Day 91: 28 August – Not your average Monday…

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kalbarri

Distance kayaked: unknown – time 3 hours

Distance hiked: 4 km

In spite of hearing rumbling thunder all around us, we made the decision to head out on to the Murchison River estuary for an explore in our pack rafts this morning. Lightning strikes were seen in the distance, but for the most part it was dry for our paddle. As always we were lucky enough to see lots of birdlife including pelicans, kites, a kestrel, turns diving for fish and more. And no other boats on the water.

We weren’t lucky the whole time though, with the clouds taking a sudden turn and then dumping their cargo on our heads. We returned to the car, deflated the boats and went back to the mobile apartment for hot showers and lunch.

After drying off and warming up we decided to head off again, this time in the car to see more of Kalbarri National Park, the coastal aspect. And what a coastline it is. This seems to be south-west WA’s answer to the Great Ocean Road, without the flies and icy cold winds, with rock formations including the likes of ‘Island Rock’, ‘Natural Bridge’, ‘Castle Cove’, ‘Grandstand Rock Gorge’ and ‘Eagle Gorge’. There is an 8km walk along the cliff tops linking all of these, but we didn’t have time to do the whole thing, so did short walks between sections.

There has been quite a bit of money spent on these decking walkways – stunningly crafted along the edge of the cliff with no barriers, tastefully designed to complement the scenery. As we walked along whales breached and fin slapped out at sea and a number of kestrels swooped artfully along the sheer walls. We even saw a stunning bright blue Splendid Fairy Wren – sadly too far out of reach of my camera to get a good photo.

And there was non-feathery wildlife also. At one lookout we arrived to find a rock wallaby waiting for us in the carpark, while at another an echidna strolled nonchalantly across the road in front of us. Just magic!

Our final evening at Kalbarri finished with a lovely sunset and the promise of more storm activity tonight to see us on our way south. We really feel we have only touched on the surface of Kalbarri – there are so many paddling, biking and hiking opportunities here, a week or more would have been better. 

Regardless, tomorrow we head off towards Geraldton via Northampton to adventures new.

Day 90: 27 August – Exploring Kalbarri National Park

Author: Mr A

Distance hiked: 10.5km

Flights climbed: 24 floors

Kalbarri National Park is 40km out of town, but a world away from the coastal scenery we had seen here. Towering walls reared up from the Murchison River. 

We set off on a walk called the Loop – yup – no one way stuff for us today. The river looked so pristine below as we peered over the edge of the sheer cliffs.It was a fabulous walk, one of the best day walks we have have done on this trip. Only a kilometre from the crowded car park and ‘Nature’s Window’ and we were alone, only seeing one other family during the 4 hour walk. 

After heading along a ridge line we climbed right down to the river. 

A game of swans (yes that’s right – look it up) sailed regally along the river. The cygnets just picture perfect.

We followed the river as it bent around, eventually leading us back to almost the same spot we had started from….very convenient. We got back to the car as the first spots of rain fell – perfect timing. 

The colours of the spring flowers as we left the national park were incredible, splashes of pink, yellow and white wherever we looked. It seems Western Australia’s famous wildflowers are beginning to finally show themselves.

We had decided on a fish and chip supper this evening, purchased as the sun set behind rain laden clouds. We were woofing these down by 6pm in the mobile apartment as the rain beat its tattoo on the roof. 

Day 89: 26 August – Beautiful Kalbarri

Author: Mrs A

Location: Kalbarri

Distance cycled: 17 km

Mr A woke up early and full of beans so set about cleaning the van, car and mountain bikes all before 7am! Of course I couldn’t really just stay in bed, so before long all the washing was on also, and Mr A heading off to the nearest bakery in town for freshly baked bread.

