Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Half-lap Day 88: Cape Range National Park -> Coral Bay

The wind did not pick up much overnight, it was a fairly still, quiet night and we all slept really well, such a relief! I was up before sunrise and was going to sit outside the tent and do some blogging, the sight of the sun about to rise over the ranges though convinced me to head up to the beach. It was a little windy and the tables would have been a bit uncomfortable, so I found a sheltered spot down on the sand and sat and typed and watched the waves and the sunlight and the whales. Tony and Millie came and sat at the tables and watched the ocean for a while too, and I joined them. A pod of dolphins swam past again, very exciting to see.

It was a bright, sunny morning and the water was a light blue and almost completely clear, we could see all the rocks and where the coral was, and there was no swell at all. It looked so inviting and it felt rather sad that it was time to leave. Millie couldn’t understand why we couldn’t just stay another day – bookings here need to be made online and the whole National Park was booked out for days in advance, so there was no chance of us being able to extend our stay even by a day.

We wandered back to the tent and had our breakfast, and started packing up a little. I had charged the other homeschooling family’s camera in our car overnight, as they didn’t have a USB charger they could use, and the mum came to collect it so we had a bit more of a chat. Once she left it was 8.30 and we still had most of the packing to do. The single guy next to us (who had a magnificent long grey beard) looked at all our stuff and wondered how we could possibly get it all into our car and trailer.

The kids went to play on the beach and found a hut made from driftwood, up above the beach to the south of our main beach. They played happily there for the rest of our pack up time, which went really smoothly and we were done by just after 10, one of our quickest pack ups ever, especially since we’d taken a lot of stuff out of the car. I went up to tell the kids it was time to go and they showed me the hut, there were stones for tables and chairs, and a log to use as a couch. Millie was decorating it with shells. It was a fantastic place to play, and very very difficult to leave.

The National Park in general was hard to leave – the beaches were so beautiful and the setting just amazing with the low ranges to west. Our campsite at North Kurrajong was Tony’s favourite campsite yet, being large and flat and with a great view across the bushes to the sand dunes. The toilets here were the best drop toilets we’ve used – clean and fresh and in quiet nice buildings – better even than some of the flush toilets at places we’ve stayed.

We tore ourselves away and drove out of the park and up to the Turtle Centre near the point of the cape. This had a display explaining the life cycle of a turtle and outlining all the dangers turtles face. It was quite interesting and well laid out. While we were there the family we’d met on our first night at Karajini arrived – the 4yo girl who Millie had played with her toys with. We chatted about what we’d done since then – they’d driven up the Rio Tinto road alongside the railway from Tom Price to Karratha – I only found out about it when they told me they were doing it, and we didn’t really have time for that detour, but I’d love to do it one day. They said it was great, driving alongside the trains!

We wandered down to the beach, very different here close to the point of the cape, much rougher even though it was still inside the reef. The rocks looked more worn and it didn’t look like a good place to snorkel. We think though that this is where the turtles tend to nest. The kids found some fishing line stuck in some molluscs on the rock, so they pulled the line free and we put it in the bin.

We drove around to Exmouth – the VLF aerials didn’t look quite so freaky on a clear sunny day. Tony dropped the kids and I off at the water play park in town, and he went off to get new tyres for the car. We were all excited that the weather was good enough for the water play (it had been too cold and wet to consider it earlier in the week when we were in Exmouth) – there was a sign on the gate saying that it was closed for maintenance. We were surprised, because all the water was running – then a council employee told us that there had been a problem with the pump, it was fixed but now the chlorine levels were too high, they’d be testing it throughout the afternoon and it might be open again in a few hours. We weren’t planning on sticking around that long so everyone was very disappointed.

We thought we might go for a swim at the public pool instead – we got there and it was closed for winter. We walked over to the shops, and found a newsagent/souvenir shop and browsed in there, finding a few more gifts for people and a pack of Ningaloo Reef playing cards that I had planned to buy at the Visitors Centre in the Park, and forgotten to go back and get. Millie bought herself some Shopkins, the first she’s had, so she was quite excited. We also found a book called ‘A snorkelers guide to common fish of the Ningaloo Reef’, which was the kind of book we had been looking for at Cape Range – it was $35 though, so we didn’t buy it on top of the book we already had.

