Bibbulmun Track: Walpole to Denmark

22nd – 30th October 2017

The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching 1003 km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills, to Albany on the south coast, winding through the heart of the scenic South West of Western Australia. The formation of this track was first mooted in 1972 by several bushwalking groups, first opening in 1979 with the final section to Albany being completed in 1998. This is a ‘walker-only’ trail; the Munda Biddi Trail is a cycle-only trail that follows a similar route further to the west. The Bibbulmun is jointly managed by the Dept of Parks and Wildlife and a not-for-profit community organisation which maintains the track condition.
The track symbol and direction marker is the waugyl, a snake-like creature that, according to Aboriginal creation stories, created the rivers and lakes and landforms.

This is the Waugul. Depending on which direct the apex pointed was the direction we were to go.

Trish and I have decided we’ll walk the final two sections of the trail, from Walpole to Albany, a total of 205 km over 12 walking days – at an average of nearly 17km per day it’s going to be quite a challenge for us.
Steve and Bryan are our support crew – promising to pick us up every afternoon with a hot meal cooked, a hot shower not far off, maybe a leg massage and a nice comfy bed. Sounds all right!

“I’ve got one of these.” “Well I’ve got two of these!”
Pack preparation.

Sunday 22nd (Day 1)
Today’s walk from Walpole to the Giant Tingle Tree is one of our shortest – a ‘warmer upper’. Yesterday we studied the map, and the walk profile (very important), unpacked our packs, compared what we were each taking, then repacked them adding even more essentials, prepared our snacks and laid out our clothes. We’re ready!

Yay! At the Walpole Trailhead. And we’re off!

8am we drove from our campsite at Coalmine Beach into Walpole to begin the big challenge. And it was – the map and the ‘wagyl symbols’ didn’t match up. We started following where the map indicated only to find the path flooded with muddy puddles. We turned back and walked back into town. Note to self: check the website for  ‘Track alterations and diversions’.

Anyway, an additional 3km later (it all counts!) we finally got back onto the right path, following the bay around and back through our campsite. (We’re purists, we couldn’t have started from there.) Brunch was had a few kilometres further on as we watched the pelicans in the bay and a lone small yacht. From there we headed inland through coastal scrub alive with wildflowers before the track started climbing, finally giving us a comfortable seat to rest and admire the view over the bay from Hilltop Lookout.

A selfie. At the Lookout. You really didn’t want to see the view did you?

Once rested we continued on, initially through a young Karri forest before moving into the old-growth Tingle forest where the Tingle trees can grow to 56 metres with incredibly wide girths, up to 25 metres. Some of these trees appear to be completely burnt out in the middle, however they keep growing from just under their bark.

A fallen Tingle Tree. They have massive girths.

This was our pickup point today. Weary feet, but very pleased we’d begun. Our support team is also off to a great start with silverside and veggies for dinner.

One of the BS Support Team (that stands for Bryan Steve!) helping take Trish’s pack at the end of Day 1.

Monday 23rd (Day 2)
Once more bags packed and ready we got away from camp at 8am to be dropped off back at the Giant Tingle Tree. My brain wasn’t in the right place this morning – I left without the map and without my phone which was to record our distance and track, show us precisely where we were and is, of course, a safety feature. Oh well – I’ll only do it once.
The walk started as it had ended, in the old-growth Tingle Tree forest. You can only say, wow look at that one, just so many times – magnificent trees.
Not long before we stopped for brunch Trish got the fright of her life as she came to within one step of standing on a snake. Brunch was at the Frankland River campsite.

One of the track huts. We stopped at them for lunch or just a snack and a rest, and signed the logbook at each. Note the sleeping platforms!

These camps are set up for the walkers who don’t have the advantage of our fabulous support team and have to camp out overnight. The hut has walls on 2 and a half sides and wide benches along 2 walls to lay a sleeping bag. Also a couple of sturdy timber tables and chairs, a tank of fresh water and a loo.

 

Misty rain heading across the valley, towards us. A nuisance, but quite ethereal.

Not long after we set out from the shelter it started a drizzly, light rain. All good – we’re prepared for everything! We followed the Frankland River, either high above it on the ridge or down in the valley beside it for the next few kilometres before crossing Sappers Bridge.

Hmm a bit confusing. OK it’s not closed for walkers, because that’s our trail! Sappers Bridge

In a few areas there were muddy sections of the trail or fallen trees to be negotiated – all part of the journey.

