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things to do in Kalbarri

I arrived in Kalbarri without my usual precision planning – aiming to just see what was going on, enjoy the sunshine and some time away from Perth.

The only hostel in town was run by a very friendly couple – Joe, originally from the UK, and his Australia wife Carol. http://www.kalbarribackpackers.com

On checking in, I asked out of concern, if they had any idea what the weather was likely to do, and what ways I might enjoy my time in Kalbarri. The response regarding the weather was not what I wanted to hear – that it had been lovely last week, beautiful today, but was set to change tomorrow. Being from a country of bad weather, I try not to let a bad forecast put me off, but as it was a much needed and looked forward to holiday, I found myself feeling I’d got a bad deal.

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Kalbarri National Park is where most visitors go: for walks, amazing views and of course their iconic photograph sitting in Nature’s Window. What a lovely idea – how can I get there? Well, as is my luck, the park was closed to the public due to the re-laying of the road. The only way to enjoy it during the week was to go on a tour. How convenient. So, I paid for 2 tours – one to go kayaking in the gorge and one to see the sights.

Tour one was fabulous. I was picked up in a very old, large 4 wheel drive bus, and driven out to the park. Due to the roadworks, we were escorted through the park, and then drove off road down a private track, where we then scrambled down into the gorge, walked along the river bed to the boats. I got paired up with a Singaporean guy, who behind me in the boat chatted to me about life in Singapore, living in Perth as a student, food, cooking and travelling in Asia. As soon as we got into our boat, it started to rain, of course, but once it cleared up: the sunshine, the tranquility and nature’s great landscape was awe inspiring. After about an hour’s paddling, we arrived on the shore for homemade cake and then climbed back out of the gorge, stopping to admire breathtaking views as the sun graced kissed the cliff tops.

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The tour I did later, was met with rain. Lots of it. Not having even a jacket, let alone a rain coat made it a very uncomfortable afternoon indeed, but was assured that I was having a very unique experience as nobody gets to see Nature’s Window in the rain! The Z bend was also on our itinerary, and despite feeling very cold, I was very happy to experience the national park in unusual conditions…

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here comes the rain!

Nature's Window

Nature's Window

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Other things I did, as I often do, was long walks. One was along the cliffs to Nature’s bridge with my hostel roommate, in the hope of seeing migrating whales, but none wanted to show themselves.

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I also took a very long walk along the beach, without intending to – sometimes I just start walking, and like Forrest Gump: I forget to stop! So I ended up walking about 5 kms out of town to Red Bluff, stopping to paddle, stopping to think, stopping to pick up seashells, stopping to photograph huge crabs and stopping to breathe and absorb the wonderful Indian Ocean views.

Blue Wave rocks

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Giant crab!

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Red Bluff

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4 days in Kalbarri was enough to clear my mind, refresh my photographs, restore my faith in hostels ( thanks to an awesome bunch of people staying there) and as if I needed to – remind me of what a wonderful land Australia is.

no worries… too easy

No Worries…. Too easy!

Or… a visit to Mossman Gorge, The Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation.

June 26th

Weather: Cloudy and drizzling

Temp: 25 C

Having had relatively little sleep, thanks to the difficulty of getting the boat to stop moving (see The Great Barrier reef) and some noisy neighbours and not having had a decent night’s sleep for over 5 days AND getting up at 6.30am again, meant I staggered onto the tour bus in a zombie like fashion, desperate for a coffee but with ever the optimistic smile of a good day ahead on my face.

3 Backpackers got on the bus at the next stop having rolled out of the hostel bar not long before and personifying everything I hate about backpackers. I was grateful for the Polish girl who sat next to me, who later became the following day’s travel buddy and someone for me to repeat the phrase: No Worries, Too Easy with as many times as we could.

That catch phrase was coined by our guide who was every stereotype he could be. A skinny, shaggy- haired, smiling Queenslander with a laid back, slow drawl, who finished EVERY sentence with “Noooooooooooooo Wooooooooooooooooooories” and very often followed that up with “Tooooooooooooooooo Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeasy”. It went something like this: “Ok guys, just relax and take in the scenery as we head up the coast, nooooooooo worries”. “ Ok gang, we are about to arrive at Mossman Gorge, where we’ll be be getting out for a walk noooooooooooooo worries”. “So the saltwater crocs here are the most aggressive in the world, so don’t go anywhere near the water nooooooooooooo worries”. “we’re gonna head up towards the Daintree now and I’ll be giving you some commentary on why I think rainforest is awesome, noooooooo worries, tooooooooooooo easy”. Get the picture? I wish I could have recorded him. Now I’ve spent so long telling you about the driver, and not anything about the amazing things we saw or the interesting anecdotes this guy had to tell us (someone who loves his job as much as this guy makes trips like this such a pleasure) which I learnt so much from.

So first to the Mossman Gorge. ON the way up here, we had interesting stories about Sugar cane farms, their history, the geography of the area, the aboriginal tribes and also the nasty things in the rainforest like the Stinging Tree, which if you accidently brush against it will leave you in pain for at least 6 months. He told us about a guy he met in the Daintree, who he told this fact to, to which he responded “six months? Mate ( all Aussies say that, doesn’t matter if they’re your mate or not) I was held up by that for 10 years!” Message? Don’t touch ANYTHING!

Mossman Gorge: I went a bit snap happy here, as I couldn’t get over the tranquillity of the calm green water and the rushing splendour of the waterfall within metres of each other. My photos, are (as you should know by now) totally untouched by photoshop and what you see, is exactly what I saw.

Onwards to the Daintree. The rainforest mist and rain added to its atmosphere and the smell of freshness is nothing like shower gels claim it to be. It’s a million time fresher. Crossing the Daintree river on the cable pulled ferry, the stories started about things that go on in the Daintree, due to the fact that there are NO police THAT side of the river, so pretty much anything goes. Our driver at this point took off his seatbelt, telling us that there were no police around to fine him for not wearing it. This is a concept I found difficult to comprehend. Do people in Australia only wear seatbelts for fear of being fined if they are not?

The Daintree is the oldest rainforest in the world being at least 115 million years old and the number of species of EVERYTHING in it are almost uncountable. Rainforests need 2 metres of water a year to survive, London has 0.6 metres a year, but some parts of this rainforest have between 8-10 metres per year! It’s one of the most toxic in the world, thanks to its many poisonous flora: although these hopefully will be the basis of cancer cures in the future.

Cape Tribulation is where we stopped for our picnic lunch and a nervous stroll along the beach. We were advised that if we wished to swim, we had about a 60% chance of survival right in front of the picnic area, but going near the water anywhere else, no chance! We were also reminded that crocs can hold their breath for 3 hours, so they can quite comfortably sit in the water waiting as

long as they want.

The river trip, on the flimsy little boat took us up stream through the territory of Scarface, the 5m alpha male, who didn’t make an appearance, but we met 2 of his girlfriends: Dusty and I can’t remember the other’s name. We also saw Lumpie, and smaller male and several baby crocs resting on the river. We were assured that thanks to a lack of sun of late, the crocs were particularly lethargic and unlikely to do any jumping! We learnt about Yellowtail, who took a 9 year old boy from the river bank and Fat Albert who killed one-too-many cows, so was shot by the farmer.

The ride back to Cairns was scattered with more stories and anecdotes of all of the above, amidst stops at lookouts and the most amazing icecream I have tasted from the Daintree IcecreamCompany. Wattle seed was my personal favourite.

A good day? No, a fabulous one that made me laugh, gasp, question and relish in the true beauty of the world we live in and the things we can love and learn every day.