Perth Road Trip
11/04-01/06/2005 - report - photos
Participants: Tom Brennan, Rachel Grindlay
Monday 11 April: Sydney to Rutherglen (733km)
Needing a bit of familiarity before embarking on a long road trip, we headed for the Blue Mountains ... to buy a daypack from Summit Gear. In return I had promised Rachel a café breakfast, so the Wattle Café in Blackheath was the next step. We joked about rating the caramel milkshakes (which I drink) and the lattes (which Rachel drinks) all the way across Australia, so I've started here. Then it was on to Lithgow, Bathurst, Cowra, Young and finally Cootamundra (Don Bradman's birthplace) for lunch and a throw of the frisbee.
Given that we were aiming to climb The Rock that afternoon, we hit the road again fairly quickly, and accidentally bypassed Wagga Wagga altogether on the way to the town of The Rock. The Rock (the rock The Rock, not the town The Rock) is a distinctive landmark visible for quite some distance, a crouching lion that rises over 300m above the surrounding plains. It is the highest point of an old range that runs roughly north-south to the west of the town of the same name. It was known as Kengal by the local Wiradjuri people, and was a place of significance to them, a place where they carried out their initiation ceremonies. We arrived at about 4:30pm, and with sunset about 6pm, we thought we would be pushed for time as the sign said 3 hrs, 6km, hard, and the guidebook said 2 ½ hours with minimal breaks. I was rather surprised how quickly we reached the summit. After recent walks in Tassie and canyoning in the Bluies, there is always seems to be a false summit, so I was fully expecting to push over the top and find another 50m or 100m of climbing.
It was certainly a nice walk, with the sparse mix of conifers and eucalypts affording good views out over the remaining range to the south and plains in every other direction. We saw numerous wallabies on the climb, including one fearless individual who waited until we were almost upon him before hopping a few metres off the track.
The walk back was even easier and we reached the car again at 6:15pm in fading light.
After a few mixed attempts to get some pictures of The Rock itself in near darkness, we drove to Albury for dinner. On the way down the main street I noticed La Porchetta, a cheap Italian chain which I had been hoping to find again since Shepparton 6 months ago, so we stopped there. Then it was on to Rutherglen, where I knew there were a few possible places to camp. We picked up a brochure from outside the closed visitors centre, and using the fairly inadequate map, made our way to the banks of the Murray where we set up camp under a full complement of stars.
Tuesday 12 April: Rutherglen to Mt Arapiles (520km)
My alarm went off, a mix of moaning (yes moaning) cattle and squawking birds. Rachel took some photos of the morning mist rising off the river. It turned out we were on Murphy's Creek, an anabranch of the Murray, and not the mighty river itself.
First stop was the Black Dog Bakery, for another caramel milkshake. Then on to Chambers Winery, to purchase of flagon each of muscat and port. Finally, we drove to Cofield Wines, where we were the only customers so got blue ribbon treatment. Scott gave us a comparison tasting of Shiraz and a detailed description of the differences between the wines and how they were made. Rachel had allowed me until 11 o'clock, and it was pretty much spot on when we finally left.
We headed on to lunch at the lake in Shepparton, where we were harassed by a variety of water birds. I got pecked on the foot by on of the marsh hens, and the pelican looked quite scary as per usual.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with getting to Araps, with a shopping stop in Horsham. We were treated to another superb sunset as we drove west, with the clouds lit up in shades of orange from below. The Pines campground was pretty busy as it was holidays in Victoria for schools and unis. A couple of the pines had been cut down since I was last there in October, which made it easier to find a camp spot, but harder to set up a tarp shelter. We crashed pretty early after dinner, as were both tired.
Wednesday, 13 April: Mt Arapiles (6km)
Most of the Pines had departed already for the cliffs and crags when we got up for breakfast. We headed for Mitre Rock where I had hoped to ease Rachel in with some easy single pitch climbing. Unfortunately there was a queue on Exodus (6) so we went for Cloaca (6) instead. It was pretty easy but in the hot sun and Rachel had a headache. I suggested we head into the middle and try The Deacon (8) or The Priest (8) as they would be in the shade. The Deacon was occupied, by a dad and his two teenage sons, one of whom was clearly disinterested in the climbing thing. We did The Priest instead which had a couple of tricky moves.
Rachel was still unexcited by the climbing, so we had a bit of a break after lunch, and later in the afternoon, took the short hike up to the Organ Pipes and climbed Diapason (7**). The climb was nice, although getting off was probably trickier then getting up, with an abseil and a nasty scramble to get down. There was probably an easier abseil elsewhere, but the guide hadn't mentioned it.
Even that hadn't inspired Rachel to more climbing, so we agreed on one more climb tomorrow, and then on the road to Adelaide.
The weather largely made the decision by raining during the night, and it was quite unpleasant the next morning.
Tuesday, 14 April: Mt Arapiles to Port Parham (534km)
We headed from Arapiles via the back route through Goroke and Frances. Our first brief run-in with death on the roads came when the car's wheels hit the dirt while Rachel was overtaking a semi on a narrow secondary road. The car slewed a couple of times before she regained control and I came out of it with a rapidly beating heart.
Frances was just across the SA border, and I was expecting something more. A dirt road through town (it did look like it was going to be resealed) and no signs at the main intersection didn't help. The place looked quite dead, so we drove on through.
At Bordertown we visited the information centre and were deluged with pamphlets, booklets and maps. We took them next door to the bakery/cafe and indulged in the usual latte for Rachel and caramel milkshake for me. On the way out of town, we checked out the local wildlife park with its colony of white kangaroos. The white roos looked particularly ugly, something like a shorn sheep rather than a kangaroo.
One obvious change once we were on South Australian roads was the increase in the size of the trucks. Almost all are doubles - semis with two trailers (does two trailers mean that they're full trailers, not semi-trailers??!)
After lunch at the rest stop at Coonalpyn, we headed into Adelaide with a few tasks to complete. The first, which we managed with reasonable efficiency, was to buy a National Parks entry and camping pass. The second proved more difficult - finding internet access. It was not helped by me doing three laps of a city block looking for a free park - only to find that they were all illegal. We then walked to the State Library to get free internet access, to find that they were all in use. We cut our losses and paid for one where Rachel got a free latte. However, Rachel couldn't access her email on their computers by any means, and eventually had to give up.
Then we needed to do some shopping for the next week. The only place we had a map to a supermarket with nearby parking was at Port Adelaide, so off we went! Once shopping was complete, we tried to find dinner in Port, but either the choices were thin on the ground or we weren't looking in the right places. Eventually we headed for Semaphore, where we found a few spots, and ate at the Red Wok Noodle Bar, which was pretty good.
In the dark we drove to Port Parham, north of Adelaide, and camped in the fairly bleak council campground, which we shared with a convey of what looked like grey nomads.
Friday 15 April: Port Parham to Melrose (250km)
The surprise of the morning came when I came back from the loo, Rachel told me she thought there was a mouse in my pack. We had used it for food shopping yesterday and presumably it had been after a snack. Sure enough, underneath the lime cordial was a rather scared mouse. Not knowing whether it was native or not, I tipped it out of the bag into the dunes.
South Australia is flat. A few metres more ocean and you would flood most of the coastal plain, I reckon. As we headed north from Port Parham we started to get the Flinders Ranges forming on our right, however it was a treeless flat expanse all the way to St Vincents Gulf to our left.
Having been unable to find shellite fuel for the stove the night before in Adelaide, we first tried Port Wakefield, which turned out to be tiny. We bypassed Snowtown, probably the second most recognised place in SA since the infamous Snowtown "bodies in barrels" murders. Port Pirie was a bit of a detour, but the hardware store there stocked shellite, so we were in luck. We treated ourselves to the customary latte and caramel milkshake from the Caffe Florence, as well as a slice of cheesecake.
At Port Germein, we turned east and into the Flinders Ranges via Port Germein Gorge, winding road that climbed up a dry creek bed, and a welcome change of scenery. It seemed like the central spine of the ranges was more of a flat plain bordered by north-south running hills on both side. Our next stop was Melrose, in the shadow of Mt Remarkable and on the edge of the national park named after the mountain.
Melrose is the starting point for an out and back trail leading to the summit of Mt Remarkable, and we planned to climb it in the afternoon. A 600m climb sounded like a challenge, but the trail is so steadily graded that is was a pretty easy hike. The track itself winds up the slope of Mt Remarkable, venturing in and out of successively deeper gullies that cut into the face of the mountain. As we got higher the gullies mainly became scree and crossing each become somewhat of an ankle strengthening experience. There were good views across the Willochre Plains for most of the climb. The brochure that we picked up at the start of the hike noted items of interest along the way and came in quite handy. There were metal track markers with distances from the start marked on them every couple of hundred metres, which I found a bit disconcerting, as I rarely am interested in knowing how slowly I'm going! In the end we completed the 12km return trip in 3 ½ hours including lunch. It was probably a bit shorter than that in the end as we took a marked short cut near the top on the way down.
After we finished, we drove just north of town to the Showground to camp. Our camping guide said to contact the caretaker, but after driving around for a while we couldn't find anyone, so just set up camp anyway.
