One last lap, continued

Following Exmouth, we made our way up to Broome, a good two day drive. 

Broome is one of the many areas bombed by the Japanese in WW2. Everyone has heard of the Darwin bombing, and most Western Australians are aware of the bombings in Port Hedland and Broome but it is a little known fact, that submarine captains and their vessels made it all the way down to the Albany area on the south coast. One of those, wanting to be able to say he bombed Australia, launched a weapon into farmland along the coast, a little north of Geraldton. 

I’m always surprised what we don’t know.

Anyway, WW2 and the manufacture of plastic shut down Broomes pearling industry which was booming for many years. Malays, Chinese, Japanese and the English made their way to this far north spot, diving for pearls and trading them for enormous value. 

The Asians had a better diving capacity than the Caucasians, and free dived in the pre-scuba days, along with Aboriginal women, enslaved by pearl Luger captains. There’s a moving monument to these women in Broome, a young Aboriginal lady, in early pregnancy, reaching up with desperate stretch and need for approval of her hopefully, valuable find. 

  
We had a Chinese tour guide, whose father was a pearl assessor and dealer, and he showed us the tools used to weigh and also craft the pearls. The shells were originally plucked from the ocean for the mother-of-pearl, because of the high demand for pearl buttons. And it was a natural course of events that the pearl was found, appearing in approximately on in 10,000 pearls.

We loved Broome. The fat boab trees soak up water in the wet season until they sometimes split their bark. They seemed to sum up the history of the pearl industry. 

  
More boom and bust.

We rode camels on Cable Beach, saw dinosaur footprints at Gantheaume Point at low tide, toured a pearl farm and saw a freshwater croc lounging on the sand, and watched the Staircase to the Moon.

   
 
  
This is a phenomenon that happens once or twice a month, when the moon is full and the tide over the mudflats low. 

  
Onward, onward, we head through the Kimberleys through Katherine and then south to Alice Springs.

One final lap, continued

After Karijini, we took a long LONG drive over to Exmouth. It’s a bit of a trick to get to Exmouth from inland. You have to drive south for a good hour or so on the North West Coastal Highway, before then heading west and eventually north again to drive up the long peninsula that is Exmouths home. And then another 70ks to our campsite at Cape Range National Park. 

Exmouth was the site of a US Naval Base for many years although they have recently left. Nice that they feel no longer needed here, but a shame for the scuba divers, because their Navy Pier, over the years, had become an artificial reef, supporting an incredible range of colorful fish. It has been described in several magazines as one of the top ten scuba sites on the planet. It’s closed now, but there are plenty more places to see the sea life. Exmouth lies at the end of the amazing Ningaloo Reef.

You are in the tropics here, and the weather certainly feels like it. Cooler at night but not as frigid as the south. 

Our campsite at Tulki Beach was literally a short sand dunes walk from the sea. The most amazing sunsets, abundant wildlife in the form of kangaroos (we hit one on the way there) emus, dingos and lizards, make for a beautiful site. It was common to see several kangaroos while exiting your tent of a morning.

 
   
A campsite lizard

 
The incredible Ningaloo coast

   
Our tent is the blue one. We had some very friendly neighbors who stopped to talk every evening on their way to “happy hour” at the picnic bench!

  
An amazing sunset on our third evening. But it was like this every night.

Will liked to play in the channels of the creek that occasionally has enough water to run into the sea. I went to find him one day, and found a blue spotted sting ray, as I was kicking around a rock in the shallows of the sea. He was mooching around for food, and flipped his rubbery flat body out of the water when he heard me, taking off at a remarkable speed.

Of course, the most beautiful part of this area is underneath the sea. At Turquoise Bay we snorkeled in an open treasure box of fish, jewels of the ocean. 

  
This has been the best view of His Creation for us this year. It all shows such immense power and yet such intricate and minute design. It’s so mesmerizing that I find myself hanging deep underneath, holding onto a rock to stay down, waiting until the  very last possible moment to kick back up into the sunlight and oxygen, gasping and grateful for what He’s made.

On our trip to Exmouth we also swam with whale sharks, a docile creature the size of a bus that has the title of the largest shark in the world. Brightly spotted over grey, smooth skin, these are incredible creatures, baleen and feeding off of plankton. 

The creatures are so placid, the tour divers could easily assess their path of travel, guiding the snorkelers alongside as it passed. And then you are off, kicking like crazy to try and keep up with this mammoth creature, who seems to be barely exerting any effort at all in its perfect design. After a heart-pounding view minutes, the tour divers call a halt, and we climb back on the boat, puffing and exclaiming noisily about the sight. 

