Blood at the gregories
The trip to see the Monkey Mia Dolphins was the main attraction for the day. And what a let down it turned to be, because of our inability to wake up from bed timely. The feeding of the dolphins takes place early and we had planned to leave Denham by 7am to make the 30mins trip to Monkey Mia. It was not in the planning that we were deficient, it was in executing it. When the alarms rang, we just slept on, not to be bothered.
It was a little after 9 am when we finally got up from bed and made for the Shark Bay Visitors Centre, an imposing building on Knight Terrace. The lady that attended to us was amazing, her smiles were welcoming and she was full of knowledge of what to do and see in the Bay Area. She told us she had left Denham five times but she keeps on coming back. Her husband could find no other place on the face of the Earth surface that provides such natural attractions and people as this town.
We had to make a decision of whether to visit Monkey Mia (Mia is Aboriginal word for home, the Monkey part is any ones guess) or head straight to Francois Peron. With Dolphin feeding occurring at 7:45am, we were already late but decided to take a gamble and headed out there. At the entrance to the reserve, we were asked to pay a gate fee of $15 per occupant. Having bought an expensive “All Parks” ticket, this did not sit down well with me and I felt the young attendant was trying to be funny. That was until she showed me the small prints on my ticket that states that Monkey Mia was excluded from the parks that we could visit with it. We weren’t comfortable with paying $30 to enter the park, especially when the feeding of the Dolphins had been done. More so, we’ve had experiences with dolphins before and feel that we should skip over this.
With this we turned back and headed for the Fracois Peron National Park, a 52,500 hectare park that got its named after a French zoologist who accompanied an expedition here in 1801and made some of the earliest recordings of Shirk Bay’s wildlife and first people. There is an entry fee of $15 per vehicle as well as a cost for overnight stay. For our day visit, our park ticket covers this and we headed straight for Cape Peron point – 51kms drive on some of the worst sandy and corrugated road.
After a gruesome hour of driving, with the Explorer being shaken and tested of all its nuts, we eventually arrived at Cape Peron. There were a few points to turn off from the long road to Cape Peron to see the coast, each offering a different perspective. Right after the point , 7kms into the park where we lowered our tyres to 20psi. 2kms thereafter, the novice 4wd enthusiast has an opportunity to test his skills with a 10km drive to Big Lagoon by turning left. The next turning is a right one 20kms ahead which leads to Herald Bright after another 5kms. Thereafter, one encounters the mud flats and the water mark on the track suggests that the track will certainly be unpassable when it raids as the whole area will be flooded. From Cattle Well on the left, one will have to drive 22kms to reach Cape Peron. One can take the little detour on the right to Skipjack Point. The reality is that each of these places will provide the tourist a different level of appreciation of the red dust, its spinifex bushes and their interaction with the calm waters of the bay.
There is no arguing that what we see on the surface is surpassed by the marine lives that lie much below the waters and these are great sights for the avid divers and snorkellers. In fact, one is encouraged at the Gregories to do so and will be rewarded with a lovely view of the reef system.
The drive is well signposted and nearly all the detours offer great opportunity to camp, boat on the water as well as fish. At Cape Peron, we met a couple returning from their fishing expedition with no catch. We asked for the fishes and it was a tale of lamentations and sorrows. The lady told us that now, there would be no dinner for them because of their “no catch” and we all laughed over it.
As they drove away, we were left with the whole Cape to ourselves and I actually considered sticking a Nigerian Flag on the soil and claiming it as an overseas territory for Nigeria. The walk down to the beach was a little steep but the sights of the cormorant birds near the shore and the white beach was alluring and we took our chances at probably rolling off the cliff in red dust all the way down, if we lose a footing. We did not. I got the drone in the air and captured the amazing scenery.
Looking out into the horizon, all one can see is pristine clear waters, everywhere one looks is blue. Behind you, the red hills provide an amazing contrast to the natural blue of the Indian Ocean. The low lying spinifex grasses add a touch of green and the diversity in these natural colours are best seen than described. There is a 3km return walk from the cape to Skipjack Point and this was what Saf found of interest. She followed the trail, known as Wanamalu Trail, a bit and took some very amazing pictures.
