Red-eyes & Red Skies: Exmouth, Western Australia.

Day 1

11pm Wednesday, in midair somewhere between the Gold Coast and Perth.

I’m turning 40 soon and it’s already the best birthday ever because I’m finally doing something that I’ve wanted to do for over half my life. I told you I grew up in Carnarvon? Well my dream of the last 25 years has been to go to Exmouth, a tinier town even further north which is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever heard of despite the fact that hardly anyone outside of W.A. seems to have heard of it.

I was so excited last night I couldn’t sleep! To be honest, I’m actually a bit nervous too. The ‘WOOHOO, first trip by myself in 8 years!!!!’ has at times been ‘SHIT, first trip all by myself in 8 years! What if I forget something really important or lose something really important or miss a flight because J’s not there to chivvy me along?’ (We have a system while travelling with the kids now, and I pack everything except his stuff and the passports and he reminds me of shit and drags us to the airport ridiculously early we pick up each other’s slack.) Plus everyone was constantly telling me to be careful, just because I’d told them I was going over to swim with whale sharks, and now I’m starting to freak out a bit. I’m going to the remote Gascoyne, alone; what if I get lost in the desert / abducted by aliens / humped by a dolphin?

An anthill? Or a giant meteoric impact crater as viewed from space?
An anthill? Or a giant meteoric impact crater as viewed from space?

1.00am Thursday, on a bench at Perth International Airport.

Before I left the Gold Coast J had derailed my plan to sleep at the domestic terminal by actually doing research and finding out it closes at midnight. So I caught the shuttle and found myself this nice cosy metal bench at the International terminal. It’s ok as I’m in my sleeping bag but it’s 3.7C outside and keeps blowing in because people won’t stop walking past the goddamn automatic doors. I laughed when J told me he’d also found a website with reviews of sleeping in airports – who knew there was such a thing, and trust him to find it! I rate PER a generous 5/10 for overnighters due to the fact it’s colder than a meat locker in here and they’re constantly making loud, sleep-interrupting announcements threatening unaccompanied baggage and badly parked cars.

Later:

I slept for an hour or so and thankfully woke up to my alarm. Along with everyone else. *sorry*

The boys were intrigued by the pic I took for them of the smaller plane... they would've loved the surprise bus ride too - we were parked at least half a kilometre from the gate.
The boys were intrigued by the pic I took for them of the smaller plane… they would’ve loved the surprise bus ride too – we were parked at least half a kilometre from the gate.

Caught my connecting flight at 5.30am and slept the 2 hours to Learmonth. Woke just in time to see dawn break over the curvature of the Earth.

Dawn From A Plane Made By Apes.
Dawn From A Plane Made By Apes.

I thought I saw rocky bumps above the cloud, but it was just cloud. The hills of the Cape Range are slightly higher than 300 metres above sea level but the rest of the hundreds of square kilometres of the North West Cape, including Exmouth, is only around three.

sunbeams Exmouth

We had a last second aborted landing due to extremely low cloud/fog; we circled for a while until it cleared and enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the North West Cape, fog spilling over the hills of the Cape Range and the morning sun glinting off the waters of the Exmouth Gulf. Landed without any more drama and I rode the shuttle bus the half hour or so into town, feeling the most incredible rush of nostalgia at the flat, red-hued terrain, low scrubby bush and straight-as-an-arrow highway. The road passed through several repaired washouts.

causeway outside Exmouth WA

Roads? Where we're going we don't need... roads. At least, not that one.
Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need… roads. At least, not that one.

It was cyclone season only a month before, and Exmouth got hit with TWO cyclones right at the end of it. On March 13th Cyclone Olwyn, a strong Category 3, which also hit Carnarvon, mucking up all the plantations and wrecking the homestead at Boolathana Station, among other crimes blew into town with a vengeance. Exmouth got a year’s worth of rain (250mm) in about 2 hours and roads were cut all over the place. Then Cyclone Quang, a bit of a strange Cat 1, hit on April 27th.

cyclone cats

Had been relieved to learn even a Cat 3 wouldn’t affect my Exmouth trip, and driving through town they’d cleaned up so well you’d hardly have known it’d happened.

Not the usual kind of 'environmental vandalism'.
Not the usual kind of ‘environmental vandalism’.

Moved into my home for the next 6 days, the Blue Reef Backpackers, and had a nanna nap. Afterwards I found the Visitor Centre and booked a tour for tomorrow, then walked around admiring all the awesome things I’d forgotten about small WA country towns.

  • Where the main street is literally wide enough to u-turn a camel train in. Kerbs optional.
This place is full of galahs. ... but these are corellas.
This place is full of galahs.
… but these are corellas.
  • No cursed traffic lights! If there’s a car around, you can see it coming from quite literally half a kilometre away.
  • When you pass someone on the street they actually smile genuinely and say “g’day” back, and don’t just ignore/look blankly at you like you’re a crazy person.
  • The warm winter sun and endless blue skies.
  • Giant things!
Don't come the raw prawn with me! He'll eat your face off!
Don’t come the raw prawn with me! He’ll eat your face off!
  • Red dirt and pink gravel. Hardly any concrete. And shitloads of palm trees!
  • The gum trees around the oval are the tallest things in town… or rather they were until that bitch Olwyn came.
Cyclone Don has also been through here by the looks of it Mum...
Cyclone Don has also been through here by the looks of it Mum…
  • Road trains!
Ever since I found out Rowan Atkinson has a Heavy Goods Vehicle licence I always picture Mr. Bean driving these.
Ever since I found out Rowan Atkinson has a Heavy Goods Vehicle licence I always picture Mr. Bean driving these.
  • The stillness and quiet. Cicadas and galahs during the day and crickets in the evening.

Later still:

As I walked back to my digs after getting some tea, the most incredible sunset began to transform the sky.

The start of something beautiful... and there's no mountains in the way!!
The start of something beautiful… and there’s no mountains in the way!!
The colours faded... then flowed...
The colours faded… then flowed…

Golden cloud with rosy highlights swirled above me, and I was exceedingly envious to spot a microlight flying overhead right through the middle of it. WHY AM I NOT UP THERE?! Next time.

Meanwhile I didn’t have the camera so I had to sprint the last 200 metres to get it from my room. I nearly infarcted, but it was worth it.

... then flared...
… then flared…
Thank you and goodnight.
Thank you and goodnight.

And then just when I thought it couldn’t get any more stunning, this happened:

This little sailor is delighted!
This little sailor is delighted!

I think I’m gonna like it here.

– Michelle

P.S. What do you think about the new blog theme? I miss the old one but think this one’s a big improvement.

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