Saturday 16 April: Melrose to Port Lincoln (478km)
An early break of camp just in case we encountered a grumpy caretaker saw us in Port Augusta for breakfast. A middle-aged aboriginal man asking for a "syllabub" or something similar approached us. I looked blankly at him and said "what?" He clarified it as being a two-dollar coin, not an expression I had ever heard before.
After breakfast we pushed on through Whyalla, had a brief stop in Cowell for a bit of fuel, and continued to Port Lincoln, where we had lunch on what would have been a pleasant foreshore, if it hadn't been so grey and windy. The scenery after leaving Port Augusta was a stark change. The trees almost disappeared and there were vast flat expanses of red soil and straggly shrubs. As we went further down the coast of the Spencer Gulf it slowly got less arid, and relatively speaking it was almost green by the time we reached Port Lincoln at the tip of the Eyre Peninsula.
We bought some oil for the car, which had been leaking, only to find that the oil cap was stuck and we were unable to open it. After about 20 minutes of fruitless trying we drove down the road to the Shell servo - with the boot open, it turned out as we got there - and a helpful older attendant managed to get it off almost straight away.
Having wasted enough time, we drove out of town to Lincoln National Park, and out on dirt roads to the southern cliffs at Wanna, nearly collecting a couple of roos, emus and a rabbit in the process.
Wandering along the cliffs for a short way, we found a short pass down and watched the waves crashing onto the rocks, and the interesting eroded shapes in the limestone.
Then it was back along more dirt roads to Fishermans Point where we set up camp and watched the sun set over Boston Bay while eating cheese and drinking wine.
Sunday 17 April: Port Lincoln to Talia Caves (349km)
After breakfast, we drove a bit further out in the National Park to check out the other campsites. Happily they were somewhat more exposed then where we had camped! On the way back we detoured to Stamford Hill. I was looking for my shoes to go walking in for a while, before it was pretty obvious they just weren't in the car. I tried to remember the last time I had seen them. I had climbed Mt Remarkable in them, and then worn them to the campsite. Then I remembered between taking them off and setting up the tent we had rolled the car backwards, most likely hiding the shoes from view, and then probably driven off the next morning, none the wiser!! Doh! Luckily they were old and in need of replacement anyway. We did the short climb to the summit, where Matthew Flinders had climbed for survey purposes over 200 years before. We continued along the 5km loop track that dropped off the other side of the hill, before heading back to the car.
Next we drove to Coffin Bay, and to Coffin Bay National Park, on the western tip of the Eyre Peninsula. It was interesting driving into the park, through mountains of steep sided dunes. Unfortunately most of the park is only accessible to 4WS. After visiting more sea cliff lookouts we retreated to Little Yangie Bay for lunch and did a short nature walk after lunch. It was a little disappointing, mainly because of the faded signage. However, much of the park is fairly bleak, the limestone soil having long been weathered, and low in nutrients.
Back in Coffin Bay I convinced Rachel to have a game of putt putt golf at Coff'n'Putt. The par was challenging and the greens were a bit lumpy, and I could only manage 22 over, and I figure I'm a reasonable player. Rachel scored close enough to the manager's score of the day to win a free game.
We pushed on up the west side of the peninsula to Talia Caves on the coast several kilometres off the road. Arriving close to sunset we found a spot to camp, and wondered where the nearest people were to us tonight.
Monday 18 April: Talia Caves to Wandilla Beach (435km)
In the morning we went to check out the caves themselves. Talia Caves are a couple of ocean cut caves, one where a joint in the bottom layer of sandstone has allowed the water to wear away at the softer limestone on top, the other a big bowl - "The Tub" - where a tunnel to the ocean lets the water continue to enlarge the bowl.
We ended up scrambling down to the beach itself and going for a short cold swim.
Then it was north to Port Kenny, and a collection of granite outcrops known as Murphy's Haystacks. These unusual shaped boulders and inselbergs are all that can be seen of the original hills and mountains that now make up the rolling plains of the western Eyre Peninsula.
From there it was a long drive on dirt roads out to Point Labatt, claimed to be the only mainland colony of Australian sea lions. We were a bit a sceptical that the drive would be worthwhile, as animals are rarely sitting there waiting for you to observe them when you want them. However, it looks like these are pretty reliable, as there were numerous ones relaxing on the rocks and beach directly below the lookout. There was not much action apart from a few young ones pestering their mothers to get up, but there were a few in the water. The binoculars certainly came in handy for getting a closer look.
We pushed on to Streaky Bay for lunch, and then Ceduna for a few more provisions, before heading to Fowlers Bay to camp in the Conservation Park. At least that was the plan. In fact we were unable to find the Conservation Park. Probably we should have asked the locals. In the end we saw signs to "Wandilla" and "Mexican Hat" and figuring at least one of them was a beach followed the signs. The road deteriorated but we eventually reached the ocean. We ended up camping back up the road a bit so we could have some protection from the wind. Judging from the broken glass we weren't the first to camp there.
Tuesday 19 April: Wandilla Beach to Mundrabilla Rest Stop (533km)
Today we hit the Nullarbor proper. I have to admit to being somewhat disappointed. There was a section with no trees, but it was relatively short, and after that there were plenty. We did see a camel. Both of us thought it was just a roadside ornament. However, it looked pretty real, standing right on the edge of the road as I drove past, and as I glanced in my rear vision mirror it turned its head to watch us zoom by. Rachel even said after "That wasn't real, was it?" and I had to tell her it was. Luckily they're not as dumb as roos, otherwise I might not be here writing this.
Before reaching the Nullarbor Roadhouse, we drove out to the Head of the Bight, a major whale-watching site in winter, but completely dead out of season. Even the toilet was closed. We wandered out to the lookout in the vain hope that some whales might be early, but were not rewarded. The information board informed us that this place had the only mainland colonies of Australian sea lions, a claim we had already had made yesterday at Point Labatt. So who is telling the truth?
We bought some petrol at the Nullarbor Roadhouse, surprised by the number of dingo-looking dogs lurking around. A sign inside the store answered the unasked question, "Yes, those are real dingoes in the parking lot". They seemed a gaunt, underfed bunch. They were smaller than I imagined. Other signs exhorted people to "Keep wildlife wild", presumably referring to the dingoes.
After getting directions at the roadhouse, we headed out on rocky dirt roads to the Murrawijinie Caves. These were about 10km drive from the roadhouse, and they asked us to check back with them when (if?) we made it back. They were a little disappointing, large sinkholes which petered out fairly quickly once you got underground. I took a torch, but there was not much to see. Apparently there were some aboriginal hand stencils in one of them but I didn't spot them. Because there is buggerall water, there are virtually no limestone formations.
Back at the roadhouse again, we had lunch and a well-deserved shower (was for 5 minutes), before setting off again. There were several lookouts along the way to the border with views over the Bunda Cliffs. We stopped at a couple of these, and at one we walked down a track, with a bit of scrambling, to the ocean and a tiny beach. The shapes of the limestone cliffs on the short were particularly interesting. There was another route up at the end of the beach back to the car park, and all up it was a fun detour. We knew there was a quarantine stop at the WA-SA border, but were not sure what would be quarantined. The onions, garlic, honey and dried veggies were all we had left, as we had eaten everything else, so we pulled them out at the inspection point. The grumpy lady who inspected the car confiscated the onions, garlic, honey, and also found the half-used lime that we had forgotten about. I was a bit annoyed about the honey, as it was fully processed, but you can't exactly argue with the regulations.
Shortly after, we stopped in Eucla, just on the west side of the border. Eucla is an interesting little place, although little is probably more the operative word. It sits on the edge of the limestone cliffs, within sight of the sea, which lies across the coastal plain about 4km away. The original town of Eucla was a telegraph repeater station, situated near the ocean. We visited the ruined building, mostly buried by the moving sand dunes. The current town is presumably located to take advantage of the highway traffic, which travels through a pass from the tablelands to the coastal plains just to the west of Eucla.
With light failing, I began to get nervous about roos and the like, so we pulled in to camp at a rest area just west of Mundrabilla (reputedly the cheapest fuel on the Nullarbor, and certainly the cheapest we saw). The sunset was quite impressive, and the stars even more so. It's not often you get almost 360 view of the night sky, and we stayed up for a while drinking muscat, spotting shooting stars, satellites and constellations.
Wednesday 20 April: Mundrabilla Rest Stop to Kalgoorlie (857km)
Being so flat, it got light well before dawn, so we got up and watched the sun rise. It was cool and windy, so rather than having breakfast we hit the road. At Madura I discovered that the Central West time zone, which I had only realised existed the day before, was actually 45 minutes from both Adelaide and Perth time.
Madura is halfway up the pass from the coastal plains to the Hampton Tablelands. At the top of the pass there was a lookout where we had planned to have breakfast but the lookout was fairly unexciting and it was still cool and windy, so we pushed on to Caiguna. Eventually we had breakfast at the Caiguna Caravan Park surrounded by beady-eyed crows looking for a feed and making mournful croaking noises.
We had a brief stop outside Caiguna at the Caiguna Blowhole, a small sinkhole which inhales or exhales air depending on the pressure difference between the air outside and inside. As we checked it out, it was blowing cold air out at a noticeable rate.
