Ningaloo Reef: Exmouth to Carnarvon

We arrived to Exmouth late Thursday morning with high expectations. We went straight to the diving center as all four of the other girls are scuba dive certified and wanted to dive on the reef in Exmouth. Exmouth has the second best coral reef in Australia (Ningaloo Reef), just after the Great Barrier Reef. I was a little bummed I wasn’t already certified and that I couldn’t do a dive with them. It wasn’t worth the money to just do an introductory dive, but I could still snorkel on my own. After they organized their dive trip for Saturday we went to the beach to eat lunch and swim before we took our much-needed shower.

We stayed at an RV campsite within Exmouth city limits. Every campsite in Exmouth was crowded, but we had all we needed- a hot shower and a nice camp kitchen. After spending about two hours in the shower scrubbing the red dust from our knees, elbows and feet and washing our hair five times we spent the rest of the evening cooking and hanging out. We tried to test out the Exmouth nightlife but it seemed all of the bars closed by 9pm. We were a little surprised, but it turned out to be this way the whole weekend except for Sunday afternoon of all times. Australians love their “Sunday Sessions” as they call it.

Friday we had another leisurely day of laying on the beach and snorkeling. Really, that was about it. Many of our days traveling the West coast, when not hiking all day in the inland gorges, were spent laying on the beach. While snorkeling here Sophie spotted a small octopus! She yelled for all of us to come see it. We went out with our snorkels and masks to see the creature. We had to swim down about ten feet, but sure enough, there was a small, red octopus sticking on to the side of a piece of coral!

Saturday while the girls went diving I stayed around town to get some errands done. I went to the visitor center to obtain information on Cape Range– our next stop- and took care of some personal things online. The girls had a great time diving and I had a productive day. That evening we went to the local pub to watch the championship game of AFL (the Australian Football League). We attempted to go out again that night, yet failed again due to the early closing times. Exmouth had turned out to be a little disappointing. The town was still small, but it was growing with its touristic appeal; Yet the town hadn’t built up or changed in ways needed to accommodate this growth.

Sunday we took off for Cape Range National Park just outside of Exmouth. The girls and I had a talk earlier about the Marc situation. It wasn’t working out. He didn’t want to come with us to Cape Range and we decided later it would be best if we went our separate ways. When travelling everyone has spent a lot of time, energy and money into the trip and if you don’t get along with someone it’s not worth forcing yourself to stay with that person and be unhappy. It was best for everyone that we split up.

Sunday morning we spent the day hiking in Cape Range along Yardie Creek and spotted several kangaroos down below the bluff. In the hot afternoon we made our way to the beaches for our daily swim and snorkel. We visited Sandy Bay and Turquoise Bay. The snorkeling wasn’t great, but the beach and clear blue water was definitely up to par!

We stayed overnight in the park at a camp site close to the ocean. It was so windy that evening the girls could barely get their tents built! They had to put stones inside to help keep them from blowing away. Luckily, I didn’t have to worry about my station wagon bed blowing away! After setting up camp we went to the rocky coastline to watch the sunset and drink some beers. While enjoying the evening we spotted a huge sea turtle! It was massive and the biggest one we had ever seen.

The next morning on our way back to Exmouth we stopped at a small snorkeling site called Lakeside on the outskirts of Cape Range for one last snorkel. And it was a good thing we did! This small spot was probably the best snorkeling we had done so far on the West coast. The coral was bright and flourishing and there were many different types of fish to see.

We stayed one last night back at the same caravan park in Exmouth. Tuesday morning the girls and I continued our journey down South and Marc went with a new group he had met. We drove to Coral Bay and only made a quick stop there. It was supposed to be really good for snorkeling, but it was so cool and windy we could barely stand to stay in the water for long. I couldn’t handle the cold and I wanted to change out of my wet bikini and into warm clothes. I changed quickly behind my car door.

Australia made me not care where I got naked. It seemed to be the normal thing and people were pretty relaxed about it. A lot of people just changed clothes by their cars, not caring if anyone saw them. I was cold and I couldn’t find a bathroom nearby so I just stripped down. Afterwards we stopped at a small cafe for some hot chips (french fries) to warm up. It was a cute little beach town, but it was quite small and mainly touristic.

That evening we stay at a camp site the girls that was creepy. I didn’t find anything wrong with it. There were hunters in the distance so I think the other girls thought that was a little scary hearing gun shots. It was just another normal evening to me being the only small-town American in the group used to hearing gun shots. After convincing them we were not going to get shot, we spent the rest of the evening looking at the stars and talking about String Theory. We were a group of a bunch of nerds.

We only stayed one night here. The next morning we noticed my one of my tires was looking rough. Really rough. We decided to keep driving and get it changed at the next big town. We didn’t make it very far, and it blew out. Abi and I pulled off onto the side of the road and the girls ahead of us noticed we weren’t behind them anymore and turned back around to meet us.

I was with a group of very independent and strong women. These girls really did inspire me and show me what confidence really is like. I will forever be grateful to them for that. Sophie grew up with a dad who was a mechanic so anything car related she could handle. We had to take all of Abi & I’s stuff out of the station wagon (including my entire bed) to get to the spare tire in the boot (this the UK and Australian term for trunk). We were getting the tire changed and a nice couple stopped to provide their help as well. Most of the traveling Australians along the big highways in the bush and outback are really good about stopping when someone needs help. It is just way too hot and dangerous for someone to be stranded in some of these place.

After the spare tire was in place and we stuffed all of our belongings back in the car we kept driving to Carnarvon-the next biggest town. Abi and I took the car to get a new tire and I ended up having to buy a second tire as well because there was another one about to do the same thing. Fair enough, I had driven Plum many, many kilometers and over not-so-great roads. Poor girl.

After we got the car new shoes we drove over to One Mile Jetty in the historic district of the small town. There were also a lot of small farmer’s markets and personally-owned farms selling homegrown vegetables. We stopped at a few of those to pick up some fresh produce.

That evening we drove out to what was the BEST camp site we had stayed at yet. It was called Gladstone Camp and it was located right on the beach. We visited with our friendly camp neighbors for quite some time and their young son, Kio, helped the girls set up the tent. Yet again, we watched the sun set over the ocean and then we stuffed ourselves with tacos. It was a relaxing night after an eventful day! The next day we headed towards the town of Denham on Shark Bay.

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