When you think of a national park, your mind rarely conjures up images of people falling in love. The classic boy-meets-girl scenario is usually left to Hollywood's far-fetched romantic comedies.
But here’s a story about the most spectacular national park I’ve seen on any continent – definitely one of the most beautiful places in Australia (now that’s saying something) – and maybe a place where you, too, could fall in love!
This is meant to be a travel story and not a cupid-finding blog, so I’ll speed through the background bits. My best girlfriend and I had finished college and were looking for an adventure (not love). I had some distant relatives in Sydney, so we jumped on a plane to Australia.
Our first six months were spent on Australia's remarkable east coast. The majority of the world doesn't realize what's down there (well, Oprah has helped a little on that front). I mean, sure, the beaches in San Sebastian are wow and “my” American beaches are beautiful, but there’s something about an Australian beach. Anyway, we eventually left the more popular east and headed west (some Aussies haven’t even been to their west coast!).
We were told to start in Broome, which is up at the top of western Australia and where the famous Cable Beach resides. It is a spectacularly long beach in all directions – north, south, east and west. Warm. Blue. White. You haven’t really seen a beach like it. At low tide you can ride your bikes along the hard sand, and at sunset it is something to behold.
After a while, we pulled ourselves from the comforts of Broome (not that Broome is lavish, but we were about to head into the desert) and started meandering down the Australian west coast.
Now Australia in general is unlike most of the world, but one of the distinguishing factors you discover when you drive around it is its size. When an Australian says they’re visiting somebody in the “bush” for lunch or for the weekend and it’s “just down the road,” they actually mean it’s a three-hour drive! When you leave one town or city, it can be hours before you come to another one.
At first we found this uncomfortable, and we missed the luxuries of shopping and eating out. But after a while, this experience of being away became life-changing. For the first time in a long time you have silence, space and no distraction. Your mind starts to ponder and wonder.
My girlfriend and I had become so close and in tune with one another that we could go long stretches without talking, both just very comfortable in each others’ company. I know we both did some pretty deep soul searching in that time, and often at night in the moonlight, after a couple of glasses of cask red wine, our discussion would get philosophical. We'd jump about all over the place from the meaning of life to the meaning of love. We even began stopping at second-hand bookshops to get our hands on the thoughts of great thinkers through history, which would escalate our conversations to no end! (Here's one of my favorites.)
Anyway, finally to the love story… after days of traveling through the deserted desert, we found ourselves in a remote national park called Karijini (left). This place touches your soul. The colors are mesmerizing. There are beautiful pools, gorges to climb in and around or experience from above. You can go days without seeing another person – it’s incredible.
After a couple of days flitting about happily in this remote destination, we finally came to a dead-end pool with a waterfall to take your breath away. James Cameron couldn’t have dreamed up a better set.
And there we met a lovely, newly engaged young couple with a nice good-looking friend with them…
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow Karijini worked its match-making magic. After that special day, we bought our two campsites together and have been sleeping in the same "swag" ever since!