16th Dec 2011 - 17th Dec 2011
Monkey Mia trip day 1- 2: Perth to Kalbarri National Park
I’d booked on an organised four day trip to see some sights further north of Perth. It turned out another girl in my room was booked on a similar trip so we were both dreading the very early start. We had to walk a short distance to another hotel where we were picked up at 6.45 and taken to a general meeting point. Three buses turned up and we were all separated accordingly. On my trip there were 11 of us comprising of 3 Brits, 3 Singaporeans, 2 Japanese and 2 Taiwanese so we were a real mixed bunch. Our first stop was The Pinnacles. The Pinnacles are limestone formations formed by sand blown in from the ocean. It’s much more technical than that of course but that’s the simplest way to explain what they are. You can of course Google it some more if you are interested. First thing you notice, it was hot. Really hot. We took a short walk through one area of the Pinnacles. They’re impressive structures, smaller than I expected but for something totally natural they’re very impressive. We didn’t have long there before we were on the road again and stopping off for an early lunch at Durian Bay. We all pitched in to make lunch and soon enough we were back on the road again to our next stop – Sand Boarding at Lancelin. I’ve never sand boarded before, I wasn’t sure what to expect exactly but had visions of a skateboard for sand. I wasn’t far wrong, except you sit on these so less painful if you fall. The dune we were due to board down looked pretty steep at first so I had a couple of goes down from about half way up. Third time I went to the top, got pretty scared but jumped on and off I went. It almost went horribly wrong about half way down when my balance went and I wobbled but I managed to get it back and made it all the way down. Our overnight stop on the first night was Kalbarri. A simple backpackers place with plenty of room for our group and another tour group to cook dinner. Again we all pitched in to help prepare dinner, eat it and clear away. The evening was ours to mingle but given we had such an early start and that we would be on our way by 7 again the next morning it wasn’t much of a late one.
On the morning of day two we headed straight for Kalbarri National Park. Our first stop was the bottom of the gorge, a fairly steep walk down which involved some climbing. I thought it was hot when we were out at the pinnacles but wow, Kalbarri was even hotter. Me and few others in the group had signed up to do a 25m abseil so we stopped there before we reached the bottom. The last time I abseiled must have been over 10 years ago, if not longer but as far as I can remember I enjoyed it. So why was it so terrifying this time around? I knew I couldn’t fall but for some reason I just couldn’t let go of the fear. Even once I was over the worst bit, which is going over the edge I just couldn’t make my hands work properly enough so I didn’t exactly bounce down the wall. I more just lowered myself, attempting to push myself down here and there. About half way down is a ridge so in order to make sure you have enough momentum to get down the rest of the rock you really have to make sure you push and descend. My problem was that I could push but not make my hands lose their grip on the rope so I just did a bit of an out and in swing, followed by a short loosening of the rope so I edged my way down about 5cm at a time. It was painful to watch and I was holding on so tight it was quite painful on my fingers. After all that you’d think I might not go a second time, but I didn’t want to wimp out in front of 50 or so other people (having all those people watch definitely did not help) and I figured it couldn’t be any worse than the first time. Well, it technically wasn’t any worse but I was even more terrified second time around and I still couldn’t coordinate my hands and my legs. By the time we’d all finished we were running behind schedule so we continued down to the bottom of the gorge, had a quick look – it is amazing scenery and you can see the different layers of rock that have formed over the years but we didn’t have very long to stand and admire it before we were climbing all the way back up to the top to get to our second stop. the path wasn't exactly smooth on the way back so you had to mind where you walked anyway. Added to that was that someone had been to the toilet in the middle of the path. It could only have been someone because it wasn't there on the way down and the area wasn't exactly full of dogs. that's what I thought anyway and had my suspicions confirmed later that day by the tour group leader who had realised it was one of our group who didn't make it all the way to the bottom of the gorge. We did laugh about it. You had to really. The kid was in his teens and we couldn't really understand why he didn't go off the path.
I digress. Having seen the bottom of the gorge, we had to see it from the top. The Loop and Z Bend are sections of the Murchison River aptly named because of the enormous loops and Z bend they have created as they flow through the gorges. From the top it is really impressive, I don’t know how many years it’s taken to erode the rock to form the shapes (I have a feeling our tour guide told us but I can’t remember) but wow is all I can say. It was getting hotter and hotter as it got closer to lunchtime so the air conditioned bus was a saviour. Next stop was Nature’s window, a small naturally formed arch in the rock. The rock was a wonderful red sandstone – or at least it looked like sandstone but it may have been something else. It reminded me of the Grand Canyon – it has a similar geography about it. We stopped for a quick photo op in front of the window and I have to say this was more impressive than the gorge was. Lunch today was on the go as our tour leader Ryan wanted to get us up to Monkey Mia our overnight stop in time for us to enjoy the beach. We had a quick stop at the entrance to Shark Bay, a world heritage listed site totalling a total area of 23,000 square kilometres. The area also has a population of fewer than 1,000 people and a coastline of over 1,500 kilometres. A little way along the very long straight road to Monkey Mia, we had to stop due to some road works (poor Ryan, desperately trying to get us there ahead of schedule). We had a wait of about 20 minutes while they finished up and it was way too hot to get out of the van but a few people took advantage. One of the other girls on the trip had got out to take a photo of the man holding the stop sign on the otherwise deserted road and the next time I looked out of the window, she was holding the sign while the man had a cigarette. Job done rather quickly it seemed (why do road works take so long in England?) and we were back en route to Monkey Mia. Some great driving by our driver and we arrived with plenty of time to hit the beach. The sun was still shining and the beach was beautiful so we made the most of it. The water was a bit cold but very shallow so perfect for me. Thanks to my friend Georgina, who has a very infectious fear of sharks, I was pleased that the water was probably too shallow for Sharks, given we were in shark by and all. That night was BBQ night - steak and sausages. Again we all pitched in, becoming a very well oiled machine in getting the food ready. Having stopped off at a liquor store the day before, a few post dinner drinks were consumed.
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