Please pardon the grammatical mistakes, typos and errors, this post is yet to be edited. It was quickly penned down as we made the trip, full editing will be done later.
Today is the Rainforest Day and our journey northwards begins from the beautiful city of Perth, at the banks of the Swan River. The trip, aptly titled “Adventure Beckons”, will take us through the coastline of Western Australia up north till we get to Coral Bay from where we cross into the outback of Western Australia to the famed Karijini National Park from where we hope to swing north eastwards heading for the remote Aboriginal town of Broome. The journey is not for the fainthearted and our beast of burden, “The Explorer”, is fully kitted up for the tremendous distances to be covered and challenges that we may meet on the way.
The weather forecast had predicted that the day was going to be a raining one and we indeed expected the showers as we departed Perth but thank goodness, their predictions were wrong, way very wrong. The Explorer stands elegantly as it always does, anxiously waiting for her passengers to kick the engine and zoom off, after all it’s sole essence of being is for trips like this. As the clock strikes 10:23am, the engine roars to life, taking a second look at our home and off we go. We’ve had many adventures in and around Australia but it seemed that getting beyond the Pinnacles to the north was jinxed for us. This time, we are determined to break that jinx, so instead of taking the normal coastal driveway that heads north through Cervantes, we are choosing the Reid Highway. Soon we branched leftwards unto the Tonkin Highway and are heading straight up to the NW Highway. No looking back now. The stretch of road from Perth to Muchea is sparkling brand new, smooth drive all the way, one befitting a city of such importance as Perth. Beyond this we came to Gingin, no branching today as we keep throttling all towards Geraldton.
The further we drive away from Perth, the thinner the traffic becomes and unlike our other trips eastward from the city, there was a marked absence of Road Trains. Yes, these are the gargantuan vehicles used here in Australia to facilitate the transportation of goods across the long distances, without these vehicles the wheel of commerce in Australia would come to a halt. It is a good thing for us, sort of. These vehicles are extremely long and driving with them around introduces an extra element to a road trip. I attributed this to the lack of mining activities and industries in these areas being the cause of their absence. Apart from Iluka Resources, there were no other miners notable as we drove northwards.
Of course, we are always on the look out for skippy, that is Kangaroos, as we would be traversing their land. Experience has taught us to look out for both the living and the dead. The living pose a great threat to safety on the roads. Tales are many about deaths and destructions that Kangaroos have caused to the unwary drivers. It always start with seeing one jumped across the road and the Driver not expecting that there are more to come. It is always the second or the third Kangaroos that cause the accidents. As for the dead Kangaroos, the stench of their decomposing bodies is nauseating and travellers that have their airconditioners in non-recycle mode or windows wound down talk of the sudden burst of polluted air accosting their nostrils. More often, the dead Kangaroos encountered on a trip outnumbers the living, so we started counting.
Around 175kms north of Perth, at Dandaragan, on our right, we could see in the distant horizon a number of wind turbines, rising up and towering above everything else on the agricultural lands. These, we later found out are part of the 51 turbines that form the Yardin Wind Farm . This is the biggest wind farm in Western Australia and the view is splendid.
At 12:25pm, we pulled up at the little settlement of Badgingarra for a break and to top up our fuel. Fuel price has started climbing up, the further we drive away from the big cities the more expensive it becomes. This is simply following the law of economics, nothing really to be alarmed off. However, the short visit into the station to pay for the fuel, increased our knowledge and left us with a big question about humanity. I asked the friendly attendant about the meaning of the name of the town and she explained she is a New Zealander and does not know. So, I told her that I would be passing by in a couple of weeks and plan on asking her what it means again, hoping she would have found out by then. She promised to do so. However, another lady working with her explained that it meant “Bad Water”, a name used by the Aborigines to hide the sweetness of the water from non-native.
Departing Badgingarra and thinking about Australia and its not so distant past, the discerning travellers will note that most towns still retain their Aborigine names but many have lost their Aborigine population. Names like Warradarge, Coomallo, Eneabba, Yardanoggo start coming up on the horizon, yet the Aborigine population have been largely moved into reserves and remote Aboriginal land. It was like the European settlers made a pact with the First Nation People that says “Don’t worry, we will take your land but we won’t change the names, you can retain the names and we are cool with that”.
At Yardarino, the Brand highway that we had been following meets with the Midland Road. We branched left, heading towards Dongara. Dongara is a little town known for its Crayfish and Lobster business. By the roadside was a giant red crayfish statue to attest to the major occupation of the settlers of the town.. Its beaches are popular with tourists and locals alike and along with Port Denison, form a great centre for rest and relaxation on the journey, either northwards from or southwards towards Perth.
