Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Really Big Beach

[Kyle]From Karijini we rejoined the Great Northern Highway and headed north for the coast. The first part of the journey was a real nail-biter because Karijini is so far out there that it takes an entire tank of gas to get in and then back out again. Unless you carry extra fuel, it is necessary to link trips carefully in order to make sure you have enough fuel to get out. We met one man who drove to the nearest town – Tom Price – and was told there was no fuel. The truck broke down. The horrible condition of the roads had affected our fuel economy. The initial trip out of the park was also uphill. We made it to the Auski Roadhouse with the needle just about to cover the E mark.

The drive north out of the park took us on a sweeping path through red hills covered with yellow spinifex. In the space of ten minutes, it was completely flat again, Ten minutes later hills made of yellow soil popped out of nowhere. Then it was flat. Then there were gaint rocks rearing out of the flat landscape. The whole while, for hours, there was nothing else – no crossroads, no power lines, no nuttin’. The area reminded me very much of eastern Nevada. There were spots where the road didn’t turn for fifty kilometres.

We were both getting a little peckish after our light breakfast. Maryanne offered up some cheese and crackers to snack on. The cheese had cooked in the car for a week but we hadn’t opened it until the night before. Our experience living without refrigeration on Prydwen told us we had probably a day to finish it off. There is big difference, however, between keeping food on a boat, which always has somewhere reasonably dark and cool to put things and having it in a car in the sun in an area that’s pushing almost 40C (104F) to begin with. We each had about three crackers and decided we were done.

You know where this is going. About fifteen minutes later, Maryanne says she’s not feeling well. Neither was I. Within a minute or so, we were screeching to a stop in a cloud of gravel and dust and were headed to the bushes to be...uh, seasick. Feeling a little better, we climbed back in. That lasted about a kilometre and then it happened again. This went on like this for five more kilometres. We’d think we’d finally be fine and then...nope. Eventually, after getting rid of all the food we ate in Australia, we got better. We threw out the rest of the cheese.

Following our many stops and feeling somewhat recovered, we ended up at Cape Keraudren Coastal Reserve, where we got a nice spot to pitch our tent over nice, soft sand. Our campsite is against an azure blue river with a white powder bottom. Across the river, which is shallow enough to wade across, lays the 80 Mile Beach, which can only be accessed at Cape Keraudren and two other places. It is a vast expanse of powdery white sand that goes on for ages. Driving on the beach is prohibited so, except for a couple of miles either side of the access points, the animals have it all to themselves. The beach acts as a corridor for almost a million migratory birds and is an important turtle nesting habitat (which is why driving is prohibited).

Cape Keraudren Conservation Area

The two things that are most striking about the beach are the width and the sand. The beach is so shallow that the tide recedes something like a half mile when it goes out. It is a long walk to the water at low tide. When you get there, you have to walk another half mile before it gets more than knee deep. What makes this even harder is the sand. The sand is a very, very fine powder. It’s wonderful to sit in or play with but it’s really hard to walk on. Since the beach is so shallow, there’s virtually no surf. As the tide recedes, the finer powder fills in the gaps at the top, creating a crust with coarser powder underneath that hasn’t settled or compacted. This means that, unlike most beaches, the closer you get to the water, the softer the sand becomes. There were places where I was sinking up to my knees with each step. A long stroll on this beach requires a fierce determination. It is pretty, though.

As we climbed into the tent for our first night, I noticed a little hermit crab scurrying by. Then, paying more attention, I saw dozens. When the sun had gone down, they all came out of their holes and started foraging for the night. It was so hot during the day that we decided to take the rain fly off our tent for the night. Our tent is a warm weather model that is basically a ground sheet and mosquito netting covered by a rain fly. Without the rain fly, we were sleeping in a mosquito netting cage that allowed us to look up at the moon and stars without getting bitten, and it kept a breeze over us. That was pretty cool.

Cape Keraudren Conservation Park

Our next day consisted of early morning kangaroo spotting in the park. We also did early morning and late afternoon walks on the beach with a midday period of trying to escape the heat of the day in the shade of the tent. It didn’t really work. Even in the shade, at midday, it’s too hot to do anything. I swear, I can feel the sun shining through the rain fly.

[Maryanne]While Karijini National Park was all about the spectacular gorges, this area has been an abundance of wildlife, especially birds, to enjoy. So many birds it would turn anyone into a serious twitcher (A British term for a serious bird watcher). Unfortunately we don’t have a bird guide book so we’ve not been able to correctly name anything, but continue to give the birds our own names. Any early morning drive is guaranteed to disturb a few kangaroos, and here we even had cattle grazing in our “front yard” as we arose on our last day. The area is famed for its turtles (which unfortunately we did not see), and also provides warnings against crocodiles, sharks, sting rays and other beasties.

It was a romantic couple of days, with sunset walks on the beach and a bottle of wine beside the roaring campfire at night.

The facilities are the usual corrugated walled bush toilets (complete with flies and cockroaches; it doesn’t pay to look too closely) and little else. We left covered in sand, and were relieved to take a shower at the first road house on our way out and the start of our journey south back towards Perth.

1 comment:

Mommy Dearest said...

I don't know how you get such spectacular photos on the fly like that. Professionals would wait in a blind for hours to get just one good shot. You're getting better and better all the time.
By the way, while it can be pretty boring in Arizona, there is a nice featherbed with private bath, hot water, refrigeration, air conditioning and heat, a nice little pool/spa out back that can be regulated just so, cooking facilities, laundry facilities and even flush toilets sans cockroaches! It might be a nice change for you.
Let's see--Arizona wildlife--I am setting a trap to capture the rabbits that have overtaken the area and will usher them into, well, somewhere else. I won't hurt them, don't worry. I watched a spider yesterday that looked just like a black widow but had brilliant yellow and black stripes across its back. Alas, it didn't survive the study. There is a new outcropping of baby geckos, always fun to watch, and of course, big hummingbird wars at all times. Living in the lap of luxury has its benefits, but then I have never had the pleasure of having to stop every half mile to barf up week-old spoiled cheese either. You two amaze me and make me proud!