What are the odds? Catching up with an old friend

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Oceania » Australia » Western Australia
May 14th 2010
Published: May 19th 2010EDIT THIS ENTRY

Tuesday 11th May 2010 - Freo → Jurien Bay (352km)

Meeting our CS ride share and picking up the car was pretty easy. For the car, we swapped drivers license details and money for a key and Perth road map. Quick and easy. Marlyn, the couch surfer who will be joining us for some or all of this trip, was almost as easy to find. We'd got to Freo early and were wandering round, and stopped at a statue of an early prime minister for a look and to shelter from the wind to text Marlyn. There was an Asian girl standing there with a couple of bags, and we heard a phone bing just after we'd hit send. But she didn't move, so we kept wandering further. Five minutes later we get a text back saying she is at that statue! (Not wanting to spoil future reading, but this 'blonde' theme continues!) So we text back to tell her to stay right there and we'll be along soon. So we get back to find her wandering off. We quickly grabbed her and went to find the car hire place (Bayswater - seemed to be the better of several companies and deals we looked at, base price slightly more, but includes better insurance).

By the time we had gone back to Pauli's to grab our gear and were finally setting off, it was 10am. Thanks to the car hire people loaning us a Perth map book, we found that we didn't have to go back into Fremantle to take the freeway north (our maps didn't cover where we were staying, so we were driving slightly blind at first!), but that we could get on Freeway 1 just round the corner and along a bit from Pauli's. This led us nicely through Perth and onto Freeway 2 (the junction looked a mess on the map but we were through before we had chance to get lost!), then Freeway 2 led us nicely onto Highway 60. And finally Highway 60 led us nicely to our first destination - Yanchep NP.

We didn't spend long here as none of us wanted to pay to see inside some caves. Its a nice park, great for a day trip from the city. We got to see our first koalas and kangaroos (unless you count the dead roo on the side of the road) and some black cockatoos, ducks and what looked strangely like a Pukeko. Karen was hungry by this time and was tempted by the cafes offer of pumpkin soup & cheese toastie, so there was a slight delay leaving while she fed the monster within. She says it was worth it!

A few hundred km further along the road took us to our second destination - Nambung NP, although all we were stopping for was the Pinnacles, hectares of thousands of limestone fingers sticking up out of the desert. One story we read there about how they came to be was about how the tribal elders would tell the young not to go out into the desert as it was dangerous. Being young, they of course ignored this advice and went out anyway. The desert sands were soft and sucked them down, only leaving their fingertips reaching upwards for help, and these are the pinnacles.

We did the signposted walk through part of the desert while Marlyn sat out of the sun, then picked her up for the 4km drive. The rocks ranged from ankle height to taller than us, mostly a sandy colour, there were also some with pink tinged bases, and many had little shells embedded in them. Hardly surprising as the lime rich sand originated from sea shells, which got compacted with the rain and finally eroded into the pillars (unless you go with the legend above). It has been likened to a moonscape or the remains of an ancient lost city. Not sure if we'd go with either, it did remind us of a place we stopped in Peru to wander round masses of rocks, pillars and boulders in the desert looking for those with ancient paintings and etchings, or maybe Petra or the Sinai.

The nearest town to the park, Cervantes, has a hostel, but at $30 for a dorm bed and $80 for a double, we skipped it and headed to the next town along, Jurien Bay. There are no hostels as such here, just a campground ($80 for the three of us in a caravan) and a holiday camp type place that has dorm rooms ($25 each) as well as more expensive units.

Wednesday 12th May 2010 - Jurien → Kalbarri (715km)

We're surprised we got any sleep last night as there was major roll-together in the bed! Still,

the first one we saw that wasnt dead and squished on the side of the road
we woke up feeling moderately refreshed! The decent hot shower also helped!

We found that the sea lions we'd been told about along the coast here weren't actually along the coast, but on the off shore islands, so we were out of luck there. Still, the beach was nice for a morning walk.

Our first real stop of the day was at a place called Grigsons Lookout. This is exactly as sounds, a lookout (the land was or is owned by the Grigson family), with some great views over more salt lakes and the coast. We only stopped there to find a geocache, but are glad we did. That's one of the things we like about geocaching is that it takes us places we might not normally stop at. Like the second stop of the day, at a lookout over the coast at a small settlement called Green Head. There was a great little natural harbour below us, really sheltered from the off shore swell.

Another long drive - we'll have many more before we get home - took us to Greenough. Here we stopped at Greenough Hamlet, a historic settlement with National Trust maintained buildings built originally in the mid 1800's. Some, a church, house/store, bridge (built by convicts) were on a road leading into Greenough, the rest were in a preserved village. We wandered round more churches, a school, houses, court house and jail, although most of them (not the churches) had lead varied lives with several different uses over the years. Some have period furnishings in, all have period dust and dead insects. The jail cells show the contempt Aboriginals were held in, the white prisoners had a reasonably spacious cell with just two people, the Aboriginal cell was smaller with a bar on the back wall that they were chained to.

After a quick stop for groceries and petrol in Geraldton, we headed for our resting spot for tonight, Kalbarri. We did have two quick stops along the way to break up the trip. We stopped at an old convict settlement at Lynton. This was started around 1853 as a place to hire out convicts to the local mines, however it had shut within a few years as it was too hot and bleak and desolate. It sure was hot and bleak and desolate, its a wonder anyone can farm out here, but people are trying. All that is there now (site of convict colony) are piles of rubble and two partially restored buildings.