Then it was on to Balladonia, where I had a bit of a look at the little museum at the roadhouse. The roads we had been driving along were littered with dead roos, the legacy of large road trains, and it was sometimes an effort to dodge them. They could generally be seen several hundred metres away by the flock of crows pecking at the carcass, as well as the occasional (probably) wedge-tailed eagle. There was an absence of crow carcasses, indicating that the crows are a bit smarter than the roos, although one crow came within a whisker of a close encounter with my left wheel.
Around lunchtime we reached Norseman, at the western end of the Nullarbor crossing. The most impressive thing about Norseman was the huge tailings dumps, particularly the Phoenix tailings dump which was a pyramid-like edifice, 40m high but with a flat top. It seemed like there was car parking and maybe even a park on top of it. We did a short nature walk around the lookout above Norseman, from which you could get more views of mining operations and the tailings dump.
Then it was on to Kalgoorlie. We should have taken a back route through Kambalda, but I wasn't paying attention while navigating and ended up taking the longer route via Coolgardie. The main of going in to "Kal" was to find a campsite, and possible get some dinner. We got to the information centre just before it shut, and got told that Lake Douglas, about 10km out of town, was our best bet if we didn't want to pay. The lady at the ice cream shop just down the road seemed aghast that anyone would consider camping at Lake Douglas, but I have a feeling bush camping was not one of her fortes!
After a throw in the park, most of which was spent showing some local kids how to throw, we headed back to the main street and did a lap trying to decide what to eat. Our number 1 choice just closed its kitchen as we arrived back, but they directed us to a similar place down the road. Then it was back to our solitary campsite at Lake Douglas, where we fell asleep to the quiet lull of the mining operations over the next ridge.
Thursday 21 April: Kalgoorlie to Northam (569km)
The park the night before had been so nice for throwing and running around in bare feet that I insisted we go for another throw in the morning. Why can't parks in Sydney be like these, considering Kalgoorlie's water probably costs a damn sight (dam site??!) more?
Despite our favoured attraction, the train tour, claiming it would reopen in Dec 04, it turned out to be well and truly closed. Instead we went to the School of Mines Museum, which also turned out to be closed - this time because of uni holidays. In the end we went to the WA Museum, which had a few things of interest, including some large and very expensive bits of gold.
We pushed on towards to Perth, stopping for a late lunch in Merredin, before heading to Northam. Rachel was after a shower, so we investigated the Northam Caravan Park for camping options. I was quite hopeful when the couple in front of us got a powered site for . But for camping the lady said " each". Unsurprisingly we moved on.
It proved difficult to find our usual options, and after a fair bit of driving around, a spot not far from the road and rail bridges near Spencers Brook, on the Avon River, were the best we could get. Other than one early morning freight train, we got a reasonable sleep.
Friday 22 April: Northam to Perth (181km)
Breakfast in Northam was followed by laundry in Marylands, an internet café on Wellington St and lunch on Hay St at a noodle bar. Not being able to check in to our hotel, we drove to City Beach and had a bit of a splash around in the shore break. We drove north to Scarborough looking for a coffee and ended up at Dome, the place we had missed out on in Kal. Well, they didn't even have caramel milkshakes, so it's a bit difficult to score, but they were pretty pricey overall. I ended up having a spearmint one. But really, who has spearmint and not caramel?
Our hotel was down the east end of the city and some people had already checked in by the time we got there. For a change, the rooms were pretty good. Everyone got a single bed each (although I will be very happy the day king singles become standard), and there were cooking facilities in each room.
I headed off to meet my second cousins David and Peter, along with Peter's girlfriend Alex and a couple of other friends of Peter's from Switzerland, for dinner in Mosman Park, near Cottesloe. We went to a fairly pricey Japanese place, although the food was excellent. We had some particularly good quality sushi tuna ("toro"?) - a little like the tuna equivalent of Wagyu beef with fat marbling the meat. I had to go easy on the wine, both as I was driving home, and playing tomorrow.
Saturday 23 April - Tuesday 26 April: Australian National Ultimate Frisbee Championships (104km)
Since the main purpose of this is to diarise the road trip, I won't bother writing too much about Nationals. In brief, on Saturday we played Ngukurr Eagles, Super FUQA and Chilly, losing to Chilly by a few, and beating the other two without breaking into a sweat. I had a shocker of a game versus Chilly, but at least it was just a round game. The following day we played Southside, who we beat 17-11, and WA, who we beat 17-7. The tournament dinner was on that night, which was a reasonably good feed back at Scarborough. On Monday we only had to one of our two games to make it through, which we did in the morning against a fairly weak QLD side. That made the game in the afternoon pointless except for positioning going into semis, which we didn't care much about. Despite this we played hard, got up a bit of a lead, and then it at he end when they tied the game up. We then turned it over, but managed to get it back and score just when it looked like we were about to lose. Fakulti 14-13 over Deathstar. So we would play Southside in one semi and Deathstar-Chilly in the other.
The party was a waste. worth of drink vouchers, with half the womens and a quarter of the men's teams playing 9am semis the next day.
Disaster struck when we were leaving for the fields, as my car wouldn't start. Battery completely dead. I decided to stay as it was parked in a meter zone which was about to come into force, and I figured I would be able to get it started and to the fields by the game. The hotel repairman didn't have any jumper leads, which the hotel expected, so I called the RAC (NRMA equivalent). They said within the hour, which I thought would probably be ok, but after an hour exactly I called them back. They couldn't guarantee to be there in another half hour, so I cancelled, left the bonnet up in the hope of not getting a ticket, and ran down the street looking for a taxi. It took several blocks to find out, and it was half time when I arrived, Fakulti up 9-7.
We closed out the game by 5 or 6, and went to watch Deathstar-Chilly, where Deathstar were up by a couple, having blown a 5 point lead. Deathstar proceeded to lose the next few points and the game, leaving most of the team shell-shocked. They then had to back up and play the 3v4 playoff, which they almost managed to lose in similar fashion.
Southside comfortably won the women's final, over Victoria, and then it was on to the main event. [Ed - pah! The arrogance!] We started fairly poorly, and were down a few. We mostly traded with Chilly to half, and they maintained their lead for the rest of the game - until right at the end, when we came back from 14-10 to 14-14, and got a turnover on the last point to win it. Ken's huck to Matt Dowle was unfortunately covered by their defenders and while I hoped he might pull off the miracle catch, it was not to be. They worked it upfield and then the huck to Gack completed. 15-14 Chilly.
Rachel's team Wildcard had won their 3-4 playoff over ICE, so at least there was something to celebrate. We drank the expensive sparkling red from Rutherglen back at the hotel that night. I also had to sort out a new battery for the car with the RAC.
Wednesday 27 April - Friday 29 April: Perth (104km)
The following morning we drove to Como, in the southern suburbs of Perth, to arrange a National Parks Pass. Colin called us as we were finishing, and still feeling the effects of the tournament, we decided to veg out at his place in Floreat. A combination of some interesting freeway entrances and some more interesting navigation from first me; then Rachel, gave us several scenic tours of Perth Suburbs, but finally we made it. Jonathan was still there so we went for a KFC run for lunch. He had a plane to catch, while we relaxed for the rest of the day.
We lazed around for much of Thursday, although we did go into the city to buy me a pair of shows to replace the ones left at the Showground near Mt Remarkable. Needing some exercise, we took Baxter (Colin and Brenda's golden retriever) for a walk. Just down the road from their place is Bold Park, so we walk (well, dragged Baxter) up to the summit of Mt Reabold, where you can see the city in one direction and the ocean in the other. We got a bit lost on the paths on the way back, but a bit more exercise didn't hurt.
On Friday, we drove down to Fremantle and caught the ferry to Rottnest Island. There were racks and racks of bikes outside the shops, so we decided it was a good idea to hire our own to get around. As has been my experience with hire bikes, they were crap, despite mine having front suspension, a suspension seat and 21 gears. Rachel's was worse. Even so, mine was probably the best hire bike I've had!
We headed off on a lap of the island, which was pleasant, but bleak. Despite being sunny it was cool and windy and neither of us felt like a swim. After a climb up to Wadjemup Lighthouse in the middle of the island, we made pretty good doing to Cape Vlamingh, the westernmost point of the island. There wasn't too much to see, so we set off for the return journey, only to find we had been out with a helpful tailwind which became an unpleasant headwind for the trip back.
Not too far back we had our first close encounter with a quokka. The oversized rat-like marsupial was particularly interested in me, and hopped after us even when we set off down the road on our bikes. Back at the settlement at Thompson Bay, we had an overpriced lunch and waited around for our ferry to arrive. Overall, a bit of an uninspiring day. It probably would have been much better if the weather had been better for snorkelling.
Saturday 30 April: Perth to Harvey (159km)
On Saturday we figured that Colin and Brenda had provided us with enough hospitality, and made moves to leave Perth. After shopping for supplies in the morning, we made our farewells, and headed to Cottesloe to meet some of my relatives for lunch. We had a nice lunch at Vans Café, with my second cousin Peter, his girlfriend Alex, my mum's cousin Sue, and her husband Rich. It was Peter's birthday on Sunday so it was a bit of a celebration for that too.