And then another is spotted, and back in we drop, flippers first, off the wooden step, kicking like the tiny little ineffectual human fish that we are.
We have good photos on a flash drive which we will add when we have access again to a laptop.

Here’s Addie on the Three Islands Whale Shark boat. 

  
It was our last stop before getting away from somewhat familiar coastline and heading north into the tropical top-end.

One final lap around WA…

This last month we have had the camping trip of our lifetime. As I write this, I’m sitting at Alice Springs airport waiting to check in for our flight to Cairns and then on to Bali for a couple of days.

We’ve been on the road for 4 weeks. We’ve traveled a total of some 8000 km (LA to NY and back), and have been grateful for every kilometer He’s shown us.

We started in Kalgoorlie in the Southern Goldfields, where we learned about the gold rush days of Australia. Gold is still being mined today, although a lot of the small towns disappeared in the boom and bust nature of gold. 

Kalgoorlie is home to the Super Pit, the largest open cut gold mine in Australia. We watched minuscule, although enormous, CAT vehicles ascending and descending the mine, bringing up the tons of ore out of which they eventually extract a tiny bit of gold.

   
    
   
It was pretty chilly in Kalgoorlie, as it was the couple of nights we camped at dams as we furthered north in the goldfields. Will and I were designated wood collectors for these camp nights, and we really enjoyed the fires.

  
  
We also visited the town of Gwalia, the site of another extraordinarily large gold mine, and the location of Herbert Hoover’s stint as a mine inspector. He even built a home there, which you can stay in as a guest, the home now converted to a very nice B and B, overlooking the big pit.

   
It has one of those lovely Aussie wrap-around porches.

 
From the north Goldfields we drove to Meekatharra, on bright red unsealed road, stayed overnight at a well-run church mission school, which ministered to local Aboriginal children. They had a campground, showers and laundry, the latter of which seem like small luxuries but have been huge blessings these last few weeks.

Another full day on the road and we reached Karijini National Park later that evening, squeezing in a camp set up before sunset. A dingo wandered through our site and scared us half to death, until he became a regular feature.

  
Karijini is stunning, and if you ever go to Australia, see it. It is a hikers and photographers paradise.

We spent three days climbing gorges, up and down, swimming in waterfalls, and watching as the sun rose and set over the daily changing colors of this land.

We hiked a section of gorge called the Spider Walk, which was exactly as it sounds, plus there was a waterfall thrown in for good measure. It’s amazing what a family can do when they work and play together.

We will always be grateful for this time.

   
    
    
    
   
We got a little wet, a little more tired, but we mostly had a greater wonder and awe in the Creation of our God.

More later, when I can get some fresh wifi! 

Red dirt and Fascinators….

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As I think we mentioned before, any Turf Club in Western Australia must have a physician on site before running a horse race.

We don’t particularly have a problem with this rule….

Scott has worked several of the Geraldton races, and a couple of weeks ago he also had the opportunity to attend the race at Mt. Magnet, a small gold-mining community almost 4 hours east of here.

Mount Magnet is one of the mid-west region’s original gold mining towns, and the longest surviving gold mining settlement in Western Australia. The prominent hill that is adjacent to the current townsite was called West Mount Magnet in 1854 by explorer Robert Austin, having named a smaller hill 64km away, East Mount Magnet (now called Carron Hill). Both hills had an extremely high iron content which affected the readings of his compass. Iron ore has also been an extremely lucrative natural resource in Western Australia.

Gold is still mined here, in open-pit mines. If you google Mt Magnet, you can see a few mines encircling the town.

The last census, in 2011, counted 532 people. Many miners also fly in and out of the town, and in the meantime, live in worker accommodation, which look a little like aluminium cabins, gathered in groups at the end of town. There are miners living in town, of course. Out-of-towners and home boys.

They’ve been running this horse race for 118 years, twice a year, in spring and fall.  It’s a very big deal. That’s understandable in a town this little and so incredibly far from the next town of any size (Geraldton).

We arrived early, and there was quite a bit of excitement in the air. The volunteer ambulance brigade was setting up a concession stand, and the pub, set up in a large wooden open-sided shed, was already busy.

The bar sign read:

Beer: 2 tickets

Champers: 4 tickets.

I’ve still no idea how you actually paid by ticket, or what a ticket was worth in cold hard cash, but for champagne, why, 4 tickets seems like quite the deal…

We talked to the grizzly bearded race steward, who we later discovered was running the whole day, including the foot races and tug-of-war that took place after the horse races.DSC_1108

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It was an iconic sight, all the Australian men in their hats, quite a few of the women in heels and best dress, some of the young guys in suits.