There were some obstacles along the path.

A slow but steady climb through the forest, crossing Boxhall Creek a couple of times on well-constructed small and larger bridges finally brought us through the Valley of the Giants to the Treetop walk.

Resting for a bit on one of the several little bridges over Boxall Creek.

Here we rendezvoused with our support team. 22km and 7 hours later (resting for brunch and lunch).
The drive back to Coalmine Beach camping area stunned me with how much distance we’d covered! Showers, dinner and an early night.

Tuesday 24th (Day 3)

A slower start to today as we all wanted to do the Treetop Walk at our starting point and it doesn’t open until 9am. A boardwalk takes you firstly through the ‘Ancient Empire’ which showcases some wonderful trees, no better than we’ve been walking through already, but I guess non-Bibbulmun walkers deserve to see these trees easily too.

Inside the base of a living Tingle Tree on the Ancient Empires section at the Treetop Walk.

The Treetop walk takes you high up into the canopy – an extraordinary experience and not to be missed.

Steve and Denise on the Treetop Walk, in the canopy of the Tingle and Karri trees. A unique experience. I wished I had a lot more time just to watch the birds up here.

We farewelled the boys and headed back into the forest to stop only about 2 km later at Giants campsite for brunch. The walk continued through forest with a few ups and downs until we reached Nut Lookout. A transition began here, from the tall trees to the rugged coastline.

Wow! Across the lush green fields to the ocean. Our walk is changing.

With National Park forest behind us we looked across lush green pastures with black Angus and white sheep grazing to the ocean and beaches in the distance – quite a change of outlook!
As we progressed, leaving forest behind us, the path became sandy and the foliage changed to sheoaks and banksias. More and more wildflowers began to appear too.

The wildflowers are now prolific. Such a pretty walk with these beautiful bouquets all the way. Trish

One part of the track traversed some swampland, the path being completely submerged in smelly, stagnant water. With no way around it (we did try!) we balanced as best we could on branches previous walkers had tossed in and hoped for the best. Tricky!

Careful consideration is put into every footstep. Denise

Finally sensing we were nearly there with only a few sandy dunes to climb, and the boys were there to meet us. Another very interesting walk. 16km and 6 hours.

The lunch is to be eaten, but first confirm all is well with the map. The white box you see beside me contains the official Log Book. We signed into these at each of the camping shelters.

Wednesday 25th (Day 4) Conspicuous Beach to Peaceful Bay
In my opinion today’s walk would have to rate up there with the best I’ve ever done. We didn’t start out so well. From the starting point at the car park at Conspicuous Beach we had to walk along the beach for a little way – all good except we couldn’t find the Waugyl symbol indicating where the path left the beach. Fortunately the boys were up at the Lookout watching us and gesticulated wildly when we were to exit.

On Conspicuous Beach. Trish and Denise

From there it was a steep climb up Conspicuous Cliffs where we got amazing views over the bay and rough Southern Ocean. Brunch stop at Rame Head campsite.

Looking back to Conspicuous Beach. We started today’s walk at the far end of the beach.

There were lots more ups and downs into and out of gullies. What made it so enjoyable were the wildflowers – masses of pink flowers, banksias, yellow buttons, grass trees, acacias and other yellow flowers, fuchsia pink daisies, blue daisies, native wisteria. You couldn’t have designed a more beautiful garden than the one we had the good fortune to be walking through for many hours.

How could you possibly not love a walk like this?

The trail led us inland for a while. Once more we encountered swampy, stagnant water over the trail and managed to cross it by walking on branches, until we came to one section that was long and deep. We could see where others had skirted around it by the broken undergrowth, so decided to follow one of these off to the left.

Time to find a detour. Though maybe, bearing in mind the outcome of doing just that, walking straight through could have been the better choice.

However when we bush-bashed our way back to intersect the path we couldn’t find it.

To bypass the water on the track we did a bit of bush-bashing. Trish

Between us and the ocean was a high sand dune and Trish had the good sense to climb it and look for the path. We could see our destination, Peaceful Bay, off to the right straight through the heath – the direction the path had been heading when we left it, except now when we spotted the path it was heading the opposite direction. It had made a turn to the right to follow the coast again after we’d left it!
We stopped for lunch at The Gap, a pretty cove where we hunkered down behind some rocks to escape the freshening wind.

