On the boat, about to get in the water.
So, after 3 tough months slogging it out in the outback ghost town that is Port Hedland, it was back to cool and cosy Perth, and by cool and cosy I mean we were not going to have to tackle the 46' C plus heat that we had struggled with for 12 weeks. We flew at mid-day on Tuesday, which was a brief 2 hour flight that was uneventful on account of me having taking some prescribed valium before the flight and pretty much floating around the cabin for the entire flight, a big change from my usual panicking. We touched down on Wednesday afternoon into a comfortable 21 degrees in Perth, a temperature we would barely top over our final 2 weeks in Western Australia.
The group in the water.
We headed to Dawn's house (my cousin) once again, where we would be staying during our final spell in Oz. We spent the first few days readjusting to normal life, just the simple things you take for granted. We had set times for our staff meals in Port Hedland, eating everyday at 11.30 and 5.30 without deviation for 3 months, so it was hard to adjust to eating at different times. But in a good way, needless to say! We took Dawn's kids to the cinema to see spiderman 3, and just sorted out some of essentials for the next part of our trip, like sorting out a visa for China which we probably should have done before we left! We spent Saturday at Hillary's Boat Harbour and at a playcenter for childern which had trampolines, climbing towers and bumper cars before we did some shopping for some travel 'musts' for us (translated: new sunglasses, clothes, etc).
Me, with my couins at Hillary's Boat Harbour.
We spent most of the nights just renting dvds, Dawn had recently moved and the tv was not up and running yet, so we watched loads of movies and enjoyed the normality of a family setting without having to break things up to go work day and night as in our last job.
The week carried on like this from Wednesday until Tuesday, when we decided we better get off our bums and start seeing things if we wanted to make use of our time in Perth. The number one thing on our to do list was swim with dolphins, and so we booked ourselves onto a wild dolphin in Rockingham Tuesday morning, just 30 minutes south of Perth. We were picked up at 7am in Perth, which felt freezing to our un-climatised bodies, and set off on a mini-bus with 11 others who were to swim that day.
Our guide was a Japanese girl who was tiny, Kylie Minogue size, and John had his reservations that she would be any help pulling him out of the water if he got into trouble at any stage. His swimming lessons had been progressing nicely in the swimming pool in Port Hedland, but cyclone George put a stop to all his practice. She told us about the dolphins and what we might expect, speaking in her broken English that kept me throughly interested, as she kept saying sentences like "Sometimes the dolphins, day come wear you, and day are not being threatwing, they just like to pray with you" (she ment play but we had visions of dolphins with their flippers joined in silent worship). Or she kept mentioning that "the sky is very crowdy today, so it will be cold", without pointing out what was crowding up the sky.
She was very cool though and we were well clued up when we hit Rockingham and its pier. We headed out in our small boat to try and find the dolphins, who are not fed by the organisers as they are in some places, they are all naturally just going about their business and they choose if they wish to become involved with you. We barely had time to get our wetsuits on before the sonar picked up the first ones, and we made our first splash in the water to try and get close to them. We sat on the back of the boat in teams of five, and our guide hit the water first with his or her underwater propellar. We were then supposed to jump in and grab a special belt around each others waist so that the guide could pull us out to the area the dolphins were in.
This was the plan, but the sheer shock of hitting the cold water for the first time shook us all, and we instead all grabbed out for the person in front of us to help us in the water. Since I was at the front of us all, I had to burden our combined weight, and of course I sank like a stone and struggled while everyone else shivered unable to do a thing. Brass monkeys would have run a mile from this sort of cold. We were back on the boat within a minute, shivvering and still nowhere near seeing any dolphins. Not a dream start!
But things improved steadily. After around half an hour driving about looking for a suitable pod and after declining about 3 other pods who were feeding or just not bothered with us, we came across a pod of around 14 dolphins who were making their way across the bay.
Taking a rest.
The guides were excited, and on hitting the water for a second time we were all rewarded richly with an encounter so close we could have reached out and touched them! One of the guides used one of the underwater motors to whizz right among the pod, and the younger ones broke off and danced about with him in a dazzingly show of energy and enthusiasm. The pod had the full age spectrum, with older males showing us no interest and pushing away the younger dolphins to females with young calves who would push their young ones close to us to show off their little off spring. One of the baby dolphins was only 2 weeks old! It was all over in less than two minutes as the dolphins were clearly travelling, but that in itself would have made our day.
With Chris before our night out.
As it was we had around half a dozen more turns in the water, as our guides repeatedly overtook the dolphins and put us in the water in their path, with varying success.
After a few goes we were getting used to the cold water, and we could concentrate on the show and listen to the whirring and clicking noises that the dolphins made as they flew around us. After perhaps 2 - 3 hours we decided to head for shore, with everyone satisfied that we had shared enough time with these magical creatures for one day. On the way back, two dolphins followed the boat and kept leaping out of the water as if showing us their skills, I was sure this was their way of saying goodbye and really made my day. It was back to dry, warm land before catching the bus back to Perth and preparing for the next of our final 6 days in Australia. Boo hoo!!!