This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2000 Travels November 16


Before breakfast, I wrote a letter to K, informing him that we would not be arriving home on the 14th, after all, but going to Healesville instead. I requested that he let us know a suitable arrival time for us, and also let us know how much the water rates were, when the bill arrives. I reminded him to make sure they left my photos and negatives of their wedding, and to put the cats into our room, on moving day. With the cats’ propensity for getting into boxes and vehicles, I could see them getting moved, too!

I then walked to the shops for fresh rolls, and a new film, and to post that letter.

I phoned Healesville and booked us into a drive through site for the 14th. I also booked us into the Coffin Bay Caravan Park – there was no problem about sites at the time we wanted to visit there.

It is all seeming horribly final!

We drove out of town the way we’d originally come in, for a short way, then took the unsealed road to the river gorges in the National Park.

First stop was at the Lookout, where the river was moderately cut into its valley. The river was a greeny colour, the valley walls red. Because the Murchison flows through sandstone layers here, the erosion has been spectacular, creating steep sided valleys and gorges.

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Murchison River and Gorge from Lookout

Next stop was the Natural Window, where one looks through a dramatic hole in the rock cliff face, at the river and valley below.

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Murchison River through Natural Window

We set out to walk the Loop Track, an 8km circuit, graded moderate – which in WA means quite hard. The track follows a great bend or loop in the river so you arrive back where you started.

The track started out along the top of the ridge, above the gorge, where walkers had built cairns along the cliff top – like at Barnett River Gorge track. There were good views of the deep gorge.

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Murchison Gorge at the start of the walk. The track follows the ridge to the left of the river

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Many cairns

Then the track descended to the river level – quite a straight forward descent. However, it did occur to me that what goes down must at some stage, go up again!

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Rugged country

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Cairns mark the descent to the river. Can see the way we’ve come along the gorge rim

The track then followed ledges alongside the river, through the gorge. This was harder going. A couple of the sections were not very enjoyable, given my dislike of heights and narrow ledges!

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We followed ledges through this part of the gorge. This was a nice wide ledge, unlike some!

We ate lunch sitting on a rock ledge, admiring the striking outlook over the river and the layered cliff walls.

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Gorge wall

Carrying the backpack was making my back ache quite badly – more so than usual – and the heat down in the gorge, with no breeze to alleviate it, was making me tired, too, so John took the backpack for the last part.

The climb back up to the Natural Window was not too bad.

The bloody RAAF was inescapable! They were doing a practice rescue in the Gorge, and so the chopper was all about during the last part of the walk, making noise and stirring up lots of dust. We watched it land, from back up at the Natural Window.

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More RAAF games!

We were pretty tired by then. Fortunately, some cloud had come over and there was some wind up top to make conditions a bit cooler. We even had a few spits of rain.

That walk took us four and a half hours. It would probably be the last decent walk of the trip.

We then drove to the Z Bend – so named because of the river course there – and did the 1km walk to the Z Bend Lookout. This was different again.

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The Murchison River at the Z Bend

The wildflowers were brilliant. It would be most interesting to be in these parts for a whole spring season, one year.

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This was the seventh National Park we have entered in WA, since buying the annual pass, back in Kununurra, so we have “saved” $63 in entry fees. That puts us ahead by $12 on its cost. It was, of course, meant to see us through maybe nine months of WA touring, which will not now happen,  but it still has saved us a bit.

Whilst driving back to town, we decided we’d buy a new fridge to replace the broken down home one, which is over twelve years old. We also decided we’d look for a new mattress for the bed at home, similar to the one in the van, which we both find extremely comfortable.

Called at the shops for some V8 juice, to make “soup” for tea. We were too tired to go to the sausage and burger cook-up, put on by the park. I made a soup out of the juice, tomato, onion, garlic. John cooked himself whiting and chips. I had a small salad.

Overall, it was a great day of exercise and scenery.

This whole Kalbarri area was totally new for us, as we bypassed it in ’93.

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2000 Travels November 15


Hot and windy again. I am getting the idea that this is the norm, here, at this time of year!

I walked down the street again, in the morning, just for the exercise and for something to do while John slumbered.

After breakfast, we drove to the “coastal gorges” – gorges found in the seaside cliffs to the south. These were pretty spectacular cliffs.

We drove to the most southerly first, with the idea of working our way back to town. These were the Natural Bridge and Castle Cove. From the sort of open “gorge” that is Castle Cove we viewed Natural Bridge – rather a Port Campbell like formation, as was the nearby Island Rock. The high, layered rock formations were well worth seeing, though.

