I woke up at my campsite at the Cheela Plains Station in Paraburdoo, Western Australia, after a chilly night in my tent. Most people were in campervans, so they made their breakfast inside. I got my food out and made myself a delicious “egg in the toast.” It was shaping up to be a beautiful day.
I walked to the outdoor camp kitchen to wash my dishes. A couple was using the stove for cooking “egg in the toast,” too! Although theirs wasn’t as good because the man said he wasn’t using any butter because he was trying to be healthy. No butter? That’s a crime.
The couple said they were also staying for two nights and planned to hike at the nearby property’s gorges. I told them maybe I’d see them around.
Once I was all cleaned up, it was time for my weekly Facetime with my friend Debbie in California. Because of the time change, it was sometimes challenging to make it work, but I had cell reception, so I hung out and talked with her.
It was 12:30 pm by the time I was ready to leave for my hike. I stopped at the office and asked the man inside (who had broken my phone) for directions. He told me how to get to the property and gave me a key to the gate. He seemed a little concerned that I was going alone, and said he’d come to look for me if I wasn’t back by 4:30-5:00 pm.
I drove down the dirt road for 40 minutes until I saw the marker (a drum) that the man told me to look for. I unlocked the gate and went down the gravel road. I arrived at the first hike, called The Wall.
The hike began in a riverbed, walking on rocks. As I got closer to The Wall, the rocks were flat and sharp. They looked like records stacked sideways. It appeared that the flat stones were part of the wall at one point and were shaken loose. They looked fragile, but they were hard, just like rocks.
When I arrived at The Wall, it was incredible! I had never seen bright red rocks like that before – sharp, flat, and stacked. The wall curved like a half-circle. I couldn’t believe that I was the only person around! It was such an incredible sight; it was nuts that it was tucked away on private property. There was a small pool of water at the bottom.
I climbed up some steep rocks to see what was in the center of the wall. On the left-hand side, there was a ciimrcular pool. It was shallow and definitely not swim-worthy. On the right side, there was green grass growing.
I marveled at the landscape and wanted to know how it was formed. It was so interesting and unique.
I drove about ten minutes to the next hike. The road was getting sandy, and the signs were poor. I parked and started walking towards some markers that I found. This hike wasn’t as exciting. It was flatter and involved walking through the trees.
I came to a massive rock wall and walked alongside it. It seemed to go forever. I couldn’t tell if I was going anywhere specific and started to get nervous that I’d get lost since there were many trees.
The birds in Australia are extremely loud and often sound like they’re from a horror movie, ready to kill you. They startled me when they flew away.
I kept walking along the wall but was running into sand and weeds, making it a challenge. I kept feeling like I heard something, but I reminded myself that there weren’t bears in Australia. Suddenly, a large cow appeared! We startled each other, and he ran away. Then I heard what sounded like a herd of cows running away through the trees.
After 30 minutes, I turned back towards my car. Thankfully, I was able to find my way back. On the drive out, I stopped at another hike that was a lookout point. It involved a lot of climbing, but the views from above were spectacular.
On the way back to the campground, I saw all of the cows that had run away. I stopped my car and played some music. They looked over at me and started walking closer, but then paused in confusion. I thought they could use a fun vibe, and they seemed to enjoy it.
When I got back to the campsite, I used the restroom and ran into “egg in the toast” woman. She asked me what I studied in college, and I told her Broadcasting and Film. She explained that her daughter was finishing her Ph.D. in science (studying millipedes). Her daughter had recently broken up with her boyfriend of ten years. The boyfriend told many lies and was always going out. Her daughter was worried about the boyfriend, wondering if he’d be okay after the breakup. She wanted her daughter to take a job in the U.S., but her daughter was clearly torn. I guess the woman thought I’d have some good advice for her daughter.
I told the woman, “My ex-husband was a chronic liar. I also worried that he wouldn’t be okay because he told me the same things – that he couldn’t live without me. Guess what, before the divorce was final, he was dating someone, and now he’s married. Her boyfriend will be fine. And once a liar, always a liar. Tell her to go to the U.S.”
The woman’s husband joined us, and we all talked about the gorges and how beautiful they were. I must have just missed them out hiking. As we spoke, the woman from the front desk (Chris) came over and said she planned to look for me if I wasn’t back by 4:20 pm. The women agreed that their mother instinct was kicking in.
The sun was going to set soon, and I wanted to see the view from the hill near our site. I climbed to the top and could see for miles. There was a picnic table at the top, and two couples were also waiting for the sunset. Brad and Leoni were to my left, and Scott and Karen were to my right. I stood at the end of the table while talking to them. They were all from Geraldton and traveling for a couple of weeks. They drove through the center of Australia, and the next morning, they were parting ways.
