Nature for Philosophising
Northcliffe - Esperance, 9th - 12th December
Today we start the day slow and calm and only leave the campsite once we have gathered enough sleep and have lounged around in the tent. The temperature allows it, how could we not take advantage? Our first destination isn’t that close anyway so if we want a fulfilling morning we will only find it here.
A hundred kilometres later we stop first to see a group of Tingle trees. “What trees?” you are probably asking yourselves. The name is Aboriginal for these types of eucalyptus that have decided to break every law of physics and biology and have opened up their trunks at the base. Perhaps as a portal to some magical world. With their skirts wide open, they invite you to come in and find out their secrets.
The gaps are of different sizes. The smallest once can easily fit an entire person while, by the bigger ones, you can see pictures of vans parked in the shade of the openings. Most of them have visibly suffered through fires because their skirts are black and covered in soot. The philosopher in me (on my father’s side) thinks that this is a visual representation that being open to everything could burn you. Although, even with a black hole at the base, these are still eucalyptus giants - thriving and strong.
In this area, the huge trees are so many that people have built a path among the tree crowns to get closer to their essence. Large structures that lift you up where you shouldn’t be able to go. The platforms cover a wide territory and create a loop around the forest. We try to guess what height we are actually at. Nic suggests 70 metres while I think it is more like 45. I have mentioned that our terrace in Balchik is high above the sea - it is actually 50 metres high. As I look down now, I don’t think there is that much from the platform to the ground. I was closer. The sign says 40 metres.
From the heights, we get back down to the beach. The area is known as Elephant Rocks and Green Pool. Wow! I am once again completely absorbed by the beauty of these ocean views. We first go down towards the elephants. I am amazed by how much these rocks truly look like the backs of a few giant elephants. As if they are protecting one another from the sun which is shining strong even today. They step aside for a bit to let us reach the sand while the waves cover our feet in the small gap. We may have to keep an eye on the tide.
My head has been full of thoughts since this morning or even for a few days. The peace of this place intensifying them. I know we came to Australia to get inspired and now I am so ready to learn and create but there isn’t enough time in the day. I haven’t yet caught up with my diaries and I am already considering the idea of a whole book or how to grow a digital business. I sit on the cliff opposite the elephants to ground myself. After all, how could I write well about these experiences if my head is too busy to take them in and enjoy them fully? While Nic explores the area, I observe the waves and breathe deep.
Walking over the rocks, we reach the green pool. Don’t worry, the water isn’t green at all. We want to go in for a dip but let’s check out the area first. According to the app that takes us everywhere, there should be showers here to wash off the saltwater. But after a full circle, this information is proven wrong and we decide to forego the swimming. Otherwise, we’ll have to carry the salt on our bodies at least until tomorrow night. Maybe we will swim by the campsite.
Tonight we will be sleeping at Cozy Corner. Do you remember the man we met at the campsite after Darwin, who has been solo travelling for two years after a few heart attacks? He recommended this place as it is free and very wild. The campsite is only a few steps from the beach - a van-life dream. But as it isn’t paid, when we arrive both parts are already officially full. We manage to fit ourselves into a non-spot, so wonky that we will be rolling sideways all night. There is no view, the neighbours aren’t especially welcoming and the toilets are far from here. And the sand is mixed with something that turns everything it touches black. But at the end of the day, we are here and have a bottle of wine on the back seat …
How we slept last night on this slop, I don’t know. All night, I tried to push myself up and yet I kept waking up in the lower half. We didn’t sleep very well but it is not the morning - a new day. From the tent, we roll straight out down the hill and get out on the beach barefoot. Pretty and large. There isn’t a soul around, only us two. The water is ice cold but we get into our knees. After which we don’t check the time and just lay under the sun. We left all technology in the car - no pictures. This beach will be just for the two of us.
The rest of the morning we spend more actively in Torndirrup National Park. We follow the crowd and get down to the Gap and Natural Bridge. We don’t expect much and so we are completely stunned. With its might or perhaps with the help of an earthquake, the ocean has entered into a narrow yet deep gap in the cliff. A platform has been built that takes you over and you can stand above the raging element. One of the most absorbing phenomena I’ve ever seen. With a rumble every new wave comes in and breaks up into white foam, floating in the air. When it pulls out the white bubbles stretch into a fine lace over the endless shades of blue. Backwards and forwards, we breathe with the motion of the water, meditating hypnotically. Especially for us, some splashes break up into the rainbow spectrum. What does this place look like in bad weather?
I overheard a conversation recently in which a girl was describing her attachment to the water. Just like mine but she added something that hadn’t yet reached my mind. Water - the falling rain or the sound of the waves, is one of the great accomplishments of nature that hasn’t ever changed. We can feel inside that exactly this noise is something that our distant ancestors, hardly even humans, also heard. As she said … isn’t this a monumental part of our day-to-day. Given to us by Nature as a gift!
