Return to 2006 Australia Trip
Saturday, October 14, 2006 Ė 4 PM
Kalbarri, Western Australia
Well, Iíve moved north now. I got away just after 8 AM on Friday, and hit the open road. There was a lot more traffic than I expected, and when I got to a place where I could take an alternate route on a much less traveled road, I took it, even though it added about 50 miles to the dayís drive.
By taking the alternate route, I was able to stop at a place called the Pinnacles. It is a bunch of stone pillars sticking up out of the yellow sand. My internet buddy, Malte, in Germany, had recommended that I see it, so I took a half hour to detour off the road and see it. Iím glad I did; it was quite interesting. Pictures will be up soon, I hope. There were some tight squeezes on the dirt road running through the place, and I must have come very close to scraping my car, but I somehow managed to not do so. I am still getting the feel of the car, especially knowing just where the left side is.
After the Pinnacles, I headed up the road, which runs along the coast, but inland just far enough that you only get a few glimpses of the water. Not many birds, but I did see one new species for the trip, a Grey Butcherbird. That was my only new species for my trip list for the day. No, Iím wrong. I added Pied Cormorant, too.
I eventually reached Geraldton, which is on the coast, and was my destination for the day. I was actually staying a little ways out of town, but since I had come this far, I thought I would drive through town, just to see what it looked like. I was expecting a small town, maybe 1000 or 2000 people, but it turns out that the population of Geraldton is more like 30,000! It was a regular little city. Once I realized that, I got the heck out of there, as I had just left the city behind, and didnít want to thread my way through pedestrians and cars on narrow streets.
Coming out of Geraldton, I somehow got onto the highway going east, rather than the one going north, which is what I wanted. I realized it after a while and backtracked until I came to the right highway. I never did figure out how I had missed the right one, but somehow I had.
That night I was booked into a B&B out in a semi-rural area, just north of Geraldton. Greengables Lodge B&B, owned by Chris and Henry. Very nice place, and my room had everything I needed except ice cubes. I got a few from Chris, but it seems that Aussies are just not into ice. I didnít have a phone line in my room, either, but that is normal in a B&B. They made me feel welcome to connect to the phone line in the kitchen, which I did several times, to check and send email.
I had booked dinner, and breakfast was included, so I didnít have to worry about meals. Chris fixed an excellent dinner Ė chicken, scalloped potatoes, and carrots cooked just right. For dessert she had fixed pavlova, an Aussie dessert I had read about but had never had. It is a meringue, with fruit and whipped cream on it. Very tasty indeed. I ate with Chris and Henry Ė their kids are grown and not at home any more, but live nearby. I like that aspect of having dinner provided at a B&B Ė having a chance to visit with the owners at dinner. I was the only guest who had dinner there Ė I think one couple was staying, but I only saw them briefly.
This morning I had breakfast at 7:30, so I could get away early. Henry cooked me bacon and eggs (from their own chickens, or ďchooksĒ as the Aussies call them), with cooked tomato, toast and some nice fruit. Iíll be staying there again on my way back south, on Monday night.
I took a scenic route from their house, mainly to avoid the traffic on the main road, but also hoping to see some birds. I did see one new trip species, just as I left their house, a Black-faced Woodswallow on a wire. There was other bird activity for the first hour or two, but I didnít identify anything new. I stopped a couple of places on the way up to Kalbarri, and the pictures will show them. Some nice ocean views, some ocean cliffs, and pictures of Kalbarri itself. I donít think I have any new bird pics to put up.
By the time I got here it was noon, and my early breakfast was wearing off, so I scouted around, looking for a bakery open on Saturday. Bingo! The Kalbarri Hot Bread Bakery was open, and they had meat pies (of course). I asked for chicken, and there werenít any at the moment, but another batch was coming out of the oven in ten minutes, and there was a chicken pie in that batch. I waited around and got the chicken pie, fresh from the oven, and also a pastie, which is a meat, vegetable and potato pastry thingie. I also got a caramel slice, which was an excellent choice. I took my treasures across the street and found a picnic table in the shade, with a view of the river mouth and beach area, and I dug in. Mmmm, were they ever good. Excellent pastry, fresh from the oven, great fillings. My favorite Aussie lunch, executed to perfection. I love caramel, and the caramel slice was a great finish to my repast.
After lunch I scanned the river mouth with my scope and got a look at an Osprey that was carrying a good sized fish, which he landed with and proceeded to eat. I saw a Caspian Tern, too, a bird I see in California. I was hoping to see an Eastern Reef Egret, which would be a lifer for me, but didnít.
