Sunday, August 17, 2014

Shark Bay trip


Saturday 19th July

Most of the packing for this trip was done yesterday but we still didn’t get away until around 10.30 am. We seemed to have remembered most things but I forgot to pack the Ukulele. I don’t remember until we are turning on to the Great Northern Highway by which time there is no turning back. We need to get to the Batavia Coast Caravan Park in Geraldton by 5.00 pm or pick up the keys from the letter box and find our own way to our camping spot. It rains most of the way. We listen to the new Salvation Jane CD we bought called Something Old, Something New to lift our spirits. They do a great version of Dylan’s Ring Them Bells St Peter. I call ahead and change our camping spot so that we don’t have to unhitch. We get in by 5.10 pm. It’s still raining.

Sunday 20th July

The trip to Shark Bay is uneventful except for a short stop at Billabong Roadhouse where I buy some great vegie wraps for lunch and leave a sample set of my Shark Bay postcards and a sample copy of my new The Human Condition CD.

Entry Statement to Shark Bay World Heritage Area

There is a new entry statement to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area which pictorially tells us what we’re in for. After setting up camp we go for a walk up to Stella Rowley Drive to look at some blocks on Sellenger Heights that Lexie is keen to see. They sure do give a great view across Shark Bay.

The view across Shark Bay.

Monday 21st July

The main street of Denham
I start the day with a bike ride and come across a woman walking to the school with her lunch and figure that she must be a teacher. I mention that I am on long service leave and inquire about the number of staff at the school. She tells me that there are five staff; three in the primary School and two in the High School. Most of the High School classes are run by SIDE so it is a fairly small school.

After breakfast we book two tickets for the Shotover Sail Tour for Friday. That should be a good day. I then buy a new set of board shorts for the tour. I’ve had my old board shorts for about thirty years and they are starting to look worse for wear. We then drive around the town to look at the kind of houses being built on the new blocks. Most of the new hoses are two story houses built in corrugated iron. They look great. We stop in and visit a German couple who have built a transportable house which we were informed about back in Perth. The house is also clad in corrugated iron and is pleasant, with a good view across the bay.

After dinner we visit the local Art Space where there is an advertised art class from 6.30 to 9.00 pm. We want to get an application form for the Shark Bay Art Awards and met three very pleasant ladies who are getting started on a coloured ink activity. They graciously stop what they are doing and chat with us giving advice on good places to go to do some plein air painting. Sally Capewell is the convener of the S.B. Art Awards and fills us in on what we need to know. We plan to meet up with them again next Monday night if we’ve got something worth showing to them.

Tuesday 22nd July

There is business to do in town. I meet Adam, the manager of the Shark Bay Discovery Centre, and we discuss my Way Out West drawing reproductions and postcards.

Inlet looking towards Little Lagoon

Little Lagoon
After lunch we go on a reconnoiter drive to check out possible sites for painting from the recommendations made by the ladies at the Art Space. The first stop is the Observation Shelter at the inlet to Little Lagoon. The shelter provides protection from the wind and offers some colourful opportunities for painting so we agree to make it the first stop tomorrow. A drive around the Little Lagoon shoreline doesn’t yield anything of significance so we drive out towards Monkey Mia and take the left turn into Red Cliffs on the track that Sally drew on her mud map. Nothing beats local knowledge. This is indeed a good find as Pindan red cliffs give way to red rocks lining the white beach with a curved blue bay in the background. This will be the place to come back and do one of my large pastel drawings.

Red Cliffs, near Monkey Mia
That’s enough for one day so it’s time to go back to camp and relax.

Wednesday 23rd July

Today is the day that I am going to try out my new painting workbench. I say new, but I’ve had it a year but haven’t had time to unpack it. After breakfast we load up the Pajero and drive to the shelter at the inlet to Little Lagoon. We unpack the painting workbench and put it together. When completed it looks quite good. I then unpack my gouache painting kit which I haven’t used before and get started. I’m painting the view up the creek towards the coast and it offers the opportunity for the viewer’s eye to travel up the creek and around a bend to the left. It’s around 10.00 am if not a bit before.

