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Final Statistics: Alex & Maz Total distance: 93,550km
Furthest Point: Rotorua, NZ Now settled in Sydney, Australia
Final Statistics: Martin Total distance: 79,698km
Furthest Point: Hobart, Australia Now settled in Bristol, UK

Rudolf with a Bounce!

Written by Jim Kelly. Uploaded 9 February 2007.

Australia, Country 26, Diary entry 22nd - 28th Dec 2006, Total distance in Australia: Unknown, Distance to date: 18,291KM

PLUS BONUS COUNTRY 27.... The Hutt River Province..!!

Part 3 of the Grey Nomad Trilogy

After all the excitement of Monkey Mia, it was time for a rest day for myself and Barbara as Marianne and Alex explored the well named 'Useless Loop Road'.

Alex: After a quick stop of at the aptly named 'Shell Beach' we were keen to head to Steep Point (the most westerly point of mainland Australia) as always we underestimated how long it would take and this stretch was all dirt roads. Our first stop were the dramatic Zutydorp Cliffs, but when we arrived the wind was blowing so fierce that we were quite concerned that we might get blown off into the surging sea. With 4 tons of Tinfish left blowing back n forth in the gale, we crept to the edge of the cliffs to peer over... impressive!

The impressive Zutydorp Cliffs Beautiful scenery

With night fast approaching the next task was to find shelter out of the wind so that the tent wouldn't get ripped from the roof rack. After many failed attempts to find a sand track to a lee shore (they all looked promising across the dunes until the last descent to the beach was near vertical... we might get down but definitely not up!) we eventually found a path we were willing to risk. Although we had some shelter, as I guided Maz down I had to wear my dive mask as the sand was blasting between the dunes flailing anything exposed.

Finally after Tinfish bogged into the sand we'd found camp, not quite flat, but then Tinfish wasn't going any further. We then started a very simple meal of sand, steak, sand, pasta and sand - tasty! Looking at the tide now coming in, we were trying to work out when high tide would be and approximated around midnight. Normally you can identify the high tide line, but on this occasion it wasn't very obvious. Scratching heads the last thing we wanted was a water bed, then finding rocks higher than where we'd parked with rock pools on top sealed the decision... we had to move.

I'll have a LARGE serving of sand please! Steep Point, the most westerly of mainland Australia

Of course the way down was gravity assisted... the way up quite a challenge, so we had as much of a run up as feasible to mount the corkscrew ascent off the beach. First time not quite enough umph. Backing down we narrowly missed rolling the side of Tinfish into the dune. Okay second try & we got a few feet further then stopped once more. Now we locked all diff's and scraped some sand away from the front of the tyres & eased back on the accelerator. Incredibly Tinfish pulled herself up and over - amazing what these cars can do.

We eventually found a scrape of shelter from the wind further inland and were up early the next day to head to Steep Point, a fun drive through many sand dunes. Just before we got there, in the middle of nowhere was a rangers house and a sign to pay your entry fees! Feeling obliged to do the right thing, we pulled up next to the house and were met by a Ranger in a Northern English accent saying "Don't bloody tell me you've driven that thing all t'way from UK?" After coffee (cappuccino no less!) and biscuits with Paul and Pam we waved them farewell as we were mindful we still had a rendezvous with the Grey Nomads later that day with many km still to travel. As they were kind enough to let us off the entry fee, we thought it was only right for us to add that as a donation to CARE on their behalf... so thanks guys for the coffee, chin wag and the donation to CARE.

Our new found fishing buddies

Steep Point is arguably the best shore based fishing in the world... apparently even Marlin are caught from the shore! It is therefore extremely popular with the fishing folk.. ie 95% of Australians! We soon got talking to Joe and Wayne, who showed us a little of the fishing techniques with a helium filled balloon! These guys stay here for weeks on end and are very well set up with genies powering the fridges to keep their beers n catch cold. Joe kindly gave us a donation for CARE and Wayne followed suite with a donation for our stomachs... about 5kg of freshly caught, filleted and frozen Spanish Mackerel (an Aussie sized fish about 4ft long and delicious as a matter of fact) The water looked tempting as they told us it wasn't unusually to see dolphin, whales, sharks etc cruising by. Being Shark Bay, almost on queue a huge monster of a shark glided past which they reckoned was a Bronze Whaler or a Tiger... hmm maybe I'll wait for that dip!

With time ticking, we wished all a Merry Christmas and burnt more sand to meet up with the Winnebago...

We had arranged to meet on the following day at the Hamelin Telegraph Station which proved to be 'a blast into the past' in more ways than one. The old telegraph station remains much as it had been, when it was an isolated, essential link in the developing communications network of early Australia.

