Day 82: 19 August – Dolphins on cue

Author: Mr A

From: Denham

To: Monkey Mia

Distance: 27 km

It was a 6.30am alarm and on the road by 7 to ensure we were in time for the briefing by the rangers who staffed the 'Dolphin experience' at Monkey Mia. 

For over 50 years dolphins have been fed here, initially by the fishermen who shared their catch with them. Dolphins, as we know, aren't daft and started turning up at the same stip of beach every morning licking their lips. Then the tourists started to flood in and the dolphins who came were breeding pups who didn't know how to hunt for their own fish because they had never seen mum do it. So the WA Wildlife folk stepped in during the early 1990s and now regulate the whole thing, with only a few snacks being delivered by the lucky few chosen from the hundred or so of us watching. 

It was a great experience to see these mammals up so close, literally metres away from the beach, rolling over, waving a flipper, and yet know although humanised they are still 'wild', and make a choice as to whether they turn up or not, and when.

We were back in Denham by lunch time and spent a very productive afternoon washing and cleaning…dull but necessary given everything is covered in red dust. That stuff can get inside a vacuum sealed flask…incredible.  

Day 81: 18 August – Spectacular Francois Peron National Park

Author: Mrs A

Location: Francois Peron National Park – Big Lagoon, Cape Peron and Snapper Point

Distance driven: 110 km return

Distance kayaked: 4 km

Distance hiked: 4 km

We left early after a light breakfast heading for Big Lagoon (they’re very creative with the names in these parts. There is also a Little Lagoon) in the Francois Peron National Park. We had been told by the information centre that today was to be both the warmest and least windy day of the next five days, so we decided to take advantage.

By 9.30am we were inflating our pack-rafts and setting off on the beautiful turquoise water for an explore.

It was the perfect way to see the shallow lake, which was unsuitable for motorised vessels. We explored right across to the opening of the lagoon, where it met the sea, and clambered up the iron rich sand dunes, cris-crossed with multiple animal and bird tracks, and no signs of humans at all.

We decided to stop and have lunch here, at the brand new national park kitchen and picnic area with the million dollar view. Not another soul was there!

After lunch we decided to drive up to the tip of the national park. I had read some incredible accounts of the scenery and wildlife up there, and couldn’t wait to visit, however as we drove up the extremely rough roads (corrugations and deep sand) for over an hour, I could tell Mr A was doubting my decision. Thankfully the view at the top was incredible, with spectacular scenery and out of this world colours.

Better still, as we reached Cape Peron and the Snapper Point Lookout the sea life appeared as if on cue – within moments of arriving we spotted several sharks swimming past and a huge manta ray, along with multiple shoals of gleaming fish. We both agreed, we could have spent a whole afternoon just there.

We walked along the headland, reading about the history of the point, with the first European visitors arriving from France back in 1801 and dancing to the maracas to try and convince the local Aboriginal groups they were there in peace. The Aboriginal people of course have been resident on this point for more than 26,000 years, and had never seen anything like it. I can only imagine what planet they thought these strange visitors were from!

Down on the beach we saw hundreds of Little Pied Cormerants, which are regular residents here. The fact there are so many on land in this photo, and not in the water, means there are tiger sharks about. Cormerants, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and the odd pack-rafter are favourite meals for tiger sharks. We remained firmly on land.

We returned to camp exhausted after our busy day, and thankfully had the foresight to defrost a pre-made red curry for dinner. 

Day 80: 17 August – Are we in the French Riviera?

Author: Mr A

From: Hamelin Station 

To: Denham

Distance driven: 105 km

Distance cycled: 5.5 km

Distance hiked: 5.5 km

A little dusty this morning after celebrating our anniversary a little enthusiastically with our new “on the road” buddies Nick and Laura. A Mr A special of bacon and eggs soon had us raring to go (in our minds at least), so we pulled up sticks and headed off. 

Coming down the hill into Denham we saw this perfect white sand beach, framed by yachts bobbing around on an azure sea…and wondered ‘Did we just get teleported to the French Rivieria?

After getting set up in the caravan park we cycled round town, eager to find those lovely little French cafes which the chic looking crowd ambling the markets ….however…the first (and only) cafe-come-bakery in town was staffed by a woman dressed as if she had recently lost a fight with a bag of flour, who,when asked ‘Could madam please make a soy hot chocolate?’, walked away and mumbled something incoherent. After a couple of promts she managed to grunt ‘Nah’, still without making eye contact. Ah well…we are definitely in small town WA where the only caravan park is chock full and every business in town seems to just open its doors and say ‘Take it or leave it, these’s a queue behind you if you don’t like it’. 

On the positive side it is a lovely backdrop to the town…

A popular spot to moor up for the yachties, the water is just crystal clear, and apparently the fishing is good. And in a nutshell that’s the difference between the French Riviera and here. Miles and miles of pristine beaches stretch away into the distance, hardly a human footprint in sight, but those of kangaroos, birds, lizards…..queuing up to be photographed by Mrs A.

We had booked dinner at the one and only restaurant in town (The Old Pearler Restaurant), in a building made completely of shell bricks from the quarry we visited yesterday. As this was a special night, given we ate in on our anniversary, we ordered the seafood platter. Now $115 got us a big plate of seafood each, but no salad, no chips, nothing – just a plate of seafood. Interesting…And they were booked out of course. If you want to eat out in Denham, other than the grotty pub with the pokies clanging away, you have no choice but to come here, whatever the price. 

Now for those of you who are wondering ‘Where the heck is Denham? I must cross it off my gastronomy tour‘ here’s our current location. Very close to Monkey Mia, famous for the dolphins. It is as far west in Australia as you can ride a horse…and amazingly beautiful.