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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Cage Diving with Great White Sharks (Port Lincoln, South Australia)

April 21 - 24, 2017

We are soon approaching the best time of year to cage dive with Great White Sharks in South Australia (late April - June).  But before I share this particular travel adventure…I need to give you a bit of context.  

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of the ocean.  It’s not just sharks and jellyfish, or a fear of drowning, that keeps me from going more than thigh deep. It’s a “fight or flight” instinct that is immediately triggered every time I step foot in the water.  As humans, the ocean is not our natural habitat.  Even Olympics swimmers can’t compete with the grace and ease of an ocean otter, its body slicing through the water as it looks for dinner.  In the ocean, our senses are immediately deafened… our bodies crushed by waves, our sight refracted by glaring light, our ears battered by pressure, and our taste buds, assaulted by salt.  But scariest of all is the 360 nature of this world.  There are no walls. Danger can approach for any direction - up, down, side to side.  I hate it.

For those of you who have traveled or lived in Australia, you’d know that the ocean courses through the blood of most every Australian.  From birth, their toes are constantly connected to the water.  Surfing and swimming are extensions of their bodies.  Tell an Australian, you hate the ocean, and you’ll get thrown in repeatedly until you change your mind.  

I realised if I was going to live in Australia, I had to confront the ocean.  My training started each weekend forcing myself a little farther into the waves of Bondi Beach.  On my trip to the Philippines, I forced myself to snorkel with whale sharks, shocking myself with my enjoyment!  For those of you who read that post, you know that whale sharks were spotted the day I arrived and my travel partner forced me into the water with them.  It was the first time I really started to realise a potential love for the ocean.  Those magnificent beasts gently gliding through the shallow water… couldn’t give a crap that I was swimming alongside.  Their ignorance of me, made me calm.  I was so engrossed that I completely forgot about the vastness surrounding me. It was such an amazing experience that I knew I had to keep the momentum going… resulting in this blog entry.

Great. White. Sharks.  One of the most feared animals of the ocean.  Fuelled by movies like Jaws and Deep Blue Sea and unhealthy obsession with Shark Week, these beasts inspired fear, as well as a  deep admiration and curiosity, even behind glass at the aquarium.  Generally when I decide to do something… I go all in.  So of course, as soon as I thought I was “cool” with the ocean, cage diving with Great Whites seemed like a natural next step.  So I booked a non-refundable ticket on the Calypso Star, a famous cage-diving boat out of Port Lincoln, South Australia.

To get to Port Lincoln, I spent a few days driving and camping my way from Adelaide past Mount Remarkable National Park to Port Lincoln.  I had sunrise coffees with campsite kangaroos and beachside lunch stops at Greenly Beach and The Point.  It’s a lovely drive, although you can fly to Port Lincoln if you prefer.

For those of you interested in the road trip portion of the trip (Adelaide, Mount Remarkable National Park and Barossa Valley wine region, I’ve provided see my other blog post here

The day of the cage dive, I was up and at the boat by 6am.  It’s a three hour ride to the Neptune Islands, south of Port Lincoln, temporary home to Great Whites.  I watched the sunrise, while frosty salt water whipped my face.  

We were divided into groups of 8 and put into a dive order.  We were outfitted in 3mm thick wetsuits because we’d be down with the sharks for about 20 mins and it is VERY cold.  The tour provides a wet suit, masks, booties and sunscreen.  You can buy sickness tablets for a couple dollars and rent a Go Pro for $50.  All you need to bring is swimmers, a towel and dry change of clothes.  They’ll also sell you the pics they take for $35 (I always buy these because hell when am I going to do this again!). 

Calypso Star is the best shark boat because they have a license to “chum.”  If you are unfamiliar with the term, “chum,” it's dead fish guts and blood that they pour into the ocean to attract the sharks.  It wasn’t long before the fish bits attracted a 6 meter shark.  WOW.  At first I looked over the edge of the boat to catch a glimpse until I saw him clear the water a few yards out… no more looking over the side of the boat!