The Camel Stables

The original buildings of the outback stations remain, including the Camel stables. However some things never go out of fashion. Wild camels, turned loose when the automobile took over transport in the Outback, now roaming in this area; are caught and exported back to Saudi Arabia for use as breeding stock!

Talk to me!

There are reminders of the hardships of that era in the pictures and which remain in the original telegraph office. We were warmly welcomed by the new owner of the station and had ample opportunity to look both at the museum and also at the Stromatolytes whilst we waited for Marianne and Alex whose off the road journey proved to be a happy, indeed fruitful one, but much longer than any of us expected, but not as long as it took the Stromatolites in the Hamelin Pool to grow! These Stromatolites provide a unique insight into the evolution of the Earth. One of only two places in the world where Stromatolites exist, they are 'living fossils' being built by microbes similar to those found in rocks 3,500 million years old. Shaped by tidal movements and surrounded by sand, the microbes produced oxygen for over 2 billion years, which ultimately allowed oxygen breathing life forms to evolve.

Near the beginning...

Though Australia has a relatively short history in human terms, it has an astounding geological history, particularly through the whole of the North Western region, which continues to remind us of the relatively recent arrival of human beings in terms of the history of the world. But we had a more imminent arrival on our minds - Siobhan, a.k.a Shiv to her friends and siblings, was due to arrive in Kalbarri that evening, to spend Christmas with us all and then continue with Marianne and Alex to explore the Southern end of the West Coast, after the grey nomads flew on to Sydney for the New Year.

A hurried drive from Hamelin to Kalbarri meant that me and Barbara were just in time to meet up with Siobhan, somewhat jaded from her flight and bus journey but delighted to have made the final connection in preparation of Christmas down under. Siobhan's arrival was marked with another striking sunset - similar to the one when the grey nomads arrived.

Kalbarri Sunset to welcome Siobhan

The first evening of Siobhan's arrival was also celebrated by a visit to the local 'chippie' as no one in the group felt like cooking, especially as Tinfish was late having suddenly sprouted a leaky fuel tank after her last bout off-road. It was an eye opener because we arrived just as the 'chippy' was shutting, and instead of us being disappointed, he stayed open and cooked fresh food for us - a delicious feast for the hungry English. And the proprietor only mentioned the Ashes once - even though it was a lengthy and rather derogatory mention! He was also advertising the sale of a variety of types of fish for consumption at Christmas, now only three days away. So within five minutes, whilst waiting for our supper, we all agreed on a surf and turf main menu for Christmas Day, and placed an order for the surf element of prawns for starters and rock Lobster tails for part of the main course. It was a decision which, on Christmas Day, was to prove inspired.

Nature's Palette

Siobhan was not given much respite or indeed time to rest for the next morning we were off to visit the Murchinson River with its gorges carved through the ancient and spectacular Tumblagooda sandstone. Unfortunately Tinfish was misbehaving again having already split one of her new wheels, much to Alex & Marianne's dismay! After a lightening fast wheel change (they've done that before, once or twice!) we set out to explore. The sides of the gorges create breath-taking views with brownish red, purple and white bands of rock carved into the landscape. The gorge has been provided with a series of lookouts which seem to cling onto the edge of the cliff whilst they provide stunning views of the river Gorges and beauty spots.

Murchinson River Spectacular

Some lookouts are more structured than others, and interestingly the park authorities have used this opportunity to commemorate local personages who have contributed to the development of the National Park, including Ross Graham, the first Headmaster of the Kalbarri Primary School who was a keen conservationist and a strong advocate for the creation of the National Park.

Siobhan at Ross Graham lookout I know it's a big drop Siobhan,   - but what on earth's your sister doing?

Viewpoints varied, both in the arrangements made to promote safety and also in the spectacular settings which they provided for the modern day visitors. They also included timely and striking reminders of the relatively short time man has inhabited the earth. Some 400 million years ago, Kalbarri was a vast, arid landscape of sand plains, rivers, ponds and sand dunes with almost no vegetation. At that time one of the earth's earliest land dwellers, an arthropod named eurypterid, walked from one pond to another as the water dried up, leaving its tracks in the wet sand which subsequently was to be fossilized in the rock

Prehistoric Footprints

Although Australia has a relatively short human history, and an even shorter history as a country, there are many striking indicators of its geological age and the importance of that era in our development. Nature's Window lookout provides a striking demonstration of this history at the same time as a breathtaking view of the gorge after an interesting climb!

The world at your feet?

