Adventure Tours – Coral Bay to Broome

Just a quick note to let you know that if you are not seeing the photos in this post, please click on the post heading and go to the post page. For some browsers the pictures don’t automatically resolve on the home screen. I’m looking into it…

Coral Bay - the darkness in the water is the reef.
Coral Bay – the darkness in the water is the reef.

Coral Bay was where I got my first glimpse of Ningaloo Reef. It actually comes right to the shore! You can walk into the water and snorkel over the reef. I elected to take a boat out a bit further so I could get some deep-water snorkelling practice in before my big whale shark adventure the next day. I was glad I did, because it takes a little while to get used to breathing underwater. The reef was stunning, but lacked a bit of the colour that I’d seen in the Great Barrier Reef over two decades ago, sadly I don’t think it is still like that now.

Coral Reef Western Australia
Snorkelling over Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay, WA

The next day was the big one. Whale sharks! I will never forget the moment when we were all bobbing about in the water wondering what was going on and the guide told us to look down. I put my face in the water and was almost eye to eye with a 7-metre long whale shark! I struggled to believe I was really there. The photo below is courtesy of Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours and if you ever find yourself up in Exmouth I would HIGHLY recommend you go out with them. The staff were amazing, and everyone had a fantastic time.

Kings Ningaloo Reef Tour - Swimming with whale sharks
Kings Ningaloo Reef Tour – Swimming with whale sharks

I had never heard of Karijini National Park, and if I’m honest I stopped reading the tour itinerary once I established I would see stromatolites and swim with whale sharks. As a result, I was not prepared for the amazing beauty that is Karijini National Park. I can only put up a couple of photos, but for the more adventure-minded this is the park to come to. The ‘paths’ test you out physically and mentally. You have to climb over stuff holding your weight with your hands, you swim through water crossings, and you clamber through slippery waterways. It is amazing.

Karijini National Park - The Sheep Dip. Yes, that is the path. You had to swim.
Karijini National Park – The Sheep Dip. Yes, that is the path. You had to swim.

The other bonus is that it is so far out in the middle of nowhere that the night sky is unlike any you have ever seen. It was almost hard to make out the main constellations because there were so many other stars around them. It also made for very chilli nights, and this was where I discovered that my sleeping bag might have been exaggerating a little when it said it went down to -5°C. I literally woke up shivering.

Karijini National Park - Kermit's Pool. Yes, also the path. And that water was cold!
Karijini National Park – Kermit’s Pool. Yes, also the path. And that water was cold!

From there we went to Broome, where I spent a few days, so I think I will give it a post all of its own.

Adventure Tours – Perth to the Peron Peninsula (Monkey Mia)

It seems crazy to try and cover Peth to Monkey Mia in one post, it’s hundreds of kilometres of travelling, but I can’t do a post for each day of the tour, or it would see us out to the end of the year. In an effort to cut out some I’ll skip Perth cover just some of what we did in along the way.

We hit the ground running, sandboarding down brilliant white sand dunes in Lancelin. This was the first test for my Tough camera as we got sand-blasted at every turn. It performed beautifully. After this tour, more than ever, I love my Olympus Tough tg-5. It puts up with a lot!

Lancelin Sand Dunes, WA
Lancelin Sand Dunes, WA

Back on the road we then found ourselves at the Pinnacles. I’m sure most Australians have seen the Pinnacles, but what you might not realise is that no-one actually knows how they formed. Some say they are the remains of a petrified forest. To me they look more marine in origin, but right now we are all just guessing. Despite the many people (and cars) moving through them, they managed to hold a magical aura that was quite haunting.

The Pinnacles, WA
The Pinnacles, WA

But this was a tour, so we were back on the road to burn away as many kilometres as possible. We stopped for the night in Kalbarri and then took off early for a quick romp through the national park. It seems a crime to speed through this, but we went to Murchison Gorge, Nature’s Window and Z-Bend Gorge. All stunning. Then on the road again to get to Monkey Mia just in time for sunset.

View through Nature's Window, WA
View through Nature’s Window, WA

The next morning we ambled down to the beach and watched the dolphins come up to the shore. I was lucky enough to be picked out of the crowd to feed one. She didn’t take my fish -they thought she might be pregnant, so I shouldn’t take offense. Then we were back on the bus to visit shell beach; a massive expanse of pure white beach made up entirely of shells. Apparently they are up to 10 metres deep!

Shell Beach, Peron Peninsula, WA
Shell Beach, Peron Peninsula, WA

Next it was time for the main reason I found myself in WA. Hamelin Pool and the Stromatolites. These were the first life on earth, and the reason all the rest of life could follow. For many years they were thought only to exist in the fossil record, until Hamelin Pool was discovered.

