accommodation in Geraldton was a converted school bus parked inside a wildlife sanctuary.

The excess seats and schoolchildren had been stripped away to make room for utilities such as an oven and a shower. It was really comfortable.

Twice a day the residents of the sanctuary were fed according to donations from local businesses. On the menu today was stale bread. The first to be fed were the horses...

...and the chickens...

...followed by the native animals, such as the emus...



...and dingos. These guys were spared the vegetarian option and given big hunks of raw meat instead, which they tussled over.

There was also a peacock.

The cutest animal on display was a tiny orphaned kangaroo, whose mother had sadly been killed the previous night. The truck driver responsible had discovered him inside the mother's pouch and made the journey hundreds of miles to the sanctuary where he will be raised by hand.

The roof of the bus was a brilliant place to watch the sunset.

The following day we pressed further south and camped by the beach close to the microscopic town of Green Head.

The next day we made a quick detour into Nambung National Park to see the famous "Pinnacles", a population of mysterious pillars rising from the yellow sand.

We spent the night in Guilderton, a small holiday town whose river mouth only connects with the ocean at certain times of the year.

From Guilderton we drove a hundred short kilometers to finally complete our pilgrimage to Perth. Our new couchsurfing hosts helped us clean the dirt off our much-loved car in preparation for returning her to the rental place. We miss you already, Suzy.

The next few days were almost completely dominated by activities arranged by our generous hosts. The first was a tour of the city after dark.

Cool skyline.

Another was learning how to drive a train aboard Perth's version of the London Underground. Although I wasn't allowed to actually go anywhere, being able to press buttons to control announcements on the platform made me feel like a powerful God.

That evening we cooked dinner using one of the free, public BBQs dotted around most parks in Australia. The steaks closest to the camera are kangaroo.

Afterwards, we went into town to watch the local Pride Parade.

It was the most homosexual thing I have been involved with since filming my ex-housemate's Ice Bucket Challenge.

Early on our final day in Western Australia, our host and his mate took us fishing off the coast. The choppy waters and occasional downpours ensured I did not have the most comfortable three hours of my life...

...but we did manage to catch a ton of fish. My own pitiful contribution (the only fish I have ever caught) was largely symbolic. We're really grateful to our hosts for everything they did for us during our stay!

Australia [week 3]

Our third week in Western Australia was spent tracing the coastline down from Exmouth to Shark Bay, with frequent dips in the ocean to cool off and rinse the sun cream from our vulnerable skin. We got quite sunburnt but it was worth it.

We didn't really like Exmouth, a town whose main characteristics were being far too hot and far too expensive. On the plus side, it did have a giant sculpture of a prawn, which was presumably built to provide shade for the locals.

By lucky coincidence, our couchsurfing host was a refrigeration mechanic whose home (naturally) featured a very well maintained air conditioning system, so we spent much of our time indoors. He too had a giant sculpture outside his home to rival the nearby prawn.

He also had two excitable dogs called T-Bone and Lady.

Exmouth sits on a river which was completely dry during our visit and is hard to imagine ever properly existing. The redundant footbridges doubled up as wildlife viewing platforms.

When we weren't antagonising the local wildlife, we were mincing it. This came about when our host learnt we'd never tried kangaroo meat before. He insisted on sharing one he'd shot recently, which we later helped prepare. This involved the grim task of feeding chunks of kangaroo into a hand-mincer.

The resulting dinner - kangaroo spaghetti bolognase - turned out to be really tasty.

After two nights in Exmouth, we made our way into Ningaloo National Park. Ningaloo is known for its coral reef which extends several hundred kilometres along the coast. It has a couple of big advantages over its more famous Great Barrier cousin. Firstly, hardly anyone knows about it, so it hasn't yet been spoiled by mass tourism. Secondly, it sits directly off the coast, so you can just rent a snorkel, swim twenty metres out to sea, and you're there.

Turquoise Bay was a particularly convenient place to snorkel because the strong current meant you didn't even have to swim. You could just walk 100m down the beach, get in the water and naturally drift 100m back to where you began. It reminded me of a ride at Disneyland.

The reef itself was stunning. I'd never snorkeled before so didn't know what to expect, but I loved it. Being able to freely explore this alien landscape of living rocks and colourful fish without knowing what was lurking around the corner was so exciting.

The photos I took are quite bad and don't do the experience any justice, but they do show some of the bizarre, beautiful things I floated around. I love the maze pattern on this coral.

During my numerous expeditions into the water, I only once felt threatened by any of the creatures around me. The perpetrator was a small black fish who repeatedly charged at me with a sour expression on his tiny face until I agreed to swim away from his cave. He was quite intimidating for his size.

A+++ would recommend.

That night we camped in the national park. At some point in the early hours, a huge male kangaroo collided with and somehow flipped our twenty litre water container, which made a lot of noise and woke us both up. I slept badly after that incident.

Our next stop down the coast was Coral Bay, a miniscule tourist outpost with a few caravan parks and a very swanky hostel. The main tourist season had been and gone so we basically had the place to ourselves.

Unsurprisingly, the main attraction in Coral Bay is also the reef, which is visible from the shore (the darker section of water).

I had the best time following around a school of fish as they travelled between different islands of coral. Every time they stopped to feed, I could hear so clearly the sound of munching over the sound of my own breath. It was a surreal, hypnotising experience which took me a few minutes to snap out of and realise I was quite far from the shore.

Our next stop down the coast was Carnarvon, which has nicknamed itself "The Fruitbowl of Western Australia". One of the main crops is bananas, which are everywhere.

Carnarvon is also somewhat famous for hosting a few giant satellite dishes which were used for communication during the Apollo missions. I'm standing on the lower balcony for scale.

The coastline around Carnarvon is particularly rugged and angry. Blowholes in the rock launch seawater into the air.

The drive from Carnarvon to Denham was pretty monotonous. Hills are rare in this area but we found one to climb and observe the monotony.

Fascinating ancient rock formations.

Our final stop for the week was in Denham, a small town in the Shark Bay area, where we stayed with a professional pearl farmer.

Pearls were all over the place, including one attached to the collar of his dog, making him the classiest dog in town.

Our host had probably the manliest fridge I have ever seen, containing only beer and an unspecified animal carcass.

That evening we attended the Denham bowls social, where a small crowd of locals come every week to drink $3.50 beers and break down stereotypes surrounding the sport. There was a lovely atmosphere and aside from feeling like the obvious outsiders, we had a great time.

The next morning we made it over to Monkey Mia, a popular resort town famous for its dolphin feedings, which generally occur three times daily whenever the dolphins feel like showing up. We arrived too late for the first two feedings and the third never happened, so it was a bit of a disaster. Nice to hang out with a pelican though.

The water in Shark Bay is really beautiful.

After the disappointment of Monkey Mia, we decided that paying to see some marine life might be a better idea, so we visited the local aquarium. It was really decent.

Highlights included watching the sharks get fed...

...and consoling this tiny turtle who, as a result of eating too many jellyfish, had developed a stomach infection which rendered him permanently buoyant.

The week ended in terror upon arriving home and discovering this guy stationed on our bedroom wall. I don't usually have a problem with spiders but Australia has made me rethink everything.