Snack time. Sheltering from the wind.

Leaving here we came to more swampland, though over the worst of it were some boardwalks, but some weren’t quite long enough and in other places it was back to trying to cross it without sinking into the mud – I’m never going to leave the path again!

Hmmm. I think the board walk ended a little too soon.

Back to the coast, along the beach for a few hundred metres, up onto headlands where we could watch the ocean battering the coastline, and finally into Peaceful Bay.

A cove with the Southern Ocean making its presence felt.

Here the boys treated us to an ice block and fish and chips before heading to our new campsite at Ayr Sailean, directly north of Denmark.

Thursday, Friday 26th, 27th
The weather forecast today and tomorrow is not a good one for walkers – strong winds, rain and hail. A couple of rest days were in order!
Ayr Sailean, our campsite, is on a sheep farm. There are a lot of level, thickly-grassed, powered sites bordered with trees. The facilities are tops – free washing machines, free, fast wifi (there’s a Telstra on the property), hot showers with good pressure, rainwater for drinking and a very well-appointed, fully enclosed camp kitchen. And all this for only $23 per night! That’s pretty amazing.
The weather forecast became fact. As the wind howled and the rain pelted down we thought compassionately of those Bibbulmun walkers who were out there doing it today!

Saturday 28th (Day 5) Peaceful Bay to Boat Harbour 
The forecast still wasn’t brilliant but we decided we’d walk anyway. With more likelihood of rain later in the day we left early, 7am from the campsite. Today’s walk has been described by previous Bibbulmun walkers as the toughest day of the whole 1000 km.

That’s us!

About 5km into today’s walk we crossed Irwin Inlet by kayak.

Irwin Inlet. We’re to cross it in canoes. With the sky looking very ominous today could be interesting walking.

It’s a gap of about 50 metres, with kayaks and life jackets provided on both sides of the inlet – one person plus one backpack per kayak, and leave at least one kayak on the side you’re leaving.

There goes Trish!

Denise coming in to the landing having successfully negotiated Irwin Inlet.

Steve and Bryan decided they’d accompany us to this point to see us safely across and very generously towed our kayaks back across the inlet after our journeys.

Trish, amongst the flowers.

Farewelling the boys we headed off to climb and descend countless vegetated sand dunes. This was pretty tough going, but still a lovely walk with such great views that it was hard to complain. In one of the valleys was a mob of kangaroos numbering about 16, with some very big Roos amongst them.
There was a gale force wind warning for the coast along which we were walking – the Southern Ocean was stunning in its ferociousness, though many times when we were on an exposed section the wind blew us sideways.

Ocean views – the waves were crashing way out.

The track moved down onto the beach for several kilometres a couple of times. With an incoming tide, strong winds from behind us and sand blasting us from behind it made for exciting walking.

Getting sand-blasted from behind! Very grateful we weren’t walking the other direction.

Further excitement came from seeing a couple of brown snakes, dugites I’m told – The boys said they also saw 3 on their way back to the vehicle after dropping us off.

They grow them big out here – and deadly. This one, right beside the path, we left well alone and snuck past, quickly!

All in all though, despite the gale force wind and a light patter of rain, it was another truly beautiful walk. 18km

The track wound up and down numerous sand dunes.

The boys met us at the Bibbulmun Boat Harbour campsite but only after they’d driven 10km in on very soft, sandy roads with several long fairly deep water crossings. An epic trip! Thanks guys, particularly Bryan who was the driver and had to do it all again on the way out.

Sunday 29th (Day 6) Parry Beach Rd to Lights Beach Rd
Because of the shocking road into our pickup point yesterday we opted for a different starting point today – Parry’s Beach Campground. This is the beginning of Mazzoletti Beach, which is sometimes closed due to erosion and high tides, however it’s open today. Before we’d even walked 50 metres a wave came the full width of the beach making us scurry up the foredunes.

Not a beach either of us will forget in a hurry!

Anyway off we went, the first challenge being Parry Inlet where off came the shoes, socks and gaiters and rolled our pants up, and still got them wet when a wave came in halfway across!

Trish, with gaiters and boots slung around her neck, about to cross the inlet. Look at those threatening clouds!

