Day 3 was the last day of our hyper-fast road trip (see Day One and Two). The goal was to try and catch the highlights in Kalbarri National Park and make it back to Perth, which we managed to, but it was quite a rush! No regrets making the trip north though, with the awesome sights, from Nature’s Window to Z-bend to Pot Alley – absolutely worth it, if a bit short-lived.
Kalbarri: Pelican Feeding
We got up to check-out and watch Pelican feeding at 9am. Apparently it was started by a random dude and has become some sort of tradition and tourist attraction, with volunteers taking turns to feed the large-billed birds daily. You get the chance to throw some fish too!
At first there was one lone Pelican, but it had to fight for the free fish – there were 15-odd seagulls (insert Finding Nemo scene here) trying to steal its breakfast. Four more of the large-billed birds arrived later, but to a near empty bucket. Too bad for them! Overall a fun, touristy thing to do.
Kalbarri National Park
Next stop was the drive out to Kalbarri National Park, which was partially open after a fire the previous day. We wanted to be good tourists and catch the famed Nature’s Window and Z-bend.
Driving out was a little nerve-wrecking since the car we had was not a 4-wheel-drive (4WD) and was borrowed. It’s about a 25km drive out from the town to reach either attraction – the first 12km is on paved road, while the remaining distance is on what they call corrugated road – basically sand + some gravel. The hostel owners assured us it was perfectly fine for our sedan, but driving over the undulating road did not help me worry less. Thankfully the car made the whole journey with just a bit of dust and plenty workout for the suspension.
First stop was the picturesque Nature’s Window, a rock formation shaped like an oversized-picture frame. Perfect tourist spot, basically. Consider visiting this in the afternoon though – the morning sun was in the background when I took the pictures, so I used the camera flash to light the shadows. There’s also a 9km trail that you can walk along the ridge, but it was way too hot and we didn’t have luxury of time or preparedness.
The next photo opportunity was the Z-bend – one section of the winding river where another river intersects, forming a “Z”. It’s no Grand Canyon, but pretty majestic nonetheless. Again, there is another trail that takes you to the bottom of the gorge, giving you a different view from the ground up. The trail was marked as “challenging”, so we gave it a miss. Pity, really, but we’ll be back someday, fitter and more prepared.
On a side note, there are designated parking spots at both highlights with toilets, so you don’t have to fertilise (hur hur). One thing you’ll also notice is the flies are incredibly irritating – in fact, we would have stayed at each spot longer and enjoyed it more if not for them. Somehow they can compensate for the strong winds and buzz around (and on) your face. Do yourself a favour and get some sort of netting for the face – they sell these around Kalbarri.
Pit Stop: Big River Ranch
Curiousity led us to turn into the Big River Ranch on the way back to Kalbarri; they also have very affordable living quarters (AUD25-ish a night), which kinda made us regret not finding this place earlier. I didn’t ask about WiFi though. It was still funny watching the horses sand bath.
LUNCH: Gorges Cafe
We caught lunch at the Gorges Cafe before they closed at about 1pm (Saturdays). Food was awesome, though not as much as our Geraldton delight. We had the Calamari and Club Sandwich – fresh, tasty and highly recommended! Oh, and try the milkshake, especially on a hot day.
The last tourist stop for us on the way back was Pot Alley – located near the coastal cliffs. We passed on the way in but decided to check it out before the long drive back. Basically it’s a break in the cliffs in the shape of a pot, with a secret-alleyway-path leading to the beach, complete with the fury of the Indian Ocean waves. Not recommended for a dip, but a nice sight to stop at.
The Drive Home – into the night!
With that, was the journey back. Driving cross-country at night in Australia brought memories of my exchange in America. You may laugh, but as a Singaporean city-dweller, I was not used to driving in darkness. If you’re not laughing, you’re probably a fellow Singaporean or city-dweller, so some tips on driving at night.
Expect it to be dark. Really dark. It’s not practical to light up thousands of kilometers of highway, so aside from moonlight, what lights up your path are car headlights and the reflectors placed along the road. Turn up the hi-beam, but practice some night-driving etiquette – if you see a car in the distance coming from the opposite direction, turn off the hi-beam until they pass you, so your headlights don’t blind them.
The drive took about 7-8 hours including our stops to re-fuel and marked the end of our Western Australian Road Trip. If you’d like to know or find out more about the trip, drop a question in the comments below, or look me up on Twitter @wasabigeek.