Doing the Aussie Salute in Country WA. A Trip Report

Old Nov 28th, 2008, 10:12 PM
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Doing the Aussie Salute in Country WA. A Trip Report


Two weeks, 3,397 kilometers and more flies and snakes than we’ve ever encountered in our collective lives, we’ve survived our trek across a very small part of the massive state of Western Australia. So massive in fact, that we needed two separate maps.

As some of you know, my husband and I are American expatriates who relocated to Perth from Indonesia three months ago. With some vacation time burning a hole in our pockets, but no inclination to organize a trip that involved airplanes, we decided to hit the road and further explore our own backyard.

Our trip got off to a less-than-auspicious start following a frenzied week, but it’s amazing how quickly one recovers when vacation is involved.

We weren’t prepared to expose our brand new Toyota to the hazards of country WA, so we picked up its twin from Bayswater the previous evening ($706 for 17 days, including a $50 fee to drive beyond the usual 500 km radius of Perth).

And we were off. Well, sort of. We had a little trouble getting out of Perth, which took us almost 45 minutes. We eventually found our way and were off to Kalgoorlie (which I finally learned how to pronounce - kal-goo-lee) via the Great Eastern Highway.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder is located about 600 kms east of Perth in the eastern Goldfields, also known as the Golden Outback. And just why were the nq8’s going to Kalgoorlie? Well, because it was on the way to Esperance. Sort of.

Our eight hour journey followed the water pipeline that runs from Mundering Weir near Perth to Mount Charlotte Reservoir in Kalgoorlie. It was remarkably similar to the oil pipeline that was our constant companion on our endless bus rides from Duri to Pekanbaru on Sumatra, except no villagers were drying their laundry on this one.

The Golden Pipeline pumps water uphill from Mundering Weir to some 100,000 people and six million sheep in the Goldfields. Quite a feat.

Although the landscape was flat and rather thirsty looking for much of the drive, it was considerably more interesting than I expected. In addition to the ever-present pipeline, there was an abundance of yellow, purple and orange flowers and plenty of trees. Of course, there was no shortage of red dirt, especially once we reached Southern Cross, which I’m told by a local is where the outback officially begins.

Petrol stations were well spaced for travelers and public toilets weren’t a problem until we reached Southern Cross, after which it was a long haul (187 km) to Coolgardie. Or maybe it just seemed a long haul because I needed one.

Other than a quick stop in Cunderdin for a picnic, an even quicker stop at the Rabbit Proof fence where I was swarmed with flies while Bill smartly waited in the car, and a loo stop at Boorabbin National Park (nice campground by the way), we pretty much drove straight to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

We’d booked a standard room at the All Seasons Plaza Hotel for $155 per night. The hotel was completely unremarkable, but perfectly adequate. Our main requirement for accommodation on this trip was access to air conditioning, as we’re both hopeless hot weather wimps. As luck would have it, we didn’t need air conditioning anywhere during our 15 day trip (the car doesn’t count). One just never knows, does one?

The hotel sounds much nicer than it actually is. The whole place needs a serious overhaul as it has seen better days. It felt worn, dated and neglected. The common areas were the worst bit and I had to wonder if all those missing pieces of drywall were caused by late night brawls or guests playing footy in the hallway.

The All Seasons is well located though. We just stepped outside and within minutes we were on Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie’s main drag.

Dinner that evening was at Judd’s, which is located in the Kalgoorlie Hotel overlooking Hannan Street. We weren’t optimistic as the place looked a bit dodgy, but we were pleasantly surprised with our shared bruschetta and wood fired pizza. We opted for the Italian sausage (which was more like pepperoni to our American palate) with roasted peppers and feta. A glass of Chardonnay and we were quite content ($56).

After a rather noisy evening in our hotel, we were convinced that we were indeed in the Wild Wild West. The bottle opener attached to the desk in our room should have tipped us off.

Our room rate included a toast, fruit and yogurt breakfast, but we were warned to steer clear of the cereal and muffins, as that was part of the $17 cooked breakfast which we’d declined.