After plenty of food and wine [Ed - not too much wine though since we were driving], we finally hit the road out of Perth looking to get a bit of distance under out belts. A couple of hours of driving brought us to dark, and we stopped at a rest area just outside the town of Harvey, on the Harvey River, south of Perth. It was free, but unfortunately not far off the road, so our sleep was a bit disturbed by trucks during the night.
Sunday 1 May: Harvey to Ludlow-Tuart Forest (163km)
For breakfast we moved to a park in Harvey, next to the old station. Then we headed inland towards the old coal-mining town of Collie, and turned off to Wellington Dam, where we walked the Sika Circuit. The trail up and along the ridge was pleasant under the canopy of trees, although the views weren't quite what I had hoped for. Then we dropped steeply down to the Collie River and followed it back up to the Wellington Dam along granite outcrops. Stopping for a break along the way at a large granite slab overlooking a beautiful pool, the rain started to come down, although thankfully it stopped after ten minutes or so.
For lunch we drove back to the Honeymoon Pool, a pleasant picnic and camping area on the banks of the Collie River. A duck tried hard to befriend us, presumable expecting a feed.
Afterwards we headed further south to Bunbury, where our first stop was the Dolphin Discovery Centre. Unfortunately the dolphins appear most days, but usually between 8am and 11am, and at nearly 4pm we were unlikely to get to see one. A pity, because it is one of the few places you can actually swim with the dolphins (which you can't do at Monkey Mia).
Instead we did the Mangrove Boardwalk around the Leschenault Inlet, the southernmost mangroves on the west coast. Interesting, as I would have thought there were certainly more southern ones on the east coast. The boardwalk itself was, well, I guess as exciting as a mangrove boardwalk can be. There wasn't much sign of animal activity so it was a little boring.
Deciding not to revisit the dolphins the next day, we camped in the Pines Picnic area on the Ludlow Tuart Forest Drive. I'm not sure what a tuart is, but I think it's another Western Australian eucalypt, like the Karri, Jarrah, Marri, Churdich, Tingle and probably a host of others. I was surprised that several other people picked this as a camping spot as well - I would have thought a picnic area beneath most campers, but free is free!
Monday 2 May: Ludlow-Tuart Forest to Canebrooke Pool (266km)
For breakfast we drove into Busselton and sat at the tables outside the visitors centre. The plan was to walk the Busselton Jetty and visit the Underwater Observatory (UWO) but it pissed down with rain. I figured it would be windy as well on the jetty and suggested we might want to visit some indoor attractions such as wineries and the cheese factory.
First stop was Happs Winery. We were the first visitors for the morning and so briefly got special treatment. They had a healthy range of wines, of which I had to be a bit selective in tasting so I could continue to drive. All the wines I tasted were good, and they weren't too badly priced considering it is Margaret River, with most whites in the - a bottle range, and the ordinary reds in the - a bottle range. Rachel only tasted the rose - and spent most of the time playing with the cats and dogs. [Ed- he says that like it's a bad thing]
Then we headed for the cheese factory. On the way we passed the chocolate factory, and I suggested to Rachel that we have a look. They had a few of their basic chocolates for tasting, of which we tried them all, and a viewing window which you could watch them making chocolate through. Unfortunately you couldn't see too much. Rachel had a coffee and cake and I had a caramel milkshake, hoping it might be different to the run of the mill ones. It was - but not better.
Next it was on to the cheese factory. It was a little tricky to work out what was happening here as they have two outlets with different names within a kilometre of each other on the same road. All it means is they have different cheeses for tasting, but the same ones for sale. I was a bit uninspired by the range, which was limited to some brie-style cheeses, a cheddar, some flavoured creamy cheeses and various ricottas. No blues, no washed rind cheeses. The prices were pretty reasonable, and the cheeses themselves weren't bad, but we were already well stocked for cheese so we passed.
The weather had cleared a bit by this stage so we drove back to Busselton and out to the jetty. Unfortunately the UWO was closed because of the wind direction, and the train not running for some time for repairs. Like in Kal, another train we were going to miss out riding! The woman suggested we call them tomorrow to see if the UWO would be open.
As the weather had cleared we decided to do a walk out on Cape Naturaliste. We drove to Dunsborough for lunch and then onto Cape Naturaliste. We did a loop around the north west of the cape, taking in the "Other Side of the Moon", a featureless limestone expanse, and "The Pinnacles" which I never saw. We stopped at the whale-watching platform and looked for whales and dolphins but were disappointed. Despite the let downs it was a pleasant walk.
Then we needed to find a campsite. We had a free one lined up, but it was the best part of an hour's drive away, so we did some driving looking for something closer. First we tried Yallingup, which had a couple of reserves marked, but they were in view of residential areas. Next we drove out to Canal Rocks, a series of granite outcrops. We arrived as the sun was setting, and pulled out cameras in an attempt to get some good shots. As a potential campsite it was a bit if a dud, with no apparent grassy area or shelter. A bit further on we went to Indijup, but it had no camping signs and was in the national park. Finally we decided to cut out losses and head for our original camp, which required a fair bit of driving in the dark. Still, it was a nice spot next to a pool in the forest, and we had it to ourselves.
Tuesday 3 May: Canebrooke Pool to Conto's Field (114km)
A bit of a disaster in the morning when we had to throw the sausages out, and our beef was looking a bit dodgy. The car fridge had been accidentally been bumped to off, so we had been driving around for a day without stuff being kept cold. We decided it would be best to cook the meat there and then, so we quickly whipped up a curry with it.
Then we drove the back roads back to Busselton where the UWO was finally open. We walked out the 1.8km jetty - the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere (well, wood pile jetty) to the end where the UWO lives. The UWO is basically a big steel container with a few windows, in which you descend via a spiral staircase 8m to the seabed. There is a surprising amount of coral, and of tropical fish for an area so far south, and it was quite impressive to watch. We were lucky enough to spot a Samson fish over a metre long, but mostly we saw yellowtail, pike, puffer fish and leatherjacket.
After lunch we drove south heading for CaveWorks, but only made it as far as Margaret River before both of us were feeling tired. We decided to abandon CaveWorks for the day and relax in a café. As we wandered around looking for one, we stumbled upon the Christian Fletcher gallery, whose landscape photography book we had seen at Colin and Brenda's. He had some particularly beautiful photos and displays, made more interesting by the fact that we had visited a number of places in the photographs.
Then we found a café, and relaxed over milkshakes and the paper. We had decided to visit CaveWorks and Lake Cave the next day so bit the bullet and paid for camping in Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park at Conto Campground, the first camping we had paid for since Arapiles (although we have a parks pass for SA). It was an alcohol free campground but we illicitly had a couple of cups of wine over dinner.
Wednesday 4 May: Conto's Field to Big Brook Arboretum (166km)
As we were attempting to dry the tent in the morning it decided to rain again, which it has every day since leaving Perth. We packed it up wet.
First on the agenda was CaveWorks and a visit to Lake Cave. Unsurprisingly Lake Cave has a lake in the bottom of it, and the reflections of the artificial lighting in the cave off the lake were particularly beautiful. There were numerous straws, and an amazing formation known as the Suspended Table, a limestone slab suspended by two columns from the ceiling.
CaveWorks itself was a bit disappointing. The exhibits didn't really add much to the cave tour. Even the cave crawl was rather easy, unlike one I did down in Waitomo years ago which was quite challenging.
Heading south on the Caves Rd, we passed through Boranup Forest, a beautiful stand of karri where we stopped for photos. Interestingly, it is actually regrowth and the trees are only some 70 or 80 years old.
Leaving the Margaret River, we dropped in at Hamelin Bay Wines just as it started to piss down with rain again. The wines there were all very nice, but quite expensive, particularly the reds. But I guess that's Margaret River for you. I parted with for a cabernet sauvignon, which was a bit more than I really wanted to pay.
Heading for the next "major" town of Pemberton, we had some stops along the way. The first one was at Beedelup National Park, the first park in Karri country. There was apparently a must do walk to the spectacular Beedelup Falls, recommended by both Lonely Planet and the CALM book Wild Places, Quiet Places. Beedelup Falls turned out to be highly overrated, a 10m slab with a trickle of water running down it. I'm sure in spring with the rains it is much more impressive, but it was certainly a major disappointment.
Then it was on to Warren National Park, to attempt to climb the biggest of the three "climbing trees", the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. At 68m this is the highest of three karri trees in the Pemberton region that can be climbed by the public. Steel bars have been hammered into the sides of these trees to create a steeply sloping ladder that circles the trunk. The illusion of safety is added by having a cage to your side and behind you, but the bottom line is that if you slip, and fall through the bars, you will kill yourself.
The Dave Evans Tree had a halfway ledge with a sign on it saying, "That was the easy part" and "Reassess Now". I definitely felt nervous climbing, but once you got a rhythm going it was fine. The views once you reached the top weren't exactly spectacular - karri stretching in all directions. As usual, coming down was harder, but both Rachel and I made the ascent/descent successfully. At the bottom we found the group who had been looking around while we were climbing had left a very nice tripod on the seat. We took it, left a note, and planned to drop it in to the police the next day.