It’ll be hard to forget the crisp-white-shirt-day for some of these towns-people, contrasting with the deep rich red of interior Australia.

 

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DSC_0013There was plenty of 4-ticket Champers flowing, and so the tug-of-war, which ended up being somewhat of a Viking-style battle between the “out-of-towners” and the home-boys, was quite a sight.

The tug-of-war between the women in their fancy dresses, was even more of a sight, as I’m sure the kids will tell you sometime…

We didn’t take pictures of that part….

A shuttle bus came and escorted all individuals in need of shuttling back to their homes, and the day ended safely in Mt. Magnet. We ate excellent hamburgers at the gas station, and stayed overnight at a local hotel.

We loved it. The whole dust-coated thing.

Thank you, Mt. Magnet.

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Just a side note, but in this part of the country there are some mammoth-sized eagles. We saw several feasting on kangaroo road-kill on the way out and back.

Here’s one Addie caught on film.

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The crow in the background is apparently photo-bombing.

 

School Holidays

The Australian school year is based on what is known in America as “year round school”. Four terms with 2 week breaks in between, and a six week summer vacation. 

It works well, from what we’ve witnessed. 

We are currently half-way through a term break. The kids are staying on for some of term 2, since they’ve really enjoyed school. 

Our plans right now are to pull the kids from school on June 3, when we will drive down to Perth, to meet Scott who will be flying back from a conference in Melbourne. We will begin a long, long, long journey home, which we will elaborate on more later!

Anyway, here’s a few photos from our last week. We went camping with our camper trailer. It’s essentially a tent packed on the top of a trailer, in which we stow all our camping gear – stoves, BBQ, sleeping bags, mattresses, tables and chairs etc. 

   
    
   
Here we are, setting it up. It still takes us a while to put it up and down, but now that we have all posts labeled, it will hopefully go more smoothly. 

We also spent some time at Kalbarri’s coastal lookouts, all of which are beautiful. The following photos were taken at Mushroom Rock. We saw lots of crabs underneath the rocks, in a variety of colors.

   
    
    
   
Will and I went to Rainbow Jungle to look at the tropical birds. Scott and the girls went fishing and we met up with them later to cook hotdogs on the beach. 

   
    
    
   
We are beginning to understand that our time in Geraldton is running very short, and so the last few days we have snorkeled, dived for crayfish and spent time on the beach and building sandcastles. 

Time sure flies….

   
    
    
    
 

Snorkeling at Coral Bay

A few weeks ago, when Uncle Danny was visiting, we took a trip to Coral Bay, about 8 hours north of here. This is where we visited last September, with our friends Louise and Joe and their twin boys, and where we all really snorkeled for the first time.

Coral Bay was originally a small fishing community on the Ningaloo Reef. The bay is now protected from fishing, although there are numerous spots close by to catch the snapper that just flock around while you are swimming. From the surface, it just looks like a pretty little seaside resort. But beneath the water…..

 

I would love to attach some video, but am having trouble and will try again later. Can you see the manta ray under the ledge?

School Part 2

The kids are almost done with their first term at Aussie School and have decided they’d like to remain on in school until we begin a couple of months of traveling starting in June before we return home.

Addie has been attending Geraldton Senior College, which is essentially high school but only includes grades 10-12. It is the only public senior school in the town, although there are several private schools.

www.gsc.wa.edu.au

We’ve been very happy with the school, as has Addie, and she is doing very well. She takes math, English and science (genetics, currently) an Australian history and social studies class (they are studying World War 2 and Australia’s involvement). She also takes geography and is currently studying local erosion and other beach issues. This is quite a big topic in Geraldton, since the construction of the wharf where the large container ships come in,has changed the flow of the sea, which in turn has somewhat changed the shape of some of the beaches and caused indundation of some roads. Not being coastal dwellers, she and I find this interesting. Par for the course for beach folk, though.

She also takes a cooking class and brings home a variety of dishes, and a photography class. Also PE is a required class and she is learning netball which can be best described as basketball for females, without dribbling, and with no backboard.

Challenging.

Frankie is at John Willcock College which is the public middle/junior high, grades 7, 8 and 9. It’s a very large school, split into subschools. Frankie is in Chapman subschool and is in an extension class that generally contains students who will probably be on a university track as opposed to workforce or vocational track.

www.johnwillcock.wa.edu.au

She is playing euphonium in the school band and has also joined a little group of musicians called The Fifth Beat in which she plays drums. She enjoys both of these.