We walked the length of the beach, 8km, bare foot and keeping a close eye out for rogue waves of which there were a few! The sand for the majority of the way was quite soft. My calves are going to be aching tomorrow! I know I’ve been all grumbles but it wasn’t all bad – it’s a beautiful beach and the ocean is still quite magnificent in its ferocity and the wind wasn’t nearly as strong as yesterday. And we enjoyed seeing the seabirds – seagulls, the larger Pacific gulls, black oystercatchers and a petrel, and even some black cockatoos.

Walking on the hard sand as often as we could, while watching out for rogue waves to catch us.

At the end of the beach, being misled by the waugal pointing strait ahead, we ended up at Greens Pool. Beautiful, but not impressed we’d walked further than we needed, we returned, climbed a wooden ladder to get off the beach and ate our brunch looking over the ocean and huge granite rocks.

These rocks are just around the corner from where we were supposed to exit Mazzoletti Beach.

From here the walk took us ever upward to a lookout over Elephant Rocks and Greens Pool, a popular, protected swimming area during summer, but no one there today! Tower Hill was then conquered giving us a wonderful view back over William Bay, the full length of Mazzoletti Beach to Parrys Campground where we’d started. Once again we’re walking through beautiful wildflowers, and again I’m seeing flowers I haven’t seen before.

Soft sand paths are easy walking – only when they’re not on a beach!

The track brought us back to the coast again at Lights Beach, with a very short beach walk, thank goodness, then up to the headland for a kilometre or two where once again the ocean and rugged coastline views were spectacular.

Exiting Lights Beach. Lucky it was low tide – getting to that bottom step could be fun when the tide is in.

With only 5 km to go to our pickup point we were powering along until ‘Twinkletoes Trish’ did her little dance backwards which she is beginning to perfect – another snake on the track. This one though was warm and happy and didn’t want to leave the path. We had no option to skirt it so spent some 15 minutes encouraging it to move on before it finally, languidly, slithered off into the undergrowth.

Not a fellow we wished to argue with. He wasn’t really too happy to let us pass.

Only one more snake seen before we reached our pickup point. A total of 18km today.

Monday 30th (Day 7): Lights Beach Road to Denmark Trailhead
Today’s walk started with an ascent – a really decent ascent!

We started today with a ‘difficult walk’ up Mt Hallowell.

Mt Hallowell rises to about 1000ft along a rocky path winding between tall Karri trees and huge granite boulders, Monkey Rock being one of them on the southern face. A lookout here gives 270 degree views over Denmark and William Bay.

Trish at the summit of Mt Hallowell.

Further up, at the summit which is a broad, nearly flat granite rock, the views were all around and well worth the difficult walk and several detours we made looking for the trail markers.

These signs weren’t nearly frequent enough up here. We took a wrong turn a couple of times.

The trail down, surrounded by Karri trees, soon changed to leaf-covered dirt, so much easier under foot.
It wasn’t too long before we were back walking towards the coast, housing beginning to appear around us. Back in these lowland areas the wildflowers were appearing again.

Yet another wildflower we hadn’t seen before.

The track used some sealed roads in suburbia for a little way, the gardens of these homes just beautiful. Along the coast we walked in either wooded areas or right on the foreshore of Wilson Inlet with the mowed lawns and manicured gardens of beautiful homes stretching down to include our trail.
We crossed Little River on a delightful wooden footbridge, taking our time to admire the pretty river and do some bird watching.

Boardwalks make for easy walking. Approaching Denmark.

The final stretch into Denmark was along a sandy, muddy, big puddles in places road – not so great. But it was great to see the boys at the end of it welcoming us to the trailhead in Denmark. Just a couple of hundred metres to the caravan park where we’re camped. Not a long walk today – only 12.5km.

Yay – we’ve arrived at the Denmark Trailhead. Part One of our walk done!

For all our photos from this section of our walk CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

Southern Forests WA

8th – 21st October 2017

Sunday 8th

With still no date for when we can get the vehicle repairs done we decided we may as well keep travelling and exploring until called back to Perth. We’ve planned a trip through the forests of the south-west. Western Australia is famous for its beautiful timbers, karri and jarrah being the principle though tingle and tuart trees are also significant.

We left Yallingup about lunchtime heading south down the Caves Rd past all the wineries, breweries, deer farm, maze, caves and other tourist enticements. Well, we didn’t quite make it past ALL the wineries/breweries – we brunched at Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Vineyard.

