Breath taking coastal vistas and vibrant rock formations are the main stay of Kalbarri National Park in Western Australia. In land, the Murchinson River has carved out an 80 km gorge through striped ochre sandstone as it snakes its way to the ocean. Hikers and paddlers flock to the gorge to enjoy the wilderness. Coastal cliffs offer bracing walks high above the crashing waves below, with eagles soaring overhead.
At least that’s what it says in the guide book. Google offers amazing pictures of the striking banded rocks and orange cliffs set against perfect blue skies. Having visited so many of the national parks in Australia, we were excited to find an adventure in Kalbarri. The day we visited the park the weather was not in our favour. The sky was grey, the wind was howling and the park did not quite measure up to our expectations.
We had recently visited Karijini national park and had marvelled at the inland gorges and wildness of the region. We also had excellent experiences exploring Wilsons Prom and the national parks in Tasmania. Maybe we had been spoilt by our other outstanding national park visits or perhaps it was just the dull weather. We had a pleasant enough hike above the gorge, the dull sandstone not quite jumping out as it should. Next we headed to the cliffs to blow away the cobwebs in the sea breeze. It wasn’t terrible, but it failed to wow us in the usual national park way.
The problem with travelling the world full time is that you get to see the most beautiful sights on an almost daily basis. Things that would be extraordinary often become ordinary, mundane in fact. We realised at Kalbarri that we had become so accustomed to wonder that a slightly below par place left us feeling deflated. Whilst most people would jump at the chance to visit the area and thoroughly enjoy the natural scenery, we were a little bored by it.
We had been on a tight schedule during this leg of our trip, covering over 4000 KM since leaving Darwin two weeks earlier. Our time in Australia was drawing to a close, keen to make the most of it we had possibly crammed in too much. In hindsight it is easy to see why we were feeling a little deflated and not enjoying ourselves. We were like over tired toddlers, refusing to go to bed after a busy day for fear of missing out.
We left the national park and continued down the coast to Geraldton; a large coastal town with excellent beaches and a relaxed seaside atmosphere. It was the perfect location for us to chill out and rest for a few days. The sun had come back out, the camp site was clean and the people were friendly. We spent our mornings sleeping in and our afternoons strolling hand in hand along the pristine beaches eating ice cream.
Overlooking Geraldton is the poignant and striking HMAS Sydney II Memorial. Dedicated to the 645 Australian sailors who lost their lives when their ship sank off the west coast during the Second World War. Each beautifully crafted element of the memorial is steeped in symbolism and the place evokes many emotions. A life size bronze statue of the Waiting Woman looks out to sea, symbolising the plight of families left behind by the tragedy. The Dome of Souls represents the lost crew members. Historically, the souls of drowned sailors were believed to be embodied in seagulls. During a dedication ceremony before the memorial was created a flock of seagulls swooped overhead as the last post sounded, leading to their inclusion in the memorial. It was created in 2001 with the addition of a pool of remembrance in 2008 when the wreck was discovered. The recessed pool signifies the sailors’ watery grave and a solitary seagull sits at the coordinates where the ship came to rest.
Having caught up on our sleep and recharged our batteries we left Geraldton feeling much better than when we had arrived. The memorial reminded us just how precious and fragile life is and we were ready to continue making more memories on our amazing journey.