Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Marine Park

After a couple of days in Exmouth to do the Whale swimming trip we headed into the Cape Range National Park and camped at Tulki Beach for 5 days. This gave us plenty of time to get around to all the shore based snorkel sites along this part of the coast and also to do a few walks.

cape range camp tulki beach
Our cape range view campsite at Tulki beach. The beach is just behind the dunes behind us. We saw the range out one side and the dunes and sea out the other.
ultralight
This is one way you can view the Reef without getting wet.
white eyed peas
We found a paler shade of Desert Pea with white centers growing on the side of the road.
green birdflower
Another really interesting wildflower was the green bird flower
bird flower with nt
This birdflower was not at it’s best and it was being attacked by ants so hoping to see another plant.
bird nest on tower
This little butcher bird looked like it had found a palace or 3 with these Osprey nests!
swimming risk
We took the chance and did the drift snorkel at Turquoise Bay. The current made the water not so clear but there was a lot of healthy looking soft and hard corals here. Many fish both large and small. We also saw a one metre long black tipped reef shark and swam with a turtle for quite awhile. It’s nice to see relaxed turtles that are clearly not afraid of ending up a meal! You could do this dive many times and see something new each time.
lion fish
Lion fish not liking the camera.
white tip resting
White tipped reef shark having a sleep in a cave.
digging ray
Blue spotted sting ray having a feed on the bottom with fish helping themselves to whatever he was digging up!

snorkelling maddy

coral garden
A coral garden. It was like swimming in an aquarium! Lots of healthy hard and soft corals and so many fish. It was a joy to see a fringing reef lagoon so healthy. We went to the Cook Isles a few years ago and although the islands were beautiful all their coral reef was dead around the 2 main islands. Any fish in their lagoons were there because they were fed. The reefs there are very shallow and are getting too hot and the coral has died as a result. You could see global warming in action. Very sad and we must protect what we have here in Australia.

coral fishies

clam
Giant clam.
turtle at oyster stacks
A very laid back turtle. It was like he was drugged. We swam with this guy for so long I got cold – he was so slow! He didn’t mind us, but he was not so sure about the camera.
big whoppers
We saw huge schools of very big fish at times.

 

feeding blue spotted ray and bumphead fish
Another ray feeding with fish helping themselves after the ray did some digging.

The next day we headed out to do the Yardie Gorge walk and then had a swim and a cup of tea at Sandy Bay Beach.

yardie gorge trail sign

yardie creek

yardie creek and ningaloo reef
Yardie creek opens into the sea when there is enough water but not at the moment. Waves in the background are breaking on Ningaloo Reef.

yardie creek

steve on yardi creek walk
Steve wearing his special bush walking thongs.
eastern reef egrets
Eastern Reef Egrets- “Ebony and Ivory living in perfect harmony”
little yardie flower
A perfect very tiny little wildflower we almost stepped on.

yardi creek walk

sandy bay
The beautiful Sandy Bay Beach with waves breaking out on the reef in the distance.
lesser sand plover 2
Red Capped Plover and a Lesser Sand Plover
sandy beach ningaloo reef
Crystal clear water at Sandy Bay with waves breaking on the reef behind. You just had to get in!

We got the folding boat in the water to do some snorkels further off shore on bommies and saw an amazing amount of turtles. At one stage we saw 7 turtles at one time while we were going along in the boat. It’s turtle mating season we were told but didn’t see any in the act. We saw more reef sharks out further these ones cruising around the valleys in between the coral outcrops. We saw many stings rays and a good range of different fish and corals. So nice that all is so healthy and there are so many fish.

shells in a huddle
Live shells cuddled up together on the rocks. I am not allowed to collect shells here as it is a marine park but I am amazed that there are few shells on the beach when there is so much diversity in the water here.

