I feel like I’ve experienced proper Australia for the fist time today- and my god I love it. We woke up with the sun and the dawn chorus, and went for a walk by the sea, a mere two minutes away. The area of beach we reached was enclosed by a headland and a band of rocks, which caused the waves to break and flood into the bay. The morning sun was glinting upon the hideously expensive hire boats, and a casual flock of pelicans floated gently out to sea a few metres from us. I’ve never seen them so close, and they’re very weirdly proportioned, with necks nearly as long as their backs and beaks with bulging flaps of skin underneath. They’re surprisingly tame and we managed to get nearly half a metre away from them, before fearing they’d attack us since all Australian animals seem out to get us. We wandered down the beach with the 8am sun beating strongly down upon us, before heading back for a meagre breakfast.
By 10am we were set to go, and drove down the bumpy dirt track to Kalbarri National Park. Despite being accustomed to the scenery, it still didn’t fail to impress me, and I rode along in high spirits. I managed to fall asleep even though it wasn’t a very long drive and the car was constantly vibrating and skidding across the dry, red earth. I certainly do have napping skills. The scenery there was unpicturable, although I still stopped every five minutes to try and capture the beauty. We chose the 3-4 hour hike- probably an unwise decision as it was 30deg or more- and set off enthusiastically. Five minutes later we’d reached Nature’s Window, dripping with sweat and exhausted from a 200m climb downhill the rest of the hike was going to be fun. There were hoards of tourists doing ridiculous poses, and we didn’t have the patience to take our own posed picture. Instead, we battled on in theblistering heat, stopping every few minutes to marvel at the views. We walked along the cliff edge lining the Murchison gorge, on rocks formed underwater 440 million years ago. We soon came across a huge cave on the side of the cliff, which formed a beautiful pool of shade and framed the river andbeach below. The stark colours were defined even more by the blazing heat and the shimmering air: bright red and white striped Tumblagooda sandstone, murky green water, bright white sand lining the river and yellow Kalbarri catpaws bordering the cliff edge. We trudged on, breathing in the view and the dry australian air. Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago if id experienced the notorious Australian flies and I answered that I hadn’t seen a single fly during my time here. During that hike today I definitely discovered what they’d been referring to. The insects were bloody everywhere! Harmless at least, but determined to annoy you at much as possible. They got in your clothes, in your ears, up your nose… one even flew into my mouth and I swallowed it! It tasted vile, and I had the song ‘there was an old woman who swallowed a fly’ stuck in my head for the rest of day.
We’d been walking for around an hour, batting away flies with fly swats we’d fashioned from the bushes (genius, eh?), when the path started going downhill. Five minutes later, we were in paradise. Scalding hot sand, trees lining the shore and a green river with towering red cliffs as a backdrop. And what’s more, we were the only people there. Not bad. I ran straight into the water fully clothed and fell over immediately. But my god it was wonderful. I did wonder briefly about the possibility of crocodiles, but I’ve got this ‘I’m on a year abroad’ mentality (OAYA rather than YOLO) so I stayed in the murky river, feeling the slimy moss beneath my feet and feeling ridiculously happy. We had lunch by the river in the shade of a tree, and I continued to bat away the flies, who were very intent on landing on my very stale and probably gone off ham sandwich.
We decided to head back after that, as the remaining part of the loop was 5k and the sign recommended that you had at least 3-4L of water. The sign also warned that a woman had died there last year, so that was rather worrying. The hike back was even harder, as the first part was uphill and the wind had died. I embraced the sweat and by the end I truly resembled a beetroot.
I then managed to sum up the courage to drive, despite the fact that I hadn’t driven since I’d passed my test and that was ten months ago… I didn’t crash, and that’s the main thing. I did however:
- Turn on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicators
- Slam on the brakes, thinking it was the clutch pedal (I’m used to driving a stick shift)
I also freaked out when the car behind me stated honking ferociously at me… before I realised that it was the music! I didn’t think I was driving thaaat badly! I thoroughly enjoyed the drive, loving feeling in control despite the fact that I had the lives of four others completely in my hands. But its not as if the driving here is difficult. Endless stretches of undulating road, pretty much straight the whole time until a sneaky bend catches you unawares. Countless ups and downs and over the brow of each hill you expect to see some sort of civilisation, but it’s just more road stretching infinitely into the distance, fading into the horizon. You pass more roadkill than cars on the highway, and we spotted several evil looking vultures feeding on kangaroo carcasses. We passed on average ten cars an hour, if that, and around forty cows/goats, who kept veering into the road and causing mayhem. I felt on top of the world, trying to keep up with the other car that was zooming along at 160km/h and trying hard not to drift (which is more difficult that it sounds!) It was certainly exhilarating.
We pulled into a very strange looking motel/campsite just before dark and started to set up camp. The place had a strange feel to it- a few km down a dirt track in the middle of nowhere, but with a shop, arestaurant, a heated pool (which they called a spa- dubious) and a petrol point. The sun was setting into the Indian Ocean, and the palm trees were silhouetted against the orange sky, and we raced down to the beach. We discovered a kitchen to our relief and started boiling some water, but a strange man came in and told us we weren’t allowed to cook there. We held our ground rather frostily, but he must’ve warmed to us because he later gave us potatoes and milk. What a nice, odd man. We cracked open some ciders and had a feast of gnocchi and salad.
Later, we hit the ‘spa’ which was in reality a rather lukewarm pool. Something bit me so I got out of there pretty fast, and then put on all my clothes and crawled into my sleeping bag in a desperate attempt to warm up. We all fell asleep pretty quickly that night, exhausted by the day’s adventures.