5. Day 3: The Gorges

Kalbarri Gorges: The Loop

Overnight I stayed at the Kalbarri YHA. Most of the people went out to a pub until late, so the room was empty when I went to sleep. When I woke up in the morning, there were eight other guys there. They looked like they would be asleep until well after I left.

On the way out to the Murchison river gorges I saw the road closed notice being removed. The gate on the entry was locked, but after waiting for a bit the ranger came around and opened it. So at 7am, I was the first person into the area for the day. As the picture shows, the road was fairly dry but there was rain around.


Lookout
After having just been graded, the road was in good condition so I could travel the distance out to the gorges fairly quickly. Eventually you reach a tee intersection: left for the loop, and right for the z-bend. I somewhat randomly chose to go to the loop first, and that turned out well for the weather conditions. On the way, there is a lookout over the downstream path of the river. A the time, there were a number of goats grazing in this area.

The loop is an area where path the Murchison river forms a loop shape. In the picture "The Loop", the river enters from the right (from the East). It then turns North, and back on itself to flow around the ridge. It then comes back around the other side of the ridge to form the loop, and the follow approximately the original course. Nature's Window is just off the picture to the left.


Nature's Window
Speaking of Nature's Window, this is it. This is one of the better known attractions at Kalbarri. These pictures are looking up the river, just before it reaches the loop.

At the time, I was the only person there, and the first one there for the day. There is a track that goes down to the river, and around the loop, but being alone and with changeable weather I didn't try to follow it.


Rainbow
A Junkyard

It was difficult to try to capture the experience of the place on film, as there are interesting things in almost all directions. Also, there's a good reason why most pictures of nature's window are from the same side. To get a picture from the other side you have to brave the cliff edge, and it's difficult to get the background in as well. I'm not sure why I took this "Junkyard" photo at an angle, but it does seem appropriate, and adds to the disorded feel of it.

I spent a bit of time at the Nature's Window, and while I was there were a number of showers of rain, and periods of bright sunshine. These couple of photos show a rainbow that formed in the valley as one of the showers went through. Apart from looking good on tourist brochures, Nature's Window does have another useful purpose in being a rain shelter. I certainly used it as such.

The brown posts with white markers on the top are trail markers, so you can find your way along the walking trails without getting lost. The idea is that once you reach one, you can see the next one in the series. The other purpose they have is to put these funny white and brown things in your photos.


In the Window
Here is another picture looking through the "window" up along the Murchison River. This one shows some of the detail of the rock structure, and also gives something of a feel of being in a cave.

The background looks a little hazy, and this was due to the rain in the air at the time. Perhaps I as fortunate in being able to experience many different types of weather in a short space of time. Certainly it was much better than the previous day.


Kangaroo
On the way back up to the carpark, I came across a kangaroo grazing. It didn't want me to get too close though, as it watched my departure from the area and kept away from me. I did take a couple of pictures of it though.

It was at this time that I noticed a tour group forming up the top at the carpark. I felt glad that I had been able to experience the area in solitude before their arrival. I suppose there wouldn't have been room in the window for a whole tour group to shelter from the rain.

Kalbarri Gorges: Z-Bend

At the bottom
The Pass
The Z-bend is up the river from the loop. I assume the river forms a Z shape here, but I didn't go far enough to actually see the second bend. When I arrived there, there was still a shower or two, but I didn't get too wet. After walking down the path, you arrive at a lookout at the top of the cliff. There is then a steep path down to the river below.

The climb down is steep but not exceptionally difficult. There was a ladder installed at one point to make it easier. It's worth the climb to see the river and rocks below, although I also found the climb good too.

Well, here I am at the bottom. Again, I was the only person there at the time, which I thought was good in a way. It gave me more of an opportunity to feel like I was discovering something. So there's the picture of me, the discoverer looking over the new land, and the thousands of footprints of tourists before me... Getting right down to the water took a little bit of effort and risk with slippery surface. I assume that during flood time the water is much deeper, and faster flowing.


Leaning Water
Up the Z
I walked for a short distance down the river, but didn't want to go too far on my own. The thought also crossed my mind that it had been raining recently and, not knowing the geography, it would be possible for the river level to rise.

The picture "leaning water" works well to puzzle people in the print version. It can be kind of hard to work out which way is up, particularly as there is a lack of detail in the dark areas. Since taking a picture of a "leaning forest" over the in US, I have found it interesting to try to take deceptive pictures.

After spending some time at the bottom of the gorge, I thought it had to be time to go back to the surface. After all, I had to get to Perth that afternoon, and it was a fairly long drive. By then I was also starting to think I'd seen enough of rocks, rivers and gorges for a bit.

Back at the top of the gorge, I tried to take this picture of the flowers with the gorge in the background, with limited success.


The End
Having seen it all, it was time to head back to the main road, to begin the journey south. After the few showers, the road was a bit wet in places, and it seems that I took a bit of the dirt from the road out with me on the paintwork.


The Road South

I had spent quite a while at the loop and Z-bend so it was getting onto late morning by the time I was back on the main road. I did take a quick look at Hawks Head on the way out though. Hawks Head is toward the Eastern end of the park, hanging over the Murchison River.

The overhanging rock is quite prominent in tourist material. In retrospect, I could have looked for more photo opportunities there. By this time my interest in gorge lookouts was starting to get saturated though, so it was good to move on.

Having gone up via the coast, I took the inland route back to Northampton. In retrospect, I could have taken another look at the coast in possibly better conditions, but I could feel that time was getting short, and from Hawk's Head the coastal route would be somewhat longer. I stopped briefly at the village of Northampton, but then kept moving on south.


Dongara Mill
This is an old mill at Dongara. On reaching Dongara, I had the choice of at least 3 different roads back to Perth. The fastest would be the Brand Hwy which goes directly back. Alternatively, I could retrace my steps back the coastal road. The other option, which I took, was to go further inland via Mingenew.

Having spent a fair bit of time on the coast, it should be a good change to see the inland. In particular, there should be a greater opportunity to see fields of wildflowers in the more inland areas, and I had already seen plenty of coastal scrub.


Flowers
This field had wildflowers growing though it, but just the purple colour and not particularly dense. It gives an interesting misty look to the field though. Some of the grazing fields had flowers through them, but mostly it was just straight grass.

Mingenew seems to be a rather quiet town on the railway. I assume it is just a centre for the farming communities. The road out to Mingenew is rougly perpendicular to the direction I wanted to go in (Perth), so I really I was no closer to my destination, but from here on it was southbound.

It was a long trip south that afternoon. It was mostly travelling along by the railway though farming communities. It was quite common to pass by large grain silos, which seemed to mark the identity of a township.

At one point I passed by a large convoy of caravans. I think I counted over 50. They were travelling in the opposite direction to me, which is something to be glad of, because otherwise it could be a pain trying to overtake them all.


Yellow Flowers
There's actually quite a long period of time between these two pictures, but not a great deal of interesting things were happening. Particularly toward the south the weather was fairly dull and tended to be quite rainy.

In one sense I was glad to see the rain, because it would help to wash the mud off the car from the gravel roads up Kalbarri. It did actually work quite well for one side of the car.

Not far out of Perth, I passed through the town of New Norcia. It was rather curious for its buildings, which contrary to the name seem rather old. The church and adjacent school are quite ornate.

I arrived to a wet Perth at around 7pm. I had been intending to stay at the YHA at Northbridge, but when I arrived there at around 7:30, the office was closed, and they weren't answering the phone. After finding this, I organised to stay at Hay St backpackers instead. That was in a quieter area of town anyhow.