Sunday, 7 August 2016

Half-lap Day 94: Kalbarri

I woke before sunrise and sat outside with the computer, gradually watching it get lighter. I’ve been having trouble with the keyboard again, since the first day at Shark Bay, so typing anything can take a while sometimes – I know how to temporarily fix it now, but it can start playing up again at irregular intervals and it is a little frustrating. Having the beautiful bush and river around me though helped me feel quite calm and peaceful even when the computer wasn’t working easily.

Millie came out and went to pat the goats. I mentioned that we were allowed to go in the goat pen, as long as an adult was with any kids – she was keen to go straight away, I suggested she have breakfast first, and wait for the other kids. She decided she wanted French Toast, cooked up in the camp kitchen – the idea of sitting on a couch, or around a large table, with real (non-folding up) chairs, really appealed to her. Tony took the food he’d need up to the kitchen – it is really well equipped (like staying at a backpacker hostel) so he didn’t need to take any cooking utensils. He made French Toast with bacon, and the other kids wandered up there too as they woke up. I sorted out our washing and had a good chat to the guy in the tent across the road from us – again getting a few tips about places to see, and sharing our love of these remoter, less populated campsites.

Breakfast was delicious, and the kids enjoyed playing in the communal area. They got out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle from the cupboard and started working on that. We considered just hanging around at the station all day – we haven’t had a rest day for nearly 2 weeks and it is more tiring when we are really active every day. There was one thing at least that I wanted to see in the National Park so we decided to still do that, but not stay long in the Park, so we could come back and have a quiet afternoon. The kids had agreed to meet up with the kids from the station this afternoon as well, so they were keen to be back before 4pm.

I took the kids in to see the goats – there was a small goat kid lying in the sleeping area, and when we looked closer we realised that it had died. The kids were very sad, and we went to look at the rest of the goats a bit more somberly than when we’d first entered. The other goat kids were sleeping, some of the mother goats came over to us for a pat. After a while some of the kids woke up as well and everyone had a great time playing together.

We got ready to go out and headed for the National Park. We stopped at the entry station to get a new tag for our National Parks pass – ours appears to have blown out the door at Cape Range. (We had the receipt with the details on it from when we paid for the pass, so we didn’t have to pay again, just get a new tag.) This is our fourth National Park since buying the pass, so now we’ve saved money by buying it rather than paying day entry each time). Driving in was quiet pretty, there were wildflowers everywhere, purple, red, yellow and white. The road was sealed for about half the way, then dirt – it was a little corrugated in parts, and sandy occasionally, but the car handled it fine. We did unplug our fridge cord in case it was the bouncing around of the corrugations that blew the fuse last time (at Karajini).

Our first stop was Nature’s Window, which was the one thing I really really wanted to see in this area. As we approached the carpark we were amazed at the view – wide, deep gorges with sloping cliffsides leading down to the bottom. The rock layers were horizontal and obvious and the gorge sides looked like large cakes. The scale of the gorges was quite overwhelming. The walk down to the window was quite easy – and very pretty. We were up close to the wildflowers now, with the gorges and river in the background. At this point the Murchison River does a massive loop, as well as doing a hairpin turn on either end of the loop – so walking out to the lookout, we had a U-bend in the river on either side of us, and we were walking on a narrow isthmus (high up on top of the cliff, which dropped down to the river on either side. Except around the area of Nature’s Window the cliff top wasn’t so narrow that it was scary. Beyond the window the high land widened out again and filled the whole circle of land within the loop.

View of the gorge as we approached it
We reached Nature’s Window and clambered around to get a good view – it is a natural hole in the rocks, large enough to stand in, and it frames the view of the river quite nicely. I was excited to see it and to take photos through it – I always love framing my shots with something like a tree branch or a rock, so having a ready-made frame on all 4 sides of the shot was quite cool. The kids loved it there too, looking at the river and the cliff faces and the birds and the flowers. We saw 6 emus down on the grass next to the river, and several bushes that also looked like emus – again, the natural features of an area often imitate the shape of the local animals (or perhaps the other way around). There was a walk that went right around the loop, 9km and at least 5 hours – we’d decided not to do it but once I was there I really wished we had the time and the energy to attempt it, it would have been amazing.

At Nature's Window

The layers in the rocks were quite obvious up close as well as from a distance – like some of the other places we’ve walked (Karajini, Kings Canyon) the vertical layers wear away so the layers themselves make natural steps. The layers here were very thin, only a couple of centimetres high, so the steps were quite shallow. We hung around at the lookout for ages, then wandered back along the path. The kids and Tony raced back, and I took my time, enjoying the wildflowers and the view from different perspectives.

We had lunch at the picnic area back at the carpark, then everyone was happy to go back to camp. Driving into the station we could see the river winding through the land towards the coast (we were only 13km from the ocean here), large sloping cliffs that were whiter as they got closer to the sea. There was also a large green grassy area that looked like a natural ampitheatre in among the high river banks – it was a long way away and we weren’t sure if it was grass or crops or what, but we loved looking at it.

Back at camp Tony took the kids in to see the goats again, while I got a few things organised. One of  the kids kept ‘hugging’ Caitlin, and then tried to eat her hair. The little ones are so cute, its great watching them play. Tony went in to town to get some food for dinner and to organise our accommodation in Perth. The kids and I had a bit of a play with the totem tennis and Caitlin practiced walking on the rolling barrel, as well as showing Millie how to do it – she was pretty good!  Caitlin told one of the station managers about the little dead goat, and the lady took Caitlin and LiAM in with her so they could show here where it was, then she organised for someone to remove it. The station children arrived home and I left the 5 kids all playing together with the totem tennis and the barrel, everyone looked very happy. I had a bit of time at the tent by myself which was nice and relaxing.

Tony decided to take advantage of having an oven in the camp kitchen, and made sausage rolls. LiAM and I went to the kitchen with him,  I played cards and he worked some more on the 1000 piece puzzle. A couple of horses walked past the window – they walked all the way down past our tent and LiAM and I ran around trying to find Caitlin so she could see them. She was playing with the girl from the station, who started to call the horses so they’d come back up – Caitlin did get to see them when they wandered back past. She and Millie played with the girl for a while longer on the ipad and with the tennis pole. Once she went inside they joined us in the kitchen and helped LiAM with the puzzle and Tony with cooking tea.

The sausage rolls were delicious – Tony hasn’t made them for ages and he’s so good at it. While we were eating, the lady from the family who had just set up next to us came into the kitchen. We’d seen them out at Nature’s Window today, they looked like a relaxed and fun family, with 2 little boys. We chatted to her for a while and discovered they lived not far from us (Park Orchards) and she knew some people in Healesville – she listed them and we know some of them as well.  Tony offered to bring down any leftover sausage rolls to them, and she said we were welcome to join them at their campfire. Tony had cooked apple pie for dessert – we ate it with ice cream and it was magnificent. We did a bit more of the jigsaw puzzle, then cleaned up in the kitchen and Millie and I went to have a shower. Caitlin joined us after a while and we also ran into our neighbour again. We walked back down to the campsite with her and she invited us to their campfire again, we offered to bring marshmallows.

We had a very pleasant evening chatting to our new friends. We have a fair bit in common (similar interests and lifestyles and beliefs) so had lots to talk about apart from comparing trip details. As we talked we discovered even more people who we know in common – the guy used to play cricket with some of the guys from Tony’s baseball club. Their littlest boy was asleep, and their 5 year old stayed up chatted and played with our kids. The kids all roasted marshmallows, then LiAM talked to him a lot about Star Wars and they played with his toy light saber. Caitlin played with them and talked to the adults, Millie played with them then snuggled up on Tony’s lap once she got tired. Our friends shared a bottle of scotch with us, it was really lovely sitting and drinking and chatting and laughing around the fire, even when it sprinkled rain occasionally. It was a much warmer evening than the night before and sitting outside felt really comfortable. We could see the goats in their pen and they were often awake and walking around, even the kids – we weren’t sure if that was usual nighttime behaviour for goats or if they were up because we were up. Eventually everyone was very tired and we decided to call it a night – back at our tent we discovered it was 12.30! Definitely our latest night on the trip so far! No reading tonight, Millie was already asleep and everyone else bundled into bed pretty quickly and went straight to sleep.

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