After two very enjoyable and relaxing weeks at Coral Bay on Western Australia’s Ningaloo reef, it was time to pack up the snorkelling gear, say goodbye to the mice, and continue our journey southward down the WA coastline.
Hamelin Pool (Home of the Stromatolites. What’s that I hear you say – check out Wikipedia if you don’t know) was next in our sights but not before a brief 2 x night stop over in Carnarvon some 2 hrs down the bitumen to restock supplies, refill our drinking water tanks, and for the first time in 3.5 months, properly wash both the D4 and Kimberley. After 11,000kms on the road (2.2k of this on the red stuff), the equipment was in need of a tub, and a tub they both received on a lovely grassy site at the WinterSun Caravan Park. This is one of the few tourist parks we’ve experienced on the WA coast so far that encourage you to wash your vehicle/van with good town water (everything we’ve experienced from Broome down has been hard-water and quite saline mostly taken from bores) and with a small gold-coin donation, use as much as needed. We took almost all day to wash them and in the end both scrubbed up like new, especially the Kimberley.
The following day was fine but hot again, we drove north to some local coastal blowholes just south of Quobba Station which is 75kms north of Carnarvon. The natural blowies along this part of the coast were trying to excite us and you had to be patient for them to fire but we did jag a photo or two of Celia and the boys getting wet by them. (With the wind caused by the blowhole had an interesting effect Celia’s dress making it look like a weird 70’s style summery jump-suit – see photo).
Afterwards, we had a snorkel stop at a local bay (Known as the aquarium) some 500 metres from the blowies. We drove back to Carnarvon later in the afternoon to spend a couple of hours at the Carnarvon Space Station (operating as a great space museum recently opened in 2012 by Buzz Aldrin) which had originally been built from 1965-67 to support the American moon landing in 1969 – all up, quite a busy but thoroughly enjoyable day had by all.
Leaving Carnarvon the next day, we hitched up and set off just before 8am, refueled just down the road at the Caltex (Diesel AUD$1.43ltr – not too bad), set the cruise control as we often do to 96kms per hr, and headed further south just inland off the coast.
After passing through the 26th Parallel latitude, we came to a very well sign-posted turnoff for the Shark Bay region (a.k.a. Monkey Mia et al) and 35kms further down this road into Shark Bay region was the Hamelin Pool campground turnoff we came to stay.
It was just before midday, 43deg Celsius, (a new high temp recording for us on this trip) and we looked around the small’ish campsite for a spot out of the heat and under some shade, but nothing. No shade, no grass and nothing but lots of hot dry sand all around. Hmm we thought. The forecast was for a few days of similar very hot weather and being right on the coast was not reducing the heat by a few deg as we had previously thought it may. So we cut our loses, turned around, and decided to miss the Shark Bay area altogether (we did not intentionally want to see Monkey Mia anyway) and set sail to Kalbarri National Park that same afternoon.
We hit the outskirts of Kalbarri somewhere around 4:30pm. Approx 7kms just out of town at an elevation of 255m we quickly stopped at a lookout on the Kalbarri road and the temperature was nudging 38deg. We were immediately concerned Kalbarri was going to be not much better off than Hamelin Pool however much to our relief, as we descended from the lookout and surrounding rolling hills down into the Kalbarri township, the D4’s temp gauge dropped to 29deg in the space of a couple of minutes. What a relief we thought.
A couple of day before however, we had met a lovely couple of travellers at the WinterSun and going by their recommendation, we decided to stay at the Anchorage Caravan Park in Kalbarri. We pulled into the long dusty campground drive way, checked in, and found a nice (if exposed) site to park the Kimberley for 6 nights directly opposite the Murchison River, and in eye & ear shot of the local marina. Over the days and nights we had come to recognise the various boat engine sounds that often start from 3:00am onwards – most were fishing vessels, some were charters and a few other working types floating flotsam & jetsam that made some type of early morning noise.
