“Kalbarri, you’ll love it!” That was the welcome message from our Air BnB hosts on check in.
Just five minutes later the friendly seaside town stole our hearts completely when we wandered into the local watering hole, the Kalbarri Motor Hotel, in full flight on a Friday night.
We already knew about the jaw dropping gorges, majestic seaside cliffs, resident dolphins, wild pelicans and a beautiful estuary beach.
But two jovial follicle-challenged FIFO workers who asked us to join their table in the courtyard set the warm and inviting tone for our weekend, the high point of which was to be the famous Kalbarri Skywalk dinner, watching the sun go down over the gorge and enjoying local produce under the stars.
Magical, serene, awesome, an experience not to be missed. But, back to the high-viz wearing, follicle-challenged blokes.
In taking up their generous offer we channelled the late culinary and travel guru, Anthony Bourdain, who was famous for his quotable quotes.
“Drink heavily with locals where possible,” he said and “Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you.”
Two beers later we were in stitches at the FIFO’s jokes.
“We had full heads of hair before cyclone Saroja,” they laughed.
We soon loved them as much as they loved Kalbarri, viewing their workplace as a palm-fringed paradise after their stints in the Pilbara.
We almost felt tempted to invite them on to the Skywalk dinner, but baulked at the $400 a head price tag, which was part of a package tour organised by Best4Travel. The company’s owner, Scott Campbell, came up with an idea to keep his business afloat during closed borders due to Covid last year.
In October 2020 he overcame huge obstacles to stage his first dinner on the 100 metre high lookouts which project 25 and 17 metres beyond the rim of the Murchison Gorge.
“We were told we would never do it,” he says. “With challenges to power, lighting, music and cooking equipment.”
Since then Campbell has hosted four weekends and taken 750 visitors to Kalbarri and the reviews on social media are glowing.
“We had the most magical experience at the Skywalk dinner,” says one. “Mother Nature combined to give us a blood moon and a shooting star to enjoy on top of the magic of the gorges. Scott and crew were such fun. Wonderful orchestra and choir.”
The experience is similar to the dinner under the stars at Uluru, every bit as humbling and soul searching. Along with the sheer thrill of watching the sun go down over the gorge and standing on the skywalk above the vast landscape slowly changing colour, for us there was the added bonus of seeing our daughter, Bronte, sing with the Perth Undergraduate Choral Society as part of the entertainment line-up.
That was after a haunting welcome to country by Nanda traditional owner, Colleen Drage. Born and raised in Ajana on the Murchison River she shared stories of the Nanda people’s ancient culture while emerging Noongar leader Johnny Garlett played the didgeridoo.
As the sun went down and an impossibly huge and yellow moon came up the University of Western Australia Conservatorium of Music played as the guests hoed into Shark Bay whiting and spring rolls with sweet chilli.
Wise Wines provided Leaf Series Sauvignon Blanc and Bead Chardonnay while local beer from Finlay’s was an aptly named Shipwrecked Pale Ale.
On the Saturday night, when we went, there was also extra bang for the guests’ buck – a photo opportunity and a chat with one of Northampton’s favourite sons, West Coast Eagle, Josh Kennedy who happily obliged the requests for a chat. Destination
WA presenter, Christina Morrissey was also filming a segment on the dinner.
Was it worth the $800 a couple price tag? Ahem, yes, it was. And even getting the worst seat at the worst positioned table didn’t dim the newfound ardour we felt for Kalbarri. We shared our meal with the Destination
WA camera crew and a mother and her eight-year-old boy. All agreed this was an experience they would never forget.
And as we piled back on the bus to head back to our digs, another Anthony Bourdain quote came to mind.
“You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together.” And we went in search of our new mates at the local pub to buy them a beer.
Find out more at www.best4travel.com.au