Kalbarri: Murchison River Gorges
April 21, 2005
Heading south now to Kalbarri and the Lola-Rose Bed & Breakfast.
If pushed to name just one place it would be Kalbarri. Kalbarri has it all. Swimming beach. Boating. Excellent Restaurant. "The familiar arid bushland, impressive gorges and rugged coastal cliffs."
Outside Kalbarri is the Loop and Nature's Window - a rock arch - two meter round window carved by the wind. Lots of tourists posing for photos. I started to trek the 1.5 hour Loop - a rocky trail on a hillside above the Murchison River gorges. I was alone. It was hot. I had only a little water. I had trouble finding the trail. The footing was rocky with loose stones. If I slipped, it was a long way down. So after about 10 minutes I turned back. Next time I will do it with a partner. Any volunteers?
I drove to Z-Bend (pronounced of course, "zed bend"), Hawk's Head and Ross Graham overlooks. Crows, always. Black Swans way down below, cruising on the river.
Back to town for the best dinner at the Black Rock Cafe.
I selected the three course set menu - tomato soup, chicken in a pancake, dessert.
The large serving of tomato soup was savory and spicy with freshly cooked crushed tomato. I am a soup lover. This bowl was brilliant.
The rolled pancakes with chicken were coated with Swiss cheese and lightly sauteed spinach. A relish of cranberry and onion was a perfect match. The rice was flavorful. And large chunks of sesame-honey pumpkin sat on a bed of sprouts and slices of green beans and red pepper.
Dessert was chilled lemon tart.
The night before I capitulated to a typical Aussie feed at Finlay's Fresh Fish BBQ. An overflowing platter of fresh grilled local fish and sea food (not very tasty), cole slaw (bland), potato salad (not cooked properly), chips-french fries (NOT!) and BYOB. At the bottle shop I picked up a Hahn Premium Lager (beautiful).
As in most WA eateries, give your order to the cashier, pay before eating, take a number to your table and the waitress will find you, or as at Finlay's, wait for your number to be hollered out by the cook.
Finlay's is a large open courtyard with picnic tables, lots, lots, lots of cute curly blond girls and boys scurrying about, a campfire to keep a few occupied and a piano sing-a-long. Moms talking with other moms about whatever moms talk about. Dads asking each other what's biting today?
Kalbarri and Lola-Rose B&B reminded me of Nang Rong and Honey Inn in Thailand. You arrive as planned and want to stay longer. But faced with a long ride to Perth and my ambition to see the southwest, I arose before dawn to set out along scenic coastal roads with a stop at Pinnacles Desert.
Pinnacles Desert is one of those special places I first saw in a newspaper article or in a travel magazine. I was not disappointed.
"Pinnacles Desert, where thousands of limestone pillars stand like sentinels on the desert floor. The lime-rich desert sand originated from seashells, which compacted with rain and subsequently eroded, forming individual pillars - some towering up to 5m. The area's other-worldliness has been likened to a moonscape and the remains of an ancient lost city."
I had a different reaction.
At this point in my trip I had already spent a lot of time in the mountains and in the red-brown desert. Now, strolling among the many shapes and colors of these unique vertical, pointed formations, I felt as if I were shoulder to shoulder in a crowd of my old friends and fellow travelers. A very peaceful and powerful conclusion to a most dramatic journey.
Frequently local people ask me, "What do you think about Australia?" I always answer, "You have a beautiful country. You must be very proud." They are.
PS In actual fact there really is a Lola-Rose. She is just a bit plump and has a dark complexion. She is from Tonga. I had to check a map. Tonga is in the South Pacific somewhere near Fiji.
Lola-Rose is jolly, truly warm, interested, animated, generous, happy. She wore fresh pink flowers in her black braided hair. She never stopped smiling. I was sorry to leave. We had a big hug.
Lola-Rose made me realize how much I miss Southeast Asia. How comfortable I am there now. My itinerary will take me back to Bali, Singapore and Bangkok. I am counting the days. I am happy, too.