Approaching Geraldton and seeing signs for the Batavia Coast, Kirstine began googling the history of this ship. It was shipwrecked on its maiden journey in 1629 near the Albrolhos Islands, off the coast of what is now Geraldton. The tragic and violent story of the Batavia’s crew and passengers is lengthy and in parts too gruesome to detail here, but Russell Crowe has apparently bought the rights to a book written about the story, so you may yet get to see the Hollywood version of it!
The Big 4 Sunset Beach in Geraldton welcomed us with an ensuite site. This was a wonderful surprise, as was the packet of doggy treats they gave us for Luna! We had great plans for our time in Geraldton, however Paul was laid low with a cold for a couple of days, so it was a quiet time instead. Whilst Kirstine had sent our media release out to local newspapers, radio and TV stations, it was the ABC Midwest & Wheatbelt who made contact and wanted to talk with us. Paul managed to rally enough to meet with Glenn and pre-record an interview. We were able to listen to it as we packed to leave the next morning. Being as we have not been able to travel to some of the inland centres in Western Australia, we love it when ABC Radio helps us share the message via radio and Facebook to communities about Talking & Listening when it comes to Mental Health. Geraldton has had its own share of problems, and we noticed as Glenn spoke with us after the interview, that he became a bit emotional. He was telling us that it’s hard when small towns experience losses to violent crime & suicide, and the community struggles, having known both parties involved. After the interview went to air the next day, we received a message via Facebook from a man who wanted to give us a feed of fresh crays and fish! We were so very touched but were already on our way out of town!
Kirstine had taken the opportunity to contact Parks & Wildlife (now the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions – BDCA) to mention the experience we’d had when visiting the Pinnacles with Luna. She ended up speaking with the Commercial Business Coordinator, Matthew, and found out that DBCA is in the process of reviewing their policies with regards to access for assistance/service dogs. The DBCA website refers to Assistance Dogs approved by the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC), but even this is difficult to navigate as the DLGC website references the WA Dog Act of 1976. It was an interesting discussion, and Kirstine followed up with an email to confirm Luna’s identification, as well as confirm that both the Commonwealth Disability Discrimination Act 1992 AND the State WA Dog Act protect Luna’s access rights. Education and clarification is definitely needed in parts of Western Australia. Matthew sent us an email to use to facilitate any visits we make to National Parks in the state, and also in a separate email, issued Paul with a permit to fly his drone in National Parks. These are not easy to come by, and whilst there are still restrictions on where he can fly, it’s a special privilege he’s been given.
Both the email regarding Luna and his permit to fly issued by DBCA came in handy when we visited Kalbarri National Park. After making it down to Nature’s Window for some photos at the iconic location, including Luna being one of the only assistance dogs to have been there, we met the ranger on the way back up to the car park. Whilst we weren’t going to be flying the drone at that point, plus it’s banned in that particular location, the ranger was happy to find that Paul had done the right thing in seeking a permit and knew that there are still boundaries on operation. Recreational drone users are a bane for rangers, and this particular staff member told us that he has seen as many as five of them in the air near Nature’s Window. If you’ve been to this wonderful natural attraction, and clambered over the rocks to get there, you’ll understand how dangerous to visitors it would be to have drones buzzing around!
The Anchorage Caravan Park in Kalbarri supported us with a beautiful powered site, and with no caravan in front of us, we had a view over the Murchison River. This is a lovely park, in a great location. With our radio interview also covering the Kalbarri area, and no response to our communications from print media, we concentrated on highlighting the need for awareness in relation to assistance dogs, and also about responsible drone operations. Kalbarri is a fabulous location, and largely surrounded by National Park, which includes the Kalbarri Coastal Cliffs. It was a perfect day for flying, and this coastline is simply stunning, but in the case of the cliffs, Paul’s permit said he had to keep the drone 500m away, so it was a No Go. Having already seen the ranger in the park, Paul advised another family at the cliffs against launching their drone, as the penalties are steep. They had a great chat and shared the frustration in missing out on the brilliant location with ideal weather conditions, but flying a drone is a big responsibility and there is nothing like a huge fine to ruin a trip!
To those following our journey, struggling with your own mental health, so much of what we are doing is for you! Australia is such a massive continent, but there are places where you can feel the raw power of the elements. Western Australia has so many of these, and if you pick the right time of year to travel, it’s not busy though the weather is stunning. In Kalbarri, Kirstine took the children to the Blue Holes to swim and float with dozens of fish species in a safe environment. We were in awe of the layers of stone, balancing to create structures that can’t be appreciated by looking at pictures on the internet. The cliffs that form the stunning coastline are withstanding the winds and water that constantly batter them. Are you seeing the metaphor for standing strong when your demons make your life difficult? Like the Coastal Cliffs at Kalbarri, the battle will change you and shape you. You can weather the storm, and there will be friends and family that see the transformation and stand in awe of what you have achieved.