How does cage diving work? Essentially the cage hangs off the back of the boat and you enter the cage from the top, climbing down a metal ladder, to the bottom of the cage.  You have a weight belt around your waist to help you stay under the water to look at the shark and a dive respirator so you can breathe.  Between the intense rocking of the cage, the icy cold water, and the unnatural breathing, you have barely enough concentration to find the shark in the murky water and snap a pic.  

I was in Group 2 which turned out to be the best group because the water was clear because of the clouds in the sky (sunlight causes light to refract against bubbles in the water making it hard to see).  This guy was HUGE and VERY curious.  The best position in the cage is on either end because there isn’t a vertical bar in the corner of the cage, so you get a sweeping view of the shark without a stupid bar in your video.  However, it’s also the most disconcerting position due to the LACK of a bar.  I was so sure I’d panic.  I’d never used a respirator, I’d never been in water that rocky and cold, and I’d never been two feet away from a 6m shark before with no glass to separate us.

He was magnificent.  With the slightest turn of his tail he’d speed past us, one eye following our movements.  He was far more interested in us than the chum.  Pass after pass he’d approach the cage and lazily glide past, clearly the dominant species.  There is something about the lack of a glass wall that makes you really feel like you are out there with him.  It was probably the same “fight or flight” instinct that kept me intensely drawn to the edge of the cage scanning the murky darkness for another pass.  I was a mouse caught in the stare of a viper.  It was the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever done.  I probably would’ve died of exposure before willingly leaving the shark, if he hadn’t eventually wandered on his way.  After his departure, I realised how bloody cold I was and shot back up the surface.  

Adrenaline pumped through my veins warmed my body much faster than the dry change of clothes.  If I’d had the chance to get back in I would’ve.  I was so excited and awed and bloody proud of myself!  I did it!  And boy, would I do it again.  Since this trip a year ago, I’ve spent more and more time in the ocean, continuing to probe my fears.  It’s a gradual process.  If you have an intense fear of something, don’t let it get the best of you!  And if you have a fear of sharks; get in there with em!

South Australia roadtrip from Adelaide to Port Lincoln and back through the Barossa Valley wine region

April 21 - 24, 2017

While my main reason for traveling to South Australia was to cage dive with Great White Sharks (see blog post here), I had an amazing time road tripping to Port Lincoln from Adelaide and spending a few final days in the Barossa Valley.  These aspects of the trip deserved a short post for those looking to visit the area. I’d recommend a minimum of 4 full days to do the drive and probably 3 full days to properly do the Barossa wine region.  We did all of it in 4 days plus the cage diving, which was a little gruelling.  Good old Australia… so much to see and none of it close together!  

We only spent the evening in Adelaide.  It’s quite normal but filled with delicious restaurants like Africola.  It was one of the best meals I’ve had in Australia.  There’s also a ton of cute bars off Hindley Street that’s apparently awesome; we didn’t go out because we had an early start.

The first half of the drive to Port Lincoln is BEAUTIFUL.  I wish we’d had more time to explore some of the beaches and parkland on the Adelaide side.  They come highly recommended.  Mount Remarkable National Park was a great pit stop.  You really feel like you are out in the middle of the bush, surrounded by wildlife.  So many kangaroos (and spiders).  We stayed at Mambray Creek Campgrounds which provided exactly what we needed - nature, a car park and tent area and bathrooms with showers.

The second half of the trip to Port Lincoln was a little less scenic.  You pass through a lot of small petrol-stop towns filled with more industrial structures than natural ones, before you reach Port Lincoln.  We stopped to hurriedly set up camp while it was daylight, and then continued on down the coast to Farm Beach.   

It was pretty meh, so we continued on to Greenly Beach which was well worth the terrible dirt road we had to drive down.  The car park is on a cliff and you walk down to the most secluded, lovely beach.  Very romantic!  We spent the rest of the day there and caught the sunset before heading back to Port Lincoln. 

