From the surreal to the sublime

When I was a kid, our Mum hung a map of Australia in the toilet, hoping that we’d get some extra benefit while we were in there. Onslow was a place I remember because it just seemed so impossibly far away from anywhere (and also because my cousin Sue was sent there for her first teaching post, I think). Well, now I’ve been to Onslow.

Onslow is – interesting. It has you wondering why a town this tiny and so far from everywhere can exist at all. It produces salt, more recently, and it’s become the onshore point for gas from offshore, but other than that, it’s a favourite spot for a lot of grey nomads who return every year for the peace and quiet. No surf here! However, it has the world’s most vicious and prevalent SANDFLIES, and coming from someone who lived on the Mary River floodplains for a few years, that’s quite an accolade. I won’t inflict any photos on you. (but the lumps are huge and itchy) The photo below is of a little old house for sale in the main street. The contrast with the shiny modern car in its driveway caught my eye.From Onslow, we headed for EXMOUTH. We set our camp up below the Lighthouse at the tip of Cape Vlamingh, and the first thing we saw looking out to sea, were whales breaching in the distance. Instant exhilaration! At Exmouth you can watch the sun rise and set over water. We exited the sleeping bags early to watch the dawn over Exmouth Gulf.

Later, whale watching, aided by – surprise surprise – great coffee! It was the last thing we expected when we pulled up near the dunes to stare out to sea, but it was very much appreciated. An innovative way to see the country by this young barista!

The next photo was our first view of Exmouth Gulf, after hours of dry scrubby dusty red country. The colours out here are just extraordinary…

And another plant – this time I absolutely know it’s NOT a weed. This is the green bird flower, Crotalaria cunninghamii. It looks for all the world like a tiny green hummingbird.

And now to the Sublime —  Coral Bay was the next stop. It’s so small it only sports a general store, a pub, a newsagent/PO, and two campgrounds (and a flash resort lodge, but who goes to them). We walked onto the beach and fell in love. White sands, clear blue water, and whales splashing around in the distance. We booked a tour to swim with the Manta rays for the next day, the whale sharks having already departed for the Antarctic, or wherever they go when they’re not slumming it with tourists up here.

Swimming with calm, gentle Manta Rays was wonderful. No photos to show (I’m not that proficient) but after some great reef snorkelling, looking at fish and coral, and then swimming with the Mantas, we saw a whale breach only about 200 metres from the boat, suddenly flinging his whole body into the air, and smashing down in an explosion of white and blue mayhem. Oh my… that has to be the most awesome sight you can imagine. This behemoth from another world suddenly leaping out of his into yours… The above photos are not as good as the real thing – and I can’t upload the videos – but it might give some idea. The whales came over to our boat and swam around us for about 15 minutes, rolling, spouting, fin slapping, all as close as 4 metres from the boat, staring at us with their big whale eyes. We sailed home in a kind of quiet, happy daze.  Bliss!

Then the next day we packed up our tent in a great hurry and booked into a cabin. We hadn’t seen a cloud in the sky until then, and discovered that our comfortable, light, easy-to-erect tropical tent was just not suited to the rain and the strong winds that rocketed in. What were we thinking…  Watch this space for the next moves…  Off to Carnarvon.




2 thoughts on “From the surreal to the sublime

  1. I love reading these, Jo. Your writing is so eloquent. Your experiences give an escape as we journey with you in our minds – to those who can’t make this kind of trip. Lots of love to you and Lex. Just know we think of you often and wish you well along this magical and sometimes gutsy trek.

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