Peron Penninsular Therapy
Just before Easter I decided to take time out to experience some kayaking therapy. Shark Bay was my destination. Reaching Geraldton I stopped to fill my fuel tank. Having no music tapes in the car I checked the service station for country music tapes and found one by Garth Brooks. For the rest of my journey I played the Garth Brooks tape continuously and am still playing it.
The wind was howling wild when I reached Denham at 8.15am. Choppy waves were racing across the ocean like a continuous conveyor belt. With the sky being overshadowed by hostile clouds, the morning was cool. Four emu chicks and their mum meandered across the road and around town as if they owned the place. It was a beautiful entry to Shark Bay.
The weather forecast, which I had collected by faxes and a talk on the phone with the weatherman that morning, was not good. My original plans were now put off. I was extremely disappointed, and looking back it had been the only trip that I had planned to do that I didn't attempt. That made me sadder. However, disappointments are part of life, so I made new plans to round the Francois Peron National Park, from Denham to Monkey Mia.
The weather was wild, but it didn't matter, my mood was prepared to fight it out. As I cast off against a strong wind coming from the north, my cockpit became flooded by the short choppy waves washing over my kayak deck before I was able to secure my spraydeck.
My forward progress was squashed by the wind but within 10kms it had moved to a more westerly direction allowing me to make better headway. But with the wind shift came the rain storms, one after another, huge sheets of moisture crossed the ocean from the direction of Dirk Hartog Island. My head was shielded by my wrap-around-hat, it was just like being in winter down south. There was something magical about the storm, it made me feel alive, really alive. I pushed on towards Big Lagoon and rounded Middle Bluff where I found a place to camp behind a cluster of mangroves. As I erected my tent the wind, still fresh and gusty blew it from my grasp a couple of times.
I soon settled down for tea as the sun set beyond the western clouds. I nestled behind the tent to seize the shelter. I lay in the sand and watched the storm clouds pass before the mature beaming moon. The moon was amazing, its bright rays penetrated the sweeping clouds forming a circle of brilliant light that created a passage through it.
The tide had gone out overnight leaving me with a twenty metre walk across mangrove roots to the waters edge. I skirted Big Lagoon where hundreds of cormorants and one pelican were resting on a sand spit. In the far distance Cape Lesueur was over shadowed by the closer, extremely impressive, brilliant red ochre cliffs. Two sea eagles had claimed them as their home.
Later that day I turned the corner of Cape Peron with the wind and waves pushing me on. The deep red cliffs continued before me. In the distance I could see figures on a beach and a sense of disappointment washed over me, I didn't want anyone else around. Behind these figures the red hue of the sand dunes looked impressive.
The sea around the corner was ruffled by the southerly winds, but that didn't stop a pod of dolphins appearing before me. One of the dolphins had the top of its fin cut off, it was such a clean cut just like it was meant to be like that. I tried to follow them, but they rang circles around me, playing with me coming up at positions where my camera wasn't pointing. Eventually I let them be and gave up all hope of getting a photo and moved on.
I was annoyed with the southerly wind, that was now against my passage. I was somehow hoping that it wouldn't be blowing on the eastern side of the Peninsular, but no such luck. A beach in the next bay afforded shelter from the wind, so I took the opportunity to stop. I had been paddling for nearly seven hours, so I figured I deserved it
There was no surf lapping, so a gentle scrape up the beach with my bow and I was landed. Before me lay an excellent flat beach with a red sand cliff behind it. A little line of seaweed on the high water mark tracked along and around the bay and beyond, a huge flock of cormorants had made their home there.
I dragged my boat up and walked around the eastern side and more exposed part of the cliff to find a route to scale it. Kangaroo tracks leading to the water's edge gave me no clue as to where they descended. I managed to find a way and from the top of the cliff I had sweeping views of the bay and the vegetation inland.
I stripped off, made camp and had a cup of coffee. Soon the sun set beyond the cliff and the moon rose from the east where the sky was cloudless. I dressed, although there were no mosquitoes or sandflies to interrupt my thoughts. The sand felt soft, and it filtered through my toes in a way that massaged them.
As I prepared my meal the moons reflection shadowed directly towards me. Nothing could beat a night with the moon, in a place where everything around is only viewed by ones self. Over the years I have been in many spectacular places on full moon, and I always yearn to find others, so I can reflect. Tonight was no exception. I had only been camping for two nights but the reasons to live long and actively was well reinforced. I was alone, a ritual that was common for me, but something that many others can't understand. Why be in the wilderness alone when you could be there with friends?
It's at these times I find out who I am. I can analyze my weaknesses and my strengths, my physical well being, my moods, my highs and how I cope with danger. I am alone, but I have my adventure, and the wilderness and environment to test my courage. Out here I don't feel alone. I only feel alone in a city or in a crowd of people I don't know.
The wilderness is a great therapist. My life has revolved and evolved around it. It has taught me many things, most importantly that living is extremely important and it offers many rewards. I have been lucky to live a life that I would have not want to change, and I feel excited with what lies ahead. As I lay in the sand looking up into the sky with my thoughts travelling beyond the stars I felt contented. I sipped on coffee and savoured bites of my sweet biscuits. Eventually it was time, so I left the moon to arch across the nights sky and retired to bed.
The morning was as perfect as the night before. I tracked along the cliffs with a fascination of the rock line that curved up and down like a Big Dipper. It was a striking feature amongst the red cliff.
I was surprised to see two goats walk at the cliff base and wander into an overhang cave. I pulled up beside them and they fled. With the Peron Peninsula being a National Park and in a World Heritage Wilderness area I was even more shocked to come across a floating shack, a few hundred metres from the shore. It turned out being a 'Blue Lagoon Pearls' working platform and sleeping quarters. It sat rusting away, having not been used for some time.
Within the shallow waters sharks and large stingrays swam beneath me. In the air, an eagle soared directly overhead. Its wide wing span showed off beautiful white plumes. Before I even had thoughts of taking a photo it was off towards the cliff.
Directly ahead a dolphin leaped metres into the air and did a somersault, the highest that I have ever witnessed before. I cast my eyes searching for another spectacle, but it never came.
There were mangroves at the south end of Herald Bight at Guichenault Point. Fronting them were three sand spits, with cormorants on one, oyster catchers on the other and small and large egrets on the third. The cliffs, just a little further on, at Herald Bluff were stunning. I searched their beauty for some time before trancing off into a paddling rhythm. The wind was blowing from the East to South East, so it interrupted my passage little.
Two yachts were sailing over to the east, they moved slowly. I found out later that they were trying to track dugong, turtle, dolphins or any creature that moved.
I tracked through a pearl farm a kilometre or so before reaching Monkey Mia. It was virtually deserted. Apart from two lovers kissing and hugging on the jetty, a few people on the beach and the odd boat using the ramp, where were the crowds.
My trip was at an end, it hadn't been the one that I had driven north for, but it was very satisfying. I had experienced the wilderness again, reminding me of the freedom and the delight of just being out there.
I left Shark Bay amazed at the friendliness of the locals. The owner of the caravan park allowed to leave my vehicle in his park at no cost, a lady in the Monkey Mia Caravan Park office helped me acquire a lift, a bus driver from the local backpackers hostel wouldn't take $10.00 for a bus ride from Monkey Mia to Denham, the man in the light aircraft pleasure flight office wouldn't take anything for a fax, the tourist office assistance didn't want any thing either and the Police Officer who I talked to about my trip was supportive instead of being negative about it. It was too much, how could so many people be so nice.
I drove home with the Garth Brooks tape continually revolving around my tape deck. I was mesmerised with the music for 11 hours.