Kalbarri to Perth, Road Trip Australia!
Kalbarri to Perth
It’s not every day that you meet a princess, and a princess called Shirley at that!
Princess Shirley stamped our passports into, and out of, the Hutt River Province: a marvellous ‘Kingdom’ in Western Australia – or, to you and me, a farm with grand ambitions!
I’ll come to this a bit further down the post, as well as a little incident with the police, for now I’ll go back and pick the story on from where I left off: we’d left the wonderful Peron Peninsula and Shark Bay, heading south in our awesome 80’s car towards Kalbarri.
Kalbarri National Park has some pretty epic geology to feast your eyes on, and treat your adventurous legs to: the Murchison River snakes through the arid landscape, scything a deep gorge over the millennia.
It was an obvious stop for us on our Australia road trip and we couldn’t have timed it better: Kalbarri NP is famed for its wildflowers and they are in full bloom throughout August and September.
We arrived slap bang into the middle of this floral season, and the spectacle was absolutely beautiful!
We set out on the 8km walk around the loop, a switchback on the course of the Murchison River. Not far along the trail we came to Nature’s Window, a rock ‘hole’ framing a perfect view of the river flowing east. The trail then went along a narrow rocky ridge before dropping down towards the riverbank.
The path along the river bank was through soft sand which I found rather exhausting to trudge through, the main problem though was the flies.
*Reads from journal* ” There were lots of flies that drove me mad, and eventually to tears. They kept landing on my face, one almost went up my nose.” – what a drama queen! (We purchased fly nets after this, ugh, I dislike flies!)
We did see some wildlife: I list two pretty green parrots, two small kangaroos, two small lizards and two goats in my journal!
Nature’s Window is very impressive, and more than made up for the flies, and the wild flowers were so pretty that when I look back at the photos now I forget the fly-discomfort and remember Kalbarri fondly.
We didn’t stay in the national park, instead we camped at the Murchison Park camping and caravan site in the nearby Kalbarri town. It was pretty busy and we made some interesting camp friends (our tiny red tent often drew inquisitive people over!), Kim and Deb were camped in a trailer tent next to us, Kim had a show on Radio Fremantle and we sat and chatted both nights we were there, Kim revealing he’d once lent sugar to Charles Manson while living in San Fran in the 60’s!
Deb had an even more mind-blowing fact, highlighted by the starry night: there are more stars in the heavens as grains of sand on earth! They were great fun to hang out with at the end of the day, even if Kim insisted on calling me Sarah!
Kalbarri national park also includes a chunk of coastline, and on the way out of town we stopped at Mushroom Rock to do a short walking loop.
There were no flies here, the waves fiercely crashed against the rocky coast, the wind whipping up the sea. Mushroom Rock is a weathered rock that looks a little like a mushroom at certain angles (I think that’s it to the right of me in the photo below).
Sitting on the rocky bluff and gazing out across the ocean, we spotted a humpback whale ‘spy hopping’ in the next cove, through our binoculars. To try to see it closer, we dashed to the car and drove along to the next look out but it had headed out to sea by then.
We had a brief stop at the Natural Bridge look out, a sea arch, then set off south on Hwy 1.
Blue flashing lights twinkled in Chad’s mirrors, the police were tailing us, requesting we pull over. Uh oh!
Now, you remember we bought the car in Broome off a couple of backpackers, in Western Australia there is no such thing as a roadworthy test, not yearly, not ever. Instead, the police can pull over and inspect a vehicle for roadworthiness.
Chad may have been the coolest 80’s car on the backpacker circuit, but that coolness came at a price: he looked tatty. Chad was sun-bleached, had bent number plates, was endearingly covered in stickers (maybe bullet holes weren’t the best idea in hindsight guys!) and previous road trippers had signed the bonnet. He was perfect police fodder.
There were four officers, they came over and one asked for Chris’s driving licence and car rego, a couple of the officers had a general check around the car.
The officer told us we’d narrowly escaped a ‘sticker’ (which I can only assume has UNROADWORTHY emblazoned across it) because Chris was a nice guy: it pays to be polite!
He recommended getting new number plates, and buying a couple of cans of spray paint to smarted Chad up, i.e. to avoid being pulled over again. Rather doom-laden, he reckoned that Chad wouldn’t come off the ramp once it went on. Oh poor Chad! It was a close call!
I think Chad, and his owners, may have been in better condition than they expected, and they never asked about the back lights! Eek!
And so, a little further along the highway, we turned off to the Hutt River Province, albeit somewhat shook up.
The Hutt River Province is a farm, a farm with a post office, a chapel, a gift shop/museum and a tea room. You can camp here too, we didn’t. And because of some loophole, it is a separate country!
The story goes (Kim, our Charles Manson sugar-lending friend, informed us) that in the 1970’s the government limited the amount of wheat farmers could grow. Wheat farmer Leonard found a loophole in the law and created his own country so that he could grow as much wheat as he liked!
