Posts tagged Karijini National Park

The beauty of Australia’s West

If there is an award for Australia’s slackest blogger, I should be in the running for it. I suppose anyone who has visited poptop vagabonds in the past month or so has thought it’s become yet another abandoned blog. Not true! Just neglected.

I don’t want this to read like a long-winded post card, but I really need to reflect on where we’ve been, and want to share what we’ve seen along the way. So here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

A couple of months ago, we crossed the border from Northern Territory to Western Australia. Passed through the quarantine check point, had to surrender a bunch of fruit and veges (yeah, stupid, we really didn’t plan that one too well!), wound our watches back another two and a half hours, and got super excited about exploring Australia’s largest state.  

People had told me that the drive across the Kimberley region of WA was beautiful, but the landscapes we encountered on this section of the trip were not what I had expected.

“It’s like being on Mars, or the moon or something!”  I kept saying to Oli, as we drove past these massive red escarpments, on winding roads through valleys of red rock and dust. My description cannot really do justice, and I am kicking myself for not taking more photos along the way, but at the time I just wanted to sit back, crank the music and take it all in.

As you may know, I’m a bit of a dendrophile, so I was thrilled to see all the boab trees up there. Big fat round trunks and a network of bare branches that look like roots, with these weird round fruit hanging here and there.  They are truly majestic trees.

After months of red dirt, dust, crocs and extreme temperatures in outback QLD and the Northern Territory, we were hanging for some beach time, so headed straight for Broome. I’d wanted to check out Broome for years, and when we got there I fell in love with this town, its lovely laid back coastal vibe, and the gorgeous beaches.

We made friends with a really cool middle aged couple who were staying next to us in the caravan park, and ended up tagging along with them on a couple of fishing trips up around the Dampier Peninsula. What a stunning part of the country. No wonder the local folks are standing strong in protest against the new gas plant that is set to go in at James Price Point. Makes me sad and angry to think about how such special parts of this country can and have been exploited for their natural resources, with no thought or care for the long term consequences.

With much reluctance, we eventually tore ourselves away from Broome, and started heading south, and after a week or so of beach hopping, we headed inland a bit, to check out Karijini National Park, which a fellow traveller had told us about.  It was quite a big detour for us, but well worth it for the opportunity to see this beautiful national park, with its impressive gorge and delightful little water holes. Fern Pool at Karijini is definitely one of the most magical places I have ever been – a deep, cool water hole surrounded by trees and greenery, with a small waterfall at one end of the pool and surrounding rocks covered with maidenhair fern (one of my favourite plants). The place has a real spiritual presence, and I felt incredibly fortunate to be able to visit this quiet little spot, enjoy the water and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.

A couple of times on this trip we have really noticed how restricted we have been by not having a 4WD vehicle. While our pop-top van has been fantastic, comfy, and at times down-right luxurious in comparison to what you see other people travelling around in, it has meant we’ve had to stick to sealed roads most of the way, when often we have yearned to go bush-bashing and find some of those gorgeous, isolated and free camping spots that are out there. We are already talking about our next trip around, and what kind of 4WD camper set up we’d like to have! Anyway, Karijini was yet another one of those spots where it would have been awesome to explore off-road, but with Louey’s limitations in mind, we headed back to the coast, for a bit more beach time.

If you love being outdoors, then the Exmouth area is heaven. The fantastic Cape Range National Park puts you right on the beach and has heaps of beautiful (but very basic) camping spots. If you want to enjoy all the comforts, there are also some great caravan parks closer to town. But in a nutshell, Exmouth is all about the beaches and the wildlife.

We were lucky enough to turn up at the time of year when the huge sea turtles are mating just off the shore around the Jurabi Coastal Reserve area. We went for a walk along one beach in the evening and as the sun went down, we sat quietly and watched some female turtles dragging themselves up the beach, to excavate a nest in the sand and lay their eggs.

Right near Exmouth is the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef, one of Australia’s best spots for diving and snorkelling. There is so much to see under the water here – the diversity of marine life is phenomenal.  It’s like sticking your head into someone’s tropical fish tank, only a million times better.  I can’t explain how awesome it is to swim along under the water surrounded by huge schools of vibrantly coloured fish and bizarre-looking corals.

We have seen humpback whales basking and playing around in the water just off the coast at Kalbarri, and have waded in knee deep water while reef sharks darted around us in the shallow water at Skeleton Bay. We’ve marvelled at the power of the blowhole at Point Quobba, and have soaked in an artesian hot tub in the pouring rain at Francois Peron National Park.

There are so many fantastic spots to discover right the way along the west coast, if you’ve the time and inclination. This part of Australia seems like it was made for travellers like us.

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