Port Lincoln is apparently quite lively on Friday and Saturday nights.  There are a couple bars on the water.  We had an early morning for the cage diving so we didn’t make it out but we were told it was good fun for a night.  We stayed in the Port Lincoln Tourist Park a little ways out of town on the ocean, which was nice but I kind of wished we’d been within walking distance of town.  Kind of up to you, what you’re looking for.

I was up at dawn to head to the port for cage-diving.  You can read about my experience here.

Back in Adelaide, post road trip, we dropped the rental car and took the train out to the Barossa Valley for our final day/night of the trip.  We arrived very late at Discovery Parks Tanunda, which was straight out of an American summer camp movie.  Our cabin was made completely of wood paneling and straight out of the 70s.  It was pretty hilarious.  

It was pouring rain so we ran to the first restaurant that looked open.  The neon “Open” sign swung in the rain, the restaurant dark behind it.  Straight out of an 80s horror flick!  But inside The Barossa Valley Brewing was cozy and had "all you can eat" chicken wings!!!  YUM!

Within minutes we’d made friends with the only other patrons of the pub, a few young people who worked at some of the wineries.  Before we knew it, we’d been offered a private wine tour for free!  It was the guy’s day off and apparently he loves nothing more than showing people the grapes.

The next day we hit four wineries throughout Tanunda.  The scenery along the way was breathtaking!!

Our new friend works at this winery.  It felt like an upscale family estate.  Everything in place, a nice hearth and two adorable dogs napping near the entrance, but perhaps not quite cozy or unique.  I thought the wine was quite good though!

This is my type of winery.  Small, cozy and uniquely decorated like an upscale hunting lodge.  And the wine was delicious.  Definitely my favourite stop of the day.

What a beautiful outdoor area for a quick lunch and wine tasting.  It felt like an old, brick Italian villa with flowers and sunshine all around you.  I soaked up the wine about as fast as I soaked up the sun. Mmm.

Australia's oldest family winery; you can feel the history here.  It's a huge, sprawling property that feels resort-like yet comfortable.  It felt like a family estate.  The wine and the cheese/meat board were yum!

Our lovely friend returned us to the train station so my friend could head to the airport and I could crash in Adelaide before leaving the next day.

Overall, South Australia was a lovely holiday.  I wish I'd had more time to spend here.  I would definitely come back!

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Great Expedition - Roadtrip from Perth to Exmouth, Western Australia

March is approaching, and with it, the start of whale shark season in Western Australia.  So, what better time to post about my experience road-tripping from Perth to Exmouth in late February of last year (yes, I am behind!)

My yoga instructor just asked me the other day whether it was worth it.  Well I arrived in Perth at midnight on a Sunday and left Perth at 11pm the next Friday (red eye flight back to Sydney).  So in 4.5 days, my mate and I drove a campervan 3,120 km or 1938 miles.  It was an amazing experience but very gruelling.  It was cool to do it once, but I’d say if you have the money it might be worth it to fly to Exmouth or take longer to truly enjoy everything along the way (minimum two weeks).  From my experience most of the good stuff was closer to Coral Bay and Exmouth but again I had to hit the highlights with only five days.  