While we were there we also did the short walk to the Warren River Lookout, another overrated walk! There was a bit of a view of the river through the trees, but really I wonder why they bother.
Back down the road we visited the Pemberton Wine Centre, which had wine tastings for many of the Pemberton region wineries. Again, all nice wines, but I was happy when one of the cheaper reds was to my liking, a shiraz from Phoenicia Winery.
Finally we did the Heartbreak Trail Scenic Drive through forests of massive karri. The karri forests are quite spectacular, with the orange/white bark standing out from most other trees.
Our campsite for the night was at Big Brook Arboretum, and given it was free we were expecting company. We almost didn't make it, as a large roo hopped across the road missing the front of the car by centimetres. The campsite was lovely and uninhabited, to my surprise, so we settled in for the evening surrounded by the tall trees.
Tuesday 5 May: Big Brook Arboretum to Centre Rd Crossing (229km)
After breakfast we drove into Pemberton via the Karri Explorer Route that took us past Big Brook Dam. At the visitors centre we visited the Karri Discovery Centre, a fairly underfunded museum that looked like it had seen better days. We dropped the tripod off at the police station and then I went to ride the Pemberton Tram while Rachel went to check email and sit in a café. [Ed- not just sit in a café! Sit in a café and have Devonshire tea mmmmmm]
The tram had a fairly poor write-up from the Lonely Planet, but it was much better then some of the things they gave wraps to (Beedelup Falls, Karri Discovery Centre). Our driver, Tony, kept up a running commentary of plants and history all the way down to the Warren River, and part of the way back. We stopped at the Cascades on the way down, like Beedelup Falls probably another impressive sight in spring, but just another small set of rapids in autumn.
We drove the short distance up the road to the Gloucester Tree for lunch, we had been led to believe that it cost to climb the tree, but this turned out just to be the park entry fee, and we already had the parks pass. There was a bit of congestion on the tree over lunch, with some slightly hairy looking crossing manoeuvres being performed, and people having to back down to let other people get off. I waited till the hordes had departed and set off up. Rachel had decided not to climb it, but was umming and ahhing about the decision when I left. Unlike the Bicentennial Tree there were no halfway ledges, so backing out was going to be more difficult if you lost your nerve. The rungs were also steeper, only circumnavigating the tree once instead of three times. This made the climb quicker, but a bit harder on the hands. The cage at the top was a bit less secure - no wire wound around the bottom level, the wood flooring looking a little vulnerable. All up I thought a less pleasant climb than the Bicentennial Tree, despite the fact you are only 61m at the top instead of 68m. I also like the fact that at the Bicentennial Tree you can see all the way to the ground straight down.
As I was about to start the climb down, I heard a noise below, and Rachel emerged on to the level from the top. After the obligatory photo, the climb back down was actually easier due to the steepness.
Having done two of the trees we could hardly let the third stand unclimbed. This was the Diamond Tree Fire Lookout, the only one of the climbing trees actually used as such. After practise on the other two this one was quite an easy climb, with a halfway ledge to boot. The view from the top was much the same, although a bit more farmland could be seen.
I decided that we should then take the 25 km each way detour to Windy Harbour, at the edge of D'Entrecasteaux National Park, as I had seem some spectacular sunset photos from a place called Salmon Rocks, near there. Unfortunately, as we got there, the road to Salmon Beach turned out to be closed, rather disappointing. Instead we went for a wander on a newly made path with very little signage up onto the cliffs above the beach at the end of the road. Not knowing how long we were going to have to walk to find something interesting we were nearly ready to turn back when we finally found a sign to a lookout. This was out on the cliffs that we had been looking for views of, through a spectacular natural limestone arch.
Up at the top of the hill above the lookout we found a map that showed we could walk to Salmon Beach, but it would probably take another hour or more. Despite the lure of seeing sunset, the walk back in the dark, plus the subsequent drive in the dark to find another campsite put us off.
In any event, the drive turned out to be pretty hairy anyhow. The previous night's near miss with the roo had left us nervous, and with good reason as several more crossed the road not far in front of us. Nevertheless we reached our destination, the Centre Rd Crossing camping area, on the banks of Deep River.
We had a welcoming committee in the form of a Canadian, Dan, who was wondering whether we were lost. We assured him we were in exactly the right place. He invited us to come and join them around their fire. He and his wife were driving around Australia in a 4WD and had picked up a couple of German girls in Esperance when their van had broken down. After dinner we went and took advantage of their fire for a little while before heading for bed.
Friday 6 May: Centre Rd Crossing to Parry's Beach (117km)
We had a breakfast of mushrooms, bacon and eggs which was delicious to eat but a pain to clean up. We decided that it would be back to muesli after that, with the possible exception of cafes.
On the way to the Valley of the Giants we stopped in at the CALM (Dept of Conservation and Land Management) office in Walpole to see if they had any useful pamphlets. They were better then Perth, but still not especially helpful.
Then it was on to the Tree Top Walk in Walpole-Nornalup National Park, just down the road. The Tree Top Walk takes you up a series of supported metal spans 60m long through the top of the giant red tingle trees (another big eucalypt) some 40m above the ground. The tingle trees are only found in a small corner of the south west of WA and are among the most massive of eucalypts. Many have burnt out hollows in the bottom that you can stand in.
We had been waiting to do the walk with some degree of anticipation, but the reality was not as exciting as the expectation. I think the novelty of being up in the tops of the trees had been more than worn by the more exciting climbs of the karris on the previous days. In addition, we had to pay for the privilege, and I guess the fact that it is accessible to anyone made it less exciting. Contrast that to the Gloucester Tree, where only about 20% of the visitors have actually climbed the tree.
There is no doubt the giant tingle trees are impressive, but I definitely preferred the karri forests. After the Tree Top Walk we did the Ancient Empire Walk on the ground, again a short walk through the giant trees. There was a lot of merchandise in the gift shop about "surviving the Tree Top Walk". Shame they didn't have something about climbing the giant karris! [Ed- like he would've bought it if there was]
For lunch we drove out to Conspicuous Beach and walked down to the beach for lunch. Presumably the beach takes its name from the Conspicuous Cliffs, which were, well, conspicuous. We walked down the beach to some interesting looking granite boulders at the end, and I scrambled a little further round to an interesting wave cut inlet several hundred metres long and maybe only 50m wide.
To avoid staying at a rest area, I suggested we check out the Parry Beach campsite, which supposedly had cold showers. It turned out for our that we got solar heated warm showers, so it turned out to be a well worthwhile detour. We even had a fire - the first one of the trip - so we sat around it for much later than usual before heading for bed.
Saturday 7 May: Parry's Beach to Torbay Inlet
Rachel was keen to head for Albany, but I persuaded her to detour via West Cape Howe National Park, and then to walk out to West Cape Howe itself [Ed - such are his powers of persuasion!], near the most southerly point of Western Australia. The 9km return walk was probably the best walk we have done to date as the track climbed up to the top of a ridge for excellent coastal views, before crossing heath down a long spur to the Cape itself. The only disappointment was the section of 4WD track that we had to walk at the end. We took some pleasure in the fact that we arrived just as a 4WD that we had seen back in the carpark was leaving, showing that walking is not really that much slower.
The dolerite cliffs of the cape were quite spectacular, with a brilliant rainbow offshore providing a fabulous backdrop. We sat for a while taking in the views, and looking unsuccessfully for whales before heading back. As we returned we managed to avoid a passing shower which cut across the path in front of us. Overall an excellent walk.
We drove to Albany for lunch but after a failed attempt to find the Botanic Gardens, it started to rain, so instead we went to a café. All I can say is that Café Venice on York St has chips to die for.
After checking my email, and finding that my website had stopped working, we drove out to Torndirrup National Park south of Albany to watch the sunset over the Gap and the Natural Bridge. As we had become accustomed to, the weather wasn't doing us any favours, and after a couple of cloudy photos, the rain rolled in and soaked us both.
In fading light we drove about 20km out of town to a lovely little campsite on the shores of Torbay Inlet, which we had to ourselves apart from an abandoned looking van.
Sunday 8 May: Torbay Inlet to Muttonbird Island (93km)
In the morning we drove back to Torndirrup National Park, and a bit further out to the start of the walk to Bald Head. We had various publications which suggested the walk was anywhere from 10km to 16km return, and would take from 5 ½ to 8 hours. We figured on 4-5 hours, given that it was a coastal walk, and there could hardly be any really big hills.
As usual, the sun was not shining, which at least made for pleasant bushwalking weather. Torndirrup National Park is largely granite, with solidified limestone sand (calcrete?) over the top in some places. The walking was excellent, mostly along the top or near the top of the ridge over Isthmus Hill and out to Bald Head. There were good views on both sides, particularly over King Georges Sound to the east. The views were less good at Bald Head itself, as they usually are from the top of smooth rounded granite outcrops, and the howling breeze made us huddle behind the summit cairn.
