Thursday, August 27, 2009

Food, surging water and whales

Leaving the Shark Bay Heritage Area we drove to Carnarvon to grocery shop. Some of the mundane things of home-life we still have to do on the road! It is interesting though, to see the different tastes catered for in different parts of the country, and the extremes of prices too. That night we stayed in the dunes by the Gascoyne River. We left early the next morning – well, early by our standards anyway. (We’ve all discovered the joys of sleeping in, so often breakfast is about 9am, and the day doesn’t really start until about 10:30am by the time we’ve eaten, dressed, cleaned up and generally mooched around for a bit.)

Carnarvon is colloquially known as the “Fruit Basket of the West” as most of the fruit and vegetables for the region are grown on the plantations there. We called into Morell’s and stocked up on fresh local vegetables. This plantation has a great little shop out the front, staffed by one of the owners. She was very friendly and recommended a few other growers to visit. In addition to capsicums, tomatoes, etc, the kids also had some chocolate coated homemade ice cream – Jess had strawberry and boys each had mango that were almost pure frozen fruit! Delicious. We also bought a black sapote, known as chocolate pudding fruit, to try. It was a very strange experience – soft texture almost like mousse, with a taste a bit like chocolate but not sweet at all. I don’t think any of us are real fans, but it was interesting to give it a go.

From Morell’s we went to Bumbak’s, where we were lucky enough to have a tour over the plantation. Robyn, giving the tour, was extremely knowledgeable, and it was interesting to hear about the water issues Carnarvon faces, as well as about the crops themselves. Her plantation grows seedless watermelon and table grapes commercially, and bananas, mangoes and vegetables for their own use, as well as for their preserves business. The kids were allowed to run riot through the banana trees which they particularly enjoyed. From their shop we bought some mango and passionfruit jam that was superb (especially on fresh pikelets Alex and I made the next day).

Our next stop was the Blow Holes. This amazing piece of coastline just past Lake Macleod is an old coral reef. The biggest blow hole was huge, and that combined with the big waves crashing over the cliffs kept Daniel enthralled for ages. I was fascinated by the smaller holes that look like natural versions of the little fountains that spring up in walkways around tourist attractions.

As if this wasn’t amazing enough, right close to shore were whales! There was four together, rising in a staggered formation out of the ocean like a synchronised swimming display, before diving back into the water, and repeating it over an over again. There were two other whales – a mother and her calf – also just offshore. It was hard to know where to look, as there was so much to see!

We decided to have a quick look at Point Quobba, about a kilometre from the Blow Holes, so we pulled up and went for a quick swim to cool off. That became a few hours in the water with our snorkels, as it was the most amazing coral reef, right there! There were dozens of brightly coloured fish only a couple of metres from shore, and shallow enough you were almost right on top of the coral. I have never seen anywhere as full of fish – and so few people – as this. It was like swimming in an aquarium!!

Point Quobba has a ranger-run campground right on the beach. It was primitive but very friendly (and cheap!). The place was full of other motor-homers and caravanners, many of whom stay for months at a time. Trucky went fishing from the beach (the snorkelling area is protected from fishing, thank goodness) and caught a big dart that we had for dinner that night.

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