Kalbarri, sits at the mouth of the Murchison River, the very point where it flows into the Indian Ocean. When the explorer Grey landed here, unplanned, he wrote that this was a well watered and populated country. It goes without mention that he was talking about the first nation people. We had wandered a little around the town yesterday for dinner and from what we could see, the Nanda people are no longer here in numbers, Kalbarri has become a caucasian city, like many others in Australia.
Getting out of our hotel this morning, we made our way to Chinaman’s Beach. Why it is called Chinaman’s is unknown to me but your guess is as good as mine. A previous trip to Broome had informed me of the early Chinese presence on the Western Australia coast hence a beach in Kalbarri noting this may not be out of place. This beach is the only place where fishing Is not allowed on the entire stretch of the Murchison River. It is also the take-off of many boat tours on the river and we could see some visitors being taken aboard a boat about to commence on one of such tours.
Of course, there also stood here a WWII Memorial. As I had mentioned somewhere earlier, hardly is there any Australian town without one. We will remember them, it proudly says. These memorials foster a sense of unity and belonginess in the Aussies, a shared memory of the past and an inhibition to the present from participating in senseless wars. Yet, Australia has contributed its men to every war in recent history. They were there in Iraq, they are still there in Afghanistan. There are some good ones, the involvement in East Timor is one, helping to bring peace to that country.
We left the beach area and joined the Grey Road, leading out of town. It was the same road that we had followed the previous day into Kalbarri. We were later to learn, at Red Buff, that the road was named after Captain George Grey who, along with his crew, were exploring the Carnavon in 1839 when one of their boats got destroyed in a cyclone and they had to row the remaining two for 56hours to reach Kalbarri. It was from here they then undertook the arduous walk of more than 500km back to Perth. It was said that they were barely recognisable when they finally arrived there.
The close to see attractions all have to do with observing the mighty sculpting works of the Indian Oceans over the years. The surrounding hills bear this testimony. We started at the Red Bluff Lookout, here we could look down at the raging ocean below and not far from where we stood, we could see the mixing of the waters, the waters of the Murchison and those of the ocean. There was a little sandy bar formed where these waters meet. A group of Asian tourists ahead of us had noted some whales in the distance and drew our attention to the point in the ocean where there was a ripple and soon, we could see the faint image of something breaking the waters. I honestly could not make out the shape of a whale but there was truly something in the water. Looking around us, the hill slopes gently down to meet the ocean, as we walk back to the car park and one has to resist the temptation not to follow this slope down to the ocean. The car park had only very few vehicles as at the time we arrived but as we depart, there was barely any parking space left.
We made our way to the Natural Bridge and Castle Cove, which were a few kilometres from Red Buff. A Natural Bridge is a structure left behind when the coastline yields to the force of the ocean which has carved a visible space underneath the land. They abound everywhere on the Australian continent and we have come across them in Albany in WA and seen the famed London Bridge at Peterborough in Victoria. Getting here took a short walk from the park and is assessable by wheelchairs as well. Close by is the Castle Cove, a recess in the coastal landscape. In the middle of this stood the island rock, a solid piece of the land, all around which the other lands have yielded to the waves. Looking down at the cove and the rock, I was awed at the intermix of stubbornness and persistence. The waves are persistent in their continued bashing of the rock and the surrounding coast while the island rock stubbornly refuses to yield to the calamity that has befallen others of its ilk. One doesn’t need to be a sooth-sayer to know that it is just a matter of time, the ocean will eventually have its way. The moral of this? Persistence will overcome all obstacles with time.
Our plan was to visit the famed Kalbarri National Park and see Nature’s Window. The iconic pictures taken from this land formation appears in nearly all brochure used to market tourism to all to visit WA and it is an important stop on our journey. More so, we have been told that at the same park, a new exhibit has just been recently opened, the Skywalk. The debate was whether to go now or defer same to the next day and visit as we make our way out of Kalbarri. Giving the distance to be covered, about 50kms, we resolved to do so the next day.
We had also been encouraged to visit the Fisherman’s Wharf and this was what we did next. As we returned back to Kalbarri, there is a little curve in the road that offers a good view of the city, the ocean and the river. We stopped here and met an older couple seated on the bench, observing the happenstance all around. They provided a great backdrop to the scenery which was one of extreme peace and calmness until one peeps downward and see the ferocious ocean at work.
