48 Hour Celebrations
Exmouth, 3rd - 4th November
Happy Birthday to meeeeeee!
The temperature in the tent is not as unbearable this morning and therefore we are in no rush to abandon it. If we were in normal circumstances I might have received breakfast in bed, but not today. Today I get a fort in the tent … (?) We twist, turn, hang and organise the blankets now instead of our beige “home” we’re under a pink, fluffy, soft ceiling. A strong start to the day, right?!?
Well, just for a bit anyway. We take down the decoration, fold the tent and head towards Exmouth (once again - in “Australian” it is pronounced Ex-Mouth) - a small town on the tip of a small peninsula with a coral reef. It is not as famous as its Queenslandian cousin ‘The Great Barrier Reef’, but we, like all other tourists, have come to enjoy it.
We park in the centre of town - the main street is small but very nice and with a large choice of shops and restaurants. It is my day today, so the choice of lunch is mine. Well, if that is the case, we skip the local pub and decide on asian - sushi and dumplings. Very festive!
We spend a large part of the afternoon looking for a place to sleep tonight. We are driving along the cape of the peninsula and it reminds me of the road south of my home in Bulgaria towards Kaliakra with the only difference being the cliffs and sea views are on both sides here. We stop at the first campsite and it turns out to be under construction and they can’t take us. That’s too bad, it’s one of the nicer ones. But if that’s what they want ...
At the next one, the office will be closed for another few hours. Aaahh… it has taken us half an hour to get here, why are you passing us around like this? Fine, we’ll look for a third one. But we won’t simply return to it in town. We stop at two of the beaches on the way - one is called Turtle Beach. Not only will we immediately stop there but we will attentively try and find said ‘Turtle’ that has come out to lay its eggs. The views are once again wonderful - oceany, Australian, blue and endless. A perfect place for a birthday photoshoot - I never miss the opportunity to be in front of the camera, especially today when Nic can’t say no. There are no turtles though, if we don’t count the model ones at the info hub on the beach - a big shelter designated only this magnificent sea creature.
We finally find a campsite that will take us … immediately! Almost in the centre and with a pool! Slightly more expensive than the other unavailable options but the choice is clear. We enter the grounds and what a sight - just like that, along the alleys and through the spaces, there is an emu walking around. Big and fluffy and not disturbed in the slightest by the dense human presence. Welcome! - it says. Thank you! - we reply silently.
We mark our spot with the chairs and the table so that no one can steal it. It is in the shade and therefore sought after. We put on swim wear and hop into Bertie again. We are going to the beach! As if I can do that on my birthday - and not just a winter, cold water bathing one but a real one - sunny and hot.
We park at the Exmouth central beach and we set to work on the first major task! I take out the 2 and 5 candles and pose once again for pictures. I am also prepared with my bright fuchsia top so that I can stand out from the ocean background. We take a few pictures until Nic has been helpful enough today and starts looking for a place to sit down. The first thing we notice is that we are welcomed by signs “unguarded beach” - but isn’t this the central one??? Can you not have a lifeguard here either? We go in for a quick dip but a decision is made that the last thing we want is to wait for a shark to come and wish me a happy birthday. It might be better to get to the pool - there is shade there too. We go back to the campsite and securely position ourselves next to the water - I shall not be moving now. From now on I shall only be accepting birthday wishes.
It is an odd business celebrating your birthday with such a huge time difference. In the morning all you can do is wait for the Europeans to wake up and in the afternoon to simply wait for them to remember you. And so it happens, that by the time you are going to bed, you have still not heard from many people, as it is still early afternoon back home and they haven’t yet decided to message you … Therefore I now decide that tomorrow would not be the fourth of November but still the third - I will receive my messages and go snorkeling as if it is today. If I can celebrate in the Australian instead of the Bulgarian time zone, then I can definitely make use of the American one too.
In the early evening we decide, however, that we have been chilling enough for today and take three bags of washing to the machines - the Australian neighbours help us kindly with the required coins. As we wait for the clothes to be spinned clean we undergo traditional birthday activities - cake and candles. I am in underwear and a t-shirt, the wind doesn’t allow for the flame to stay lit for a second but I still have a huge grin on my face. When would I again have salt in my hair, sand between my toes and burned cheeks on my birthday in November?!
We eat cake, hang washing and eat dinner - how else would you mark a quarter of a century?
Oh, what a wonderful day to add to my Australian birthday memories! It is so great to celebrate according to the foreign time zones too, although it is the 4th today.
We start the day with a sunny walk in the centre of Exmouth and lovely vegan pancakes for breakfast with fresh fruit, coconut cream and a delicious cappuccino. The cafe we are sat in is cool and hip - there are no two chairs alike. The walls are filled with photographs and paintings by local artists, to be sold to anyone interested. They even have a corner with clothes, shoes and all sorts of accessories. We have started the preparation for the wonderful day we’re expecting to have.