Given it had taken us only 1 ¾ hours to reach the end, we decided not to have lunch there, and headed back to the car. The whole walk ended up taking just 3 ¾ hours, and it certainly wasn't hard. We drove to the Blowholes for lunch, but the swell was nowhere near big enough for water to be spouting. They did however shoot a loud blast of air every time a big set came through. A group of five twenty-somethings [Ed- I would have said teens] found this particularly funny - the first dropped his coke bottle down the blowhole when he got startled by a blast, and another nearly lost his cat as he stuck his head over.
Back in town I called my mother for Mother's day, and Rachel tried to call hers. Because it was a Sunday most of the cafes seemed to close fairly early. However, we managed to find one, and despite having to wait since everyone in town seemed to have brought their mother's out for tea the cakes were good.
For camping, we drove back out of town, to a different spot than the night before. A beautiful site above the beach, overlooking Muttonbird Island.
Monday 9 May: Muttonbird Island to Porongorup (78km)
After breakfast at our little lookout over the bay, we drove north 50km or so to Porongorup National Park. It had obviously been raining, as everything was soaked, and there was plenty of mist and low-level clouds obscuring the granite peaks. We set off on the Nancy Peak Loop, a 5km circuit with the intention of a detour to the Devil's Slide, the highest peak in the park.
The cloud started to lift by the time we reached Hayward Peak, and we had good views of the surrounding countryside and the bare granite peaks that dominate the small park. Nancy Peak itself had no views as it was covered with head high scrub, but Morgans View, a little further on had excellent views of the Devil's Slide.
It was a steep descent to the saddle, and we left the backpack at the bottom for the climb up to the Devil's Slide. Streams of water ran down the granite and it was quite slippery in places. The peak itself was scrub covered, but large slabs just next to the summit provided excellent viewing platforms. A bit of sun, and not too much wind made it pleasant to sit for a while. We could see the Stirling Ranges off to the north, and Mt Manypeaks to the south east.
Back at the saddle, it was a short walk back to the carpark where we had lunch. There were free gas barbeques, and we regretted not having a few sausages or bits of steak.
After lunch we popped in at a winery just down the road from the national park, Jingalla Estate. The lady serving us was very chatty, almost nervously. They had some interesting wines, including an oaked verdelho, mostly reasonably priced. In the end we bought a few of the drink now ones, including a summer red. She told us that they sell quite a lot of their Riesling grapes to Howard Park, well known for their Rieslings.
We then settled in at the caravan park across the road, which has off of the mod cons including TV and campers kitchen. The lady who had been there when we arrived told us .20 or .30 for a powered site, but that someone would be around to collect it. I was a bit peeved when it later turned out to be .90 ( + GST), but foolishly didn't argue.
We tried to purchase ice at the general store in Porongorup but the lady told us they only stocked it in summer. However, she said that she was going into town later and offered to pick up a bag if we wanted to come back and get it before closing. This was very kind of her, and we accepted.
We cooked and ate dinner in front of the TV, a luxury we haven't had in almost a month, and ended up going to bed fairly late for us (between 8 and 9 is normal!).
Tuesday 10 May: Porongorup to Stirling Ranges (144km)
From Porongorup we headed further north to the Stirling Ranges, and drove to the parking area below Bluff Knoll, the highest peak in the south of WA, at 1095m.
The plan was to climb both Bluff Knoll and Toolbrunup Peak (either the second or third highest peak in the range depending on which publication you referred to) in a day. This was a bit of a challenge as both walks climb over 600m from their respective car parks.
Bluff Knoll is listed as a 5-6km walk taking 3-4hours, so we figured a bit over 2 hours would be about right. There were impressive views from its slopes on the climb up, although once we climbed into the saddle between Bluff knoll and the next peak to the west, Coyanarup Peak, the wind really started to howl and made walking quite difficult. We reached the summit in an hour and huddled along with other people in the rocks near the edge of the Bluff. Rachel pulled out our bottle of water - to find that it was a bottle of tonic water instead! Made slightly funnier by the fact she had made me pull the labels off the old tonic bottles we were using as water containers!
The views from the very peak weren't actually that impressive, as they stretched out over farmland. However there were more good views from both the east and the west ?? of the mountain of the remaining peaks of the Stirling Range.
We could see incoming rain from the summit and started to make out descent. The wind was even stronger than on the way up, but luckily was blowing us into the cliffs rather than off them. We caught the edge of a passing shower, but didn't cop too much rain and were back down the bottom in just over 50 minutes.
It was much more pleasant in the car park, so we sat and had lunch at a table in the sun, listening so a couple of sixty-something ladies commentate through binoculars on the rest of their group coming down the mountain. They had climbed up to near where the cliffs break when we passed them on the way up - but were planning on turning back.
After lunch we drove to Toolbrunup Car Park and started our second 600m+ climb. There was one other car in the car park - a lot less traffic than at Bluff Knoll. There were a lot fewer views on the way up, as the climb was mostly in gullies rather than on the slopes. We met half of the other car about half way up - her boyfriend Kevin had continued to the top. Both of us found the top section slow going, a bit of fatigue setting in. It was mostly scree and large boulders, some of which were slippery from the rain.
Passing Kevin who was on his way back down we reached the summit after some easy scrambling. Toolbrunup had 360 degree views from the peak, and we sat for some time looking around at the rest of the Stirling Range.
The descent was probably harder than the ascent, the slippery rocks causing more difficulty on the way down. Both the climb up and the climb down took us about an hour, with the climb down possibly even a bit longer.
I had intentions of doing an overnight walk in the eastern park of the Range, but Rachel was not interested and said I'd be climbing all of the peaks by myself. I decided that it might be better to pass, even though we won't have done a single overnight walk in WA. The whole SW of the state is not really conducive to overnight walking. Most of the overnight walks are either contrived, or end-to-end walks with no easy way of arranging transport other than a car shuffle.
We drove north to The Lily, a working, flour-grinding windmill with a café/restaurant, and had dutch apple cake - although with an iced chocolate as they had no caramel milkshakes. The Lily was in quite a spectacular position, with the rolling hills in front of the Stirling Range as a backdrop. You could quite easily (and expensively!) sit in the café for hours.
Camping was back in the national park at Moingup Springs. The insects there were particularly invasive, with the mozzies the most aggressive we have come across to date. Rachel though she felt something crawling around the back of her neck and asked me to look. There was nothing there - but a rather large cricket was further down her jacket, which I flicked off. And a sizeable spider kept crawling onto the table. The big bonus was the free gas BBQ, with side burner, which made it easier to cook on than the stove.
Wednesday 11 May: Stirling Ranges to Two Peoples Bay Nth (201km)
We took quite some time to get going in the morning, but the ranger never ended up coming to collect the fees, so eventually we left to head back to Albany. I tried to stop at a winery along the way, but Wignallo was not open until 12 (it was 11:30am when we passed) and we couldn't find Orange Tractor Wines. In the end we just headed for Whale World.
Despite the name, Whale World is actually a whaling museum, not a whale museum, set in an old whaling station. There was some interesting stuff, some of it a little gruesome, including a pygmy blue whale skeleton (it doesn't look very pygmy), a preserved baby dolphin, video of whaling, photos of the station in operation and one of the old whaling ships (the last of them, from the late 70s). There was a 3-D animated movie on whales, a history of Australian whaling, and a tour of the station, amongst other things. It was quite well set up, and appears to be Albany's major tourist attraction, other than perhaps the Gap & Natural Bridge.
Driving back into town we decided to get some chips from Café Venice (Ed- Tom was drooling at the thought so who was I to stand in his way], only to find that it was too late and the kitchen had closed [Ed- that's what happens when you leave lunch to after 3pm]. Instead we headed again to find the Botanic Gardens, and again it rained - this time a storm, and the roads were awash with water. We abandoned the Botanic Gardens and got some fairly greasy but reasonable fish and chips from the Dog Rock (which doesn't look much like a dog) Shopping Centre.
After a bit of shopping, we left Albany, this time too late to visit Wignallo Winery. It was nearly 5pm when we reached Montgomery Hill Winery, and rushed in just as the owner was closing up. He seemed happy enough when we said we wanted a bottle for the road, and after a very quick taste grabbed a bottle of unwooded chardonnay - quite different from the wooded ones that I am usually not fond of.
Then we drove further east and out on some dirt roads to a little beach at Two Peoples Bay North. We were surprised to find someone else well set up there already, but found a decent spot for ourselves.
Flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder threatened nearby, so I rigged up a tarp using a tree and the car, and we sat under it watching an impressive lightning show across the bay and listening to the occasional patter of rain. I unsuccessfully tried to take photos of the lightning, mostly because I kept missing it, but even when I managed to catch the flashes, the shots wouldn't come out.
We pitched our tent under the tarp, which kept most of the rain off during the night.
Thursday 12 May: Two Peoples Bay North to Fitzgerald River National Park (235km)
In the morning we drove to Waychinicup National Park, a bit out of the way but I thought it might be worth a look. It was quite spectacular, a secluded inlet surrounded by granite slopes and boulders. There was no one else there. We went for a bit of a rock hop around the shores of the inlet and took a few photos. Unfortunately, it didn't appear that there was any bushwalking despite the whole park being quite big. Presumably this is for dieback protection. We were particularly eyeing off Mt Manypeaks here as something worth tackling.