Another day and many more beautiful beaches here at Ningaloo Marine Park

steve out for a snorkel

blue fins
Down he goes in his new fins.
bat fish2
One of our favourites is the batfish. They seem to be very people friendly fish.
balor snail
A huge live bailer shell with its snail.   I had only seen these dead on the beach before this.
lots of fish
We saw a lot of huge schools of very big fish like these (not sure what they are as all our fish books are at home) and others. These were probably 60cm long.
gordons home
This groper was always hiding under something trying to get some privacy but he was a bit close to shore and easy to find. He was huge and probably weighed 60-80 kgs!
gordon close up
The groper and his friends. He has that “get out of my cave” look!
blue spotted ray
Blue spotted sting ray hiding.
clown fish
Anemone fish
white tipped reef shark
White tipped reef shark trying to get some sleep in this cave-and then Steve came along! There were many sharks on Ningaloo Reef which is a healthy sign.

 

moorish idols
Moorish Idols
ospreys
These Ospreys had a killer view overlooking the beach at the top of this sand dune.
osprey and chick
They were very busy feeding this ugly big featherless chick.
marine park sign
We were hoping all the fish swam to the left!
weird snorkel
First time seeing these weird mask/snorkels. I think they may be for people scared of snorkeling as many were pink!
idiot sign
The idiot sign! Risk of the day!
grey haired urchin
There were a lot of these “grey haired” sea urchins washed up on one beach.
rock life
Interesting rock residents.

A perentie on the rocks near the beach

barracuda head
I love walking the high tide line to see what the sea has brought up. This looks like the head of a large garfish.
crab
A crabby crab not happy to see us on it’s lonely beach.

mandu mandu gorge sign

mandu mandu walk view
Mandu Mandu Gorge walk.
wildflowers
Wildflowers in the creek bed.
outdoor shower engine cleaner
The outdoor shower is good for cleaning us and rinsing the boat motor!
moon and saturn
The moon about to move in front of Saturn with it’s rings.       I was watching a program where an astronaut was describing his view of the earth from space. Each time they orbited they would see different areas of the world but there were always clouds obscuring many places. The only place he was ALWAYS able to see (due to lack of clouds) was the Australian outback. Maybe that’s why we love it so much. The moon and stars at night is hard to beat out here too.   M                           About a minute after taking this photo, Saturn disappeared.    Amazingly this image was taken with just a handheld camera (Panasonic Lumix FZ300) – I took a 7 second video sequence, then used image stacking software to combine 160 frames from the video to increase the clarity.   S

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ningaloo Reef Whale swimming

Since 2016 it has been possible to get in the water and swim with Humpback Whales here at Ningaloo Reef. We traveled to Tonga a few years ago to do this as it was then one of the few places in the world that this was allowed and we had an amazing experience. After this, a whale watching boat was just not the same for us. We decided to try it again here in Australia. It was the end of the whale shark dive season and we told there were not many whale sharks around and the humpbacks were in full swing coming and going on their annual migration.

waiting to board
Steve waiting to board the boat with his lucky whale shirt on.
whale swim boat
This was our boat for the day with Ningaloowhalesharks. It was a really well run trip that we would recommend. They are one of the whaleshark boats that is now doing the swim with Humpbacks trial.
inside the whale boat
We were given stinger suits and short wet suits and all gear required. Don’t think the stingers suits were required for stingers but they did help you keep warm!
frogman
Frogman ready to go and looking cosy.

We warmed up in the sun between dives. Water temp was only 20deg C. This may be warm to some people but we admit we are wimps! Too much tropical diving!

The day started with a snorkel inside the reef where the conditions are more gentle. The wind was blowing and there was a 1 metre swell but we were told the conditions were amazingly good. I’m glad we didn’t have the usual big swell. I drugged myself up with seasick tablets but there were a few people feeling sick on the boat once we got outside the reef. We had a quick look at some coral bommies and the staff saw how everyone was performing with their gear and ability etc.  M

whale swim photo
Steve and I doing water ballet. They don’t give you weights so it is hard to dive down.
stingray
There were a lot of sting rays on the bottom.

puffer fish

guitar sharks
Very unimpressive go pro Guitar Sharks
cow tailed ray
Spot the Cow tailed ray hidden in the sand.
bull ray
Bull Ray half hidden under a bommie thinking we can’t see it.
maddy swimming
Me diving down to look under a ledge but without weights it was hard to stay down. M
dolphins
First wildlife spotted were a number of turtles. We were told it was turtle mating season at the moment. Then a pod of 7 bottle nose dolphins came and swam at the bow for a while.

