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 The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #013

Editorial

Over the past couple of months I've been scanning hundreds of photos, and recording most of my favourite music.

All this has gone onto my laptop, a whole life of memories, converted to 1's and 0's and stuffed onto a hard disk.

This is good from a storage point of view, in theory I could convert all my music and photos and ditch the originals, thus saving a lot of space. But what if the disk crashes (and I've been my usual slack self when it comes to backups). What happens when the technology changes and the files are no longer readable? Won't happen you say, CDs will be around for ever. I used to keep information on 8-inch floppies, have you any idea how I could retrieve that data these days?

One answer is to migrate the data to the new technology every few years. As long as you're willing to do that, and to put in the hours to record it in the first place, I think it's a good way to go.

This data migration problem is a big one, one that the National Library of Australia has to face regularly, because they archive "documents of national significance" to "ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future."

In the past this has meant traditional printed material. These days however so much information is only available electronically that they have implemented PANDORA, a project to save "electronic publications of lasting cultural value".

They maintain the hardware and software required to allow these electronic documents to be accessible in the future, when we've all forgotten what a JPEG file or a CD is.

I hope they get it right, because I didn't bring the subject up by accident. You see they've archived robgray.com.

That's right, robgray.com is a "document of national significance" with "lasting cultural value".

Your grandkids will be able to read my stories, and look at my photos, just as you are.

Now that's a scary thought :-)

 

 

Mon 23 Sep 2002

I remember being told about a great place to camp that was just south of Broome, right on the ocean. The trouble is I couldn't remember the name of the place until someone else mentioned it a few days ago.

Barn Hill station is about 90k south of the Roebuck roadhouse, there's not much to recommend it on the highway, just a large tyre embedded in the ground and a hand painted sign saying "station stay".


The rather inconspicuous sign on the highway. If you weren't looking for it you'd drive right past

We turn off and drive the nine kilometres to the campsite.


There's a few gates on the road into the station. Normally you leave a gate as you find it, here the signs make it pretty clear what to do

There's a very informal caravan park but we elect for the bush camping option and place the truck as far away from everything and everyone as possible.


The shop/office at Barn Hill.


The dunny in the bush camping section is a little basic, but you can walk up to the ablutions in the main area

We're parked on top of a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean, outstanding.

Later we sit and watch the sunset, the giant orb settles on the horizon then distorts to the shape of a light bulb before disappearing.


You want sunsets, we got sunsets

I can't help but think that it's on it's way to the dark continent, Africa, where Chris and I met over twenty years ago.

Things have changed a lot in that time, and yet they haven't changed at all, we're still travelling, still camping out (if you call what we do these days "camping"), still taking photos.

Tue 24 Sep

We are talking about staying another few days when our neighbour walks past and we get chatting. He came here for a day "A while back", "How long ago was that?" we ask, "Oooh about eight weeks".

It's that kind of place.

At about 4PM we decide to go for a walk along the beach, there's a few people fishing but they're catching nothing except seaweed.


Thongs hanging on the track's makeshift handrail.


There's good 4x4 access to launch your boat

One couple has two Dalmatian dogs, one of which decides that this fishing caper is a waste of time, especially when there's already a bucket right here on the beach full of perfectly good fish. By the time we notice what the dog is up to he has eaten most of the bait. His owners tie him up but the damage is done.


In the dog house. A disgraced Dalmatian tied out of reach of the bait buckets

From what I saw today, the Dalmatian is the only mammal in this area that had a feed of fresh fish.


One of the unusually shaped rocks on the beach

Fri 27 Sep

I've spent the last couple of days exploring the amazing rock formations here.


One of the weird rock formations that can be seen along the beach. Check out the profile on the left, if that's not Senator Richardson then I don't know what is. I hereby name this formation "Richo's Rock"


If there's one good thing about the incessant wind it's the great shapes it makes in the sand

Someone once said, very kindly I thought, that with a face like mine I should be on radio. Well today I got my chance.

