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After YEARS of promising myself a Coral Coast Top Trails adventure for Easter we are finally on our way.

Today is Day 1 and we arrived safely last night in Kalbarri despite bringing rain with us!!! We are off to walk through the wonders of the amazing gorges with the Loop Walk featuring the photo perfect Nature's Window on our way through to the highway to continue heading North to Shark Bay.

Kalbarri is a great spot with the world's best fish and chips at the locals store on the far side of town next to the bottle shop - don't be confused and go to the wrong fish and chip shop though!!! Met some lovely travellers and families last night waiting for our order. As you can image, on Easter Friday the fish shops do a roaring trade with all accommodation full in the town and everyone avoiding red meat! So it was an hour and a half wait... but all worth it!

Glad it is a bit cooler today for our walk though! And the rain keeps the flies away... We'll pass by our favourite beaches first for a quick walk and some photos and then head over to the national park where the gorges are.

Stay tuned for more great adventures... with more about Monkey Mia, Denham, dolphins and other great things along the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive!

Cheers
Ness

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Comment by Linda Daniels on April 7, 2010 at 8:32pm
Hi Ness
Great to hear about your adventures. Hope Steve's vertigo has cleared up - talk about bad timing! The loop walk sounds great - I've got to get up to Kalbarri one day. Looking forward to seeing some pics :) Linda
Comment by Ness Bradshaw on April 5, 2010 at 7:44pm
DAY 4 – Easter Monday - Shark Bay World Heritage Drive (Part I)

Start point: Monkey Mia
Started the day with an early rise to head off to see the wild dolphins feeding at the world famous Monkey Mia – sans husband who was still unwell with vertigo and flat on his back on the hotel bed.
Arrived by 8am just as the first feeding began down by the jetty – was already four people deep with eager dolphin watchers down on the shoreline so took a place on the jetty to watch from a different vantage point – proved to be a great option as had ring side seat to dolphin feeding instead of the backsides of everyone! Got some great pics – thanks to my 50-200mm zoom lens

Amazing to watch these wild animals coming in for interaction as well as feeding! About a half dozen mothers with their juvenile calves – there are still descendants of the original female visitor who started the tradition of visit to this beach in the 1960’s – FREE to see the feedings though the DEC Monkey Mia Reserve entry is $8/adult (for day visitors not staying at the Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort) with discounts for children and families

Great talks by staff on edge of water with the chance for the chosen few to feed limited fish to the mothers who then go into deeper water to feed their young once visits finished

I then head off for a lovely omelette breakfast at the Boughshed cafe at the beach and when about to finish the 2nd feeding had started so off I went again for more photos and a closer up view as the tourist numbers had thinned out a bit!

Following the second feeding I visited the displays to learn more about our watery friends and made my contribution to the local economy at the general store and the DEC office buying a selection of magnets, cards, garden item gifts, etc.... great selection so take your credit card!

Was about to head to the car park when heard the loudspeaker blasting out the 3rd feeding information so off I trotted again – this time not shames into standing at the back of the crowds but jumping straight to the front for me own ‘ up close and personal’ experience!

AND WAS IT WORTH IT! Amazing to look straight into the eyes of these beautiful creatures! They really do look you in the eye and check you out... rolling to one side they swim past the line of onlookers and you start to wonder who is checking who out!!?? That 15 minutes was worth the drive and the pain of 2 sick adults attempting to make a life long ambition come true! So grateful now that I responded to that call on the loudspeaker about the 3rd feeding and spent the time to head back down to the shore.

HOT TIP – don’t just stop for one feeding but stay all morning and take different vantage points each time – there is a great cafe and displays to fill the time... as well as making your contribution to the local businesses!

Leg 1: Monkey Mia -> Denham (3 hours including dolphin feedings and breakfast)
A lovely drive during the day (given we did it twice whilst lost in the dark I was thrilled to see where we had gone!). Great to know I am driving through World Heritage land with so much being done to protect both flora and fauna across this remote part of the globe.

First highlight being the bay to the right as you leave Monkey Mia – how I could spend days laying on that beach.... you then pass several round, low lying, flat areas where the vegetation is red in colour and reminds me of extra-terrestrial crop circles! My guess is they are left overs from the mangroves that used to cover parts of this area thousands of years ago. The almost perfect circles that I see spotted across the park intrigue me...

I then stop at Little Lagoon to see an almost perfect circle lagoon with a small creek heading to the ocean close to Denham townsite. A popular spot for fishing and swimming, the colours are awesome reflecting the bright blue sky.

The final attraction for me before arriving back in town is the wind farm atop the main hill facing the ocean. Wonderful to see use of what seems to be the unforgiving and contact wind across the town!


Leg 2: Denham -> Shell Beach (returning Denham = 5 hours with stops)

After picking up the ill husband (who by now has responded well to the medication given to him by the nurse yesterday!) we head off to check out Ocean Park, an eco-tourism venture 8km from town heading back out towards the main highway.

Well worth the $16/adult entrance fee with guided tour – we stayed for nearly 2 hours including sitting down for a lovely coffee on the deck overlooking the ocean! The guide looking after us was AWESOME – especially when introducing us to the habits of Linda the lemon shark and Tina the new tiger shark... all involving parts of a smelly dead tuna!

Lessons;
1- Don’t put your fingers in the ponds
2- Don’t be tempted to swim in the shark pond unless you can control the rate of your heartbeat!
(to understand what all this means you need to visit yourself!)
** this is where we adopted young Radar – see photos for more! **

After out lovely time at Ocean Park we continue south to Eagle Bluff, 300m off the main highway overlooking an awe inspiring bay. With a 200m decked boardwalk, interpretive signs and comfy seats it was great to learn more about this area and witness a pack of sting rays moving around the bay. After first thinking there was not so much to see, out eyes adjusted and we noticed that what previously looked like dark patches of seagrasses was actually small sharks, all evenly spread out across the shoreline and what appeared to be 100m intervals! Was this planned? Is it part of their territory structure? Who knows but amazing to see.....