Joel painting the view up the Little Lagoon inlet

I haven’t used gouache before so it’s all a trial and error experience. What I learn is that being a largely opaque medium you can paint lines and blocks of colour and then paint over the top with further layers until you are happy with the result. It suits me a lot. The stool I have is too low so I spend the whole time standing crouched over the workbench. Aside from a pause for a cup of coffee and a banana I stay at the job until 3.00 pm. Lexie is starting to get toey although she has also done a particularly good water colour pencil and pastel drawing of the same view in portrait format. I suggest she should use it as the basis for a textile wall hanging to submit to the Shark Bay Art Awards exhibition. I finish covering the paper with paint and call it a day. The painting is so-so but I’ve learnt a lot. We don’t get to have lunch until 4.00 pm which is a bit late. I’ll have to work faster in future. 

Thursday 24th July

This is the day that I want to do one of my big pastel drawings and the place I want to do it is at Red Cliff just back from Monkey Mia. It offers the red cliffs as a complimentary to the turquoise blue water of the bay just back from Monkey Mia, plus a lot of rocks to give the drawing content. We get out there by 10.00 am and I set up my seat and drawing board in the position that gives me the best composition.

Lexie drawing at Red Cliff

Time stands still as I draw my way through the composition using a red brown pencil. I stop and join Lexie for a coffee and banana break around 1.00 pm. Lexie is working on a coloured texta drawing of the bay. I complete the composition by 3.15 pm and after another coffee we drive back into Denham. I will now need to complete the drawing in pastels back in my studio using a photograph as a reference. It takes at least three days to complete a drawing.

Joel drawing at Red Cliff

Friday 25th July

Today is our Monkey Mia experience. We get there around 11.00 pm and first have a look at the Department of Parks and Wildlife Monkey Mia Dolphin Experience Centre where we pay our entry fees and look at photographs and tourist souvenirs. I leave a set of my postcards in the hope that they will add these to their product range.

Parks and Wildlife Officer giving the dolphin talk at Monkey Mia

The feeding the dolphins activity is just beginning and we are advised to go down and watch. Three dolphins have conveniently decided to come in and be fed and a number of people have lined the foreshore to watch. An officer from DPW is giving instructions on how the dolphins should be treated which takes a substantial amount of time. Other DPW staff then bring down tin buckets with fish in them and the dolphins are fed. Everyone gets to take photos and by all accounts everyone is happy including the dolphins.

Feeding the dolphins at Monkey Mia
Lexie and I then go and have lunch at the restaurant siting on the verandah looking out on the turquoise blue sea. A little touch of paradise.
View across to the Shotover catamaran
See how the main sail sets

After lunch I go and get our hats and a jumper. It’s hot but I think I might need it. We go and board the Shotover catamaran for our three hour dolphin cruise along Monkey Mia Bay. We get a seat up the front and are treated to various sitings of dolphins cruising in front of the boat as we make our way up the bay.  We pass Red Cliffs and get to the end of the bay where we crisscross the sea grass area looking for turtles and dugong. There is a siting of a turtle down below but mainly we get dolphins. Unfortunately my camera battery runs flat and I don’t get any dolphin pictures. Probably just as well as well as they move fairly fast and they tend to all look the same after a while. By the time we turn back I have my jumper on and Lexie has borrowed a yellow rain jacket and looks like she’s in the North Atlantic somewhere. We’re glad to get back to land and out of the cold wind.

The view across to Red Cliffs

Saturday 26th July 

Mary G performing with audience guest at Yadgalah

It’s a rest day until we make our way to the Yadgalah Aboriginal Club where Mary G is performing in the evening. We arrive at 6.00 pm and for $25.00 each we get a meal where we join a line of folks and serve our selves from the bountiful amount of food provided plus are treated to night of hilarity from Mary G. All this takes place in a large tented building lined with rows of tables and chairs. We sit next to Adda, a local Aboriginal woman in her eighties. She laughs and tut tuts in turn at Mary G’s risqué comments. Mary G is from Broome and is Mark Bin Baker’s alter ego. His modis operandi is to select audience members to come up on stage and join him as he performs his songs. Each song can take a while to complete as he interrupts his singing to lambast his accomplices or someone in the audience. It is all in good fun and the rest of us are left in stitches. In between all the hilarity Mary G has some serious things to say about Aboriginality which comes across in Mark’s original songs and in the stories she tells. Mark is a master comedian and a good guitarist and a night spent in his company is memorable and thought provoking. 

