Australia: 5/14 – 5/20

(Australia) Perth >>> Cliffhead >>> Carnarvon >>> Learmonth >>> Cape Range National Park >>> Learmonth >>> Carbla


5/14- Biking and Snorkeling around Rottnest Island
5/15- Picked up our Campervan Rental for our Western Australia Trip!
5/16- Driving North along the Coral Coast 
5/17- Quobba Point Snorkeling and Exploring the West Coast
5/18- Snorkeling along the Ningaloo Reef! 
5/19- Exploring Cape Range National Park Above and Below the Water 
5/20- Snorkeling in Coral Bay and Meeting new friends

Biking and Snorkeling around Rottnest Island
+ Somehow we both woke up a little early before our alarm and weren’t completely exhausted getting out of bed. Success! Then we grabbed some granola bars and our pre-packed bags and drove half an hour southwest of Perth to a ferry terminal in Fremantle.
+ Boarded a ferry to Rottnest Island. It was a quick and easy 30 min ride. At the dock we picked up our bike hire along with seemingly every other tourist arriving to the island.
+ Got Subway to go for lunch in the town center.
+ Spotted our first quokka sitting outside a restaurant! What a funny looking little critter! Decided to keep on riding away from town (the “settlement” as it was called) and get selfies later on.
+ Rode around the island. Stopped at Parker Point where there were a number of quokkas. (Some dumb tourist was feeding them despite the signs saying not to)
+ Took tons of pictures of the cute little guys. They were very similar to Tasmanian marsupials (potoroos, pademelons).
+ Braved the icy cold water and went snorkeling at what was supposed to be one of the best spots on the island to do so.
+ With our bikes parked up on the hill, we climbed down the stairs to the water’s edge. Since it was high tide we crept along the rocky edges and tucked our bags into a crevice that and crossed our fingers the tide wouldn’t come up this high and that nobody would steal them.
+ The water was freezing. Probably negative 1 million.
+ There was supposed to be a designated snorkeling trail to follow with plaques on the bottom but we only found about 20% of them. It was mostly snorkeling over very dense sea grass beds. Not much to see. Except one large decorator crab. In the small breaks from the sea grass there were some larger fish but with the freezing temperatures and relatively poor visibility it definitely wasn’t our best snorkeling outing.
+ Swam back to shore and the shivered our way up the stairs back to our bikes. Then we ate our lunch and warmed up in the sun.
+ Continued  our ride around the rest of the island. Now the grey clouds were rolling in and the wind was definitely picking up. We threw on our rain coats but thankfully we didn’t get much more than a sprinkle.
+ Liz learned how to properly ride a bike with her seat elevated so she could make it up hills without walking! All thanks to her awesome teacher: Corey Bikekins!
+ We rode up and down the small hills around the island. And the quokka were everywhere! We stopped our bikes once for a water break just in the side of the road with no quokka in sight. Just in the few moments it took to get the water out of our backpacks, there were suddenly 4 of the little creatures who had come out of the Bush and were now staring up at us hoping for a snack!
+ On the North side we stopped at Little Parakeet Bay. It was pretty. Then we kept on riding back towards the settlement. Now the bike path turned off the road and wound it’s way through a holiday park and right along the coast. Tons of quokka here! The hundreds of villas were mostly deserted now but the place would be quite the sight in peak season!
+ Stopped for a picture at a quokka picture point and had another tourist take our picture with our faces poking through the holes. It was funny!
+ Returned our bikes to the ferry company and climbed aboard for our 30 min ride back to the mainland. Then we drove our car over to the actual city of Fremantle.
+ Fremantle reminded Corey of Asheville, North Carolina. There were lots of hipster looking shops, restaurants, and bars all over the place. Even a didgeridoo school where you could learn to play!
+ We visited 2 different breweries: Monk and Little Creatures. They are probably the two biggest and most popular in all of Western Australia and had huge buildings and seating areas. The beer from Monk was really delicious! The best we’d had in a while.
+ Before leaving Fremantle, we ate dinner at Zambrero Mexican. Yummy (but small-ish) burritos.
+ Drove back up to our hostel to pack up for tomorrow’s campervan rental.