Know before you go
  • If you get a park pass at the van rental place it’s $65 but only $44 if you get it at the first park that is part of the pass.  It’s a good deal if you are going to 4+ parks and don't want to deal with paying cash at each park, but otherwise probably not worth it.
  • Advanced notice, Optus gets ZERO reception in Western Australia so better have Telstra or be really onboard with spending every waking moment talking with your travel partner or sitting in silence.  Same goes for the radio.
  • If you EVER see a gas station that is open, stop and top up the tank no matter how close you are to full.  We almost ran out of gas TWICE on the trip due to road closures where we had to turn back or gas stations that were out of gas.  Yes, literally OUT OF GAS.
  • Camper van rental companies will not insure you driving on “unsealed roads” (aka unpaved roads).  Unfortunately a lot of the cool stuff is on dirt or gravel roads over the main streets.
  • We spent over $650 AUD in fuel across 4.5 days.  Like I said.  A lot of driving.  That’s your return ticket from Perth to Exmouth so you aren’t really saving money driving.
Packing List
  • Binoculars
  • Snorkel 
  • Swimsuit
  • Long sleeve, light weight outfit for nighttime (lots of bugs)
  • Thongs for camping bathroom
  • Two swimsuits so one can dry while you wear the other
  • Good shoes for hiking up stuff 
  • Underwater camera - would be good to have a nice one to catch great shots of whale shark (my shitty one didn’t do it justice)
  • Aqua shoes since some of the ocean beaches can be quite rocky
  • Beach towel
  • Bath towel
  • Sunscreen
The Menu
  • Single Fin Pale Ale from Gage Roads is not only indigenous to WA but the best fucking beer in Australia.  Nothing goes better with a sandwich eaten on the beach than a Single Fin.
  • Red wine (not a lot of fridge space)
  • Plums, apples and whatever fruit you like to go with Greek yogurt for breakfast - just makes you feel light and fresh in the morning after a cramped campervan sleep
  • Meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and whatever else you like on sandwiches for lunch - easy to make in a small camper and require few utensils so less washing!
  • Hamburger meat, chilis, tomato sauce, buns and whatever else you like with your hamburgers for dinner - a hearty, meaty meal is perfect after a long travel day and the hot food goes down a treat
  • Pasta with your choice of sauce for the other dinners (when you get tired of hamburgers)
  • Snacks for the drive - you cannot buy enough of these because you are in the car ALOT.  Chips, hummus, crackers, lollies, chocolate, anything easy to eat while driving.
  • Total we spent about $200 AUD on food across 4.5 days which is pretty damn good for two people!
The Itinerary

Sunday - 26 Feb 2017

We cheated a little because my mate was already in Perth and picked up the camper van and stocked it with food (and booze of course) before I arrived so we were able to hit the road and make some progress before 2-3am when we finally pulled over to sleep near Lancelin at the Nilgen Nature Reserve (warning no toilets!) We rented from LetsGo for the camper and it was the perfect size for two! 

Monday - 27 Feb 2017

We woke up bright and early, had our yogurt and plums brekkie and headed to our first tourist stop - The Pinnacles (2 hrs from Lancelin).  Can’t say I was that impressed unfortunately.  It’s a bunch of rocks.  Not even worth the entry fee.  There are way cooler rocks in Colorado, Utah and other western states in USA.  Unless you love rocks, I’d pass.

We stopped in Jurien and Leeman for fuel and liquor and then again in Geraldton to stretch our legs before the turnoff to Kalbarri National Park.  I was super excited about Kalbarri. I’d heard amazing things about the hikes, rock formations and views of the sea.  We decided to stop in Grandstand which provided beautiful ocean views for our sandwich and Single Fin lunch.

We were in fine spirits as we approached the turn-off to the entrance to Kalbarri, only to find out the park was closed.  SO UPSET.  And we’d driven 2 hours out of our way AND the road heading north was closed as well so we had to backtrack the 2 hours back to Geraldton.  What a waste of a day.

Not only that but we’d made our first, almost fatal, mistake of the trip - we didn’t stop for petrol in Geraldton because we thought we had enough to make it the 30 minute drive to the BP Station in Northampton.  Unfortunately, we passed the closed BP realising it was 2 hours to the next petrol station.  We rolled into Billabong Roadhouse just in time.  We swore we wouldn’t make that mistake again!

From there, it was another 2 hours to the Shark Bay Caravan Park in Denham.  We were exhausted after 10 hours in the car and maybe only 2 hours doing anything!  But at least between the turn-off from National Route 1 (main highway) to Shark Bay, we saw at least 10 kangaroos.  So cool!