She is also doing very well, and is taking math, science, English, music, art, social studies (history), home economics, Indonesian (the foreign language here!) and PE. She’s really been enjoying basketball in PE. It’s like netball, but with dribbling and a backboard. Lol.

Will is in Geraldton Primary School and is in grade or year 6. There’s an endless number of public primary schools in town, all relatively small. It’s not the one closest to us, but it is one of the oldest schools in Western Australia and was recommended to us. The school has that old colonial feel to it.

http://www.everythinggeraldton.com.au/directory/primary-schools/geraldton-primary-school

He loves it, has made good friends and has joined the ukulele club on Wednesday lunchtimes. Ukelele is huge here, which fits right in with the sub-tropical beach lifestyle.

He also takes Indonesian, which he found a bit challenging because all the kids have already been learning it for a year. But he feels he will at least know how to buy a banana when we go to Bali.

He does soccer on Friday nights, has just finished surfing on Saturdays, and still does Scuba Ranger activities.

He has played some American football with his friends and last week he went to his friend Jaxons birthday party at the beach. Jaxon had asked for a “grid iron ball like Wills “.

Will gave him his! It was a big hit.

Anyway, I have a few photos of Will’s school disco on Friday night. It cracks me up that they still call them discos. They were called that when I was in school here!

When we picked him up they were all dancing to Thriller and I thought for a moment that I was possibly stuck in a weird squiggle of time-space continuum.

The lighting was a bit funky due to strobes so they are a bit blurry, but you can see he was having fun. He’s wearing a white shirt and blue shorts.

 

  

😊

The rest of the pictures are of the first school assembly at the primary school. Parents are all invited and a lot attend. These take place every two or three weeks on Friday morning. They sing the Australian anthem, repeat the school motto and then a certain class is appointed to sing a song that addresses a current topic of citizenship and behavior at school. They also have a gold slip drawing and prizes. Gold slips are given out for good behavior and the prizes are usually canteen vouchers, which pleases all parents!

Merit awards and sports awards are also given out for commendable behavior and skills.

Will got a merit award at the first assembly for adapting well at his new school. They said they would make sure he had such a great time at school, he wouldn’t want to leave. 😀


Will getting his merit award.

He’s facing the principal. The other boy is a sixth grade student council member. These kids are selected in 5th grade and seem to take it very seriously. On this occasion they were busy ushering the tinier tikes into their proper places in line.

 

 
Our last day of school will be June 3rd, which is winter here, so school will still be in session. We will pull the kids out, muster up as many report cards as we can, and head onto the last part of our adventure: the Big Camping Trip.

More on that later…

Blessings to you all.

 

Summer Days

Summer (and winter, spring and fall) are indescribably beautiful down here. 

It’s just nice ALL the time. And when we do get the very occasional rain or cloudy day, it’s such a novelty, that that’s nice too. 

It’s stereotypical resort weather. We’ve had a few scorchers, temperatures well into the 100 teens, and some of those temperatures have lasted for a few days in a row. 

We’ve kind of forgotten what it’s like to feel cold. 85 or 90 is just a comfortable, every day temperature anymore, perhaps even a touch cool.

Ok, we’ll shut up now.

Anyway, we’ve been enjoying a lot of water activities of late. The girls, now certified in scuba, went diving recently at the Abrohlos Islands, offshore from here by about 40km, and had a great day. 

   
    
 
I think they sort of got over their fear of the shark that day, when they saw many plain old regular eating fish,almost their size. There’s a lot of large life in the Indian Ocean. 

And it’s also incredibly beautiful.

  
Scott’s uncle Danny is also visiting currently and has enjoyed the water the last couple of days. Today we went out on the replica longboat. It was a boat like this that took crew from the shipwreck of the Batavia all the way up to Jakarta in Indonesia, for help. They had 40 some people on this little boat. However, as someone said today, they would have happily been pulled behind the longboat with a rope than endure the horror that took place on the islands they left behind. See our earlier blog on the Abrohlos for the details.

But today’s boat trip was relaxing and enjoyable and a couple of Bostons became dab hands at being shipmates.

   
    
    
  
    
      
   

Here’s Danny just sitting back after tying up the mainsail. 

 
And here’s Will, working the rudder.

And some days we just have great days on the beach. Mostly afternoon or weekends now that school is in session. 

   
     

   
 
Addie’s wearing zinc cream on her nose. When I was a kid, you could only get it in white, now it’s available in all colors. It’s just a sun block, and an Australian icon.

The little clam type creatures in the following video can be found just under the sand on some local beaches. If you dig them up, they stick a little foot out and dig right back down again.

Excuse the sibling rivalry: