It wasn’t too cold this morning and although it was quite cloudy it wasn’t raining. We’d all slept a little later than usual due to our late night, so got up and started getting ready to leave as soon as we could. We are getting so much more efficient at packing up, so it’s not stressful at all. When the kids got up they went to see the goats, and our neighbours were up by now as well so took all of the kids into the pen to pat them. There was a little bit of rain on and off as we packed up, nothing heavy, it just meant we did things in a slightly different order so that the important things stayed dry.
While we were packing a couple with a young child drove past on their way out with their camper trailer. They hit a bump near our tent and one of the wheels fell off their trailer. I was impressed at how well they coped – they just got out and figured out what they needed to do to fix it, with the help of the guy across from us, and then went into town to get the parts they needed. Our neighbours and we were very thankful that nothing like that had happened to us, and that this had happened at low speed in the campground and not when they were somewhere more dangerous.
We were packed up by 9.30, then Tony went up to the kitchen to make a coffee and get breakfast for the younger 2 kids. We chatted more to our new friends and the kids played a bit more totem tennis and barrel walking, we said goodbye to all the animals, and our friends, and finally reluctantly left the station. Caitlin had briefly seen one of the station kids in the morning and been able to say goodbye to them as well. If we didn’t have a deadline to be home in a couple of weeks we definitely would have stayed longer here, we all really loved it. It was so peaceful down near the river, our campsite was flat and not too rocky or sandy, having the animals around was exciting and always interesting, the camp kitchen and lounge area was the best we have seen on our trip, and the location was great, we would have loved to have spent more time in the National Park as well.
We drove in to Kalbarri and got fuel, and could see the river winding past the town and then meeting the sea. The water was calm and flat in the river, then at the mouth there were waves going in every direction, it looked crazily tumultuous. There were big, thick grey clouds in the sky now and it was a lot windier near the coast. We drove up to Red Bluff, which was the main place I had wanted to see in this area (before I knew about Nature’s Window). It was a little walk from the carpark to the top of the cliff, there were a few lookouts along the way before reaching the bluff. It was obviously pouring rain out to sea, and the ocean was a deep, dark grey. The waves were pounding on the bottom of the cliff, splashing over the rock and churning into white water, with a turquoise blue colour just behind the break and as the water rushed back out. I love the sound and the feel of waves breaking onto rocks, and Millie was surprised when I said ‘I love cliffs’, then asked everyone to be careful where they were sitting at the top of the cliff. There was a great spot to sit and watch, where the bluff sloped down for a while so it wasn’t sheer, so I didn’t have any vertigo, but I still wanted to make sure everyone watched their step. I explained that I love how cliffs look and feel and my fear of heights doesn’t get in the way of that, I just need people to be careful. We walked out to the end of the bluff and looked at more waves crashing onto different rocks. It was quite magnificent. We could also look back and see the green ampitheatre type area we’d admired from the road into Murchison House Station. On the walk back to the car we admire lots of wildflowers either side of the path.
|View from Red Bluff|
As we drove further through the National Park (the park follows the coastline here for a while) it started to rain, really heavily for a while. We’d wanted to look at more of the coastal sights but didn’t know how that would go in this downpour – then we came out the other side and it was still overcast but no longer raining. We could even see some lighter patches of sky moving northwards towards us. We drove out to the carpark for Island Rock. Millie wasn’t keen to get out of the car to see anything else, so she stayed and the rest of us wandered down to the lookout. There was a rock coming up out of the water that would once have been part of the cliff, but the adjoining rock had been eroded away. It felt and looked a lot like areas of the Great Ocean Road. While we were at the lookout our friends from last night arrived. We looked at the view with them, then the mums and kids all walked to the next lookout, and the dads drove the cars and trailers to the next carpark to meet us there.
LiAM walked with the 5 year old and chatted to him more about Star Wars and other stories, and they looked at the views and birds. Caitlin walked with the mum and the 3 year old, helping to keep him from running along these paths (a boardwalk) that came close to the cliff edges at times, without any fences. Caitlin was impressed that I was able to walk along there without any trouble – I was fine as long as I stayed on the path and didn’t go right to the edge. As we walked we had a changing view of Island Rock, then the next attraction was the Natural Bridge – an arch in the rock, reaching out into the sea. It was very cool as well, especially when the big waves hit it and we could see the spray splashing back through the arch.