We went to the bakery and bought some day old cheese and bacon rolls for lunch, and day old finger buns for an afternoon snack. Then to the IGA and got a packet of Magnums to share, as compensation for not being able to play in the water park. We went and ate them in the park, and chatted to a couple from Perth who had a French Bulldog with them. The guy worked in the mining industry, running a company that services the villages, so it was great to find out more about how the employment situation works out there and the challenges the industry is facing now as the boom is ending. When Tony came back we went over to the IGA to stock up on supplies, and ran into the family from Karajini again. Tony filled the car up with petrol and topped up our gas tank (we’d run out during breakfast this morning), and then we were ready to go.

Our Kings Canyon friends were staying the night in Coral Bay, and we were leaving Exmouth with plenty of time to get there (it’s only 150km). I rang the caravan park they were staying at, but they were full, so I rang the other one – they said that there’d be room in overflow, they never turn anyone away. So we drove down to Coral Bay – the terrain was pretty uninteresting for the most part, red dirt and low plants, fairly sparsely scattered. There were hills in the distance to the west, not much to the east. We had to slow a few times for sheep who were wandering around on the side of the road.

We reached Coral Bay around 4.30 and checked in – we were in overflow, which was a grassed area across the road from the caravan park. We were only allowed to stay one night there, and check out was 8am!!!! The only alternative was to go back out to the highway and drive further south to find a free camp, so we took the early checkout. We were allocated a tiny site next to the corner, and our tent was going to block the corner site’s car in. Next to us a group of young people had 2 sites for their 2 cars and a boat, they said they didn’t need all that room so for us to set up first and they’d just use the space that was left, so that worked much better. We put the tent up and the kids went to explore the caravan park. I found our friends and took Millie’s friend to find the others – they were all playing on the jumping pillow so she joined them there, and her mum came over after she’d got some groceries. We sat and chatted and Tony set up the beds then chilled out at the tent for a while. We discovered that Millie’s friend had bought the exact same packet of Shopkins when she was in the Exmouth newsagent earlier today as well!!!

We had planned to go to the beach to watch the sunset, and talked and played for so long that we missed it. The half an hour or so after sunset is even better here on the West Coast, so we all headed to the beach to see that bit at least. The bay was beautiful, white sand and reddish headlands, clear blue water and a few orange clouds. We walked out towards the point, the kids played in the sand, Caitlin practised her gymnastics, and we all enjoyed the early evening peacefulness and the beautiful view.

It was nearly dark when we walked back towards the caravan park. We’d bought a hot chicken in Exmouth, so went and got that and some breadrolls, cheese and mayonnaise, and our drinks, and rejoined our friends on tables out the front of our park, and they ordered pizza and wedges for their dinner. They shared a bit with us and we sat and chatted and ate and played for another couple of hours, great company as always. Caitlin had bought a selfie stick at the IGA that afternoon and was happily taking photos of herself and the other kids, they played hide-and-seek for a while, and we adults got out our maps and started talking about our respective plans for our last few weeks on the road.

By about 9pm everyone was very tired so we went back to our sites. The girls really wanted to have a hot shower so I took them over to the caravan park and had one as well. The water was from the artesian bore and was quite salty, not quite as refreshing as we’d hoped (and no good for our hair which is all knotted and feeling caked over from swimming in salt water for so many days without a freshwater rinse). It was good to get sand and dirt off though – and we didn’t have to scrub our feet for the first time in ages. We’ve all had incredibly dirty feet for the past few months, the red dirt gets in to every crack and crease and it doesn’t come out with a very hard scrub – the salt water cleaned everything up nicely though and now our feet are smooth and white and clean, they don’t even look like the same feet.

Back to the tent for a very quick reading of Inheritance before going to sleep and hoping we’ll wake up early enough for our 8am check out tomorrow.

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