One reason we've been sitting here at Barn Hill is that I was asked to appear on the pilot for a new ABC show and, as the interview is performed over the phone, we need to be in a CDMA reception area.

Sat 28 Sep

I go exploring again, this time I want to get to the deserted "Eco lodge" a few kilometres north of the camp.


There's all sorts of interesting stones and shells to collect along the beach

As the tide is still reasonably high I walk along the top of the many headlands. The rock formations just get better and better with each headland.

I walk for over two hours, with each headland I say to myself that I'll just look around the next one.

Finally I crest a sand dune and see the lodge (a collection of A-frame buildings), still another couple of kilometres away. It is about 4PM so I elect not to continue.

The tide has reached it's lowest point so my return journey is along the base of the headlands I previously viewed from the top.

Once again I'm blown away by the scenery, what with the cliffs and the caves and the columns, you could explore this coast for weeks.


Check out the shape of this rock, and the hole seemingly drilled right through it.


There's an eagle's nest on top of this rock formation.


This is the same pillar as shown in the above photo, amazing what a change of lens and position can do to the shape of an object.


Looking up through one of the hundreds of ancient blowholes

I return just before the sun sets, and photograph the people fishing.


Beach fishing at sunset. I wonder what the workers are doing in the big smoke

Mon 30 Sep

We finally leave Barn Hill. It's such a great spot we hate to leave, but other places beckon.

About twenty kilometres from the Barn Hill entrance we pass a McCafferty's bus broken down on the side of the road.

Using the CB, I ask the driver if they are OK. It's just a top radiator hose and help is on the way, but he asks me if I can inform the Sandfire Roadhouse that they'll be late. I say I will, but that we won't be there for several hours. What I didn't say was that at the speed we drive he could do a full engine rebuild and still beat us to the roadhouse.

We drive for the rest of the day, relay the message to the roadhouse, then continue, finally pulling into a roadside rest area. For a few hours we've been watching some clouds build up, this is something of a novelty for us as we haven't seen any clouds for about six months.


Storm clouds build up to the south

Later we sit with the lights out and watch the lightning.

Tue 1 Oct

It's on towards Port Hedland but we don't actually want to get there today because it will be too late, and we'll wind up having to find a camp in town in the late afternoon.

Rather than that we decide to stay at De Grey river and drive into Hedland the next morning. This will give us all day to do our business and check out the town. If there's nothing to stay for then we'll head off and camp on the road.

We pull into the rest area at De Grey River before lunch and, because we're so early, we get a great beach-front spot with the deck almost overhanging the river.


A prime beach-front property, and it's free

I go for a walk along the river, it's low and quite placid now, but I can see the broken trees and piles of debris left by the raging torrents of the previous wet season.


Broken tree on the river bank

As the sun sets, and the campfires spring up, I sit on the deck and look around. The diversity of people here is quite amazing, there's the young couple with a year off University, the single mum with three kids roughing it in a small van, the middle aged couple who sold their business and bought a massive Winnebago, and of course the forty-something year olds who've had a mid-life crisis. That last demographic is represented by myself and Chris.

We're all living on the road and tonight, while seeing us all here preparing various meals, playing different music, and living in various amounts of luxury, it really drove home to me that there is an entire sub culture out here, and that most "normal" people don't have any real idea exists.

Wed 2 Oct

It's cool and foggy this morning.


Early morning on the river.


Two lads had been causing a disturbance all yesterday, no more than usual for young boys, but we're not used to it. Here I catch one of them in a more pensive moment.

Leaving De Grey River we drive directly to Port Hedland.

From miles out you can see the salt piles standing like brilliant white dunes on the horizon.

We spend some time collecting mail, browsing shops etc., then drive out to Pretty Pool with a view to maybe camping.

There are no "no camping" signs so we figure it may be OK to camp, but meanwhile we'll stay for lunch. We park a few metres from another motor home and Chris asks them if they know of a free camping area. They do, in a reserve over near the yacht club.

After lunch I get a bike out and go to check the reserve. It's not bad, and right on the sea, so we move the truck then I go exploring.


