June 25, 2012

To the Edge of the World: Exmouth

IF you haven’t already figured it out, Australia is BIG. I quickly learned this on my first long road trip in Australian last September, about 1 month after I landed on this unique continent. The destination was Exmouth, a small resort town jutting out from the far north-western point of the continent. It is truly a remarkable place highlighted by the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef. So I wrote this about 9 months ago. Enjoy.

If the Columbus era scholars were correct in saying that the world is flat, then Exmouth would most certainly be the last stop before spiralling into the nameless abyss. To give you an idea, the highlight of the 1300 kilometre drive north from the isolated metropolis of Perth is the fading brown and white sign that proudly delineates the Tropic of Capricorn. What a remarkable place to take my first big trip in Australia.

I had a wonderful first impression at the welcome center. Every vehicle was a campervan or similar except for my company hired 2011 Toyota Camry Altise. Then, I stopped at the IGA, the small town Australia grocery store chain which is seemingly always open on Sundays and past 7pm compared to the other Big 2: Coles and Woolworths. It was staffed by 20 something year old European and Canadian backpacker girls wearing Carolina blue butt hugging boy shorts and a matching collared t-shirt. Most people shopping in there weren’t wearing shoes or shirts rather just a bathing suit or wrapped in a towel. It was strange to me, growing up 400 miles from an ocean where grocery stores require shoes and shirt. It just felt so laid back surfer townish.

I stayed at the intimate Pilgaramma campground in Cape Range National Park. Troy and Anne, a retired elderly couple and two of the most friendly camprground hosts greeted me as I pulled in. They gave me a quick induction and an invitation for drinks at the centrally located picnic table during sunset for some “friendly conversion”.   I paid 7$ per night for this privilege. They could have charged 10 times as much given the demand.

I didn’t have to venture far from the campground to have miles of pristine Indian Ocean Coastline all to myself. I kept thinking how silly it was. You go to any coastline back home in the USA and you will see something- a structure, a fisherman, a billion people fighting for a spot on the littered sand, a cigarette bud, a big mac wrapper, anything. But here there was nothing, not a trace of anything that wasn’t supposed to be there- Nothing unnatural about it. I couldn’t help but to smile. Australia is so uninhibited, so big and so far from the masses that I could find myself totally and eerily alone. It’s going to be a wild couple years here.

I spent the next few days relaxing by the beach, mountain biking, hiking mandu mandu and Yardie creek gorges, spotting whales, dodging kangaroos hopping across the road, encountering emus, and of course, snorkeling with turtles, rays, exotic fish, and even a reef shark at the Ningaloo reef in Turquoise Bay. Here are some photos:


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