Boranup Road, an unsealed road off Caves Rd, provides a scenic drive of about 20km through the new-growth karri forest. These magnificent trees with their straight trunks towering up to 60metres into the sky are about a hundred years old now – logging in the early 20th century having cleared their forebears. A very pretty drive with a short detour to Boranup Lookout which overlooks the forest as it merges in the distance with the ocean. A couple of picnic tables and a toilet are provided here.

Driving through the Karri Forest, Boranup.

Tonight we’re camping amongst the trees at the National Parks Boranup campsite ($12/n), a small campsite alongside the scenic drive – very peaceful, only one other motorhome arrived late afternoon. We went for a 5km walk nearly to the beach.

Exploring Boranup Drive on foot.

Monday 9th

It was hard to leave this restful camp amongst the big trees with their understory of a carpet of beautiful arum lilies. Hamelin Bay is a little way to the south – a pretty Bay with lots of parking for cars with boat trailers; must be a fishing haven, though none out today. The old jetty is just a few timber piles sticking up now, however back in the early 1900s it was a busy port for the ships taking local karri to overseas destinations. None of the western Australian coastline is boating-friendly – this small bay has 11 shipwrecks in it. The changing preference to jarrah spelt the decline of the karri industry here.

All that remains of the jetty at Hamelin Bay, and a snapshot of its history.

Brunch this morning at Cosy Corner, a secluded bay with a small car park on the headland.

Cosy Corner – definitely a lovely cosy little bay.

On to the lovely seaside town of Augusta built at the mouth of the Blackwood River. We parked here then walked 4km along the river – excellent walking trails. Thanks Augusta.

Augusta, at the mouth of the Blackwood River.

Not far outside Augusta is their new marina – a much-appreciated safe harbour for the recreational and commercial mariners who boat around this coastline. Augusta’s $36 million Royalties for Regions money was well spent here producing a top class facility with lots of trailer parking, floating pontoons beside the boat ramps, aesthetically pleasing picnic areas and a sea wall that looks impregnable. There were boats unloading abalone when we were there.

The beautiful marina at Augusta.

On to Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, on the most southwesterly point of Australia and the place at which the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet. Matthew Flinders, who began the mapping of the south coast of Australia from this point in 1801, named the cape after the Dutch galleon, the Leeuwin, which accidentally discovered this area of land in 1622.

Where two oceans meet.

We wandered around the buildings and working lighthouse, now  automated, the last of the three lighthouse keepers leaving in 1998. Well tended lawns and information boards making it all the more interesting. Usually $8 pp entry, but as the lighthouse was undergoing some maintenance it was just a gold coin donation today.

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse. Two of the lighthouse keepers houses are in the photo as well as some of the maintenance huts.

 

Cape Leeuwin – the most south-westerly point of Australia

Leaving the Cape and Augusta we headed back inland towards the big trees. Today’s drives have been very pleasant, from the karri forest through coastal heathlands and wildflowers then inland through lush green sheep country to our free campsite in the bush via a dirt road and through an enormous puddle.

Our campsite off the highway and through that puddle. Quiet night! I think the puddle scared everyone else off.

Tuesday 10th

After a quiet night all alone we awoke to rain – 4WD has its uses (remember the puddle!).

Nannup provided a relaxing locale for our brunch beside their Arboretum – tall trees from other States planted nearly 100 years ago. We took a walk along the Blackwood River Trail and wandered the streets of this lovely timber town, past art galleries, music venues, locally crafted timber furniture stores to stop for a coffee at one of the several cafes.

One of the lovely public gardens in Nannup

Nannup is noted for its gardens – well-deserved praise seeing the many public and private gardens ablaze with flowers and beautiful plants.

The totems at Nannup

This evening we’re camped beside Workers Pool, a National Park’s campsite. We’re planning to walk some of the Old Timberline Trail tomorrow which passes through this campsite. There’re only about 6 or 8 sites here and it’s nearly full.

Clematis, Grandads Beard

Wednesday 11th

The Old Timberline Trail follows, in part, the route of the old rail line that was constructed to transport the timber out of the forest, diverging several times to St Johns Brook for the walker to enjoy this lovely fast flowing stream with its many large pools.

At Barrabup Pool, on the Old Timberline Trail

Logging ceased here in 1922 and other than a few ancient timber sleepers,the broken timber bridge over St Johns Brook and some very large old stumps there’s little to see of the railway line or the milling activities, or small township that grew up around the mill.

