Tuesday, May 27, 2014

ROADTRIP to Exmouth, WA: home of the beautiful Ningaloo Reef.

I only had 5 days to rest, recover, and wallow in my depression post- airport goodbye before I headed off on another adventure. It's a tough life, I know. 

We had two weeks of school holiday in April, and every year the Pieyre's go on a road trip up north to Exmouth. And as usual, the au pair was invited along. And since everybody I've talked to in Australia raves about how untouched and stunning the Ningaloo Reef is, I wasn't about to pass up this golden opportunity.

It's about a 14 hour drive through pure Aussie outback, with the occasional kangaroo and emu sighting. I haven't seen much of either in the wild since living here, so a surprise animal in the distance is always pretty exciting. We (and by we, I mean Ben) drove through the night, while I popped a few sleeping pills and hoped I wouldn't have to beg for a potty break every hour. And just as soon as I dozed in oblivion, we were there.

Julie and I set up camp, while our cripple with a broken hip (Ben) sat in a chair and laughed at and lectured us about how god awful we were at setting up tents, boats, BBQ's and just about everything else for that matter. But we did it. And this is what we managed.

Not too shabby eh? I'm in the white and blue tent, and out of pure laziness and hopefulness for good weather, I opted out of putting the cover on. Putting pegs into that god awful ground? Virtually impossible. Let's just put it this way, my arms are still hurting a month later....

But, I'll follow up on this later. Moving on. 

We spent the majority of our days snorkeling by morning, and fishing in the afternoon. Of course there were the days where we sat by the pool, laid on the beach, or enjoyed some cocktails by the water when the holiday became too strenuous for all of us ;).

One of my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE snorkel spots in Exmouth was Turquoise Bay. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, The Ningaloo Reef is within swimming distance from shore, which was a huge relief considering the seasickness I encountered during my previous trip to an Australian reef... 

It was a tough swim against the current, but doable, especially since my tour guide was some injured guy who knows the reef inside and out. Broken hip Ben, despite all injuries, was desperate to snorkel and show me the reef, and I'm so incredibly thankful he did. During my very first snorkel, I saw HEAPS of parrot fish, nemos, stingrays, and (finallyyyyy) SEA TURTLES. I'd been waiting for this moment since I moved here, and it finally happened! 

feeding kangaroos- check
holding a koala- check
swimming with sea turtles - check, check, check!! 

I can officially die happy.

Other days, when the visibility was especially clear, we took the boat out so we could fish and snorkel simultaneously. Ben had all the good spots mapped out already, and we'd do a quick check of the water and decide whether or not to stay. We saw about 3 sharks in the open water that day, and while he swam back to the boat unfazed by any shark encounters, I sat on the boat happily avoiding any deadly creatures who were in my direct line of sight. I was ok with waiting for the all clear, before attempting to risk my life in the open water. But it's true, y'all. They're everywhere. dun. dun. dun. 

To give you an idea of the seriously unreal visibility, this is what my shitty 'ol iphone captured from my seat on the boat. This was an especially perfect day, and we made very good use of it. Swim, snorkel, fish. Swim, snorkel, fish. repeat. repeat. repeat. 

And on this trip, I learned that nothing makes me happier than doing this very thing. Swimming among the sea creatures is a truly humbling and irreplaceably, breathtaking experience.  

And on the one day that the water was a little choppy, and a bit unclear, I spent my morning doing a solo hike at Yardie Creek for this view. And as much as I love being in the water, I love my days exploring the land just as much. 

And because we needed the occasional break from camp life, we came here to have some fancy drinks and dinner one night with friends. The pool, the palm trees, and the ocean were incredible. And the martinis were the icing on the cake. And this is where I learned that my new 26 year old no hangover limit is approximately 3 or less drinks. Duly noted. 

And after 10 days of nonstop happiness, we headed home, but not without a stop at this super cool (or dorky) sign on the way home. #tourist. 

And as we continued driving, I couldn't help but laugh and think about how lucky we were to spend 10 days in paradise with exceptional weather, only to be struck with this dark and dreary day on the drive home. It kind of fit with the post-holiday mood we were all in. After all, it's hard to want to leave a beautiful and sunny Exmouth knowing that we were heading into rainy season back in Perth.

And so, I guess it was an ok decision to leave my tent coverless, as the weather gods worked entirely in our favor while we were there. But the day we left? Exmouth got flooded and our entire campground had to be evacuated that very day. One day my luck will run out, but not on that day, I guess. 

Overall, this trip was just the clarity I needed to get over my surprising bout of debilitating homesickness. I was seriously second guessing my decision to move directly to New Zealand, and now I was finally sure that I made the right decision. 

All I needed was a little beach, a little beer, and nights under the stars to bring me back to my happy place. The reality is that beauty, adventure, and traveling IS what I want. Living abroad will always come at a price, but for now, it's one that I'm willing to pay. 

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