Friday, August 14, 2009

Stromatolites, dolphins and a multi-cultural atmosphere

We arrived at the Hamelin Pool Caravan Park quite late in the evening of 8 August. The next morning, Trucky, Alex and I walked over the hill and through the old stone quarry to see the stromatolites. They were both pretty under whelmed by these ancient living marine organisms (they look like rocks!) but I thought they were interesting – for what they are, anyway.

We packed the car and headed for a day at Shark Bay, Denham and Monkey Mia. After a petrol stop in Denham we drove up to Monkey Mia, to be told the dolphins were all over for the day. That was a bit disappointing, but while we were having a look around the visitors centre, we also checked out the caravan park. To our surprise, they were able to squeeze us in, so we drove the 150km back to Hamelin Pool and picked up the bus.

The Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort was a fantastic caravan park. The kids spent a lot of time in the pool, and Trucky and I in the hot tub. We hired a four-peddle paddle boat that had an extra seat, so we all took to the water in that. The wind was quite strong, so even peddling furiously we didn’t get very far, but it was great fun, especially with waves breaking over the bow. We had dinner in the pub and listened to some live music – a local blues guitarist named Ivan Zar, while the kids did cartwheels on the grass with some of the local children.

The resort was packed to the rafters, and over half of the guests seemed to be Dutch or German tourists. I found this interesting because so far everyone we’ve met on our travels has been fellow Aussies. Our kids played with lots of other kids, often without a common language, but handstand competitions in the pool and on land don’t require a lot of talking – laughter suffices!

We were in two minds whether to go to Monkey Mia at all. It’s a well known tourist destination, but lots of people have down-played it, saying it’s too far off the beaten track, too expensive and not that good anyway. I know all five of us would dispute that without reservation, having had a ball. It was certainly no more expensive than anywhere else we’ve been, the location and facilities were fantastic, the staff friendly and helpful (especially Michael the boat-rental guy) but the point of the destination is the dolphins, which again, we kept being told weren’t that good.

The first morning we got up early and were down in the water by 7:30am. Over the next half hour we, and about 60 other people, were joined by nine dolphins who swam right in to shore to say hello and show off. About 20 people were picked out of the crowd to feed some of these sleek creatures. It was captivating to have these beautiful wild animals swim up so close.

The next day Trucky and Daniel decided to have a sleep in, so Alex, Jess and I strolled down to the beach just before 8am. There were eight dolphins this time, but they seemed to have had red cordial for breakfast. They were playing and frolicking, rolling over and jumping up like mad things! Yesterday was great but today was just amazing to watch their antics. And all three of us were picked out of the crowd to feed the dolphins. Jess fed ‘Surprise’, who snatched the fish from her hand. Alex and I both fed ‘Piccolo’, who likes to play with her food before eating it. Very funny to watch!

This is another place that is sad to leave. And we didn’t get to see the many other attractions (Francois Peron National Park, Little Lagoon and Shell Beach just to name a few). Six months is really, really, really not long enough – and we’re only trying to do half of Australia!

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