Shark bay Caravan Park was certainly an upgrade from our pullout off the road the night before - hot showers, toilet paper, hand soap, water and electric.  We topped up on everything and crashed pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken breast.  The main office is only open 8am-6pm so just take a spot if closed and pay in the morning.

Tuesday - 28 Feb 2017

We woke up SUPER early to zoom 30 minutes across land to Monkey Mia to feed the dolphins (can only do between 7:30am-12pm).  The earlier the better before the crowds show up.  If you’ve seen dolphins before this will be another buzzkill… only a couple people are chosen who actually get to feed the dolphins, everyone else has to watch from shore.  And of course, they pick the little kids.  It was a waste of $12/person (not included in the park pass we’d purchased!) But at least there was amazing coffee at the resort restaurant next to the feeding spot.

Another tip!  Monkey Mia is famous for the dolphins, but also for the northern tip of the peninsula.  Unfortunately you need a boat or 4WD vehicle to see a lot of it because it’s off the beaten path.  With our tight schedule and top heavy camper van with thin tires, there was no chance.  Yet another bummer…

At least we found a beautiful spot, Little Lagoon, for bacon, cheese and egg breakfast rolls and a swim.  Wish I’d had a snorkel so I could swim around and see some of the fish in the salt water.  

We took the turnoff fo the “scenic route” back to Denham.  You come in on the ocean side which has nice views and can you can stop at the estuary that leads from Little Lagoon to the ocean.  

Because we were so depressed with our luck thus far on the trip, we decide to just stop and whatever looked interesting on our way back to the National highway.  Next stop was Eagle Bluff (warning 4km on unsealed roads but we decided to risk it).  WOW what a view!  According to the sign you can see sharks, stingrays, dugongs, turtles, and more.  We only saw one ray.  The boardwalk is up on the bluff so bring binoculars!

There was another amazing bit of beach between Eagle Bluff and Goulet Bluff that I didn’t see a name.  Shell Beach was also worth a stop.  It’s very shallow and pristine white due to millions of shells ground into a fine sand.  We saw really cool rays but they swam away too quickly for me to get a pic.

Last stop before the main road was Hamelin Pool which was swarming with bugs and very hot.  Took a quick look and pic and then ran back to the car.

Once again we were idiots and rather than topping up in Denham (1.5 hours behind us) we arrived at the BP station just north of the turnoff onto National Route 1 only to find them open, but completely out of gas.  FUCK.  Once again we barely made it to the next roadhouse in Woomarel 30 minutes later.  But once again we at least got to see wild emu and more kangaroos on the way!  So cool how much wildlife is just hanging out of the main highway.  You don’t get that in Sydney!

We stopped in Carnarvon looking for a coffee but everything was closed so we decided to drive out to Pelican Point and enjoy a famous WA sunset.  The last two nights we’d totally missed a beach sunset because we were so focused on driving.  We watched kite surfers while we ate a delicious dinner of red wine with burgers topped in jalapeƱo, red onion, green pepper, chipotle mayo and lettuce on soft roll buns.  Best meal of the trip!  And the sunset was a perfect back drop.  So worth it.  Gotta remember to stop and smell the sea scents on this trip!

We rolled into Coral Bay after 8pm worried nowhere will let us in.  Bayview Caravan Park didn’t have a entry barrier so we took a leap of faith and hoped we could pay later.  It was VERY buggy that night but otherwise it’s a great setup and nice facilities.  We passed out hard after another long day of 7 hours of driving.  But at least we did get to see some beautiful beaches and wildlife today!

Wednesday - 1 March 2017

We woke up early (I don’t think I’ve woken up this early this many days in a row in my life) and I made a “scrambled egg bowl” aka a mixture of all the odds and ends we had left - sandwich ham, cheese, tomato, green pepper and egg.  Turned out to be the best breakfast we had!

