There is a big emphasis on mental health here (particularly for men).  You often see trees painted bright blue by the roadside.  These are the symbol of the RUOK? campaign which encourages men to talk out problems with a mate rather than bottle everything up.  A great campaign – the UK could learn something from this?  You frequently see men’s sheds too, which encourage men to get together and hang out a while.  A really great idea – and a very cost effective one to boot- way better than drugs and psychiatrists.  Men’s sheds are great – but what about the women I wonder – a bit chauvinistic?

Western Australia is a very BIG state – and that’s an understatement.  There is a huge amount to see, but in between, long drives without much to distract you.  It is how it is – but the driving distances are a bit of a downside.

The road from Geraldton to Monkey Mia (pronounced Mya) is a long 443 kms – 4 hours 40 minutes if driven straight.  We took a brief 44kms (return) detour at Northampton to visit Horrocks Beach because it was billed as a world class beach and won the best mainland beach in Australia award in 2018.  I thought it was OK, but not my idea of a world class beach because it had houses built up right on the beach and waves that stopped a very long way out.  Swimming here would be OK, but not surfing.

A good stopping point en route to Monkey Mia was the Billabong Roadhouse.  Established in 1962 and still proud to serve weary travellers today.  If you are on a budget they have reasonable looking rooms for $80 AUD a night and you can get a steak here for dinner too. If the fancy takes you, you can get a roo burger which – “puts lead in your pencil and a spring in your step”.  It’s a no brainer?

Foodie Firsts:
Iced coffee.  Great in a warm day (26 degrees) in Oz.  If bought one on a cold, wet day in the UK though,  I’d be asking myself “what WAS I thinking?!”

Flora and Fauna:
Galah – members of the cockatoo family.  Easily identifiable by their rose-pink heads, necks and underpants.

Highlights:
The Stromatolites at Hamelin Pool
The first life on earth – living fossils over 3 and a half billion years old.  These organisms breathed the first life into the world by releasing oxygen.  Hamelin Pool is one of only two places in the world where you can still see them.  This is a very harsh environment indeed:  temperatures rise to 45 degrees in Summer (between December and March); the water twice as salty as normal sea water and the UV light is of fierce intensity.  This ensures that the stromatolites have this precious piece of earth all to themselves.  Best viewed at low tide – allow half an hour or so.  Free to visit with a National Parks Pass.

Shell Beach
Shell Beach is made up entirely of millions of tiny white Fragum cockle shells.  The shells are up to 10 m deep in places and it takes 4,000 shells to cover 1 square metre of the hyper saline water here where little else could survive.  This dazzling white mass of shells stretches for over 60 kms.  It is so white that it is actually very hard to photograph – even if you fiddle with all your settings as much as you camera will allow.   There isn’t really much to do on this beach except stand and just admire it.  You just can’t help marvelling at the chromatic power here – the stark white of the sand juxtaposed with the turquoise blue of the ocean.  The shells are sharp on your feet and the water is hypersalty so if you swam in the sea here, you would float easily, but be covered in a layer of salt when you came out.

In Denham, you can see emus walking along the street.  They don’t nip into the cafés for a coffee break but they have been known to take a dip in the ocean on a hot Summer’s Day.

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