17—19 July 2002
The next morning we packed up our makeshift camp at the Overlander Roadhouse and drove 250 km to Kalbarri. The landscape changed markedly during the journey. Red dirt faded to orange, and we began to find ourselves among eucalyptus trees once again. We also saw conifers and wattles and grevilleas in flower. There were fields sewn with green crops, and when we drove into the national park we saw banksias, so familiar to us from the East Coast.
The approach to Kalbarri was lovely, and it is indeed a picturesque town. It’s a sleepy fishing village nestled between dramatic cliffs and bluffs, surrounded by a national park. It’s an unpretentious and laid-back place, even during this busy time of year.
Our first stop in town was the tourist bureau. While we were in there gathering information, Susie and I became painfully conscious of the fact that we stank, mostly of campfire, but also of sweat and petrol. As we approached the counter to ask about hairdressers and the road to Hut River Province, it was hard not to notice that the staff took a step back.
After stinking out the tourist bureau, we drove onto the Red Bluff Caravan Park just south of town. It proved to be a good choice. It was a pretty spot with gum trees aplenty, sheltered from the worst of the offshore breezes. We booked in for two nights and got some useful information from the woman behind the counter.
Having set up the tent, we promptly went about washing our clothes and our bodies. I went into town with Clare in search of a hairdresser but managed only to secure an appointment for the following morning. I also got a tip from the woman at the hardware store that blocked gas jets should be boiled in water with a little vinegar. I tested this advice when we returned to the camping ground, and the gas lantern returned to life. I’m hoping this trick will work for the stove jets as well.
In the evening we went out to dinner at a place called Findlay’s Seafood Barbeque Restaurant. This was a quirky venue which serves fine fish-n-chips. The place was adorned with all kinds of memorabilia including the switch used to detonate the British atomic test on Montebello Island off Western Australia. Most of the seating was outdoors, and we could enjoy an open fire—a luxury not permitted in caravan parks.
The next day we went into Kalbarri. Susie and Ruby watched the pelicans get fed while Clare and I got haircuts. I was very pleased to get shorn, and Clare got her hair cut into a short bob. After that we did a bit of shopping and checked our email for any urgent messages. We went to a second hand shop in the industrial area and picked up a few items.
It was a cold, grey day, so when we returned to camp I made a hearty pumpkin soup to warm us up. After lunch we went fishing at Clare’s request. The conditions were hopeless, but Clare has developed a keen interest in fishing, and she really enjoyed the outing. We started at Chinaman’s Rock and then moved to the rather more sheltered jetty out the front of town, where Clare could more easily dangle a hook into the water. We caught nothing, but it was great fun. Susie and Ruby read in the warmth and shelter of the car.
That evening I cooked up some kangaroo sausages we had bought in the morning, but they turned out to be a disappointment. I was also frustrated by our rapidly emptying gas cylinder. By the time I sat down to write this recount, I was cross-eyed with fatigue.
The next morning we headed off to Kalbarri National Park. The road out to the gorge was sandy, a bit corrugated, but firm. The sand was more the colour of Keen’s mustard powder than the usual paprika colour of the Kimberley and the Pilbara. We did the loop walk, a vigorous four hour round trip.
For the first third of the walk we traversed the upper edge of the gorge, which afforded fabulous views down into the water below. The purple wildflowers were just beginning to come out, and they looked stunning against the red cliff faces.
We then descended the gentle slope to the river level, and had lunch amongst the ghost gums in a serene spot where the river reflected the horizontal sedimentary banding in the walls of the gorge.
The next part of the walk involved negotiating a series of ledges that ran alongside the river.
Finally we emerged onto sandy flats, which were somewhat easier to traverse. It was a tiring walk. Clare did well to keep up, and I realised for the first time that I had trouble keeping up with Ruby. She is growing taller by the day, and she turns the heads of boys in town with her sultry good looks. She is increasingly seeking out time away from us, and wanting to assert her independence, for example when it comes to buying clothes. Our girl-child is becoming a teenager.
After the loop walk, we went to the lookout at Zed Bend and then drove back to Kalbarri, stopping to refuel. We grabbed some beer, nibblies, and cordial, and watched the sunset from Red Bluff. Then we went up the road a bit and walked down to Mushroom Rock in the dusk, and then back to camp for pesto with a rice salad thrown together by Ruby.
I was so tired I had to have a lie down after dinner. I’ve just hung out a load of washing on the line, our last before we hit Dunsborough in a few days. We are reaching the end of our southward journey through Western Australia. Tomorrow it’s off to Cervantes, and then possibly a bush camp, and on to Dunsborough, where we hope we might enjoy the creature comforts of a real house for a couple of days.