Australia Day threw a spanner into the works, causing us to abandon our plans of staying in a caravan park near The Pinnacles, and instead stopping further north, at Green Heads. Lesson learned, book caravan parks well ahead of time for Australia holidays. The change of plans ended up working out pretty well though, Green Heads was a great place to stay, and the caravan park was very nice. Once at the park I went out to shoot the sunset for what would be the last time for the trip, and the city lived up to its name. There was plenty of green on the cliffs, and it provided a nice balance of colour with the blues and oranges of the sunset. I spent the next morning again on the cliffs, facing the other way to capture the sunrise. We packed up early that morning and headed down to visit The Pinnacles, then over to Hutt River Provence. A very interesting place, it exists as a sovereign independent state, outside of the control of Australia, despite being completely landlocked. The final stop for the evening was New Norcia, home to a Benedictine Monastery, and a wonderful Abbey Ale. We got a little loose that night on the Abbey brew, went on an impromptu ghost walk with a local resident, and heard some wonderful behind the scenes stories of the former orphanage and boarding school. No ghosts were spotted, so we headed back to the RV. That night we hurriedly packed and clean, preparing for a busy morning of driving to the airport, returning the RV, and heading home. Western Australia was a wonderful place, and look forward to making it back to that side of the country.
We arrived in Kalbarri well after dark, as intended, and quickly settle in to sleep. With two nights planned at the caravan park, and no need to pack up quickly, we were able to relax a little the next day. We spent the morning relaxing at the pool, and running errands around town. In the afternoon we visited Rainbow Jungle, a free flight aviary full of hundreds of species of Australia parrots. We then attempted to do a coastal walk, but the wind proved to be too much of a nuisance, so we retired to the comfort of the caravan park. That evening I decided to brave the wind, and the sand-blaster beach, and shoot the sunset. I'm glad I did, as the wind meant the waves were extra active, and showed a lot of motion over the rocks. The following morning we took a rented car deep into Kalbarri National Park, the car providing a relative luxury on the corrugated dirt roads, compared to extreme rattling we normally experienced in the RV. We walked part of The Loop Walk in the park, stopping to take the customary pictures at Nature's Window, before giving in to the heat and flies, and heading back to the car. We took another short walk in the park, before heading back to the town, exchanging the car for the RV, and departing on our last legs of the holiday.
After two days in the sun and isolation of Cape Range National Park we headed back around the cape, through Exmouth, and down to Coral Bay. It was a sparsely populated drive south, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a nice little town at the end. We signed in and orientated ourselves at the caravan park, and then I quickly made my way down to the shore for the sunset. I had to descend a very sandy cliff to get down and scale it to get back up, but it was well worth the effort. Back on top, I went to meet the family at the local restaurant and bar, which looked to be a very popular establishment. We relaxed over a couple of beers and laid out tentative plans for the rest of the trip. The next morning I went out to explore with my camera, and ended up following a family of plovers around, the parents having to repeatedly fend off seagulls who seemed way too interested in their chick. Later, we made our way down to the beach for another session of snorkeling. The water was beautiful and clear and the corals full of life, and we soaked in as much as we could. Eventually we dragged ourselves out of the ocean, cleaned up, ate lunch, and began our long drive down to Kalbarri National Park.
Leaving Karijini, we once again entered the vast emptiness of Western Australia. The long, flat drive west was broken up by stops in the mining town of Tom Price and a roadhouse off Highway 1. Cell phone towers were spotted on the hills outside of Tom Price, and for the first time in days we had service. The coverage disappeared as soon as we got out of town though, and all we had left was red dirt and road trains on our way to Exmouth. We arrived at our caravan park in Exmouth well before sunset, allowing plenty of time to have a dip in the pool. We enjoyed a dinner at an actual restaurant that night, before taking part in another rarity, an air conditioned night of sleep. I woke up early the next day to shoot the sunrise, and was greeted by plenty of red kangaroos on the walk back. We restocked our food before leaving Exmouth, knowing that we weren't going to have another chance for a couple more days. Those 2 days took us deep into Cape Range National Park, where we enjoyed snorkeling, bushwalking, great sunsets, and moonlight crab spotting on the beach. I even had the opportunity to spend some time in a bird hide, and saw a white bellied sea eagle buzz a couple of pelicans and successfully pluck a fish out of the water. Be sure to view the gallery below to see all the wonderful creatures.
