Kalbarri National Park
First let’s review exactly how we got to where we are currently at in the Australian Outback:
As you can see on the above map we drove to Adelaide and then flew to Perth followed by picking up our campervan and driving to first the Pinnacles and then Kalbarri National Park. Kalbarri National Park is located about two and a half hours north of Geraldton on the coast of the Indian Ocean. We had spent the night at a local caravan park at the tourist city of Kalbarri and awoke early the next morning to make our way to see the gorge cut out by the Murchison River in the middle of the Australian Outback.
The most famous hike in Kalbarri National Park is to the rock formation called Nature’s Window. However, to reach the trailhead to Nature’s Window, you have to drive 30 minutes northeast of Kalbarri on a paved road and then drive another 25 kilometers down a rough dirt road. So here I was again faced with driving down a dirt road with my campervan, which is forbidden in my rental contract. I decided to give it go and just drive real slow down the road, nobody tell Britz okay? The road is easily passable with a two wheel drive vehicle, but for campervans it is best to just keep it slow because the road is rough in some areas. We drove for about 45 minutes before we reached the first view of the Murchison River gorge:
The gorge is no Grand Canyon but just the fact this gorge with all this water running through it, is here in the middle of the Australian Outback, is impressive in it’s own right. I continued to drive the campervan slowly down the road and closer to the steep rocky walls of the gorge:
I parked the campervan and the wife and I began the short walk to see the Nature’s Window. The terrain was rugged and composed of red rock and sand:
Here is a view of us walking up to Nature’s Window:
Here are some pictures of the famous view through the rock of the Murchison River flowing through the gorge:
From Nature’s Window I separated from my wife and tackled the Loop Trail:
The Loop Trail is 8km hike through rugged and sandy terrain into the depths of the gorge. The wife was not up for this hike and went back to the campervan to rest and make lunch while I hit the trail. My wife has a bad knee from a prior car accident so long strenous hikes are not for her. I could see her waving at me as I began to descend down the trail:
From the beginning of the trail you climb a plateau that provides some great views of the gorge including this Z bend:
Here are some more great views of the Murchison River and the surrounding terrain:
From here the trail descends into the gorge towards the river. During this descent I saw a kangaroo hop right past me and hop down the rocks ahead of me. He was to quick for me to capture on film, but it was amazing to see how agile the kangaroo is by jumping from rock to rock down the gorge. It reminded me of mountain goats I have seen hopping around in the Colorado Rocky Mountains back in the states. Eventually I reached the river bottom and the trail pretty much disappears and you just follow the river. Along the river it wasn’t unusual to see a number of strangely shaped ant hills:
The ant hills are no where near as big as the ones I saw in the Northern Territory, but impressive none the less.
On the day of my hike, the river was running high and the only way I could continue to follow the river would be to either jump into it or horizontally climb the rock wall of the gorge ahead of me:
I chose not to jump in the river because I would ruin my camera since I didn’t have a waterproof bag. So I chose to climb the rock walls instead. It was actually pretty fun even though I was a bit concerned about falling into the river and ruining my camera. The lesson I learned from this was that I need to buy a waterproof bag to put my camera into. As I continued up the gorge the rock walls became more impressive and it became more evident, because of the horizontal water erosion, how high the water reaches up the gorge walls during the wet season:
The heat was steadily rising and it became so hot in fact, that the soles of one of my shoes began to melt and shifted. I had to take a knife and cut off the part of my shoe’s sole that was now flapping around due to the shift. Fortunately the trail began to improve and I didn’t have to walk on so many hot rocks any more. By this time massive rock formations began to dominate each side of the gorge:
This rock formation was particularly impressive:
Other rock formations were carved into beautiful shapes from water erosion during the wet season:
Now the trail had become extremely sandy and the sun was beating down even hotter. The shoe where my sole had melted had now sprung a hole and sand was getting into my shoe. It was really annoying because I had to keep stopping to drain sand out of my shoe. During one of my breaks I heard a noise that sounded like a crying baby. I looked around and finally found the source of the noise, wild goats:
As I continued to walk through the gorge I encountered more and more goats and for a moment I thought one of the black males was going to charge me. Fortunately for me he just grunted a bit before running up the side of the gorge. I continued to follow the river and eventually I could see the Nature’s Window rock again. If you look closely at this picture you can see the Nature’s Window at the center of the red rock formation:
I continued to march through the sand towards the rock outcropping which would take me back to Nature’s Window and with that the completion of the loop trail. However the last bit of sand I had to march through before climbing up the side of canyon, was extremely hot and difficult to walk through. I walked as fast as I could through it because it was burning my feet even with my shoes on:
From Nature’s Window I then hit the trail back to the car park followed by lunch back at the campervan. In total it took me three hours to complete the 8 kilometer loop. Like anywhere in Outback Australia make sure you bring the proper equipment before you head out. Most importantly bring at least 2 liters of water. I have a two liter Camelbak and I completely drank all the water. Also bring some trail mix to munch on along the way or some powerbars. Also make sure you have sun screen as well as a cowboy or bush hat of some kind to keep the sun off your neck and ears. An additional must have piece of equipment is a fly net. The flys are thick, especially near the river. You will go insane and will not enjoy this hike if you don’t have a fly net.
Kalbarri is great place to visit if you have the time because it is an extremely isolated place, but I’m glad I was able to see it. Anyway back at the campervan I was able to survey the damage done to my shoe:
You can see in the picture the piece of the sole that melted and shifted and that I had to cut off. I really liked these shoes but it looks like now I will have to buy new ones. I bought this pair of shoes three years ago in Korea for $15 bucks. These shoes were used to hike in three continents; Asia, North America, and Australia, over a period of three years. They have lots of mileage on them and definitely were a great value considering the use I got out of them. The wife and I ate lunch and then we began the rough drive back up the dirt road. Fortunately I made it up the dirt road again with no issues and was back on the paved road. Now safely back on the highway our next destination was Shark Bay which is a four hour drive north of Kalbarri National Park on this long, lonely highway:
If you ever visit outback Australia you better get used to driving long desolate roads like this.
Next Posting: Beautiful Shark Bay
Prior Posting: Along the Batavia Coast
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