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….