The Last Leg

Keen for the cool change, and more of the beach life, we drove from Barn Hill to Exmouth in two days, stopping briefly for the night in South Hedland to catch up with Loreta’s friends; Denis and Angie (thanks for the free camp for the night) and Jeremy and Katherine. It was supposed to be three days’ drive however we pushed on into the night on the second day so that we could wake up already at our destination. We have never seen as many roos as we did that night, the second half of Burkett Rd was done at about 30 km/h as there was a roo every couple of hundred metres.

We spent five nights in Exmouth and could easily have done more, it was great being beach side yet again. I got some great waves at Dunes which apparently is rare in November, and Loreta and the kids enjoyed the great weather and beautiful beach. We took a drive out to Shothole Canyon, again putting the ranger through its paces, with what is another incredibly rough but scenic drive across the rocky riverbed at the bottom of the canyon.

It was turtle nesting season in the Northwest Cape and the turtles were highly active as evidenced by the numerous tracks you could see up and down the beach in the mornings. So, one evening we decided to see if we could spot a turtle coming in to nest. The kids didn’t really appreciate the sitting still and quietly part though, so after a half hour or so we gave it up. However, we did see arguable the best shooting star ever, so not a complete write off.

Surf Check – Exmouth, WA
Shothole Canyon- Exmouth, WA
Nesting season – Exmouth, WA
Locals an’ locals – Exmouth, WA
Shothole Canyon – Exmouth, WA
Shothole Canyon – Exmouth, WA

The intense and various shades of blue in the water at Coral Bay are unlike, and as good as almost anywhere else we travelled in this great country. We were supposed to have had a family holiday here ten years ago, however a minor cycling incident left yours truly with a severely torn AC joint the day before leaving so we were notable absentees. We stayed for two nights and on the first day went snorkelling at Five Fingers Reef which meant more punishment for buzz in the sand dunes. Again we could have spent more time here but with Gnaraloo as our next stop and one eye on the swell and weather forecast we took our window of opportunity to spend at least five days at Gnaraloo without a howling sea breeze.

True blue – Coral Bay, WA
Crayfish Country – Coral Bay, WA
Five fingers reef – Coral Bay, WA
50 Shades of Blue – Coral Bay, WA
Pristine – Coral Bay, WA
Crayfish Country – Coral Bay, WA
Crayfish Country – Coral Bay, WA

Gnaraloo was the last of our new experiences (at a place that neither of had been) and what a way to end it! Gnaraloo turned out to easily be one of favourite few places in the country, if not the best. We were parked in a primo position on the cliff, overlooking the ocean by the lagoon, with goats wandering past and beautiful sunsets it was unreal.

The Pearly Gates – Gnaraloo, WA
What a view – Gnaraloo, WA
Primo posi – Gnaraloo, WA
Primo posi – Gnaraloo, WA

I walked outside one morning to be greeted by some guy yelling at me from his car as he drove past. “Are you the guy from Agnes Waters?” Turns out I was and we had met at the caravan park nearly six months ago, on the other side of the country. Austin & Sheree and their kids Mack and Winnie quickly became good friends.

The surf wasn’t epic as Gnaraloo can be, but it was very bloody good. Austin is as keen a surfer as I am and he had been here before so he showed me around. Tombstones is the main break and we surfed there for four days straight, from four foot down to two foot. We surfed Turtles also one day but conditions weren’t the best.

Loreta, the kids and I spent a couple of afternoons at Gnaraloo Bay. It is stunning, and being a North facing bay it is protected from the wind. Ningaloo reef runs right down the point and spills into the bay. It was hands down the best snorkelling ever! You simply walk out to the point and around the corner a bit, jump in, and let the current wash you across the reef and back into the bay. It’s better than the Great Barrier Reef and I even saw my first shark up close and personal, a black tip reefy nearly two metres long.

Tombstones – Gnaraloo, WA
Capretto – Gnaraloo, WA
Bay local – Gnaraloo Bay, WA
Crushedocean – Gnaraloo Bay, WA
Funny as bro – Gnaraloo Bay, WA
Sheltered from the doctor – Gnaraloo Bay, WA
Gnaraloo Bay – Gnaraloo, WA

Towards the end of our week the wind started getting up a bit so we drove out to Red Bluff one day when the wind was howling. It was not quite big enough to surf but it’s a spectacular setup. I can’t wait to surf there next time we go back.

With the wind taking hold the kite and wind surfers were getting in on the action but it wasn’t ideal for us as there is no shelter from it at Three Mile Camp. We had done a week and still had plenty of food water and fuel / power so could have stayed longer but decided it was time to find another shady tree and hit the road for one last stop.

Desert meets the sea – Red Bluff, WA
Got potential – Red Bluff, WA
Desert meets the sea – Red Bluff, WA
Blowin 30 plus – Gnaraloo, WA
The lads – Gnaraloo, WA
Bait ball – Gnaraloo, WA
The Lagoon – Gnaraloo, WA
Blowholes – Point Quobba, WA

We had made a booking earlier in the year at Shark Bay caravan park but with the delays we had while the car was repaired we didn’t make it so we had some credit from our deposit. Lo and behold who should be parked up across the road and a couple of doors down but Aus, Sheree and the kids. We caught up over a few drinks and the kids played together constantly. It was really blowin in Shark Bay so there wasn’t a great deal to do. We went to the lagoon and Monkey Mia, just missed the dolphin feeding but we did see them swimming around. I caught a few nice whiting at both spots. First feed of fish we had for months. With the weather not cooperating it was time to wrap things up.  We said our goodbyes to Austin, Sheree, Mack and Winnie and packed up the van for the last time on this epic adventure…

Dugong (look closely) – Gnaraloo, WA
Middle Lagoon – Shark Bay, WA

A couple of hours out later I said to Loreta that I couldn’t believe that in the whole time we had been on the road we hadn’t had a flat tyre. Sure enough, two minutes later we were pulled over on the side of the road listening to the hiss of air coming out from around nail lodged squarely in the tread. A bit of sweat, and a few profanities later were back on the bitumen and we arrived in Geraldton soon after. It was great to see Mum and be in the comfort of an actual house. Big beds, long showers, and space to move around in was a novel concept after nearly a year on the road. It was Loreta’s birthday a couple of days after we got there so in the end we all celebrated our birthdays on the road that year.

Speed blur – Geraldton, WA
Four and four – Geraldton, WA

This trip has been an almost indescribably, unbelievable experience, one that we will never forget, and always remain the better for it. I can’t encourage everyone enough to get out there and travel through and around our beautiful country. It is simply amazing what Australia has to offer and the people we have met. I hope that one day when Thomas and Dane are a little older we will be able to do it again or at least something similar so that they will have the great lasting memories that Loreta and I do. For now though, this blog will have to suffice!

Ciao Troy, Loreta, Thomas and Dane.

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