Sidenote: Patrick and I had A LOT of time in the car throughout this trip, which I love. I LOVE roadtrips with him. I am often more excited about the car ride than the destination itself (call me crazy). We have such great conversations, really have time to work out our feelings on different issues (this is sounding so girlie, all this talk of working out feelings... wonder if Patrick loves the car time as much as I do? Hmmm....), we listen to music, listen to sermons, and sometimes just sit in the quiet. But something about it... I love it!
Um, another sidenote, Patrick almost hit an ENTIRE HERD OF WILD COWS standing in the road on this drive to Exmouth. Folks it is DARK out there and we apparently did not take the warning from the lady at the Vistors Center in Tom Price seriously enough. We rounded the bend, and BAM, SLAM ON THE BREAKS, PATRICK DOING THE SOCCER-MOM STOP WITH HIS ARM ACROSS ME IN THE PASSENGER SEAT KIND OF STOPPING. It was not his fault. There was no way we could have seen them until we were right up on them.
And then they just looked at us and mooed (moo-ed?).
It was crazy! Wild cows...who knew!
We arrived in Exmouth around 8:00, checked into the hotel, and went to the highly recommended Fish and Chips joint for food. We were starving and it was SO GOOD. Patrick was in love with the hamburgers at these Fish and Chips shops and I discovered the beauty of salt and vinegar on your french fries. I thought I knew all there was to know about french fries but NOOOOOO. Salt and vinegar is a whole new world.
We vegged for the night and watched another Australian rules football game
(Andrew, I hope you are so proud of your successful efforts to convert us!).
The next morning, we woke up bright and early for a day of SNORKELING!
The guy in charge of the tour picked us up at the hotel at 8:00 a.m. on a little bus. We picked up some others and hit the beach!
As soon as we got on the boat, we were fitted for our wetsuits. I was doing so well with my motion-sickness issues! I was actually enjoyed being on the sea!
(Please quickly scroll past this horrible picture of me. It was the only one we got of me in the wet suit. Also, wet suits are not unlike Spanx...as in, they suck everything in and make you feel way skinnier! Although this picture does not depict this...)
So, we did a "warm-up" snokel on the reef, Ningaloo Reef, that is, which is almost as big at the Great Barrier but not nearly as popular. Our main goal however, was to encounter and swim with a whaleshark! Whalesharks are the biggest fish in the ocean! But they are harmless or we would not be doing this, that's for sure. This was a pretty intense operation. After the trial reef snokel, we climbed back on the boat. Then, a plane with an "official whaleshark spotter" went up and was to phone the boat when a whaleshark was close. At that point, a loud buzzer would sound on the boat and we were to scramble into our gear, jump off the back of the boat, split into our two groups, and wait for the whaleshark to SWIM BETWEEN US. Craziness. My OCD self was a little nervous about the chaos that might ensue when that buzzer sounded.
But it was all ok in the end! Of course, in the scurrying around to get into our gear, I broke my snokel mask, panicked, and started wildly shouting at the instruction that I needed a new mask RIGHT NOW WE HAVE TO GO AND I'M NOT GOING TO BE READY AHHHHHH. I think she thought I was a little neurotic. But she fixed it and in we went! Below is a picture of a whale shark that we Googled, just so you could get an idea. Of course, we could not take our camera in the water. We did one swim and it was amazing! We came out, took about a 5 minute rest and jumped in again! This is where things started to go south. The Indian Ocean was a little rough, we were pretty exhausted, and we had ingested A LOT of sea water at this point. When we got back on the boat after the second swim, I for-real thought I was going to puke. So did Patrick. And then the motion-sickness set in on top of that.
I spent the next hour and a half laying down.
We did not eat lunch, even though they had put out a huge spread of food.
Just the thought....ugh.
We finally started to feel a little better towards the end of the trip. The skipper spotted some manta rays, and we hesitantly jumped in and did one last swim, which ended up feeling really good (cold water on the face and all).
We ended the afternoon back where we started and took a group picture with all the people on board with us!
We were EXHAUSTED when we returned to the hotel room around 4:00. We had packed things to make dinner and the room had a nice little kitchenette set-up so we enjoyed an evening in.
We headed out the next day to make the trip back to Karratha, where we had to fly out to go to Melbourne. It was a beautiful, sunny, summery-feeling day! The weather in Exmouth was perfect, not too hot, not too cold.
Patrick decided after seeing a sign to randomly take a right.
We ended up in another National Park that had these huge Grand Canyon-esque canyons. We were so amazed that this was just "here" without any advertising or commercialism. Just raw, natural beauty, and we almost just drove right past it!
Then, in another bout of randomness, Patrick had decided to go to this little dot on the map he had seen that said Ningaloo. Naturally, we thought it was another part of the reef where you could snorkel and what not. We should have guessed something was up when we turned on the road and saw the sign that said, "Extremely rough road. Four Wheel Drive Vehicles Only."
We bounced on our way for about an hour.
It was Ningaloo Station, basically a big farm with one house and nothing else around.
But we did have lunch on this beautiful beach.
Seriously, there was NO ONE else around for miles.
Again, incredible. The water was so sparkly! And then we traveled back to Karratha.
A note about Karratha: Every single hotel (and there are only about 3) is around $300 a night, basically because no one ever goes to Karratha, except to work in the mines, so they don't need accomodations. We couldn't afford to stay anywhere and seriously thought about sleeping in our car, but finally found the Karratha Backpackers which is "only" $90. It was pretty much a hostel, sort of like spending the night in a frat house. They were kind enough, however, to give us our own room instead of having to sleep in a big communal room.
We actually slept pretty well, and headed out in the morning to catch our final domestic flight to Melbourne for our final days in Australia.