The Locals of Shark Bay

by Ant Stone on November 20, 2009

in Australia

A globule of pink ice cream evaded his podgy chin, while his right hand gripped the accelerator of Coffee Pot, a small racing-green steam train. He thrust the engine, ‘Full steam ahead!’ Elderly passengers were choked with fear, as the chubby five year old hurled them along the 1-mile jetty. The rearmost passengers were sprayed with milky tea, and splattered by soggy slices of cucumber. Little Johnny went pale, ‘There’s a hole in the track!’ He slammed his eyes tightly shut. When he reopened them, Coffee Pot was rattling through the sky, high above the blue ocean. They swooped over pelicans, which bobbed above lagoon sharks, which circled shoals of shimmering fish. Clouds of tiny white shells sprinkled the air, and a pod of excited dolphins leapt upwards. Smoking camp fires signalled the way and mutterings erupted, of monkeys, eagles, and journeys back in time.

Travel in Australia has the ability to bring out your inner-child. It’s a land with room for your imagination to escape; while natural additives continually fuel your adventure.

Coffee-Pot

Small Town Terrorism

Carnarvon is a pleasing town on the central west coast. By pleasing, I mean inherently dull. The main tourist attraction is the One Mile Jetty (home of Coffee Pot, a green miniature steam train). However, after half a mile there’s a 72-metre gap. It’s believed that a local Vietnamese man took umbrage at receiving a fine for over-fishing off the jetty. He boldly returned later that night, and strapped a gas tank to the jetty’s uprights, then promptly blew it up. Now there’s a fantastic hole — an expanse of nothingness, that I honestly believe is Carnarvon’s most interesting feature.

Life’s a Pitch

We left Carnarvon in silence — Reb didn’t much like the fact, that I didn’t much like Carnarvon. We drove south, towards the notch of Shark Bay and the noble François Péron Peninsula. Rich in simplistic natural beauty, almost the entire peninsula is encapsulated by the Shark Bay World Heritage & Marine Park. We chose to camp at Eagle Bluff, an incredible, sandy shoulder that overlooked a natural lagoon. We were visiting under a full moon, and the weather was calm. The moonlight was bright enough to read by, and meals were tinged with enforced romance. Camping in World Heritage zones means no facilities, not even the managed bush toilets we’d come to love. A short drive away was the town, Denham — home to the most miserable tourist information staff in the southern hemisphere, and the place where I heard an immortal line which perfectly summarised Australian’s take on life: ‘’Eere Bridget, that Vegemite and cheese roll was beautiful darl — tell Tracy thanks, it was sooo nice.’

local-comedian

Wild at Heart

Beyond Denham is the most famous spot on the west coast: the Monkey Mia resort is renowned for its ‘dolphin interaction zone’. A loyal pod of bottlenose dolphin’s visits daily, stringing animated tourists along the beach, in the hope of securing the opportunity to hand feed the cheery marine mammals. I believe it’s unnatural, so passed the privilege to Reb who had wanted to do it for a while. After a period of education, she proudly stepped forward, grabbed a dead fish from a volunteer’s bucket, and crammed it into a smug dolphin’s shiny snout. Also at the resort are a gaggle of pelicans, and a mob of indigenous emus that sashay around the place and intimidate young travel bloggers.

A Visible Cape

We revisited Monkey Mia a few nights later, to take a walk with local Aboriginal, Darren ‘Capes’ Capewell. The walk turned out to be a stroll across the car park, to a feisty campfire nestled in a natural amphitheatre of the surrounding sand dunes. A German radio-journalist captured audio (I was denied) of traditional stories and folklore, while Capes flipped the bush tucker around in the coals. It was mullet — one of the most ordinary tasting fish on the planet.

While I was considering the lackadaisical tour, Capes produced a didgeridoo. I closed my eyes and absorbed the hypnotic thrum. Capes made some interesting points. Firstly, that he couldn’t welcome anyone to Australia. To him — and all Aborigines — Australia is made up of over 300 separate ‘countries’, and he cannot answer for the others. He finished by teaching us the correct way to show respect to traditional owners: by rubbing sand between our palms, and declaring who we are and where we’re from.

shell-out

Life Begins at 3,500,000,000

François Péron Peninsula also provides two of the world’s great natural phenomena. Shell Beach earns its name from the small white cockleshells which fill the 110km stretch. The natural resource is so tightly packed in areas that a small quarry exists to extract blocks for building. Nearby, the shallow Hamelin Pool is home to a collection of deceptively ordinary-looking rocks. However, these are stromatolites — living microbes, considered to be the origin of life on earth — and appear like dull stumpy canyons in crystal clear water. They grow at a painstaking rate of 10mm over thirty years, and are thought to be 3.5-billion years old. They’ve survived due to the hyper-saline (super salty) water, where there’s very little chance of being nibbled away by hungry fish.

Shark Bay World Heritage Site & Marine Park maybe a mouthful to some, however within just five minutes of being there I could easily have scribbled a series of fiction, and non-fiction stories; bringing to life one of the most mesmerising strips of land in the country. An area where life continues to grow and evolve, in a multitude of magnificent and childish ways.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Mattheus 'Mojo' Ericson November 22, 2009 at 12:33 am

Hey man, just wanted to tell you I really enjoyed reading what you’ve written. Keep it up, man!

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Ant November 22, 2009 at 4:46 am

Thanks Mattheus. I’m slowly piping out the Australia road trip, it’s an incredible country. People often just accept that you’ve travelled in Australia – it’s almost a given. When in fact, it truly is one of the best destinations on the planet, because it simply has everything.

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