The great-looking water tower at Pt Hedland.


The yard at Hedland's yacht club. Things don't look too active here and, at the time, the club was actually land locked

Off shore there are seven ships waiting to be loaded with iron ore, there's one leaving as we arrive and another is escorted in by tugs shortly after.

It's quite fascinating to watch the comings and goings of these massive ships and, although it's too windy to open the truck's shutters, we watch the proceedings from outside and through the roof hatch.


A newly loaded ore carrier leaves port with an escort of tugs

The reserve is just across the bay from the docks and there is a constant hum of heavy machinery. Somehow it's comforting to know that the wheels of industry are still turning (just as long as it's not me doing the turning :-).

Thur 3 Oct

We can see no reason to stay in Port Hedland so leave early, doing a little shopping in South Hedland on the way out.

The day is uneventful, just a short stop at the Whim Creek pub for lunch and finally staying at a rest area on the banks of the Yule River.


A replica of the Whim Creek pub at the turnoff to the real thing

Fri 4 Oct

Leaving early we pull into Karratha mid morning.

Karratha is quite a pleasant town with a large shopping centre, way out of proportion to the town's size. Chris asked about this and was told that the town used to have more people but it's shrinking, the mines are cutting back.

We spend some time at the beach (no sand) then leave town and head to Miaree Pool, just 28k away.

When we arrive at the pool we find a group of volunteers building a new toilet. It's almost finished but we have to endure the sound of drilling, sawing, hammering and generating for several hours.

Finally it's done. The men pose for a photograph then one of them goes to a car and returns with a loo roll. Very solemnly he approaches the new structure and enters. He is in there for longer than is strictly necessary to install a loo roll, but eventually he does emerge, the loo is ready. All-in-all we felt it was a very moving ceremony.


The new dunny at Miaree Pool

Sun 6 Oct

We stay at the pool for a couple of days, it's a lovely spot but too windy so we decide to move on.

Late in the afternoon we pull into a rest area and are met by a couple we met months ago at Cooroy. It's a small world.

Mon 7 Oct

Heading down the highway we turn west and drive along the new Burckett Rd, which cuts through hundreds of sand dunes.

The road is a series of short flat sections punctuated by small rises as it passes through a dune. Each time we hit a rise our speed drops so I decide to get a run up at the next one.

As we approach the hill I plant the foot. The truck was born to this life, so when my right foot asks the question, it knows the answer, and instantly responds.

It rockets from the usual 35mph to 36 and, before you can read Tolstoy's "War and Peace", we're doing 40.

All to little avail though I'm afraid, as it still dies before we've climbed half way up the hill.

We reach Exmouth and book into a caravan park to catch up on some washing and breadmaking.

Tue 8 Oct

Leaving Exmouth we head towards the Ningaloo Marine Park. There was a blistering sou'wester last night and we're wondering if it's always this windy around here.

Not far from town the question is answered, in the form of three wind power generators erected by the power company. Nobody spends a fortune on these turbines if there isn't a lot of wind to drive them. (ED: I've since been reliably informed by a local that it's not always windy, usually only from September to August).

We enter the park and are advised by the ranger to go to Pilgramunna campground, however when we get there we find several cramped bays, all in a row. The volunteer host decides that we can't fit and suggests that we try the Osprey campground, just a few kilometres down the road.

This we do and are pleasantly surprised to see that it's layout is much more spread out, and the sites have better views of the ocean.


Backpacker station wagon, or luxury motorhome, everyone gets the same view here.


As they say in the classics, it doesn't get much better than this.


A Ningaloo loo

Later in the evening I go for a short walk, the sky is brilliant, there's thousands of stars, and the Milky Way is a luminous ribbon stretching across the sky. To the west I see Venus and the crescent moon cradling its "old" counterpart, quite visible due to the light reflected from the Earth.

Closer to home there's little pockets of lamplit humanity, close, but not too close. It sure is a beautiful night.

Wed 9 Oct

Today has been a day of wildlife; whales, kangaroos, goannas, you name it.

