|Western Australia 3
We're happy that we do not need to fuel up at Hamelin Pool.
Standing on a 10m layer of shells. Rocks are being cut in this quarry even nowadays, but only to restore buildings that have been built from this special building material in the first place.
A short stroll down to the beach leads us to the most significant habitat of Stromatolites, the oldest inhabitants of this planet. Two billion years ago, the sea has still been rich in ammoniac. The cyano bacteria dissolved the nitrogen in the water and bonded Oxygen, source of our life. Good job, mates! Like it often happens in modern industry, they worked so hard that finally their job was obsolete, so they vanished everywhere on earth expect here.
Next stop is Monkey Mia, home of worlds most often photographed dolphins. Lonely Planet is declaring this as a sort of a circus presentation. Hence we almost decided to skip our visit here. We did it anyway and have been lucky. Although the Rangers are telling us we are probably already too late, thirteen dolphins are coming to the beach and the crowds of tourists have already moved on for today. Flippers eyes are pointing slightly downwards, therefore he his to move his head to one side, to be able to look upwards.
This gesture is unambiguous - feed me! The fact that the Rangers are feeding the dolphins gives us a bit of an uneasy feeling. At least the feeding is strictly limited to certain animals and to only a fraction of their food.
Huge turtles can be seen at the jetty.
The dugongs are the other big attraction of Monkey Mia. A grownup dugong devours around 70kgs of seaweed on a daily basis. That's almost 20% of it's own weight. They look very well fed indeed.
Bloody hell, this looks like a dreadful monster from the primeval world. In fact, the Moloch Horridus is scary, but only when watched through a magnifying glass. This cute little bloke, known as Thorny Devil is only about 15cm long moving very slowly and carefully and feeding almost exclusively ants.
We've been watching out for one of them for a long time already. In the midday heat we took a lunch break in the shade of some gum trees, when suddenly Werner appeared and showed us, what was hidden in his hat. Daringly he saved it from being run down oncoming traffic.
The Ningaloo Reef, between Coral Bay bis Exmouth is one of absolute highlights of the many beauties of nature in WA.
More than 200 different species of corals can be found here and just a few meters from the beach you're surrounded by tropical fish. Even the truely hydrophobic author is resorting to goggles and snorkel and absolutely fascinated. Meanwhile the female head of the expedition is attempting the big adventure: Swimming with the Whale Shark! For many adventurous tourists the one and only reason to visit this region.
To swim with these gentle giants is a truely unique experience. They are here between March and June and it's the only place they visit on this regular basis.
With a maximum length of 18m the Whale shark is the biggest fish on earth. This one is about six meters long.
From Coral Bay, we are heading to Exmouth and the Cape Range National Park. Unfortunately we have to skip the route along the coast. The rain of the last two weeks washed the sand bank at the river mouth of the Yardie River into the sea. The Ranger in Coral Bay says it might take years until it will be passable again. Two weeks later, other travellers tell us that the first adventurous four wheel drivers have already managed to get across the river again. Typical Aussie!
The rain robs us of a few 4WD adventures, but it's compensating for this by conjuring beautiful flowers from soil that's usually bone dry at this time of the year.
Camp at Pilgramuna Beach. It's Calum's birthday. He's from Scotland and travelling alone in his Subaru. The friendly (temporary) camp host couple is contributing a delicious, Italian cuisine inspired cake. Shane and Ariane from Perth are cooking pasta, We're all sitting together admiring the beautiful sunset.
In the Cape Range National Park a friendly local (OK, he's from Wollongong, but that's only 3000 odd kilometers from here) show's us a cave with aboriginal paintings. Not to be found in any of the guidebooks or local tourist leaflets, but far more impressive than many of the ones we've seen before.
View from Mt. Nameless on Tom Price. The town has been built from Hamersley Iron. The Pilbara is the heart of the Australian mining industriy. Hamersley Iron is part of the Rio Tinto Group that is running six mines in the Pilbara. From the mines the iron ore is transported to the Ports of Karratha and Port Hedland on private railway lines with trains 2kms long. It's only due to the mining business, that the Pilbara with 550.000kmē roughly the size of France, has almost 40,000 inhabitants. What a crowded place! We love it wholeheartedly.
On the road to Mt. Nameless.
Our reason to visit the area are not the mines, but the incredible gorges of Karijini National Park, we are striving to explore the following days. First we are visiting Dales Gorge.
Bush-Tucker in Dales Gorge. Willy Wagtail is the name of this little show-off.
Like so often, beauty and danger are very close to each other in Australia. In this case in an usual form though. Asbestos Ranges is the name of the region around Wittenoom*, a small town the Australian government would very much like to remove from the map. The most toxic blue asbestos has been mined here. Visitors are asked not to visit Wittenoom and the neighbouring gorges. I'm talking with a friendly local bloke, and he says "we lost many men", as if he was talking about a war. And it was a war obviously, against an invisible enemy. But still the locals in Wittenoom hold on to their land. They claim that it's far more dangerous to visit the coastal towns, where the Asbestos has been transferred from the railway wagons to the ships. Anyway, because we are travelling with a small kid, we do not visit Wittenom but even in the southern gorges there are sporadic veins of asbestos.
* We've been advised in writing, that the Department of Local Government and Regional Development of WA now strongly discourages tourists and backpackers to visit Wittenoom and the region, because of potential health risks. Information to potential vistors can be found under www.wa.gov.au/wittenoom.
The iron visitors centre of the Karijini-Parks adapts well to the scenery.
From the Oxer-Lookout you can see into three different Gorges.
Hancock Gorge is quite narrow. From Spider walk onwards, you will get wet feet.
Hamersley Gorge is definitely worth visiting. The rocks here have the widest variety of colours. And the force of nature shows itself most clearly.
Even the small lizards are rusty here.
A few hundred kilometres further north. Millstream Chichester National is a paradise for birds well worth the detour. For a change we are unlucky here. Because of yesterdays "heavy" rain (around 30mil, so close to nothing in our terms) many of the roads are closed. In the park both campgrounds are closed because of the danger of falling branches. So we are only able to drive the loop road the next day. These measures are absolutely necessary in these regions, because the damage caused by vehicles driving on these roads and tracks even after minimal precipitation is tremendous. A thoughtless tourist maybe drives there only once in a lifetime, but the farmers depend on those roads every day.
On the way to Port Hedland
The "Staircase to the moon" as seen in Port Hedland. Between April and October, this phenomenon can be seen between here and Broome at various locations. Honestly, we think that Port Headland is most beautiful during the night.
The Japanese cemetery in Broome is a relic of the pearl divers. This has once been the main industry in town. Many died from the bends others have been killed by sharks.
How cute they are at the age of two weeks. We are happy because we meet Malcolm Douglas in person and he's even inviting our daughter to feed skippy.
Never trust this smile. Be afraid, be very afraid!