Gorge-ous Kalbarri in Gascoyne

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.

Red Bluff just south of Kalbarri at sunset

Rugged cliffs south of Calbarri.

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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Over the hills and camping

Our cubby set up for our first camping holiday

John and I are over the hills and camping.

Way past the age when most people start their new (retired) lives in caravans, we bought a darling little house on wheels. We spent a few days in Cervantes (two hours north of Perth) so we could check it out. A week later, we made the 580 kilometre trip north to Kalbarri. We set up camp close to the mouth of the Murchison River.

Mouth of Murchison River

The life of grey nomads, who travel Australia for months or years at a time, probably won’t suit us. We will see what works and decide.

I grew up camping. Our family camped in tents until the late 1940s when Dad built a caravan with beds for five of us. His old Plymouth car groaned as it pulled the van up hills, but we always arrived safely. My sister Elizabeth Worts and her husband Peter are intrepid caravaners. My bother Peter Stone, recently finished outfitting a bus ready for the open roads.

My kids and I camped in tents, and it was natural that as soon as they were old enough, my grandchildren came too. Some of them have taught their partners the joy of sleeping out near the beach or in the bush, too. I didn’t stop camping until John and I married ten years ago.

John, on the other hand, has always sailed.  His yacht, Amigo Diablo, was an important background to our blossoming friendship. Selling Amigo was difficult for him, and I was also very sad, but we knew we were too old to sail safely.

We bought a campervan. It was very old, and rattled and shuddered on the road. If we wanted to go out for a meal, or even slip to a shop for more chocolate, we had to pack up our house and take it with us. We were glad to sell it.

However, a fleet of tiny A-frame caravans once lined up in a tourist park near our campervan.

Some cheerful owners invited us to look inside their vans.  I fell in love immediately.

I love cubby houses or Wendy houses, those small spaces where kids play and feel secure. The tiny-house movement fascinates me. I planned to build a very small house for my aging years. But then I met John…

Our A-Van Cruiser packs down into a very manageable trailer. In less than two minutes, the four sides can be raised and fastened in place, and we have a cubby house with plenty of head-room and conveniences my parents would never have dreamed of.

Camping in our A-Van Cruiser

  • It satisfies my longing to travel and explore.
  • Small spaces under the sky make me happy.
  • I like a new challenge.
  • It is playful and fun.

So here we are, way over the hill and camping. At our age!

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Eight-month miracle book launch

An eight-month miracle book went to the printer yesterday, accompanied by alternating flurries on my part of anxiety, excitement and relief. Since last August, I’ve been the leader of a narrative research project for the Spirit of the Streets Inc guiding their book, The Spirit of the Streets: Our Stories, to completion.

Cover of the eight-month miracle book.

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