Wednesday, April 15, 2009

February 24, 2009: Exmouth

106 degrees, 100% humidity, Emu’s and Kangaroos running wild in the streets, untouched coastline, a town of 2,500 with no stop lights where people don’t roll up their windows or lock their doors. This is Exmouth. We arrived in Exmouth on Monday and took tenders into the harbor. There were a few excursions to the Ningaloo Reef and the Canyons; we’d been too late to sign up so we were waitlisted for the reef trip. While sitting under a canopy awaiting the bus departures and sweating to death, we (Mom and I) decided to take up an offer to hire our own car and tootle ourselves around the area. Brilliant idea in retrospect as we later heard the side trip was in a bus with no AC for four hours and quite disappointing. 

We rented our purple Kia Pasha and grabbed some sandwiches at the local bakery (again, quite good) and drove off around the Exmouth Peninsula. This city was founded as a joint US/Australian Naval Communications point during WWII and was used as a sub base during that time as well. Now there are only a few Air Force Families stationed there so the town is mostly a vacation spot for campers and hikers during the US summer (too hot otherwise as we figured out). Despite a jumpy transition from first to second gear, our car got us rolling around the beautiful scenery and off to the beach. It is so arid that very few trees grow in this area. There are long stretches of road (one road) sided by red dirt and low growing bushes that stretch for miles to mountainous perches on one side and sand dunes with adjacent beaches on the other. We stopped en route to the beach at a lighthouse that had been built in 1918. It was only used for 2 years before being abandoned for an adjacent communications station but was apparently bombed by the Japanese during the war. 

Exmouth is the only place in the world where a coral reef grows on the west coast of a country and this reef is right off shore (as opposed to the Great Barrier where you have to boat out to it). We traveled down to Turqouise bay with the plan to have lunch and swim in the water. I tried to convince my mom to be my snorkel partner (for those of you who know my anxiety about fish, you know why I need a partner!) but she refused. I found out why shortly when she and I stepped into the most beautiful bay with crystal clear water and we were suddenly surrounded by twenty foot long white fish. Apparently my anxiety is genetic! It almost made me feel relaxed! We were both squealing like little kids until one Australian woman came over and was like, “What did you find? A baby shark?” HA! To our chagrin, we admitted we were just scared of a few fish. Really embarrassing - she thought so too. 

We spent a good while at the beach, all of us enjoying the perfect water and breathtaking landscape. I swam out to a huge sand bar where the water was only about a foot deep. The currents were so strong that I could barely walk along it and turned back before being sucked over into the open water. 

On our way back, we saw a kangaroo hopping across our path and slowed to watch it hopping in the bushes. My mom and I had seen one in MRV, but dad hadn’t so he was excited. We also saw a few that had been hit by cars and were in the ditches. It seemed so sad to me, but there is apparently an overpopulation of them here so, although people attempt to avoid them, it is somewhat inevitable at times. The Emu (look like small ostriches) were stalking around in the bush and on our way back, one decided to walk down the road in front of us. Thank god there isn’t a lot of car traffic. We caught a good picture of him ogling us from the road. We returned back to town and spent our last Aussie dollars on some Tim Tam’s. My mom had seen Nicole Kidman talk about them on Oprah so we had to give them a try. They were quite tasty and we were thankful they don’t sell them in the US - too good! 

We were at sea yesterday - another scorching day of heat and humidity. Despite wearing 30 and 85 SPF on a daily basis, I have some “red” patches...damn that Irish skin! Afternoon cocktails on the boat are mandatory. Hinano beer or Pimm’s is typical followed by wine at dinner. My parents are great cohorts, but a younger friend would be nice on this trip. Today, Ash Wednesday, we arrive in Bali for two days. Despite it being the beginning of Lent, I think I’ll postpone my no alcohol abstention - too tough while on vacation (yeah, I’m a weak Catholic this year, but I’ll make up for it later). We are doing a village cycling tour today and have a car and driver for tomorrow to tootle us around on my mom’s birthday! Shh!!! She’s trying to avoid it - like it was an unexpected event or something. 

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