Rock-monkeying in Kalbarri National Park David Whitley ruins his trousers in one of Western Australia’s most rugged landscapes

There are many things that are designed to be done in brand, spanking new white trousers. Dancing to Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees is a prime example, as is rollerskating whilst on your period in tampon adverts. However, such clothing is not ideal in all circumstances, as I now know to my cost. For example, sitting around a campfire in a muddy field, getting progressively more tipsy. 

Believe it or not, the next day your lovely gleaming trousers turn a dirty shade of charcoal, and they absolutely stink. Seeing as they were completely buggered up from the previous night, I thought I may as well keep them on while we’re strolling around the Kalbarri National Park. Now I don’t know what everyone else thinks of when they hear the phrase “National Park", but I tend to think of a few relaxing walks, with maybe the odd hill. I was wrong, and if there was any chance of my proud new purchase washing clean after the campfire, then there wasn’t after a morning in the Kalbarri. 

This place is astonishing, as much for the history as the scenery. Millions of years ago, this was the bottom of the ocean. Now, we know more about the surface of the moon than the ocean floor. To put in perspective, the only time man has gone to the deepest depths of the planet was in 1960, when two men and a submersible went right into the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. They had tiny windows, nothing that enabled them to see in the dark and saw sweet FA. We’ve never been back since. That’s as mad as snakes, and thus walking through the Kalbarri is pretty special. You’re going back in time, and visiting a place that is a complete mystery to mankind at the same time. When I say walking, it’s a bit of a misnomer, unfortunately. Most of the time, we’re clambering up and down rocks, messing our clothes up big style. 

It’s all great fun and high adventure, but I really wish I’d put some kind of novelty Steve Irwin costume on beforehand. As we snake our way down through the dust, we encounter people who clearly believe in doing things these easy way – they’re abseiling. At the bottom, we arrive at the Murchison River, and after all that exercise, I’m having a swim. Everyone looks at me as if my brain has gone on holiday, and the river is, of course, freezing, but it’s remarkably refreshing after scrambling over rocks for the best part of two hours. From there, it’s a case of climbing all the way back up. It’s hard work with the sun beating out of a clear blue sky, but it’s worth it – the view is astonishing. The river carves its way through the surrounding landscape, and you’re perched on a ledge way above this ancient world. Let’s face it, I can always buy a new pair of trousers.