Western Australia Trip, Aug 2012 – Part 8 : Mullewa to Kalbarri

Thursday, Dec 13, 2012 at 16:23


It was time to hit the bright lights of Geraldton and shop for a few essential items. Cooler clothes were required, and a replacement pump for our 12V shower. Most importantly we needed to be able to recharge our camera batteries. Our 12V charger had given up, but we were carrying a 240V one. We were unlikely to be able to replace the 12V charger, but we could probably buy a small inverter to run the 240V charger.

As we drove into town we stopped as an ore train went by. We had heard trains during the night, but at only 80 trucks this train was just a baby. We noticed too that the railway line had been upgraded since our last visit, another sign of the growth of mining in this area.

In town, after a successful shopping spree we went out to a beachside picnic area for lunch. It was wonderful to smell the sea, despite a brisk breeze. We were again surprised, this time by the number of ore carriers either berthed or standing offshore, and the new bulk loading facilities at the port. Mining really is booming here it seems, though at home we mostly hear about mining in the Pilbara and central Queensland.

It was time to consult our various camping guides again. Coronation Beach looked a likely destination en route to Kalbarri. However when we reached the turn-off there was a sign advising that the campground was full. So our overnight stop was at a rest area where we have stayed before. We were in company with maybe another dozen rigs so it was another chance to chat and swap travel tales with some of the neighbours. Once again our Troopy rig attracted attention from van owners who would love to get into more remote places. But we also wondered – not for the first time - at those caravanners who never venture outside their van, or if they do, don’t speak to anyone else. Well, we know by now that you come across all sorts of folks while on the road!

As we left that area next morning we noticed a “No Camping” sign beside the road. Someone had used a spray can to black it all out. We wondered what the real situation was, as this is a well-established overnight stopping area.

We continued north through country that looked very green although the wheat was stunted and there was not much flower on the canola. Plenty of flowering shrubs gave colour and interest along the roadsides.

On the way in to Kalbarri we took a rough side track that follows along the eastern park boundary to the Murchison River just at the upstream end of the gorge section. We had been down there before so were curious for another look. There were fresh vehicle tracks that we followed to the end of the track on a rocky bluff overlooking the river. But once there we were disappointed to find that, since our last visit, much vegetation had been cleared and tracks continued right to the edge of the cliff. Is it really necessary for campers to destroy beautiful places just so they can have an uninterrupted view and a big bonfire? The river had just a few pools of water in the vast rocky bed – what a sight it would be in full flood.

From there we drove straight to Kalbarri, resisting the temptation to stop and admire the flowering shrubs that stretched in sheets of colour well back from the road. We will do a separate trip back out in the next couple of days for a more relaxed exploration and photography session.

We had heard that the Kalbarri caravan parks were quite full so we were relieved to get a good spot close to the amenities block in the Anchorage CP. It was full too, but again we benefited by having a small rig that can usually be fitted into a small space not suitable for bigger rigs.

After lunch, and a big session in the laundry, we took a drive out along the River Road where we had seen many flowers before. The road leads to a maze of mostly sandy tracks, leading to fishing and bush camping spots (though we weren’t sure of the status of camping out there). Many of the tracks didn’t show on the 250k Natmap that we usually use with OziExplorer, so for a change we just had to follow our noses. Along one particularly sandy track we came upon a big (as devils go) Thorny Devil with predominantly green and brown markings. Quite a thrill as it was only the third time we had seen a Devil, and the other two were well inland. Judging by the number of tracks there were a few more around too.

There weren’t many flowers about, but it was still an interesting and enjoyable drive with frequent glimpses of the river, sand dunes and occasional rocky sections to add interest.

There was a BBQ night back at the caravan park, so we joined in along with about 80 others. We soon got to chatting with a couple from Wauchope and had such a long and enjoyable chat that we were almost the last to leave. Such ice-breakers are an excellent idea, as some CP residents can be a bit slow to make contact with their fellow travellers.

We spent the following morning exploring that part of the National Park to the south of the town where red sandstone cliffs tower above the ocean. Our first stop was at a beach just below Red Bluff where we spent some time exploring around the rock shelves. From there we drove up to the Red Bluff carpark and walked the path up to the lookouts from where there is a great view over Kalbarri and the estuary and back south along the line of cliffs. It was a perfect day with a very calm sea, and just a bit of breeze to take the edge off the heat from the sun. There were quite a lot of flowers despite the harsh gravelly soil, and a shingleback was out sunbaking on the path.

We continued exploring south, driving out to the cliffs at a couple more places. As the sea was so calm we could see whales well out to sea, travelling north at a good clip.

We spent the afternoon driving east from town, back along the highway, this time making several stops to see how many wildflowers we could find and photograph. There were plenty of flowers out, making the country very colourful, but the variety was not as great as we had seen on our last trip. A highlight was to find quite a lot of kangaroo paws including stems with multiple open flowers. They really are a fascinating plant with such brilliant colours. There were also some good patches of bright yellow Verticordias or feather flowers, though very few banksias.

The wonder of this heathland is that the shrubs are just growing in sand yet find enough water and nutrients to put on such a spectacular display. Still, they have been doing it for millions of years so the system obviously works. The fungi and bacteria that help the roots of wattles, peas, banksias and grevilleas (among others) gain nutrients is probably a key factor in sustaining this whole community. Wattles certainly were abundant making great splashes of yellow, added to by numerous yellow flowered peas. Mauve flowered Isopogons provided a contrast, as did the soft wisps of the blue grey and very aptly named smoke bushes (that surprisingly belong in the same family as Banksias and Grevilleas).

This is the kind of display that we had travelled so far to see, so we made good use of our time and cameras, to record as many different flowers as we could. We stopped at several places and each time we were rewarded with different flowers. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

At least twice while we were at The Anchorage folk came up to our camp to have a look at our set-up and muse that what we have is just what they need to get off the beaten track. Given that the majority of caravans there were quite big, its not surprising that some folk feel a bit limited about where they can go. Maybe too there just a bit if “the grass is always greener on the other side” about that sentiment too. Sometimes we wish we had a few more of the creature comforts that apparently caravans provide. Another chap came over to say that he had once had a Road and Track trailer and how good it had been. We had to agree. Someone else took some photos of our Troopy-attached tent and invited us to come and have a look at their camper trailer set-up, which we did, always happy to get new ideas.

Our last morning at Kalbarri, a Saturday, we slept late then took our time packing up. Finally we left the park to drive a short distance before finding a shady spot to park. We had to collect our mail and deal with that before setting off south again. So there was a bit of surprise and consternation when Troopy would not start. The starting battery was almost dead flat. Just what we needed late on a Saturday morning; maybe a change of plans is coming.

J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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