Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Camp Life and going down the West Coast

Australia Map Kalbarri 

We are now at Kalbarri, half way down the West Coast.

All camp sites seem to have their distinguishing features and Pat has been keeping a running score chart of them from day one. In the years to come, we will remember them for the individual characteristics such as:

  • wallabies (or frogs) in the toilets;
  • terrible red dust that always followed us into the van;
  • a very nice camp atmosphere with a camp fire;
  • official (or unofficial) entertainment;
  • toilets that you dare not use;
  • very clean showers;
  • a very efficiently run campsite;
  • etc etc

One thing that is a constant is the interchange of information between travellers. There is usually a swapping of route information and often advice as to where to stay, where not to stay and most importantly, when it is advisable to book ahead. Whilst doing so reduces your ability to decide on the spur of the moment to stay on for an extra day (or leave early), it does mean that you do not arrive somewhere only to be turned away at the door. This is certainly a possibility in North Western Australia, an area which seems to be extremely popular with campers.

Another is voluntarily offered help in overcoming a problem such as a leaky bucket - “take (and keep) one of mine, I have three” said our neighbour at one site. At another site, our neighbour apologised for coming back three times with different remedies to deal with the after effects of biting sand flies (emu oil was the best of these remedies although what part of an emu the oil came from, we are not sure).

We often meet again people we have met at other campsites and eventually there is an exchange of phone numbers, addresses, emails etc and offers of “if ever you are in our area…….”

We have met large numbers of people who have sold up and taken to life on the road and it is no longer unusual to hear talk of a house being sold (or if lucky, rented out) and plans to travel with the weather (north in winter, south in summer) until their health gives out or something happens to end their nomadic life.

Some travellers are extraordinarily well equipped. We met one who had

Campsite Entertainment

his electric organ in his caravan and with other similarly well equipped travellers, gave an impromptu concert one night, another who had brought that most essential camping item with him, a pressure washer to keep his car clean, and another who had his garden rake with him (plus a special rack on the outside of his caravan to hold it in).

Quite a lot of travellers seem to be moving from one job to another as they travel. When they arrive somewhere, they seek a temporary job in the area or the campsite or even work for free in return for meals and a free place for their caravan – this later option is known as WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) and apparently is something that we (as foreigners) are eligible to do without incurring visa problems.In many cases the definition of an organic farm is very broad and this is definitely an option for the future.

Every Australian we meet at camp sites seems to say “How you doing?” when they see you. We are not too sure what the answer is expected to be and probably cause some amusement by our detailed response since we do not want to appear rude by simply responding “OK”.

In all of our travels so far, we have met only one negative Australian who complained about everything and everyone, All others have been cheerful, determined and friendly and seem to be far more active and positive in outlook than many of the same age group in the UK.

On the way South

There now follows a melange of different places, things, and views etc on the way down to Perth.

Having left Monkey Mia, we called in at Shell Beach (about 50 kms away) which gets its name because? – yes it it made up of shells, billions and

Shells on shell beach

billions of Cardiid Cockles. Individually, these are less than 1 cm in size, so image how many there must be on a beach which is as large as this:

Shell Beach

Because the sea water is very salty here (the bay is shallow), few fish live in the bay and the cockles thrive. Over time, they become fused together

Shell Quarry

like concrete blocks (known as Hamelin Coquina) and therefore over 100 years ago, the solid shells were cut into blocks and used to build houses in this area.

Just round the corner at Hamelin itself, lives a group of the oldest living creatures on earth, some 3.5 billion years old. Stromatolites were thought to be extinct until they were rediscovered in 1954. A stromatolite is a


layered limestone rock which is created by a single celled organism called a cyanobacteria, Pretty unimpressive you might think until you find out that one of the by products of the bacteria is oxygen (can you see the bubbles in the water in the picture above) and they were responsible for raising the oxygen levels on Planet Earth from very low to the current 20% over a few billion years.

To see these creatures, you go out into the sea along a raised platform at

Stromatolite viewing

the Hamelin Telegraph Station (one of the most eccentric places we have visited in Australia) which is in itself, a testament to the strength and determination of the early pioneers.

For the past seven weeks, we have been driving through the Outback and have got totally used to brush, sandstone cliffs, burnt scrub etc etc. About 200kms after leaving Monkey Mia, the landscape suddenly changed and

Green Fields

we were seeing green fields with crops in them and endless swathes of

Wild Flowers

wild flowers not only along the road side but also stretching off into the distance. It took some getting used to after the bush and dessert and

Wild Flowers

looked quite like a large English countryside in many places.

We went to Kalbarri (about half way down the west Coast) because someone said we should not miss it. It is a large (by Australian standards) town at the mouth of the Murchison River. An indication of the youth of Australia is that It had its first permanent resident in 1945 and its first shop in 1954. Now it is quite full of nomads all year round because of its mild climate and also surfers because of the superb waves.

Breaking Waves at Kalbarri


Pelican feeding time is one of the daily attractions on the beach and has

Kalbarri Pelicans

been going on for at least 15 years when the Pelicans fight the seagulls for food. Guess who gets asked to help?

Pat the Pelican Feeder

The town also has a wild flower centre with samples of the flowers you can see across Western Australia, many of which are very colourful.

Bird Beak Hakea

Bird Beak Hakea

Wheat Belt Wattle

Wheat Belt Wattle

Purple Thrypton

Purple Thrypton

Kangaroos Paw

Kangaroo’s Paw

Common Smoke Bush

Common Smoke Bush

The weather has certainly changed now, most days now contain numerous short periods of very heavy rain and it has almost become long trouser weather. We expect that by the time we get to Perth, we shall have had to get out the winter clothes for at least the coming few weeks until we head up towards Alice Springs.

No comments:

Post a Comment