When we went into pay at the campsite office, we overheard the office manager talking to one of the camp staff.  We couldn’t believe our ears!  Apparently whale sharks had been sighted off the coast… weeks early!  They don’t usually start appearing until mid March and here it was still February.  We excitedly asked her if this meant we could swim with them and she said to check wth the local dive shop, Ningaloo Reef Dive and Snorkel.

We raced down the street and excitedly learned that as soon as they sight the sharks, “whale shark season” officially starts!  We excitedly booked two spots on the boat for the next day.  I also learned that the reason I’d always struggled with snorkelling masks is because I was wearing it too tight.  The dive shop guy showed me how to properly tighten and man it was so much better.  I was so excited I bought the mask (not just an impulse buy; I have a very small face which was also part of the problem!) We returned to the campsite and paid $41 for two nights (off season price).  Note: during whale shark season you should DEFINITELY book Coral Bay accomodation in advance as it fills up very quickly (not a big town).

The next day was really our last full day and we had to get most of the way back to Perth, so we realised if we didn’t drive up to Exmouth we’d have to skip it completely.  Seeing as how we’d already driven 17 hours, another 1.5 hrs up to Exmouth seemed like no problem.

Exmouth itself is a pretty boring little town; the real action is along the coast northwest from Exmouth.  We stopped at Turquoise Bay to snorkel and nap.  It’s really good snorkeling.  Not too deep and sheltered from the ocean so you feel pretty comfortable and a safe.  I’m very scared of the ocean and it didn’t scare me (too much).  I saw another ray, tons of fish and lots of amazing coral.  The current is really easy around Bay Loop and then if you are a more advanced swimmer you can do the Drift Loop - just take care either way to avoid the center which will carry you out to sea!

Feeling very refreshed, we decided to push ourselves a little bit farther and check out Yardie Creek Gorge in Cape Range National Park.  It’s very beautiful not might not be worth the 45 minutes each way from Exmouth.  Very easy hike in terms of incline but is some rough terrain so it’s good to have sturdy shoes.  If you are remotely athletic you’ll be fine.  It was HOT.  On the way back to the car we saw a really cool, GIANT lizard and then tons of kangaroos on our way back towards Exmouth.

We stopped along the way at Jabari Turtle Centre because apparently between Oct and Jan the turtles come onto the beach to nest.  We thought maybe they might be late this year (I mean the whale sharks were early?!?) but unfortunately no luck.  We did catch another incredible sunset though.  We sped back to Coral Bay to pass out so we’d be well rested for our big day the next day.

Thursday - 2 March 2017

We were up early for the 7:20am start (no chance we were going to be late and miss this!) Note: You need to bring your own towel, hat, sunscreen, swimwear and jacket (it can get cold).  They provide snorkel, flippers, wetsuit, water, tea, coffee, and lunch.  Obviously I brought my own fancy new snorkel!  It cost $380 for one adult ticket plus $80 for the snorkel/mask.  We started off with snorkelling an amazing reef in about 4-5 meters of water while we waited for the plane overhead to sight a shark.

It didn’t take long before they found one.  Lucky us!  Basically the way it works is there’s about 30 people to boat. They separate you into groups of ten.  The dive shop we bought tickets from has their own plane which circles over the ocean to sight the whale shark.  They call in the coordinates to the boat and we then chase down the shark.  The boat will pull directly ahead of the whale shark and then the first 10 people jump off the back of the boat.  As soon as you sight the whale shark coming towards you, you split to the left or right and then swim as fast as you can to keep up with the shark.  You do have to be careful to stay at least 4 meters away (laws) which you’d want to do anyway because if you get too close you disturb them and they’ll dive down too deep for you to follow (and you’re the asshole).  I’m terrified of the ocean and was shocked to find I was so at ease with the whale sharks.  They seem so calm and gentle.  Definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Whale shark “season” happens because they come into the shallows to eat the plankton near the surface.  Man is it a sight!  They are HUGE.  They also have a unique pattern of spots on their side.  If you take a photo and submit to and it’s a new whale shark you get to name it!  We ended up seeing two sharks; one was about 6 meters long.  Just wish I had a better camera so I could’ve gotten better pictures.  Definitely worth the $50 to have the dive photographer take photos of you (most of these photos are his!).  If you tell him in advance he’ll make sure to come around and find you.  Allows you to spend time taking it in rather than worrying about the perfect shot.

