We tried again to see the dolphins, but again they didn’t show. We had a nice coffee in the shade and headed back along the highway, this time up to see the Ningaloo Reef. Driving through the Australian Outback is truly a frightening thing. Not because it is so barren – there are plenty of stretches of northern Ontario that are just as barren in their own way – but rather because it is so dry and featureless. If you were to land one kilometre from the highway, just out of sight of it, you could walk in circles for the rest of your life and not find it. The sun is directly overhead, there is no way to tell north from south and there is not a single landmark, not a rock or a tree to orient yourself. It is what I imagine the surface of Mars looks like.

We passed riverbeds that were just a mockery of rain, completely dry with the sand blowing dust up the gulch. We saw road signs for places 100 kilometres away in the desert with nothing but a dirt track through the dirt to get you there. The only wildlife was road kill, that and the ubitquous beer bottles littered the shoulders of the road. We were grateful for the occasional roadhouse that sold gas and bottled water.
Coral Bay, our destination for the day, lies on the coast, powered by three wind turbines – the offshore winds are a feature of the hot land and the cooler water – that provide power for this village of ‘two thousand’ people. Two hundred is closer to the truth, but Australia likes to inflate these things, I think to deal with the isolation they face. The campsite was right on the water, and was clean and well equipped.

One look at the Indian Ocean crashing over the barrier reef offshore was enough to get our blood moving. We have been snorkelling enough to get excited just about the prospect. The reef was an east boat ride away, not ten minutes, and the coral stretched right into the bay itself. We booked a snorkelling cruise for the next day and retired to the van and a movie.