But before heading north, we had a day to reacquaint ourselves with Perth. On our previous visit in 1977, we'd been overcoming the culture shock of being in a western city again after 9 months crossing Asia. Now we just had to cope with finding our own way rather than relying on the train staff. From the train, we biked to Anna's AirBnB apartment to get the keys from Diane the cleaner. As promised, the view of the Swan river from the 18th floor was stunning, particularly when I woke in the early hours to see the Moon setting over Narrows Bridge.
|Breakfast on the 18th floor, Ferry terminal and Kings Park behind|
|Swan River Bike trail|
|Marg, Kings Gardens, 1977|
|Marg, Kings Gardens, 2016|
Following the trend, we went clockwise, stopping first at the Kingsland Barracks, the remnants of the "Rottnest Island Fortress" defending Fremantle during the World Wars. Cycling through the tundra-like landscape, we passed an intriguing sculpture based on old bike parts, and reached the south coast beaches, which looked like they'd offer good snorkeling in more clement weather. Two Pelicans preened on one beach, and Marg found a dessicated puffer fish.
|Preening pelicans ignore photobombing gull|
A detour inland took us to the Wadjemup Lighthouse, where we ate our sandwiches while we waited for the half hourly tour up the winding staircase to the machine room at the top where keepers used to wind up the weight that powered the turning light through the night. We were able to repay the guide for the knowledge she shared, by giving her a test ride on Lucie, to help her research for her own folding bike purchase.
|Lenses, Wadjemup lighthouse|
|Retrospective advice for Captain Cook, Wadjemup Lighthouse|
|Al and Marg with Victorian ironwork on top of Wadjemup Lighthouse|
|Mum checks for predators and discarded muffins, Rottnest Mall|
When booking, I'd wondered why there was a Monday 5:20am flight, even checking that I hadn't confused am and pm. When we got to the airport, the reason for the early flight became clear: squads of mine workers in fluoro overalls were checking their steel capped boots through airport security, heading back to work after their weekend at home. FIFO (Fly In, Fly Out) has replaced hard life in an outback mining settlement. Sadly, while heavy duty mining equipment was acceptable as carry on, Marg had to surrender her beloved pen knife that had accompanied her around the globe several times.
In Exmouth we collected our van, along with Clint (Eastwood) and Buddy (Holly). We'd been a bit apprehensive as to what slogans our van would be emblazoned with (masking tape was Plan B), but decided we could live with Clint and Buddy's words of wisdom.
|Clint on gun control|
|Buddy, Marg and the Exmouth Prawn|
|Pure Australiana, Exmouth IGA|
|Pink Galahs, Ningaloo|
|Marg asks for a Wellington weather update to gloat over while enjoying another snorkel drift|
|Coral and fish, Turquoise Bay|
|Termite mound, Yardie Creek|
|Kayak fisher and cormorants, Yardie Creek|
Next morning we had a brisk early morning snorkel, then tackled the 600km drive south to Shark Bay. On the road, ordinary saloon cars were rare, red dusted four wheel drives towing outback caravans, and multi-trailer road trains more common.
|Stromatolites, Hamelin Pool|
Stromatolite: "Well, when Charlie Darwin came up with this evolution thingy yesterday..."
Interviewer "Excuse me, Darwin's Origin of the Species was published 150 years ago!"
Stromatolite: "Sorry - we've got a different sense of time than primates - anyway as I was saying we did wonder if we we'd let the life sciences side down a bit, but looking at where evolution has taken homo sapiens - Donald Trump and reality TV for example - we think we made the right decision."
|Termite proto-mounds, Shark Bay|
|Dolphins observe human interaction at Monkey Mia|
|Sifting shells at Shell Beach|
|Road through Kalbarri|
|Murchison River, Kalbarri|
|Kalbarri river mouth|
|Geraldton Wax flowers, Kalbarri|
|Coffee on the Kalbarri coastal path|
|Pindar ensures its title of "Tidy Town of the Outback"|
|Marg pays her respects|
|Truck art, Mullewa|
|Coal Seam Park|
|End of the trip for Clint and Buddy|
Next morning we joined the magpies, rosellas and morning joggers on Memorial Hill, then biked down through the old terrace houses to the waterfront. Having spent a morning waiting on dolphins at Monkey Mia, it was a a surprise come on a pod gamboling in the Fremantle boat harbour. We breakfasted at the old Tramway depot by the Roundhouse where Aboriginal guerrillas were interned before being exiled to Rottnest, then headed to the Fremantle Market, where stalls stocked everything from boomerangs to chocolate to ingenious plastic bag closers.
|Snap! Folding bikes are a popular choice to get to the Wreck Museum|
|Traditional Dutch jug at the Wreck Museum|
|Warning sign, Kings Park|
|Treetop walkway, Kings Park|
All too soon we were 10000m above the land we'd traversed, losing our sense of scale as we crossed the Nullarbor in an hour or so rather than days, on our way back to Sydney and home to Wellington. Maybe it's time to check out Texas.