dolphin

sea snake
Olive sea snake coming up for air
a bloody seabird
Finally! A new bird! A wedge tailed shearwater.
our spotter
Then the boat headed out through a gap in the reef to the open ocean where the whales roam. The spotter plane goes up looking for the whales and talks on the radio to the boat who talks to the whale spotter in the water with a radio in their hand. We stay close to the person in the water with the radio and the plane tells us where the whale is and which direction to swim to connect with it.
fancy fins
All the staff on this boat were fantastic at their jobs. You could see they loved the sea and were having fun but keeping it safe. One has the radio and the other a camera waiting for the OK from the plane to jump in. The are both wearing free diving fins so they can swim fast.
ready to go
It was pretty hectic (and fun) jumping off the back of the boat into a swell as the boat was moving on the open ocean. We all had to jump in at the same time, keep together and swim like crazy to keep up with swimming whales. Here we are waiting for the signal to jump in.
grey haired man
Steve modelling the dive gear!
return to boat
This photo makes it look flat but it wasnt!
its behind you
The spotter is in the water and sights the whale and lets us know the direction its traveling and which way we must swim. You can see the dorsal fin behind the spotter. But this isn’t a humpback, it’s a whale shark which we just happened to find out there this late in the season. We were told we were pretty lucky. M
shark coming
A juvenile Whale shark just swimming along not seeming to notice the 9 people in the water with it thrashing away on the surface! It had the most beautiful blue and white spots!
maddy and whaleshark
VERY EXCITING being this close to a whale shark but trying hard NOT to smile or you get water in your mask!

behind sharkIt was all pretty amazing and made us forget why we were there. What was amazing is how totally comfortable they are with a bunch of people swimming along next to them watching them eat. At times we had to be careful it didn’t come too close to us. Once all the groups had seen it, they let us get in for another swim with it!

side shark

beside shark
It was swimming slowly for a whale shark but you still had to kick pretty hard to keep up.
whale
When they finally spotted a  humpback that was appropriate to get in with, it was all a bit of  an anticlimax. The whales you are allowed to swim with here are busy migrating and on the move the whole time. You jump out of the boat in the path of the whale and hope you get a glimpse of it swimming around or under you. You can just make out the form of this one which saw us in it’s path and swam under us. These guys do not move slowly so many people did not even sight it.

Had we know the limitations with humpback whale swimming in Western Australia beforehand, we would NOT have booked. We would recommend people do this in Tonga where you are allowed to interact with settled mothers and babies who are relaxing. Interestingly in Tonga you are NOT allowed to be dropped in a boat in the path of a moving whale like you are here. We know from our experience in Tonga that if a whale is not happy with you near them they just don’t hang around. They are the boss. M

Having said all that, we had an amazing day with the whale shark and other wildlife and we highly recommend a whale shark swim to everyone to do at least once in your life. It is unforgettable! M

 

Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef

giralia bay station stay
We spent our last night on the drive to Exmouth on a station stay. Giralia Station was a sheep farm that is now de stocked and operates as a low key tourist facility, rather than an actual farm. There was a lot of old interesting farm stuff around the place to look at and we parked our van next to the old shearing shed and had a lovely quiet night under the stars. You could drive all the way to the coast on this property but we didn’t. We knew we would be getting a much better coast very soon. M

urrabiddy

 

 

exmouth on Ningaloo Reef
We were last in Exmouth about 16yrs ago and things have changed a lot. There are many roads now paved and much more development. There is a biggish marina and a lot of money has been spent on different projects around town. There is a lot more competition from the tours etc. The best thing is Ningaloo Reef is still here and most importantly in 2011 this coast line was added to the world heritage list acknowledging it as one of the outstanding natural places in the world, following a mighty environmental fight! Now we hear that fight continues as now there are some that would like this area to be like the Pilbara and propose to put gas and oil pipe lines right next to the reef in the Exmouth Gulf!!!!!!They have wrecked the Pilbara now they are working their way down to this beautiful, unusual, untouched coast! Unbelievable! M
big prawn
The big prawn was not as big as the one in Ballina but more realistic!  Exmouth is apparently famous for it’s prawns which we have yet to try.

