20. Just Looking

Day 11 in the Western Australian desert… Rations are low, morale is average, we haven’t seen a supermarket in weeks and the scenery outside the coach is more repetitive than a corridor that Scooby and the gang run down. Bush, desert, bush, desert, bush, desert, bush.

Just kidding. I’m not Scott of the Antarctic. I’m Alex of suburban Manchester. Less impressive, but more down-to-earth in touch with the people. Not like Donald Trump though. Sorry, I’m rambling.

After our very relaxed days at Monkey Mia, the 4am get up and 10 hours travelling to our next destination had come as a bit of a shock. So it was with great relief that we arrived in Coral Bay directly outside our hostel at 1pm. It was with even greater relief that we realised there was a bakery next door to the hostel. I’ve always said that a chocolate croissant can be the difference between a bad day and a good one.

(I haven’t, but actually that’s quite a good mantra. I might start using it now.)

To save myself repeating the same true joke over and over, please just assume that all locations from now on in Western Australia are in the middle of nowhere. Its pretty much bang on.

Coral Bay’s main attraction is the bakery the Ningaloo Reef, which runs along a large part of the West Coast and is located directly off the beach – i.e. you walk off the sand, into the sea and you’re straight into the reef. Which is pretty impressive.

After spending our first afternoon having a look around Coral Bay we headed out on our second day to snorkel on the reef. Western Australia has been living up to its other name of WA – Windy Always duringthis trip and our snorkel day was no exception to this, meaning we were getting battered by waves in the sea whilst trying to snorkel and routinely popping our head up to see the boat being blown towards us and about to take our head off. Fun though.

Unfortunately our GoPro chose this moment to break itself, so photos were limited but I still managed to get a couple (I think!). What I didn’t get photos of was me being surrounded by hundreds of fish who were totally chilled with me invading their personal space (pretty cool), or me being physically abused by lots of waves (less cool).

Coral Bay is not only home to a world class reef, pretty views and cracking baked goods, but also a natural Reef Shark Nursery just around the corner from the main beach. These are shallow waters where baby reef sharks come when mummy and daddy reef sharks are at work putting bread on the table (or fish on the sand in this case). After one failed visit the day before, we managed to see these guys on our second trip there, along with some crabby fellas;

 

Unfortunately our time in Coral Bay was as short as it was eventful and after 48 hours we were back on the coach to Exmouth, a more major town north of Coral Bay and having the exceedingly redeeming feature of a nationally recognised supermarket in its midst. Goodbye overpriced local stores with our price tags on any items, hello overpriced medium sized chains. And also some other cool stuff too, I assumed.

Our first impressions of Exmouth on the coach in were immediately pretty positive when we saw a Humpback Whale breaching just off the coast as we drove into the town. Unfortunately our welcome party declined to stick around and we haven’t seen any more whales since, but it was still a nice surprise. A less nice surprise was the 33 degree heat at 3pm and the 15 minute walk with backpacks and no shade to our accomodation.

We quickly realised that Exmouth town, despite having the almost Oasis-like (as in the desert pool, not the Manchester band) figure of an IGA (think of a Co-Op in Britain) had… well not much else. This led us to the decision to hire a car for the day to see the sights at a low-ish cost, and boy did we pack stuff in to our one day. Along with new companions Ollie and Kristen who we had met in Coral Bay and using a tourist map as our guide, we worked our way through the attractions with speed and ruthless sightseeing efficiency.

We began at Yardie Creek, around 90km south of Exmouth on the coastal side. This was a pretty impressive gorge (who needs the Grand Canyon ey) with a creek that we considered swimming in before coming to the conclusion that swimming in isolated creeks in Australia is how people die.

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We then headed on to the next stop on the map, the Mandu Mandu Gorge. This was very similar to Yardie Creek except there was no river at the bottom, meaning we could walk through the gorge. As impressive as it was, the path was entirely loose pebbles and we turned around after about 45 minutes walk to avoid any ankle spraining or dislocated-knee-reccurences. We were also treated to the sight of a rock wallaby hopping along the side of the gorge – an animal which is very rare and extremely ballsy in my opinion, given that its whole life is literally a cliffhanger.

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Proper Travellers

Continuing the whirlwind tour, after a brief stop at the visitor centre to pick up some water, biscuits and a telling off for eating biscuits inside (grumpy Australians), we found ourselves in Turquoise Bay. This is apparently one of the Top 20 beaches in the world (though that came from the Exmouth Visitor Centre guide so don’t believe everything you read). To be fair to Turquoise Bay, even though it was cloudy whilst we were there it was still a really nice beach and the water was as clear as anything. I was swimming where others were snorkelling and could easily see the bottom of the ocean.

Easily the best thing about Turquoise Bay, however, and one of the best things so far in Australia, was that Ollie found a turtle swimming around the bay and we spent about half an hour swimming with it. As I said, our GoPro had died a death by this point, so you might just have to believe me on this one. I did call him ‘duuuude’ (Mr Turtle was his father), but he didn’t respond. Must have been deaf.

(If you don’t get that joke, you’ll need to watch Finding Nemo. Knowledge of Disney films is integral to understanding this blog.)

After our turtle encounter, we then headed back into Exmouth to see if we could see any whales as we had the day before on the coach. Unfortunately we had no luck with this, so naturally as we are all mature twenty something adults we threw some stones at a rock;

It was fun.

We then headed back up to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula Exmouth sits on to watch a very impressive sunset. My blogs always involve sunsets these days, so I won’t bore you with another picture.

Just kidding. Of course I will.

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This brought about an end to both our day of sightseeing and our list of things to do in Exmouth, so the next 4 days involved mostly lying in the sun with frequent breaks in the pool. Fun for us, but no stories for the blog. Sorry. I would say we’d try harder but we’re in a town in the middle of nowhere with no transport and not much to do, so, what can you do?

As I write we’re currently waiting to get on a coach which will take us to Broome in the speedy time of 17 hours. Please wish us all luck. It’ll be worth it if only to see a major supermarket at the other end.

Until then, over and out!

Alex Odlin is 6 foot 4 inches and about to be confined to a coach chair for 17 hours. Donations to the fund for his rehab will be gratefully received. 

Accommodation:

Ningaloo Club, Coral Bay – well located, extremely cheap bar, not enough plug sockets but good overall

YHA Exmouth, Exmouth – well located, good facilities, nice rooms with good bathrooms. Too many kids in the pool on a weekend but I’m just old and grumpy

Tours:

Coral Bay Glass Bottom Boat Tour – $51 for a two hour glass bottom and snorkel tour. Pretty good to get out to the good points of the reef if you’re a less confident swimmer, and snorkel gear included

 

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