Arriving Geraldton was not spectacular, it wasn’t as awe striking as we expected it to be. Traffic was light and nothing on the main road was really striking. We took a detour left, to see the beach and it was plain Western Australia at the very best. The houses were no different in Architecture from what are commonly seen in Perth.
A little North of Geraldton, we drove into the Puma Roadhouse at Drummond Cove for a break and refreshment. A visit to the men’s room reveal the presence of a box for dispensing syringes. Haven previously heard of the Australian Drug Addiction problem and how this is preponderant in the Geraldton area, I found the provision of the syringes ingenious. It is a way to help drug addicts from adding other health complications ,such as AIDS, that the sharing of needles may cause to their existing ones. That, to me, is brilliant.
Driving further away from Geraldton, the scenery was one of undulating mountain ranges all around. It was as if the city was encompassed by mountains and the road engineers had to find the most appropriate places within the range to cut through and make way for the road. I was immediately reminded of Psalm 125:2, which talks about the mountain surrounding Jerusalem and God’s protection over his people.
52kms North of Geraldton we arrived at the little town of Northampton. The welcome sign to the town informed it was established in 1864. There is a large “wheat bin” on the right and is a statement to every visitor that one has arrived at wheat country. The houses dotting the roadsides are mostly wooden, none is modern and they all bear scars attesting to their many years of occupation. We didn’t have time to explore the town which hosts a museum, the Chiverton House Museum where time is frozen to show what the essence of life was in the late 1800s for the miners at Geraldine Lead Mine. 300m ahead of the sign, we took the turn left into the “Tourist Route” which leads to Kalbarri and much later, realised that we had missed our unique opportunity of visiting the Principality of Hutt River, a self-declared but unrecognised micronation in Australia. That had been on our bucket list and now we’ve missed that.
The tourist drive goes through farmlands on rolling hills. A wind gale was passing through and blowing red haze causing dusts across the road. Visibility was greatly hindered and we had to reduce to travelling at crawling speed. Our plan was also to watch the amazing sunset in Kalbarri. We talked about that briefly and quickly agreed that was jettisoned because of the cloudy skies, signalling the approaching rain. Old and abandoned tractors dotted the roadsides in a few places interspaced with derelict buildings. It was a lonely drive through this road and as we drove away from Northampton, the lonelier it becomes. Making that stretch of road infamous is also the notable absence of service signal of our network provider, we were in digital darkness.
A notable feature on the road was the Lynton Convict Hiring Depot (1853–1857), a testament to what it took to supply labour to the Geraldton Mines. Despite the facility having been closed more than one and a half century ago, some part of the buildings are still standing and is a good stop for some to take pictures on the way to Kalbarri.
We didn’t stop, probably we should have as, it was somewhere around here that a stone hits our screen and caused a chip on our windscreen. Since leaving Perth, we had counted 13 Kangaroos, inclusive of one that was an Albino. Saf argued that it wasn’t an Albino but the stage of decomposition must have brought about the colouring. All dead, except for 1 that we encounter just about entering Kalbarri. Our observation of the Kangaroos made us to espouse the BimboSaf Kangaroo Theory that states that “the quantum of dead Kangaroos is proportional to the volume of traffic on the road and the speed of decay and disappearance of the cadaver is positive correlated to the presence of bread of prey”.
Turning into Kalbarri road, the heavens open in a way to welcome us to Kalbarri. Visibility, once again, became very poor. This were the showers that the weather forecaster had promised for Perth! 572.6kms and approximately 7hrs after departure we arrived at the Kalbarri Palm Resort where we are passing the night. The receptionist was friendly. She told us of the best place around to have dinner, the Gilgai Tavern. The resort was not typical of the many resorts we’ve been to previously, it is a commune of chalets and one room apartments laid out over an approximately 2 acre lot. The chalets are spread to the right while a long column on the left is made of the apartments.
After getting in to our room, we drove the short distance to the tavern. That was when the heavens opened again and getting out of the car was challenging, added to the fact that all marked parking spots at the Gilgai have been taken up majority by 4wd vehicles. Even more tedious was getting a seat in the tavern, which because of Covid19 had rearranged its seats to comply with the 1.5m rules, hence fewer seats for the many patrons. The tavern was lively and people are chatting and enjoying the meals served, which when we got ours, was very delicious and well presented.