Kalbarri beckoned. John was keen. He’d been there before, but me, never. It seemed a drive too far. It was not a place I wanted to go, really. Friends and family gave it mixed reports. Too hot. Boring. Good fishing.
I remembered feeling a similar reluctance before my first trip to Spain a few years ago. And then I also remembered how Spain enchanted me then and now.
Usually I read as much as I can about new places before I visit. This time I forgot. Or perhaps I didn’t want to know. I pictured Kalbarri as a tiny village hunkered down between red cliffs that threatened to crush it. I expected some imagined hamlet at the bottom of a gorge like those in the Karijini National Park in the Pilbara.
Instead, Kalbarri is open to the Indian Ocean and the river. There are wide sandy beaches, and parks along the river foreshore. A fishing village turned tourist town, like many along this coast, it maintains its origins. Trawlers navigate the treacherous reefs to fish in the open sea. They return mid afternoon.
We set up our mobile cubby-house (aka an Avan Cruiser) in the Murchison Caravan Park on the waterfront. We’ve added a gazebo since our first trip, which gives us space and shade outside the van to sit and read and drink our coffee. We settled in for a week. Well into the second week, we’re reluctant to move.
Spectacular cliffs line the shore for many kilometres south of the town. The tourist information centre provides written guides to the best access and walks to see the cliffs. John and I explored the cliffs and spent time at Red Bluff,one evening as the sun was setting.
The gorges in the Kalbarri National Park almost defeated us. Extensive roadworks closed the roads to tourists unless they joined an authorised tour. Rock-climbing which I once loved is now much too hard. Three wonky knees and one recovering from a reconstruction prevent us from clambering on steep rocky paths. The loss of ability to climb and jump hurt. I mourn. But John and I spend several hours on level ground in picnic areas.We reminisced and photographed parts of the gorges while we waited for other, fitter tourists to return to the bus.
They were kind when they returned hot and sweaty from the hard climb down to the river.
On the bus back to the village, we sat next to two young women younger than some of my grandchildren.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked.
‘Lyon,’ said first.
‘My favourite city in France’, I said without thinking.
‘I come from Toulouse. Do you know it?’ said the second. She looked wistful..
‘We were there for my 77th birthday, and I have the most wonderful memories of Toulouse.’
The young woman smiled and touched my hand. She made my day.
We don’t know when we’ll be home, but it’s a good feeling, this life on the road.
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