It is hard to break eye contact with the gap. We leave it behind to see its natural brother - the Natural Bridge. It has been bestowed on them to live together and to welcome the same guests. It quickly becomes apparent, however, that one is relying fully on his brother’s accomplishments. The Bridge is trying to offer us a similar water show and has carefully prepared a window through which to observe. But the ocean gives more support to the Gap because it has the majority of the might and beauty. Here there are only leftovers.
For the next stop, we now have huge expectations. Do you remember the ocean geysers that we observed in the north? Well, there are similar ones in this national park too. And because we were impressed once we can’t miss another opportunity. But with our approach to the path, our enthusiasm begins to crumble. Every sign is warning us that the holes aren’t always active and that we should be visiting at high tide which is usually in the early morning. The sun above us shows a different time but we will attempt it anyway … No pain, no gain. We will only remember the blue of the ocean - it isn’t turquoise, it isn’t green, it isn’t light. But it is a deep vivid blue without shadows or highlights - homogenous and strong. Obvious and gorgeous. There are no geysers.
Our lunch is served in Albany - the local town. You have to pass it. It isn’t big but the streets are arranged with an architectural mix of old and new. Cosiness and serenity. As if in this town everything is well. The business is strong, the gardens are blooming and the people are getting along. “In which, other than falling in love, nothing else can happen” (a quote from a Bulgarian song). The two of us are in love already - it is enough to soak in the peace and recharge with calmness.
I can’t complain about the campsite tonight, not at all. Albany is by the ocean in a deep, lake-like, closed-off bay. The campsite is right on the shores of this “lake”. And for once, the cheap spots here aren’t far in the back without a view but are right on the front. It might not be quiet and the tent may be trying to take flight together with the car, but we will resist - the landscape is worth it.
Our view is directly across from Albany. The lake is covered in white ocean foam puffs. Our neighbour pelicans and the spot - supported by coniferous giants. Before dinner, we stay up in bed, cuddled in the blanket with a view. And together with the stars, we are honoured with the presences of an almost full moon. This is exactly what I have wanted in these last few months, this and nothing more!
We wake up. The beauty is still here, around us. How could we not just lay down and watch out of the window? Time flies unnoticeably. It runs away. But we are in no rush either. We pack away slowly and are grateful for this place. We were blessed to see it.
Other than Uluru, in the desert and the centre of Australia, there are many other places to visit. But they are all just as difficult to reach from the edges of the continent. According to our first plan, we should have visited one of those during our stay in Perth but we decided that 330 kilometres one way was too much for just a rock. Well, now from Albany, it seems to be more convenient, regardless of the fact the road might actually be longer. We will leave in the afternoon.
Before that, we will continue enjoying the nice town in a cafe with laptops. One advice from us … If you need access to plugs but don’t have extra money, go to the local library. We didn’t do that. Instead, we spent a few hours ashamed of ourselves that we don’t want to order more than a coffee but are still taking over a table in the already full restaurant. I can tell they aren’t happy with us but we’ve sat down already. Are they talking about us behind the bar there? They are coming toward us … will they kick us out? Argh, more clients have just walked in - there is a free table over there in the corner, don’t worry! In the end, we break under their rebuke and order a light lunch. I think I feel slightly less guilty.
The road into the continent isn’t impressive or different. It is just leading us to where we want to go. Lonely, straight and long. The sat-nav informing us there are about thirty minutes left to the campsite. An incident goes down! The worst kind for two vegans convinced in their ideology. Because of the car noise, a flock of green-blue parrots lifts off from the road. Beautiful and gentle. But in true fashion, instead of flying away from the car, they go in the opposite direction and get in our way. There are at least twenty and we pass them in seconds. We didn’t hear a hit and neither of the car’s wheels jumped. We might be okay. But Nic is convinced that in the last second there were three parrots directly in front of the car and he only counted two flying off alive and healthy.
“Well, don’t worry, we didn’t hit anything” - I am trying to persuade Nic. But his inner feeling is making him pull over. If there is anything, he doesn’t want to have to deal with it at the campsite in front of other people. He walks out and his face freezes in something between freight and surprise. “You are joking!” - I shout from the inside. But I can tell too, there is no amusement on his face. I go out to check. Between the radiator and bumper, there is a small blue body stuck. It is so well jammed that we need additional tools to get it out. Not that there is anything left to save. We place it carefully in the bushes by the road and apologise full-heartedly that such a fate was brought to it because of us. It didn’t deserve it but its wings will never fly again.
One of Bulgaria’s biggest Yordan Radichkov writers wrote this in his wonderful book of stories “We, the sparrows”: “If you, children, somewhere on your way come across some bird down, don’t pass it. Lift it from the earth and let it fly and it will be very grateful to you. Because a bird might be dead, but its down is always alive. Don’t pass our bird down, children, don’t pass the memory of our life, but bring it to life!”
In the campsite, no one found out what bad vegans we are. We reach it difficulty - at the side road, a sign tells us the access is restricted – only for residents of the town (that we can’t see from here). No one else can pass through. Well, there is no other access to the campsite … Did we get something wrong; is this some special campsite? We decide, after all, to risk it and drive the 100 metres. Perhaps, if we are for the campsite, we are allowed to be here.
