A Brief Taste of the Tropics
A Brief Taste of the Tropics
We were off early heading north, eleven of us out of the 18 originally booked and Wokka, our driver, all quietly knowing that with the four square metres distancing rule we should not be there at all; but the local organisers had not received the command to cancel, so we were hopeful that as we were effectively isolating ourselves to an area of country populated at the rate of 1 person per square kilometre we might just get away with a few days at least. Things were changing by the hour and at least in our rugged bus we had the means of return.
The Pinnacles are 32,000 human height limestone rocks and scientists are not certain how they were formed. There are two theories and they could both be partly true. Like derelict cities and wrecked ships in the Sahara they cover and uncover depending on the movement of the massive sand dunes. The colour of the sand around the mini monsters is like Birds Custard while the seashore sand is, well, sand coloured.
We arrived at Jurien Bay for lunch and by this time were well on the way to gelling as a group. Wraps filled with salad, hummus, falafels and cold meats were prepared and devoured with equal enthusiasm. This was where we were supposed to be flying down the dunes, filling our clothes and orifices with gritty sand but Wokka had no grease for the boards so we climbed back onto the coach to head for the pink lake at Lynton.
All the youngsters, including us two keenagers, were from Europe and they started to receive confirmations that flights booked for April were being cancelled; their plans unlike their flights were being thrown up in the air. One of the two Mels had successfully booked hers only the day before but now just hours later her flight was grounded. The mood of excitement over the long anticipated trip was tempered by the rapidly changing situation; borders were starting to close between countries abroad and states here.
Hannah on her fourth trip to Aussie was determined to swim with whale sharks. Tom from France and Carmel from Belgium chatted away in French as we sped along, when Tom was not fast asleep that is.
The distant house in the photo is now a B&B and has a history of interest to the older ones of you who have heard of the films and musicals entitled “The King and I”. Anna Leonowens was the ‘I’ and lived there with her military husband and four children, but this was before her position with the King. Later when they had moved to Singapore and then on to Penang her husband and two of her children died. She sent one of her other children, a daughter to England for an education while her son stayed with her and she became the governess to the King of Siam’s children for five years. The book ‘Anna and the King’, from which the story was taken was written by Margaret Landon. Later in life Anna travelled much, living in New York, Canada and Europe and pursued careers in journalism, writing and embarked on lecture tours to earn a living and latterly became a part of the suffragist movement. Busy, intelligent lady.
The pink lake near her home, otherwise called the Hutt Lagoon, was very long and quite pink. The colour comes from the algae that lives there, Dunalliela Salina which is a source of Beta-carotene used as colouring in the food industry, consequently the lake is home to the world’s largest micro-algae farm.
Carmel got some fine film using her drone, a tiny model but with a good quality lens, the best of both worlds if you’re a young traveller. She’s the one with the scarf around her high pony tail.
Next stop on our first day was Bluff Point Lookout with its elevated views over the Indian Ocean and the beautiful red, horizontal strata of the rocks. This invigorated the youngsters who posed on high rocks with the wind off the ocean blowing theirs worries away just briefly.
By now after hours on the road we were in the tropics and that evening the breeze that blew through the barbecue area at the hostel was very welcome. All hands to the pumps, or knives at least, Kasia, an aeronautical engineer turning her giant coleslaw salad.
Replete with good fresh food, Wokka decided it was time for a socialising game; it wasn’t necessary but it was fun. It had five rounds. The first where each person gave their name. The second we told of a household chore we hate. The third we gave the reason for hating it. We had all said the first three rounds before Wokka explained the fourth round where we substituted the chore for the words “I hate sex”, then we added the reason already stated. The fifth we repeated our names and said where we came from. Mine went something like this.
My name is Barb, I hate dusting, (I go to great lengths to avoid it including using a well wrung out sponge so it won’t need doing again for a while and painting shelves dust colour so it wouldn’t show anyway) because as soon as it is done it needs to be done again. I hate sex because as soon as it’s done it needs to be done again. Etc
Rob’s seminal sentences went “I hate hoovering because there is always something better to do. I hate sex because there is always something better to do!!!!!!!” The exclamation marks are mine.
We spent a comfy first night both of us sharing a dorm with quiet and charming Rafael from the Dolomites in Italy, Tom and Carmel and prepared for an early start, heading for Murchison Gorge where the river of the same name flows down the meeting place of two tectonic plates in the Kalbarri National Park.
Red, puffy eyes of broken plans and lost flights calmed as we moved towards our next mini adventure. Wokka hadn’t brought us any negative news yet so we were free to enjoy the moment. It was hot and getting hotter and the flies were a pain, but at least they didn’t bite; instead competed on our lips for each gulp of water and sought out the moisture around our eyes and up our noses.