So by 9am, we were breakfasted and all tasks done, so we leaped on the bikes for an explore. First impressions are impressive. Kalbarri is a very small sleepy village, with about 6 places to eat out, either small cafes or pubs other than one, a single souvenir shop, two tiny privately owned local supermarkets (extremely expensive of course), and little else. There is a fishing fleet at the marina, and a fabulous coastal cycleway all along a stunning coastline. Kalbarri is where the Murchison River meets the ocean – the very same river we camped and hiked beside in Wooleen Station winds its merry way down to here. Hard to imagine!

The town reminds us of a smaller and quieter version of Coffs Harbour in NSW, probably as it would have been about 20 years ago. It sits in the midst of a national park – with walks along the coast as well as along the Murchison River gorge. 

There is even an ice creamery here – Mr A was excited to try a couple of flavours (Nutella and caramel ice cream), but I am sorry to say their sorbet choice extended to a single orange variety which was extremely sickly and tasted like it had been in the display unit a few too many months. Straight to the bin.

We cycled along a lovely shared pathway which follows the coast to Red Bluff, where the stunning turquoise waters meet the iron filled rock of the cliffs.

We were recommended a new eatery to dine at, ‘Upstairs Restaurant’, which had only opened in early July. We checked it out for dinner tonight. The chef is Spanish, trained in a Michelin Star restaurant in France, and the owner a young Iranian lady who has moved up here from Perth. She has brought a lot of class, with tablecloths (I know! in WA!), an excellent menu and wine list, and incredibly cooked food. Having skipped lunch, we were hungry and booked an early meal to watch the sunset over the sea. The owner had some time to chat about the challenges of starting a new business in a small town. Apparently she was told ‘It’s all too much for Kalbarri‘ – but being booked out for weeks on end and getting rave reviews on TripAdvisor suggests otherwise. We told her to stick with it.

The food was brilliant, and the Clare Valley Shiraz-Tempernillo blend we had with it was ideal. We shared some tapas for entree (hummus, baba ganoush, olives, olive oil and balsamic served with delicious bread from a Perth bakery plus fresh local king prawn skewers) and had separate mains (a half rack of glazed pork ribs with salad and crispy potatoes for me, and a whole crayfish tail for Mr A with salad) – exquisitely cooked.

A lovely night and back in the mobile apartment before 8.30pm! 

Need to burn all this food and drink off tomorrow – we are planning to head into the National Park for some hopefully tough hiking!

Day 88: 25 August – Back to the coast

Author: Mr A

From: Wooleen Station

To: Kalbarri

Distance: 415 km (220 km more than planned!)

Our final dawn at this station was shepherded in with a storm rumbling overhead, complete with rainbows. The raw beauty of this place just takes your breath away, and Catherine doesn’t have much breath to play with in the first place 🙂 

One last look down the stretch of the Murchison River that had shown us so many different moods in our few days here. 

We hitched up with our usual mixture of feelings when we find a special place. A bit sad to leave, knowing its very unlikely we will ever see this place again, and excitement for what’s ahead. We retraced oursteps to the Murchison Roadhouse. Now if anyone of you have occasion to refill the tank in these parts we can thoroughly recommend the place. Diesel at $1.29 a litre, cheap for this part of WA, spotless facilities, free Wifi that actually works and flowers in the garden! 

Ms Google was taking us to Mullewa, a tiny settlement that would break the otherwise long trip back to the coast. We arrived to find our unpowered site was on a hot, shadeless and dusty gravel car park across the road from any facilities in the main park…so we left in disgust. Why we should pay the local council $20s to stay in a car park I’m not entirely sure. A quick call to our next park and they were able to extend our stay to tonight…so off we roared. 

The most dramatic change in landscape occurred half way to to the coast. We went from the red dirt plains and acacia of the last few months up over a hill and this verdant scene opened up. Fields of yellow rape seed – our first cultivated non-grazing land since leaving northern NSW in early June. 

We arrived at our caravan park in Kalbarri pretty tired and quickly set up, heated up some pre-cooked yummy Spanish Mackerel  curry and flopped in front of the iPad for our nightly injection of Suits.