It was a strange feeling bringing in the New Year (2011) outside of the United States. It was my first non-American New Year's Eve 'celebration'. Kalbarri didn't have the same vibe as Las Vegas Boulevard one year ago, but that's okay. It was peaceful and relaxing.
In 2011 I began to understand and appreciate just how big Western Australia truly is. A 5-hour flight from Perth to Broome only put me 3/4 of the way up the W.A. coastline.
In May, Broome consistently produced the most incredible sunsets I'd ever witnessed. A thin layer of Indian Ocean created a glistening sheath of sea, casting a beacon of sunlight across the pure, white sand.
Within an hour, the moon was rising in the east, and ripples in the mudflats created what appeared to be stairs, forming the famous 'Staircase to the Moon'. This breathtaking natural phenomenon only occurs from March to October each year, and is caused by the rising of the full moon reflecting off the exposed mudflats at extremely low tide. It creates a beautiful optical illusion of stairs 'reaching to the moon'. A buzzing atmosphere of local markets at Town Beach made the experience that much more unique, as I sampled local fare and observed talented local entertainers.
I watched polo for the first time. Fittingly, it was beach polo. Yet another first for me.
Of course, no trip to Broome is complete without a sunset camelback ride along Cable Beach. What a treat!
A road trip from Broome up to Derby, across to the Windjana Gorge National Park and down through the Geike Gorge National Park was quite the outback adventure. Freshwater crocodiles loomed, barramundi were begging to be caught and boab trees lined red dirt roads for hundreds of kilometres. It was the true Aussie experience!
In December, a 3,000-kilometer (nearly 1,900 miles) road trip took me along W.A's coastline all the way up to Exmouth. With stops along the way at Monkey Mia, Shark Bay, Shell Beach, Coral Bay and Gnarloo Station, I was surrounded by Australia's natural environment.
Dolphins were literally hand fed at at the beach at Monkey Mia. Buried in seashells, I took a nap at Shell Beach. I snorkelled with loggerhead sea turtles on the Ningaloo Reef at Coral Bay. Wild kangaroos were smitten by the idea of a simple vegetable, and snacked in front of me for a half-hour in the Cape Range National Park. Gnarloo Station - a working pastoral station - had a more rugged feel, but provided plenty of memorable moments.