Port Hedland was the type of town that felt like the population doubled every time a plane landed. On arrival, our 737 seemed to dwarf the terminal that was receiving it, itself the largest structure I saw on the way in. I met my sister-in-law Jenn and nephew Ben inside, and we quickly made our way outside to meet my brother Justin and other nephew Evan in a rented RV. It had already served as their home and transportation for the previous 2 weeks, and would continue to fulfill that service for the following 10 days. We made our way through town, which despite appearances, is the largest in the region and responsible for receiving most of the regions fuel and supplies, and shipping out a large tonnage of mined materials. In keeping with the export theme, we headed out of the area and towards Karijini National Park, a few hours away. Our destination for the evening was a roadhouse just outside the park, and served as a fine place to rest for the night. My first time at a roadhouse, i had to fight my temptation to round-house kick everything and say "roadhouse". The following morning we headed into the park, slipped slapped slopped, and went out on our first or many nature walks. The park has a good number of gorges, with most walks consisting of steep descents, stunning views of waterfalls, and then steep ascents. A few hours of walking the first day had us looking forward to our next stop, Karijini Eco Resort. A relative oasis in the park, it featured a full restaurant and bar, and was a very pleasant place to stay. It was also located next to a wonderful gorge, which meant I didn't have to walk far to shoot the sunrise the next morning. After the sun came up, we all took a trek down a gully and spent some time in a wonderful rock pool, before packing up and heading to our next destination. Have a look through the pictures below, to learn a little more about the area, and see all the wonderful animals and places that greeted us.
I was given the opportunity to watch a snake handling course today and take photos of the snakes. The course is conducted by Northern Rivers Wildlife Carers, and teaches the rescuers how to properly identify and capture snakes that need removal or medical care. The attendees spend some time in a class room in the morning before heading outside to handle snakes in the afternoon. One at a time, carpet pythons, green tree snakes, and brown tree snakes are let out, and the participants practice their capturing techniques. These aren't pet snakes either, they have all be caught over the previous week during routine rescues, and held on to for the course. So, when they are let out they are very happy to be free, and make every attempt to move away from the group, providing a realistic practice for the students. After everyone has had plenty of opportunities to practice, the snakes are rounded up, and will be released over the coming days.
This spring I was given a wonderful opportunity to attend a pelican rescue conducted by Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers. The bird had been reported as having a fishing hook in its bill, and previous trips by TVWC had confirmed the injury. I was able to tag along when they attempted to capture the bird and bring it in for treatment. I met one of the rescuers at the Jack Evans boat ramp, with the tinnie already in the water, adorned with TVWC and Australian Seabird Rescue decals. A short time later a second rescuer arrives carrying bait, which they would later use to lure the pelican to us. When the boat was loaded with the supplies, we headed off in search of the injured pelican. We made a few stops at some sand bars where the birds gather before spotting our subject towards the back of the broadwater. The bait was strategically tossed out to lure the pelicans towards a foot lasso. The bait not only served to attract the pelicans, but also sea gulls, terns, kites, and ospreys. It turned into a wonderful photo opportunity for me, with birds swooping close over my head, and chasing each other around the sand bar in attempt to grab some of the bait. Our pelican seemed quite alert and energetic, which is a good sign, and managed to take a few pieces for himself. Unfortunately, we did not manage the capture the bird that day. They will make more attempts to bring him in over the coming days, and won't stop until they get him in for some help.
Already behind schedule, there was a rush to put the final touches on the apartment, and get out of the door. Unexpected tasks have already ruined our previously pristine timeline, making the last moments in the apartment hectic. In hind sight, we should have planned for that, as moving out of a place usually is a bit crazy. Never the less, we eventually close the door behind us, return the keys, and are on our way. As we drive away from Melbourne, we are treated to views in our mirrors of the sun setting over the city. It is an appropriate gesture, our time in the city is ending, and we are moving north.
The coming week calls for a drive up the east coast of Australia, with several overnight stays and seeing of sights along the way. The car is packed to the roof with everything we can’t live without for the week, and everything that can’t live without us. It’s a tight, but cozy fit. The first stop on the journey is Bear Gully Cottages, tucked into the coast near Wilson's Promontory National Park. Following the late exit from Melbourne, the drive through southern Victoria is dark, and only grows darker as we move further from civilization. The long stretches of country road are nicely accented by a clear view of the stars and numerous stops to let wallabies and wombats cross the road. When we finally pull up to our cottage it is late into the night. The owners are gracious enough to accommodate our late arrival, and we make our way into the cottage and unpack from our exhausting first day of travel.
Waking up the next morning we are greeted by a wonderful sunrise over the ocean, perfectly viewed from the deck of the cottage. With only 2 days to explore the area, we get out of the door early in the morning. Wilson Promontory has a lot to offer: coastal and mountain walks, untouched beaches, beautiful views and a variety of wildlife. We take in as much as we can over the following days, before finally relenting to our tight schedule, packing the car, and heading to our next stop.
Lakes Entrance is next on the agenda, with an overnight stop at a hotel along the Princes Highway. The following morning allows for a few hours of exploring, which are happily done around the waters that run through the area. Cormorants, gulls, swans, and egrets are all going about their days, and I happily snap away. I even stop to lend a hand to a pigeon that is stuck in a whirlpool, unable to make it back to the shore. My good deed done for the day, we load into the car again, and are on our way. The next leg moves us inland, as we feel the need to pass through Canberra on the way north. A long day of driving and site-seeing eventually leads to our next stop in Wollongong.