Just before 11 am we park up Bertie at the visitors’ centre and wait in the shade to be picked up for snorkeling. A colourful painted van arrives, pulling a blow-up boat behind - well, that should be us. We are greeted by Ash - a hardy, retired surfer with a pointy moustache - a typical Australian who obviously adores his job - showing outsiders the beauty of his little part of the ocean. Today it will be only us and an older couple from Tasmania (the only Australian state we didn’t visit), so the experience will be very personal. And Ash has promised us swimming with turtles!
At the beach we observe the skill with which the veteran surfer gets the boat into the water and then quickly climbs on board - all of us inpatient. Nic and I end up on the right board where the view out is limited by a thick plastic sheet. Ash quickly fixes that injustice and sends us to sit on the bow and hold on tight. You know me - just that is enough to make the experience unforgettable - wind and water splashes in my hair. And the fact that we see the silhouette of a sea turtle in the first couple of minutes sends me to Heaven!
Ash is planning to stop at four different spots where he knows we should see a wonderful representation of underwater life. Other than snorkel, mask and flippers, we are given a more high-tech device. Handheld turbines - you hold on with both hands, press two buttons with your thumbs and the machine takes you wherever you wish. The movement is quick and therefore the area covered - bigger.
We stop at the first spot. The temperature of the water is 24-25 degrees - not too cold but not warm either for deep water snorkeling. We get ourselves fully equipped and get in! Some quick trials runs to figure out exactly how the yellow machine in our hands works and we’re off. The corals here aren’t that interesting to observe - their shapes are cool but they’re all yellow-beige and fairly forgettable. But the animals …!
it doesn’t take me long before I see my first turtle - I immediately follow the instruction given to us. I raise my arm in the air and don't take my eye off it. This way Ash can inform the others and send them my way so they can see it too. Only Nic stayed in his own world and never saw it. Big and fast - it didn’t like that some creatures with big buzzing machines chased it. But for us, these turbines are great as we manage to follow it for as long as possible and enjoy the sight of it. If you are wondering, it looks exactly like you think it does. The shell is divided in sections and the flippers are covered in scale-like shapes. Could this day get any better? The tasmanians also see a school of sting rays but my turbine didn’t transport me quickly enough to catch up with it. We get out of the water - teeth chattering, the heart too. Nic is starting to lose his colour but there is nothing we can currently do - there are three more stops to go.
I first see an octopus walking on the bottom. Camouflaged like a rock - white with grey speckles here and there. If you don’t see the tentacles moving, you would miss it. From the distance I am observing it, it doesn’t look all that big, however the tentacles are very long compared to the body. On the way back to the boat I also see a star fish - bluey-purple and once again with very elongated proportions. Huge compared to the ones saw at Green Island. Leaning against a coral on the bottom and not moving. (Ash might have mentioned those are a bit dangerous, but I might have misheard.)
And! One more turtle!!! This one is smaller but is much friendlier to the crazy humans. It is swimming slowly so everyone can see it, observe it and photograph it (if they have the tools to do so). I would guess that this attention-seeking one is female and the other grumpy one was male - if stereotypes are required, of course. Beautiful! Elegant!
The temperature of the water starts to affect us - most likely because using the turbines doesn't require swimming and warming up. Nic is now officially not well. My fingers are completely numb from the cold and the vibrations when gripping the machine. Therefore we shorten the stay at the last stop. But before going in we also see the head of a turtle from the boat. The experience is unbelievable. The best from all underwater activities so far. After all, what can compare to turtles?
We get out of the ocean exhausted! I give my email to the Tasmanian hoping they would send the pictures from their GoPro but, unfortunately, I have still not received anything. And as it can be expected, our yellow NoPro produced absolutely no results. I leave the visuals to your imagination.
We should have kept going to our next destination today but we are too tired for such undertakings. After all, we don’t want to repeat the struggles that we are so adamant to forget, are we? We set up the tent under the shade once more. I position myself next to the pool while Nic prefers to stay by the car and work on his boomerang to balance out his head from the boat motions. That’s okay, we don’t have to be stuck to each other at all times. I would use this time to read my book or call mum for a chat. Just because, without a reason, without need of assistance, without rush...
Before dinner we walk to the shop to find something interesting for dinner but our options are severely restricted. We’ll manage, we will figure out something - we still have cake. I can’t not say that I liked Exmouth. There is something different from the other places we have passed so far. Not that I would live here - not even if you paid me, but I would return to see our friends the turtles again. They will be here even in 50 years.
After these two days, I think I will officially start celebrating my birthday in all time zones. Why would I only focus on a 24-hour day when the world can offer me double that. From the first sun ray in Australia (and Japan) to the final glow on the western American islands. So much more can happen within 48 hours!
Vassya (and Nic)