We had a walk and a swim on town beach which we can walk to from where we are camped  and found these sculptures down at the marina development. The emus and Kangaroo were made out of old motorcycle and car parts and looked amazingly real from a distance.

There are a lot of real Emus that just walk around the town here. Steve had to chase one away from the bush at the back of our caravan, when it looked ready to taste his tea. An adult emu is 6 feet tall and when you are sitting down and they are coming at you with that big beak they feel huge. There should be an “Emu risk” sign here but we haven’t seen one yet.  M

Above is one Emu to keep a look out for around here. It likes to come                                       around campers sitting outside and see if it can steal a free meal.

 

 

badjirrajirra walk sign
We did this walk in the Cape Range National Park not far from Exmouth

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We think Western Australia spends the most on danger signs than any other state. No less than 4 risks in our life in just one day. The only real risk was the emu attack but there was no sign for that one.

capr range hole
Looking down into one of those dangerous sink holes!
shothole gorge
Looking down into Shothole gorge from our lunch spot
purple flower at cape rnage
Wildflowers along the way.

spikey blue flowers at cape range

yellow flowers at cape range

purple flower near mangrove bay

bird flower
The most amazing green bird flower.
Nankeen Kestrell 2
Nankeen Kestral
SS Mildura sign
The ship wreck SS Mildura at low and high tide below was the reason this point got a light house. It was a snorkel site but the currents were a bit strong going around the point here, so we didn’t see this one except from the shore.
vlamingh head lighthouse
Vlamingh Head Lighthouse with Ningaloo Reef in the background.
jarabi turtle centre
A loggerhead turtle at the Jarabi turtle centre. There are 3 types of sea turtles along this coast. The Green, Loggerhead and Hawkesbill and they are all in decline in the world. It was good to see so many (green) turtles where ever we went though not sure if we ever saw the others. The Hawkesbill has the most beautiful shell that combs etc used to be made out of. We really must protect these gentle creatures.
french artist comment
The Dutch and the French were in Australia before the British and I thought this was an interesting impression from a European in 1818 for this wild and beautiful coastline.
SS Mildura sign
This ship is now a snorkel site on North West Cape just off shore but the currents are a bit strong on this point so we didn’t do it.

Mildura wreck at low and high tide.

steve sun bathing
We decided to try the clothing optional beach as we thought there would be few people on it and we wouldn’t need to wet our swimmers. It was a lovely beach and this is how a red head sun bakes after a swim.
mauritius beach
Mauritius beach yet another beautiful beach you could sit and watch turtle after turtle come up for air.
steve bird hide
The mangrove bird hide in the Cape Range National Park. No new birds here.
shot hole canyon
Afterwards we drove up shothole canyon to see it from the other direction.

shot hole canyon 2

in shothole gorge

charles knife gorge
Looking down from Charles Knife Drive.

 

Dampier and Red Dog

Next we headed to Dampier. Well if Karratha was “not pretty” then Dampier is EXTREMELY plain! Steve is amazed by mega industry having grown up in a town dug up by mining but I am mostly shocked by it as I grew up surrounded by Pine Trees. The industry where I grew up was the timber industry which is a bit easier on the eye, now sustainable and they have to clean up their mess- unlike mining. M

Dampier was just what I expected. I have never been here before, but have seen the movie “Red Dog” which was filmed in the area, about the area and it’s residents and they portrayed the place pretty well. Red dog is it’s claim to fame really. There’s even a “Roaming with Red dog trail” which takes you all around points in the town. M

red dog statue dampier
Dampier’s most famous resident- Red Dog the Pilbara wanderer.

