Red cliff, crystal clear seas and a whole galaxy of stars
29.05.2016 - 01.06.2016
Sat outside our tent at Monkey Mia an employe of the park was painting the posts around our camping area. He was chatting to us asking if we had been up to the National Park. No, is it any good Chelsea asked, 'only the best in the world' he replied. On his enthusiasm alone we decided to drive up and we are very pleased we did. François Péron National Park is world heritage listed, of the four natural wonders that a park has to have to be listed it is one of the few to have all four within its boundaries. It is a meeting point of two climates and the vegetation that grows there, the temperate southern regions and the dry, arid desert north and East. This means that there are lots of plant species that can only be found in the park as well as lots of endangered mammals, reptiles and birds. On top of this it is a place where the big ocean currents meet the shallow waters of Shark Bay and so there is an explosion of life under the water, teeming with Ocean mammals and fish, grass and a reef as well as the huge ocean rays and tiger sharks.
Access to the park is four wheel drive only, there is a station to pay your car fee and camping fees which get posted in a box on your way in. It is $10 per person a night to stay at one of the bush camp sites that dot the coast to the north. The first section of the road, to the old homestead is unsealed but ok for any vehicle and then there is a tyre pressure station where you are required to deflate your tyres to 20psi to carry on the four wheel drive track. It takes around an hour and a half to get to the top and it is a single lane, soft sand track, full of corrugations. It is a slow and steady wins the race kind of drive but Brian made it up with no issues. On the way up we saw two big echidnas crossing the sandy road, leaving behind perfect little footprints in the sand.
We decided to stay at Gregories campground which has six spots in total, half quiet and half, further away where you can take a generator. We went for the nice quiet spots. They are patches of bright red sand, in the dunes overlooking the ocean. It is a stunning spot, overlooking a curve of rocky beach and bright blue ocean, with a reef braking the surf off shore. It feels like you are alone in the middle of nowhere as soon as you get out of your car. There was one other elderly couple camping a few spots on but nothing else for miles.
We spent three nights here basically just sunbathing, relaxing, stargazing and sightseeing. We have walked on the beach, looking in the high tide mark for beautiful shells, watched the huge ocean gulls fish and enjoyed every bit of sunshine, since soon we will be heading south into colder weather.
We are only a few kilometres from Cape Péron, the top of the peninsular and Skipjack Point, a view to the left of the peninsular. At Skipjack point there is a boardwalk that hugs the edge of the cliffs for magnificent views along the coast and out to sea. It ends at a lookout where the blood red cliffs fall dramatically onto the sand and into the perfect crystal clear waters of the ocean below. Here the water is so clear and so full of life you can stand a spot animals in the waters below. We saw baby sharks, a huge manta ray and a massive sting ray gliding in the waters below as well as lots of other smaller rays. We also decided, instead of driving up to the Cape to walk it from Skipjack Point. It is a 3k return trip which takes you through the red dunes and cliffs, along the coastline and up to the point. It is a beautiful walk and you can see all different footprints in the sand as well as spotting lots of lizards scurrying over the hot sand. At Cape Péron the open ocean reveals its crazy currents which you can see churning the waters below and on the sand huge numbers of cormorants gather at the shoreline. They look like penguins from a difference with there shiny black bodies and white bellies and we were surprised how big they were. They stood on the shore together drying their wings in the sun or jumped into the water, diving for fish, watching them was a pleasure.
The sunsets over the ocean has, as always along the west coast, been gorgeous. We have had beautiful soft pinks and purples spanning three hundred and sixty degrees as well as blazing orange and reds, over the blue ocean. At night time it is cold and the stars are unreal, from horizon to horizon the black sky is so bright with stars we have not put our lantern on. We can see constellations, the milkyway, the satellites moving across the sky and have seen so many shooting stars. It is just breathtakingly beautiful.
On our last night just before sunset we were approached by three French people who has got a lift up from the homestead by a fisherman and were now stranded at the top of the national park with no warm clothes, food, water or anywhere to sleep and night was fast approaching. We didn't want to drive them back in the dark as its a really bad drive in the day, and neither did anyone else, but we offered them to stay and we could take them back in the morning. Between us and our neighbours a few spots on, we pooled enough blankets for them to sleep in our cars, our neighbours fed them and we drove them back in the morning. They were embarrassed and grateful but we have been helped so many times by kind people it was our turn to help out.
François Péron National Park is beautiful, and is hundred percent worth the effort to get here. We are extremely lucky and grateful to spend our time surrounded by such beautiful nature and we love nothing more than falling asleep to the sound of waves and waking up to beautiful early morning cool sunshine warming up the red sand. Being in the middle of nowhere with our tent, for us, is just the most perfect place to be