While we were admiring the view and talking about how it would have formed, we saw dolphin fins. They disappeared and reappeared a few times, then we saw that it was a pod of about 14. One of them leaped out of the water and they swam around for a while, surfacing and ducking under, obviously fishing. Once they had moved out of sight we headed back along the path, stopping at one more lookout over Island Rock, where Tony and Millie joined us. (Tony had popped down to the Bridge lookout then gone back to the car to be with Millie). Millie was sad to have missed the dolphins – I saw them briefly again but she missed them. We watched the waves for a while, then went back to the Bridge lookout and watched there – with no luck. I’m glad she saw the view, though it was disappointing that she missed her favourite animal.
|Island Rock from the other side|
Back at the car we had some sandwiches, then continued driving south. The countryside was quite green and pretty, all farmland here, dotted with windmills. The next town we reached was Geraldton, which seemed very full of traffic after so long only seeing smaller, remote towns. It felt a lot like Newcastle, with a large industrial looking port to the south of the main town (I hadn’t realised that was there), and lots of very old buildings, with a new, modern precinct along the foreshore. I had heard about a fantastic playground near the foreshore, with games as well as play equipment, so we headed there for the kids to play while I went to the shops. There were some deep parking spots nearby, so we unhitched the trailer to make it easier for me to navigate a shopping centre carpark, and Tony took the kids to the playground. They said it was awesome, lots of things to do and a great place to hang out. I tried to find a new carseat for Millie, with no luck, but did get her some new thongs. I stocked up on food for the next couple of days, then headed back to get the trailer and the rest of the family.
We hitched up again and stopped at KFC on our way out and bought a small $1 chips each, a nice way to tide us over until dinner. We continued south for another hour or so, trying to get as far south as we could while keeping in mind that the sun was getting lower in the sky and we didn’t want to set up after dark. A little way south of Dongara we pulled into a 72 hour rest area at Cliff Head North. I’d been worried that we wouldn’t be able to find the turnoff or that the road in would be hard to navigate – the sign was obvious on the highway, and we turned into the rest area and were greeting with the ocean only a couple of hundred metres along a straight, wide access road. The water looked silky and was starting to turn orange and blue as the sun approached the horizon. It was so beautiful, and had been rather easy to find! There were several caravans set up there on either side of the road, and we were thinking of setting up at the last space towards the water – our tent would have come a fair way out on to the road though and I was concerned that if the caravans behind us wanted to leave first in the morning, they might not have room to turn around. There were a lot of puddles on the ground and there didn’t seem to be anywhere else suitable. We wandered down a track leading off the cleared area, talked briefly to a couple who had their caravan in a campsite down there, and found a large campsite, close to the shore, with enough dry, flat area for us to put our tent. Tony drove down and we spent a bit of time figuring out the best orientation for the tent (I wanted a bit of shelter if it got windy, we needed to avoid a couple of rocks, and the slight slope works better if the tent is sloping up not down. We eventually got it figured out and set up as the sun slipped over the horizon.
There was an oil rig out on the horizon which in the daylight looked like a large bird perched on the water, then was just a huge orange light glowing out to sea once it got dark. Our site was separated from the ocean only by a beach of seaweed. We could hear and see low waves breaking against the seaweed, it felt very cool to be so close to the ocean. We had our dinner (rissoles and eggs and bread rolls) and got ready for bed. I walked back down to the toilets and they were pretty gross – they had the buckets with disinfectant and brushes for washing out the bowl before and after use (most Western Australian national parks and rest stops have these, and they’ve meant clean and non-smelly drop toilets so far) – but in this case the water in the buckets was dirty and disgusting, so the brush couldn’t clean the toilet bowl so they were gross as well. We decided to do bush wees for the remainder of our stay here – easy enough because we were in such a secluded spot, we could see the top of the caravan nearest us and otherwise were completely alone.
The night became quite cool, so we rugged up a bit and sat looking at the stars and listening to the ocean, before heading in to bed to read for a while. Thee was light in the sky from Geraldton, quite bright to the north, so the stars weren’t as showy as further north, but we still had a great view of the milky way.