Stromatolites, Hamelin Pool, WA
Stromatolites, Hamelin Pool, WA

I must have taken at least 100 photos, and I did nearly cry. The significance of these bacterial communities cannot be stressed enough. No stromatolites, no people. I just hoped my selfie there wasn’t documenting the creatures responsible for the start and end of life on the planet.

 

Next week… Coral Bay to Broome

Confession Time

Okay, I wasn’t just taking a digital holiday. I was having a holiday holiday as well. I have just spent the last month travelling from Perth to Darwin (nearly 10,000 kilometres) and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

The holiday tested me on many levels, pushing me to, and beyond, my limits. I swam with whalesharks, I clawed my way through the ravines of Karijini National park, and I sat up front in a helicopter with no doors and an amazing view of the Bungle Bungles.

I also showered in hostels where I had to wash the ants down the drain before I could get in, I used public toilets where the stench of rotting faeces came over to hug you before you even opened the door, and I ate off dishes washed in cold water. I think my gut flora were tested too.

I met lovely people. I saw beautiful, and terrifying, and wonderful things. I ticked items off my bucket list. I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

But I am back to reality now. Work, cold, housework. All things that I could forget about for a while. So, over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of my trip with you in the hopes that it will inspire you to get away. I think we could all use a break from reality sometimes.

Here are some snaps from Rottnest Island, a 90-minute ferry ride from Perth, Western Australia.

Rottnest Island Quokka
Curious Quokka
Salmon Bay – Rottnest Island
Western Australia
Fish Hook Bay – Rottnest Island
Rottnest island seals
Seal Ballet

Digital holiday

Reading between the lines you might be able to tell from more recent posts that I’m getting a bit fed up with the online world. Recent events have only heightened my frustration with the different apps that I feel obliged to be a part of. Recently I’ve slackened off on my social media, and I haven’t missed it at all.

The whole reason I have so many accounts is because at writing conventions and talks everyone stresses how important it is to have an online presence. But if you stop and think about it, until you have a book to promote, what is the point in working on accruing so many followers when there is nothing much for them to actually read?

To me, social media accounts feel like an insecure and needy friend. When you get caught up in other things (you know, silly stuff like writing new stories) then your followers leave you in droves as if you have done something wrong. It seems that months of nurturing these accounts can come undone by a single busy week.

Well I’m going to test it out. I think I’m a more productive writer when I’m not spending so much time on all the online things. So, I’m giving myself a month off of all my digital obligations, and that includes this blog.

I have a project I want to throw myself into, so I’ll focus all my attention on that and keep my internet turned off. I suspect I’m going to feel happier and more relaxed, so if that is the case, I may look at doing something more permanent.

Either way, I will report back in at the end of May and let you know how I go. Try not to forget me! 😊

Too late?

I studied astronomy at Uni. It was only a single semester subject, and it was more of an overview rather than getting too deep into the physics side of things, but I got a distinction for it.  Something that really strikes you when you learn about other planets, as well as your own, is how incredibly unlikely it is that you’ll get the neat  balance on a planet that lets life not only survive, but thrive.

Yeah, I know, given only advanced life can contemplate such things, statistically those who do so must exist on those lucky few planets, so there is nothing special about me thinking about this. The point I want to focus on is the incredible BALANCE the planet must have.

I am worried that we have irreparably stuffed up that balance. In Australia it is autumn (fall) at the moment. In fact, we are into our second month of autumn. On Wednesday it was 36°C and we had bushfires. Yes, I had our bags packed and the pet pack out ready to grab the cat and go. We are normally all complaining about the cold about now. Until Saturday we had not had any significant rain this year. THIS YEAR!!!! I don’t live in a desert. Not yet anyway.

I hear many people say that this is all part of a natural cycle, but the thing people seem to be missing is that all the historical natural cycles (and we can track them back a very long way) were gradual. What is happening now is happening at a rate we have never seen on the planet before. The best scientists have no real idea what will happen next.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much. I’ve been putting the above fears into my writing for the last ten years, and I don’t think that’s made a scrap of difference. I think I need to change tack. If I’m going down, I’m going down swinging, because I think it is important that none of us ever think it is too late to make a difference.

Follow your passion

Many times I have read and heard people say that if you follow your passion you will be successful. Most of the people who say such things are already successful, and that’s why they are in a position to say it so that we can hear them, which does skew the dataset somewhat. Those who follow their passion but get nowhere don’t get that many opportunities to be quoted.

But the truth of that statement is not what I’m here to talk about. For many of us, identifying what our passion is can be really difficult. For me you would think it would be a no-brainer; writing. But the truth is I’m not passionate about writing. I’m passionate about imagining and communicating stories. Writing is simply the medium through which I do that.

On Friday night I attended a quiz night. We played true or false and the topic was animals, or for those of us with science degrees, zoology. In a room of over 100 people I won. I didn’t study for it, I just naturally absorb information about animals because I’m passionate about them, so it sticks. On Friday night it won me two bottles of wine and three points for our table. I’d call that a success.