After collecting a map at the Visitor’s Center (and as much as I hate to admit it, a fly net), we walked through town. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought I was in Colorado or Wyoming. The historic buildings, the abundance of saloons, the wide streets; it all felt vaguely familiar. Okay, so we don’t have brothels and Aboriginals sleeping around campfires in my hometown, but there were some definite similarities.

If only we had those nice wide streets here in Perth…

After discovering that the Royal Flying Doctors Visitor’s Center and the Super Pit Shop were closed on the weekends, we drove out to the infamous Super Pit. The Super Pit is the main attraction in these parts, and as the name suggests, it’s a REALLY big pit, also known as Australia's largest open cut gold mine.

What they’ve done in the pursuit of gold is both tragic and fascinating. We were mesmerized by the activity in the pit, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When I realized that the seemingly normal sized equipment I was looking down upon is actually ENORMOUS, it dawned on me just how gigantic that pit really is.

Our next stop was the Australian Prospectors and Miners Hall of Fame where we took an underground gold mine tour ($30 each). Our chatty 66 year old tour guide had worked in the mines for 45 years and had a wealth of stories to share. Unfortunately, my American ears could only understand every third or fourth word through his thick accent.

We also watched a gold pouring demonstration and wandered the grounds. It was interesting enough, but certainly nothing I’d go out of my way to see; which is why I was surprised to learn that there were tourists from the UK, Switzerland, Bulgaria and Nicaragua there with us that day.

Our final stop was Mt Charlotte, where we took a short walk to the top of the reservoir, the terminus for the aforementioned water pumped in from Mundering Weir. There were some nice views of Kalgoorlie-Boulder and all the blooming Jacaranda trees, but that was about it.

It was at this point that we decided we’d seen enough of Kalgoorlie and called the owner of the cottage we’d booked in Esperance to see if it was available a day early.

In the process of looking for a quiet pub for a pre-dinner drink we made an interesting discovery; the Wild West Saloon, where the barmaids serve up the drinks in teeny-weenie-bikinis. Bill was more than willing to stay on and do a bit of ogling, but Paddy’s Ale House next door was more my speed. Then it was back to Judd’s for an encore dinner.

Next: The pristine white sand beaches of Esperance

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Old Nov 28th, 2008, 10:44 PM
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Aah well Mel, you'll no doubt learm more and more of Oz with some travels, first and formost
. Never leave home/the coast without a fly net and "Bushmans" insect repellant.
. 187 km. is not really a long haul in country Oz and many times 1.5 hrs. of what could be a 10-12 hour driving day and when needed we buy bigger maps!
. So the old rule holds true - use a dunny when you find one, or go behind a bush.

And on Kal "goo(r)l" lie , poor Bill missed out on the topless barmaids did he? and don't tell me you missed out on an evening stroll down Hay street to see the Starting Stalls as they have been referred to, some ladies of the night sitting in windows or on porches.

You will find that tourists from a lot of European countries and the UK do travel around Australia, quite probably far more so than USA travellers, many who with shorter holiday times do head Europe way.

I'm interested in why you see an open pit mine as "tragic" for it becomes a matter of economics as it does in a lot of mining that starts off as shafts and tunnels into stopes and then depending on geology can develop to open pits or cuts.

Sounds like you've had some reasonable experience.
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Old Nov 28th, 2008, 11:08 PM
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Hi Bushranger -

Bill will definitely be heartbroken to hear he missed the topless barmaids.

I wasn't surprised so much that some of the tourists were European, I was just surprised that they were in Kalgoorlie in the first place.

Kalgoorlie just doesn't strike me as the type of place most international visitors would venture to.

I find all mining rather tragic (and I LIKE gold). I'm certainly not oblivious to the economic impact; it's the environmental impact that bothers me.

