Accommodation: $610.20 (excludes Thailand) Lattes: $453.50 (includes Singapore)
Please forgive the long post dear reader, we've tried to break it up but slow net speeds and too much fun make it hard...
St Patrick's Day 2016 to Monkey Mia
We were up early to a glorious sunrise after being hammered with wind the whole night. The spring loaded poles inside the tent creek constantly and the canvas slaps and the camper rocks on it's suspension each time there is a gust so neither of us got a great night's sleep. We'd prepared the camper to leave it for the day the night before so there wasn't much more than putting the rubbish in the car and unhooking the Treg hitch before we could leave to see the famous dolphins of Monkey Mia.
It took a while to drive out and we finished airing up at the main road at 7:35. Dolphin feeding can start at 7:45… It was roughly half an hours drive away but they feed up to three times before midday so we were pretty sure we wouldn't miss it totally.
On entering Monkey Mia and parking a fair way back in the carpark, which was full of Wicked campers and huge motor homes - it seems this dolphin feeding thing appeals to all budgets - we walked to the entrance and were told that the "first experience was just finishing up". At the water's edge they were 2 deep across 40m of beach as they announced "and that's the signal to the dolphins that there are no more fish so can everyone please leave the water". Oh well there were two more to go.. They announced that even if the dolphins came back in straight away that they wouldn't start the next experience for at least 10 minutes. Luckily for us they did come straight back in (seems our wild animal whodoo had gone) and we would see them. Tiff from CaLM (Conservation and land Management, the equivalent of NPWS) got us all to stand ankle deep in a line and wandered up and down the group telling us about the dolphins in general and the specific ones in front of us. Interestingly some of these dolphins used tools in the form off a sponge. They pick up a sponge and use that to stir up the bottom looking for flathead (who have no swim bladder and are therefore invisible to their sonar but they can see if a mammal in the water is pregnant, even humans) instead of using their bare rostrum (nose). Quite smart as the shells on the bottom of this bay must really hurt after a while. That makes the otters who use rocks and these Monkey Mia dolphins the only tool users in the ocean. Apparently it's only Surprise's family that does it, Puk's family fish for "normal" fish swimming near the beach while Surprise's family fish further out. There were about half the number of people that attended the first experience but we weren't lucky enough to get chosen to feed the dolphins.
The dolphins came straight back in again for the third and final feeding and after about 15 minutes a new person had us standing in the water. There were even less people at this experience. Julie was hopeful to be chosen to feed the dolphins. While Tiff told us about the dolphins this older lady was also talking TO the dolphins. She still told us about dolphins, the pregnant thing and how the fin cuts and scars which is used to identify each dolphin were made came from her, but her obvious affection for the animals meant that Puk, a female who they feed, was actually touching her. No other dolphin we saw touched a human. When the fish came out Glen was the first to be chosen by the volunteer but he gave the opportunity to Julie so she fed Surprise and was thrilled with the experience.
We scoped out the charter boats that take you to see dugongs and had lattes before getting some postcards and heading off to check out the campsites of the Francois Peron National Park as we intend to stay there a couple of nights.
To get into the campsite we wanted to we would have had to work the Fun Truck hard and bounce the camper over a fair bit of the road, nothing beyond what it is capable of but since we were already at a beautiful spot (that as a bonus was free too) we decided to stay where we were until when we wanted to stay at Monkey Mia. We spent a few more days being the only people in the world with our own private beach and loving every minute… although it was a little windy in the evenings and we ran out of gas cans… If it hadn't been for the sunset cruise we may not have moved at all but heading an hour back to camp after a few relaxing drinks wouldn't have been good.
On packing for Monkey Mia we found the poly block (the trailer hitch) was split. Luckily a mechanic in Denham was able to order one and we continued in to Monkey Mia for what we expected to be one night. BUT thunderstorms were expected in the afternoon so the cruise to see the dugong was cancelled for the day. We were able to stay a second night but we got out on the sunset cruise the first day and the animals cruise the second day - the sunset cruise is free with the animal cruise. The evening cruise was very relaxing. Shotover (the boat) allows you to take all your food and drinks on board so it turns out very economical.
Glen got to feed a dolphin in the morning (Julie was chosen and paid it back) then we saw dugongs from the boat in the afternoon (and turtles and dolphins including a mother and small calf) The second dugong came up a few times and looked at the boat - apparently they usually only show their backs as this is the toughest part and they present their back to sharks if they can't get away. Julies photos don't actually show how good a look we got at these shy herbivores.
Although people were catching massive fish off the beach we didn't really rate the water at Money Mia. In contrast to "our" beach which was crystal clear there is almost no visibility at Monkey Mia. Both beaches were shallow for a long way out and had a lot of shells on the bottom.
Back into Denham to get the trailer fixed and when we mentioned that we couldn't get into Steep Point (the most westerly point of the mainland) the mechanic suggested we go to False Entrance instead. And it was free… We'd been listening to "Mailman of the Birdsville Track" as a talking book and some of Tom Kruise's bush navigation skills must have rubbed off as without the GPS we not only found False Entrance but the exact campsite he described to us even though there were kms of unmarked sand tracks.
