Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Half-lap Day 90: Edagee -> Shark Bay

I woke up around 5am and decided to get up and start catching up on my blog – with so many early starts lately I’ve got a bit behind. It was cold, though I was still comfortable enough sitting outside, until it started raining. I covered up or put away anything that we didn’t want wet, then I sat in the car to finish my cuppa and do some typing.

The rain was only light, and hung around for a couple of hours. It stopped and started for a while, but wasn’t too much of a pain. We stood up to eat our breakfast so that the chairs didn’t get wet (they were folded up under the table). We enjoyed having a slower, quiet morning, without anywere to be in a hurry. The kids played in the tent for a while, and Tony and eventually started packing up. Once the sun came out it was a beautiful morning. We did things in a funny order because we wanted to give the tent (and the washing I’d hung up the night before) as long as possible to dry, so it took us a couple of hours to pack up, we were done by around 10.30. Having the trailer already hitched saved us a bit of time and mucking around too. I rang ahead to caravan parks in Denham so that we didn’t have to stress about getting there early – there wasn’t much choice left, most were full or almost full. I took at powered site at Blue Dolphin Caravan Park, the last one available for the 3 nights we wanted, and it cost more than we have paid anywhere else so far. I did ring the resort at Monkey Mia – it was significantly more expensive still, and we would have had to move after our first night to an even more expensive (although beachside) site.

We made some sandwiches before we left so that we didn’t need to stop for lunch, then headed towards Shark Bay and Denham. Millie has been wanting to get to Shark Bay since we first started talking about the trip, it was all she really wanted to see, so she was very excited. The land as we drove was still very red and sandy, with sparsely placed black trees and low scrub. This is one of the few places in the world where the desert comes right up to the ocean. We saw more wild goats, and a couple of cows.

We stopped for petrol at the Overlander Roadhouse, then turned off the highway, through a big stone entry way into the Shark Bay World Heritage Area. It was 100km from here in to Denham, during which time we had glimpses and sometimes long looks at the water of Shark Bay – Millie was thrilled and we were all impressed with the view. The water was flat and almost exactly the same colour as the sky, it created a really hazy, glassy effect that I haven’t really seen anywhere else. This country is obviously still extremely dry. The hills are covered in plants, low lying bushes, and occasionally in between hills there’s a round area which has obviously been filled with water at some stage and now is dry and filled with red and purplish plants that look like the plants on the surrounding hills, just a different colour and more sparse. The road was long and straight, up and down over hills, it felt like we were driving somewhere very very remote. Tony and I saw a Thorny Devil on the road – we’d seen one yesterday as well, exciting as I’d really wanted to see them, and had thought we were past the point where it would be possible (I’d expected them in the Northern Territory, with no luck, and hadn’t realised that this area was desert as well).

We reached Denham and found our caravan park. For a minute the girl couldn’t find our booking, then tracked it down. We were in a fairly small site, right in a corner, with someone else’s car parked quite close. Tony very skillfully backed the trailer in, then the lady next door came out and said she could have moved her car. The kids saw a dog with her and went to pat it, she asked if they wanted to pat the bearded dragon (called Charlie) so they happily played with the dragon and dog while Tony and I figured out how we could fit the tent on the site. We attempted to turn the trailer around to put it in the best spot, but the ground was too soft and sandy and we couldn’t get it far enough into the site. We eventually set it up sideways into the site, which means that we won’t get as much shade as we’d like, but we can put the annex up and we will fit.

We got the trailer into position, then the kids and I left to go and check out the Aquarium. Tony stayed at the site to watch the Collingwood game on his phone. Ocean Park Aquarium was about 10km out of town – we got there just before 3 and it closed at 5, so I hadn’t wanted to delay any longer. It was well set up – there were lots of tanks, some with open tops and some enclosed glass cases, and a marine biologist took visitors around from tank to tank, explaining about each of the creatures in there. The tour went for an hour, and as each group of people arrive, they just join the tour wherever it is up to, and then stay with it until its done the full circuit, then they can leave.

green turtle
Blue spotted ray
We arrived about halfway through the sea snake talk. We saw several turtles, moray eels, a frog fish, a squid, clownfish, boxfish, lion fish, stone fish (they are one of the few creatures that really scare me), blue spotted rays,  leopard rays, shovel-nosed rays, and lots of fish. We discovered that the silver fish we’d seen in schools at Cape Range would have been tailor. We were the only people left on the tour when it got to the shark feeding, so the kids got to ask lots and lots of questions and talk about some of the marine creatures we’ve seen on our travels so far. The guide was really interested in all the things we’d seen and asked lots of questions herself. The sharks weren’t hungry and didn’t come up to eat anything, but we saw a couple of lemon sharks and a couple of sandbar sharks, incredible animals and I really love watching them swim, so graceful.  We finished up back at the sea snakes and listened to the whole talk there (also incredibly graceful animals) and then we had a quick look at a few of our favourite fish again (the rays for me, and the lion fish, also the stone fish because they are so fascinating). Out to the gift shop, where Caitlin bought a turtle necklace, and LiAM a dolphin puppet. Millie wanted a huge soft crocodile (it was very cool) though I convinced her to save her money until tomorrow when we’d be at Monkey Mia with the dolphins.
sea snakes
Sandbar shark

Out in the carpark we were looking at the view of the beach when the marine biologist came out – she chatted to us for another 15 minutes or so, telling us lots about the local area and more about the marine life, and talking more about our trip. We left her there and drove back to town, seeing an emu foraging along the side of the road.

Back at camp Tony had almost finished setting up the tent by himself, so I helped him with the last little bit. Collingwood had won and he was very happy (although keeping quite about it since they’d beaten West Coast). I hung the (still wet) washing out, and the kids wandered around the park and chatted to dog owners. We decided to walk down the main street of town and get some (local caught) fish and chips for tea – there wasn’t much open at 6pm on a Saturday night in Denham, but we did find a fish and chip shop. It was a bit pricey but within our means. We ordered then went across the road to play in the playground and walk along the beach a little. It was windy and bit cool. We sat and ate our dinner on the foreshore, enjoying the fading light on the water and the sea air. The kids played in the playground a bit more and I tried to find an ATM (no luck – although enjoyed walking further along the main street and seeing some of the old buildings).

Back to our tent and everyone was on edge – very tired and also a bit anxious, we’d been waiting a long time to get to Monkey Mia and I think everyone (especially me and probably Millie) was worried about how it would go. If no dolphins came or we couldn’t see properly or the weather was terrible – Millie would be devastated. We were all hoping that the experience would live up to what she’d imagined it would be like.

I was so tired I went to bed as quickly as I could, and we didn’t read for the first night in a long time. We had an early start in the morning and everyone was OK with just going straight to sleep and trying to be rested for tomorrow. 

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