red dog pilbara wanderred dog history

Dampier was until recently a closed mining town owned by Rio Tinto.  For this reason the town is situated in sight of and sound of the loading facility. The housing architecture could only be described as “prison camp”. At the caravan park after being checked in by the lovely Lorraine, we could actually sit right outside our caravan and watch Rio Tinto loading iron ore into a tanker! You could hear it too! You don’t get that everywhere! The loading facility runs 24hrs, 7days a week and for entertainment you can go and watch the trains (that we saw leaving Mt Tom Price Mine) that come from 250kms inland end at the wharf to dump their load. That is THE most entertaining thing to do here.

dampier sundowners
Watching the iron ore being loaded over a cocktail
dampier beach
The “beach” in Dampier with a view of the loading facility in the background. Even when you are not working you can see where you work. Great for morale I’m sure.
sams island
Sam’s island can be seen just off the foreshore and yes it too has a view of the Rio Tinto loading facility. Known as Sam’s Island after Sam Ostojich who settled here in 1965. He was supposedly stranded out there for a few days after a storm blew up and fell in love with the place. He then went back out whenever time allowed and began constructing a castle in 1966. He built layer after layer of rock walls carting soil, timber and provisions from the mainland. Don’t know if Sam is still around and we didn’t get out there but it is a nice Picnic spot supposedly. You can get out there by kayak easily from town.

OK, I am not being totally fair because we came here for the Burrup Peninsula not far away but again that is the problem, it is not far enough away! You can still hear and see the industry whatever you are doing out there. You practically drive through the Woodside gas plant to get to the National Park. Steve decided to take the “guppy” out from the boat ramp there and I had a free day and the ENTIRE caravan to myself! M

With the guppy I visited the Dampier Archipelago, which despite the industry to its south is actually quite stunning, with scores of uninhabited islands with white beaches and translucent blue water contrasting with red rock outcrops and the yellow-green spinifex.   It was great to spend the day hopping from beach to beach and bay to bay jumping into the water as I went along.  The tidal variation in this area can still exceed 4 meters, so the currents cause a fair bit silt to remain suspended in the water.   So while there was some coral below, the visibility was poor so not much good for snorkeling.   However I did spot a couple of turtles and a dolphin from the boat as well as several birds including the caspian terns above.    I also got some good views of the north west shelf gas production facility and associated shipping, but I will cover that in another post.  S

The Burrup Peninsula did have something special though. It was Deep Gorge in Murujuga National Park. It is recognised as one of the most prolific rock art sites in Australia with over 10,000 individual engravings or etchings located. It is a new park and has been nominated for world heritage status. Unfortunately we could not do a tour with a local on the Sunday we were there. It would have been nice to have the site explained to us. Mdeep gorge signmurujuga national park

rock risk
There is always a risk!
deep gorge
Industry peeking it’s ugly head between the rock art.   In this case one of the world’s largest ammonia plants using natural gas from the adjacent onshore gas processing plant 
real rock roo
A kangaroo guard not far from a roo etching!
rock boomerangs
Boomerangs
upper deep gorge
Millions of rocks and thousands of art works

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Boomerangs, emus, kangaroos, manta rays, turtles, lizards, fish, emu tracks

hearson cove
Hearson’s cove beach nearby was nice for a swim at high tide

We left Dampier a bit late and were told about a “secret” free camp on the Maitland River which turned out to be a lovely spot for the night. We are a bit fussy about where we will free camp and we loved this quiet, clean, side of the river spot which we had to ourselves. M

waterhole wildlife
While Steve sad waiting for birds to come for a drink the cows stood and stared at him sitting on their “trail” wondering what they should do! Big decision for a cow!
white plumed honeyeater and flowers
White plumed honey eater on a flowering tree on the river bank

Pilbara coast- Cossack historic town

Next we headed to the Pilbara coast and had a couple of days in Karratha. Another town built because of the iron ore mines inland and the off shore gas plants. The railroad tracks end at the shore near here at Dampier to load the ore onto waiting tankers. This town is not pretty but useful – for stocking up on groceries and getting the Prado fixed yet again :-(. We then headed to the Historic town of Cossack. Here there is a nice beach to camp on with only 4 campsites and is quite pretty. You can still see the industry in the far distance but it can’t be heard out here.  M

cossack sign
Cossack town began life in 1863 as a pearling port and was abandoned in the 1950’s and went to ruin. In 1977 it was classified by National Trust and in the 1970’s-80’s resoration work began some of it funded with mining money.