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Natural Bridge

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Island Rock

Then we moved a short way back to the Shell House – a sort of high bluff, very layered, and wandered about on the cliff tops.

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Spectacular layered sandstone cliffs

Next was Eagle Gorge. Here we walked down a valley to a small inlet and rock ledges. There were great views of the layered sandstone rock from here.

Drove on to Pot Alley – love the name – and sat in Truck eating our lunch and taking in the views. We saw a couple of dolphins cruising past. There were lots of crayfish pot markers out, and one cray boat went past. Today was the opening of the crayfish season, and it was obvious!

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In Pot Alley

We drove to Rainbow Valley – not far from town now – and walked the Rainbow Valley – Mushroom Rock circuit. It took us an hour and was worth doing – there were good layered sandstones of varying colours. The return part was up a little valley with lots of wrens about.  It was pleasant exercise, if a bit hot.

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Rainbow Valley

Tea was the last of the gazpacho, pasta and a tomato sauce.

The RAAF helicopter went out after dark. This was dramatic, with red and blue flashing lights, spotlights, as well as the noise. They warmed up the engines first, for about ten minutes! He came back after an hour and practiced landing in the dark – not once, but several times!

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2000 Travels November 14


It was still hot and windy.

The RAAF took off – it did not buffet the van as much as we had feared. When he came back later in the day, he landed further up in a more open area, and was then about 75 metres from the van.

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While John was still in bed, I walked to the shops for a paper. On the way I happened upon the daily pelican feeding. Apparently, years ago, a local fisherman took to throwing fish scraps to pelicans every morning, when he cleaned the night’s catch. The result was a group of habituated pelicans that turn up at that same time every day to be fed. The duty is shared by locals. It was quite quaint. The pelicans were fairly polite about it all.

After breakfast, we went touring. I wanted to visit the wildflower display place, being very conscious that we are well and truly into wildflower season in these parts. However, it was shut.

We drove up Meanarra Hill, behind the town, from where there were some good views across the town and over the surrounding country.

Then it was to the shops, for lunch rolls.

After lunch, we went to bowls. It was social bowls, but we still had to wear whites, which rather peeved me. The triples team I was put into drew one game and lost the other by one. The team John was in came last! I was pleased with my game – on grass, and not having played for a while.

It was a hot afternoon and I was very tired by night.

Tea was gazpacho, steak, mushrooms, potato, zucchini.

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2000 Travels November 13


It was another hot and windy day.

After breakfast, we went to the Rainbow Jungle – a parrot display and breeding/conservation place. It was excellent and worth every bit of the $20 we paid to go in.

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Themed stained glass feature at Rainbow Jungle

Their landscaping was very good, as was the building and layout, and the use of water features was brilliant. That was all nearly as engrossing as the birds – but not quite.

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Water feature at Rainbow Jungle

We really liked the walk through area where the parrots flew freely around. Particularly interesting were the Princess Parrots, which sound a bit like bellbirds.

However, some of the caged birds looked a bit miserable. It was hot in there and some of them were moulting, which made them look sad.

It proved impossible to get a decent photo of the parrots – they moved too fast!

The establishment seems to be doing a good job of breeding up some threatened species, though we doubt whether these would ever be able to be released into the wild.

We spent about three hours there, in all – it was engrossing. We ate our lunch there.

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This critter did keep still for me!

Had to do a small grocery shop.

Then we followed some rough tracks alongside the river, upstream from the town, to the big river bend. John had a brief fish there. I found the drive along the river interesting.

Back at camp, I went off for a shower. I was naked and wet when there came a huge, loud, engine noise, right overhead! It sounded low and frightening and I thought something was going to crash right on top of the ablutions block. I wasn’t sure whether to rush out as I was, or take the time to become decent! I hurried the rest of the process and emerged, to find it was a big RAAF Rescue helicopter, that had landed about 50 metres from our van!

It seemed the RAAF was here for a week, for exercises. We could have had some notice, I thought.

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Up close and personal with the RAAF

Tea was gazpacho, followed by a spicy chilli prawn stir fry.

John phoned K about sending mail. K made it clear that he did not want us home on the 14th, but preferred us to stay out of the way until they’d packed and gone. He said the fridge had broken down again, he hadn’t had time to arrange repairs, so put it out in the shed. The heating had also broken down, but he’d had that fixed “by a mate”. That did not auger well! John was pleased to be going home to check out these broken things.

After discussion, we decided we would not arrive home until after they had moved out, but have a night or two at Healesville and wait till the all-clear!

