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19 September 2003

Several years ago, when Jeri was doing summerstock in Ohio, we went to visit her for a long weekend. On that weekend, I proclaimed Ohio as the "road kill capitol of the country." I never saw so many dead opossums and skunk as I did that weekend. The "Roadkill Restaurant" could be a real possibility in Ohio.

While Ohio may have it over the outback in quantity, Australia beats it all to heck in quality. When there is roadkill here, there is roadkill, by gum! On our trip from Kalbarri to Denham, we counted 6 dead kangaroos, 3 rabbits, a couple of lizards, and one emu. Now that's something you're not likely to encounter in Ohio.

The emu was particularly exciting. We found it because Peggy spied the eagle which was tearing it up and she skreetched the car to a halt. As she did, a cloud of feathers went flying up off the road like some real-life Roadrunner cartoon.

We circled back, trying to get a photo of the eagle, but it flew off to a nearby tree, a piece of the emu's flesh hanging from its talons. Peggy was able to get a good photo before it flew off into the bush, to be attacked by crows, who ended up stealing the meat. It was like watching Wild Kingdom without the TV.

Now how often do you get to see that along I-5, I ask you!!

For a day which progressed in such a bloody fashion, it had a rather benign beginning. We checked out of our apatment and went down at 8:45 to the spot where they feed pelicans each day.

It's a great show. The birds fly in right on time and the woman with the bucket of fish gives a lecture about pelican life and lets spectators toss fish to the birds, who squabble over each piece and, when the bucket is empty, fly off again. I was having camera trouble with my main camera, but fortunately had my new little Casio, so managed to get lots of photos anyway.

When feeding time was over, we got right on the road headed for Denham, a 400 km drive from Kalbarri. We were definitely out of wildflower country. The bush may look like a set for Star Trek's first season, but this is real.

Amazingly, in the middle of all this desloation, we came over a hill and found some of Western Australia's finest (police), who were pulling cars over for a routine traffic inspection. They were checking everyone's driver's license and registration, and giving them a breath test, to check for drunk driving--maybe the cause of all those dead animals we'd been passing. The experience did give me a chance to get a picture of Peggy blowing into a tube for the nice officer.

We had a good laugh about this--imagining what the folks in Perth would say when they heard--when suddenly Peggy swerved hard and let out an expletive. I quickly glanced up and saw an emu's head just by the driver's side window. The thing had run out in front of the car, and it was just luck (and, of course, Peggy's skilled driving) which had prevented us from hitting the huge bird. We circled back to make sure the thing had escaped (I'm not sure what we would have done if he had been injured) but there was no sign of him. I wonder if his heart was beating as fast as Peggy's was.

Onward and onward toward Denham, our final destination for the night. We made a side stop at Shell Beach, where millions of small white Fragum cockles have accumulated over time to create this unique environment. There is no sand on this beach--it is nothing but these tiny white shells. It is estimated that in some spots the shells are 10 meters deep. The beach itself stretches for over 120 kilometers around L'Haridon Bight and, when we arrived, it was totally deserted. For hermit Peggy, having an entire beach to herself was like dying and going to heaven....

...until the busload of Italian tourists marched over the hill, looking like the final scene of Fellini's 8-1/2 (especially since some of the women carried parisoles).

I could see people wading very far out into the bay, still only up to mid-calf depth, so I decided to take off my shoes and socks and paddle a bit myself. The water was deliciously cool, not at all cold. A good beach to take small kids--no waves, no undertow, safe depth and no sand to stick in all those chubby folds. I didn't go as far out as a lot of folks because Peggy was sitting on the beach, camera in hand, and I just knew that if I pressed my luck, I'd end up falling on my bum, giving her the perfect photo op.

One more stop on our way to Denham was "Eagle Bluff," purported to be the home of osprey and offering an opportunity to observe marine creatures--dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles--from a bird's eye perspective. The road was probably the worst we have encountered, with the soft sand so deep that the car had no traction whatsoever, and the hard surfaces so bumpy, Peggy was afraid she'd leave a few hupcaps behind. The view was indeed spectacular, but we saw no osprey nor marine life. Still it was lovely being on that high place, totally alone, with a vista that stretched for miles.

On the ride back to the main road, Peggy was determined to beat the poor driving conditions and did her best imitation of an Indy-500 stock car racer, staying off the flat part of the road and hugging the sloped sides. I, wimp that I am, was convinced the whole way that we were going to tip over, so it was a white knuckle ride for me, as Peggy cackled about what a chicken I was.

Finally Denham. We are staying at the Seaside Tourist Village, a place which was located for us by the Tourist Center in Kalbarri. Good thing to have planned ahead, as there seem to be no vacancies here as well. This is primarily a camping ground, but with some cabins. We are in #13, which may or may not bring us bad luck. But we again have a glorious view of the ocean. Shortly after we arrived, a young kangaroo hopped through the park and stopped right across the road from us for a snack of the palm tree fronds.

As the sun set, I walked down to the sand dunes just a few feet from our front door and sat taking photos of the glorious display. All in all, another wonderful day in Paradise.

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