Having reached Carnavon we decided it would be a good time to register the car. We had to get an MOT equivalent done which the old beast passed with flying colours (not much safer than a car that doesnft start reliably). Then we had to pay the paltry 10 quid to insure it until July. Hardly worth while but itfll keep the coppers off our backs.
Afterwards, we blasted up to Coral bay. This litte collection of shops is based on a nice beach and close to the Ningaloo Reef which regularly attractes the worlds largest fish (stupidly named the Whale Shark of which it is neither). The lads spent the next two days futilely going on boat tours to see one of the beasties but to no avail. There were none. Are they as regular as the aussie tourist info claims. Undoubtably not and you canft get a refund for a no show either. They did see a large manta ray and the sad, dying state of Ningaloo reef though. Angry? I reckon so. The reef is apparently brown and dead with a paltry number of fish. The tour operators claim its because of El Nino heating the waters up. The literature Ifve read suggests its more likely to do with the massive soil erosion caused by Australiafs farming and irrigation practices which wash huge amounts of the already sparse topsoil into the water, thereby increasing its turbidity and killing the reef. But hey, its easier to blame the weather isnft it?
In short, Coral Bay was a failure so we blazed up to Karratha. It was just a petrol stop but we took a small detour to see some aboriginal rock carvings nearby. Well, wefre not sure if we actually saw them or not because all we saw were some vague scratchings in some rocks instead of the hundreds of distinct carvings the tourist literature told us to expect. Wefre fast coming to the conclusion that Australia will promote any crap as an amazing site. This is shown by the large number of brown signs on the roads that direct you to such exciting things as a former sheep shearing site a whole 100 years old (I jest not) and truly terrible monuments to events that are of such vanishingly small significance to anyone that I fail to remember a single one to use as an example of how rum they are. But trust me, they are rum - one was a metal fench section 60 cm long. Donft believe me? Herefs a sample - the stunning Beef Road monument: http://www.ipe.nt.gov.au/whatwedo/ntroads/restareas/victoria/duncanhwy.html
Many miles and hours behind the wheel later, we reached Port Hedland and motored on to Broome. This town also has an over-inflated reputation. The beach is lovely and there is a micro-brewery with some decent brews (first one Ifve found Tucks) but there isnft alot else. 99% of the tourist here are elderly couples out for a day at the seaside. On the plus side, we were starting to see groups of Aboriginal people in the shops and pubs and being treated like normal people instead of second class citizens. This situation improves the nearer you get to the Northern Territory and the further from South Western Australia.
By Sunday we had reached Derby, the gateway to the famous Kimberly region. A long drive done a dusty outback road brought us to Wingjara gorge. This is part of a former coral reef that existed 350 million years ago and now consists of towering limestone cliffs packed with fossils, that have been eroded into gorges by rivers now that the ocean has receeded. Its a visually stunning area and well deserves its reputation as an area of outstanding natural beauty. Walking along the gorge we saw quite a few crocodiles but they were freshwater beasts and therefore not dangerous unless provoked. Allegedly. We camped up here and got ready to tour more of the Kimberlys over the coming days.