cossack time line sign

cossack camp settlers beach
Settlers beach Cossack. We were parked here with only 3 others, so we didn’t have to fight over a place on the beach! There were lots of sea birds here eating off the big sand flats at low tide.

cossack camp panorama at high tide

cossack camp panorama at low tide
This is the same beach at low tide. Not great for fishing or swimming but great for walking and yes, shell collecting.

jarman island light house

jarman island walk
We thought it might be nice to walk to Jarman Island at low tide and check out the ruins. It was a swim across the channel but the water ended up being a bit brown coming out of the channel and you couldn’t see what was in there. There are a few sharks to watch out for around here so  chance it.
cossack beach bubbles
The rapidly  incoming tide makes the sand bubble in places sounding very strange and making a foam that is pushed along on the tide.
cossack court house museum
The old court house that is now the museum

 

cossack bond store
The bond store which is now a cafe which we stopped at for a nice lunch
galbraith store building
Another old store building with an interesting roof line.
cossack jail
No old town is complete without a jail.
water tower art
The watertower lookout complete with tank art. Most common recreational activity in these parts-fishing!
cossack historic rown from the lookout
View of old Cossack from the water tower
old cossack photos
This is what Cossack looked like in it’s hey day with pearling luggers sitting on the sand banks where there are now mangroves.
school house at cossack
Old school house with Sturt’s desert pea
desert peas with pea pods
Desert pea flowers and pods
cossack finches and dome
Birds having a drink and a bath in the drain
the old school
The old school house
cossack grave
We visited the old cemetary both the settlers and the asian. It seems we were even more racist back then and we couldn’t all be buried in the same area! We saw nobody over 50 buried. They were all children and mostly young (under 40) people. A sign of the hard times and lack of immunisation and basic health care and good food. Also dangerous industry.
asian grave
There were also plenty of pearling deaths in this dangerous industry
cossack pearling sign
As in Broome, Aboriginal divers were often kidnapped from inland and brought to the coast as free labour on the pearl luggers. Woman were the best divers, sometimes free diving down to 60 feet in the days before hardhat diving came in.
cossack turtle
Myrtle the turtle. There used to be a turtle soup factory near here back in the bad old days!
turtle soup sign
I can’t even believe people ate turtle soup! It doesn’t sound good even if you didn’t love turtles. The big turtles they caught are the breeders too. It’s a wonder there are any left. Today Aboriginal people supposedly only hunt the smaller ones.

turtle soup sign 2

 

golf on settlers beach
Ninas’s family tradition of hitting golf balls onto the nearby rocks and watching them ricochet off all over the place. The only people not fishing on this beach! Steve and I had a go but we really needed some practice! These people had been doing this “sport” for a generation!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Kimberly for the Pilbara

We left the Kimberly coast and turned inland to the Pilbara. It was sad to leave the beautiful coastline behind but better for my shell collecting addiction. 80 mile beach was just littered with temptation. It was also exciting to be getting back out into the deserts again on the Marble Bar road.

80 mile to dles gorge

This area had had a big dump of rain in March and it looked much greener than most places we had seen on this trip. The most exciting thing about this, was that there were wildflowers which you only see after rains. It was the first time we had EVER seen the Sturt Desert Pea in the wild and they are really striking little flowers. M

sturts desert pea pilbara roadside
The very striking Sturt’s Desert Pea on the side of the road.
sturts desert pea roadside closeup
Sturt’s Desert Pea, a very unusual looking flower that really stands out. They sort of look like little alien beings with big black eyes!
fluffy wildflowers
Wildflowers after rain on the side of the road

yellow flower bushyellow flowers

Our first night away from the coast was at a really beautiful free camp on a river bed at Dooleena Gorge. There was not much water in the river but it didn’t matter as we were surrounded by gorgeous red rock. It was all birdsong morning and evening but no new birds at this lovely spot. There were only a few other campers surprisingly. M

doolans gorge free camp
Doonleena Gorge free camp
dooleena camp2
The spinifex covered hills around Dooleena gorge and Keddie tucked into the trees on the edge of the riverbed.
dooleena camp
Relaxing on the dry river bank.
pool at dooleena
A tiny bit of water left in the river.
ibis herons and egret at dooleena
Straw necked ibis, Great egret, White faced heron and White necked heron all competing for what was left in this drying pool.
caught with his pants down
Greater Egret heeding the call of nature!
Peregrine Falcon.
Peregrine Falcon watching us from high above and complaining the whole time!