Early this morning I make my way down the steps to go to the loo and almost fall over a large goanna. He gives me an indignant look and a hiss, then swaggers off.

I continue only to find the toilet already occupied...by two kangaroos. I photograph them for a while, then they bound off. They are obviously well trained because they leave a pile of droppings on the toilet's concrete vestibule (It's not their fault, the door was locked).

Kangaroos can always be relied upon to do anthropomorphic (human-like) things, and I get some reasonable photos of a couple that were hanging around the campsite.

Then I had an idea (always a dangerous moment).

The new "Ralph the Roo" comic strip, soon to be syndicated by all the major dailies. Click on each picture.

The rest of the day is spent whale watching. All-in-all we must have seen thirty whales today, mostly a V-shaped spume followed by the sun glistening on a massive humped back arching from the surface.

But the most spectacular sightings are just before sunset. Watching from the deck we see huge pectoral fins reach toward the sky then slap the water. On a few occasions almost the whole whale leaves the water, briefly defying gravity, before crashing back to join its friends.

After days of seeing nothing Chris is beside herself at seeing these giant creatures, and she hardly has to leave her reclining chair as the truck is parked such that we can see the ocean from the lounge or the deck.



INVITATION
His Excellency the Governor General, and Mrs Smythe-Jones, request the pleasure of your company for a spot of evening fishing.
Time: Just before sunset
Place: Osprey Bay
RSVP: Whenever
Dress: Ningaloo casual



Thu 10 Oct

More whales. At about 9:30 a pod swims past puffing, fin slapping and breaching. It's great to be able to watch these magnificent animals.

One puts it's pectoral fin in the air, but instead of slapping the water, it holds it there and sways it too and fro. I swear it's waving to us.


Chris spent time looking for whales on the deck...but when she didn't find any she there resumed searching the horizon

Fri 11 Oct

Today it's turtles. While sitting in the lounge room, gazing out to the bay, I think I see a flipper briefly poke out of the water.

I pay more attention and, sure enough, a head pops from the surface. It's a turtle.

We grab the binoculars and polarising filter and run down to the rocky cliffs just metres from the truck.

Once we tune our eyes to what's there we realise that the bay is alive with turtles. With me spotting, and Chris trying to get a close look with the binoculars, it gets quite hectic with cries of "There", "Ooo look at that", "Another one", "He's a big fellow" etc.

We soon find that the trick is to look for dark blurry blobs under water and wait for them to become more precise, indicating that the turtle is nearing the surface, then train the binoculars on the blob and watch.

They are quite comical to watch, some obviously just getting a breath, others looking at us with some interest, and many, once seeing us, diving and putting on a burst of speed under water.

Most have dark faces but one turtle with a light coloured head studied us for a while, looking directly at us from just metres away with those big dark eyes. Just beautiful.

The polarising filter is a big help as it removes the reflections from the water and allows us to see clearly under the surface. Polaroid glasses will do the same.

Sat 12 Oct

We ride down to Yardie Creek this morning but there's nothing there we don't have at Osprey Bay. On our return trip we spot an emu on the side of the road, so I drop Chris at the truck and race back with a camera.

The emu is still there but he is really flighty (!) and difficult to photograph, running away every time I approach.

I eventually realise that he is trying to cross the road, so I stop and let him do so.

He crosses and keeps walking. It is not possible to stalk the bird to get close enough for a photo because he walks faster than I crawl.

It's been fun, but today is a day of fishes.

I finally got the energy to don my flippers and enter the water.

As my head submerges a veritable wonderland of sea creatures is revealed. Whereas we've only seen a couple of large schools of fish from the surface, down here I can see thousands.

There's tiny blue fish, so brightly coloured as to be almost iridescent. Huge Parrot fish, blowing into the sand, hoping to reveal a meal. Under each coral shelf hide dozens more. Two large specimens hide in a hole as I approach, after a minute or two they poke their heads out and peer at me with large bulging eyes, eventually they decide that I'm harmless and leave their sanctuary to go about their business.

