Our Lonely Planet (which has been excellent throughout) didn’t offer much by way of stopping points on the way south to Geraldton but we’d picked up some leaflets on our journey and there were a couple of places that sounded interesting. We are definitely glad that we made these stops. The first was Lake Hutt near Port Gregory, which, due to the bacteria in the lake, appears pink under certain conditions.The second was the historic town of Northampton. Having enjoyed excellent cheese sandwiches in the local park we proceeded on a Chicken led tour of the town sites. The museum was closed for lunch but we still managed to cover several churches, a convent and the railway precinct, the maintenance of which is entirely the work of a local couple. They have restored and set up a really interesting display of vehicles and station equipment which we had a great time investigating.We would offer just one piece of advice; stay away if you have a fear of creepy manequins:We’ve named this chap Reg.
On our way out of Northampton we stopped at the site of the non-denominational Gwalla church, which had been built by a chap named Joseph Horrocks, an ex-convict who set himself up as a doctor, although he had no medical degree, and dedicated his life to taking care of the people in the area.It was a fascinating stop on our way down to Geraldton and we were surprised that it hadn’t made the cut for the Lonely Planet. In fairness to Lonely Planet, we are using a version which is three years out of date, regardless do give it a go, you can easily self-guide with the very thorough town map which you can pick up at the Visitor Centre. It is well worth and if that isn’t temptation enough, you can see this slightly slow looking lion.From there it was just a hop skip and a jump to Geraldton, which appeared, at first glance, to be a town dominated by the port and the export of agricultural goods. A couple of days in town proved it to be a lot more than that. We arrived fairly late on a Sunday afternoon and, as the visitor centre was closed, pitched up on the first site we came to that offered us a discount. It was unremarkable but did have a jumping pillow which provided a good 15 minutes of entertainment for two big kids.We took the opportunity of the fairly miserable weather to play a new card game, 500, which we both enjoyed as the gameplay is rapid and therefore suited to James’s short attention span. Travelling necessitates some long expanses of time to fill and we are both prone to getting quite restless, so we travel stocked up with iphones, ipads, kindles, crossword books etc., but a couple of decks of cards is by far the best investment. There are the added benefits of not staring at a screen and it provides entertainment for both of you. Good two player card games are hard to come by so 500 is one we would recommend. We also had the first real disaster of the trip when Caro’s prized Flik Flak broke althoug, fortunately, it was just the clasp and she has managed to bodge it together so that she can continue wearing it.
The next morning we woke up to drizzle and wind, if you tilted your head and squinted you could easily have mistaken our view for the North Sea rather than the Indian Ocean. We persevered and set out to explore the sites starting with another excellent Visitor Centre experience. We almost missed our first activity because the lovely Deb wanted us to know absolutely everything there is to know about Gero. Fortunately, we were on time for the free tour at the HMAS Sydney II memorial, which was absolutely fantastic. If you are going, make sure to time your visit to include the tour which only runs once a day (10:30am when we were there), lasts half an hour and only requires a gold coin donation. Our tour was led by local volunteer Bill, who was a hero. Bill is in his 70s, has 9 fingers and many stitches in his left ear and moved as a young boy Stafford to the middle of nowhere in Australia where his father ran a station. There is no doubt about it, Bill has seen things. Paramount was his wonderful and touching delivery of the story of the sinking of HMAS Sydney II in WWII and equally sympathetic treatment of the SS Kormoran, who sank her. The memorial is incredibly moving and we certainly cannot do the story justice here, so we offer only photographs and our strong recommendation that you visit for yourselves.For once, we had managed to be somewhere on time and there was a monthly market open at the old railway station. We both love a market so went to explore. It offered the most baffling array of stuff including live rabbits and chickens, fruit and veg, woodern arts and crafts, knitwear and.. wait for it…golly wogs, who knew people still made those?! The one thing all the stalls had in common was they were manned by rather eccentric people. It was excellent.A quick tour of the museum was up next, which nicely complemented our visit to the memorial and added the gruesome tale of the Batavia to the mix. Again, we won’t go in to details but it was definitely worth spending 45 minutes there, or just google the Batavia, it’s a cool story.
The next morning brought brighter weather and we lingered in Gero for another half day taking in the Esplanade and Gero’s street art, which does so much to brighten the CBD. We found ourselves wishing that we had more such initiatives in the UK, many a grimy wall could be improved.Our final stop before moving on was the old Geraldton Gaol, which doubles as a market for the undoubtedly crazy stallholders who chose to set up shop in an old jail cell.There is a huge amount of information for you to read as you wander around and the volunteers who work there would happily chat to you for hours about the jail itself or anything at all really.
We will close this post with this fantastic picture of James in a hat.