The very next morning, our first day in Kalbarri whilst having breakfast, we were privileged to be paid a visit outside our van by a rather large seagull. Not one of us had ever seen a Gull of this size or proportion before. Over the coming days, several times each day this beautiful bird would visit us, but we soon realised on the 2nd day it was sadly a flightless “Pacific Gull” and couldn’t fly, and Aidan affectionately named him/her ‘Melvin’. It had a right deformed wing (massively stunted for unknown reason) and could not fly at all. Pacific Gulls are one of the larger gull species (at least double the size of a normal seagull) with a large powerful beak and spend most of their time at sea. Due to Melvin’s plight, he had become a land-based bird and his future (and possible survival) depended on handouts from travellers and from the various fishing boats at the marina whilst keeping a sharp eye out for stray dogs, foxes and dingoes that maybe interested in him. He was a delightful bird and we all enjoyed having Melvin around camp (particularly in the evening when cooking) and he especially took a great liking to our red water basin (as shown in the in the image) and became quite protective of it from other birds that would also visit, especially the tenacious Pee Wee’s.
Nonetheless, it was the Kalbarri National Park and the lovely beaches that we had come to see in this part of WA and spend some time in and for those who have not been to Kalbarri, the park is split into a distinct coastal section and, an inland gorge(s) section spread over land area of 186,000 hectares with the Kalbarri township wedged between both.
Our first park visit was down too the 14km coastal section to view the many 100M high bluffs that dot this part of the WA coastline in the hope of spotting a whale, shark or even a manta ray…anything really. By midday and after stopping at several lookouts, we fell short on spotting any marine animals.
As the temp rose to 36deg, we decided to make a stop at the Rainbow Parrot Breading Sanctuary 5kms south of the Kalbarri township. A reasonable cost of $40 entry for a family, many of the fine bird exhibits were walk-through aviary types with numerous parrot and local bird species flying freely around. The boys loved it and it was 2hrs well worth the money and later that afternoon we headed back into town for some fresh fish (and chips) for a late lunch. After lunch we decided to head 15kms or so up the back reaches of the Murchison River to have a look around on the hundreds of 4WD tracks that seem to be everywhere.
After dinner that night, we headed down to the marina just down the road with our fishing rods in hand, some high-hopes, and threw a few lures into the Murchison. Despite seeing and hearing many fish jumping, after an hour or so, we all came back home empty-handed, but the boys had a great time casting, retrieving and perfecting the art of controlling their lures without getting snagged, but no fish this time.
The following day was a quiet one. Lochie was slowly coming down with a lurgy, Aidan was still getting over his, we also had some food supplies to replenish, mail to collect and several other chores to be attended too as well.
The day after, we set off inland approx 45Kms to Kalbarri’s “Z-Bend” and “Natures Window” national park walks as well as trying our luck in finding any late in the season blooming wild flowers still worthy of a photo. As we entered the park, we were greeted and somewhat amused by a WARNING rough road warning sign. The road in actual fact was in great condition (we thought) with few corrugations, on mostly light soft yellow hard-packed sand, and we didn’t even have to reduce our tyre pressures …for a nice change. We’re quietly hoping for lot’s more “rough roads” like this one on the rest of our journey.
We soon made our way out of the z-bend car park on foot towards the main lookout. It was a straightforward pleasant walk over a couple of Kms on what was a coolest day in several weeks we had and was a bone-chilling 23Deg. We didn’t complain and the boys were yet again on the look out to spot a wild Thorny Devil which still eludes us …but we’ll happily keep on trying to find this wonderful little creature in the wild – won’t we boys!
After the lookout walks we had chosen to do, our attention turned to Kalbarri wildflowers. We saw a few lovely examples along the side of the road coming into the park but there was nowhere to safely pull over to get off the road to shoot them. In the end, I used a storm water runoff channel common in these parts and parked down one of these to get off the road – thank goodness for 4WD, as the soil conditions off the road is very soft.