We revised our schedule and decided that we simply do not have time to go south of Perth at all, now. We did see a little bit of those parts in ’93, though there was lots that we missed. Of course, we had planned to spend much of early 2001 in the south west of WA.

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2000 Travels November 12


It was still windy in the morning.

Before John woke up, I walked to town to buy the Weekend Australian. It was a good walk.

After breakfast, we went for a short drive, along the coast to the south, to Red Bluff Lookout. As we left the town, could see Red Bluff looming as a rise in the distance.

From the Bluff there were good views back along the coast to the north, along the cliffs. It was a bit hazy though. We could see over the town and the river mouth. This looked as though the entrance could be rather hazardous for boats.

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Kalbarri coast. River mouth inlet is off to the right

The day was hotter and more humid than I would have expected.

After lunch, John went to bowls.

I read the paper and made a batch of gazpacho. I phoned V and had a good chat, mostly about Hamelin. There seem to have been some changes since their time there, but not major ones.

John had a pleasant time at bowls and won a bowls polishing cloth with the Kalbarri club logo on it.

I found out that we’d only won a $29 prize in the Lotto draw of 11/11. So much for the theory of lucky numbers!

Tea was gazpacho, and citrus stir fry pork with cashews. Nice.

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2000 Travels November 11


After breakfast, John topped up the fuel tank from a jerry can, thinking that we had really used up a lot of diesel yesterday.

Apart from that, the rest of the pack up and departure was quite routine.

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This little guy was trying to get a drink? Or catching insects?

I took a photo of the Telegraph Station before we left.

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Old Telegraph Station, Hamelin Pool

We stopped at Overlander Roadhouse, when we reached Highway 1, and filled up – at $1.24cpl.

As we travelled south, the roadside vegetation became gradually taller and greener, and eventually we came into sections where there was cropping – wheat – in the distant paddocks.

Crossed the Murchison River – not a very large water course – at Galena Bridge.

Not far south of the river, we turned off the highway to go towards the coast.

Reached Kalbarri about 11.30am.

We parked the rig close to the shops, found a chemist and put John’s script in for filling – it had to be done today, as he had run out of his Celebrex. We waited while it was made up, then went and bought rolls for filling for lunch.

We set up at the Anchorage Caravan Park, for $18 a night. We’d liked what we’d seen of the township, there was some walking we wanted to do, so we booked in for a week and got the seventh night free.

The park was on the northern edge of the town, up on a hill above the Murchison River, which entered the sea just a bit further down. The outlook was really pretty.

Set up, had lunch and settled down for a relaxing afternoon.

John slept for a couple of hours.

I walked to the town along the river side path, which was a lovely walk, although it was very windy.

I’d been hearing amplified noise from the town direction so curiosity had taken me that way. The loud speaker system at the boat jetty was broadcasting the annual blessing of the cray boat fleet. The cray season opened later that week. Obviously, cray fishing is a significant industry here. There was some very low quality entertainment happening there.

John was awake when I got back from my investigation. We walked up to the bowls club, so he could find out about any coming events.

For tea John had whiting and salad, and I contented myself with Greek salad.

It was a really windy night.

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2000 Travels November 10


I was up early and walked around the area, enjoying the solitude. It really is a lovely place.

We left the caravan park at 7.30am and drove back towards Denham for a little way, to the corner where the road to Useless Loop goes off. Waited there, as arranged, for the talkative guy and his family. They did not show up. We were quite relieved, because we really do not like being constrained by other people.

The road was good gravel, until the Useless Loop turn off. What a strange name for a place! There is gypsum and salt extraction works there, and a little township for the workers. No access for anyone else though – it is a closed town. The salt extracted from here is supposed to be the purest sea salt in the world!

Initially we drove through low eucalypt and acacia type scrub which was quite attractive, but on  Tamala Station that changed to arid saltbush type scrub.

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Tamala Rose

We saw a wild mallee fowl – first one of those we’ve seen.

We passed the turn off to Tamala Station – apparently they had begun to take campers, so we marked that down for future reference – in the unlikely event of further travel this way.

After the Useless Loop turnoff, the road became rougher and eventually turned to sand, where we needed 4WD and the tyres let down.

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The start of the 4WD required area

The track crossed a causeway over Useless Bight.

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Blind Bight

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Causeway crossing Useless Bight

There were some spectacular sand dune vistas – some of these big dunes did not appear to be fixed by vegetation, and so would be moving. There were views of seas that were, in turns, bright blue, browny green, and dark blue. Much variety and a really interesting section of today’s trip.

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Sandy track in foreground; shifting dunes in background

We passed a big, empty-seeming stone house and wondered what its story was.