If I could come up with a way to marry animals and storytelling I would be a pretty happy camper. I can’t help but think those who tell us to follow our passion are onto something, because success can be defined in so many different ways. Even if you aren’t a big financial success, if you are doing something you are passionate about then that must bring you a lot of joy and satisfaction.

Something to ponder methinks.

Chopstick wisdom

The other day I was washing some chopsticks in the sink, and while rinsing them I accidentally dropped them down the drain. I think if I had been trying to do it I wouldn’t have managed to get them lined up so perfectly. When I realised to where they had magically disappeared, I couldn’t help but laugh.

But this left the dilemma of how to get them out. I knew that if worse came to worse I could unscrew the pipes and pull them out, but it would be messy and require probably more strength than I have. So I got creative. I grabbed another chopstick and globbed on a nicely worked (and therefore warm and sticky) piece of blu-tack.

It only took three attempts to get the first chopstick out, but the second one proved far more difficult. I brought out the hairdryer in an effort to dry the down-the-drain chopstick so it would be more likely to stick, but even this had only limited success. The chopstick would come part way up, but as soon as I started to pull the blu-tack through the drain opening the stick would drop like a stone.

It was a bit frustrating and I wanted to give up, but I realised there was a good lesson in life here. I could give up and live with a chopstick in my drain, catching all the goop, and no doubt eventually blocking the drain, or I could persist and maybe succeed. I did persist and only two more attempts later I managed to snag the chopstick and pull it out.

The thing is, you never know which time you will pull the chopstick up and it will hold long enough for you to get it out. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you stop trying to pull it out, it will stay there. If I keep sending out my writing, it will get picked up some time. If it stays on my computer and never sees the light of day, it will never get out into the big wide world.

So, I’ll keep sending out my stories. I’ve pulled out a few chopsticks before, so I’m confident I can do it again if I just keep trying.

Humour

Humour is such a personal thing.  Sometimes I worry that my idea of what is funny is quite different to other people’s. In fact, sometimes I say stuff on Twitter that I’m pretty sure people don’t even realise is intended as a joke. They think I’m serious, as well as a bit stupid. That’s my sense of humour.

This is what probably gets in the way when I try to sell my humorous stories. I guess editors don’t realise they are meant to be funny, or worse, they do realise but the story just isn’t funny (to them). Logic tells me to pull the plug on writing funny stories, but they just keep slipping out, like SBD’s you can’t hold back.

I’ve just penned another, and I’ve sent it out, but I can almost picture the eye-roll as the editor reads it. I really should stop subjecting all of us to dealing with them. Having said that, I have sold a few my-version-of-funny stories, however I’ve never been complemented on any of them.

Perhaps I should clear a special place in my bottom drawer for my humorous writing? Or, better yet, maybe I should try to publish them under a different name. It would have to be a silly name… silly but accidentally clever. Sounds like a project for this week.

Are reviews king?

Reviews have recently been the subject of much discussion in the creative space, prompted by Amazon’s new rule that all reviews given for books (movies, music etc.) that were not purchased will be deleted. This has a huge impact for authors starting out, who often give away their first novel to generate a readership and get reviews. I also know that a lot of respected reviewers regularly get free books sent to them, even by the big publishing houses. I assume these reviews, too, will be deleted.

Which got me thinking about reviews. The truth is I rarely read them. If I like the premise of a story, I’ll read the book. If I don’t like the premise, I won’t. This was driven home to me when I was in the book tent at Adelaide Writers’ week this year, ready to buy my ‘donation’ book for the free event. Having stupidly waited until later in the week, all the books I was interested in had sold out. So I was forced to look at the books that were left to find something I liked.

I came across a set of books which had really interesting covers (yes, I do judge) and the titles sounded like they could be spec fiction, or at least genre of some sort. I turned the books over to read the blurb on the back and all I found was reviews. The inside few pages also revealed nothing of what the story was about, just more reviews. A bunch of people had liked these books, but I could not find anything to tell me what any of them were about. Needless to say, none of them came home with me.

I’m sure people who write reviews are as mindful of people judging the reviewer, as what they are of presenting a review which will help someone to make up their mind about if they should buy the book. This means hyperbole and passion can sometimes go a little too far. I’m a big believer in ‘if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all’ because often if a reviewer hated a book it’s because they were not the target audience.

I guess with so many books out there it is hard to choose which ones to read. If you have a choice between a 4.5-star and a 1-star reviewed book, you will probably go for the 4.5-star. For me, however, if I like the story of the 1-star novel, I’ll give it a go. With my love of run-on sentences and sometimes questionable grammar, let’s hope my readers feel the same!

The journey of a spec fic writer.