Monday, 1 August 2016

Half-lap Day 84: Exmouth -> Cape Range National Park

The rain started again during the night, it was quite loud in the tent and we were worried about whether our repair job on the leak was holding up, so we didn’t get much sleep. Tony got up and checked it at one point and there was a small amount of water coming through, not enough to cause a problem, and by then we were wide awake and couldn’t get back to sleep for ages.

We slept in a bit later than I would have liked on a pack up morning (I like to be up by 6 so I can blog then get on with packing, today was closer to 7). When we had set up the day before, the weather forecast said the wind was coming from the South East, so we’d set up so that the tent was on the eastern side, so that the annex would be protected. The rain and wind came in though from the west, so a lot of our chairs were damp and it was very hard to keep stuff in the annex dry. We usually put it down first and try to get the tent packed up as quickly as possible – today we left the tent and the annex until last so that we could keep things dry. We packed the car and moved everything out of the tent – discovering that water was also coming in through the two end corners – we left the door open to dry out the floor as much as we could before we had to pack it up. The kids went up to the kitchen to watch videos on their iPads, and they did the dishes for us while they were there. There were a few breaks in the rain but it kept starting again, and by the time we had everything packed Tony and I were both completely wet. We’d managed to keep most of our clean clothes and our bedding dry though, so we figured it didn’t matter so much if the tubs or the chairs were wet, we could dry them out later and we could still be warm if we had dry clothes and blankets.

We covered our mattress with a tarp before we put the tent down, and once everything else was done we took down the annex and folded up the tent. Tony siphoned the pooled water off our roof before taking it down, so we have fresh rainwater to drink at Cape Range (there was quite a lot up there, despite doing a lot of work to make the roof flat, we never manage to get rid of all the places that water can pool). We hitched up and got the kids and headed out, leaving by 11 which was not too bad considering how much the rain slowed us down.

We stopped off at the IGA to get supplies for the next few days, and bought petrol, then headed out of town – north along the cape and then turning to the west then down the south side of the cape. It was very grey and wet and the clouds were hanging low. Just before we turned to the south we could see very tall antenna, lots of them, reaching up into the clouds. The tops of them were obscured by the cloud cover, and it looked like the antennae were holding up the sky – or else that we were driving towards some sort of portal to take us to another dimension. It looked quite eerie. (On my map it said ‘VLF antenna’ – not sure what that means, but at least we weren’t imagining them!)

Driving in to the National Park it was still raining and looking pretty miserable, so we decided to drop in to the Discovery Centre and see if the rain eased off later. I got lots of information on snorkeling, and we browsed the gift shop for ages, buying a few gifts for people and LiAM and Millie got a couple more souvenirs. We watched a DVD about the reef and marine area, and read lots of displays about all the animal life we might find in the water and the national park. We could see the ocean out the window and it looked exciting, even in the rain. We were there for about 2 hours, and eventually decided to continue on to our campsite even though it was still raining. Tony made us some sandwiches in the carpark and then we went on.

For the first 2 nights in Cape Range National Park we are staying at the North Mandu campground. Our site is right next to the path to the beach, and the path is only about 80m long. Once we’d backed into the spot we ran down to the beach to get a quick look – the beach here is covered in smooth round stones, some are white, some pink, some grey and all shades in between. The waves here break out on the reef, a few hundred metres from shore, so the water near the beach is calm and protected. While I stood there looking at the water a turtle popped it’s head out – so, so exciting. The waves breaking beyond the reef were huge, and the wind was blowing the spray backwards off the top of them – it was an incredible sight.

We went back to our site to get the tent set up – it actually wasn’t raining much now, just sprinkling really. The website had said the site was 4.5m wide, but it looked wider – I measured it and it was over 5, which meant we could set the tent up across it and then put our annex up (we’d thought we’d have to go the other way and there wouldn’t be room for the annex, not great if it’s going to rain). We decided it would be best if the tent was on the ocean side of the annex so we’d be more protected from the weather. This meant we had to turn the trailer all the way around – which was easy at first on the hard packed dirt, but the rain had softened the edges up and soon the jockey wheel started sinking in the sand, so it was quite an effort to turn it around and then get it close enough to the fence so that the tent would fit within the site. We managed it though, with help from Caitlin and LiAM as well.

Putting the tent up was a bit tricky because it was windy and things kept flapping around, we did it fairly quickly though. We got the annex up and tied it down with more ropes than we’ve ever used before, it seems quite secure despite the wind. I’d filled the thermos with hot water this morning and it was great to be able to quickly make the kids some noodles without waiting to get the stove out – they ate them gratefully and it helped them warm up. There was just enough water left for half a cup of tea for me too. We saw several kangaroos around the site as we were setting up – some of them were quite large, bigger than any wallabies we’ve seen for months. Very cool to have them around and close to the tent.

Once it was all set up we headed back down to the beach and saw more turtles, and some schools of some sort of fish with silver fins, it looked like they were all fishing together. Tony and Caitlin went back to the tent to get their snorkelling gear, and LiAM I sat on the rocks watching the water – and saw humpback whales breaching and diving out beyond the break. It was very cool – I’d been told we might be able to see them from shore, these guys were much closer than I’d hoped.

Tony and Caitlin tentatively made their way into the water and we saw a couple of turtles pop their heads up not far away from them (the turtles had moved on by the time they went under water though). I saw 2 reef sharks swimming between Tony and the shore. Caitlin and Tone swam around for a while, occasionally surfacing, and came out excited, they’d seen a huge variety of fish, an eel, and sea urchins. LiAM and Millie and I had seen more whales while we sat on the beach, and LiAM had seen some crabs down in the rock pools. Millie and LiAM found the most amazing looking shells – shaped like shell pasta, they were pink on top then chocolate brown around the bottom half. Underneath the long sides curled towards each other to form a long slit with scalloped edges.  

As they walked out of the water Tony and Caitlin saw a blue spotted ray. LiAM and I went to get our snorkeling gear and Caitlin showed us the easiest place to get in. The tide was going out and there was a bit of a current heading out to sea, so we had to swim carefully to make sure we stayed close to the shore. We saw fewer fish than the others had, but still a cool variety – some blue ones, stripey black and white ones, grey fish with yellow along their sides, tiny little fish, some that camoflauged into the sand below, some sea cucumbers and lots of sea urchins. Clams too, and we’d also seen them on the rocks as the tide went out. As we walked out, being careful not to step on anything, I got a sharp pain in my heel. I ripped my shoe off and checked my foot, I couldn’t see any injury and I asked the kids to help see if we could find what hurt me. LiAM said ‘there’s something in your shoe’ – there was a large conical piece of coral sticking out of my shoe, and the point of it had been what hurt my heel. Obviously I need to be even more careful walking out of the water!

Back at camp we got changed and then got the chairs organised and I set the beds up. The ground is covered in tiny, sandy rocks, so we have set up towels to wipe our feet on as we go into the tent, and no shoes allowed in the tent at all. The kids played in the tent because it was much warmer in there, out of the wind – the wind was coming from the east, so straight into our annex. We would have been warmer if we had put the tent up the other way around, facing the shore. Tony organised some food while I hung up wet clothes and put some more wax on the tent in the places where water had been coming in. We ate leftover butter chicken wrapped in rice paper rolls, very yummy. Once we’d eaten we tidied and secured all our stuff outside, then went into the cosy tent and read a couple of chapters of Inheritance. It took us a while to get to sleep because the wind was flapping the tent and annex and making a lot of noise, and it started raining again (it had been coming in sideways for some of the time we were tidying up) and it was not a peaceful environment conducive to sleep!

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