The women were school teachers, so they had to travel during the school break. I told them how I thought the south was so cold, much colder than I expected. We talked about travels, and none of them have been to the U.S. before. One of the men said he was too afraid of flying.
I stood there telling stories about my travels, and they were a great audience. I was instantly transported to my “storytelling” mode. I love telling stories, and I can get pretty dramatic in my motions and expressions. They had such fun reactions that I just kept going! It made me feel like myself again, after a few rough days.
It was getting dark, so the couples walked down. I took a few more pictures and then went back to camp. That evening, we had the option to pay for dinner, and they’d cook it on the large fire. I signed up and took a cider to the fire to wait for the food.
I talked with a couple from Canberra, Australia’s capital. The woman was a vet and an author. She said, “It’s tough to make money as an author, that’s why I’m also still a vet.” She writes nonfiction stories about wildlife and the landscape in Australia. Her husband was an ecology research scientist at a University.
The food was ready, and I ended up eating at a picnic table with that couple. They lived in Massachusetts for six months, and they’ve traveled around the U.S. a bit. As is almost always the case, they asked me about Trump. We talked about gun control, mass shootings, fake news, healthcare, immigration, the American Revolution, and our cultural differences. The woman spoke about immigration and the aboriginals who have been in Australia for thousands of years. Because of her writing, they can be a big part of her stories. She said that many of them have drinking problems, and they have not adapted to the western way of money usage or the nuclear family.
I found the conversation with the couple invigorating. I enjoy discussing topics with people, especially when they have a different view of things. They pointed out that America was founded by puritans seeking religious freedom, while Australia was formed by criminals (although some crimes were petty). The reasons for our foundings have shaped what we are today.
It was getting late, so I decided that I had better get a shower. The shower and toilets were half inside/half outside with the top open-air. The sun had set a while ago, so the chilly air made me take a quick shower.
On the way back to my tent, a German family of four was next to my site. They had a sedan stuffed full of stuff, even on the roof, and attached to the back in a rack. I couldn’t believe they fit all of that stuff inside that tiny car! I chatted with them quickly and found out they lived in Adelaide and took a month to travel around. They came from Karijini National Park, where I was headed next. They told me that they’d give me tips in the morning.
I had such a fun time at this station. I met so many wonderful, friendly people, who were so caring; several said they planned to check on me if I didn’t return promptly from my hike. I write about the people I meet so much because I find their stories, their reasons for being in the outback, their life decisions, so interesting. They’re what makes travel so special, especially when you’re a solo traveler.
The next morning, I talked with the German woman while cooking and eating my breakfast. She gave me tips about visiting Karijini National park, and we had a fun conversation about the outback. Her son, who was around 12-years-old, was sobbing in their tent because his iPad had reset itself on an update. My heart broke for him as he told his dad that all the progress he had made on a game was completely gone.
I packed up all of my gear and hit the road at 10:00 am. I felt tired, so I stopped at the first gas station that I saw for some coffee. I hadn’t slept well in my tent because my air mattress kept losing air.
After two hours, I arrived at Tom Price, a mining town of 3,000 residents. At 2,450 feet (747 meters), it’s the highest town above sea level in all of Western Australia, so it is called the “top town of WA.” It’s the closest town to Karijini National Park. Accommodation and camping are limited in the park, so I opted to stay in Tom Price.
I stopped at the visitor center, and they were extremely helpful with information about the park. Next, I ate lunch at a Japanese restaurant and then walked to the library. I asked if I could use one of the two computers because I was trying to get pictures from the SD card I got from my hang glider flight. Unfortunately, the computer was too old and didn’t have a slot for an SD card. A man and woman next to me researching things on the other computer said they had an SD card reader and would let me borrow it! I browsed through 800 pictures and downloaded several to Amazon photos to get them to my phone.
I checked into my room at the campground around 4:00 pm. The place was packed. I booked a room because I needed a bed after two nights of sleeping on the ground. I drove over to my room, and it was a shipping container-trailer type building. There were about four small rooms in each trailer. It cost $135 a night, highway robbery for that place. But, it was the cheapest room available in the town. There was just a twin-sized bed in a very small room.
I got some trip-planning stuff done and talked with my cousin, Misty. I wanted to get a good night’s sleep because the next day involved rappelling and rock climbing on a 12-hour tour. I had never done either of those, so I was pretty nervous. It ended up being more than I could have imagined.
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