Kalbarri is well-known for its wild flowers having some 1200 recorded species however we were two months or so behind the best time to view the majority of them …still, we did manage to find a few late season examples to marvel at and take a shot or two. In general, the park is littered with wondrous examples of large Grasstrees (they were called ‘blackboys’ when I was growing up in a non-PC world) numerous bottle brushes, many types of Grevilleas, Banksias, native orchids the last goes on …and there is of course the Western Australian Christmas tree which is apparently the worlds largest Mistletoe would you believe which I managed a photo of above/left. Apparently the WA Xmas bush is not doing too well and scientists don’t know why their numbers are rapidly diminishing. These lovely looking stunted trees are seen from Kalbarri in the north to Esperance in the south and bloom in late Nov/early Dec each year.
Kalbarri is also well known for it’s beautiful beaches, fishing, and at times, BIG surf with beach options quite varied to suit many interests.
Just inside the southern headland of the Murchison river is a great 1km or so section of a few small protected beaches opposite the main street of Kalbarri. We frequented Chinaman’s Beach most days for an hour or two, mainly because it was reasonably safe for the boys, access was easy and it had some nearby shade structures for yours truly. The waters in the river were not as clear as we’d seen further north (darker sand here) but you could still see various schools of fish (mainly Tailor we saw) up and down the shoreline when taking the time to look for them.
A couple of kilometres down the coast from the river mouth are numerous surf beaches and one evening that was showing early signs of shaping up to be a good-looking sunset, I quickly jumped in the D4 and drove 5 minutes away to the ‘Red bluffs’ with camera, several lenses and tripod to see what would eventuate.
As it turned out, a big black band of thick cloud formed on the horizon quickly put an end to any decent sunset occurring, however I did get to fire off a couple of interesting long exposure shots of the rolling 2.5M swell about 20 minutes after the sun had dropped and have some fun slowing down the surf motion to create a water cotton effect.
A few days later however, another sunset took even better shape and I went to the same place and we got a few worthy shots of this one – this blog feature image is one of those shots. (Check out the Flickr page for a High-Res version if interested – click here.
On one of the hot days in Kalbarri where the temperature was forecasted to hit 41 deg, we decided to run down the coast 70Kms to Port Gregory to hopefully escape the heat and to take a peek at the Hutt Lagoon (known as the Pink Lake) and visit the protected coral-coves they have inside a coral reef less than 1km off-shore.
It was a Saturday and was also a local fishing competition designated for inside the Port Gregory coral-cove and many turned up in boats and numerous were beach fishing as well. We toiled to enter, but decided in the end not too, as our recent fishing form was so devastating and we didn’t want show up the locals on how to do it. So we decided to swim most of the day where the fishing comp was being held instead. Swam we did and the water was warm and we were also lucky to have a rare off-shore wind – the first we’d seen in WA since we arrived. There where no shortages of places to swim and frolic so we drove from one end of the beach to the other (approx 10kms) and decided to perch ourselves under a makeshift hut 3kms from town to get a bit of shelter from the sun. We loved our full day in Port Gregory where the fishing boats out way the people 3 to 1 in the small town of probably less than 70. If you were a die-hard fisher person, this town would be utopia.
Over the past 11,000kms, we have accumulated a few niggling issues with the Kimberley Kruiser and I’ve been arranging these to be sorted under warranty by an authorised Kimberley dealer for when we reach Perth in two weeks. Not the best time of year to be having repair work carried out on your “principal place of residence” being so close to Xmas, and with the added disruption to all of us finding suitable accommodation whilst the van is being repaired.
Kimberley though, have so far stood by their product and support and have looked after us and will make good on all the issues so we can confidently continue on our journey down to Margaret River and then onto the great southern region of WA in the coming month(s) and beyond. (Comment: Not sure you would get this level of service and commitment with all other caravan manufactures, but I guess this in part is what you are paying for!) Actions speak louder than words so lets see what eventuates.