Picked up our Campervan Rental for our Western Australia Trip! 
+ We checked out of our hostel and drove the car to the airport to return it. Just as we pulled into the parking space the gas tank meter dropped a single bar off which ended up costing $12! So stupid!
+ Then we got an Uber to the Apollo office to pick up the van. We were basically trapped into buying full insurance on the van. Vowed not to rent from Apollo again. Way too much money when everything is all said and done.
+ Before leaving Perth we went grocery shopping for food and drinks for our 8 day roadtrip since there would be long stretches without resupply points and even if there were restaurants, they’d most likely be too expensive for us. Such is the life of a budget backpacker!
+ Drove North for about 4 hours and camped at Cliffhead near the beach. Along the way the landscape changed a little bit every so often but not too much as we stayed pretty close to the coast. Still lots of orange/red sand like in the outback!


Driving North along the Coral Coast
+ After a nice breakfast in the van we drove north for a few more hours.
+ Stopped at Geraldton for our last taste of wifi and cheap food. Ate lunch at Hungry Jacks and enjoyed their parfait-like ice cream desserts!
+ Visited the town mall and got some cheap chocolate from Target! Then we bought an esky (cooler) to have with us because our fridge in the van wasn’t working and we didn’t want all of our groceries to spoil!
+ Continued driving a few more hours up the coast and camped just North of Carnavon.
+ In the evening we enjoyed some high quality box wine and watched some episodes of 30 Rock!


Quobba Point Snorkeling and Exploring the West Coast
+ Corey wanted to sleep in a little bit and Liz certainly wasn’t going to deny him what she considers her favorite pastime!
+ Drove Northwest to Quobba point to look at the blowhole (actually really impressive this time!) and do some snorkeling. This snorkeling area was called “The Aquarium”. It was super shallow and had great visibility!
+ We saw 2 octopus who didn’t just hide immediately. They both actually stayed out and watched us with their little nubbin eyes. They changed from their normal deep red to a yellow-white if we got too close.
+ Corey spotted a stingray sitting underneath a coral ledge. Covered in sand except for his two eyes. It looked like one of those yellow green sting rays with blue spots. We also saw a whole bunch of new types of fish and some interesting looking coral and sponges too!
+ After snorkeling for about 1.5 hrs, we got out and dried off to continue our drive North.
+ Made a detour to Coral Bay and then walked along the beach while we watched a spectacular sunset! The whole sky turned pink and purple after the sun dipped below the horizon! Then we drove 1 more hour North before pulling over in a rest area filled with other campervans.
+ Before going to sleep we watched the travel movie “A Map for Saturday”. It was about a guy who backpacked around the world for a year and it definitely the best travel movie we’d ever seen and really captured the emotions, trials, and joys of long-term backpacking!


Snorkeling along the Ningaloo Reef! 
+ In the morning we enjoyed another nice breakfast and then only had 1 hour of driving left before we finally reached the town of Exmouth, our Northernmost destination. Hooray!
+ We made a quick stop at the visitor center to gather some info and use their wifi and then drove up and around the cape and into Cape Range National Park. Then we stopped at their visitor center too and walked around the displays looking at all the weird creatures that existed out here!
+ Our first stop for the day was snorkeling Oyster Stacks which was located on the Ningaloo Reef.
+ Then we snorkeled “The Drift” in Turquoise Bay. It was also on the Ningaloo Reef, which is Australia’s largest fringing reef!
+ Saw multiple turtles! They were munching away but kept getting attacked by the little black damselfish! Those things were so mean and territorial! The damselfish often acted like they were going to attack us but then wussed out when they realized how big we were. Ha!
+ Saw a few weird catfish/eel thing. We thought it was a Wobbogong but later learned it was an Eel-tailed Catfish. Our description had been spot on!
+ We also spotted a Giant triggerfish digging in the sand!! He kept one huge eye on us as we dove down to get a closer look. Awesome! The cloud of sand and coral debris was so big, it was attracting other wrasse and smaller fish who didn’t mind munching away.
+ Eventually got out of the water about 15 minutes before sunset. We looked around and realized we had the entire beach to ourselves! This beach, Turquoise Beach, was one of the most popular in the national park but yet not a single soul was here! We watched the sun sink into the Indian Ocean from our own private beach! It was very nice and romantic.
+ The colors were again fantastic and we tried to soak it all in and remember how grateful we are for this whole experience.
+ On the drive back through the national park (our campground was about 20 minutes outside the park) we saw about 100 Euros and Wallaroos (all variations of marsupials) hopping alongside and across the road. They were much tinier and cuter versions of kangaroos!
+ Camped at Yardie Homestead (our first paid spot on this campervan trip). We made the most of our time and indulged in showers, proper toilets, and electricity! Oh, the luxuries!
+ At night some German people staying at the camp sang happy birthday to their friend just after midnight. But then later the German couple was screaming at each other. Australian campers were yelling at them to shut up and go to sleep!



