Just in case you were thinking of travelling and thought you had no money, check out this guy called Klaus Menzel. I met this guy while driving back from Exmouth. I had to pull over to get his photo and chat to him.
He never stops so the conversation ended with me about 800 metres from my car. He was working in the mining industry all over the world and was in a failed marriage. His health was deteriorating and he had an urge to do what he wanted to do without anyone telling him how to live his life. “So I called up my bank manager and told him to sell the lot and never call me again,” Klaus said as he turned around and rubbed Snowy, one of his camels.
He started travelling around Australia with just a bicycle. Now, he and his two camels, Snowy and the other one, Willy, have travelled around Australia, on-foot, towing Klaus’ home which is a half wagon with solar panels to power his mini-fridge and computer.
His belief in life is to not have money or stress, both of which go hand-in-hand. His mantra is that if you can live on very little, then you don’t have to listen to anyone.
Prawn trawlers rolled into a fog-laden marina as we ventured out just before sunrise to see the spotted cows of the sea. This is Exmouth, about nine hours north of Perth on one of Australia’s most western tips. Our voyage was set for a spot a few hours from the marina where Australian shelf drops and shallow meets the deep dark waters of the East-Indian Ocean.
This area we were exploring was the Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO heritage listed area due to it being Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. Amongst the amazing diversity the reef offers, from colourful coral to a crayon box full of colours of vibrant fish, are the whale sharks, which draw tourists from around the world. Hundreds of whale sharks come to the reef between march and june to feed on the large volumes of spores released from coral. Despite being called a shark, they are a class of fish, the biggest of their kind and feed exclusively on fish. Their size averages around 10 – 12 metres and are a phenomenal sight to see with their speckled spots and graceful moves.
After my swim with these gracious beings we travelled in to the shallower end of the Ningaloo Reef, which spans more than 250 kilometres, to dive and view the populated reef culture. There are some amazing fish, octopus, sharks and huge manta rays that come and greet viewers as they go about their busy lives like traffic in a bustling city. It’s not hard to see where Finding Nemo’s creators got their inspiration from.
There are plenty of tour companies to organise the whale shark tour through. I decided to go with Three Islands Tours who provide food and great gear and were nice enough to provide photos.
Coming back from seeing the world underwater hooked me on seeing more underwater biodiversities along Western Australia. There are times when I have not been able to hire any dive gear but have had to use a mask and snorkel, which for areas like coral bay, is more than enough if you go in the water with bread. The tropical fish come from everywhere to eat it.
According to the lovely couple managing the caravan park I stayed at in Exmouth, the town triples in size between March and May because of the whale sharks. It is amazing to see that the industry of an entire town can turn on the back of a giant fish. Still, this town is an amazing little seaside getaway from everything else in the world. It is no wonder people come here to retire.
In my previous post on the Ningaloo Reef it is easy to see why people come to holiday and never leave. The caravan parks fill up, motel and hotel signs display ‘no vacancy’, and the Wicked Vans are parked on side streets or in parks with weary travellers sleeping inside.
While tourism is a fundamental aspect of this town, chances are if you have ever eaten a prawn in Australia; then it was from Exmouth. The same goes for soft shell crab, of which there is a huge farm east of Exmouth that breeds crabs genetically raised with a soft shell and exports them as a foreign delicacy. This sleepy little town is also a major supplier of pearls, with the millionaire family Kailis ruling the roost on pearl farms and prawn trawlers.
Driving into Exmouth is scenic at the worst of times as it is etched into the bay side area with stooping hills lingering behind the town. On the drive in tourists are quickly familiarised with the strong defence presence with an air force base near the entrance and satellite system on the other side of the road. The town itself was built to support the American Navy centre just north of Exmouth, of which is host to an eclectic base with a baseball pitch, bowling alley and diner. This is built next to the communications towers, which are the strongest in the southern hemisphere.
On the southern side of the town is the premiere Ningaloo Novotel Resort, which caters for the more classy visitors. As far as hotels go this one has had careful planning as staff showed me where plants native to other areas of Australia had been imported specifically to provide a full Australian feel in one place. The resort backs onto the beach with a pool in the centre of it. Essentially it is just a more luxurious version of everything else, and still backing the beach.
I spent time as a kid in Exmouth, going to school, cycling through the main street and learning to surf and fish on the weekends. I have always had a soft spot for the place but whenever I visit it is hard to see it as so many tourists do. Perhaps after travelling the world, seeing city after city, sight after sight, I will be able to come back and appreciate the beach dynasty that has long left its print on this beautiful part of the world.