Practical preparations occupied us for 24 hours prior to Christmas Day as we shopped and ensured that we could transform our plans into reality in the context of a caravan park which had rapidly filled with Australians, out to celebrate with a day on the coast. Soon the site was filled with tents lit up by Christmas lights. Artificial Christmas trees multiplied and 'stubbies' were filled as preparations for the celebration got under way. The ingredients of our celebratory meal, suitable liquid refreshment and last minute presents were all bought to contribute to our Christmas down under. However it wasn't quite like home - somehow it didn't really feel right; perhaps it was Santa's sleigh drawn by kangaroos and singing 'See amid the winter's snow' when the temperature was on the low 40's which gave the days almost surreal feeling.

Christmas morning started with a hearty breakfast, followed by mass at the local church. Then the celebrations got under way - with a visit by Kim and Kerry - two visitors from Perth who were 'knocked out' by the tales of the journey from England to Kalbarri and who joined us for a drink prior to dinner. Then the Surf and Turf - a dinner we will all remember, both because of the number of cooks...

Too Many Cooks...? Too Many Cooks...? Too Many Cooks...?

...and also for the celebration of family, both joined together down under and linked by phone to loved ones across the seas. Despite the changed context, the spirit of Christmas triumphed. Boxing Day dawned and we continued our journey, leaving the town of Kalbarri and joining the Bigurda Trail, as we started down the coast towards Jurien Bay.

Natural Bridge

It was a spectacular route along precarious rock formations and a coastline sculpted by wind, waves and rain, rejoicing in names such as Mushroom Rock, Pot Alley, Natural Bridge, Madman's Rock and Eagle Gorge as man attempted to transmit the spirit of the location in the name.

The Pink Lake

It was to continue to be a day filled with the unusual as we visited the Pink Lake on our way down to a little known independent state which exists in defiance of the government of Australia, calling itself the Hutt River Province. Founded in April 1970 it changed its status to a kingdom in the 1980's, headed by the self appointed Prince Leonard 1. The 'state' covers some 18500 acres, a size larger than Monaco, but with not as many inhabitants, as we were proudly told by Prince Leonard when we visited him.

A princely welcome

We were welcomed by the prince, who showed us around the Government Offices and buildings at the centre of his kingdom, including the Post Office, the Church and the Tourist centre. An entertaining and indeed informative session was provided by the prince as he stamped our passports with entry and exit visas for the state, at the same time as showing us signs, symbols and, in the case of Japan, photographs of the holder which cannot be seen by the naked eye but which appear when the passport is examined under an infra red light. He also gave us a conducted tour of the church and allowed us to sit on the thrones, used by himself and his wife Princesses Shirley, for formal occasions. The choice between photographs of 'Queen Barbara' and 'Prince Alex' was a difficult one, but.....

Queen Barbara Prince Alex

Interestingly the Australian Government has closed the legal loophole which allowed the secession, and subsequently has appeared to ignore the state which continues to act as an independent country.

After an intriguing stop, we continued on to Jurien Bay, the last camping stop for the grey nomads who were to leave for Sydney.

Ah so that's why Tinfish keeps breaking down ;o)

We had gone to Jurien Bay to visit the Nambung National Park on the Swan coastal plain - the site of one of Australia's most fascinating landscapes - The Pinacles Desert. In this park there are thousands of limestone pillars, up to four meters high which rise out of a stark landscape of yellow sand. Some are jagged with sharp edges, rising to a point. Others resemble tombstones.

Spear tips for Giants

Formed over the millennia by wind erosion of the sand and quartz, the harder limestone and calcrete now provide a stunning and unusual sight. An image to remember as we move on.

Tombstones for a lost age

At the end of our stay with the travelling younger generation some final grey nomad thoughts.

It is with real sense of relief that we reach the end of our 'diary writing' task. We say this not in anything other than wonder at the work which Marianne and Alex have put into writing up their diary through the last eighteen months. From our brief experience it is a mammoth task, and we will never read them again with anything other than respect for the effort and time put in to let others share their journey and experiences.

As for our 'grey nomad' trip, it was a wonderful opportunity to accompany Marianne and Alex on a small part of their adventure of a lifetime. When we arrived we found two young people, very much together in a strong partnership of mutual love, facing and overcoming challenges and enjoying one of the undoubtedly great experiences of their lives. As our holiday finished, we left with a feeling of great parental pleasure, proud of their achievements thus far and confident that whatever might face them in the future, they are capable of dealing with it.

Thank you both for a wonderful experience - we will never forget it.

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Comment from Marion
Really enjoyed reading the Grey Nomads and what a lovely last paragraph.

Maz-have you gotten any of my emails?

09 Feb 2007 @ 11:05:48