Western Australia certainly has unique features. The least of which are the sands, both of the desert and the coast. It is flat… unlike the east coast of Aus’ though after a time even the flatness takes on a rolling outlook. The SW corner of WA is the most familiar of landscapes to those from the Sunrise side of the nation. This corner of WA is also the most fertile and most populated region of the State.
There are only around 2 1/2 million odd people living in the largest of Australia’s States, a State with a land area 1/3 of the nation. If I was to choose the most remote of places in Aus’ many of them would be found in Western Australia. It is undoubtably a frontier of our country… even today.
Half way up the stretch of coastline that is Western Australia is the seaside coastal town of Kalbarri. We were drawn to Kalbarri, as it is surrounded by the Kalbarri National Park which has some spectacular gorges, and the township sits at the mouth of the Murchison River, being the only town on the entire river length. It is also the region that offers some magnificent wildflower displays and hereabouts the wildflower season is the longest to be found anywhere in the State.
Kalbarri National Park, and indeed this region, is where you can find some of the oldest landforms anywhere in the world, as recently found in other fossil beds of the Gascoyne. It’s a stable region when compared to any other and the rocks here hold some the oldest of secrets. From the ancient foot falls of land creatures, anthropoids which crawled from the Gondwanian oceans. These tracks can be found along cliffside of the Murchison Gorge… to the stromatolites which breathed life giving oxygen into our atmosphere and can be found in pools throughout Western Australia. The Hamelin pool of Shark Bay just north of Kalbarri harbour such as these.
The sandstone cliffs of Kalbarri are very different from the limestone cliffs common to the shores of Western Australia. These are ancient cliffs were laid down over 450 million years ago in Gondwana, and are the like of which usually sit beneath the limestone found elsewhere in the State. Some 10,000 yrs ago these cliffs where lifted above the oceans and the limestone of the karst worn away to reveal the beautifully colours of the ancient sandstone beds, which were once formed in the oceans of Gondwana.In the gorges of the Kalbarri NP you can read this creation story in the layered cliffs of the gorge.
The tribal people of the region, those who witnessed such dramatic changes to their world, still tell the tales of the movement of this land, though it is not a tale we are familiar with. When the old people of the Nanda tribes spoke of the formation of the Murchison River, which began some 130 million years ago as a broad valley… there was a recounting of how the ancient Murchison River was born. Tales told in campfire stories in such a way as that which could be easily recalled down through time. In a time witnessed by the old people, the land lifted and waters of the Murchison began to cut deep into the valley, forming the gorge you can see today.
The waters of this ancient river begin their journey 700klm east in the range-lands of Meekatharra, deep in the golden desert region. The water catchment of the Murchison is somewhere around the size of Tasmania, one of the largest in WA. Water is a precious commodity throughout WA and the gorges, such as the Murchison and Karijini are valuable to the wildlife and men alike. A exceptional pleasure is to sit quiet and watch the world around you. Below are some other the wildlife we came across in our visit to the Murchison river, the Kalbarri cliffs and the Kalbarri Gorges.
The Nanda tribal descendants, keepers of the land and sea about Kalbarri, the Murchison and the Bowes River, tell of Beemarra the serpent. Described in Australian culture as one of the ‘Rainbow Serpents’, who was drawn down the ancient water valley of the Murchison, and who sculptured the land into gorges as she went. She was drawn by the unfamiliar sound of the ocean waves crashing against the stone shore reefs near Kalbarri. She followed the flow of the waters, at times disappearing into the underground following the underground flows, emerging at the Kalbarri coastal cliffs. Beemarra was however terrified of the thunder of the ocean waves and fled back to the safety of the Murchison River. Where she rested, there will be a pool of fresh water, often fed by a spring from deep underground an these are still in existence today.
Another tale tells of her struggles with Gabba Gabba, an evil spirit of Red Bluff who orders the violence of the seas against the Kalbarri ocean cliffs. The like of which drove the Dutch East India trader the Zuytdorp against the cliffs north of Kalbarri. With a rich cargo of some 248,000 silver doubloons aboard, the wreck site still attracts attention in the difficult seas. Gabba Gabba still guards the wreck and you can watch more about it bellow on Youtube, the recovery efforts at the WA Museum site.
Jan is a Traveller and an Author. You can find out more about her books on travel on the page dedicated to Oldies at Large, where you will also find a list of her blog postings in topic.
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