So we pressed on to Fitzgerald River National Park, a bit further along the coast. This is a large park, and had I known how much driving on dirt roads it was going to entail I might have passed. Instead, the map of the park looked quite small, so I thought the driving would be minimal!
Once I realised this, we stopped for lunch at the foot of West Mt Barren, and then climbed to the lone peak. Supposedly a 2 hour return trip, but it took about 15 minutes each way. The views from the slopes were very good, and the view from the top excellent but windy as usual. West Mt Barren was largely quartzite, which was a pleasant change from the mostly granite hills and walking we have done recently.
The other spectacular thing was the Royal Hakea (Hakea victoriae), which has beautiful orange and yellow leaves, and grows on the track, and alongside many of the roads in the park.
Then we drove even further out to Point Ann, and walked the Point Ann Heritage Trail. The books we had said that the trail had "magnificent coastal views and potential whale sightings in winter and spring". In actual fact, I thought the coastal views were pretty crappy, since the trail never went near the crumbling cliffs (of schist?). However, of some interest was the fact that Rabbit Proof Fence No 2 entered the sea from the north at Point Ann, and the remains of the fence lay beside the trail.
As we headed back to the car, both Rachel and I had been watching with interest waves washing over what looked like a couple of rocky outcrops in the ocean. I heard the whoosh of air just before one of the "islands" swung its tail in the air. Our first whale sighting for the trip!
I had the binoculars, and pulled them out for a better look. They appeared to be southern rights, their smooth finless backs, indent free tails, blackish colour and slow motion all pointing that way. We watched them for the next half hour or so, getting the odd flipper wave, tail slap or emergence of heads, as they drifted away from us along the beach.
Our aim was to camp quite some way down the road, but the amount of time we had spent on the whales, plus the distance (both on and off dirt road) persuaded us otherwise, so we camped just next to Point Ann. Again, we had the full mod cons [Ed- someone had a rather distorted view of mod cons!], including gas BBQ, which we made full use of to cook our chicken noodle stir fry in the wok.
Friday 13 May: Fitzgerald River National Park to Helms Arboretum (405km)
We wandered down to the beach just after sunrise, but saw no further whales. As we left, we had one last look from the whale platform, but they had obviously moved on.
To get back to the main road we had nearly 70km of driving on some fairly ordinary dirt roads. [Ed- which your wonderful girlfriend drove] We passed the grader yesterday, which is not too surprising considering the condition of some sections. It was then a long slog to Esperance, via the small town of Ravensthorpe where we stopped for petrol.
We had another near miss when Rachel was trying to overtake a road train, when another car appeared in front of us from behind a crest. Luckily we had time to brake heavily and pull back in behind the road train.
There were lots of signs on the way in to Esperance about "no unauthorised camping" and we assumed that the seaside town must have a bit of a problem with illegal campers. At the visitors centre we booked in on a wildlife cruise, and asked about camping and were told there was basically none. After checking email and laying in supplies, we set off on the "Great Ocean Drive" (formerly the Tourist Drive) which follows the cliffs and beaches, before heading inland to the famous Pink Lake. The beaches and cliffs were quite spectacular, although we've had plenty of attractive granite cliffs in recent days. However, the Pink Lake was looking decidedly blue. Whether this was just because it was near sunset and the sunlight was neutralising the pink colour I'll never know. We didn't spend too long admiring the lake, and headed out of town about 20km to where we hoped was an "authorised" campsite.
Helm's Arboretum turned out not to be authorised - just a picnic area. However, it really had nothing going for it as a picnic area - simply a pine forest with a few picnic tables and a pit toilet. Figuring it was far enough from the road that we wouldn't be bothered, we decided to camp anyway, and settled down to our usual cheese and wine.
Saturday 14 May: Helm's Arboretum to Cape Arid National Park (145km)
Saturday dawned sunny and still, as we drove down to the jetty to catch the MV Seabreeze II. The cruise got off to a good start when we spotted a sea lion in the harbour tearing something that it had caught apart. After a bit too much talk about harbour operations Captain Fud took us out to the islands in the Archipelago of the Recherché. We cruised around several rocky outcrops, getting good looks at New Zealand fur seals and Australian sea lions. En route to another island we spotted a pod of dolphins, and chased after them. They rode the bow wave of the catamaran for some way before disappearing. We picked them up once more around the other side of the island, before they disappeared for good.
Then it was on to Woody Island for morning tea [Ed - I can't believe the excellent chocolate cake doesn't get a mention!], and a short walk to the other side of the small island. The birds are obviously used to humans, as the island is also a bit of an eco-stay location. They were quite brazen in hopping up to the cake for morning tea and having a quick peck.
Back at Esperance we did a quick stop at the email centre and headed out for the longish drive to Cape Arid National Park. The woman at the petrol station expressed doubt that our car would make it back to Sydney? We arrived fairly late in the afternoon, and did a short walk down to the beach and out along the rocks for a bit of a way. Cape Arid is, like much of the South Coast of WA, largely granite, and the rocks were a bit slippery as a result.
We basically had the campsite to ourselves - other than what appeared to be a conference of 4WDs some way along the beach that went on well into the night, and possibly the morning too - and made good use of the gas barbeque provided to cook our roo steaks, caramelised onions, mushrooms and potatoes. For some reason the campsite is free - although we did put a donation in the box the next day.
Sunday 15 May: Cape Arid National Park to Cape Le Grand National Park (154km)
Both of us woke before dawn so we headed down to the beach to watch sunrise and look for whales. We didn't see any whales, but took lots of photos in the morning light, of birds, patterns in the sand and starfish on the beach.
After breakfast, we went and walked the Len Otte Nature Trail up to Belinup Hill, which had quite good views of the surrounding area from the top of a granite outcrop. We were aiming to do a coastal walk as well, but we only had limited information, and there didn't seem to be any signs at any of the parking areas we visited. Instead we walked down to Little Tagon Bay with its beautiful aqua water and headed up a track that would hopefully lead to the headland opposite. However the track seemed to go bush - probably toward the next bay - so we abandoned that idea. Rachel walked back to the beach while I unsuccessfully tried to find another way up to the top, being beaten back by some unpleasant scrub.
There were no whales to be seen from the side of the headland so I returned to the beach and we walked back to the car.
Then we drove back to Cape Le Grand National Park, had lunch at the fairly bleak Le Grand Beach, decided we didn't really want to camp there, and headed towards the other campsite at Lucky Bay. On the way we did the climb of the impressive peak of Frenchmans Cap with its distinctive summit overhang. This was another of those allow-one-hour-each-way-take-20-minutes-each-way walks, but the steep sections of granite made it quite interesting and the views from the top were very good. It would certainly be a bit more difficult in high wind or wet conditions. At least one of the people we passed coming up as we were descending seemed to be having some concerns about the steepness of the slope.
We drove to Lucky Bay and claimed a campsite - relatively sheltered given the forecast was for gale force winds and rain - and erected a tarp over the top. Then we headed out to Rossiter Bay to do the Bird Sanctuary walk. That was a bit of a waste of time - I guess I was expecting something more than a 100m walk to a place where lots of birds could be heard in the trees.
At the campground we had a fully covered kitchen area with several gas hot plates and BBQs, as well as (solar powered) hot water. Luxury! We had burritos for dinner - a bit of a waste since we only needed to cook the meat, but the sink made washing up easy.
The storm failed to eventuate, although we got a bit of rain during the night. Not enough to even soak the ground.
Monday 16 May: Cape Le Grand National Park to Dundas Rocks (252km)
We got up early, although not early enough to catch the end of a blood-red sunrise - and did the short walk from Lucky Bay to Thistle Cove. It was quite a nice coastal walk with some interesting rock formations, but it was blowing a gale which made the walk back in particular quite unpleasant.
After breakfast we packed up camp and drove back to Esperance to prepare for the trip back across the Nullarbor. We checked email, including whether we might be able to crash on someone's floor in Adelaide, and I had a message from Dad offering me some money if I spent at least half of it on upgrading our accommodation. I called him after doing our food shop and had a chat. Our food supplies were a bit limited by the need to eat all the fresh fruit and vegies by Ceduna.
We had lunch at a café in the shopping centre after driving around town looking for cafes. Surprisingly the options seemed very limited for a tourist town. I suppose there's limited business out of season.
Then we hit the road north, with drizzle coming down most of the 200 odd kilometres to Norseman. We camped at Dundas Rocks, a granite outcrop just south of Norseman, and not a bad campsite. Even though it was a couple of kilometres from the road we could still hear the occasional road train roaring past.
I attempted to cook on the BBQ, but the fire never got any real heat, and eventually, smelling of smoke and covered in ash, I gave up and got out the stoves. One of the worst fires I've ever had. I stayed up late reading the paper and feeding the bits I'd read in to keep it going!
Tuesday 17 May: Dundas Rocks to Mundrabilla Rest Stop (649km)
Back in Norseman after breaking camp, we began the long process of retracing our steps across the Nullarbor. We filled up on petrol, even though we had only filled up in Esperance, as we figured the next reasonably cheap stop would be Mundrabilla, over 650km away. I drove all morning as I was feeling good, and we did the crossword to keep things interesting. We had lunch at Caiguna, where the crows spied us almost immediately and came and sat in the surrounding trees looking for scraps. I threw rocks at them, all missing but a couple only due to acrobatics from the crows. We bought a bit more petrol at Caiguna - but at 155c/L it was only to make sure we made Mundrabilla.
