We stayed in a campground in Kalbarri which is a sleepy little tourist town on the shores of the Indian Ocean.
It is mainly known for its majestic and powering cliffs that raise 100 m above the ocean along with several interesting rock formations at several lookout points along the shoreline. It is also a big surfing area during the summertime. I say summertime as they are supposedly just heading out of their winter. Funny. It looks like summer here to me!
When we arrived at the caravan park, it was all that we could do to keep the kids from running over to play in the playground. They quickly made several new friends from the Netherlands and Western Australia as they played on the merry-go-round, the swings, and the large bouncing pillow. Since it was 34°C, the kids quickly made their way from the playground into the pool to play for a while before supper was spooned out.
Everybody went to bed as we knew that the next it was going to be an early morning for some hikes inland in Kalbarri National Park. They are big on being brutally honest here in Australia, and they don’t shy away from being explicit if kids are present. First of all, they were quite explicit about the fact that you could die doing the hikes that we were going to be doing in the park that day.
Actually, an Asian Man, only 27 years old and supposedly quite fit, went to do the hike that we were going to do that day, had died during the hike from dehydration and cardiac arrest. The front desk staff at the park was not the only one who told us this either. However, the one fact that a lot of people left out was that this was during a rigorous eight kilometer hike down and through the river gorge where we were going, whereas we were only going to be doing 2.5km of that same hike.
Nonetheless, we woke up the next morning and headed out a little later than we expected and it was 24° at the campground when we left. Everybody warned us that it was at least 10°, if not 15°, hotter at the park and during the hike. We packed up all kinds of snacks and water in our backpacks and headed out.
We got to the ranger headquarters for the park and pulled in to buy our park pass. It was strange that on the way in, and at the ranger headquarters, there were signs that caravans were not allowed to go into the park as the road was unsealed.
This was a bit discouraging as we were really looking forward to doing this hike! We even went on some local websites that reinforced this caution. So, Deb and I were brainstorming as we headed back to the campground to see what we could do, even considering borrowing the owners vehicle for the morning so we could go do the hike. Either that or rent it. Then figuring out contingency plans for the rest of the day if we weren’t able to hike in the park. We got to the campground and the front office staff said that the road was paved the hallway last year and we should just go for it. I was a big relief! So we headed off again. Thankfully, When we got to the gate that actually issue the park permits, the person there said that the way it was paved the whole way as well. Not sure what the big deal with the signs were then.
Ok, history lesson time. The local Aboriginal people inhabited the area for thousands of years and have a dreaming story about the Rainbow Serpent forming the Murchison River as she came from inland to the coast with the name of Kalbarri.
The first hike we did was to a place called Natures Window. This was a short hike that took us out to a rocky point where, perched on the edge of the point, was a natural window with a nice view of the river gorge below.
It also made the perfect picture frame for photos.
The thinly bedded, red and white banded rocks through most of the river gorge were deposited millions of years ago on tidal flats. Rippled surfaces can be seen around Nature’s Window. The ripples were formed during ancient times by waves moving over tidal flats in a shallow sea.
The rock formations in the area are largely due to sedimentary rock that has been shaped over time by moving water and wind, so the rock layers that can be seen weave in and out like stacked waves of rock. Pretty cool.
The staff at the park gates were right in that it was quite hot. And yes, probably 10 degrees hotter than the coast where the campground is located. So, lots of water and sunscreen applications to keep everyone protected was required.
After the Natures Window hike, we headed over to the River Gorge (short version) hike. We all headed out, but I forgot to turn the gas on for the fridge to work on…so if we didn’t have a fridge in this heat, all of the food would have been garbage by the end of the first day! So, the kids and Deb went on ahead while I came later with my homemade eucalyptus fly deterring necklace. Looks ridiculous but it works.
As we descended down into the gorge, there were some fun obstacles to clamber through and ladders to climb.
I was hiking alone at the time, and heard yelling down the gorge, and thought “crap” to myself and picked up the pace to go see who was in trouble. I turned the corner and it was just some air cadets doing repelling exercises down the walls of the gorge. Not sure why they had to yell when no one was around and no one was in trouble.
I caught up to Deb and the kids down at the small watering hole at the end of the hike. It was more like a wading pool as you couldn’t really swim, but it was wet and there were cute fishes in the water that the kids could feed.
We met up with another family that was travelling for an extended period of time who had two kids that they were homeschooling too. However, they had the distinct advantage of being Montessori teachers themselves in the Netherlands. But after talking to them, they got the same kick back from their kids when it came time to buckle down…so we didn’t feel as bad being hardass parents. They were down at the watering hole as well splashing around, so it was great to for the kids to have someone to splash around with.
We dried off and got dressed back into our gear and headed out of the gorge to the trailer. Wilson was kind enough to offer some ice cream bars to their new friends, which was a nice early treat on such a hot day. However, the freezer, despite being on, wasn’t cold enough to keep the ice cream frozen, but enough to keep the chocolate shell intact. So, we bit into ours and the ice cream part exploded everywhere. We felt bad giving it to the other family as we were sure that they thought that this was some weird Canadian prank. We apologized to them later at the campground.
We had a mid day break at the swimming pool, which was the first pool that was actually heated so it was awesome and you could stay in longer than most other pools. We lounged around in the pool talking with other families who were travelling, picking up tips and tricks of where to go and what to see, which is always nice.
The kids are doing cheerleading when they get back home at a new cheerleading club down in Bracebridge, and they are excited about it. So, they were practicing doing cheerleading moves and throws in the pool.
We headed back out for a bit more sightseeing as the heat of the day calmed down. The first stop was at a beach called “Blue Pools” which is basically a shallow area to swim and snorkel that has some marine life for the kids to see. Wilson was just getting his confidence with respect to putting his face in the water and looking to see what underwater world looks like.
The kids are really afraid of seeing or getting attacked by a shark as there are a lot of great white sharks on this side of Australia. But they don’t usually come into water that is 30cm deep. I think they are bigger than that.
So, we took a quick look around, but the wind was quite strong and blew the sand into Deb and Lulu who were patiently waiting on the beach. We got back to the truck and Deb noticed that one of the tires looked flatter than the others, where it didn’t look like that before. So, she called Apollo RVs and asked them what to do. We couldn’t check the pressure as the valve was pointing inwards and was inaccessible. So they told Deb that they were going to send a service truck to fix the tire, but I got on the phone and asked what else we could do. The tire was low if anything, but it wasn’t flat. And the sun was setting, so I asked if we could just fill it up and see what happened over night. They said fine, so we decided to go see the coastline and then fill up the tires when we got back to town.
We drove up the coastal highway and out to a couple of view points where you could see the towering 100m cliffs being bashed by the waves below. Again, the layers of sedimentary rock provided a stunning landscape, and it was really cool to see the rock formations that had developed over time. Sometimes you can see whales and dolphins here, but no such luck today.
Anyways, after seeing a couple of view points, the kids didn’t want to see anymore, so Deb and I had a nice little break and some time to enjoy a walk just the two of us as the sun set over the horizon. I love my travel partner. I thought to myself how I am so lucky to have found someone who has the same adventurous spirit that I do, and can’t wait for all of the adventures to come.
Back in the van and I dropped the kids and Deb off at the campground and went to the gas stations, but in this sleepy town they were all closed. So I went back to the campground where our neighbour was part of that caravan club gathering, and he had all of the tools you would ever want in the back of his truck. Except compressed air. I tested the tire and it was a bit low but not crazy…so we decided that we would still top it up in the morning.
Dinner and bed, and we are ready to push on up the coast tomorrow!