Day 113 & 114 – Wednesday 5th & Thursday 6th October 2011
Here I am again, writing an entire weeks worth of blog a week and a bit after it happened, so I apologise in advance for any boring bits and lack of minute detail!
On Wednesday we drove straight from stinky roadhouse to the little seaside town of Kalbarri. Usually little anyway, with a population of 2000, but this jumps to around 10,000 apparently during peak season, which being school holidays, it was.
We had not expected to have to book into a caravan park, we usually just rock up, but when we drove up to this one it looked PACKED. And, bizarrely, not with the rows and rows of Jayco Expandas and Windsor Rapids like we normally see, but rows and rows of tents! Yes, these were not our ‘fellow travellers’, but loads and loads of families up here with their kids for school holidays. Brilliant, you may think, for the boys to have other kids to play with, but we’ve become accustomed to our rest areas, camp spots, and quiet, run down caravan parks, and this caravan park just felt too super busy for me.
However, we were due for some water, power, showers and washing machines, and we wanted to explore Kalbarri National Park tomorrow without van in tow, so we stayed.
First stop was a visit to the parrot breeding centre, where there is a large free flight aviary to walk through, as well as many other caged parrots. It was very interesting with lots of birds I’d never seen before, some beautiful colours, and walking through the free flight aviary was gorgeous, with birds just flying and hopping around right next to you.
I was pretty excited to see a female red-tailed black cockatoo, as I’d never seen one before, or at least not noticed the difference, and was quite surprised to see how ‘tiger-striped’ their tail feathers are!
On Thursday morning I bundled everyone in the car bright and early to get to the foreshore for ‘pelican feeding’ time, only to find a sign saying that the pelicans were ‘on holidays at Lake Eyre’. I think I was more disappointed than the boys. I was looking forward to seeing Daniel’s reaction to the pelicans!
On to the national park, where the highlight of the trip was a 1.2km walk to ‘Nature’s Window’, which is an amazingly perfect natural ‘window’ that frames a view of the Murchison River below.
Got back to Kalbarri and played at the playground on the foreshore and had some hot chips for dinner.
Day 115 – Friday 7th October 2011
We left Kalbarri today and took the coastal drive down past some little fishing towns. First stop, Port Gregory, with a total population of 42! We saw two of them sitting on a verandah, but apart from that the town looked completely deserted. There was a nice beach and a caravan park, and we wished we’d stayed there instead! Such a quiet little spot. The main feature of Port Gregory, and the reason for our visit, was the famous ‘Pink Lake’, which gets it’s pink colour from naturally occurring beta-carotene – the same thing that makes carrots orange! It was a bizarre thing to see.
We stopped again just outside of Port Gregory to explore some convict ruins – buildings built in the 1850’s where convicts used to stay while working in surrounding mines. This is the old ‘prison’ part, where apparently there are names and initials that the actual convicts engraved on the walls, but every other Tom, Dick and Harry has also engraved their name on here so you can’t see what’s history and what’s just graffiti. Pity.
Next stop, Northampton, another quaint little town with pretty, historic buildings dotting the main street. We found a little playground in a lovely, grassy park and spent a good while playing, having a picnic and climbing a brilliant tree. A beautiful spot that just had that ‘something’ and I could have stayed forever.
Coolest climbing tree ever.
This photo was an accident but I love it!
There was a beehive in a nearby tree and some honeycomb on the ground!
The beautiful church in Northampton, built in the 1850’s.
After the picnic in the park, lots of tree climbing, a nosy through a little art exhibition, a quiet moment in the church, and a walk down the main street looking at all the old buildings, we thought the day couldn’t get any better than this. But then I spotted a book out the front of a second hand shop that I thought would be great for Ethan now that he is an avid reader – a small kids mystery book – and it was free! That was pretty great, and when Jack looked in the freebie box and spotted a little book on making amulets, he proclaimed that he’d always wanted one of those so he was happy too!
We walked along happily towards the supermarket, the boys engrossed in their new books, me thinking how exquisite our day had been, when what do I see in the reserve in front of us but…a wedding! Seriously, what is with this town? It’s just too gorgeous!
I just could not get over the absolute deliciousness of our day, but surely going into a supermarket could not possibly make things any sweeter…or could it?
That’s it. I was sold. Officially my favourite day of our trip. Pink lakes, convict ruins, gorgeous towns with climbing trees and free books. What more could you ask for?
Somewhere to camp would be nice. Our planned rest area for the night now displays a ‘camping prohibited’ sign, so we took a detour and ended up at another rest area that was absolutely jam-packed (I guess because we didn’t get there til dinner time). It was fine though, and we all had a good night’s sleep after our big day.