The place is free but is better equipped than other places that we have paid a lot for. There is a toilet and drinking water. In a transport container, a kitchen is arranged with a table, countertops, sink, microwave, kettle, toaster, camping stove, a full range of tableware and just as many oils and spices. There is also a free library with soft seating. There is even a small washing machine here. It is completely donation-based – if you use anything, you leave as much as you like. Or you could leave unneeded items that some other people can take more advantage of. Well, we haven’t seen anything like this and we definitely didn’t expect it. Bravo and thank you!
But there is something else. In our English lessons at school with a focus on Australia, we were taught about the dingo fence – the longest fence in the world, built to keep the endemic wild dogs away from the growing farms of the settlers in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. But in the world lists, Australia also has the second-longest fence. It is known to the local Western Australians as the rabbit-proof fence. At the end of the 18th century, the first settlers brought rabbits to Australia, but they weren’t an issue until the middle of the 19th century when 24 rabbits were released into the wild. They were meant to be used for entertainment purposes of the hunting groups. What could a few rabbits do? Primarily, they can procreate. Like rabbits!
As a new and unknown kind, in the already difficult wilderness of Australia, these rabbits immediately took over every territory they touched and destroyed everything they left behind. At the beginning of the next century, in Western Australia, they realised that these pests hadn’t yet reached them so they decided to take preventative measures. They built this fence to connect the north and south coast in a straight line – over three thousand kilometres. I guess the problem was solved because the fence is continuously managed until today.
And here, in our free camp in the middle of nowhere, there is a cemetery – Varley Rabbit Cemetery. A place of remembrance for the rabbits fallen in the battle with the human fence. And with these wild rabbits, the spot has developed into a place where an Australian can bury their pets with long ears and puffy tails. Gravestones, letters, stuffed toys and mosaics depict different rabbits. But let me tell you … it is horribly weird and creepy. If it was meant as a kind gesture, it didn’t work out. Even less so in the moonlight. Let’s hope tonight we aren’t chased by the fallen rodents.
Once it fell off the list and got back on it, here we are – Wave Rock. After another hour of driving and the Christmas playlist. I don’t actually know where we’re going. I only know it is beautiful and I can confirm that with the first look.
The “wave” is part of Hyden Rock which on its own resembles Uluru – just a big formation that rises above the flat earth. But it isn’t in such a wild area and perhaps doesn’t carry such deep and sacred charges. The wave is huge and you can be sure of where the name comes from. In our pictures from Perth, you won’t see us surf waves but I am almost certain you have seen in films the tunnels which the skilled surfers go into. This one is just like those, but its closure is at the highest point – it has only just turned around. What surfer wouldn’t ride such a thing – 15 metres tall and 110 metres long? Isn’t this a dream?
But the artist didn’t just catch the shape right when he was sculpting it. He has also perfectly positioned a mixture of plant and micro-animal species to make the colouring more realistic. Spots in all nuances of the black and beige look exactly like seaweeds that are falling down the ocean wall. “Look, I was just a rock but I got myself coloured and now I’m a wave 300 kilometres from the ocean!”
Instinctively, here you only want to do one thing – to run up this ramp and see how far up you’ll get. To get your shoes sliding down the shiny rock and for gravity to pull you down. And behind a tree, there is even half a surf thrown to the side – someone clearly tried to recreate their ocean excitements. Well, we don’t get high up anyway. The hill is much steeper than we think.
After the extreme attempts, we follow the path around Hyden to get to the Hippo’s Yawn. Here, there is once again no mistake in the name. There is a rock rising above the ground as if carefully attached to the main one. Its shape like a hippopotamus’ nose and the inside roof of the mouth is uncanny. It is only missing a tooth or two to finish up the visualisation. Have there even been animals like hippos in Australia’s megafauna? Perhaps this is a fossilised representative.
Walking back on the path, we see a hole in the rock, about 3-4 metres above the ground. And it looks perfect to sit in like a throne – only the worthy can reach it. Running up, we take turns trying to climb it, turn our butts and sit in it. My fingers reach the bottom edge a few times, but Nic managed to get there in the end. Well, okay, we will give it to him. He earned it honestly.
We stop again at the wave for a few more pictures and get back to the car. I can’t tell if a 700-kilometre diversion was worth the two-hour walk here, but we did have fun. That should be enough. We stop for lunch at the campsite from last night to use the kitchen and then we set off on the road again. We are heading towards Esperance and coincidentally, the road doesn’t pass the parrot we killed yesterday, so we can begin to forget about it.
Esperance is the last big village in Western Australia but it is still an entire thousand kilometres away from the border to the next state. It is well praised and recommended so we can’t wait to see it too. We arrive in the early evening and it takes us a whole hour to find a camping spot – everywhere that we try is already fully booked. Finally, we find one, but we are tired enough to not want to start cooking. We order takeaway pizzas (Domino’s in Australia have some amazing vegan options) and sit by the car for a calm evening … despite our neighbours with guitars.
We can’t complain about south Western Australia. It had a lot to show us. Another 6 days and we will have guests. Adelaide, we’re coming!
Vassya (and Nic)