doolans gorge free camp 2

green happy spinifex
Very happy green spinifex surrounded us on the hillsides that looked more like wet season plants due to a big dump of unseasonable rain.

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We headed to Marble Bar next which is in the Guiness book of records for being Australia’s hottest town by having 161 consecutive days over 37.8 in 1924. Oodnadatta which we had visited earlier on the trip was said to be Australia’s hottest town by having the highest ever recorded maximum of 50.7 in 1960.

marble bar temp
Only 29.7! Not so hot today.

 

After a quick look at the museum we headed to the Iron Clad Hotel for some “man food” as Steve is now calling it. We had the burger and chips, so it’s woman food for dinner! It was one of those interesting old outback pubs with plenty to look at while you ate.

Marble bar was named after a stone bar at the Coongan river crossing nearby. The only problem is the stone is Jasper not marble but once they figured that out, the name had already stuck. I think Jasper Bar would have sounded fine. The best thing about this town was the beautiful Jasper and lovely swimming area near it!

 

bringing out the colours at marble bar
The jasper looked even better when you wet it!

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Above is the “marble bar” on the Coongan River. It is really jasper stone which you probably would not notice but for millions of years of it being “polished” by water flow, sand and rocks running over the top of it. Afterwards we went to a nearby fossicking area to get us a piece of this beautiful rock but there were none as beautiful as this polished river bed.

swimming hole at marble bar
Marble Bar swimming hole
pink eared duck ears
Pink eared ducks. We often see these on sewage ponds so we were happy to see them in some clean water for a change.
gypsey wagon marble bar
A grey nomad with a hippy twist seen in Marble Bar.

Marble Bar sprang up as a part of the gold rushes to the Pilbara in the late 1880’s. The gold rush was short lived and miners soon headed south for bigger discoveries. We stopped in at the old Comet mine on the way out the next morning. An old Dutch Farmer named Gerald told us the history of the mine as we sat on the veranda of the old mine managers house, now the museum. The mine is too “dangerous” to take tours groups through.

comet mine
Comet mine with tallest smoke stack in the southern hemisphere when built to clear mine of arsenic gas.
pilbara colours
The colourful hills of the Pilbara

 

After a night at the caravan park in Marble bar it was great to get to our next free camp. It is another beauty at Tambina Creek which we have to ourselves. The screeching of the corellas here will be waking us early but that is OK.

tambina creek free camp 2

tambina creek free camp
Tambina creek free camp
Tambina creek camp
Sunset from a nearby hill.

 

Derby Rodeo

derby rodeo sign
We were keen to see one outback rodeo on this trip. Derby was recommended by our fishing guide on the Ord river, who used to ride. So we returned to Derby again. We feel like we know this place like the back of our hand now! It was a fantastic weekend. It’s a macho sport and not particularly kind to animals so I shouldn’t like it, but I just can’t take my eyes off the action! The horsemanship is actually my favourite part. Watching the skill of the clowns and the pick up riders was just as interesting as the rest.

 

derby rodeo grounds
Most people took their position under the big trees on this hot weekend.
steve mezmerized while in with the babies
We set up our chairs under the trees which ended up looking like a day care centre with all the families coming to watch. Steve sat surrounded by babies and coped quite well
station kids
Cute station kids watching the action on the fence.
cute kids
More cute kids watching the action.
yum a snow cone
I mostly sat up at the top of the stand with the kids as it was the best spot with the best view. It was also the hottest and it was 34deg C! There was a steady stream of junk food happening all day up there and in the end even I had to get one of those shaved ice bowls!
old cowboy
There were plenty of old cowboys in the crowd.