These cuttings were dug by hand back in the day – what a job! Old Timberline Trail

Today the forest, being in National Parks control, is a tangle of banksias, grass trees, other understory bushes and beautiful tall timbers, the walk lined with wildflowers, including the delicate native orchids.

Orchids

We walked from Workers Pool to Barabup Pool past Hewers Camp and up to  Cambray Siding and return for a total of 22km. Altogether a very pleasant walk in pleasantly cool weather, if rather exhausting. It took about 5 hours of walking time with another hour rest for lunch.

Walking the Old Timberline Trail

I must say I love these National Parks campsites. Invariably they’re in beautiful locations surrounded by native bush, most sites so far separated from your neighbour by bush that you can’t see them, a sturdy picnic table and fire pit, this one having a swing hot plate and timber provided. And they’re inexpensive – $12/n for us.

Our campsite at Workers Pool.

Thursday 12th

We continued our journey along the Blackwood River valley from Nannup to Balingup to Greenbushes. The Blackwood River by WA standards is very impressive – wide, deep and plenty of water. The river valley is lush, green with beautiful rolling hills. It was a varied drive from big tree forests, to very pretty sheep and cattle properties and very large areas of plantation eucalypts and pine. We saw lots of big logging trucks either full of harvested pine or heading back empty for another load.

Brunch was at a cafe in Balingup, mine not so good, Steve’s great! We then detoured a little to look at the heritage-listed Golden Valley Tree Park. This 60 hectare arboretum was started, privately, more than 100 years ago. It has two sections, the International trees and the Australian trees. We wandered through the Australian section trying to work out how to recognise which tree is what …unsuccessfully! Lovely parks, now in public hands and managed by volunteers.

Due to this detour we headed down to Greenbushes via the back roads, ie dirt roads. All good though, as are most WA dirt roads.

Greenbushes came about when tin was discovered here, the first miner laying his claim in 1888. The town quickly sprang up as more miners moved here. Tin, however, went through a decline, but fortuitously they also discovered tantalite and lithium minerals here which has taken over as the major industry. We drove to the lookout to view the open-cut lithium mine – yep, big hole in ground.

The lithium mine at Greenbushes

A couple of kilometres out of town we arrived at our camp beside Greenbushes Pool. There are several large pools (lakes/dams) here, formed by the early tin miners who needed water to sluice their diggings. This one is now purely for recreation, the local council having established swimming areas, play grounds, picnic areas, BBQ and (thank you Council) a free camp. We went for a walk around the pool, half of it on boardwalks. A top spot.

Friday 13th

Bushwalking today! We walked the 16km Greenbushes Loop which took us from our campsite, past two large dams, over a dam wall or two, along 5km of the Bibbulmun Track, past remnants of the tin-mining era including ore loading ramps constructed of huge logs, before emerging from the Jarrah forest to a much-appreciated seat overlooking paddocks of wildflowers and grass trees, then waded knee-deep through the chilly waters of a creek crossing, onwards to Dumpling Valley water supply dam (had to note that as I like the name so much), back through the town of Greenbushes and finally back to our home at Greenbushes Pool. A pleasant walk, well-maintained, lots of variety and, once more, lined with wildflowers. Today I was in my ‘yellow mood’ – took lots of photos of yellow flowers.

The whole walk was very pretty – here’s just one example.

 

This is the symbol for our walk trail. This is the Forest red-tailed black cockatoo. We’ve been seeing them and their cousins the white-tailed black cockatoo frequently in the forests as we’ve been travelling.

 

A well-deserved break on our Loop Walk at Greenbushes.

 

The track was got interesting in places! It got pretty deep!


Needless to say we did little else this afternoon other than cook and eat a meal.

Saturday 14th

Leaving Greenbushes the drive continued through some of the prettiest scenery – the sleek black cattle so fat in their greenest of green pastures and the sheep just about disappearing in the knee-high grass. Bridgetown was our first stop. Delightful town with interesting shops to browse and trendy cafes serving excellent coffee. About 20km out of town is Jarrah Park where we walked 6km of their trails admiring the Jarrah, Karri, Marri and Yarri (or WA blackbutt).

Mossy log. Just look how big these trees are when fallen.

Apparently this is as far north as Karri is found and this particular park is unique in having superb specimens of all four trees – and no we still can’t tell them apart!