We make the further 25km trek south towards the area’s fox fence to check out Shell Beach, another stop on the drive’s tourist guide. Again, well worth the effort and quite a stunning and different beach with swells of crushed shell waves to cross on foot before hitting the warm and salty ocean water. Don’t expect a quick dip though as it is a good 200m of ankle and knee deep water before there is enough depth for a good dive and splash around. Although – if your feet need a good exfoliation and massage – this is the walk for you – just take those thongs off and let the shells to their work!

Whilst leaving the beach car park – even if heading back into Shark Bay – make sure you drive SLOWLY through the fox fence opening over the grid with your WINDOWS DOWN and STEREO OFF! Again... you have to come to experience this to know what we mean!

On the return journey we make a brief detour despite Stephen’s vertigo to see what Goulet Bluff has to offer with an entry off the main road on the left hand side heading West (sign posted). An off-road track (approx 2km to beach) and sand dunes are easy pickings for our 4WD but at no point did we need to engage out of 2WD so can recommend parts of this track to any car type. If you are lucky enough to be in the area with a 4WD there were many side tracks, dunes and beach driving to be enjoyed off the main track.

From high on the dunes you can see across several stunning bays, including some great sand bars for beach fishing on tame water. Camping grounds also available in this area with prior permission and permits from DEC.

On the final stretch back into town we see a number of look out and camping locations along the coast but are unable to check it all out given Stephen’s need for returning to a horizontal position after an afternoon on the road!

Now ending a day with a nice white wine, Caesar salad and Oysters at the Mura Mura cafe on the main stretch of Denham watching the sunset over the ocean. Thanks to their wireless network I am able to upload my latest news! Stephen recommends the wood fired pizzas!
Comment by Ness Bradshaw on April 5, 2010 at 7:40pm
DAY 3 – Easter Sunday - Rest Day in Shark Bay

Visit to the local Silver Chain nursing post! Stephen’s vertigo has returned and he can no longer stand up or move without losing his breakfast! Thankfully the local nursing station is well equipped with great staff and we were staying in a hotel that had Fox and 2 x movie channels... kept us entertained!

Finally I have discovered a way to get a rest day when on holidays with my husband! Much needed after the long walk yesterday and drive until midnight following a calamity of errors on our road trip to our stay in Denham!

Lessons;
1- Fill scripts given to you by a doctor before you leave home
2- Take the medication the Doctor prescribes you before leaving home!
3- Make sure you know EXACTLY where your accommodation is before departing in the dark!
4- Schedule in rest days after 10+ hours of driving
Comment by Ness Bradshaw on April 5, 2010 at 7:37pm
DAY 2 – Easter Saturday - The Loop Walk Kalbarri and drive to Shark Bay
After farewelling the family and driving the 25km of bumpy dirt track into the Kalbarri national park ($11/car entry fee), we finally arrive at the Nature’s Window/Loop walk Carpark! We are both amazed and thrilled by numbers of cars, tour vans and visitors to this great spot in WA!
Nature’s Window provides a 1km round trip for visitors making a quick trip in the park and it is– definitely worth the look but take non slip footwear! Also make sure you bring the good camera as it is amazing to see gorges with millions of years of stratified rock at the bend, There was little to no water in the riverbed for this visit but was have been lucky enough to see the river running with thick brown soup after heavy rains up river several years ago!
For the more adventurous (and fitter visitors!), the 8km Loop Walk starts at Nature’s window with a slow walk across tablets of varying coloured rock on the gorge rim. It is very easy to follow the markers and well worth paths of those venturing before you.
During this walk we experience to many natural beauties including metallic flecked sand, varying rocks, sands and flora and amazing vistas from all angles of the Gorge rim. The walk reminds Stephen of his trek of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro with the typical “A little bit up, a little bit down” matra holding trued. Don’t forget to look back, up and around as well as down!
It is great when the wind picks up to cool the sweat on your body which reminds me it is VERY imnprtant to take at least 2 litres of water per person when heading off (no water int he park so pack your back pack or water camel before leaving town!).
Whilst there is the wonder of Nature’s Window at the beginning of your walk there is also a “Man-made window” towards the end of rim part of the walk! We add our flat tablet rock to the top of the pile and get some amazing looks back through the gorge to where we started.
Not much past here we start our descent into the gorge itself surrounded my millions of years of rock face, amazing by the 2 metre trees growing from rock ledges all across the cliff face! We pass through both fish and tree cemeteries as we loop back around through the gorges heading back to our starting point. A ‘skeleton’ tree intrigues us in the distance across the salt crackling sand, metallic froth edged pools of water and artist’s pallete of cream to yellow to brown mud.
Walking through so many different environments we are both glad to have made the 3.5 hour journey through the park and are amazed towards the end of our adventure to find two black swans on a pool of water – who would have thought!?
Looking at the tracks of those before us I have to say I was amazed to see the tracks of double pluggers!!?? For those non-Australians reading this – they are rubber thongs and are NOT the sort of footwear we would recommend for this rather tackling walk across what would be rather slippery terrain after any type of rain!
As we end the walk back up to the Nature’s Window my poor level of fitness and shortness of breath makes me feel like I am the latest contestant on the Biggest Loser! Not a walk for the faint hearted but well worth the effort!
Lessons
1- Wear good walking shoes and walking socks
2- 2L water each – trust the locals
3- Things always take longer than you think
4- Check distances and petrol in the tank

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