4. Day 2: Kalbarri
Most of the people at the hostel were up and away by 7am, so it was quite easy to get an early start for the day. I expect that Dongara is more of an overnight stopping place than a place where people stay to relax for a while. The first thing I did was to go back down to Port Denison to see it in daylight. It is a small port town and worth a look, but I didn't find it fascinating. The picture here was taken near the obelisk at Fisherman's Lookout.
Back over the river to the Dongara side, it's only a short distance to reach the mouth of the river. In the morning light, it was quite a nice view from the hill above the river looking down to Port Denison. At the end of the road there is the curious "Mt. Pickles", which has a sign proclaiming it to have an elevation of 12 metres, and is the highest point in Paddy's Paddock. There's a whole story about how it became named, which borders on the ridiculous.
Arriving the Geraldton, about the first thing I did was fill up the car with fuel. I had been hoping that it would be cheaper there than in the smaller towns, but unfortunately it was not. It was over a dollar a litre, and from there North it was only to get more expensive. They did give service though, and filled it up for me, which was also a trend in that area.
In Geraldton, I first found my way to the top of a hill in a suburban area. There was a bit of a view over the city, but there wasn't much to see. The main feature was the big grain silos which dominated the skyline. After that, I found my way out to the coast and the lighthouse. If there's one word to describe my experience of the place, it would be "windy". I suppose there is a reason why it is known as a good windsurfing spot.
Also in this area, there were a few fields of flowers giving a purple sprinkle through the grass, but I didn't take a lot of pictures of those. It was hard to stop to take photos of things because travelling at highway speeds, you would be past it before you could stop. Then after each time I did stop, I would end up going and overtaking all the same vehicles again.
Along the way, I passed some ruins near the Lynton, which is on the road out to Port Gregory. I think it was part of the old convict hiring station, which organised convicts to work on farms and in the nearby mine. It was just there where I got the first shower of rain.
At first it was hard to believe what was happening, and wondered if it was some form of pollution. I've since found out that it is caused by a natural bacteria (Dunaliella Salina) trapped in the salt. Unfortunately the photos I took don't really give it justice. There was quite a surreal feel to it, especially where the waves were breaking on the shore. The waves looked completely normal, except totally different with the different colour.
Just at this "Welcome to Kalbarri" sign, there was a little shelter, so I stopped and tried to peer into the rain. I could just see trees, and it looked that the coast was some distance away. Still, it was a rather wet and windy welcome to Kalbarri.
Along the road into Kalbarri from the South there are a number of side-roads out to the coastal cliffs and gorges. The first spot I came to was one called Shell House. Fortunately the rain had eased to just a drizzle, but the wind was very strong.
With my jacket on I got out of the car, camera in hand to brave the onslaught of the wind and rain. On arriving at the clif-face, it was very spectacular. Not for the beauty, but for the really inhospitable feeling of the area. It was bad enough up the top, but you could see it was worse at the foot of the cliff, where you could see to waves pounding against the rocks. I couldn't help but imagine the plight of sailors centuries ago reaching the cliffs in those conditions. Although the conditions weren't pleasant, it was a fascinating experience to see the coast in this wild way.
There is a track that follows the coast, which I followed for a short distance. I didn't want to spend too much time out in the wind and rain though, because there were still other places to see.
It became quite difficult to take pictures here due to the strength of the wind. I think that's why the Natural Bridge picture is lop-sided. When taking this second picture of Island Rock I found myself being sand-blasted by the wind and some sand being picked up from the top of the rocks. This was truly getting in touch with the environment... Fortunately the wind was on-shore and so at least wasn't trying to blow me off the cliff.
After returning to the main road, I turned off at the road out to Eagle Gorge. By this time the rain had been reduced to a drizzle for quite some time, so I had gained a bit more confidence in staying out in the weather.
The cliffs here were quite spectacular, but this was also one of the few places where there was a beach with access to the water. So, accepting the risk of rain, I climbed down to the beach. When I was down there I saw.. well.. the beach. The sand was quite grey, and the rocks had an interesting shape.
I didn't spend too much time down at the bottom, because of the risk of rain. After climbing back to the top of the cliff, I moved onto the next vantage point. This was at a place called Pot Alley Gorge. I was here where I came across some people looking out to sea watching wales. I did see a couple of whales, but between the wind, rain, and waves breaking, it was difficult going.
After leaving pot alley, I drove on into Kalbarri, skipping the other coastal roads. By now it was getting into the afternoon, and I was wanting to be able to see the other sights in the area. The town itself wasn't exempt from the bad weather, and it was just as miserable there. I passed by a caravan park, and felt glad that I wasn't going to be camping.
Some of the more spectacular scenery in Kalbarri National Park is down the end of a 26km gravel road. I tried driving out to it, but found that the wet weather had taken it's toll. The road was quite saturated, and a sign claimed that it was closed. I didn't try driving down it, as this would damage the surface further and things might get rather muddy.
A this point I had the option of either travelling somewhere else that afternoon, or waiting at Kalbarri and hoping things would improve by the morning. I decided to go back to explore the coast further, and hope the road would be opened by morning. I stopped off at Meanarra Hill, which offers a good view over the region. With all the rain around, there wasn't much to see at the time though. With not a lot else to do, I took the time to have a late lunch.
The coastal areas were at least open, so I went back to the coast to see the areas I had missed on the way in. These pictures were taken in the mushroom rock area. Again the rock had the very dark, and intricately etched look. Occasionally too, there would be small outcrops of vegetation living out a grim struggle against the elements of the environment.
In the later afternoon, checked into the hostel, and did a bit of shopping. I also checked with the tourist bureau for a better map, and on the chances of the road out to the Murchison River being open the following day. Seeing as the rain had mostly stopped, and there was plenty of wind, it was looking promising.
Shortly before sunset, a bit of sun did show through a gap in the clouds, but it wasn't enough to offer the chance of being able to see the cliffs coloured by the setting sun. So it was off to bed that night, hoping for better weather the next day.