The second whale shark must have known it was lunch time so he dived down into the depths leaving us to climb back aboard for a huge spread of meats, cheeses, etc.  Charlie, the boat dog, is a 100% purebred dingo.  Apparently they kill cross breeds because they are too dangerous.  I also learned that they are their own species; they aren’t actually related to dogs or wolves or any canines.  I had no idea.  Charlie was very friendly although you needed to approach slowly.  One of the little boys came at him too fast which resulted in a snarl and some tears.  Eek.

After lunch was a second snorkel, this time in much deeper water among these thin, vertical “bookcases” of limestone reefs.  I was a little more nervous snorkelling around here but the time with the whale shark had strengthened my resolve.  Even saw my first wild sea turtle (and thankfully no other types of sharks).

A trick for booking your whale shark adventure in Western Australia.  Exmouth is the most famous area but actually not the best area.  If you can swing it, it’s actually better to book your experience in Coral Bay instead.  Australian law dictates that humans can only spend one hour with each whale shark.  So if you do the math, that’s 3 groups of 10 people per boat rotating in to see the shark times X number of boats.  You can see how quickly, during the busy season, you might end up spending very little time with the shark.  The trick?  Coral Bay only has three boats licensed for whale shark dives, while Exmouth as 14.  So even during busy season, you’ll get to spend way more time with the sharks in Coral.  Ningaloo Marine Park is the whole ocean area from Coral Bay to Exmouth.  And then because we were technically before “official” whale shark season, we were the only boat out there, giving each group 4 chances to snorkel with the sharks (because we saw two).

We finished at 1:30; they’ll go until 5pm if still looking for sharks because they have their own plane.

We snuck into the Bayview showers to rinse off before jumping in the camper and driving like crazy people back to Perth.  We had a lot of ground to cover.  We stopped at Miliya Roadhouse for coffee and to stretch our legs.   They had hilarious T-shirts and it was the cheapest fuel on the trip.  The goal was to make it to Knobby or Cliff Head near Port Denison but we were too exhausted so we stopped at Gull Roadhouse for another burger dinner.  They had soft serve ice cream with sprinkles! OMG!  It was kind of gross and loud (truck stop) so instead of sleeping there we decided to drive a bit farther to Flat Rock Beach just south of Geraldton.  It was an 8 hour drive plus the dinner stop so we missed another sunset!

Friday - 3 March 2017

For some reason I woke up SUPER early and felt the need to soak up my last morning in WA before our evening flight back to Sydney.  I lucked out and was up just in time to watch the sunrise over the beach while I waited for my mate to wake. up.  WOW.   We cooked up the remains of the fridge, a fruit yogurt bowl and some crispy bacon before driving the final leg back to Perth to drop the car.  We spent some time wandering around Perth before our red eye flight but I’ll share my travel tips on Perth another time (you’ll just have to keep tuning in).

In summary, it was an incredible trip.  I wish I’d had more time to make the journey, but even still it was worth it.  While gruelling, the land you drive across is so wild.  We’d go hours without seeing another car, human or building…or gas station (teehee).  You really feel like an explorer traveling uncharted territory.  We certainly had our share of unlucky misses (Kalbarri, the better parts of Shark Bay, etc) but the surprise early arrival and snorkelling with the whale sharks made it all worth it.  It was one of the Top Five coolest animal interactions of my life (others include tigers in Thailand, safari in South Africa, etc).  If you’ve only got a week I’d fly but if you have two weeks minimum to spend some real time doing the drive, you should give it a go!