With the rain setting in there is not much to do the next day, except for drive. We make the soggy journey up the coast and through Sydney, making sure to pass over the Harbour Bridge to film a few scenes(watch the video below!). Coming out the other side of the city we continue up the coast with our eyes set on the next hotel a few hours ahead.
Waking up in Port Macquarie the next morning, the rains have cleared, leaving a few clouds still hanging in the air. The drive that day is one of the shorter legs of the journey, so we had some time to see the area. We discover that there are a lot of banana trees in the area, including the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour. Tours of the country side prove rewarding, and we are treated to wonderful views of the harbours and shorelines as we continue north.
Lismore greets us that evening with a wonderful sunset, and plenty of bird life on the lake near our hotel. The next morning is just as wonderful as I am able to spend a few hours chasing the birds around the lake. I’m greeted by a pair of kookaburras, and also spot a royal spoonbill and a jacana. I eventually realize the sun is starting to get high, and it’s time to move on. So we load into the car one last time and start the drive to our last destination, our new home in Tweed Heads.
We probably over indulged on the campervan. A six person rig with built in shower and toilet, and plenty of sleeping space, as far as a campervans go. We would at least be traveling in style over the next week on our holiday to Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia.
The trip starts off with a familiar drive down the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Having made the trip before, we skip a few of the more popular spots, and explore some of the areas we never had time to see. The drive is relaxing, the height of the campervan offering a different perspective on the passing landscape.
After a day of driving we pull into a parking lot to rest for the night. With all the essentials in the campervan we figure we'd be comfortable for the night. However, being first time campervaners, we didn't realize we needed to be plugged into power for the stove and outlets to work. It was an embarrassing lesson to learn, but we push through the night without being able to boil water for tea, or charge the laptop.
We carry on west through Victoria, and then into South Australia, with our eyes set on the Cape Jervis Station Campervan Park off the coast near Cape Jervis. We take a self-planned detour around the south of Adelaide, weaving through the small two lane country roads in our oversized campervan. After a few hours of less than efficient navigation through the rural roads, we eventually find ourselves pulling into the campervan park. With our lesson still fresh on our minds from the night before, we back into our powered campsite and settle down in the warm glow of interior lights and a laptop screen.
Waking early the next morning, I take some time to explore the campervan park. There is plenty of bird chatter, with wrens, robins, and galahs all making appearances. A small paddock in the back features a friendly sheep, which comes up to the fence to greet me. Just down the road, the ocean can easily be seen, and our next form of transportation awaits us, the Kangaroo Island Ferry.
The loading process is exciting, as I get to show off my newly acquired campervan driving skills, making the tight squeeze into the hull of the ferry. Once on board we choose a spot up on the deck, and watch as Cape Jervis shrinks behind us, and Kangaroo Island grows in front.
After unloading, we take the rig up to a visitor centre to get our bearings for the island, and pick out all the places we want to see. Having pre booked spots at campervan parks on either side of the island, our activities naturally center on these areas, making for easy daily drives. On the way west we go out of our way to see a honey shop, and then down to Seal Beach. A tour guide takes us right down to the sand, and we find ourselves within a few feet of hundreds of seals, watching as the adults relax in the sun and the pups constantly search for food. One pup in particular went out to greet an adult coming out of the surf, hoping to get a meal from his mother. Unfortunately for him he had the wrong mother, as she clearly and loudly let him know. Not to worry though, the mothers will spend days out at sea hunting before returning to feed their young, so the pup would soon be getting his fill.
Eventually we make it to Western KI Campervan Park, and settle in before sunset. The grounds feature a few walking trails and a lake filled with a variety of bird life. Over the next few days I spot yellow-billed spoonbills, egrets, cape baron geese, musk ducks, and new holland honey eaters . And appropriately for the island, there are kangaroos everywhere, making their way up to the camp ground at night to graze. Nearby is Flinders Chase National Park, Kelly Hill Conservation Park, and a Koala park, which fill up our days on the western side of the island.
Heading back east on our last day, we go through Kingscote and watch Pelicans and Black Cockatoos, and then on to Penneshaw Campervan park to watch the penguins come in. Out on the jetty at Penneshaw we even spot a few dolphins, and a seal soaking up the last rays of sunshine for the day. Up early the next morning I take a few last shots of Kangaroo Island, capturing the mood of the bay, and then board the ferry to head back to the mainland.
Back on the road, and still unable to grasp the frequency with which the roads in Australia change names, we inadvertently take a tour through Adelaide, and come out the other side pointed towards Melbourne. We make one last overnight stay at a campervan park in the Grampians, the cool air providing a nice break from the hot nights on Kangaroo Island. A few fairy wrens greet us in the morning and send us on our way, back to Melbourne in our oversized campervan.