We were on a small ridge at the south west end of a long beach. The far end had surf but our end was protected by a reef. There was a deep water fishing spot close by and at low tide we could walk the reef and see the large brightly coloured clams. Cray fish were available in the right tide and a few were thrown up on the beach. We spent two wonderful nights here.
We packed up from our glorious spot at false Entrance and found the blue kayak was a bit loose. Glen tightened it and refused to let Julie occy strap the back as we didn't have one the right length to just bind it to the boat loader. Glen was worried he'd forget to release it and it would overstretch, break and hurt someone (him) when he set up. Needless to say an hour later the blue kayak was no more, having come off the boat loader and dragging along the dirt road for a while until it wore a large hole in it. Prior to this, on the way out of camp, the shovel came off the roof (on purpose, it didn't fall) to get us over a sand dune but we haven't needed the maxtrax or help with recovery while we've been by ourselves and only once in Tassie.
Our plan was to take two days to get to Dryandra to see the bilbys. That night we intended to stop at a free camp in Dongara yet being Good Friday they wanted to charge us $30 to set up in a paddock with no toilet, water or view and we needed to contain grey water as well. The ranger advised us that we could camp at Arrowsmith 65km down the road. We were watching reports of a severe weather warning to the south but the campsite was just out of the severe area, but we'd been coping rain on and off all afternoon. We had to call off the bilbys because of localised flooding and severe storms in Dryandra. By the time we got to Arrowsmith we set up in the dark and when we got inside the rain hit. Luckily it didn't last long and by the morning the canvas had dried. Still only one wet pack up since we started Christmas Day
Yesterday (Friday 1/4/16) we headed to Dryandra Conservation Area for the second/third time to try to see a bilby. Having the Hema GPS back made the trip much quicker than when we headed to Perth from here before and we were soon having our pick of campsites. As I write this is it is about 7am, the sky is light blue as the sun has not quite reached the tops of the trees as it rises and the birds are calling all around. The trees here are predominantly mallet. The have thin brown trunks (the bark was used to tan leather) and although relatively sparse I can only see 100m into this previously logged forest before the trees block my view. I can't see into the forest for the trees :0 The campsites here are about 20m apart around a large loop so from here I can only see my adjoining campsites as trees and distance prevent seeing more. Having said that I'm fairly confident that there is no other campers here.
Anyway back to yesterday… It was a lovely afternoon weather wise and we set up and opened all of the canvas to look out on the bush and catch the breeze. As the sun began to set we drove about 15mins to Barna Mia, which translates roughly to "animals home". There we joined the tour, which started with a slide show about the animals of the park, their status on the endangered list and their past and present range. The only animal to have increased it's range was the feral cat which has a distribution right across the mainland. Cats don't need to drink apparently as they get enough moisture from their kills so they aren't stopped by anything except the ocean. They are also not taking the 1080 baits and teaching their kittens not to take them either. It's also unlikely that they will take the newer Eradicat baits so feral cat predication remains an issue.
After the slide show some of the people are given large red light torches and the tour sets out into the enclosure to view some of the animals at 3 feeding stations. They have two 4ha enclosures. The enclosures are fenced from the rest of the park with 4m high electrified wire fences to keep foxes and cats out. The people sit on logs in a circle and the food (only 10% of the animals requirement) is placed out. Almost instantly the animals appeared, first the bravest, last the bilby and not at all for the barred bandicoot. As you can appreciate under red light photography is difficult but you will see Julie got some excellent shots. We thoroughly enjoyed the night with the animals with the stars above also being stunning so far from light and no moon at all. A boy of about 7 from America had never before seen the bright band of stars that is the Milky Way. No doubt many city dwellers even in Australia have never seen it in it's glory either. Very sad.
We came back to camp about 8:30 for dinner thrilled to have seen the animals up close. It sparked discussion of the whole concept of the enclosures for people and why Tim Faulkner doesn't have a similar thing with his tassie devils and bilbys in NSW. Very few people know of his work with endangered animals and the enclosures he has for reintroduced animals on the Central Coast and in the South West of NSW. We guess that the devils may pose a risk to humans or vice versa and if you can't get up close you may as well be at a zoo. Glen still is of the opinion that if people were allowed to keep and breed native animals, even under strict controls, there would be far less chance of extinction and more animals available for reintroduction at a much lower cost to the government. It astounds him that he can keep native birds or cats or rabbits or European mice and rats yet the only native mammal he can keep is a dingo (it's done, is it legal?) What harm would there be in keeping a desert mouse in a terrarium or even a chook run of common bandicoots? Yes, he is aware of the pest status of the galah where it was released from an aviary when the people got bored with it and how it is adversely affecting endemic birds and has an argument for that too…
Perth with Trudy and the kids is always too busy to write anything :) There's always stuff to do through the day and at night there's good food and wine to be had highlights would be the Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail and the free Belmont Autumn Festival by the river.
Now we're an a plane to Bangkok after our Singapore stopover (3 hours). The first time Glen has left the country!