As we drove north along the coast road from Cervantes the weather became appreciably warmer. As we approached Kalbarri through the national park, the coastal scenery suddenly appeared before us and before long Kalbarri came into view. We’ve loved it so much we’ve stayed here for nine days – Eric at least ranks it among his most favourite places so far in Australia. A few miles from Cervantes is Jurien Bay where we had intended to visit the Sunday morning market. But like most markets we’ve come across in Australia it was disappointing and didn’t have much to offer us, so we kept on going. One thing we have failed to do is take pictures of quirky advertising signs that we’ve passed on the side of the highway and those making claims about Australia’s produce. As we were heading north we came across one such sign so Eric quickly hit the brakes. But as he was travelling too fast to stop in time we had to make a detour back through the village to capture it on camera – see Kalbarri photo album. Just south of Geraldton we came across the unplanned and unexpected delight of the historic and heritage area of Greenough (pronounced, we were told, as it would be in Scotland!?). The highlight here was the excellent Pioneer Museum which had been the homestead of one of the area’s first real pioneers and entrepreneurs, John Stephen Maley. Although the settler history of Western Australia only goes back around 170 years, the amount of detail and information about the history of the area, the property, the family etc is astounding, and this museum is certainly worth a visit. On the way through the area we’d noticed a few wineries but they became further and fewer between. We’d also noticed a few olive groves. When we left Greenough we decided that we should have paid one of the ‘oliveries’ a visit so we turned back down the road to Brentwood Olive Grove. Although places in Australia are well signed they often give no indication how accessible and far off the road they are. Brentwood wasn’t far off the road but M had to negotiate Annie carefully up the bumpy and rutted dirt track to avoid low overhanging branches. Such was our desire for olives that we made it! The smells emanating from the grove’s restaurant made our mouths water and we really wished we could have had longer in this area, but we came away laden with olives and other produce. Geraldton is quite a pretty largish town but was totally devoid of life because it was Sunday and everything was closed – we’ve found this typical of Western Australia but we understand it gets better further north. We had hoped to go to the supermarket especially for water – huge road signs outside and through Geraldton advised that water was limited further north and to take on water here before travelling north. But of course the supermarket was closed so we couldn’t get a decent supply of water. To get to Kalbarri we turned off the Brand Highway at Northampton – a small, and I mean small, attractive and historic town – on to a road that was only sealed as recently as 2000. This took us past the ruins of a convict transportation station, the pretty little coastal village of Port Gregory and (for those of you who have been following the blogs, another) Pink Lake. The drive on to Kalbarri through the national park took us past scenic clifftop look outs and rock formations all of which we visited later in the week. Kalbarri was a combination of real relaxation, a bit of activity, sightseeing and a chance to catch up on business including doing our tax returns! We managed a few games of golf on the newly extended 18 hole golf course which is the first time that we’ve seen green greens and really grassy fairways for several thousand kilometres (all is explained by the fact that Kalbarri has its own abundant fresh water supply via an underground aquifer which provides wonderful tasting drinking water – we’re going to fill our tanks here – but of course the golf course uses recycled water). The fact that the course has just been extended was evident when we discovered that we’d played the second nine twice thinking it was only a nine hole course. The signs hadn’t been changed. But next time we did find the correct first nine and had a really enjoyable 18 holes. Surprisingly we didn’t see any roos on this course, but we did see plenty of emus. There is a ‘rool’ here that when the ball lands in an emu ‘drop’ you get a free drop – they are certainly worth avoiding (rubber gloves are not provided!). We also went on a 4WD day safari drive into the national park where we had a chance to canoe on a part of the Murchison River that is currently more of a lake. We were joined by Ian, a typical bush guide guy (see Kalbarri photo album), Fred (a holidaying bushwhacker type) and Eric and Diana (a retired couple from Milton Keynes). The canoeing this time was very successful and family members will be surprised to learn that M stayed totally dry, although she did lose a paddle – thanks to Diana for rescuing it. The national park was evidently in a time of serious drought as all the wattle trees away from the river were yellowing and dying. Animals and birds, too, appear to be congregating by the river and we were fortunate to see a few roos, emus, feral goats and wild sheep (don’t laugh), sea eagles, cormorants, kites, black swans and loads of other birds. We also saw evidence of a major flood within the last couple of years which uprooted trees, brought down boulders and especially thousand of tons of sand which now smothers the once lush grazing land. We crossed the river at Murchison House homestead which itself was badly damaged in the flood and has lost thousands of acres of grazing land. Kalbarri also boasts two excellent conservation projects. So we got on our bikes and headed out of town to pay them a visit. The Seahorse Sanctuary breeds seahorses and their relations the pipefish for selling to the domestic aquarium market. This may not sound like conservation, but the purpose is to help reduce the number of seahorses taken from the oceans; wild seahorses often can’t survive in captivity because they depend on live plankton as their only source of food. Seahorses bread here are trained to eat commercially available fish food. A very interesting and worthwhile project and well worth a visit. Next stop was Rainbow Jungle – Australia’s only parrot breeding centre for endangered species. They have a wide range of parrots, not only from Australia but from other parts of the world. Although bird and parrot life is evident all around it was a great opportunity to see them at very close quarters – did you know that cockatoos and macaws like to have their tongues stroked!! The main aviary is a huge walk through area where the birds are free flying. They weren’t at all fazed by humans and there was much ducking and diving on our part. It felt like being in an Alfred Hitchcock film – hmm, what was it called again? Kalbarri is situated at the mouth of the Murchison River and protected by a large sandbar, a reef, large cliffs etc. One of the enjoyable things has been strolling along the beach, watching the fisherman not catching very much, clambering over the rocks watching out for the crabs, and just sitting watching the cacophony of waves going in every direction then meeting up like dancers in the Dashing White Sergeant. The town is also well endowed with cafes and eateries. At a nearby tavern we sampled for the first time the local delicacy of dhufish which was really meaty and tasty. We also had a delicious meal at Echo Beach which is run by three young people really trying hard to provide top notch tucker. Good luck to them - Ella & Brendan Jones and the chef, Ross Palmer. One perhaps slightly negative points are the galahs - once Margaret’s favourite birds. There are thousands of them here and every night they congregate on every tree in town, then the seemingly vast majority of them make their way to our caravan park where they squawk and crap all night. After a couple of morning cleaning up the mess on our groundsheet, awning and Annie we moved to a pitch with no overhanging trees – to hang with the need for shade. We did learn at Rainbow Jungle that galahs are becoming a problem across Australia where they are dominating the food supplies and nesting sites of other more endangered species of birds.