Exploring Cape Range National Park Above and Below the Water
+ In the morning we got a late check out and were able to take our time admiring the bird life in the campground. So many parrots! Little Corellas (a type of white cockatoo) were on the ground eating seeds and things and also the pretty grey and pink Gallahs were perched up in the trees! It was a great campsite!
+ Drove back into Cape Range National Park. This time to snorkel at a site called Lakeside. The snorkeling was again impressive! We spotted 2 octopus, lots of sleeping porcupine fish, a nudibranch, juvenile lion fish, an anenome and more new fish. Lots of those Eel catfish things too.
+ We also saw the biggest stingray we’ve ever seen! We could see one eye and a gill fluttering open and shut. Only after we dived down for a closer look did we realize we were looking at only half of it! This thing was huge! As big as a dining room table!
+ After an hour and half of snorkeling we walked back to the van and changed.
+ Drove further into the park to do one of the hikes. Corey hiked Mandu Mandu Gorge while Liz escaped the heat and relaxed in the van with a cup of tea. Although he didn’t see any of the Black-faced Rock Wallabies hiding in the gorge, it was still a cool hike with nice scenery and awesome views!
+ After Corey got back from the hike and we made some sandwiches for lunch then got on the road again.
+ Drove out of the national park. Stopped at a beach the most northern West point on the cape for one last look out on the water.
+ There were tons of dead sea urchins everywhere along the beach! Not sure why?? We found some cool cowrie shells!
+ Before leaving town we stopped at the visitors center for wifi again and then drove all around the town looking  for emus. They were supposedly always wandering around and easy to spot but sadly we didn’t have any luck. Before leaving we took pictures at both the giant Whale Shark statue and then the Welcome To/Goodbye From Exmouth sign.
+ Then we drove back to the overnight spot we were in 2 nights before. This time there was a huge group of Germans that were way too loud and caused an older Australian couple to yell at them a bunch of times! We understood both sides but stayed hiding inside our van, content to watch everything unfold secretly!
+ Liz makes the best campervan dinners ever and mixed up some nice pasta tonight! Then we enjoyed some more wine and watched the movie Live By Night before going to sleep.


Snorkeling in Coral Bay and Meeting new friends
+ Continued driving South to Coral Bay.
+ Snorkeled in Coral Bay at both Purdy Point and Bills Bay. We drifted with the current for about 2 hours and covered a huge area!
+ It was a beautiful bay above water and clearer than clear waters but unfortunately the snorkeling was not terribly interesting. The reef seemed overgrown with algae forests!
+ Corey found an octopus (again! He’s so talented at finding those guys!) in only about a foot and a half of water. It was fun to watch the octopus peak out at us but shrink back into its hole if we get too close. Every time we moved a bit farther away, the octopus would poke his nubby eyes out and watch us!
+  While leaving Coral bay, we stopped to pick up 2 hitchhikers Gina and Max from Austria! Poor guys had already been waiting in the sun for 3 hours for a ride! We figured since we had 2 extra seats and were going that direction we might as well help out some fellow backpackers!
+ Plus one thing to note is that we had not had radio for about 90% of the drive due to the remoteness of the area. We would’ve normally just listened to Liz’s Sansa but we had just mailed it home thinking we wouldn’t need it! So it would be nice to have some other company to talk to.
+ Gina and Max are traveling for a year before going back to Austria for Uni. We talked about Australian and South American locations we had both visited.
+ Gina volunteered with a whale shark company in Exmouth and snorkeled with them for a full week! Corey and I forgot to even look at Helpex online! Since we weren’t able to afford to go on any tours while we were up here (which was initially the whole point of this trip so it was very frustrating to not go on the tour), maybe we’ll come back and volunteer for a bit so we can go for free!
+ Continued South. Together with our new buddies we made a quick stop for wifi to book accommodation for our first nights in Bali.
+ Drove another 90 minutes and camped just before the turnoff for Shark Bay. We slept in the van while Gina and Max slept in their tent just a little bit away. We were the only ones at this huge rest stop!

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