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Published: January 27th 2019
We left Jurien Bay and were straight back on the Indian Ocean Drive. It was a lovely road with very little traffic apart from some three trailer road train lorries. The road had plenty of overtaking lanes, regularly signed (next overtaking lane in 5 kms) to stop you taking silly risks, but they weren't really needed as even the big lorries could maintain 110kms/h and everyone drove to the speed limit. We drove through Geraldton, a place I would call a proper town, with a population of 40K and things like carpet and furniture shops, DIY stores, hospitals and dentists - all the services you need to get by. During the course of our travels it became clear that people travelled significant distances from 'up North' and the Outback to shop in Geraldton and I could see why. At Northampton we turned left onto an even emptier road where we passed the Pink Lake and, yes, it really was pink. Word is that the colour is due to some bacterial process or other, which might be the case, but the only other thing in the area was a BASF plant, right on the shores of the lake and, as they proudly
proclaimed on a huge sign, 'We make chemistry'! Hmmmmm. Whatever was causing the colourful reaction it was certainly very pretty, if somewhat odd, and covered the spectrum from pink to purple to mauve.
Our next stopover was in Kalbarri and our entry to the little town (pop 1500) dropped us from a high point down to the sea front. This was quite a difference from our previous experiences; we hadn't really realised until now that most of the east coast areas we had seen on our previous visit had been quite flat and this coastline was definitely not that! It provided us with wonderful views right across the bay. We were checked in to Room 16 at the Sea Front Villas by Heather, whose grandfather originated from Yorkshire - she still had his driving licence. We had a lovely view of the sea front (no surprise there, given the name of the lodgings!) and we were told that dolphins and whales occasionally visited but that pelicans were a given every morning at 8.45 am when they arrived for feeding by the locals. OK - I'll set my alarm for that. We walked along the seafront looking for somewhere to
eat but everything was closed. Well, the pub was open and a band was rehearsing in there but they were so loud and so bad we just had to pass - and we like loud rock music! We were followed in to the local supermarket by a French and a German couple who were obviously having the same issues as us. I don't know why Australia doesn't cater for the market - it is clearly there and everybody needs to eat! No matter, it meant we were able to explore this little town and enjoy the lovely scenery and sunshine. Everyone looked so happy and healthy, walking their dogs, strolling with their children or riding their bikes along the dedicated paths and calling out 'Have a nice day' as they passed us for no reason other than we just happened to be in their vicinity. What's not to like?
I was up bright and early the next morning to see the pelicans. The feeding station was literally just across the road from us, opposite a house that used to belong to a local fisherman. The pelicans quickly caught on to the fact that he would toss them the unwanted
bits of fish but, when the traffic jams started, with cars waiting for the pelicans to cross the road for their breakfast, the townspeople decided to move the feeding point sea-side when the old salt died, but have continued the tradition.
I met up with an elderly lady as we crossed the road together. She was all hat, hair and sunglasses, covered from top to toe, and I was barely dressed having just stumbled out of bed. She was the native Australian, from Perth, with oodles of sun-sense, and I was the stupid Brit, literally soaking up the rays! She told me she had left her rather frail husband in bed. I said I'd left mine in bed too, but couldn't explain that away with old age or frailty. She told me that the Greyhound buses weren't as enterprising on the west coast as they were on the east, but the TransWA bus company covers a fair bit. As pensioners they were entitled to heavily subsidised or even free travel and they went to holiday where-ever these buses went, staying in the same place as the coach drivers so they didn't have to worry about luggage and taxis. I
thought she had her act together, taking the safe and sensible option, but then she said they often house-sit for people and have spent many months in Canada, Sweden, America and the UK! She said the only problem was she doesn't possess a coat so has to visit charity shops as soon as she arrives anywhere to get kitted out, and she has to be somewhere on a bus route because neither she nor her husband drive any more. How adventurous!
The group of people coming to see the penguins grew so large in the end it was standing room only. Who knew there were so many visitors in Kalbarri? Two volunteers arrived with buckets of fish, gave us a little talk, then the first pelican flew in, shortly followed by a couple more. Fish were passed around for everyone to have a chance to feed them and it was great fun, especially for the youngsters there. And all they asked for, in return, was a voluntary donation of one or two dollars (a gold coin donation) to replenish the fish supplies. Lovely.
We did a fair bit of exploring in Kalbarri and their major sights were fairly
local. We saw the Natural Bridge, Eagle Gorge, Island Rock, Chinaman's Rock and the Shellhouse Grandstand. They made the best of what they had and the hilly coastline made everything very scenic. We topped up our liquid supplies, including putting petrol in the car, which we noticed was 20 cents per litre more expensive than in Perth. Time would tell that we should have been thankful it was only 20 cents as the further away from Perth we got the more the fuel cost! We shouldn't have been surprised as the huge distances involved add massively to the cost of transportation. We thought it was a small price to pay to spend time in this super country.
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