Missed It By A Minute

Wed. 22nd May 2019

Incredible coastlineYep, its a Natural BridgeIt was all going so well. We were ahead of schedule and we had a plan for the rest of the day. Not only did we have the time for a leisurely lunch back in town, but we were confident that we’d visited over half of the spots we wanted to get to today and could have a little down time ahead of going out for some sunset photography. Even better, the sights we had yet to see were the ones that were closer to town. And yet, when it came to the crunch, at the crucial time, I was 100m from where I should have been.

That would be Island Rock thenToday, we are in the other part of Kalbarri National Park. Whereas yesterday, we visited the inland gorges of the Murcheson river, today it is the coastal gorges and that means dramatic cliffs, shades of blue in the sky and the ocean, jagged formations in the red rock and soft sandy beaches. So, even though we ended up in the wrong place at the right time, we still had a cracking day. The local map that Paul, our host, had helpfully provided marked out the viewpoints along the coast with the furthest being only 12km out of town – a mere stone’s throw by Aussie standards.

I just love the contrast between the rocks and the seaAs we’ve grown accustomed to, these spots are well signposted off the main road, there is plenty of parking (esp. as we are out of season), there are signs telling us what we should be looking for (and where to go to see it) and there are often toilets (albeit of the long-drop variety). Also, given Aussie naming conventions then you know you’re at the right place when you see it – so Natural Bridge was in the bleedin’ obvious category as was the nearby Island Rock. The challenge with both (as can be seen from the photos) is that the viewpoints were in somewhat the wrong place and we got our timing wrong and were taking photos into the sun. I tried solving both problems by getting out the drone – but a) I put it into video rather than photo mode so didn’t get any pics and b) the phone app that shows what the drone camera is seeing keeps crashing. Fortunately, there is a ‘Come Home’ button on the main controller and the drone flies back and lands itself without any intervention from me.

We could have spent all day at Eagle GorgeIt was less easy to see the derivation of the name for Shellhouse Grandstand but the view down the inlet in the rocks to the churning sea below was vertiginous, so we made sure to stay away from the crumbly edge of the cliff. As we walk along the clifftop path for a little way, we see an Asian woman in a white flowing skirt posing on a rocky pinnacle whilst her boyfriend took photos with the cliffs and the sea in the background. I suggest to Janet that we just aren’t taking this photography malarkey seriously enough. I won’t recount Janet’s reply other than to note that the second word was ‘off’.

Drama in the rocksSo, the initial sights of the day were OK, but nothing to match the drama of yesterday’s gorges. This all changed when we get to Eagle Gorge and see that there is a marked path down to the beach. We don’t get very far down the path before I get distracted by the weathered layers of rock and the waves crashing into the corrugated cliff face running out into the distance. Janet heads on down to the beach where, after a while, she sees a drone flying and, assuming it is mine, starts waving and pulling faces. Of course, I was far too busy to get my drone out, but fortunately, the actual pilot was happy to have some audience interaction in his pictures.

Even the beach was greatMy word, we did love Eagle Gorge with its sandy beach, waves breaking over the rocks creating waterfalls and rock pools and of course the cliffs in the background. Definitely spoilt for choice with our photographs. However, time marches on and as we had a packed lunch yesterday and will do again tomorrow, we decide to nip back into town for lunch and try the café that Paul recommended. When we get there, we find it is BYO and so I’m able to nip back to the Beast and raid the esky for a couple of cold beers.

Did they really need something so elaborate here?Feeling very smug about our itinerary management for the day, we decide to head out of town and fit in a bonus viewpoint from the Meanarra Hill Lockout that we’d wanted to visit yesterday (as we passed it) but we’re just too tired after all of our gorge excitement. Having got there, we really wondered why. Yes, it is on the top of a hill and you do get a panoramic view out over scrub land to the coast, over town and to the meandering Murcheson river. However, not only is it not as dramatic or photogenic as the gorges we’ve been seeing, but did they really need to spend so much money? Not just on the paths that snake around the hill but also on the large viewpoint with extensive bench seating and sunshade?

The round boulders at Mushroom Rock make a change from all the jagged texturesWith all our travelling, you’d think we’d know by now that you just can’t do everything, and it was at sunset that our plan unravelled. Whilst we know that sunset here is going to be at 17:45, we don’t know whether the best light is going to be prior to or after sunset, nor which of the 3 or 4 remaining sites are going to make the best photographs. Mushroom Rock sounds promising but although the rounded boulders on the foreshore gleam in the golden light, Mushroom Rock itself works less well and I end up wasting what turn out to be crucial minutes unsuccessfully trying to get pictures with the drone.

About the only other soul at the seashore!After a conflab, with 15 minutes to sunset, we decide to move on and try our luck at the nearby Pot Alley, whatever that is. (Our info sheet just says ‘400m stepped trail down a sandstone gully to the beach’). Of course it takes longer than we expect to get there and as we step out onto the soft sand the bottom of the sun hits the horizon (i.e. sunset). I cast around looking for likely photo spots and decide to try the rocks over to the left.

That should have been me (but it wasn't)With no time to set up filters or tripod, I scramble up and am met by another photographer heading back to the beach with a greeting of “you just missed it by a minute”. There set out in front of me is a cleft in the rock with the sea broiling in and pointing straight out toward the sun that has now disappeared below the horizon. And over the seaward end of the cleft is the most spectacular natural arch you could wish to see. There was still enough light and colour to take a picture – but really only enough to realise what it could have been if I’d had the time to set up properly. So, we had another wonderful day. It was warm and sunny and we saw a lot of really beautiful sights. Can’t be too bad if the picture below is the worst of my complaints!

Ah! What might have been!

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