There are sea slugs, looking like massive Bratwursts folded in half, and giant clams with fleshy lips big enough to stick your foot into.


For several days we saw this little lizard scampering between bushes but never manage to get a good look until, one day, he perched on the thorny branches.


Kayak trips are popular in the sheltered waters behind the Ningaloo reef

Sat 13 Oct

A familiar face walks up to the truck today. It's Kevin, a Canadian we met briefly at Bladensburg National Park over six months ago.

He seemed like a likeable chap at Bladensburg, and I remember feeling that I'd like to chat more with him, but we were only there for one night.


Kevin, our Canadian friend, enjoys a morning paper in the sun

Sun 14 Oct

The kangaroos have been around camp again today. Some are quite tame and some are not. I try to stalk a pair but it's after happy hour and I find it quite difficult to stalk kangaroos with a beer in one hand. I can't hug the ground low enough so they see me and hop away.

And speaking of hops, we've decided to try home brewing on the road and today we spend time pouring, stirring and measuring. Finally we have 24 litres of wort (pronounced "wert") ready, and the drum placed in a spot where it should maintain the 21-27 degrees required for fermentation.

A few hours later we hear the first "bludalup" as it starts gurgling, belching carbon dioxide from the air lock. The process has begun.

It takes 4-6 days for the primary fermentation, and another 14 days secondary fermentation in the bottles. For much of that time the temperature of the beer should be kept within the above-mentioned range, which just happens to be roughly the ambient temperature around these parts, so I guess we can't leave yet :-).

Wed 16 Oct

More whales and turtles (the bay here is alive with turtles) but today we also see a dolphin and a dugong.

However the largest thing we see is a ship, of the square-rigged variety.

For over an hour it struggled against the wind, bobbing up and down like an empty bottle, until it virtually stopped. Just when I was beginning to think that they should either tack, or drop anchor and wait until the wind drops (next April sometime!), they go about, and sail directly away from us.

We watch as the ship diminishes in size and eventually becomes too small to be interesting.

Later we walk along the beach.


Ripples in the sand behind the dunes

Thu 17 Oct

While sitting in the recliner, feeling a little guilty for not doing anything, I spot a turtle swimming in the shallows just in front of the truck.

They are here quite frequently but this time I'm galvanised into action, I grab my snorkelling gear and run to the beach. Chris and Kevin direct me from their vantage point on the rocks, and before long I'm seeing a turtle's backside.

I quickly catch up and hold off about a metre away to watch him. The turtle in turn watches me, but after a few minutes it decides that I'm harmless, and continues feeding on the weed that grows from the bottom.

What a beautiful creature, with it's big dark eyes and reticulated facial pattern. For half an hour or so I follow the little fellow, mimicking his actions as best as I can. I dive with it, surface when it goes for a breath, walk on the sandy bottom with my "rear flippers".

Kevin Kostner may have been "Dances with Wolves", but I'm "Swims with Turtles", so when the movie comes out remember, you read it here first.

Fri 18 Oct

We see an amazing display of breaching and tail-slapping by some whales this morning. There are one or two whales breaching and another, just behind them, slapping his tail flukes on the water.

We can clearly hear the "thump" a second or so after the tale hits. What they're doing exactly is not clear to us non whale experts, but my interpretation is that the pod's head whale is in a hurry to get south, and some others are mucking around, so the head fellow is slapping the water in an attempt to give them a hurry up.

Whatever the reason for the display, we certainly get half an hour or so's enjoyment from watching them.

In another first, Chris goes snorkelling today. She reports the same as I did the other day and thoroughly enjoys the experience. At one point she turned around to find a turtle right next to her. They seem quite happy with human company.

Kevin and I go in search of a cave we'd heard about up in the range behind the beach.

We didn't find it, but did find some great rock falls and interesting "crannies". The rock around here is incredibly rough and pitted which makes the climbing easy as you're feet tend to "stick" wherever they are placed.

However in several places we notice that it is worn so smooth by the rock wallaby traffic that it's like marble. One can't even imagine how many thousands of generations of wallabies have sat on a rock to wear it this smooth.

