There wasn’t supposed to be a part 4 to this road trip, north of Perth. After leaving Wooramel (see Part 3) we pointed the car back south, heading for home. But when we heard the southern half of Western Australia was in the grip of a winter chill, our spirits sunk. Temperatures down south were plummeting and a big weather front was expected with rain, hail – and even the possibility of snow on Bluff Knoll in WA’s Stirling Ranges. A rarity in the West!
Stay where it’s warm, messaged friends! Unfortunately, commitments made that impossible, but on the spur of the moment we decided to make an unplanned detour to extend our time under sunny blue skies just a little. We turned off the North West Coastal Highway, heading for the Murchison Gorges where a new skywalk has been installed, about 40 kilometres from the coastal town of Kalbarri.
I’ve been to these stunning gorges many times, but not since roads into them were sealed and the new Skywalk opened last year as part of a $24 million government project. The Government spruikers have heralded the skywalk as ‘an impressive jaw dropping experience’. How could we pass on that!
The magnificent Kalbarri Skywalk, also known as Kaju Yatka, was worth our effort in detouring. Two cantilevered platforms jut out from cliffs, 100 metres above the million year old formed river gorges. One platform is 25 metres long, the other 17 metres. You can see through the floors of both.
The publicists say you’ll feel like you are floating on air. Given that I had a definite urge to tightly grip the side of platforms as I gingerly walked out onto them, floating is not quite how I’d describe the experience! But the views from the West Loop of the gorges were breathtaking, and countered my fear of heights. I even walked out onto both of them twice!
The skywalk has a rusted look. Well, at least I presume it’s a ‘look’, meant to help it blend in with the natural environment. I’d hate to think it might rust away when I’m on it. These are the crazy thoughts that bombard your mind if, like me, you have to sum up courage to step out onto the skywalk!
The 80-kilometre gorge within the Kalbarri National Park attracts around 450,000 visitors a year.
But there are current difficulties with accommodation and attracting staff in Kalbarri township which was shattered by a cyclone a few months ago. Homes and businesses in the tiny seaside town are still under repair, taurpolins covering many buildings.
The problems in Kalbarri has seen a drop in tourism, and for us meant a fairly quiet day for our visit. Unfortunately, it also meant a new kiosk offering refreshments at the Skywalk was closed. It’s still being advertised as being open daily, and we had planned to buy lunch.
It might also be handy if there was better signage indicating how far the Skywalk is from the Highway, so that the the time and distance could be more accurately assessed. We knew picking up accommodation on the spot in Kalbarri would be difficult, and we needed to manage our detour time carefully to move on further south before our day ran its course.
Pathways from the car park to the Skywalk are fairly level, but at times at a slight slope. There are also new drop toilets and shelters, as well as easy access for people with prams and wheelchairs. There is also undercover seating – very handy as it can get very hot here.
There are other vantage points you can visit along the gorges. My favourite is Nature’s Window, but you need to take care here and be sure footed. It’s not for the faint hearted.
There are entry fees for the National Park. Fifteen dollars a car or eight dollars for concession holders. Annual passes providing entry to all Western Australian National Parks also can be bought.
So – having survived the fabulous dizzying heights from the Skywalk, we finally took the plunge and left for the colder climes of home.
For my next blog, I’ll be giving car enthusiasts a treat with my experiences at the Toyota Megaweb in Tokyo, and the train without a driver that got us there!