Looking up. Karri trees.

Leaving here we continued directly south through forests and farming land where we’re now seeing beautiful vineyards, stone fruit, apple and avocado orchards, wound our way through the valleys on dirt roads, retraced our tracks (lost, no! confused, maybe) until we found one of the very best National Parks camps we’ve ever stayed in – Greens Island. The Green family began planting Karri trees here mid last century. The huge camping area with 21 campsites is underneath these magnificent trees and bounded by a babbling, shallow Brook of crystal clear water.

Our campsite at Greens Island.

Timber is provided for the fire pits provided to each site, so BBQ steak was on the menu. There was just us and two other campers we couldn’t even see from our site, let alone hear! Such a tranquil spot!

Getting ready to cook dinner. Greens Island

Sunday 15th

Leaving Greens Island, without getting lost, we headed to Manjimup for shopping at their Woolies. There’s not really much to commend Manjimup, sadly, other than that Pink Lady and the new ‘black’ Bravo apples were developed here. Outside Manjimup we stopped to view the Diamond Tree. This is one of 5 very tall Karri trees that were established in the early part of last century as fire lookouts. Three of these trees, Diamond, Gloucester and the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree can be climbed by tourists. On to Pemberton, an average town nestled in a valley surrounded by Karri forests, vineyards and lush, green pastures. The Gloucester Tree is just outside Pemberton, but climbing it today, as tempting as it is, isn’t on our itinerary. Instead, surprise surprise, we’re going for an 8km bushwalk through the old-growth Karri forest – doing the Gloucester Route. These old-growth, magnificent trees are definitely the most outstanding we’ve seen so far, and that’s saying a lot. And thankfully, there were lots of them – not sure why last century’s loggers didn’t get to them. Once more wildflowers were everywhere – loved the clematis and every time we walk we see wildflowers we’ve not seen before. Lucky it was such a rewarding walk because it was very steep in places and one of the most exhausting we’ve done – my iPhone tells me I climbed the equivalent of 61 flights of stairs today – the Gloucester Tree would have been a doddle compared to that!

Back to the motorhome and we began the Karri Forest Explorer, an 86km drive through 4 National Parks, past vineyards, cideries and breweries! We’re not going far on it today – just to Big Brook Arboretum campsite where the very genial camp hosts already had the fire going and the sundowners on the go! Just us, another motorhoming couple and the camp hosts here tonight.

Our campsite at Big Brook Dam.

Monday 16th

We awoke to drizzling rain – sad, as the last three days have been lovely warm, sunny days. I cooked a butter chicken for dinner tonight while we waited to see if it would fine up. Just before lunch we headed off towards Big Brook Dam, walking the 6km return initially on the Bibbulmun Track, which passes through our campsite.

The forest around here is relatively young having been heavily logged in the 1920s, then a massive fire ravaged the area in the 1930s, this though caused the remaining Karri trees to drop their seeds which then germinated. Taking nothing away from today’s forest, while not having many of the huge old giants, it’s nevertheless a lovely place through which to walk.

The bridge over the spillway at Big Brook Dam. This area is lacking in water at the moment.

At Big Brook Dam the Council has established a bitumen path that circumnavigates it, passing several little timber jetties, bird hides and shelter sheds on the way, with an excellent picnic area, gas BBQs, a lawn sweeping down to a sandy beach and ideal swimming area. The waterway was dammed to provide a larger water supply for Pemberton and also to support a fledgling trout hatchery. Trout fishing, marroning and canoeing are other popular activities at this Dam.

One of the many lookouts over the dam accessed from the sealed pathway around it.

The weather remained doubtful and, in typical WA weather style, periods of sunshine were interspersed with rain. Walking through the forest during light rain has to be one of the joys of life – there’s a stillness as the birds and animals seek shelter, then a gentle rumble heard in the distance, growing louder as the rain approaches. The sound of rain on leaves and wind blowing the tree tops is gentle. The subdued lighting, misty atmosphere and humus-y smells are a sensory delight. Fortunately during the only heavy shower we’d stopped at a covered shelter to admire the dam – ‘cold and wet’ wouldn’t have improved the ambience.

Back to Priscilla and we headed off along the Karri Forest Explorer once again. A brief stop at a short boardwalk led us to a stand of Warren River Cedars. Next stop at the Big Karri, yes it’s impressive!  

