Flies and other nuisances
Bunbury - Cape Naturaliste - Leeuwin NP
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Nobody told us about the flies. You think the Aboriginals are the dark secret of Australia? Wrong. The flies are. Nobody ever tells the tourist about the flies. Don’t you dare talk about it to anyone! In Perth it wasn’t so bad. Only now and then a fly suddenly appeared, usually stubbornly sticking in the middle of the face of a guide, closely surrounded by a group of tourist who thought they spoke English but can’t understand a word of his rapid spoken totally unarticulated story. ‘Poor guide’ we thought when the fly – in spite of desperate hand waving gestures - refused to leave his face for longer than a couple of seconds. Once we left Perth and headed for the south the flies slowly started to multiply.
But first we need a car. In Holland we reserved a rental car via internet, very expensive, renting a car when you start or end in West Australia costs at least twice more then renting a car for driving around in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales. So unfair we thought, we won’t drive any bad roads, we aren’t heading for the deserted North of West Australia so why we have to pay so much. After a couple of weeks we had somewhat more understanding and you will also – be patient. It was a lot of money, but at least everything is paid for. Or so we thought. When we complete the paper work, the rental company informs us that we are only partly insured, each accident will cost us 1000 Australian Dollars (€ 600) – even if the accident is not our fault, in that case we get the money back when the insurance of the other party pays. When we want to be fully insured we have to pay another large amount of money. We have a tight budget and never damaged any rental car so we keep our money and take the risk.
Luckily our car – a Toyota Corolla - is an automatic and the traffic in Perth is very relaxed, so we survive the first day of driving on the left side of the road. It is not difficult to find the way from Perth to Bunbury, which is a good thing since every time I’m a bit late announcing a change of direction I’m startled by the windscreen wipers, suddenly moving like crazy. I look at Jac and see he is trying every handle in a desperate attempt to find the right one. Everything is mirrored in this car, so it happens quite often that Jac enters our car at the left side, keys ready, just to find me next to him behind the steering wheel. Very funny! Not so funny however is that I still open my new Toyota Corolla on the right (but not the right) side, two months later in Holland…
Bunbury is a small town, closed in by the Indian Ocean on the west and Koombana Bay on the north side. We camp close to Koombana Bay, a spacious camping with lots of green grass and almost no visitors, just like camping in a park. The weather is nice and early the next morning we go to the ‘Dolphin Interaction Zone’ to try swimming with dolphins. We lay on the beach for a couple of hours, talk with dolphin volunteers, see some bottlenose dolphins jumping around but far away and at last take a swim anyway, dolphins or no dolphins. The next day we are luckier, just before leaving we see some dolphins a little further away. I start swimming and suddenly one jumps out of the water quite close to me, only a couple of meters. I follow the dolphin but this is no use, from a boat you can see how fast they swim but once you’re in the water together with one you especially notice how incredibly slow you swim yourself!
We visit the ‘Big Swamp Wildlife Park’ in Bunbury and hand feed the red kangaroos. The park is empty and the kangaroos are hungry, so we are very popular guests. Some kangaroos catch your hand and don’t let go till it’s empty, others go straight for the food packet. This sounds a bit aggressive but no, these kangaroos are cuddlesome and love to be chucked under the chin. A very nice experience! The park also shows native birds we’ll later see in abundance: Lorikeets (which we also feed), Parrots, Corellas, Cockatoos (careful, they bite), Black Swans, Magpie Geese and the strange looking Kookaburras.
From Bunbury we drive further south to Cape Naturaliste. First we drive through open fields, but then the road narrows and the scenery gets wilder, trees surrounded by flowering brushwood, undulating landscape and then suddenly a far away blue glimpse of the ocean in between all the green. Cape Naturaliste, pointing westwards into the Indian Ocean, is a beautiful place with its wide views over the green country and the transparent blue sea sparkling with azure stripes. We walk to the whale watch point where you can see far away over the ocean. Alas - no whales to be seen but only about a million flies. The temperature suddenly rises to 30 °C and the flies are everywhere: in our eyes, our ears, our nose, our mouth. Strange flies here in Australia, in Holland they go for the food but here a fly is only interested in your face.
Fifty kilometer to the south we camp in Leeuwin Naturaliste Park. Our camping, Conto Beach, consists of a big stretch of wild country and is almost deserted. We take our time looking around for a good place and choose a position close to a toilet and not to far away from the only water point. We are not yet very experienced Australian campers and think camping close to a couple of trees will protect us sufficiently against the wind. Somehow we manage to camp on the highest point of the whole camping and at night I hear the wind: the noise starting far away up in the sky, gathering strength like a roller in the surf, hitting the tops of the highest trees, screaming in the lower trees and finally wrenching our tent. I lie awake, wondering when our tent will give up. But nothing happens and early in the morning the wind calms down a bit. That is the sign for the lorikeets. First I hear only a couple of them in trees far away, suddenly the noise is deafening and big flocks of lorikeets terrorize our tent. I’m sure the amount of decibels is far above the acceptable level, but since this is nature nothing is to be done. Later on they settle down and when I look outside our tent I see groups of green and red lorikeets eating in the grass.
During breakfast Jac explicates to me the minimum facilities a camping must offer to become a ‘Jacques approved camping’. A beautiful situation is ranked as nice, but certainly not as sufficient! A clean toilet (Jac means with this a toilet without ants), a shower and a kitchen to have a place to cook, a little light in the evening and some protection against the wind (our romantic fire last night almost destroyed the whole camping) are deemed essential. Normally I prepare the traveling route – Jac doesn’t like to see pictures beforehand, why visit the country when you have seen everything already – but now he thinks it wise to take a closer look at my camping plans. I have to admit washing up here is not very easy: you need one hand to keep the tap running, one hand to hold the object to be washed, one to remove the dirt and at least two hands to remove the flies from your face. Some kind of gad-fly seems to like only my blood, Jac anyway is so busy with the other flies he doesn’t notice anything any more.
We walk through the bush to the nearby caves. The temperature is very nice and the trees protect us against the sun. We see strange looking trees, a kind of small palm tree with a punk hairdo on top. Later on I hear they are named grass trees and flower only after being burned in a bushfire – usually they don’t have to wait long I guess. Big black cockatoos with silver ribbons on their chest watch us from close by, they seem even more interested in us than vice versa. We find the caves easily after only a short stroll (things cannot always be difficult, sorry). The entrance of the so called ‘Lake Cave’ is very special, a former cave has collapsed and we descend a staircase to the bottom of the former cave. Enormous karri trees grow up to the light. Down here the rocks are moss-grown and the temperature is a couple of degrees lower. Lake Cave is a high cave with stalagmites and stalactites, reflected in the tranquil water of a big under earth lake. The quiet, mysterious atmosphere of the cave forms a big contrast with the hot, green bush full of life a hundred meter higher.
Conto Beach is close by and looks very inviting: dazzling white sand and blue water with fair tops. On the picture you see Jac happily standing in the sun on the beach. However, the reality is slightly different. Jac, normally very quiet, is well on his way with his second tirade of today: “The wind is sandblasting me, troops of sticky flies are harassing me, the sun burns, the surf is extremely dangerous and the water is ice cold!”. I can’t help noticing that finally Jac understands the difference between looking at a picture and experiencing a place. ‘Yes’, he agrees: ‘The flies’.
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