Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cute sniffers, landing strips and naval bases

Today we relocated from Port Douglas to it's polar opposite, Exmouth. (Technically, it's not the polar opposite, but for all intents and purposes, it might as well be.)

We traveled from one side of Australia to the other. Swapping a major tourist center, with every tour package and convenience imaginable, for a tiny outback town, with only 4 'restaurants'. Instead of wet jungles, stingers and crocodiles, we have expanses of red dessert, kangaroo mobs and wild emus.

Before getting to Exmouth however, we had a quick layover in Perth. On exiting the terminal, I received a welcome of the most adorable kind. Paws landed on my legs as a set of soft brown eyes looked up at me, with its tail wagging the beagle stuffed his nose into my purse. I had officially been selected by the 'Detector Dogs'.

Airport security search you right then and there. In this case, it was in front of the arrivals area, surrounded by a hundred people waiting for other passengers. I didn't really mind having my luggage drooled on though, the dog was really that cute. He kinda made my night.

It should be noted that the dog was right, only moments before I had unloaded a container into the 'quarantine amnesty' bin. Aka, the last opportunity to chuck things you're not supposed to have before being fined (and searched, and drooled on). My adorable detector dog singled me out because I had previously been carrying honey. Apparently honey can be a disease vector for bees. And I guess the smell lingers too.

After our 6 hour layover we were back in a plane heading north. Other than the unending expanse of red, Exmouth airport is the first thing that stands out about this place. Though the airport terminal is tiny, the airstrip is enormous. Our plane used just 1/3 of its length. Also, before landing, the pilot informed everyone that we were landing at an active military establishment and that photography was prohibited.

Exmouth has a number of military related establishments. Many of them were initially built in WWII, others date from the 60's. Some are actually owned by the US government. I gather that they are kept up to date (like the massive runway) just in case.

On the outskirts of Exmouth is a US naval base. Now primarily run by the Australian police, the base employs ~200 of the 1800 full time residents of the town. The base contains a number of outbuildings that are costly to keep up, so I guess they rent a few of them out. (From a power perspective, having businesses on site helps with maintenance because the power generators need to be kept functional through use.)

While I wasn't expecting to stay on an active military base while here in Australia, it happens that one of the nicer hotels is located on-site in former military barracks. So far the hotel is great. The 10 inch thick cinder block walls, reinforced with rebar and filled with cement, keep the room cool and quiet.

You might be wondering at this point why we would come here. The area is home to the cape range national park and the ningaloo reef. So basically we're going to continue to snorkel, dive, work on our tans and hang out with the local wildlife.

The view from the plane.

Though photography of the base itself is also prohibited, I did take a pic of our room and the barracks to share. Unrenovated barracks on the base.

Our hotel, despite the reno and landscaping, foundationally is still like the building above.

Our hotel room, including an accidental self portrait.

Tomorrow we visit another active military establishment, as we're going to dive the navy pier.


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