The climb down to the Murchison river bank was a wonderful scramble over rocks, through natural rock alleys and down ladders before we relaxed by the green river. It reminded me of a small scale Grand Canyon and the climb up was just as invigorating. The photo of the red wall with darker streaks is where we were supposed to abseil but the organiser of that was self isolating after contact with an infected person. A short drive further and a short walk to the elevated lookout where we posed at the window and looked over the bend in the river and the sandy beach.
Our itinary included a loop walk around the green area in the photo back to the beach for a swim; but the path was closed so we wandered back to the coach hoping that Wokka had been able to book us onto our chosen tours, which were swimming with whale sharks, another with manta rays and our choice the glass bottomed boat where we could snorkel along behind.
Heading for the shade of a rest area Wokka walked over and gave us the thumbs up. Spirits rose, not only was the trip continuing but we would soon be snorkelling again.
Wokka drove forward a little then stopped and was looking at his phone, “We might have to turn back, so we’ll go back to the hostel and get lunch first.”
We chatted with the retired headmistress who owned the hostel with her husband; she was supportive and caring. As we finished our meal Wokka came across from the settee area, “It’s over, we head back when you’re ready, should take about six hours with breaks.” It was a kind of relief because the uncertainty was over and we could all start to plan our next moves. Some of our young friends would bunker down in a house share and others would go to the airport on the off chance. Ticket prices were sky rocketing with the single flights from $2400 to $12,200 back to Europe from the 23rd March to the 24th. Tom planned to sleep in a park and was reluctant to fly home. His father had disowned him after he failed his maths exam at university and decided to take a year out, but as a last resort he thought his mum would send him the money. All his savings had gone on flights, accommodation and tours, he had a lot to cope with and I knew how it felt to be disowned by ones father.
The sun was still high as we started off, passing numerous white crosses and bleached piles of roo bones, the product of roadkill, I wondered if the crosses and bones were linked, collisions in the dusk when these animals, so symbolic of Australia are active. The dramatic natural palette colour of red ochre roadside, green plant growth and blue sky with its pure white bulbous clouds was a treat to the eye and with our inevitable confinement coming up I tried to soak it up.
Our progress south was matched with news of plans as they were being made using mobile phones. Mercifully Perth YHA had plenty of space for anyone who wanted it and we could look forward to an ensuite double, but the $29 was too much for Tom, a park bench it would be. I just hoped he would be safe.
The sun was getting lower and its heat less intense. The coach air-con did not always work and Wokka had to contend with pleas from the girls to make it cooler. Two stops gave us some relief but on the last stretch I worried that a roo would lope across infront of us on its silflay, the name given to the rabbits evening sortie for food in Watership Down by Richard Adams, written in 1972 and one of my favourite nouns.
Soon we were back in Perth and the local tour organiser came onto the coach to get us to sign an agreement that the tour had ended at midday and then offended our young friends by saying he had possibly lost a house he was hoping to buy and he would lose his job while we had ‘only’ lost a holiday. I was glad to have the opportunity, when he phoned us later to check on our health and we were back on board, to explain that his comment was offensive as much more than just his tour was terminated for them. What is more they weren’t going home like him and their future safety and security was up in the air. I had little doubt they would work it out somehow but to hear such un-empathetic words when they were already tired and worried seemed callous and thoughtless.
Against the rules we all met up in the youth hostel for a final meal together and Rob and I offered what encouragement we could.
We had booked the train to East Perth station the next morning to connect with the coach for Kojonup where we would pick up ‘The Falcon’, (Ford Falcon) kindly on loan to us again so we would do the last stage back to Zoonie under our own steam. But would public transport be running as normal?
Fortunately the links worked and as we settled onto the coach the pristine Irish driver came to a safe distance from us and said “Please make it a short trip to the facilities at the back, we all like a nice trip and I’m not a plumber,” and “While you’re making your way there hang on and you’ll survive my driving.” “The water on board is vile, drink your own and you’ll live, there are levers at the sides of your seats and back you go,” and finally and reassuringly, “The damage at the back of the coach was not my doing!”
I love some of these Aussie names. On our long journey home we came across Krak a Tinny Station, turned briefly onto Wannaroo Road (no thanks I wouldn’t know what to do with it) and my favourite under the circumstances, Chinnup.
Our capable coach driver then had a testing time; two passengers needed a different destination to ours, so he had to arrange for a coach to take them back, and he turned onto a narrow road only to find it closed off without any prior sign. Rob volunteered his help with the reversing with a gentle push from me, but after that it was plain sailing and were we glad to see Zoonie’s homely hull once again. The Falcon has landed.