I left Broome very reluctantly, I wasn’t ready to let go of my life there. However, I suppose it was best to get out while it was still brilliant (and before the wet season rolled in).
The original plan was to road trip down to Perth with a friend and Volkswagon bus which was older than myself. This plan flopped – again, probably for the best (the van ended up dying halfway through that drive).
In an effort to see some of the fabled coral coast instead of just flying back down to Perth, I put myself on a bus for 17 hours.
I had now been in Australia for about almost a year, and it wasn’t until this tedious bus ride did I fully understand just how empty a lot of this country really is.
I counted, and in 5 hours we saw only one other vehicle. Makes you wonder what could happen if you ever got into any trouble.
We only made one stop where we could get off the bus, at a little roadhouse in the middle of I-have-no-idea.
Eventually, we made it to Exmouth. It felt a bit like stepping into a horror film: lone girl watches her bus drive away, leaving her stranded in a seemingly deserted town.
I settled in at my hostel, and set off with new roommates to explore the ghost town.
First we came across a golf course.
Living in an outback climate provides some unique challenges, such as keeping your greens well watered. The simple solution is to not have any.
Despite my research into the town before I arrived, I did not once realise that the ‘town beach’ is not Turquoise Bay (where the reef is).
It was gritty and pebbly, and didn’t even face west.
Even the locals were ignoring it except to fish.
Any beach is better than no beach, and after spending my free time on Cable’s endless smooth stretch, I found myself being a bit of a snob. Still, the isolation was beautiful, it felt like a secret.
The tourism office was very helpful. There was bad news: it was off-season and basically all of the tour operators were shut down. But, there was also good news: one full-day tour of the area was still operating, and the following day a shuttle to the proper beach would begin.
And so, instead of only getting to experience the marine park, I went on a phenomenal tour and learned that there was much more to Exmouth than just the reef.
We went into Shothole Canyon, and learned that all the cliffs were once coral when it was all underwater.
And overlooked stunning Charles Knife Canyon.
From there we tucked into Osprey Bay for a quick break. There was the largest crab I have ever seen.
Much like everything else, he was pretty crispy.
Then was an eerie tour around the deserted U.S. military base. The barracks now only host a mob of kangaroos.
To finish up the day our little group took a tour up Yardie Creek to spot some wildlife.
It was like a game of Where’s Waldo.
How the rock wallabies get into these places is entirely beyond me.
Our guide explained to us that they were hiding from the ospreys (an intimidating looking bird if I’ve ever seen one)
By the end of a a long a thoroughly enjoyable day, we had all learned the answer to the question “where exactly are we?”
The answer is, “the middle of absolute nowhere”.
For the next few days the shuttle was running and so I got to spend my days at the aptly named Turquoise bay.
I taught myself to snorkel, and was mesmerised. There is a completely alien, beautiful world that exisits there just below the waves. You just walk three metres into the ocean and you’re there.
The most phenomenal thing happened: I swam with a sea turtle. I was wandering, snorkeling with tunnel vision and not turning my head, in water no more than seven feet deep (I wasn’t comfortable going any deeper just yet). I turned my head and there it was, a sea turtle just past arms reach. We startled each other, and both jumped. After that, we just cruised together for about five minutes. I kept a few metres back, and when it decided it was done with my presence, it sped off. They truly do fly underwater. If nothing else had happened during my time in Exmouth, this would have made it worthwhile.
That’s not to say there isn’t a certain charm and beauty to be found elsewhere here.
I hope to return to Exmouth one day during the whale shark and manta ray season, so I can swim alongside the gentle giants. Until then I’ll keep thinking about those quiet days spent on the beach, and the magic just a snorkel set away.