Elephants passing by

After a late breakfast, we decided to skip lunch and by noon were lounging by the pool in little lodge that is part of Jocks Concession adjacent to Kruger National Park, South Africa.

David pointed out an elephant coming towards us down the sandy dry river bed. As we lay still, a herd of eleven emerged. I had been uploading yesterday’s blog on my iPad so hastily attempted to capture this special moment.

  
In this photo is a large elephant followed by a baby with mother. Elephant herds are apparently matriarchal, so the leader may also be female.

It’s been a hard day’s drive

  
to paraphrase a Beatles song. We drove from 10:00am to 5:00pm with breaks. Dave did 90% of the driving and I had a half hour’s van towing lesson, but I think Dave finds it as tiring being a passenger as driving because he is instructing me. Hopefully I will gradually be more help, but navigating using Hema maps on the iPad and Wikicamps is more to my liking.

I did take some photos as we edged steadily east across the South Australian section of the Nullarbor. We shared the highway with road trains. The sign on the back of this one says that it’s 37 metres long.

 Then a police car came towards us on the wrong side of the road, lights flashing. This was to warn us of an extra wide load carried by an approaching vehicle. It turned out to be two trucks each with a mining bucket that took up both lanes of the Eyre Highway.

  
Gradually civilisation encroaches, reminding us that our holiday is finishing soon. Our lunchstop the rest area was bounded by a fence with wheat planted the other side, plus powerlines and underground cable. A far cry from the unfenced wilderness plain that we had spent the last four days traversing.Edit

  
At Esperance we submitted our Nullarbor Links scorecard to the Information Centre and David proudly took possession of a Certificate of Completion, including his score – 146! The attendant said that the highest score she had processed was over 400! What with crows stealing balls, saltbush concealing them and trees concealing the greens, it’s a miracle that he finished at all.

We are now at a cosy caravan park and pub at Poochera, in South Australia’s wheat belt. Major Mitchell cockatoos, with their pink plumes, flutter and squawk around the gleaming silos. After four nights in the bush, it is a luxury to wash hair and clothes and enjoy pub-cooked fresh whiting from nearby Streaky Bay. But we will always cherish our memories of the vast Nullarbor plain and its beautiful southern seascapes.

  

Nullarbor musings with bikers

  
Departing late from our bush camp, (due to the time change), we returned to Border Village to fill a gas cylinder. While there we met a couple who had ridden a motorbike with trailer from Devonport in Tasmania. 

Further down the Eyre Highway, while pulling into a lookout to check out the Merdayerrah Sandpatch at the start of the Bunda Cliffs, we met them again. The trailer opens out to a double bed. They carry a small icebox for perishable food and  the bike is equipped with a GPS. When they got wet, they checked into a cabin for the night to dry off. They weren’t enjoying the windy morning, but overall were having a great trip.

The next lookout was over the Bunda Cliffs, which come abruptly out of the sea and stretch as far as the eye could see.

  
The word Nullarbor is Latin for ‘no trees’, but the Nullarbor Plain only lives up to its name on the Eyre Highway for a few, monotonous kilometres. The rest is scrubland and mallee (multiple trunked eucalyptus).

  
Once again, we visited Head of Bight, where hundreds of Southern Right Whales come annually to give birth and nurse their calves. I took some more photos, but it’s hard to zoom in and snap them at the moment they do something interesting. Most of the time they just lie flat in the sea, but occasionally they blow water or stretch a fin.

  
This evening we have found a lovely camp in Mallee bushland. The coastal dunes are visible on the horizon, but here it is sheltered with blue bush and little flowers. Once again we had a beautiful sunset.

  

Seascapes in Esperance with a French botanical influence

  
The Western Australian coastal town of Esperance is named after a French sailing ship that put ashore on a nearby island in 1792. The botanical environment that was recorded has changed little in two centuries and can be observed, together with a stunning coastline on an ocean drive.

  
So, with our trusty Yaris courtesy car, we did the 36km drive, stopping at the many lookouts provided to take in the spectacular views.

Naturally, I also did some botanising and photographed these Cockies Tongues and Bush Pea.

  
  
There were also birds: a butcher bird, oystercatcher and pacific gull.

  
A fisherman had a line in off one beach, while one beach was labelled “clothing optional”. Wisely, considering the temperature and our age, we decided to keep our clothes on.

  
  

Seafront rest-day with bronze-wing in Esperance

  
We are in Esperance, on the southern coast of Western Australia. After over five weeks travelling around 8,000km we were ready for time out: cleaning vehicle, van, bedsheets and clothes, strolling along the seafront, uploading photos.

I cooked an omelette for a leisurely outdoor lunch while a bronze-wing kept us company, walking around the picnic table, cooing softly.

  
The Esperance seafront has been tastefully renewed with an eye-catching sculpture of a whale’s tail, warm, red-hued retaining rocks, indigenous planting, creative playground equipment, interpretive signage, seating and paths. The rubbish bins are solar powered! Why? Maybe to illuminate them by night.

   
  At any rate, on this sunny day, the whole town seemed to be playing with their kids, dog-walking, fishing from the jetty, rollerblading, cycling or riding motor scooters. 

  
Offshore islands and ships entering the port further enhance the view. Our caravan park overlooks it this pleasant place to hang out.

A stroll into town introduced us to the relaxed, club-like atmosphere of Dome cafe, with its free wifi.

  
Outside the museum is this intriguing sign:

  
Tomorrow the Prado 4WD will be serviced and we will restock for the return trek across the Nullarbor.

Cockles on beaches and cockies with wildflowers

Reluctantly we have begun our return trip, heading out of the town of Denham and the Shark Bay area, stopping briefly to admire Shell Beach, which is made entirely of minute cockle shells.

  
Our lunch stop was on the red earth by the roadside.

  
We decided to stop just outside the Eurardy Station, a property of 38,000 hectares that was purchased by conservation organisation Bush Heritage Australia in 2005. It is in the heart of wildflower country and has an interesting roadside mailbox.

  
I photographed some delicate wildflowers while a flock of red-tailed black cockatoos socialised overhead.

  
We were rewarded with a spectacular sunset and a brilliant display of stars, moon and planets. It is worth bush camping to see far horizons and outback skies.

  

Dolphins and goanna magic at Monkey Mia

We had to leave our caravan park at 7:00am to get to Monkey Mia for the 7:45am feeding. Only a few dolphins are hand fed and they are only given three fish each, so they maintain their hunting skills and continue to feed their young. Two to four volunteer workers select three privileged people amongst the two hundred onlookers and they get to give the Dolphins a fish. Dolphins can be distinguished by their dorsal fins and today Puck and Surprise graced us with their presence.

  
Puck is eying off the bucket knowing that she will soon be offered a fish.

  
Volunteer worker selects a child to give puck her fish. They are allowed to choose a sibling or friend to accompany them in the task.

  
Visitors await the dolphin feeding as a marine biologist in the foreground gives a commentary.

We returned via the Red Bluff I’m Francois Peron National Park, where a goanna was sitting on the beach almost between David’s legs – to the delight of us and some French visitors.