We've made it to Coral Bay, the destination of our first interstate trip together just over two years ago. That time we flew to Perth, jumped on a Skywest flight up to Learmonth and then drove the 150kms from the airport. This time it's taken us 27,000kms in a roundabout sort of fashion. By any measure the Pilbara is a long long way from anywhere.
Being in Coral Bay means that things are about to get very fishy indeed with underwater action locked in for Monday (Mantas and two scuba dives) and Tuesday (Whalesharks, the biggest fish of them all, and more scuba).
With all that excitement just round the corner we decided it was time to set up camp for a few days to relax and get our energy levels up. We'd been on the move every day for the nine days since leaving Perth and we both needed a break. We chose to have a holiday at Red Bluff, about 130kms north of Carnarvon. This was another tip from newlyweds Si & Charl and the sign as we entered the huge station property billed it as 'Nature at it's best'. Expectations were almost as high as the camping fees ($10 each per night) but we were not to be disappointed.
We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. The only other visitors to our part of the beach were the kids of the people who ran the shop (not open while we were there) and who managed the camping area. What a life. Education courtesy of 'School of the Air' and then a few hours in the water until it gets dark. One of the dads told me that it means their children are still children and don't get up to the things 'we' all did when we were at school.
Being a lateish (albeit extremely enthusiastic) developer in the bad vice department I didn't feel it appropriate to tell him how much fun I'd had catching up on the action when I finally flew the coop and how a weaker person may have lost the plot altogether with so much concurrent fun going on.
The Bluff itself offered us a little protection from the ongoing strong southerly wind. At least it did until the wind swung around to become a strong (and very hot) easterly. When the wind finally blew itself out on day three we soon realised just how effective it had been at keeping the bushflies to manageable numbers.
We both had to don our fly headnets and spend the remainder of the time until sunset looking and feeling like beekeepers. Thankfully the fly day shift was not replaced by an evening/night biting mosquito shift as so often seems to be case. This may have been because there was no nearby fresh water supply, or perhaps the later shifts (with their attaching penalty rates) have been axed, yet one more victim of the depression?
Importantly though there were some basic shade shelters on the beach and they were strong enough to support our hammocks so we spent most of the time reclining in comfort, reading our books (what better place to get stuck into Tim Winton's 'Dirt Music' again, pilfered from Leggie's spare room where I think I left it after first reading it five years ago), and watching the live Blue Planet doco unfolding in front of us in the water.
There was almost non-stop action. Huge shadows of fish would work their way along the shallows until spotted and pounced upon by the patient terns. Shoals of larger fish would sporadically start jumping further out and would receive the same treatment.
Even groups of dolphins came in to join the action, working together to drive the fish further into the shore before munching them up.
My favourite fishman of them all though had to be a very friendly Osprey who favoured the Trevally. Scooped them up with his big claws and then retired to one of the beach shelters to eat, before drying off in the sun and to mentally prepare for the next outing.
He truly was a magnificent bird of prey, and I felt very honored that he allowed me to get so close to watch all the action.
What more inspiration did I need to finally take the cellophane off our telescopic rod (a Christmas gift from Ken & Jean) and rig up one of the three spinners I'd picked up in Gerro?
I had almost instant success - and clean hooked a fine Trevally of good eating size. Unfortunately neither of us have any clue how to gut and clean a fish so I had to let it go. This is something I must rectify.
I managed to lose all three spinners, two on the reef which appeared at low tide, and the third when the line snapped when I was trying to land something a bit too big.
The nearest fishing shop was back in Carnarvon, a good two hours away on the dirt road and I would also have had to pack up the rooftop tent.
I really wanted to keep on fishing so of course I made my own rig out of part of my keyring, a ring pull from a XXXX can, and a couple of hooks. I managed to land another Trevally with that it too, but it was probably a poor return for the four hours I spent trying.
For our last night at Red Bluff we were treated once more to one of those sunsets that just keeps on going and going. A beautiful and memorably end to our stay. We even got to take our flynets off for the end of it.
We left Red Bluff earlier than we'd planned this morning, simply to escape the flies. By necessity we had to take breakfast upstairs to bed for the first time. While I'm definitely getting more used to swallowing them (particularly when smoking it seems), I don't think I'll ever get used to them getting into my throat via my nose. Yuck, yuck, yuck.
En route we passed across into the Tropics. The Tropic of Capricorn is 23.5 degrees south of the equator. An odd number I thought so I looked it up.
It turns out the tropics are the furthest points from the equator where the sun is directly overhead at noon (which down here happens on the winter solstice). So now you know too.
We have bagged the best spot in the caravan park, overlooking the turquoise bay. Strictly there are no tents allowed in such an exposed spot due to the general cyclone threat, so we've been given a good cover story in case any of the tent campers get shitty with us (which apparently they will).
We're off to the Coral Bay Hotel for a few too many tonight. We have to stay off the sauce for the next few nights before our diving so waking up with a hangover tomorrow is a good way of making sure that happens!
Hope everyone is well, and I'll leave Ness to post the next update in a few days after our diving adventures!!!