After satisfying ourselves with the sight of the ocean and bay waters, we went back up the hill, panting. It was here we notice that we are not alone and the number of vehicles had increased to 7. We met a group, hugging a crate of Corona Beer and we exchanged pleasantries with them. I informed that prior to their arrival, I thought I owned the Cape to myself and they jokingly replied that I should look at the good side as well – at least for a short while I had the pleasure of owning it.
Growing up, my mother used to carry about a lovely bag with the inscription Sun and Sea Acalpuco. I had to check the Encyclopedia, our own version of Google then, to understand that Acalpulco was in Mexico. As we met an elderly couple I shared this story with them and concluded that the sight here should be aptly marketed as Sun and Sea, Cape Peron. They laughed and agreed. The man, Jim, told us that this was his second time here, the first, according to him was before I was born, 52 years earlier. I laughed and asked how did he know that I was younger than 52 years, as I was just 51 years? He laughed and said he guessed. I asked Jerry whether what he was seeing now was far better than what he saw 52 years ago and he said absolutely. He talked about the presence of a sheep station on the land then and with that now gone, the plants have been able to grow naturally as the sheep were wandering around and destroying the beauty of the cape. As we part ways, I asked if we can make a pact, to jointly return here in another 52 years and share experiences. He and his wife were full of laughter, knowing fully well that in 52 years, we all would most likely be history to the world then.
On the return journey, chose to visit the as it offers the shortest distance of the other points from the main track. This was a worthy detour. A family was at the beach with the man taking a swim in the lovely waters. We took a walk to the corner and there was another young couple preparing to go snorkeling in the water. As I approached the young man, I could see that he was full of apprehension and the attention of the lady was diverted towards me as well, I guess that in this world of “Black Lives Matter”, everyone is treading with caution. I told him that we had traveled all the way from Nigeria to look for him and the task was for him to take my lovely wife and I some pictures with the backdrop of the ocean and the rocks at Gregories. He loosened up, smiled and provided help. Around us were small, jagged, rocks scattered all over. They were in two dominant colours, brown and blackish grey. I loved the way they are gently breaking the low waves of the ocean. I sat on one, very carefully, and asked Saf to take me some pictures. Despite the care, it collapsed under my weight. The sharp points scratched my leg and hands and soon I had blood flowing form these areas. My wife gave me a look that said it all, “Did I not warn you not to?” As I picked myself up, she told me that my knicker was torn as well. I did treasure this short pant and was unhappy that I got it torn here at the Gregories. I headed to the water and washed my injury hoping that the salt will stop the bleeding, it did. As we walked back to the car, we dipped our legs in the waters as they roll to the shore, it was a great feeling having the sand move below our feet and the waters slowly bathing our legs and receding.
On the return trip, we saw an Emu walk majestically, slowly crossing the track, ahead of us. The return journey wasn’t easier than the one that brought us all the way here. The sands were out to take a pound of flesh but the Explorer held its ground. I must warn that any pregnant woman that comes this way will be forced into an early labour. We finally made it back to the Peron Heritage Precinct, the point where we inflated our tyres and continued on the drive to Denham.
Right on exiting the park is Little Lagoon, the sight of this from the Monkey Mia Road was irresistible and we branched to have a view. The waters in this lagoon was totally enclosed as far as one can see and it offers a great picnic point There is a short drive for 4wd and we took this and picked a spot off from it where we parked the Explorer. I brought out the drone and filmed the amazing scenery from the sky while Saf took a walk down the track. It was simply calm and peaceful here and it is a place where one can spend a full day just watching the clean waters of the lagoon.
After what was a long while, we drove into Denham and it was only then that we knew we were hungry and had not taken a bite since we woke up. We contemplated on what food choices we could get and agreed to pick up some fresh meat and salad from the local IGA shop for barbecue. There are a couple of sheltered spots with freely provided barbecue grills on the Knight Terrace and we picked a spot from where we can also watch the boats on the jetty and appreciate the beauty of this quaint little town.
The traffic was very light and the majority of the vehicles are 4WD going up and down the terrace. There is a playground next to us and a couple of kids were having fun there. We had a great meal at a fraction of what it would have cost us if we have gone to a restaurant.
By the time we were done with dinner, the sun had gone down on the horizon and it was time to rest our heads and sleep. We went back to the Bay Lodge where we had passed the night previously and got a room for the night. Tomorrow, a long trip awaits.