Rachel drove from Caiguna, and as we lost 45 minutes from the change in time zones, we stopped at a rest stop about 25km short of Mundrabilla. Unfortunately, as we were to find out, the good ones are about 5km out and 100km, as they both have toilets. Good knowledge for next time!
Sunset eluded us as the clouds rolled in, but at least the wind died down. We had some beef burrito mix left over from a few nights before which we tossed in to our Asian noodle stir fry, which didn't seem to contaminate it too much.
Unfortunately the cloud cover cleared for a little while during the night to make sure the tent was soaked with dew by morning!
Wednesday 18 May: Mundrabilla Rest Stop to Penong (586km)
We awoke to a heavy fog covering the Roe Plains. The bloke at Mundrabilla told me that was normal for this time of year. Premium at Mundrabilla was 131c/L - cheaper than Caiguna by 24c, and we filled up (I overfilled it in fact).
We crossed the border with no great fanfare and pushed on to a lunch, shower and ordinary milkshake at the Nullarbor Roadhouse. In fact Rachel got me a caramel milkshake but I thought it was vanilla! There was only one dingo this time but it hung around us looking hopeful for most of lunch.
I continued driving to Yalata and handed over to Rachel. The car had been juddering for the whole day and was causing some concern. I figured we could get it looked at in Adelaide as long as the problem wasn't too serious. We decided to drive to Cactus Beach to camp, site (apparently) of one of Australia's greatest surfing breaks. It was a fairly bumpy dirt road, and it was late in the day by this stage. We passed a pink lake (Lake McDonald) - a real pink lake this time - on the way before reaching the camp site. We got quite a shock when we arrived. We were expecting a few tents, a handful of people, but there must have been close to a hundred. By far the busiest camp site we had seen since Arapiles. If Arapiles is climbing mecca then clearly this out of the way and otherwise unvisited place must be surfing mecca.
Figuring that a quiet site was out of the question, we headed back to the main road and checked in to the caravan park at Penong. At .50 each it was the same as Cactus Beach and with a few more amenities.
Thursday 19 May: Penong to Kimba (416km)
As we rolled out of Penong, we filled up on petrol at the garage, and then, worried about the car, I got Rachel to roll it up and down the petrol station a couple of times. On the third go I noticed something on one of the rear tyres, and when I looked more closely I called a halt to proceedings. The tread had somehow worn through to the steel, and there was a bulge in the tyre that was causing the vibration. We did an unpack to get the spare out and replaced it.
The drive to Ceduna was much more pleasant and we went straight to the Bridgestone Tyre Centre to get a replacement. The guy there was a bit surprised by it, but later we were back on the road.
By this stage we were well behind where we wanted to be, and so decided to stop for lunch in Wirulla, the "Town with a Secret". There's certainly not much reason to stop at Wirulla. Not being on the coast, perhaps the secret is that the town has a jetty. Yes, complete with boat. Apparently because it's part of Streaky Bay Municipality, they figured if the coastal towns had one then they deserved one too. And got one.
Then we pushed on to Wudinna (pronounced Wood-na, or something like that, as opposed to Woo-din-nah which we originally thought). Wudinna is the centre of granite country, and home to a Granite Country Tourist Drive that passes by lots of granite outcrops. It seems a little overrated. We stopped at Polda Rock, which was quite large in area, but maybe stuck out of the ground 20m at most. Turtle Rock could be seen at a distance as it seemed to be on private property, and even then most of it was concealed behind trees. At least Mt Wudinna was a bit more impressive. It is apparently the second biggest monolith in Australia, and a pleasant climb. The views from the summit are quite good, although there's a lot of flattish land surrounding, punctuated by the odd bump, mostly on the horizon.
We decided to drive another hour or so to Kimba and stay at a caravan park there unless we found a campsite earlier. We didn't and so forked out our at the caravan park and motel on the highway at Kimba. I was quite ready to sit around for the evening but Rachel persuaded me to go for a walk into town. We found the town's main drawcard, the 8m tall Big Galah, by the highway. However, town was pretty dead, the pub being the only thing open.
Sleep was a bit disturbed as the proximity of the campground to the highway meant the trucks could often be heard.
Friday 20 May: Kimba to Wilpena (323km)
We had quite a lazy day really. First stop was the bakery at the Big Galah. However, it wasn't really a bakery as it only sold pies. I was quite disappointed as I was looking forward something other than muesli for breakfast. We did shopping in Port Augusta after an hour and a half's drive from Kimba, and I made the obligatory phone call to mum before she headed overseas. Then we drove up the valley to Quorn, and across the plains to Hawker, where we stopped for lunch. It didn't take too much longer to get to Wilpena Pound and we checked in at the campground. The woman at the visitor centre was quite unhelpful when we said we intended to do the St Mary Peak walk with the Malloga Falls side trip. Apparently they no longer have a bushwalks register, and she didn't seem too worried about experience. At least she mentioned there was no water at the Rockhole.
We set up camp and spent the afternoon relaxing. The only interruption was the 4WD that almost wanted to set up camp next to us despite there being probably a hundred empty sites. They had already done two laps of the campground by this stage and obviously we had the plum spot. However we stared at them and they moved on.
Saturday 21 May: Wilpena to Cooinda Camp
We set off bright and early with overnight packs on the St Mary Peak Circuit. Crossing several small gullies, we soon came in sight of the broken cliff lines leading up to Tanderra Saddle. The climb up was steep and a bit slow weighed down as we were, with a couple of easy scrambles. There was some interesting rock near the top, almost identical to Arapiles sandstone, so I dangled on it for a bit!
I had read that the local aboriginal people preferred that people didn't climb to the summit of St Mary Peak, but this didn't seem to be supported by National Parks. The distance signs were all measured to/from the summit, and there were track markers all the way.
The climb to the summit was supposed to be a bit of a scramble, but it has obviously been rerouted. From the faded blue arrows, the old route had gone straight up the ridge, but the new route meandered around [Ed- and around and around] and there wasn't much scrambling. We were the third group on the summit for the day - a couple of pairs of foreigners making up the first groups to climb up. From the top, the views of both the ranges to the north, and Wilpena Pound to the south were excellent. The varied landscape from the top made it probably the pick of the views so far on the trip.
We walked back down to the saddle, retrieved our packs from where we had hidden them in the bush and had lunch. From there we ambled down the rocky path (also rerouted) to Cooinda Camp, where we were going to stop for the night.
We had arrived particularly early, and considered walking out to our other side trip, but both of us felt quite tired and were happy to sit around camp in the relatively warm sun that made it through thing cloud that seems to have followed us for days.
Cooinda Camp is right on Wilpena Creek, however like every other creek we had crossed, there was no sign of water. It would be interesting to see the area if/when the creeks are running. It might be quite exciting!
Sunday 22 May: Cooinda Camp to Wilpena (3km)
At this point my diary somehow stopped writing itself, and from here on in there's mostly just comments to jog my memory
Monday 23 May: Wilpena to Mambray Creek (275km)
Tuesday 24 May: Mambray Creek to Adelaide (285km)
Driving into Adelaide was quite a shock after several weeks in which the busiest town was Port Augusta.
After our failed efforts last time to find a street park in the city centre, we abandoned the car in a large parking building and went to find an internet cafe. Several hundred emails later, we got some lunch from a stir fry takeaway place across the road and went looking for a tent with dad's largesse. There were a considerable number of camping stores along Rundle St, but we diligently visited them all - ending up back at the first with a new salesman giving us a discount on a Snowgum tent we hadn't even considered first time around. However, it was almost identical to the Salewa Sierra Leone tent I had been looking for in the first place, so I thought it was a good buy,
I had touched base with Joel, and it turned out it was Adelaide league grand final night that night. That made it quite easy to hook up with Joel and Jay, at whose place we were actually going to stay. However, with the league final not finishing until almost 11pm, and then presentations afterwards, and then moving on to a local pizza joint for dinner after that, we didn't get to Jay's place til nearly 2am.
Jay and Joel had to drop off Huy, whose car had broken down, so they were home even later. They then compounded a late night by watching videos of the grand finals until five in the morning! Jay's mum kept Rachel and I entertained until midday, when she had to go to work. The boys got up a couple of hours later, by which time Rachel and I were ready to hit the road again.
Wednesday 25 May: Adelaide to Deep Creek Conservation Park (135km)
Thursday 26 May: Deep Creek Conservation Park (11km)
Friday 27 May: Deep Creek Conservation Park to Parnka Point, The Coorong (280km)
Saturday 28 May: Parnka Point, The Coorong to Mt Gambier (348km)
Sunday 29 May: Mt Gambier to Grampians (286km)
Monday 30 May: Grampians to Rutherglen (493km)
Tuesday 31 May: Rutherglen to Canberra (441km)
Wednesday 1 June: Canberra to Sydney (297km)
© Tom Brennan : email@example.com : updated 2005-06-03