We got away to an early start today, hoping to get some walking done before the heat of the day. Kalbarri National Park is 34km east of the seaside town of Kalbarri where we are staying. The Murchison River has cut an 80km gorge through the red and white banded sandstone, providing some excellent viewing locations and a few challenging walks.
Our first walk was a short one to Nature’s Window, where the wind has eroded a natural window through the sandstone over the centuries. It’s a popular photo spot, as the rock perfectly frames the river as a backdrop for the person being photographed. Luckily we got there early before the crowds arrived. Many people don’t go beyond this point. On our return journey an hour later the place was packed and people were queueing up for photo opportunities.
Rod and Cornelia are experienced walkers. Their plan was to walk the entire 9km length of the Loop Trail. It is a Grade 4 walk, expected to take up to 5 hours to complete. Marg and I are novice walkers at best, so we decided we’d go on until the rest of the walk should be left to the experts and return the way we came from there. We watched Rod and Cornie disappear over a rise, but Marg and I took our time and continued at a much more leisurely pace. We were happy to do it this way as the views were superb and we could take our time to stop and enjoy them. The trail was rocky, but walking with sticks made it easier. We walked on for a while and found a great place to sit and take in our surroundings. The sky was blue and the sun was shining, but the breeze was cool – a perfect day for it. We reached a sign which informed us that walkers had died on this trail and asked if we were prepared to go on. It made good sense for us to turn back at this point, so we headed back the way we came. We only encountered one couple attempting the entire loop, but by the time we reached Nature’s Window again, it was pretty crowded. When we reached the carpark, Marg and I waited in the shade until Rod and Cornie returned. They’d done really well, covering the distance in two hours and forty minutes. Apparently they’d had one fairly tricky section, negotiating a very narrow rocky ledge along a sheer cliff-face with a drop into the river if they fell, but they managed it well and got to the other side. I can’t say I would have done so well.
After lunch we drove around to the new Skywalk lookout, which only opened in 2020. Two platforms, perched 100 metres above the river protrude from the rim of the Murchison Gorge – one 25m and the other 17m beyond the rim. From the ends of the skywalks you have magnificent views down the gorge. In 2018, the Nanda people, traditional custodians of the Kalbarri region, were granted Native Title over about 17,000 square km of the surrounding countryside. At the Skywalk, a cultural display tells the story of the Nanda people and their connection to this land.
Before leaving the national park, we visited one more trail, known as Z Bend. Once again, Marg and I were happy just to walk to the lookout and enjoy the views from there looking down the Murchison Gorge and then observing where the river turns a sharp bend and changes direction. Rod and Cornie continued on the trail down some steep, rocky sections to the river’s edge.
Returning to Kalbarri, we stopped at the Zuytdorp Memorial to a Dutch ship that was wrecked off the coast here in 1712. About 200 people lost their lives. The memorial is located on one of the highest points of Kalbarri and provides good views over the town and the mouth of the Murchison River. It’s a beautiful town, but sadly we’ve seen quite a few places still missing their roofs as a result of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Seroja in April 2021.