Denham & Monkey Mia

A week of dolphins, ‘roos and roadhouses

Waiting for my connecting buses in the Binnu and Overlander roadhouses gave me plenty time to ponder whether my 3 nights in Kalbarri had been long enough. It felt like it had gone past quickly, maybe too quickly, but I figured if I hadn’t done either the gorges walk or the coastal cycle I’d have had a whole day of doing very little and it would have felt a lot longer.

Roadhouses don’t really inspire much interest in many people, me included, but as far as time spent waiting for buses in them goes, the trip from Kalbarri to Denham was at least mildly interesting. In Denham we were passed by a convoy of lorries, each containing a rather large chunk of a mobile home – it was quite bizarre to see someone’s home – including garage/car-port – chopped into 3 and dumped on the back of a few lorries. Approaching Overlander, the descending sun set the fire alight with a palette of iron/blue hues that seemed typical of Australia, both in colour and intensity. Most of our wait in Overlander was spent chilling out watching the fading after-glow.

From what I heard from people I’d met previously, I was expecting the shuttle bus driver to Denham & Monkey Mia – Dennis, I think – to be very chatty but I think the general sleepy mood of most of the other passengers didn’t prompt much conversation from him so the journey was spent, between dosing in and out myself, watching the stars and checking the road ahead for kangaroos.

Arriving in Denham at night meant that, as I walked out of the hostel next morning, the sight of the calm, clear turquoise waters literally across the street had an even greater impact on me. Most of Tuesday was spent strolling up and down the main stretch of shore, in awe of the peacefulness of the village and the waters that it looked out onto. I also had a nice chat with a guy from the south-west who was up on holiday with his dog and who both seemed to be having a great time in the water, which still felt a little bit chilly to warrant jumping right into. The museum is apparently really good, although I only had a look round the reception and into a humbling gallery that documented the events of the death-marches, which saw so many Australians loose their lives.

Wednesday morning and we took the free bus to Monkey Mia for the day, arriving just in time to see, but not take part in the first dolphin feeding of the day. The dolphins are fed 3 times each day between 8-11am, giving them no more than 1/4 of their daily food requirement, allowing the volunteers to monitor the dolphins while avoiding them becoming dependent on humans for food. It was interesting to hear – and read in the visitor centre – about the local dolphins’ family tree as well as about the unique markings and deformations on their dorsel fins which make it surprisingly easy to identify each one. During the third feeding those who attended the earlier ones had a go, mostly successfully at identifying the dolphins based on their fins.

Monkey Mia definitely is just a resort at the end of a fairly long stretch of road and after watching all 3 feedings, a few of the screenings about the local reef including some excellent footage from the BBC Blue Planet series in the mini-cinema and walking the track that takes in the view-points and beach to the north east of the resort, there wasn’t a lot left to do without spending money. On the way back we did pass a guy running and he didn’t seem to have much in the way of water with him, which seemed a little bit crazy seeing as he was about half-way along a 15 mile road at the hottest time of day.

On Thursday morning I did a U-turn on my usual stance of ‘I don’t do wildlife/animal photos’ when I looked into the next room and saw some of the folks I met in Kalbarri cradling a 6-month old roo called Ericka. The owners of the hostel double up as carers for orphaned kangaroos and obviously this creates a sure-fire attraction for all the guests, especially when Erika isn’t feeling so sleepy and actually gets out of her pouch and hops around the room.

The rest of the time, before I headed off on the road again, was spent doing not much at all – pretty much working on the tan and walking along the coast a little bit. Dennis was distinctly more chatty on the run back to the Overlander and could probably have talked forever about how he could lay a perfectly flat foundation with a digger, he did seem to sound a little bit too passionate when reminiscing about hitting roos during his days as a truck driver though. That said, I couldn’t fault his choice of Johnny Cash tracks for the journey.

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