The destinations are more spaced out on the west coast than they are on the east, so it was another three hours down to our next stop, Kalbari National Park.
A couple of hours into the drive we started to see green fields. The first ‘green’ we’d seen in four or five months, so we pulled over for lunch. I got the little portable cooker out and heated up last night’s dinner. Erin prepared a couple of sandwiches and we dined next to a field full of wildflowers.
Then the flies arrived. And they wanted some lunch too. They wanted to see what was in my mouth, and my eyes, and there were 20 of them setting up camp on Erin’s back. I snapped first.
“Aaaaaaghhh, I can’t take his, I can’t take this, I can’t take this. Get in the car everyone, this is bloody horrible!”
I’d heard that that flies in the ‘bush’ were bad, but this is the first time they’ve ever been an issue.
Kalbari was a quick, but lovely stop. A nice wee village on the coast where we drank a bottle of wine in a kid’s playground (hey, it felt right at the time 🙂 )and a wonderful national park that we visited all too briefly.
The road wound its way through a flat, but densely vegetated plain, sprinkled with wildflowers that are a feature at this time of year. I thought I saw something on the road so I stopped the car, jumped out with my camera. As I approached the little fella looked at me, lifted a wee foot, and just stood there. It was a thorny devil – brilliant!
I got a few shots then a park ranger pulled over, picked the little guy up and before escorting him to the safety of the scrub, brought him over for the girls to have a look. That alone made the trip to Kalbari worthwhile. What an amazing little animal.
We got to the end of the road and turned into a very busy car park, then followed the congregation down the nicely tarmacked path to view the icon of the park – Nature’s Window. It all seemed so civilized compared to the bush hikes we’d been doing for the last few months.
People out for family walks with granny. People wearing high heels and dresses. Here’s us with our wide brimmed hats & walking shoes, ruck sacks full of water, healthy snacks, UHF radios and personal locating beacons. Jees…
We’re back in the real world now though. This is what people do on their holidays, which are only two weeks long. We’ve been going since January. We’re not really normal people anymore. Pft. I don’t want to go back to the real world.
Eventually a gorge opened up in front of us, and it was totally unexpected. The Murhcison river has slowly carved its way through the landscape, creating an 80km gorge that exposes red and white sandstone striations which have been here for hundreds of millions of years.
And what you can see on the way to the rock formation, falls into the ‘first signs of life on earth’ territory once again. This time it’s the first animals to step out of the ocean. And thank christ they’re not around anymore. Giant Scorpions scuttled out of the water here about 440 million years ago, leaving their horrible little claw marks in the sand. Now fossilised, you can see their monstrous trails leading off to god knows where.
Thinking about it now, what they hell would they have eaten?! If they were the first forms of life on land, they must have eaten each other. I’m guessing that Giant Scorpion weren’t vegetarians. Can you imagine the second form of life to crawl out of the oceans? Jesus. I’m sure it wasn’t long before they were wishing they could grow some gills, and crawl back in.
Anyway, it took a good five minutes standing in front of nature’s window to get a picture without any bloody people in it. Anyhoo, job done, time to scuttle off.
Although the big storm had moved on, Geraldton was still windy – and I was beginning to learn, that’s just WA. Even the trees were telling me that. When you look at the bigger picture however, it makes sense. The fetch is vast. An entire ocean of nothingness and then boom – WA.
And just south of Australia you enter into the 40th parallel. The roaring 40s. The notorious trade winds that used to ferry ships over from Europe to Asia. After they’d been swept across the Indian Ocean however, they had to turn North past the great unknown southern continent to make it to the far east.
It was windy as hell, there were tons of ships heading in that direction, and the map was sketchy. So it’s no surprise there are so many shipwrecks off the coast here. One of them even giving its name to an entire region – the Batavia Coast, where we were headed next.
Geraldton is the main town of this area, and we stopped in for a couple of days, catching up with our friends from Karijini again. It was bigger than I was expecting, a nice wee place and the museum was great, with a kids’ area that occupied them for long enough to peruse the shipwrecks exhibition.
The Batavia was one of the Dutch East India Company’s largest ships, and it ran aground on the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in 1629, just off the WA coast. Batavia is actually the old name for Jakarta, where most of the ships were heading to back then – returning to the west with spices.
After running aground, Captain Francisco Pelsaert took a long boat and set sail for Indonesia, completing the journey in 33 days, and returning in another ship to pick up his crew.
In his absence however, the crew had split into two groups, pitted against each other on the remote islands with scant fresh water, food and shelter. A Lord of the Flies scenario had ensued where 125 men, women and children had been massacred.
The mutineers were arrested on Pelsaert’s return. Some were executed on site, some were marooned on the island, and some of the lesser offenders were brought back to Batavia – flogged, keelhauled and dropped from the yard arm on the way– and then executed on their return!
Jesus what a way of life it was back then. Not all of the shipwrecks have such a gruesome story behind them, but it certainly adds a little flavour to the region.
Geraldton done, it was time to hit the road.
The big smoke beckons…