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Grand stone house

Then we came to the Ranger’s base. There was no one there to collect our $20 access fee.

We drove on across the narrow peninsula of land, to the Zuytdorp Cliffs – just dramatic and awesome. The flat limestone surface of the land ended abruptly at the cliff edges, which in places were 200 metres high.

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At the Zuytdorp Cliffs – land’s end

The sea was pounding in below us. It was windy there.

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Zuytdorp Cliffs

The Zuytdorp Cliffs were named for a Dutch sailing ship that was wrecked in the area in 1712. Back then, ships used to sail from Europe around the Cape of Good Hope (no Suez Canal in those days), and catch the prevailing westerly winds – the Roaring Forties – to speed them across the Indian Ocean. They would then turn north – for the assorted European colonies of Asia. If someone miscalculated and left the turn north too late, the result was an encounter with the arid and inhospitable west coast of Australia – which usually ended badly for all concerned!

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Zuytdorp Cliffs – looking south along the indian Ocean coastline

We then drove sort of northwards, to Steep Point – the western most point of the Australian mainland.

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Steep Point in the distance

We added a stone each to the little cairn there, and took photos – of course – by the sign board that told us where we were, in case we’d just rocked up there by accident!

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The western-most point of the Australian mainland

So – we had now visited all four of the extreme points!

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There were people fishing at Steep Point. Some were using balloons to fish off the cliffs. We hadn’t seen that before. The balloons carry their fishing rig clear of the base of the cliff. I wondered how many failed attempts they’d had before they got that right!

John decided to find a beach, or non-rocky water area for us to have lunch and for him to fish.

We took a side track that was ok, and then parked at the top of the last bit of the track, and walked down a steep little dune face to the water’s edge. John then decided he could drive down that, to save carrying gear any distance. I was very dubious, but he proceeded to come down.

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John just had to drive down here to the sea

There were the rusting remains of a 4WD vehicle at the bottom of the track, near the water, which I pointed out to John. He got cross about this, and went to drive back up the dune, to show me I was wrong. However, he got stuck towards the crest, and several further tries at it didn’t move him any further.

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Old 4WD wreck illustrates the fate of those who are too adventurous!

Next was an attempt to winch out. Of course, there were no trees or rocks to help. There was a track closed sign by another track at the top of the slope, so we attached the winch rope to that, but it pulled out of the ground!

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So close to the top, but stuck and trying to winch out using a barrier

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Now we have to repair the barrier, as well………

We dug some sand out – quite a lot of sand, it felt like. Put down shadecloth strips in front of the wheels. We went and gathered what little bits of rock we could find and added these to the shadecloth strips – the addition of the rocks enabled him to just get to the top, on a re-run up from the bottom.

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And that’s where he was stuck!

All that took about an hour, and it was hot work.

Apart from being stuck out there in such an isolated place, and thus the likely cost of a recovery effort, I was concerned about how high the tide would rise, so there was a sense of a limited time to get ourselves out.

I was cross at what I regarded as stupidity on John’s part, in the first place.

Thus, we had a late lunch, at a little beach area that was much safer to access. John fished and caught two whiting there. I went for a walk along the beach area. Saw a reef shark there, about a metre long, nosing about in the rocks, close to shore, and a big school of fish, heading off into the deeper water channel.

It was a very pretty area, but wind blown sand was annoying.

Then it was time to start heading back.

There was still no-one at the Ranger base, but we met the Ranger’s wife further on. She’d been to Useless Loop for supplies. She was a very nice, chatty lady. She was driving a Defender 130. She said they’d done several sets of wheel bearings, due to the sand. They now had self greasing ones? Not sure how that works. She did not want our $20 as we were not staying the night.

She told us that the stone house complex we’d wondered about was a holiday house for the owners of Carrarang Station. Carrarang was a nearby station, kind of between Tamala and here. It was, she said, on a freehold patch of land, so even if a National Park was set up in the area, the house would stay. They’d had German stone masons build it. We thought the house certainly had brilliant views, but was isolated.

The ranger couple was employed by the salt company – the area was not yet a National park. She said she loves it out there. They hope that an Edel Land National Park will be set up soon, there.

The drive back was fine. We had to stop after negotiating the sandy sections, to pump up the tyres again.

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Tracks were a mix of sandy and stony

We reached the caravan just on dusk. The sunset was pretty.

Tea was the whiting he’d caught today, for John, and leftover salads for me.

It had been a long day, especially for the driver, but (mostly) a good one. The round trip was 350kms.

I was very glad we’d made the effort to go out there.