I was woken once by people being loud in the carpark near the overflow area, then again by someone’s alarm going off in a nearby tent. I thought perhaps someone had set their alarm to get up early to pack up, so was going to get up myself – I looked at the time and it was only 3.45. I spent a while trying to get back to sleep and eventually drifted off and woke up again around 6.30. Tony and I got up, I got a cup of tea and we agreed to wake the kids around 7. Tony took the dishes over to the camp kitchen to wash them, and I woke the kids. All we had to pack up were the chairs and all the bedding, and we did it easily in about 45 minutes once the kids were out of bed. We folded the tent up and put the solar panels, table, annex roofs and walls, rubber mat and the bikes on top of the trailer, then had it hitched up by 8am. A very quick and impressive pack up, and great to know that we really can do it when we need to.
We drove across to the information centre which had parking out the front, and had some breakfast out of the back of the car. Caitlin and I wandered over and chatted to the guy at the info centre, finding out about the best places to snorkel, and looking at the fish charts they had there – he said they were hard to find and he didn’t have any to sell. I might try and get one online when we get home, to put up on our wall.
Millie wanted Nutri Grain for breakfast, and all our Nutri Grain was packed in the back of the trailer. After she had something else to take the edge off her hunger, she and I walked up to the supermarket to see if we could buy some more. It was $8 for a small box, so I suggested we look and see if there was anything else she’d like. She decided on a packet of mentos in pink lemonade flavour, which were not exorbitantly priced, so we were both happy. We also bought some cheap (but good quality) milk and some salami on special. Caitlin walked over to our friend’s van to pick up our computer and camera battery, which they’d charged for us overnight, and they said they’d meet us on the beach once they were packed up.
We moved down to the carpark at the end of the road, right next to the beach. The girls ran up the hill to a little whale watching lookout, and we all walked down to the beach and put our stuff under a little shelter that was on the edge of the sand (there were a few corrugated iron shelters dotted along the beach, a very good idea). The beach looked incredible. The tide was going out, and the first 20m or so of water was very shallow, only ankle deep, and absolutely clear, we could see the sand in detail through the water. It was glistening and shining and looked so inviting. As the water got deeper (there was a sudden point where the sand sloped off) it was bluer, and then a very dark blue quite quickly because of all the coral underneath. We walked around for a while in the shallow water and had a look around the red rocks at the end of the point. It was beautiful around the other side of the rocks as well.
The guy had suggested we walk around the rocks and enter the water further down, then drift back to the main bay – but there was a bit of a wind blowing from the north and it really looked as if the current was going the opposite way to what he’d suggested. Tony went in for a snorkel in the bay, and said he saw some cool coral and fish. By the time he came out our friends had joined us. Neither of the kids wanted to snorkel, and Millie didn’t either, so we left the 2 girls in the charge of the big brother, and the rest of us went into the water.
The coral started only a few metres from where the sand sloped down into deeper water. At first there were patches of sand between the coral, then they thinned out and soon the entire bay floor was covered in coral, and we were snorkeling a metre or 2 above it. There was more of the fairy light coral here, as well as lots of types that we hadn’t seen before, lots that looked like big heads of lettuce, some fuzzy coral, lot of different colours. It was even more of a different world that what we’d seen up at Cape Range. There were fish too, parrot fish and angel fish and blue damsels, coral trout, lots of little fish in the anemones, and LiAM and I saw a Painted Flutemouth, a very long thin yellow fish.
We headed back to shore, looking up every now and then to make sure we were swimming in the right direction. Caitlin managed fine in the deep water, it didn’t scare her at all. LiAM held my hand for some of the swim back, we’d gone out a long way, although it wasn’t a difficult swim, it was further than he’d swum in one go before. More beautiful coral and fish on the way back in, we were all so so glad we’d made the effort to go in for a snorkel, it made the trip in off the highway, the expensive overflow camping, the saltwater showers, the early start all worthwhile.
The kids played in the sand together, Caitlin was buried by her friend and the little girls built sandcastles and played games about lost sisters and so on. I asked Millie if she wanted to go in to see the amazing coral, and she was happy to have a go. Her friend was going to come too but decided not to once she got to the water. Millie came in with me and we swam around not far from the sloping sand, there was still so much to see within a few metres. Some black and white striped fish (possibly sergeant fish) swam up to Millie’s face mask and nearly touched it, that was pretty exciting. We had surfaced and were readjusting our masks when Millie saw a pelican swim between us and the shallow water – it was so close to us and quite exciting to essentially be swimming with it. It swam right along the shoreline and lots of people came running down from the beach to see it up close, including all the rest of the kids with us, but we had the best view.
We got out and the kids played a bit more, we said goodbye to our friends – they are going inland for a few days while we are heading along the coast, so we probably won’t see them again until after we’re both back home. It’s been really great getting to know them and spending so much time with them. They left and we had a bit of a snack then got ourselves organised and changed and headed off ourselves.
We drove down towards Carnarvon, through more desert type terrain. We saw wild goats, something we haven’t seen from the road so far on this trip. Approaching Carnarvon we saw lots of banana plantations – none of them were open though so we couldn’t pop in and get some bananas. We drove into town and filled up with petrol, then drove through the town to have a look. I’d hoped to find a department store here to replace Millie’s carseat and get a few other things – apparently the Target closed permanently in July and now there is no department store. The town looked interesting, lots of very old buildings and interestingly laid out.
We drove out to see the mile long jetty. There was a little railway museum there, which was free. Trains used to bring people from town out to the jetty – to work and for pleasure I guess. It was a very busy port in the 1800s and early 1900s. We walked up to the top of the old water tower which gave great views of the jetty and surrounding area. The land here is very low and there would be lots more water around at very high tides and after a lot of rain. Apparently they’ve had a lot of trouble keeping the river out of the town when it floods. We looked around at the trains in the museum and at some of the boating history of the area, all very interesting.
We drove back to the township and the kids and I played at a cool playground along the harbour shore, while Tony went to the supermarket. The foreshore has been done up quite nicely, and the old train line out to the jetty is a footbridge across the harbour and then a walking track out to the jetty.
We left Carnarvon around 4.30, heading for a free camp further south. There were a couple near the coast that had been recommended to us – one required a chemical toilet, and they both said to check tide charts because they were low lying, they were also at the end of dirt roads. Given that we weren’t going to get in until around 5.30, close to sunset, we decided to play it safe and stop at a 24 hour stop a bit further along, just next to the highway. We arrived with plenty of light to find a spot and set up. We’d been vaguely worried that it would be full, but there were several sites still available (and 4 or 5 people arrived after us and found a spot.) There was large, flat dirt area with enough room for car and trailer. We decided to try leaving the trailer hitched seeing as it was just a quick stop. This meant we had to sleep the other way around on our bed, as the trailer was sloping down a bit, which felt weird but was not a problem.
We set up the tent (only takes us about 20 minutes now to get everything off and the tent up) and explored the area. We saw the couple that we’d talked to in Exmouth the day before, and had a bit of a chat to them. The sunset was quite pretty over the low scrub. Tony cooked rissoles and eggs for dinner and we had hamburgers. Everyone was pretty tired so we headed to bed as quickly as we could and read Inheritance for a while. We were camped quite close to the road and the trucks were pretty loud as they passed by – everyone was tired enough that they fell asleep despite the noise.