Arriving at the Wharf, a little further out of the centre of the city, a large fishing boat was moored to the entire breadth of the jetty and the immediate surrounding has different smaller boats dotting the river side. A couple was in the process of getting their jet ski on the river while we had right next to our car an older man seated in his minivan, all windows wound up and engrossed in the book he was reading.
As we made for the jetty, the man came out of his car and started walking behind us, we felt that strange and told each other to be careful here. Ahead at the jetty was a family of two little kid and their father engaged in rod fishing. Caught anything yet, I asked? Yap and we were shown their catch, enough for a family dinner that night. At that point the old man reached into the river to examine his lines and it was then it dawned on us that he was fishing too. We loved his laissez faire approach to fishing. Not satisfied with having caught nothing, we watched him make his way back to his vehicle.
Fishing on the Murchison River is a favourite past time of the local and all visitors are encouraged to do so. I have my fishing rod in the boot of my car but wasn’t tempted to fish because it requires time, one we don’t have during this short stay in the town. If one is not into fishing, the fisherman’s wharf offer not much to the visitor. I had also thought that we would have been able to buy off some of the daily catch from fishermen at the area, I was wrong.
We were famished and headed back towards the town centre where we had seen some people having breakfast earlier. The whole town of Kalbarri is really a small one of which the Grey road is the major link and runs next to the river and sea. On the other side of the road lies all the vacation apartments and accommodation. The town is much loved because of its unique position next to the ocean, the river and the national park. It is not a trading outpost nor a commercial centre. Everything here is designed to cater for the tourists, especially the Grey Nomads.
During the course of the day, we came across a rather strange looking bike with a small German flag at its rear. We took some time in looking at it and got to speak with the owner. He goes by the moniker, paddyroundtheworld. He is a German national travelling around the world, with his dog, on a push bike. He has an interesting story to tell of his sojourn so far within Australia and his plan to cross into Asia and continue his trip. A little later, it was sunset and there was no better place to watch this than the Chinamans Beach. It was just spectacular and an opportunity to appreciate the many little wonders of our planet. The sun displaying a yellowish hue on the distant waters of the ocean as it goes down was beautiful. Many other vacationers were congregated here and just as the sun went down, we started feeling a little chilly and made for the warm comfort of the Explorer.
The Kalbarri Motel was a short distance from the Chinaman’s Beach and it boast a crowd of lively people which attracted us there for dinner. The environment was not opulent but with the coming and going of countless tourists from Kalbarri, it has become the place to be seen in the little town. We felt it would also have the best meal in town but we were soon proved wrong. Being African, we relish our food to be “well done” and it turned out that to the chef at the motel, well done is the same thing as “burnt”! Everywhere we looked, we were the only folks of our skin colour and it was most probable that our request was one out of the ordinary and the Chef wasn’t attuned to how to meet it.
At an ensuing discussion with a couple from Mandurah at the motel during dinner, we discussed Covid19 and the continued closure of the West Australian borders to other states of the commonwealth. They offered an interesting perspective, one that supports that the border should be kept closed for as long as possible. In fact, they are supporters for the independence of Western Australia, something that not a few people have been silently clamouring for especially during the GST crises of last year. The argument is that Western Australia, through its mining resource and others contribute a more than disproportionate sum to the GST bucket and doesn’t receive much back from the commonwealth. In addition, being remote from the other capitals, its way of life is much different and residents would want it that way, isolated and completely independent in determining its future.
The discussion left me to conclude that no matter the attempt to hide it, humanity is individualistic, the I before others syndrome. It reminds me of the different clamour in the Nigerian nation for an Oduduwa Republic or the on and off campaign for Biafra. While Australians have a patriotic zeal about the land and are very proud of what the nation has accomplished despite its small population size, there are still lines of divisions within. The Territorians do not feel they are being fairly treated by the nation and do clamour to become a state when it suits them. However, at the last referendum, the majority voted against the idea. The voting influenced majorly by the offer on the table for statehood not one against the very idea of becoming one. Western Australians do not feel much loved by others as well. In fact, many Australians from other states find a trip to WA akin to travelling to other countries, a different lifestyle. Prior to Covid, quarantine requirements have been in place regarding carrying fruit items across state borders, now Covid extends this to humanity. One nation, different people but yet still shares a lot of affinity to the flag.