Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Fremantle to Kalbarri

We started off the week with another trip to Fremantle – Gemma and Sean had some complimentary tickets for a twilight cruise around Freo on a sailing boat which they kindly gave to us, so we made the most of the fine weather – albeit a bit chilly on the water – and enjoyed a glass of Champagne as the sunset over the harbour.

We were offered a bed for the night at Gemma and Sean’s friends’, Jess and Darragh, though we didn’t actually get to meet them on this occasion – with us being out and them having already gone to bed when we got back. Still, we have a camping trip with them planned for the weekend so we’ll actually get to meet them properly soon! 

After our night in Freo, we started the long drive north, with a few stops along the way to see the sights and break up the journey. 

Our first point of interest was the Pinnacles Dessert; a collection of hundreds of limestone formations in the middle of the desert in Nambung National Park. They look a bit like termite mounds and their formation still remains disputed.

Driving to the Pinnacles the scenery is pretty spectacular – blue skies and seas, white sand dunes, yellow desert roads and scrubby desert plants and bushes. 
There are road signs warning us to watch out for emus, kangaroos and echidnas, but despite the warning we were still shocked to see two emus walk across the freeway in front of the car! 

Four hours north of Perth, we spent our first night at a campsite in Jurien Bay, a pretty beach resort along the Turquoise Coast – it’s easy to see how the west coast of Australia got this name!

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast of pancakes cooked in the camp kitchen, we set off north, aiming for Kalbarri – stunning cliffs and national park situated eight hours outside Perth.

We had a quick stopover in Port Denion for a lunch of our favourite Australian camp food Indonesian flavoured ‘mee goreng’ noodles, cereal bars and jam sandwiches (for both posterity and budgetary reasons – we pretty much lived off these when we were last in Australia in 2010 and the exchange rate was so bad it was all we could afford. Fortunately this time the exchange rate isn’t so bad, but we still enjoyed our lunch for old time’s sake!)

Originally we had planned to do a quick stopover in Kalbarri and continue north to Monkey Mia and Coral Bay, but with limited time and not wanting to spend all our time in the car, we decided to make Kalbarri our home for the next three days. On balance, it was so beautiful there we really didn’t need to continue north to see more natural beauty.

We camped at a site right by the river and enjoyed watching the pelicans at sunset every night. It hasn’t got too hot yet – especially with the pretty persistent cool wind that hasn’t stopped blowing since we’ve been here! However, the breeze was a welcome relief during the day. A bit like in Perth, the wind dies down over night and picks up in the afternoon – which is great for the temperature, but not so great when you’re trying to pitch a tent in the afternoon!

There are so many natural sights to see here – certainly too many for our short stay, but we made the most of the ones closest to us. We started on the coast with Kalbarri cliffs: Pot Alley, Red Bluff, Mushroom Rock and the Blue Holes – all within a ten-minute drive from our campsite and breathtakingly beautiful! The rough seas stirred up by the strong winds certainly made an impressive backdrop to the red sandstone cliffs.

Now in possession of a head net (apparently, it’s fly season, which explains why the flies are so annoying right now!) we decided to head in land and check out some of the natural wonders and gorges in the interior of Kalbarri National Park.

To get there we had to drive along twenty kilometres of unsealed road – probably something that our car hire place would rather we didn’t do and which was rather painstaking – but it was worth the effort.

It was considerably hotter in the park – it’s often said to be ten degrees hotter inland versus on the coast, so we decided against doing a long walking trail. Instead we headed to the closest of the sights, ‘a natural arch in the sandstone called ‘Nature’s Window’.

Heading back to the coast in search of cooler temperatures, we booked on to a quad bike tour on Wagoe Beach, which took us along the shore line and up into the sand dunes.

It’s a stunning beach with reef directly on the shore line before a steep drop off, meaning as the big waves hit the shore they were forced against the reef and upwards into a huge plume of spray and foam. It was unusual to see such big waves that didn’t then continue up the beach – just up into the air! The waves were also particularly big today due to the swell created by the strong winds.

The strong winds also whipped up a bit of a sandstorm, meaning we had quite a blasting on the quad bikes – I think we all finished the tour looking younger having had a good sand exfoliation along the way!

Heading back down south we stopped at the ‘Pink Lake’, or ‘Hutt Lagoon’ to give it its official name. According to Wikipedia, "The salt lake gets it pink hue from the carotenoid-producing algae ‘Dunaliella salina’ which is a source of ß-carotene, a food-colouring agent and source of vitamin A.” Interesting stuff and a very pretty lake!

Our final stop on our way south back towards Perth, was at Lake Thetis, famous for its stromatolites – and again I’m going to rely on the internet for a definition: 

“A stromatolite (literally, ‘layered rock’) is a solid structure created by single-celled microbes called cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).

The stromatolites at Lake Thetis are thought to be 3,500 years old.

Right, that’s quite enough geological phenomena for one blog post! We are now back in Perth and will spend a couple of days enjoying the home comforts of living in a house, as opposed to under canvas, before we head off on our next camping adventure – wild camping in Wedge Island.

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