In one such area, I climb through holes and crevasses in the rock to a shady enclave way above the gorge floor. As I poke my head through a hole I see a pair of large fury ears. I raise myself a little higher, and find myself staring at a rock wallaby.

We eye each other off for a short while then I retreat, if I approach any closer I may cause the wallaby to take flight and perform actions on these steep cliffs that place it in danger.

We never find the cave but I think we did identify the entrance, too high to climb to, but apparently approachable from the top of the cliff.

Later in the evening, as we enjoy a few beers in the lee of the truck (it's still windy), Chris spots more whales.

As before the front ones are breaching and another is following and tail slapping. It's sunset and certainly a fitting end to a great day.

Sat 19 Oct

Chris has developed a new marine life spotting technique. There is a clear patch of water right in front of the truck, and she reasons that most of the local marine life will swim through it at some time or other, so if you just watch that section you'll see everything.

She starts with this new approach and does report turtles and various large fish (yawn) but before long I hear the cry "dolphins!", now I'm interested.

At first glimpse their triangular dorsal fins look a bit like sharks, but they are bobbing up and down and slapping tales, it's immediately obvious that these are playful mammals.

Later, while reading (a book about crocodile attacks) I hear a "thump" which my newly tuned senses tell me is a whale tail hitting the H2O.

We look up and sure enough there are whales breaching and tale slapping, just like before, and in roughly the same place. One whale is on his back waving both flippers in air, there's no way you can tell me these guys aren't just having fun.

It's all just too exciting and I must go to the loo. While sitting there, minding my own business (so to speak), I hear a rustle outside. The loo has a large gap under the walls, and it's from this gap that I hear the noise.

I look down to find myself staring at a goanna, and he at me. I'm not sure which one of use gets the biggest fright, luckily the goanna turns and takes off, because I can't go anywhere.

Chris goes for a long walk up the coast and comes back all exited having seen "large black things with turquoise stripes", "tiger-striped fish" and "other fish, gold with triangular-backed bodies". Maybe someone with a good working knowledge of marine species can figure out what the heck she's talking about.

Later she feels that she hasn't seen any turtles for a while and, while scanning the bay, notices something. "What's that" she asks. I take a look, expecting to see more dolphins, but this time I see a different kind of fin.

There's no playful bobbing up and down, just a businesslike triangle, knifing through the water. Five feet behind it is another fin, smaller and moving from side to side.

It's a shark, and probably over ten feet long.

We watch the predator for a while as he cruises the bay just metres off the shore. At one point he turns, and the fin, normally a triangle, changes shape to a slim vertical appendage indicating that the shark is swimming directly towards me. I'm safe on shore but can't help the feeling of dread that knowledge brings about.

"Anyone for a spot of snorkelling!" says Kevin.

Later I can be seen canvassing all the campers in the area trying sell my snorkelling equipment.

Sun 20 Oct

Once again Kevin and I go in search of the fabled cave in the gorge opposite the Pilgramunna campsite.

After a few hours climbing along cliff faces and poking our noses into overhangs we give up.

It wasn't a total waste of time though, we did get to watch rock wallabies bounding from ledge to ledge on the opposite side of the gorge. It's quite fascinating to watch as two wallabies have a brief territorial dispute over a patch of rock before one disappears into a cave. Shortly after he emerges and the other goes inside. We can't figure out what's happening, but it's great to watch anyway.

We also watched a family of goats for a while, mum and the two youngsters are white and easy to see, but dad is more dark brown in colour and invisible until he moves.

At about 2:30, just before low tide, we head off along the beach with a view to seeing some huge turtles Kevin reported yesterday.

A kilometre or so south we encounter a large (100m or so in length) rock pool and, sure enough, there's a dark blob in the water.

We wait a minute and up pops a big turtle head, much larger than the ones we've been seeing near the truck.

Walking another few yards we spot a big round "rock" protruding from the shallow water. I'm convinced it's a turtle but Chris isn't so sure. Nevertheless I line up on it with my camera.