It’s taken very seriously too! The Hutt River Province has its own passport stamp and its own currency. Princess Shirley stamped our passports – oh how I wish we had taken a photo of her –, she is far more farmer’s wife than royal, the most average princess you’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, King Leonard was out on farm business in Geraldton so we had to make do with his gargantuan head statue instead. If you are lucky, you can meet King Leonard at the plastic pyramid behind the gift shop (again, no pictures, I must have been so amazed by the whole shebang I failed to remember I even had a camera!).
That night we camped a Coronation Beach, a little north of Geraldton, for AUS $10, a busy, sheltered campsite right next to the beach. Unfortunately the weather had turned decidedly unpleasant and the lovely beach was wasted on us.
Geraldton gave us an opportunity to get new license plates for the car, Chad got a whole new set of numbers!
Chris had major difficulty unscrewing the old ones (with his Swiss Army Knife) and a local guy parked nearby came to our rescue offering us some of his tools to use.
While Chris was in the DPI office, the guy came back over and donated a few of his spare tools to the Chad cause! We gained a couple of screwdrivers and a few spanners.
It was actually kind of nice to get the plates in Geraldton, according to the paperwork in the glovebox, Chad had originally been purchased from a Mitsubishi showroom in town, back in the 80’s! He was a Geraldton boy!
We decided to splurge a little and booked Chad in for a full service at a garage, and to try to get the lights fixed. While he was there we took a look around the town museum, after meeting Lotti and Hike (they’re in an old VW bus, we’ve been following them since Cape Range!) in the library.
The museum was really quite interesting, I was completely absorbed by the stories of the early settlers.
$200 down, and no solution to our light problem, we left Geraldton with shiny new plates and a fresh change of oil. Camping back at Coronation Beach, Lotti had a look at our electrics. His van was full of tools, if you drive an old van around Australia, you probably need some knowhow!
Unfortunately, he was baffled too, he needed a wiring diagram apparently. The phantom lights are unfixable!
We were in need of a shower, we stopped at the 440 Roadhouse heading into Geraldton but the lovely girl informed us their showers were only for truckers. She did point out some free ones down on the sea front though, and gave us two bacon and egg rolls for free as they were a little bit burnt around the edges: Chris was a very happy man!
The beach showers were cold water only, so after asking in Geraldton tourist info, we found an awesome free hot shower on the waterfront.
That night we camped at the picturesque Sandy Cape Public Beach Camp near Jurien, a place recommended by Deb, only to be confined early on to our tent by hoards of mosquitoes. We woke to thunder and heavy rain.
Next on the road trip was the Pinnacles Desert in Cervantes. The desert covers a wide area near the coast, jutting up though the yellow sand are thousands of limestone pillars caused by water filtering through a sand dune on to limestone. The water eroded the limestone into these fantastic conical shapes and over time the sand dunes blew away revealing the pinnacles.
There is a driving route through the formations, it’s like an inanimate safari park except it is perfectly safe to stop and get out of your car!
Some of the Pinnacles are very tall, and against the heavy cloud drifting across the sky the scene, for me, was almost biblical.
Some cheeky galahs were nesting in one of the golden towers, its cute pink face would pop its head out of one of the eroded holes.
It took two days to drive to Perth, we didn’t travel far on either day, detouring a little inland to stay at Willowbrook farm in Gin Gin, purely for the fact that they advertised cream scones.
At 9.15 in the morning a bell sounded across the campsite: that meant the scones were going into the oven, a 15 minute warning to be ready for them! We dragged our camp chairs over and found a spot – the site was busy with a caravan club rally.
Trestle tables were laid out with big bowls of cream and jam. The plates of complementary scones were brought out: big rustic heaps of warm scones decorated with bunches of flowers.
We had well-timed this stay, free scones only happen on a Sunday morning!
The koalas were in an open enclosure, so very easy to see (we saw many more wild ones in Adelaide and on the Great Ocean Road later on), they looked blissfully comfortable dozing in their trees.
After a wander around the reserve we set Chad into the traffic of Perth, it seemed odd driving him on wide, four lane highways into a city!
We camped at Fremantle and spent three nights in the area. The most touristy thing we did was to explore Perth’s Kings Park, a beautiful botanic garden overlooking the city.
The rest of the time was spend gorging in restaurants and running errands. I tidied up the front of the car, spraying the bonnet – the campsite manager wasn’t terribly happy about this though, whoops!
We had finally reached ‘civilisation’, yet looking at the map, planning our next stretch of the road trip, we still had many more kilometres to even get half way!
Coming up next, we head further south where we pick up a gorgeous dog!
Amazing eh! What did you think of these tales! Have I inspired you to road trip here?
Part 5 Fremantle to Albany Heading into the forests and facing my fear of heights.
Part 6 Crossing the Nullarbor Epic crossing into South Australia, and lots of whales!
Part 7 Ceduna to Melbourne The last 2ooo kilometres via the Great Ocean Road.
Part 1 Broome to Exmouth Halfway around Australia, in this car? The beginning of the adventure!
Part 2 Cape Range National Park: Snorkelicious Australia! Snorkelling with turtles in the Ningaloo Reef!
Part 3 Shark Bay Stromatolites: Exmouth to Shark Bay WA ancient stone creatures and feeding wild dolphins!