Just a quick update on the boys school work program.
Both Aidan and Lochie are doing well and most Mon-Fri mornings we set aside between 2-4hrs for them to conduct their scheduled work. So far, despite a slow start in the first month or so, their marked results by the distance education program of NSW, has been surprisingly high when you consider all the many distractions the boys have and would rather be doing than stuck in the van typing answers to questions on an iPad.
As expected, there has been a few challenges and hiccups along the way but by and large, the boys have done a great job at applying themselves and we’re both proud of the quality and commitment to their school work so far.
So boys, when you read this, let’s continue the great work and dedication to your school work so we all can see and do lots more fantastic and enjoyable things as we continue our journey. Job very well done!
And to fittingly end this weeks blog, I’m going to say a few words about Celia. Hopefully I don’t get too carried away…
Journeys like we’re currently undertaking for a year don’t happen too often with people at our age. Yes, more people and families in general are now doing this type of thing, we’ve even met a few lovely families on this trip, but it is still not commonplace when compared to (respectfully) the older generation of tourers who have essentially paved the way for people like us ‘youngies’ to give it a go.
And whilst our trip is not just about beer, cordial and skittles, living a year out of a van touring with two young children, you still need a specific understanding, support and most importantly, a dependable and reliable partner that you know will always be there to help and balance decisions to be made when needed. Celia is this person through-and-through, and not that I have ever forgotten this wonderful quality about her, I’ve now been afforded a whole new perspective on this from experiencing a family trip like we are now doing. And it is so wonderfully gratifying!
A net effect of this experience is that it helps stabilise, strengthen, even galvanise the relationship in such a way that enables you to make clearer decisions whilst balancing calculated risks in your life journey that makes for a more meaningful and rewarding relationship in a family unit as a whole.
I also wish to mention it was our 14th wedding anniversary earlier this week and we were kicking back over a glass of wine in the evening (Melvin was there too) asking ourselves, where exactly has that time gone? Almost 16 years ago since we first met in Thredbo (and yes, I know it’s an over-used cliché) however it genuinely seems like almost yesterday. It’s crazy. We don’t know what the secret is, but we both know whatever the key ingredients are it doesn’t entirely matter as the relationship simply works and we take nothing for granted from one another.
Perhaps though, it has a little something to do with the late Richie Benaud management mantra of the old channel nine cricket commentary team, a speech Richie gave that Celia and I first heard in our first year together back in 2000 that we’ve never forgotten. It came about early one morning before the start of the 2nd day in a test match between Australia and Pakistan when Richie was trying to address all of the commentary team however there was some disorder amongst some team members at the time. In true Richie fashion in his beige blazer he famously said, so the story goes;
“FELLAS, FELLAS …now listen up and LISTEN good. I’m only going to say this once and once only …we simply must ALL work as a team and do it MY way”
Well, says it all really!
A bit of tongue-in-cheek, yes, however it is this type of fuse-breaker, somewhat light-hearted and slightly bent humour that we both equally love and often forms part of our relationship in many forms.
Sadly though, Richie is no longer here …however, I have my very own version of Richie 😉 …but Celia, please, no Pakistani Cricket team surname pronunciation classes, please.
Well, that’s it folks for this week, please excuse some of my ramblings in this blog and until next blog, take care everyone!
PS, Have you seen? I have had quite a few requests for more images from various people and for those of you interested in viewing more besides whats in each blog, you can check these out in the blog menu “trip archive” where I am uploading more random images each week that we have ALL been taking at various times. These are not all the images, just a select few to place into a few images category’s we’ve created. Hope you enjoy them.
For those who wish to see a few select high-res images from the trip so far can see them on our Flickr image site by Click here
As they say, what is the best camera to use …what ever one you have on you at the time. 🙂