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cute little dude
Tiny station kids looking cute!

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The Station Buckjump above is a Kimberly invention. The cowboy rides his Bronc on a normal everyday saddle and must crack his whip at least 2 times in the ride while also staying on his bucking Bronc. This was quite hard to do as few could even manage to crack the whip and balance.

advertise on your chaps
The pickup riders were there to pick up the rider if he managed to ride the 8 minutes or to grab the bucking bronc and get him out of the way of the rider who has just been thrown off. A dangerous job needing some very good riders and horses. They even advertise on their chaps.
successful rider being picked up
This guy managed to stay on the 8 seconds on the broc ride and is being picked up and off the still bucking horse by the pick up riders.

catching a wild one

nice chaps
There were a lot of  frilly chaps out there!

 

 

waiting in the chute
The colourful chutes were very photogenic.

 

 

 

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Barrel Racing above. There was a Ladies version and an open but the girls were better at this event.

 

catching a wild one 2

rodeo clowns
The rodeo clowns having a rest. A very serious job. The clown distracts the bull to allow the rider to get out of the way once they fall off. They call themselves bull fighters and they really are. They run towards the bucking bronc or bull getting ready to protect the rider and distract the bull with their red tops once they fall off. They are well padded against being horned. The barrel they can put between themselves and the bull or jump into it if they need to.
waiting his turn
A rider in the chute waiting his turn.
bull rider 3
The clowns running around to face the bull so it is distracted by them and hopefully does not hurt the rider. The riders seem to know how to fall off well and get out of the way quickly as not many were hurt.
rodeo clown on backwards
This clown was clowning around riding a junior bull backwards. He stayed on a very long time too!
bull rider 2
The rider must stay on for 8 sec. His left hand is used for balance and cannot touch the bull, gear or himself or it is called a “touch down” and  he is disqualified. There were 2 woman riders in the junior bull riding.
go the clown
Always amazing how close the clowns get to the action to keep the riders safe by distracting the bull. They had very good reflexes. For me they were as interesting to watch as the riders.

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The above shots are from the Bull Riding, Station Buckjump, Saddle Bronc and Bareback Bronc.

condom cowboy at the bar area gave out free condoms
This was the “condom cowboy” who was in the bar area. He gave out free condoms as a public health strategy fighting STDS which are a big problem out here.
health ad at the bar
Always on the lookout for health education. This poster in the bar area.

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The above were some of the best riders of the day. They are all Aboriginals and before white man came and took their land they had never even seen a horse! It was nice to see pride in the crowd for these guys and in the riders themselves.

team roping
Team roping looked pretty hard and there was some great riding.
kids race
In the middle of the day on Sunday all the kids were allowed in the arena for a race.
spurs
I had never seen modern day spurs up close before. They are pretty but I’m sure the animals are not impressed which is the whole point I guess.
big bull
This scene just looks wrong but it’s actually a station bull  that was hand raised by this family.
happy on a bull
And this is how you get these guys to ride so well. Start them young. You could see this baby was comfortable on the bull.
presenter derby rodeo
The presenter looked more like a surfer.
steer wrestling 1
Steer wrestling looked pretty hard and the horse had to be highly trained do some amazing riding. It had to go from a stop to a full gallop as soon as the steer was released.
steer wrestling 2
The cowboy has to slide off the horse at a flat gallop and take the steer my the horns. Very few could do this.

 

 

ambulance waiting for business
The ambulance was backed up to the gate and ready for business. Despite how bad some of these falls looked nobody was badly hurt and these guys were only called on once!
off to the ambulance
The ambulance finally got some business. This guy fell wrong or had a bull stomp on his ankle. He needed an MRI but there was probably not even an Xray technician in Derby that weekend! I noticed he was still smiling even sitting on the back of the ambulance.
kids going nuts 2
The best part of the whole day for the kids was after the rodeo when they ran onto the arena and climbed all over the chutes and pretended to be cows.

 

derby sunset
At the end of the day we went down to the jetty for the sunset!