Ah the city.... Or at least the closest thing we have seen to a city in the last 3 months! Karratha was one big, bustling place. We were shocked at how different the atmosphere was! Everybody was in a huge rush, in contrast to the easy-going outback way. We only stayed as long as we needed to, picking up mail, getting a battery replaced in the car and restocking our food supplies. Then we were off. We forged past Port Hedland and made it to Cape Keraudren, right on the beach. It was whale season and we spotted whales every day as the humpback whales made their migration to warmer waters up North. That was an amazing thing, to see whales in the wild, almost accidentally! We would be eating breakfast and glance up to see a whale breaching from the water on the horizon. Of course, binoculars turned the experience into a life-sized one, and we would each take turns peering through the lens to watch these gigantic creatures jump and play in the ocean. The tides were quite large at this point on the coast, and at low tide, the kids would all go out and look for creatures that got stuck in the small pools left behind. They found jelly fish, octopus and crabs, and they even set up a sea snail race one afternoon.
We moved on from Cape Keraudren because some strong wind arrived that we weren’t really enjoying. So we packed up and headed to Port Smith, further up the coast. We had not expected to fall in love with the place like we did, but there was a really great atmosphere in this small community of fishermen. It was a warm, friendly place situated right next to a huge stand of mangroves with a big mud crab population. Port Smith had the biggest tides we had ever seen – 10 metres! We would be standing on solid ground out on the beach and 4 hours later, that same place would have water over our heads! With such a great tidal movement, the sea life flooded in with the tide each day and the fishing was great. And the crabs! Day after day we would be shown the different catches of crabs that looked big enough to feed our entire family! We determined that we would be eating crab by the end of the week. But we hadn’t bargained on our mortal enemy – the Sandfly. After 3 days, we were all covered in the itchiest bites we had ever experienced! Aeroguard had no effect and the only thing that seemed to suppress the little blighters was a dettol/baby oil mix that we sprayed on. We were in agony with the itch. Antihistamines only helped a little. We conceded defeat – we would not be mud crabbing in Port Smith. We just couldn’t bear another onslaught in the mangroves where the Sandfly population was booming. Oh well, we took ourselves to the cliffs instead, where the king tides turned the dramatic drop into a stone’s throw. The high tide water level made fishing from the rocky outcrop a breeze, giving you access to all the deep water fish, including sharks! We whale-spotted from the cliffs too, with a bird’s eye view from our high point on the cliffs, it was easy to see all the action on the horizon.
Port Smith had a great working relationship with the 2 surrounding aboriginal communities. We were there for the famous ‘Fish and Chip Night’ held every week without fail. Shark and other big game fish were caught in the days prior, and then served fresh battered with hot chips to anyone waving a $5 note. It was the most delicious fish I had ever eaten, and of course, every one kept going until they had had their fill. Harry was in heaven with his voracious teenage appetite. We were entertained with some aboriginal storytelling and singing by one of the older aboriginal women. At 82 years she was impressive, with a great sense of humour. We also enjoyed an aboriginal Corroboree on another night, with aboriginal style damper cooked over hot coals on the ground. Served with butter and jam, again, Harry was in gastronomic heaven. We discovered that Silas is a superior dancer during these nights around the big bonfire. He would happily have the solo spot on the dance floor, somehow combining Michael Jackson moves with the grace of ballet and the skill of acrobatics. All this with whatever rhythm was playing. He thoroughly enjoyed all the Grey Nomads coming up and congratulating him on his dance ability, which seemed to just boost his confidence even more. Lets just say he slept well after those nights.
We took the fourby on lots of 4wd tracks in the local area, seeing brolgas and cranes enjoying the wetlands. We eventually found our way to a beach we could drive on, right up to the big, bad ocean. Ash and I would beach comb, while all the boys would fish in the estuary. It was a truly beautiful place, very pristine and tranquil, our camera failing to properly capture it’s loveliness.