A minute passed, we wait a minute, then another minute passed. My arms are getting tired from holding the heavy camera and long lens. Chris says "I'm SURE it's a rock". No sooner had the word "rock" hit the air when the rock lifted it's head for a breath.

Click...whirr...click...whirr...click...whirr

Don't you just love motor drives on cameras?


A large turtle comes up for air

Continuing up the beach we discover another goat, well part of one anyway. Chris actually found it this morning and led me back to it.

All that is left of the unfortunate animal is a skull with one horn and a tuft of white hair.

We carry on. Still further down the beach we spot a dark mass in the shallows. Closer inspection reveals the individual fishes as the school swims somewhat erratically too and fro.

Just behind the black mass there's another dark shape. "Oooh look, there's another school just behind", one of us exclaims. "It's as though the second one is chasing...hell it's a shark!"

In fact there are two sharks, only little ones though, about five feet long.

The sun is getting low, by the time we return to camp.


Watching the sunset is pretty much a national pastime around here.

We've seen evidence of crabs on the beach but never actually seen the critters so this evening, after dark, we go for a walk.

There's thousands of Ghost Crabs, running all over the beach. We play our torch on them and they stop to face the light. If we get close enough we can hear them making a scraping noise with their claws.

Mon 21 Oct

It's into town today to pay some bills and pick up some fresh fruit and veges.

On the way back we drop into the park's information centre and browse some fish identification books, trying to identify the large shark we saw the other day.

Unfortunately they all look pretty much the same but we eventually decide it was either a "Bloody-big-shark" (latin: Bigus maximus Sharkii), or a "No-way-I'm-going-snorkelling-again-reef-shark" (Sharkii non snorkelus).

Late in the afternoon we return to the shallow area down the beach to photograph the turtles again. I get another couple of shots with a telephoto lens but decide to try and get closer with a wide angle.

The tide is coming in, and the water is getting deeper, so I soon find that I'm up to my waist. The turtles raise their heads to peek at me then bolt at high speed. In this deep water they're too fast and I'm too slow. Eventually I give up.


Moon over motorhome. Note the occupant has the same idea and appears to be photographing the full moon as well

Tue 22 Oct

We finally came up with a more precise method of indicating where one of us has seen a whale. Rather than something like...

"Whale ho!"
"Where away?"
"Five point off the larboard bow"

We now use the standard "clock" method, ie. a whale straight ahead of the truck is at 12 o'clock. This works well, although for a while Chris thought everything was at 12 o'clock because she was facing it at the time.

This system comes to be known as GMT (Gray's Motorhome Time).

Unfortunately all this was to little avail because today has been a whale free day.

We have however seen some more dolphins herding fish.

At one point a dolphin takes off at high speed, and I mean "high" speed. Straight as an arrow he speeds at, what we later guestimated, must be 60-odd kph. In seconds he covers 200m or so, a long dark torpedo under the water. We are so used to these animals just playing and cruising, that this demonstration of power is quite awe inspiring.

Wed 23 Oct

Both Chris and I have just finished reading a book called "Crocodile Attack" loaned to us by Kevin. Although a bit dated and dramatised, the book is based on fact, and quite interesting reading.

Coincidentally, we hear today that a tourist was killed by a crocodile yesterday in Kakadu National Park.

Apparently a group of them were swimming at night in a lagoon, that's about the dumbest thing you can do.

We've seen many tourists feeding the roos and goannas around here, it's not allowed in National Parks and for good reasons. For example...

  • The animals become dependant on handouts and have trouble when the tourists aren't there in the off-season.
  • Often the food is not suitable for them.
  • The become less timid and afraid of humans, and can actually get aggressive.

Kevin saw one such tourist chasing a one-metre goanna. He didn't catch him which was probably lucky for the tourist. Later he said "It's only a small one, it won't hurt", obviously spoken by a goanna bite expert, fresh from the suburban sprawl of Frankfurt or London.