It seemed kind of early to check into my studio apartment, so I checked out a nearby birding site that people had told me about Ė Meanarra Hill. It was nice habitat, but it was mid-day and it was hot in the sun. There was a nice breeze blowing, which made it more comfortable, but made birding more difficult, as birds donít show themselves as much when it is windy. I heard a few birds (which I couldnít identify, of course, since I am a terrible Aussie birder), but only identified a couple of Singing Honeyeaters, which are pretty common up here. I am going to try to get back up there tomorrow morning, as early as I can, to see if I do any better. Bottom line, I only added three birds to my trip list today Ė the Black-faced Woodswallow, Pacific Gull, and Caspian Tern. Of course, the day isnít over yet, but Iím not planning to go out birding again now.
It was a bit of an adventure when I went to check into my studio holiday unit. They had no record of my reservation. I dug out the emails I had exchanged with them, back in February, and I noticed that I had never gotten a confirmation from them, after I said I would take the unit and sent my credit card number. I had noticed just before I left on the trip that no charge had ever come through from them, but many places just want your credit card number to hold the reservation, they donít actually charge to it, so I didnít think anything of it.
Well, this is the last weekend of School Holidays here in Western Australia, and the town is pretty full. They had one last unit available for tonight (a one-bedroom), and one for tomorrow night (a studio). I took them, but will have to put all my crap in my car in the morning and then move in to another unit tomorrow afternoon, after it is cleaned. Not very convenient, but not really a big deal, either. I could have looked around, but this place has phones in the room, and that is not easy to find, so I took it. When I got into the room, I was dismayed to see that it was a wall phone, with no modem jack on it. It seemed attached to the wall pretty firmly, but I yanked at it and managed to pull it off the wall, and I could unplug it, then plug my own phone line into the jack. It did work, so I can get online. Phew. It probably seems silly to a lot of people for me to obsess so much about internet access when I travel, but on such a long trip, traveling alone, I really need to keep in touch with people at home. I donít get a lot of emails, but every one is treasured and is a link with home.
So, I got my stuff into the room and went grocery shopping at the little supermarket only a block down the street. I got sandwich makings for the next couple of days of breakfasts and lunches Ė fresh-sliced ham and roast beef and cheese, with some multigrain bread from the same Hot Bread Bakery where I had gotten my lunch pies. I got some frozen stuff for my dinner tonight as well. I could go out to a restaurant, but I prefer to stay in.
By the time I got settled in and got back from the store, I was overheated, so I took a nice cool shower, and that cooled me down. It is 77 degrees here in my unit now, but with a nice breeze moving through, so it is ok. I wonder how much it will cool down tonight, once the sun goes down.
There are supposed to be some good birds around Kalbarri, and weíll see tomorrow if I can see some of them. As I had been warned, the flies here are pretty bad. They are small, but they are very persistent and donít shoo away easily. I did discover one good trick today. If I wear my ďfit-overĒ sunglasses, which are big and made to fit over regular glasses, they cover my eyes enough that it keeps the flies away from my eyes. I have to keep my mouth shut as much as possible, but they donít bother me so much if they arenít getting in my eyes. I havenít inhaled a fly yet this trip, but I did on my last trip. Ugh. I bought some spray today, and I guess I will try it, although I am not very hopeful about its effectiveness. I hate spraying myself with chemicals, too.
OK, I will work on some pictures now, and it is almost time for my nightly drinkies. There is a small tray of ice cubes in the freezer here, so at least my first drink can have ice, and if I ration it, I can probably get two drinks with ice. Alcoholic beverages here are very expensive Ė about double what they cost in Washington, which itself is more expensive than California. The two 40 ounce bottles of high proof (114 proof) Bundaberg rum that I got at the Duty Free shop when I came in are running low. That is, the second bottle is running low. The first bottle is long gone. I got another bottle of the medium proof (86 proof) Bundaberg at a shopping mall in Perth, and it was about US$38 for 700 ml. Thatís expensive. Ordinary beer at a liquor store is about 2 bucks Aussie (thatís about a buck fifty American) per can, in six packs. Well, maybe it is 2 bucks by the can, and 10 bucks (Aussie) for a six pack. The cheapest bottles of wine are about 10 bucks Aussie, which is about US$7.50, and they go up fast from there, of course. Iíd say about double Washington State prices, like the beer and hard liquor. The cost doesnít deter me much, though. I enjoy my drinkies every night.
On to my pictures from the last two days.
Barry Downunder, at the beach