Granted, the Super Pit couldn't be better located (unlike the mine in Queenstown, Tasmania which is a major blight on the landscape).
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 12:41 AM
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The Queenstown Lunar landscape was brought about well before they went open cut Mel, they cutting all the trees down early on in the mining development and could be [just going on memory for moment] a lot of it was for the smelter and then depending on smelter emissions, they may not have helped.

And then they had been either dumping tailings into the river there or there was massive leaching for that made a good ol mess of what should be a pristine river.

Not too sure where Kal mining tailings go but I'd imagine they have dumps outside the town boundaries unless their pit has been developed where they are working from one end to another of the lode and they could start dumping at the mined end.

But I suppose it is tragic in the sense that having a heap of mining shaft headframes can add something to character of a locale more so than a big hole or slot in the ground.
And re the tourists there as against other places, the loop you have done is somewhat renowned as a touring loop for those especially this time of year being wise enought to not try heading Darwin way, or alternately because of the history people may make it a stop on the way west.

btw, the hotel digs of myself and a couple of fellow pilots about 30 years ago cost us all of $6 each including the full breakfast, but we were sharing a room - and there's still some great older country hotel deals about if you can make do without all the mod cons and usually they have a great heritage feel without the broken plaster [dry wall].
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 02:49 AM
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Hi Mel,

Is the two up pit still happening at Kalgoorlie? If so, did you get to see a game?

(No shame in a fly net BTW Mel!)

Stormer
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 02:49 AM
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Regarding those Kal mine tailings:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au...005200,00.html
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 03:02 AM
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Had to look that one up stormbird. No, apparently we missed that too.

I got the distinct impression that only tourists wear fly nets. We only wore ours once, during a fly infested hike near Esperance, but man, we were glad to have it.

Oddly enough, the flies didn't bother us much on the hike in, but we couldn't get away from them on the way back. Bill was walking in front of me (to chase off the snakes) and his back was covered with them. I'm thinking they're attracted to sweat???

Photos to follow.
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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A very engaging report Melnq8, I'm looking forward to the next bit.
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 06:06 PM
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We left Kalgoorlie via the Coolgardie Esperance Highway, pointed due south. We definitely got a taste of the Outback on this stretch; the landscape was flat and dry with lots of scrub, dry lakes, endless red dirt, and few flowers. In other words, not a whole lot to look at.

We blew past assorted mine sites and the town of Kambalda, home of Australia’s first nickel mine. We stopped in the middle of nowhere to stretch our legs and had a 30 second reprieve before the flies closed in on us. It seems that the vehicles of choice out this way are road trains and Land Cruisers with kangaroo bars and spare gas tanks.

About 70 km north of Esperance, the wind began to blow and it felt like we were back in Perth (the windiest place I’ve lived since Casper, WY).

Four hours after leaving Kalgoorlie, we found ourselves in Esperance, getting settled in our accommodation for the next five nights – Wild Cherry Holiday House.
http://www.wildcherryholidayhouse.com.au/

This house is actually located in a residential area in Castletown, a few kilometers from the town of Esperance, behind an industrial area. It has three or four bedrooms, I'm not sure which, as three rooms were locked off. It was clean, comfortable and well equipped, with a great bed and shower - $150 per night.

Being Sunday, the visitor’s center was closed, so we decided to head out and see what Esperance was all about. We found ourselves on Twilight Beach Road, which turns into The Great Ocean Drive, a 38 km scenic loop that begins near the tanker jetty and ends just past Pink Lake.

We knew we were going to like Esperance the minute we got out of the car at Wireless Hill and walked to the Rotary Lookout, where we were rewarded with a fantastic 360 degree view of Esperance, the Recherche Archipelago and beach after pristine beach.

We took both walks that originate from the lookout (aptly named Walk #1 and Walk #2), both short, both offering spectacular coastal views, before continuing our drive.

Summary of how we spent our four days in Esperance:

1) We spent a day in Cape Le Grand National Park, which is located 50 km east of Esperance via Fisheries Road (parks pass required which can be purchased at the CALM office in Esperance or at the park).

