Kalbarri and the Kalbarri National Park Western Australia 20.03.07
9 Mar 2007
This venue was a very much looked forward to destination, though with some concern. At the time we were baking under the hot sun at Sea Bird on Australian Day weekend, a 50 year old Perth woman died in the Kalbarri National Park near Nature's Window. It is believed heat exhaustion and dehydration contributed to her death.
As we approached Kalbarri there were several run offs to lookout points, all involving walking. We took a lot of photographs and sorted out the best shots at a later time. Kalbarri proved to be the nicest place with the best camp site we had visited to date.
Normally there would be a sand bar across the mouth of the river, separating it from the harbour until the winter rains come. A cyclone during early January deposited enough water in the interior for the surge of water at the river mouth to wash away the sandbar. Consequently the fishing boats were all using the river mouth and the beach of the river mouth was right across from our camp site.
Our first task was to visit the Tourist Office where we learned the roads in Kalbarri National Park were far too difficult for our van. So we sussed out the trips. One took us to Nature's Window, the Z Bend Lookout and then a steep walk into a gorge where we would try our hand, (or in this case arms), at canoeing. Neither of us had canoed before but Sylvia was really up for it, so we booked. Then the bad news, we would be picked up at our camp site at 7.45am tomorrow.
The night was still young so we walked to the other end of town where the Tin Shack, a fish and chip shop with a great reputation, was situated. We shared a table with John and Wilma who own a large farm at Cunderdin, near where the earth quake had taken place. (Reported in an earlier blog). They were good company and my knowledge of Australian farming increased. Sylvia and I promised to visit if we ever pass that way again; Oh! and the food was great.
Up early and well organised with two litres of water each, we met with another 10 for the trip. A rocky downhill path took us to Nature's Window which was a big rock with a hole through it. Our next walk down a path was to the Z Bend Lookout where there were fossilised tracks in a rock, identified by English scientists as being made by a prehistoric animal similar to a two metre long scorpion. As expected, it was very hot. We arrived back at our transport, a very able four wheeled drive 'all terrain' vehicle where Dave, our guide, was preparing glasses of fresh orange juice and slices of home made banana cake.
It was at this time I made the most important discovery of the whole trip. In a bucket were towels submerged in cold water. My companions were wrapping a towel round their face and head and I did the same. Then they put the wet towel round their neck. I did not fancy this bit and Sylvia pointed out I would be the only one who abstained. Well I tried this wet dripping towel round my neck and became an instant convert, re- soaking my towel throughout the day. I later learned that the wet neck towel was common place in summer when driving cars before the advent of air-conditioning.
The final walk into the gorge was steep and the walk along the gorge was hot and spectacular. Our camera and other valuable items were locked in a big box whilst we canoed so I'm sorry to say there are no pictures of this momentous event. Sylvia and I managed to negotiate along the river and round the rocks for over one and a half kilometres and returned; a total of about two miles and only hit the side once. Most of all, we were still speaking civilly on our return.
Whilst talking with Dave, an excellent guide who has owned his company for 9 years, he told us of his previous chequered working career and the time he was a bar man. A new owner had publicised 'Skimpy's' in the bar, an event that had never happened in that particular town before. When the night arrived three quarters of the bar was crowded with men and the remainder was occupied by their wives. The owner announced the 'skimpies' and in walked Dave and the other bar man, bare chest and tights; much to the delight of the women and the annoyance of the men.
The climb out of the gorge was very challenging and Sylvia and I, the oldest in the group, were very glad to reach the transport. On return home I crashed out on one of our comfortable reclining chairs. It had been very hot and sultry in the gorge and we had drunk all of our water and some of Dave's spare supply. I was not surprised he carried a satellite mobile phone for emergencies; someday it may be vital.
It transpired we had been lucky, in two days time the park would shut for 6 days whilst ferule goats and wild pigs are shot from an aeroplane. There are attempts to return the National Parks to the original habitat. Foxes, and to lesser extent wild cats, are fed poisoned meat balls, dropped from planes because they kill the indigenous wild life. The goats and pigs take over the habitats of the indigenous animals and eat their food. Goats can breed at the age of 6 months and have two pregnancies a year. The carcases will be left for other birds and animals to eat.
Well, the next day we were very tired, but we had to get up early to attend the pelican feeding about 40 yards from our van. After breakfast we recognised we were far too tired to walk anywhere and so we got out the bikes and cycled up the hill out of town to Rainbow Jungle, a rare parrot breeding sanctuary. This was a very interesting place and we spent a lot of time, especially in the large free flying area. The star was Cocky whose cage was in the area where we had coffee and muffins. Despite his large verbal routine, if I went to the brochure rack he would sidle across to me and always say, "Hello, what's the matter with you" and then shove his head into a tin with his rear in the air. Am I missing something, is there a hidden message somewhere.
A further quarter of a mile took us to a 'Sea Horse' research and breeding station. Nearly all sea horses taken from the wild and sold to the public for home aquariums die as they are not used to dead food. Here, they breed live micro organisms to feed the baby sea horses and start weaning them off slowly and onto frozen tiny bits of shrimp, (available in pet shops), after 2 ½ weeks. We viewed one tank of 1 day old sea horses which as you would expect were very tiny. There was also a tank of 1 week old and others more mature. Two sea horses were conducting a courtship dance, at the end of which the female sea horse would deposit her eggs into the pouch of the male. This can last for several hours, or in the case of old sea horses, a couple of minutes.
Flash photography is harmful to the sea horses and so no photographs, just memories. The day had gone and very interesting it had been. Prior to getting back on our bikes, and purely to help the local economy, we had Devonshire Cream Teas. After our evening meal I watched the sunset and took pictures. The ones facing the west are in complete contrast with those facing the east.
Kalbarri is one place I would give a ten star rating and I don't think I would ever tire of returning. On our last morning we spent two hours on the internet downloading messages and placing new entries on the blog site before lunch on the foreshore and our last gaze at Kalbarri. On our way out of the National Park we visited two viewing spots which we could drive to. The journey to our night's destination was pleasant in our air conditioned cab and very very hot at the Overlander Roadhouse where the generator kept going the whole night because it would probably not restart if it was switched off.