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Wed 27 Sept. Perth to Kalbarri.
Natsuko has just a few days more before going home to Japan, so we hire a little car and head off 800 kilometres up the wildflower way, getting to Kalbarri just in time for sunset. Drop off to sleep in the YHA with ants marching round us on the carpet.
Thur 28 Sept. Kalbarri National Park.
A 4 hour walk round 'The Loop', a horseshoe-coil of ravine in Kalbarri Gorge. The path threads along paper-thin undercut ledges of ochre stone, just flakes of stone suspended over the green water. Fat Golden Orb spiders hang from the branches of Red River Gums.
At Eagle Bluff, above red sea cliffs glowing in the last light, an Echidna wanders noisily through the undergrowth.
Drive south as darkness falls, peripheral vision twitching for wildlife bounding out of the darkness to burn our rental excess, till tiredness takes over, pull off down a dark sideroad and sleep in the car.
Fri 29 Sept. Kalbarri to Cervantes.
Wake up to sunrise surrounded by fields of purple wildflowers.
Get to the Pinnacles Desert - a large field of twisted sandstone pillars - in good time for sunset, but the weather is against us. Sulky blue clouds cover the sun, just one tiny chink lets a ten-second lick of sunlight run over the weathered towers. A couple of emus break cover and run among the stones.
Sat 30 Sept. Pinnacles Desert.
Fate also decrees 10 seconds of sunrise before the clouds close in. Oh well, one good photo each of sunset and sunrise is better than nothing.
Sunrise, Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park.
Sun 1 Oct. Perth.
Back in Perth to drop off our little car, and say farewell to Viv, and to Natsuko, before catching a Greyhound coach to Coral Bay, close to the westernmost tip of Australia.
Mon 2 Oct. Coral Bay.
Sunrise and breakfast at the Overlander Roadhouse, a hundred kilometres from nowhere. A couple of sorry Galahs and Kookaburra sulk in wire cages. A gritty woman is on the payphone organising a tow truck - "Biggest bloody 'roo you ever saw - yeah, wrecked the car all right, the bastard!"
Tues 3 Oct. Coral Bay.
The two most dissapointing dives of my life - from a packed cattleboat, to dead, bleached coral, indifferent visibility, fish with no conversation skills, and a brief staged feeding circus with a half-tame Potato Cod.
This is a classic example of why one shouldn't base an asessment of a location on a single day. Ningaloo gets far better than this, I'm just unlucky. The main draw here is swimming with Whale Sharks, but this time of year they are off cruising other waters. Still, back above water, the beach shines and shimmers in the heat.
Georgie, Fi and Huw, from the "Go West Handbook 2001".
Wed 4 Oct. Coral Bay, Australia.
Make the entire population of Coral bay convinced I am quite mad by going round trying to hire a pair of shocking pink and a pair of lime green snorkelling fins, and then taking pictures of them propped up on beaches and against colourful beachhuts. The things I do to make a little money...
Fri 6 Oct. Exmouth, Australia.
Hire another little car for the day with fellow travellers Karen, Catherine, Connie and Masa, and drive round the Cape Range national park, past the mountain-sized glittering spidersweb of communications aerials at the tip of the cape, round to mangrove choked gullys and to white beaches at the fringes of shrubby desert.
Driving back up the cape to watch the sun set behind the Cape Range Lighthouse. Kangaroo damage is common enough to be explicitly excluded from the rental insurance, and literally hundreds of 'roos queue up to give us palpitations by bounding into the dirt road in our path.
Sun 8 Oct. Great North Western Highway.
A full day rushing in a silver Greyhound over endless drab plains from Exmouth to Broome. Unseen bush fires upwind cast a vast greasy sepia pall over the sky. Greyhound drivers all have their own little drawled patter - "Well folks, this vehicle is fitted with livestock bars, and anything up to and including a 'roo isn't going to impede our progress much, but, I may have to stand on the brakes for cattle so, please wear your seatbelts at all times...".
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