We visited Thistle Cove and Whistling Rock where we took the Big Granite Walk and walked the length of the whitest, most pristine beach we’d ever seen (45 min return). The sand absolutely sparkled and it felt as if we were walking on compacted salt. It was unlike any beach I’ve ever walked on and we had it entirely to ourselves.

We also visited Lucky Bay, which reminded us of our first glimpse of Two People’s Bay near Albany, with its sudden unexpected vibrant blue water and sparkling white sand in the midst of a sea of dull green shrubbery. Here we had a picnic before walking from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove and back (1:30 return, moderate, thousands of flies). This is part of a 15 km coastal trail that extends from Cape Le Grand Beach to Rossiter Bay.

We discovered that we could ditch the flies by walking along the beach (which is the complete opposite of New Zealand!), so we walked along Lucky Bay for awhile, keeping our eyes open for those beach loving kangaroos we’d read about. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any sunbathing ‘roos, but we did see a few in the bush near the campground.

After visiting Rossiter Bay, we turned back, and briefly stopped to eyeball Frenchman Peak. There’s a trail to the top of Frenchman Peak, and I figured Bill would want to try it out, but it looked to be rather tough, and I didn’t think my knee could hack it, so we scratched that one.

We’d hoped to try out the Kebab and Turkish Bakery in Esperance for dinner, but it was closed, so we tried Emperor’s Garden instead. Bad idea.

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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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2) We checked our e-mail at a computer store in town ($5.50 per hour) then got on Fisheries Road with the Woody Lakes Nature Reserve in our sights. Five minutes later we were walking the Kepwari Wetland Trail, which as advertised, is ‘nestled out of the wind’. This is an easy, one way interpretative trail that winds through wetlands and has a few bird hides. Our GPS pedometer clocked the walk at 3.6 miles (return), 1:30. In addition to the colorful birds, we saw two Tiger snakes and one brown snake (no idea what it was, didn’t stick around to figure it out). There’s a strategically positioned picnic table at the end of the one-way walk, which suited us perfectly for lunch.

We then drove to Lake Monjingup Nature Reserve where we walked the boardwalk and several less developed trails in the Stage 1 Conservation Area (2.10 miles, 1:15 return). It was just us and some very interesting birds. We both enjoyed this incredibly peaceful walk, although I’m always a little creeped out in swampy areas. I was fascinated with the paperbark trees submerged in the totally black water (and we saw no snakes!).

3) We returned to Lake Monjingup Reserve to walk a trail we’d missed the previous day. We drove through the Monjingup Flora Park where we admired the plants, walked the Monji Maze (took all of 12 minutes), paid our respects at the Pet Cemetery (we’d never seen one before), and then continued on to the reserve. We walked the Boundary Circuit trail in the Stage 3 Rehabilitation Area (1.44 miles, 35 minutes). This was a nice wide path, flat and easy, with lots of plantings from local school groups.

Back in town we drove to the tanker jetty (start of the 38 km Great Ocean Drive) where we met Esperance’s resident seal, Sammy, sacked out on the foreshore without a care in the world. We walked the length of the jetty, then popped into the Taylor Street Jetty Café for some caffeine and sugar in the form of flat whites and a really sweet slice of chocolate peppermint cake.

Back on the Great Ocean Drive, we headed to the Salmon Beach Wind Farm aka ‘the old wind farm’, where we embarked on a walk amongst the dismantled wind turbines (just over a mile, 30 minutes). I loved it up here – fantastic views of the Southern Ocean shared by a handful of lucky homeowners. We saw the first of the biggest ants we’ve ever seen and a tiny brown snake that had an epileptic fit trying to get away from us (my kind of snake!).

Our next stop was deserted Blue Haven, yet another gorgeous sparkling white sand beach. We continued on to Twilight Beach, where we found a much needed public toilet and a nicely placed picnic table, where we soaked up those gorgeous sea views over lunch.