Day 116 & 117 – Saturday 8th October & Sunday 9th October 2011
Today we drove quickly through Geraldton to stock up on some food before heading out to Ellendale Pool campground, about 45 kms out of town. This is a pretty little spot on the river, with toilets and a playground. Our first night was fairly quiet but on Sunday all the locals turned up for their Sunday bbq’s. Having a playground at a camp spot was great and it kept the kids busy most of the time. There was a sign at the river saying ‘swim at your own risk’ because the water may contain something causing meningitis! All the locals were still swimming but not us! It wasn’t hot anyway so we weren’t missing out on much.
I just realised that I didn’t take any photos of this spot, I guess because there was no reception so my phone was off all the time, but I’d recommend it if you’re going that way as it’s pretty and cheap, $5 per night.
Day 118 – Monday 10th October 2011
Happy Birthday Emie! Welcome to the world gorgeous girl. Well done Mummy and Daddy! xx
Today we left Ellendale Pool and headed to a rest area a bit closer to a town, as I needed internet reception to submit an assignment. We passed by a paddock of rams and I couldn’t believe my eyes – Check out the balls on this thing!! How does he walk?
Day 119 – Tuesday 11th October 2011
Left the rest area, drove through a town to get a bit of food, then on to Green Head, another small coastal town about 250km from Perth. The drawcard of this town is that it’s closest to where we want to go tomorrow – Stockyard Gully National Park. Apart from that, nothing to report here.
Day 120 – Wednesday 12th October 2011
This morning we left the caravan park bright and early to get to Stockyard Gully in time to see it and be back to remove the van from the park by 10am checkout. The track in is 4WD only and we can’t take the van with us.
Stockyard Gully is a small national park with one drawcard – a big, limestone cave, named as such because stockmen used to use it to stay in overnight en route to wherever they were going. It was a natural ‘yard’ for the cattle. Signs at the entrance warn you of all the grave danger you are about to face when you enter the cave – First of all, you need to get past the ‘aggressive, feral bees’ that make their hives at the entrance (brilliant, with two kids who are allergic to bee stings), next you need to watch out for flash flooding (should be okay as it hasn’t been raining…much), then it is recommended you wear a hard hat (oops), take spare batteries and spare torches (well, we’ve got five torches between us so I think we’re okay there) and then, if you even make it through the cave alive, you need to watch out for the quicksand – yes, I said quicksand! – at the other side!
Fabulous. Let’s go.
The 300 metre walk through the dry creek bed up to the cave entrance was very pretty…and safe.
As we headed to the cave entrance and heard the familiar droning sound, I started to worry about the killer bees. Quick boys, into the nice safe cave!
The cave curves around a bit, so within a few metres you cannot see the nice, light opening anymore and you are literally in pitch blackness. Really black. I have never seen anything so dark before. The torch light didn’t even have anything to reflect on so the only thing you could see was what was literally in the beam of light and everything else was just nothingness…and completely and totally silent. Yes, even Daniel. Thank goodness because if he had squealed he might have brought down one of the massive, ‘unstable’ stalactites bearing down on us from above. If one of those babies fell on you I don’t think a hard hat would have made much difference to the end result.
The occasional large rock on the ground (aka fallen stalactite) made me a little, okay, a fair bit nervous. The dark and the quiet didn’t frighten me, that part was pretty awesome actually, but the thought of being crushed under a big falling shard of limestone was enough to make me walk that bit faster. As amazing as it was, seeing the literal ‘light at the end of the 200 metre long tunnel’ is quite a relief. Once we got to the end, however, and had to decide whether to take the ‘loop walk’ back or go back through the tunnel, the boys voted for going back through the tunnel, so we did. (I must admit, once we were safely on the other side I was glad we’d done it again. It was pretty cool).
Jack’s quote on the way back to the car – “I’ve ALWAYS been into cave walking”.
Well, what could top that morning but driving to ‘The Pinnacles’ near Cervantes for the afternoon. This ‘desert’ has more limestone – this time limestone pillars sticking up out of the sand. We spent quite a while here, the boys playing hide and seek amongst the pillars and me just marvelling at the weirdness of it all, these thousands and thousands of pillars on acres and acres of bare sand, while right next door are beaches and fishing towns and scrub.
And tonight, a record broken, as we sleep in an ‘unofficial’ rest area (it’s actually a day use picnic area, but who’s checking?), we are all alone! First night ever to not be joined by another soul.
Until next time folks! Love yas XXX