Sunday 26th July

Joel outside St Andrews-by-the-sea

It’s Sunday and we decide to go to church. St Andrews-by-the-sea is an Anglican church built out of shell blocks cut from deposits of cockle shell at the shell block quarry at Hamelin Pool. It’s a charming building and so is the 9.00 am service led by the Minister, Philip Knife, and his wife, Kathy. Music is played on a church organ and we sing songs from past centuries as well as a couple of contemporary songs. The large shell font is particularly interesting. The people are friendly and we join them for morning tea under the rectory, another building made out of shell block. We discover that we know one of the couple, Terry and Cheryl Cowell. They are friends of my sister, Keren, and her husband, Geoff, and used to live in Kununurra. Lexie taught one of their children. Keren and Geoff have one of Terry’s fine paintings in their art collection. We have much to talk about but must eventually leave so that the minister can get on with his day.

Monday 27th July 

St Andrews-by-the-Sea
I’ve been starting most days with a bike ride around the town and this time I decide to take my camera with me to get some memorable Denham photos. I stop by St Andrews-by-the-sea and then make my way down to the foreshore to see what the boats in the bay look like in the early morning sun. They look great.

Denham foreshore
Denham foreshore with boats
After breakfast we drive out to the Little Lagoon inlet for another day’s painting. I set up my gouache painting table by around 10.30 am and don’t stop until 4.00 pm. I’m still getting the hang of using gouache but have to learn to work faster. Whilst I’m painting a traveler from N.S.W. goes snorkeling and I take a photo of him to see if I might incorporate him in to my picture at a later date. Lexie returns to help me pack up and return to camp.

Tuesday 28th July

Today we visit the new Shark Bay Marine Park venue 10 kilometres back down the main road from Denham. It is an oceanariam with lots of fish, big and small, including sharks and is a delightful place to spend a day.

View at lunch, Ocean Park

We start with lunch and a view across Shark Bay which is stunning. Then we pay our $20.00 fee and join a tour through the oceanariam with a male guide who likes to eat fish. Much of his commentary is about how the various fish taste. I like how they look.  His talk does also give us a lot of facts about marine life in Shark Bay as we go from fish tank to fish tank.
Blue fish
Sting ray

Outside we are treated to the larger fish, including two species of shark, located in big saltwater ponds.

Male staff member with fish
Female staff guide with fish
Towards the end of the tour the male staff guide is replaced by a female staff guide who is very enthusiastic about her job and obviously loves what she is doing. Her commentary is informed and interesting.

Clown fish and sea anemones

Wednesday 29th July 

Monkey Mia Bay with pontoon and sailboat
We are going back to Red Cliff today to do some painting and drawing. We get there around 10.00 pm and I set my painting table up with a view across the bay to Monkey Mia. Luckily a sail boat is moored at the pearl fishing pontoon in the bay giving me extra subject matter for my composition which has a spindly tree in the foreground on red dirt leading down to the turquoise water of the bay and the boat and pontoon in the background. It takes me most of the day to complete the painting as I get bogged down in the detail. I’ll have to work more quickly in future.

Joel painting at Monkey Mia Bay

Thursday 30th July 

Boarding catamarans at Monkey Mia for Sunset Cruise

This is out last full day in Shark Bay and the main event is the Sunset Cruise with Shotover tours out of Monkey Mia. This leaves most of the day to get clothes washed and business done. I make an appointment with Adam at the Shark Bay Discovery Centre and we set dates for next year for an exhibition of my Way Out West series of drawings, my The Kimberley Series of photographs and my ceramics, in the Rose Freycinet Gallery, all of which I am very excited about.

Winching the main sail
Afternoon comes and we drive out to Monkey Mia to board the Shotover catamaran for the Sunset Cruise at 4.30 pm. Some turtles swim around us as we board the boat but disappear before I can get a good photograph of them. A poor show I say. Participants are invited to help man the pulleys to get the sail up and soon we are tacking down Monkey Mia Bay. Although overcast, the evening is serene and we enjoy a quiet sail through the dark blue waters. We do see some dolphins, but by and large the main event is to watch the sun as it endeavors to peek out from behind the clouds. We take the time to talk to the skipper and he tells us of his life in Monkey Mia. It is a charmed life even though it is lived out of a caravan.

Lexie on board the Shotover
The old man of the sea
We get to the furthest point of the cruise and turn back leaving a back view of the sun setting over the sea. It is indeed a beautiful scene and we quietly take it in as we sail back to shore. It is a fitting way to end our holiday in Shark Bay.

Sunset on the Sunset Cruise

Friday 31st July

Leaving statement Shark Bay World Heritage Area
All good things must pass they say so we pack the caravan and Pajero, link up and drive out of town passing the exit statement on our way to the North West Coastal Highway. We’ll be back, that’s for sure.

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