I don't care if he's one metre or two, I don't want to get on the wrong side of this goanna

The same person also didn't think that a 3.5-metre shark or a 4-metre croc would hurt you. I hope he's not a tour guide.

Thu 24 Oct

The whale supply seems to have dried up, with only a couple of sightings today and those not being very exciting.

The day seems to have gone very slowly, to the point that, at one time, I commented that it seemed to have taken all day.

At the last couple of happy hours the conversation has got around to when we're leaving and where we're going. It won't be long now and we'll be off.

One thing I have enjoyed over the last two days is watching and photographing the kite surfers that have been taking advantage of the incessant wind we get around here at this time of year.


Kite surfing.

It's been years since I photographed anything much faster than a mountain range, so it takes me a while to brush up on my follow-focus technique, and get my eye in. What's follow-focus? Adjusting the lens to keep it focussed on a moving subject. Of course these days auto focus has revolutionised action photography, but some of us can't afford the new-fangled gear.

One of the problems with photographing this sport is that the surfer and the kite are usually well apart from each other, so you get a lot of shots with just the surfer hanging from strings. As is the case with two of the above.

One way around this is to use a wide lens but I really want to get a tight shot with both in the frame. I succeed with the following shot.


Nice composition showing both kite and surfer

It isn't all plain sailing however and my trigger finger caught a couple of spills.


Oops. Sometimes you get too much air...


...and sometimes not enough

One of the lads is from Ireland, another is an Exmouth local, and the third's origins I'm not sure of. Wherever they're from though they are having a ball with the warm water and strong winds.

Just as I've finished photographing the surfers I see an Osprey approaching. I've had no luck photographing them to date, and grab a quick shot as he flies past.


An Osprey files past the sun shelters at Sandy Bay

Sun 27 Oct

Today is our last day at Osprey Bay. I spend some time checking the truck's body fluids, tyre pressures etc. and Chris generally squares things away inside.

I decide to go for a final walk along the dunes towards Sandy Bay.


Terns at Sandy Bay

Behind the dunes there's a small lagoon and a rock ledge that the kangaroos use as a hang out during the day.

Last time I was here I crept along the top of the ledge and peered over the edge to find myself looking down on some roos just a couple of feet below. I watched them for ages as they seemed totally unaware of my presence.

This time I walk around the other side of the lagoon, over a large flat expanse of hard sand. Here I find many holes dug by roos. For a while I've been wondering where the local animals obtained water, and I now theorise that these holes may give access to the precious liquid.

I kneel down and scoop some sand from a hole, it's slowly replaced by water. I excavate some more, until I have a small pool about three inches wide, then cup my hand and take a drink.

Not bad, pretty dirty, but drinkable. I guess the mystery is solved.

Straight away I think that I could dig a deeper and larger hole, then sure up the sides and maybe place a windlass and bucket at the top. That way future users would not have to dig and wait for the water to seep through.

I am immediately struck by one of the differences between humans and kangaroos. The roo will dig a hole just big enough for a kangaroo snout, and just deep enough to find water, any water.

Tomorrow he'll do exactly the same again, and the day after, and the day after that. Talk about hard work, us humans have got the right idea.

We'll create a massive structure so that everyone can simply get water whenever they choose, but they'll have to pay for the water because it was difficult to build the structure.

Because they have to pay for water they, in turn, have to work to earn the money. As they have forgotten how to make a waterproof container they also have to buy one from somebody who didn't forget. So they have to work a bit more to pay for the container.

Then they reason that if they had a bigger container they wouldn't have to got to the well every day, and this would give them some spare time. Spare time that can be productively used to earn money to pay for the bigger container, and the cart that is now required to carry the extra weight, and the horse that is also required because the well is at the bottom of a hill, and the combined weight of the cart and full container is too much for a human.

The horse of course needs feeding but the human is clever, if he grows his own feed he won't have to buy it, so he plants maize, but the maize must be irrigated with, that's right, more water. So, once again, the human has to go for water everyday to keep up with the increased demand. But if he could only afford two containers...

Hmmmm, I think the kangaroos are onto something.

 

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