Northern Western Oz

Trip Start Sep 14, 2009
Trip End Aug 16, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Sunday, May 9, 2010

I had forgotten what driving in Oz is like. Long straight roads, huge distances, low bush everywhere for miles, eerily deserted towns where everyone looks the same, miles between petrol stations, blinding sun, waving to fellow campervans (only those the same size as you though), stunning vistas. It is great!

We worked our way back past Perth and headed north to Cervantes on the coast which is home to The Pinnacles. It is the Nambung National Park where fields of bizarre rock pinnacle structures punctuate the sand in what appears to be the middle of nowhere in the vast bush. We spent time learning about the formation and surrounding habitat. Nobody is quite sure how they were formed, the two common theories being that they are calcified ancient tree trunks or the second being along the same theme; formed by tree roots and plants more years ago than one could imagine. Either way they make for great viewing. We drove through the pinnacle fields and for some reason the kids decided they would run around the 5 km in bare feet, peace at last for us! Well that is until they jumped on the back of the van for their adrenalin fix of a roller coaster ride. I know, dangerous, irresponsible, daft, health and safety issues etc. but hey huge fun!

We then travelled to Lake Thetis to have a school lesson for the kids on Stromatolites. I'm sure that I don’t need to tell you that they are the oldest and simplest living organisms on the earth. They can be dated back to over 3.5 billion years but the ones there were mere babies at 3500 years old. They are bacteria that create rocky lumps in extremely salty water that enables them to grow – incredibly slowly.

Leaving The Pinnacles we continued up to Dungara and Port Denison where we tried pretty unsuccessfully to snorkel off the beach through the big waves and then spent the night on a site right on the beach front, falling asleep listening to the crashing of the waves. Our treat was watching a fantastic sunset over the ocean and harbour followed by an enormous serving of fish and chips served straight out of the paper on the port front

Continuing up the coast we dropped in at Hutt Lagoon, Port Gregory for lunch to see the pink lakes. Yes, that’s right, girlie pink . They are huge shallow lakes of water that are coloured pink by beta-carotene. It is quite a sight to see and very reminiscent of the salt lakes we visited up in Salta, Argentina. A sign of "Not suitable for drinking" won the obvious statement of the day award.

Another hour or so north brought us to the coast line approaching Kalbarri. The tall cliffs that tumble directly down to the ocean are made from sandstone and limestone and have exceptional features carved into them by the sea, sand and wind. We walked along the cliff top looking out at the spectacular formations including a natural bridge that one day would soon collapse into the sea. Dolphins and whales can often be spotted in the ocean below – not on this day though.

In the evening we drove out of Kalbarri a little to go to the outdoor cinema. The feature was “How to train a Dragon” and it was great to sit under the stars eating popcorn covered in a granny blanket and having a nice warming cuppa. Oh the film was good too!

The interior of Kalbarri is another National Park and we booked on a tour that would take us to the gorges so that we could canoe down the River Murchison. We were picked up at 8am by Davo our tour guide in his big 4x4 bus. Australians have a penchant for sticking an “O” on the end of real blokes names for real blokes, so David is Davo, I am Ricko, Aidan is Ado and Stephen is Stevo. Davo lived up to his name by being a real outback Aussie where men worked hard, drank lots of beer, gambled their wages and told chauvinistic jokes, whilst the women stayed home and made them their dinner. Fortunately he was also very informative and protective to the environment. After trekking to see some of the lookouts across the gorges we then descended down a steep rocky path to the water’s edge. Now it doesn’t rain too much in these parts and the river was a calm and very shallow trickle through the gorge. After Liz’s previous kayak experience she was very relieved. There were other kids around the same age as Issy and Ady on the trip with their families and so Issy hooked up with Becky whilst Ady took the controlling seat in a canoe with Hayden who was only 7. We had a lovely time paddling down the river although at times we grounded and had to drag the canoe through tight rocky water level in smelly muddy parts. When we got back Davo showed us photos from 2006 when a cyclone in the area raised the water level by over 8 metres and left his canoes and equipment literally up a tree without a paddle. The climb back up was also an adventure as he got us to scale the rock faces back to the ridge. Whilst it was strenuous enough for us, 65 year old Lizzie with dodgy knees had to be pulled and pushed up the rocks – she felt as though she had climbed Everest and deserved the cake at the top that we all scoffed down. Cheers Davo, a bloody bonzo good trip mate!
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