Then it was off to Observatory Point, where we took the 175 steps down to the beach and the 75 steps up to the lookout. It was seriously blowy up here, but the views were drop dead gorgeous. This would be an ideal spot for whale watching had there been any.

I dare say that Esperance’s Great Ocean Drive rivals the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. No dramatic cliffs here, but man, those views!

Our next stop was Esperance’s working wind farm which I’ve seen referenced as both the Nine Mile Beach Wind Farm and the Ten Mile Lagoon Wind Farm, so I’m not clear on the actual name. Here we walked amongst the operating wind turbines that supply power to the town of Esperance.

Our final stop was at Ten Mile Lagoon, where we discovered a side path to Free Beach, a clothing optional beach for the uninhibited.

On our return to town, we drove by Pink Lake, which wasn’t pink at all, but more of an opaque white.

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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 07:01 PM
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4) There’s a paved walk/bike path that runs along the Esperance Esplanade, but I’m not clear on exactly where it starts and ends or how long it is. We parked in a residential area below Rotary Lookout and walked the path from there to Salmon Beach and back (5.5 miles, 2:15). This is a beautiful coastal walk that winds below Twilight Beach Road offering fantastic views of those pristine white sand beaches and tranquil turquoise bays. Other than two hills, this section was easy and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

After a quick shower, we found ourselves back at the Taylor Street Jetty Café, enjoying a leisurely lunch of mango chicken, chili prawns and chorizo, washed down with a nice glass of chardonnay from Esperance’s only vineyard, Dalyup River Wines, aka Western Australia’s most isolated winery.

Then it was back to the holiday house for some serious relaxation.

Esperance seemed to be gearing up for the weekend, so we checked on the Kebab place again (located on Andrew Street) to see if they might be open for dinner. They were, so that evening we popped in for some takeaway – a chicken kebab for Bill and a spinach and feta pide for me (very good, but too big for one person) - $25.

Some practical information for anyone wanting to visit Esperance:

Esperance is surrounded by National Parks, but they’re not particularly close (Cape Le Grand is 50 km east, Stokes is 80 km west, Peak Charles is 100 km inland from Stokes, and Cape Arid is 120 kms east). Many roads within these parks are unsealed, and some are inaccessible without a 4x4 vehicle.

A parks pass is required for many parks within WA. A range of parks passes are available. We’d planned to purchase an annual pass for $75, but because the pass must be affixed to the vehicle’s windscreen and we were driving a rental car, we decided to instead purchase the four week holiday pass at $35. For more info on passes, take a look at this site:

http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/A..._and_Fees.aspx

Tours of the Esperance port are offered on Saturdays and Sundays only, at 1:30 pm and 4 pm.

There are more accommodation options than is readily apparent. We found several inviting B&Bs tucked away in the hills overlooking the Southern Ocean.

Next: Wining and dining in Denmark
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Old Nov 29th, 2008, 10:30 PM
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Some photos (note, still under construction):

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/349715/index.html
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 08:32 PM
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HI-
I like this report and one day want to visit Western Australia, but now I am completely not able to knowing there are snakes everywhere. Can you please pin point exactly where you saw them so I know to avoid them if I plan a trip? 3,397 KM is a lot of road to cover. Glad you have gotten to Perth safely!!!
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 08:48 PM
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You get snakes everywhere Skiergirl but they will not usually bother you unless you have disturbed them, like near treading on them or they otherwise feel threatened.

I've had a snake slither across a path just as I was about to put my forward foot down and have you ever tried a one foot leap as you're taking the weight of your trailing leg! - necessity is the invention of amazing feats!

And then on another recent thread about a budgie I've told of the one that got a canary and another half in a cage trying to get a love bird - a broom beating at about 4.30AM changing the intent.

But most city people rarely see them and even if out bush they'll feel you coming through ground vibrations.

Actually, the funniest snake story I've heard comes from Missouri where some friends live on a farm and they have Copper Heads about, and anyway a city living sister visits and goes to the loo - there being one accessed by a breezeway and so sis is on the throne and notices what she thinks is a nice piece of artwork, snake being coiled up on the wall, and she is admiring it intently, quite taken by it's intricate pattern.

