Given the fact that there was no day tour to the Kalbarri National Park from Geraldton, I backtracked a bit north with my Rucksack and decided to stay in the beautiful beach town of Kalbarri. This actually proved to be a good decision, since the hostel there was very beautiful and well maintained – despite all the big crowds arriving and leaving every day. On arrival, did stretch my legs on the beach and afterwards went to visit the Pelican feeding.
Although Kalbarri is in a similar setting as Denham, the tours leaving from these hubs are very different. Both towns are small and have a cozy tourist area along the sandy beach. However, while animals are the major theme in Denham (Shark Bay) – the focus in Kalbarri lies more in its unique geological and botanical features.
In the south, some coastal gorges (Red Bluff, Pot Alley Gorge, Rainbow Valley, Eagle Gorge, Shell House, Mushroom Rock and Island Rock with the Natural Arch) gave me enough spectacular views to keep me busy for the day. In fact, the ocean here did carve out large pieces of the limestone coast by creating high cliff formations and weird looking shapes. There are a couple of secluded beaches along this 22km long coastline in the south.
North of Kalbarri town, the Kalbarri National Park (covering 180’000 hectares) is a major Western Australian scenic spot. I decided to include a visit to the park’s places during the next day, when I would rent a car to go to the ‘Principality of Hutt River‘, Austalia’s second largest country. Created by a farmer who opposed the new wheat quotas of the Australian government, he did find a loophole in the legal system of the British Commonwealth. Consequently, he seceded his farmland from Australia on 21st of April 1970.
Although many government lawyers tried to overturn his new country, it seems that the farmer, who calls himself ‘HRH Prince Leonard’, really knew how to exploit the constitution. 38 years later, his ‘Principality of Hutt River’ still exists. It was back in the 70’s when I first had seen a short report on German TV about this stubborn farmer, who even stamps their visitors passports with visas. I then decided to see that place, whenever I’d be in the region. It took me five trips to Australia and two trips to Western Australia to make it there – the first trip where I finally have a voice and can visit some the weird stuff that is on my personal shortlist and not on someone else’s.
This said, I expected the visit to the Hutt River Province to be no more than a simple visit to a weird farm station in the middle of the Western Australian wheat belt. So did the other four backpackers, who were joining me during this trip. Once there in the Principality, various buildings, such as a post office and government house, a tea room, souvenir shop and a church do serve as the country’s infrastructure. His royal highness prints his own money and postal stamps. And letters seemingly get delivered. Apparently, the Australian Post would not accept his stamps in the early days of the Principality. So the postmaster from the Principality of Hutt River would have to bulk-mail all post to Canada, where it was accepted for further processing. These days, the postal situation has vastly improved and the Australian Post now accepts mail bearing the neighbouring country’s stamps.
Other fun facts are on display at the souvenir shop, where various news articles from all over the world (and over the time span of 38 years) are shown on the walls. Most notably, the acquisition of British tanks by the Principality’s ambassador to Las Vegas, made some news headlines (and makes visitors smile).
After that refreshing short stop, where most of us had our passports stamped, we continued to the Kalbarri National Park which includes the Murchison River Gorges, the Loop, Z Bend, Hawkes Head Lookout and Ross Graham Lookout. Geologists do estimate that these sandstone walls were created 400 million years ago along the tidal coastline of an ancient sea. Along the river, many fossil tracks (and sea fossils) can be found. However, we only got glimpses at parts of these sights and decided halfway through to head back to the hostel in Kalbarri. It was too hot, too many flies and we simply had driven too many kilometers that day. Proves that sometimes a tour programme can be too big.