Sunday, 7 August 2016

Half-lap Day 93: Shark Bay -> Kalbarri

We’re feeling more confident and efficient with our packups now, so there isn’t such a feeling of rushing and urgency on the mornings when we are leaving, even when we are supposed to be out by 10. Tony and I started packing up and then got breakfast for the kids, and started packing in earnest around 8.30. The kids talked to our neighbour and played with the dog.

The caravan park had been interesting, fairly basic although quite comfortable. The ground was covered in tiny shells, no sand or dirt which was a nice change. The view from the top of the stairs near our tent was pretty cool – our tent at the bottom and then the units on the other side of the fence, and then the beach. We couldn’t quite see the water from our campsite, but could see the water and our tent at the same time from the top of the stairs. One thing that we hadn’t realised was that there is no fresh water source out on the peninsula – the artesian bore water is very saline so not suitable for drinking. There is desalinated water available and is probably one reason why the caravan parks are so expensive. It was a surprise that the place we’ve been that was most water conservative was on the coast, not in the dry centre as we’d expected.

We were ready to go by 10.30 and headed back down the peninsula. We stopped at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites – they look like little columns of rock in the water, but are actually piles of microbial mats – groups of bacteria that join together and then attract more bacteria and microbes, eventually growing into these stromatolites. It’s a life form that has been around for over 3 billion years and has survived almost everything, so is very interesting from an evolutionary viewpoint, as well being really cool to look at.

The bay from there looked amazing too, flat and calm and clear, such a beautiful place. We walked around a little bit and read all the information signs. I could smell an ammonia type smell and kept checking everyone’s clothes – eventually I figured out it was one of the bushes there that was letting off quite a strong aroma. The girls and I wanted to go to the toilet and the sign at the carpark said there were toilets at the telegraph station, where the caravan park was. We walked over there while Tony got lunch and cuppas ready. We saw some cool birds, and heard the same type of bird that we’d heard at Edagee Rest Area, repeating the same do-do-do-doo-do over and over again. At the caravan park there were (better) explanatory signs about the stromatolites, but we couldn’t find a toilet. We asked in the shop and the girl said there were some out the back, but really only for guests. I said the sign had directed us here, and she asked us to make a donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service in order to use them. I hadn’t brought my wallet and it all got a bit awkward – then I found Millie’s wallet in my camera bag and scrounged 30c so that helped the situation a little. It took us a while to find the (single) toilet even then, and longer for all of us to use it – we were all hot and tired and hungry by the time we got back to the car.

The stromatolites
Sandwiches for everyone and a hot drink for Tony and I and we were back on the road. We coasted in to the Overlander roadhouse with our petrol gauge way below Empty. We’d thought we might catch up with our Kings Canyon friends today as they were heading in to Shark Bay – I got a text as we approached the roadhouse and then looked up to see them driving past us the other way. We all waved excitedly then felt a bit sad that we’d just missed them. While we were filling up with petrol there was a knock on our window – Millie’s friend was jumping up and down outside – they’d turned and come back to see us.

We stood in the carpark at the roadhouse and chatted for half an hour or so – great to catch up one more time before we head home. The girls played in the car and the rest of us caught up on news. The sun was hot by now and I felt like I was getting sunburnt – we were so careful with sunscreen when it was hot and sunny all the time, I feel like we’re getting a bit more relaxed about it now which increases our chance of getting burnt on a day when we’re not paying attention.

Eventually we said goodbye again and headed our separate ways. We drove south, through more sparse looking vegetation, which slowly turned into taller trees, the tallest we’ve seen for a while. Not thick bush, but lower bushes interspersed with taller trees. We finished listening to the 6th Harry Potter book (always emotionally draining) and moved on to the 7th book. Its wildflower season in WA at the moment, we didn’t deliberately plan to be here at this time, and it’s great to see all the flowers that I’ve heard so much about. Areas full of yellow, white or purple flowers are dotted about everywhere, very cool. As we drove we came over a hill and suddenly saw green fields and hills everywhere – it was such a shock after so many months of dirt and dust and grey or yellow fields. Lots of crops – something green in some, and yellow canola in others. I can’t remember the last time we saw crops growing, probably not since Port Augusta. The scenery was so different to what we’re used to, it just blew us away. I have found driving down the West Australian Coast (since we left Fitzroy Crossing) quite uninteresting, I’ve been getting bored in the car, which hadn’t happened up until then. Once the scenery started getting greener and more changeable today I stopped being bored, I feel like I’ve got something interesting to look at again, it was an interesting change.

Tonight we are staying at Murchison House station, just out of Kalbarri – it was recommended to me by someone we talked to at some stage, I saw an ad for it in one of the tourist magazines I was looking at, and Tony picked it as the best option when he was browsing WikiCamps. I’d rung and booked, and checked that the road in would be ok for our car. It was only 4km of dirt from the highway, and quite easy to drive. We arrived at the station and saw old military equipment around the place, and old shearing sheds and quarters. We checked in at the homestead then came down to the campground, and found a clear, flat and not too sandy site across the road from the river. Some of the sites are on the riverside, we can see sand banks and a bit of water from our site and it is a beautiful spot. As we set up we realised we were camped right in front of the goat enclosure, and there were kids (goat kids) in there – very excited. The kids had a quick look around the farm yard and found alpacas (including a baby one), ducks and chickens. The station musters and sells free range goats, and has a small herd of cattle. Their main income comes from the goats and the tourist industry. As well as the campground they offer quadbike tours and kayaking tours, and people with 4WDs can pay extra and go bush camping in the wilder area on the other side of the river. They also offer a self-guided tour of the station, with morning tea included – it would be interesting but I think we’ll skip it this time.

After the tent was set up I went for a walk along the river, which was beautiful in the setting sun. I chatted to some ladies from Victoria on the way, they left home less than 3 weeks ago, so it feels like we’ll still have plenty of time to get home (we’ve got about 2 ½ weeks). They also gave me some tips about things to see and places to stay along the way. The kids walked around and patted the goats through the fence, then Caitlin and LiAM went up to the communal area near the homestead and found a totem tennis pole. Two kids (human kids) came out of the homestead to play with them – they live at the station and the 4 kids played for ages and had a great time. They played totem tennis and Caitlin and the boy walked on top of a rolling barrel – Caitlin loves doing that and has only done it with small cylinders, it was exciting for her to do it with a big fuel drum.

Millie was tired and stayed at the tent with us. I played a game on the iPad with her and then we set up the beds. For dinner we had pasta and salami and a pasta sauce I’d made before we left home. There was a bit of wind and it was a clear night and very very cold, I ended up with beanie and scarf on and still felt cold. I went up to the camp kitchen to heat water for the hot water bottles, while the kids got into bed. I browsed a few more travel brochures that were up there and eventually the water was ready and I brought the bottles back down to warm everyone up. We read a couple of chapters of Inheritance and settled down to sleep.

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