Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Day 3 Carnarvon-Ningaloo Reef-Carnarvon

This was a wonderful day out.  We drove through extensive areas of the bushland.  As we have progressed through the most part of summer, this land is normally very dry and arid, completely scorched by the sun and very often recently burned because of lightening strike during electric storms.  However, about 2 weeks ago some cyclones came through (cyclone Tracey?) and deposited huge quantities of water over extensive areas, sometimes of hundreds of kilometers.  As a result, the grasslands were green!  The soil was very red, and had changed from pure sand to some sort of clay base, so in places the water was pooling and standing, not draining away.

Storm cloud forming

We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and started seeing extensive colonies of termite mounds.  These were dome shaped moulded mud which the ants had designed to have extensive air conditioning, by creating air vents and labyrinthine corridors inside.  They looked very dramatic surrounded by clumps of eau-de-nil coloured grass, already forming seedheads, contrasting with the terracotta red termite mounds.  Some termite mounds were 1.5m high and to achieve this height, they must be at least 100 years old.
Me standing on the Tropic of Capricorn line
This anthill is over 7 feet high and is well over 100 years old.

We drove through an area where a small bush fire was burning with smoke drifting across the road.  From a distance we could see the bushfire smoke rising into a cloud, changing colour from pale grey, and lightening to white as it rose. 

Ningaloo Reef was a fascinating place.  We had a boat trip to the reef itself, which is only about a 10 minutes away from the shore.   The boat came very close to the waters edge, and we waded through crystal clear water, about knee deep, before climbing onto the glass bottomed boat.  Everyone knows about the Great Barrier Reef on the east coast, but this reef is much less known, and much closer to shore.  This reef is less colourful than the Great Barrier Reef, but is much more textured.  There were brain corals, stags horn corals, boulder coral - all sorts of different shapes.  We were also shown areas where there was coral regrowth.  Decades previously boats crossing the reef had pruned the top off the coral reef, leaving great broken areas.  However a rare type, lavender coral, is revitalising the dead areas and is apparently very rare.  It looked just like growing lavender in flower. 
Not the greatest picture as it is taken on the glass bottomed boat,
but it gives the impression.
As you can see, lots of different shapes and textures.

We snorkelled for about 45 minutes.  My mask fitted perfectly (last time it did not) and I had fascinating session trying to look in detail at the fish and coral, to remember and correctly identify them.  I definitely saw a blue finned parrot fish and red spot emporer, a sergeant fish but the rest I can't remember.  There was definitely one with electric blue and fuschia fins but can't remember the name. 

On the way home we crossed the Murchison River.  This shows the level of water, very high for the height of summer, in comparison to the old bridge.  The flood markers which were often submerged by flash flooding caused by cyclones.

The new bridge with old bridge as a speck in the distance. 
The authorities plan for the new bridge to be able to handle the river in spate.

We returned to our hotel, heading south back to Carnarvon.

Tonight at dinner, we heard that the road north from our hotel had been closed, due to bush fire, after we came through. We were all relieved to have got through before the road closed, but unfortunately, there is an advisory alert out that the road south from Carnarvon may be closed by tomorrow because of a bush fire there. This will put our trip out. I'm not bothered at all so long as I am home by Sunday night, but we are meant to be back in Perth on Friday, and some tour members are meant to fly home from Perth on Friday evening, and Saturday. My attitude is "if we can't travel, we can't travel". I'll make the best of it, whatever. I do hope that if we get stuck, we can find rooms. When bush fires close roads, the hotels fill up, with firemen and other staff who deal with these events. Whatever happens, it will turn out ok. As our driver said, the authorities have all night to deal with it and we can just hope the road is open.

1 comment:

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