Welcome to the latest stopover in my series of Places I’ve Been for the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re be leapfrogging once again across the globe leaving Florence behind and heading off to Geraldton, Western Australia which might just need a bit of an introduction. Geraldton’s on the coast about 429 kilometres North of Perth. By the way, we’ll also be visiting Greenough, a little to the South.
Although it seems hard to believe now, I ended up living in Geraldton in my mid-20s after packing up the car and heading over there with a friend on an impulsive whim. Not that I was actually heading for Geraldton. I was actually heading for Perth, and somehow took a right hand turn and kept going. However, isn’t that always the way? That it’s just like John Lennon said:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Well, it isn’t that way for everyone. After all, there are those people who stay in the same seat all their working lives and never deviate from the plan.
However, I wasn’t being quite as carefree and fly with the wind as I thought. As it turned out what I’d put down to my stressful job in Sydney, turned out to be fluid on the brain, or hydrocephalus. So, I wasn’t just trying to escape from the rat race, but from myself. Or, to be precise, this alien invader which essentially all but killed me off, and sent me and the Mitsubishi Colt back to Sydney to start over and my Geraldton chapter came to an abrupt end. Indeed, it was ripped straight out of the book.
Naturally, even going back to Geraldton on this virtual tour is unleashing a kaleidoscope of memories, the way it does when a soldier returns to the battlefield. There were so many hopes and dreams which weren’t just tied up in that move, but were contained inside that beautiful, watery head of mine where I could actually do laps back and forth if I wanted to. Or, if the wind built up, I could even surf inside my head. How’s that for a unique talent? Isn’t that what everyone is striving for??? To be the very best at something and utterly inimitable? Humph! Perhaps, I should’ve picked a different box. Tried tap dancing instead. Having harbour views inside my head proved rather problematic.
Yet, there is always beauty. A bright side.
Geraldton has the most magnificent sunsets over the ocean, and a few white clouds just totally pulls it off. Moreover, in Spring Geraldton comes to life when a kaleidoscope of wildflowers explodes like fireworks across the landscape during wildflower season. There were also very special friends and nights out at restaurants and simply just being. There is always light and never complete darkness, no matter how we might feel at the time.
Anyway, you didn’t come to Geraldton to muse about my head. However, travel is as much about stories and those people you meet along the road, as it is about checking off your checklist.
I don’t know whether we should arrive in Geraldton by plane so you can have a sense of the local fly-in fly-out culture. Or, whether we should fly into Perth and drive up in what was my Mitsubishi Colt. While it’s probably been recycled into steel cans by now, I haven’t forgotten what it was like to overtake a massive road train in that little car better suited to inner city driving. I held my breath and muttered a few prayers as I pressed the accelerator almost to the floor to gain momentum. The steering wheel shook in my sweaty palms, and it felt like I was almost flying in a dodgy rocket. Yet, somehow we made it and drove on.
The Leaning Trees are scattered throughout the Greenough area just South of Geraldton. The leaning trees are a bizarre natural phenomenon caused by the airborne salt content blown in with the winds off the Indian Ocean. The tree trunks lie horizontal to the ground and have become somewhat of an icon.
Before I moved to Geraldton, the real estate agent warned us about a few things. There was this story about the wind being so strong, that you hang your washing out in the morning and pick it up from next door in the afternoon . My aunt also told me about these mysterious trees, which are bent right over and grow along the ground because the wind is so strong. No one mentioned the balls of tumble weed which swept along the beach like soccer balls. They were visual proof that I was now in the wild West, and my days of swanning around Sydney’s Whale Beach were long gone.
However, what the real estate agent didn’t mention, was the heat. Being from Sydney, I thought I knew heat. However, the heat in Geraldton was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. In Summer, it was like living in a kiln, and it wasn’t uncommon for the temperature to hit 46°C in the shade.
To give you some idea of what it was like living in that kind of heat, there was an open air-car park in town where I parked every day for work. In that car park, there was only one covered car space, which in the manner of country towns, might’ve amounted to a couple of strategically placed sheets of corrugated iron. This shelter was certainly nothing approaching a shed let alone a garage. Yet, in that intense heat, this shelter was hot property and a bit of a battle broke out for that parking spot between me and the guy who worked next door. I don’t remember actually meeting the man, but I knew his car, and as the temperature soared, we were getting to work earlier and earlier battling it out for that space. Humph…I wonder if he’s had it to himself all these years since I left? I doubt it.There’s always someone ready to take your place, especially in a car park.
Another really lovely aspect to life living in Geraldton, is the crayfish or lobster. For many it’s a way of life to put out a craypot and catch their own crayfish. Yum!
The Greenough River flows just South of Geraldton. I stayed stayed out there in a cottage on the river for a couple of weeks. I remember waking up before sunrise and photographing the black swans gracefully gliding upon its glassy, ink facade. It was incredibly serene and my friend was blown away by the photos. Geraldton with it’s railway line along the waterfront wasn’t always recognized for it’s breathtaking beauty. Unfortunately, I can’t quite put my hands on the photos atm, but I’m on the lookout.
Speaking of the Greenough River, I highly recommend visiting the historic Greenough village. It was my understanding that the village flooded and moved to higher ground, leaving the original village behind as a form of time capsule. When I was over there, the village was rather understated and almost blending in with the paddock like an old farm ute slowly rusting into the soil. Indeed, that’s what I particularly loved about it. I could discover and explore it for myself and feel like I’d found something, even if it wasn’t lost.
Of course, we’re wandering all over the place in my usual style travelling from memory, rather than using a map and proceding in a logical sequence. However, I suspect reigning in this wandering spirit and subjecting it to a list, would strip away its soul and isn’t worth it, even if you would get from A to B faster and save a bit on petrol.
St Francis Xavier Church, Geraldton
Culturally speaking, Geraldton was an interesting and a surprisingly diverse place. Part of that was thanks to the wind, which attracted windsurfers to the area from right around the world. That’s what took one of my close friends there and she still hasn’t left. The local farming and cray fishing industries also brought wealth to the area, and it was well known not to judge a book by their cover around town. That a farmer might come into town straight off the farm in their dungarees, yet have the ready cash to buy a brand new ute or tractor.
A front view
This takes us back into town, now we’re off to St Francis Xavier Cathedral, which is absolutely magnificent. It was designed by architect and priest John Hawes, who built a series of Churches throughout the region, although this is clearly the jewel in the crown. really looks quite out of place in an Australian regional city.
Next, I thought we might go and visit Old Geraldton Gaol and Craft Centre. As you can see I got myself into a spot of trouble. These days, the cells are usually occupied by craft artisans, although the place is like a ghost town atm. Closed down thanks to preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
While I was checking out the Old Gaol online, I came across this fantastic video of the Pink Lake from Midwest Adventure Tours. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember going there, and I’m kicking myself. So, I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did!
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed Geraldton. It’s been quite a journey for me, even cathartic.
I hope you and yours are keeping well and virus free.
Greenough’s Leaning Trees
Photo of St Francis Xavier Cathedral – Nachoman-au CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391469