Tuesday, 3 November 2015

The Easy Road

The Coral Coast, Western Australia

Group tours have their share of mixed opinions for which I’m currently somewhere in the middle these days for reasons. I didn’t start doing them until 2011 after seeing the dynamics a year earlier from the outside, when I was travelling alone and with so much uncertainty. Overall, these are the factors that secured my curiosity. As of this day I’ve done six multi-day trips and it all started with Easy Rider, which unfortunately isn’t in swing anymore. This is just a tribute.

The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)
The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken by Donna Gleeson, 2011)

Stretched out between Kalbarri and Coral Bay is 673km that more or less set my love of the Australian west in stone. Spread out amongst the fingers of sunlight, Tropics of my zodiac sign and that one off dance to Wannabe (that song is following me), it’s in the middle somewhere that you’ll find the Overlander Roadhouse (back when I was doing it).

The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)

Nothing’s there except for some food and Florence and the Machine albums, one of which our now whiskey barrel recycling carpenter tour guide had playing on repeat like a boss. However, if one turns off towards Denham for the 129km drive, it gets pretty spectacular. We’ve now come to Shark Bay.

Pay close attention kiddies because these are some stops that must be made; I doubt you’ll find others like them anywhere else in Straya, or the world for that matter. Some are insanely unique. The list is a good one, not a spectacular one, so I compel yee to read on and leave a nice comment if you’re packing. That last part ain’t optional.

Hamelin Pool, the home of some thumb-sized golden orb spiders is where you’ll stumble upon the stromatolites, living microbes that came into existence 1900 million years ago. The move across the boardwalk at low tide came with its simplicity, as well as some clear glimpses through the water itself. Fish were about, which will foreshadow what you’ll find on your journey to come.

The Stromatolites, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)

Next stop to be made is Shell Beach, a stretch where you’ll need a pair of thongs or flip flops. Whilst the water is a joy to move about in, fail at swimming races with Sydneysiders and have the odd but inconvenient nose bleed, it’s the beach itself that deserves the nomad’s attention. Miniature white cockleshells cover the scape, gifting the locale its simple yet well-deserved name.

Shell Beach, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)

I was serious about the footwear mentioned above because those little buggers, whilst unique and nice to move through one’s fingers, are a nightmare to walk across. FOOTWEAR KIDDIES!!!

With the western most Denham acting as a place of rest, you’ll find plenty to do in and about town. The town itself, whilst small, was easy enough for us Easy Riders to move about. The Shark Bay Hotel hosted its share of karaoke enthusiasts, a pearl farmer what wanted a wife and some dry parma; avoid the last one. We had ourselves a good night, abundant with a farmer what wanted a wife and some Kryptonite by a Sydneysider singing 3 Doors Down, before jumping on a 4WD bus the following morning to the Ocean Park Aquarium. This should amaze the marine junkies out there.

Ocean Park Aquarium, Denham, Western Australia (taken 2011)

The aquarium itself was small but I had little to argue with, except for when my camera’s batteries died. With replacements hastily pulled out of a packet, I found the tour of the marine life on display enjoyable. Watch your fingers I was told before acknowledging an eel that had eyes for me. With that part completed, we started our drive on all four wheels out to François Peron National Park.

From point to point the landscape can change amazingly in François Peron. After driving across flat white sand you’re soon introduced to dark red dunes looking out at the glistening water of the Indian Ocean. We snorkelled during this part of the day, finding a stonefish and one dangerously underweight turtle our tour guide collected out of the water but ultimately couldn’t help. I was disappointed about not helping the turtle but I’ve since accepted that nature shouldn’t be challenged.

François Peron National Park, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)
François Peron National Park, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken by Donna Gleeson, 2011)

Apart from the pre-mentioned, the snorkelling at François Peron wasn’t a lot to write home about… but one doesn’t need a mask and fins to see what’s on offer. The fauna isn’t shy; we had a pod of dolphins, another turtle, a stingray and shark breaking the surface. My only regret was not getting a damn picture! 

Last on this list, and quite possibly the least impressive according to the majority, is Monkey Mia. What draws in the crowd are the resident dolphins, known to number in the many, which visitors are able to see up close and even feed. I’d heard plenty about it, and was planning to stop there a year earlier before the uncertainty devil got in my way, but after an hour all of us were going meh.

Monkey Mia, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken by Donna Gleeson, 2011)

Monkey Mia, The Coral Coast, Western Australia (taken 2011)

By that point I’d seen my share of wild dolphins so the novelty was just about non-existent, and the presenter of the morning was a little dull. Disappointing, this I will admit, but on the scene was a pelican giving many the business and family history dictates that this is a good thing for those looking in.

Every group tour, regardless of where they take you and how many others, can have its ups and downs. This is a universal given of the industry, but for my first of several completed, it was money well spent. Easy Rider was on its last legs when I signed up and I’ll always be grateful for having done so.

Remember, this is just a tribute... now bring in the Devil and his guitar solo.

Links: oceanpark.com.auwww.westernaustralia.commonkeymia.com.auwww.sharkbay.org.au