About the only thing around that wasn't baked brown was another salt lake just down the road. This was meant to be another pink lake full of salt loving algae, but the angle of the sun was wrong for the pink tinge. The parking spot we stopped at had obviously been used and abused by travellers, whether those stopping overnight in camper-vans or just those stopping like us for 5 minutes. Whatever, it was pretty disgusting, toilet paper strewn everywhere and other rubbish laying around.

It took us a while to find somewhere to check emails in Kalbarri. The first internet place we found (second hand book store) shut at 5pm, the information centre also shut at 5pm, and the next place we were pointed to is closed on Wednesdays! Finally we found a slow and pricey booth at the local tavern! All to no avail as only one of the two couch surfers in Kalbarri had replied, and they already were hosting and couldn't take three more. This is when we discovered that Marlyns experiences with couch surfing weren't quite as she'd initially implied. It turns out that she has never requested a couch before, and had only used it for asking about what hotel to stay in. She was standing there looking over our shoulders telling us to look up all the people who live in Kalbarri and ask them. We had actually asked the only two people a couple of days ago, asking someone for a couch at 5.30pm on the evening you want to stay isn't the best way to approach couch surfing! Also turns out that she was expecting us to organise all the accommodation as well as dealing with the car and the driving etc! Suddenly we are tour guides, a job we are both capable of doing, but whether we want to or not is another matter! So we are now sitting in the lounge of the only hostel in town, the YHA (dorm beds as the only double is too many $$ for us).

Thursday 13th May 2010 - around Kalbarri NP 915km

There isn't a lot we can say about each part of Kalbarri NP we visited without repeating ourselves. Awesome, stunning, impressive, fantastic scenery...hot, dry, windswept...that about covers the lot.

OK, so some places were more of the above than others, the places we went later in the day certainly got windier, so we'll try to just rave about the highlights.

We drove to the inland gorges first, starting with the two places at the end of 30km of corrugated sand. Well, three places really, the first was a lookout high up on a rocky ledge over an escarpment with the pretty dry Murchison River down below. We could kind of see the next place from there, the car park at least. This was called Natures Window & The Loop. Natures Window, as you'll see from the photos, is an arch / window framing the view up the river. It was also the start of the Loop walk, an 8km / 3-4 hour trek, which we decided for various reasons not to do. All stunning so far!

Just along the dust road was a place called Z-Bend, a look out over a sharp bend in the river. Here we could see all along a big crack in the rocks, the visible part of a “fault line” along the river valley. Also here was a rock with what looked like tiny footprints in, which the sign claimed were from an ancient ancestor of the scorpion.

Further up river were two more look outs, Hawks Head and Ross Graham. Hawks Head was much more open, the far side of the gorge wasn't all that steep or high. We also saw our first wildlife apart from crows here - ducks, swans, a spoonbill type bird. At Ross Graham we could easily walk down to the river bed, it was mainly dry with pools of slightly stagnant, salty smelling water.

That was it for the inland gorges. We briefly stopped at a hill top lookout with ok views over the park and town, the headed out to the furthest of the coastal gorges. We're not sure if we did this the right way round. The ones further away from Kalbarri town were much more impressive than those nearer town, so by the time we got to those we only hopped out the car briefly. If we'd done them the other way round, who knows, we might have been more impressed by them. The first one we stopped at, Natural Bridge, was by far the best, an arch in the rocks jutting out into the ocean. We're just going to leave the pictures to show what we saw, both here and along the coast, much easier than trying to describe the layering of rocks in the cliffs and the gorges etc.

By the time it came to sitting on the beach watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean, sitting on the beach watching the sunset was about all we could manage. We were desperately in need of food and a shower.

Friday 14th May 2010 - Kalbarri → Exmouth 1703km

Not a whole lot worth writing about for today. We basically drove nearly 800km from Kalbarri to Exmouth. We'd actually planned to only go as far as Coral Bay, about 140km from Exmouth, but had made good time so kept going.

We made a few stops, one at the remains of an old, small lead mine on the outskirts of the Kalbarri NP, rest areas for driver changes, Carnarvon for food, petrol and lunch, and at the Tropic of Capricorn sign for a tacky tourist photo.

Over the nearly 800km we drive, we saw the scenery change from scrub and small trees to scarce scrub. Most of the rivers we crossed were no more than dry sandy channels.

We got a big surprise when we reached Exmouth. After checking into a hostel, we went for a walk round “town” for a leg stretch after so long sitting down and driving. We were walking across a car park and passed someone going the other way. She looked familiar but we didn't think much of it, until we heard someone calling our names. Turning around it was this girl we passed, and suddenly we worked out why she was familiar - she had couch surfed with us for a while nearly 18 months ago, over Christmas before last. We spent a quick 10 minutes catching up with Geraldine as she was leaving town tonight with her current two travel companions. Small world! Great to see her again though.

Additional photos below
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21st May 2010

Hi there
Some of these shots look a lot like parts of South Africa! Very peculiar! Great sunset shot and awesome flat tree! Enjoy!

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