The admiration became something of a scream when the artwork suddenly got a life!
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 09:21 PM
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Hi Skiergirl -

Most of the snake sightings were on hikes. We saw a total of five snakes on trails - most promptly slithered away, but one particularly large snake was stretched out the width of the trail and had no intention of leaving. We had to wait that one out as there was no way I was going to step over it.

I'll post that photo on the link above, and maybe Bushranger can help me identify it.

We saw a few snakes while driving too - we ran over one, but somehow it managed to survive.

I'm from rattlesnake country (Colorado) but I've never seen one, even while hiking.

Don't let the snakes deter you from visiting WA. You may not even see one unless you're out in the bush.
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 09:28 PM
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Any idea what kind of snake this is Bushranger?

http://www.worldisround.com/edit/349...ml?photo=41-42
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 09:29 PM
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Oops, wrong link, just click on the link I posted earlier.
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 10:29 PM
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Not working for me Mel, looks like you need to be registeres/logged on with the round ball.

I'm no identification expert other than that you could have a common black/brown and eastern brown snake that along with pythons can get reasonably big.

http://members.iinet.net.au/~bush/ID_index.htm gives you some idea of the different ones and scroll down the left side and you get a listing for different areas
They call the Brown/eastern brown a Mulga over there, and the Dugite or versions of Tigers are larger ones too.

You did the sensible thing waiting for the biggie to move on and when I said about having to leap over one it was because of no option as he had just come out from the side of a track right under my lifted leg! - probably stand back a bit and do some bunny hops to make ground vibrations might be the go if one is snoozing on a path soaking up some sun.

Thought I'd share a python and cockatoo with you
http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2..._PythonOne.jpg and then there's babies or midgets - http://s44.photobucket.com/albums/f2...rent=NT042.jpg and just for Shiela, even the spiders attack birds - [have to do another upload]
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 10:59 PM
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Looks like a harmless old carpet snake to me, Mel.
Google (images) "carpet snake"

Skiergirl: A couple of points you might also want to note:

1. Snakes are not "all over everywhere" in WA or elsewhere. Melnq8 was well off the normal beaten tracks that you would be traversing.

2. Of the snakes in Australia, only a very few are venemous.

3. I lived in the far north west for some 30 years, on several large stations and saw probably a dozen or fewer snakes in all those years of riding horses, motor bikes and walking through paddocks.

4. Like sharks, spiders, box jellyfish and crocodiles - there are some snakes in their habitats.
You'd be extremely lucky/unlucky to see one on the usual tourist routes.

Like anything else, you just need to keep your eyes open and if you do happen to see one, don't approach it or get between it and it's escape route. Just stand move away quietly and stand still until it goes away, which it will do if it has heard you approach. Believe it or not, they are MUCH more frightened of you than you could be of them. Justifiably so; many more native animals of all types are killed by humans than vice versa.

So don't let the fact that Mel has seen a few scare you unnecessarily and cause you to frighten yourself out of a wonderful experience. Clearly the one she photographed wasn't too dangerous .... or she'd be posting from Heaven
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Old Nov 30th, 2008, 11:34 PM
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Yes Skiergirl I have to back up Bokhara here as she is absolutely right.

We did a 12 month trip around Australia and in all that time and in all that bush we probably only saw two snakes!

Mel has had more troubles with the flies than with the snakes! And to be honest, you just don't here of tourists (or even residents for that matter) being bumped off by snakes - very rare indeed.

Time to concentrate more on our beautiful wildlife - kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas etc. In fact Skiergirl come on over and visit and I'll take you to visit some Koalas who live just down the road from me!

Excellent report and photos Mel - a thoroughly good read.

(I had to wear a fly net at Devils Marbles - they were just disgusting and wished I'd had my net when we went to the old whaling station at Albany as they were out in force there too.)
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