The Big Karri Tree.

Then onwards through some grazing countryside and alongside enormous plantings of avocados. We stopped at a ‘farm gate’ and bought a couple of avocados before further up the road being enticed to taste the wares at an organic vineyard and cidery. Two bottles of wine and cider later we continued on into Beedelup National Park. Here, at what is now a picnic area called Giblett, was the scene of a very protracted, though civilised, anti-logging protest in 1997. The protesters were determined to prevent more logging of old-growth forests and so set up a camp in the forest; platforms high in the trees where some protestors lived for the 6 months of the protest drew a lot of media attention. They were successful and today we have these magnificent forests and trees protected for eternity.

The site of people power! An interesting look at the protest, and where it occurred.

We’d intended to camp tonight at Snottygobble – how could you not stay at a camp named that! However, with very strong wind warnings for tonight and Snottygobble sites being closely surrounded by big trees with potentially loose limbs, we backtracked a little to Grass Tree Hollow where we found a site with trees that looked like they could be trusted. Both are National Parks camps, predominantly set up for tent-campers, but we managed to tuck Priscilla in just enough. No one here but us – bliss.

Tuesday 17th

The wind overnight was mild – I guess where we are is well-protected, however it did rain on and off quite a bit. In a wander around the camp site I found a sign pointing to ‘River Access’, followed it and found the most beautiful creek, Carey Brook, hidden deep in the forest its banks lined with huge old Karri trees and flowering understory plants. Half a dozen steps led down to a solid timber deck built right at water level. We got the chairs and a thermos and our cuppas and returned to sit and meditate over this lovely, fast flowing stream where fallen tree trunks created mini whirlpools for the fallen flowers to twirl around in.

A highlight of our camp at Grass Tree Hollow

We could have stayed here for hours but for a light patter of rain beginning.

Back on the Karri Forest Explorer route to Beedelup Falls. There was plenty of water rushing over the falls and rocks and on into a lake. A newly constructed bridge above the falls is a good viewing platform, but not as good as the suspension bridge at the other end of the falls, and not as much fun either! Popular spot here with good picnicking facilities.

The Lookout over Beedleup Falls

We walked on from the bridge to the ‘walk-through tree’ a round trip of about 4 kilometres – why do the walks I go on always start with steep climbs, the equivalent of 34 flights of stairs today! Anyway, once more, a lovely walk, plenty of wild flowers and the Tree was definitely worth it.

The ‘Walk Through’ tree even fits two people.

On the return loop we followed the beautiful lake and could see Karri Valley Resort across from us built right on the edge of the lake, its balconies overhanging the water – I could be tempted to stay there – very rarely, if ever, would I voluntarily leave our comfortable motorhome, so high praise indeed.

Karri Valley Resort – yep, I’d stay there without too much enticement.

Our destination today, still on the Karri Forest Explorer is Draftys campsite in Warren National Park. It’s along an unsealed road, then a turnoff onto the unsealed ‘Heartbreak Trail’ to a campsite National Parks website tells me is only suitable for tent camping or small campervans <6m – we’re 7metres. To cap it off when I asked about it at the Pemberton Visitor Info centre I was told our vehicle would be too wide for the one-way Trail. With that in mind and that it had rained all night we gamely headed on in – with no problems at all. 4WD helped on the steep, muddy, slippery ascents and descents, the road being pretty good and heaps wide enough, and most camp sites fine for us. Phew!

Once more we’re camped in the Karri forest surrounded by huge trees and thick understory bushes. Just us and one other (tent) camper on the far side.

Wednesday 18th

It rained on and off all night. Today we’re walking the Warren River Loop. We were keen to experience it as it’s been called one of the best in WA. The narrow, leaf-strewn track led from our campsite along the Warren River valley through old-growth Karri, sheoak and Warren River cedar to the next camping area before a steep climb out of the valley to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree.

The Bicentennial Tree

This lookout tree has been pegged (for climbing) to 65 metres. I made it up the first 20 metres or so until my thoughts began to wander to the 1.5 metre swing at the top on windy days, such as today, and how long it would take them to bring in a cherry-picker to get me down.

Climbing the Bicentennial Tree

The Trail continued through this pristine old-growth forest before winding its way back to the river where delicate maidenhair ferns lined the path as it took us past Maiden Bush, Heartbreak Crossing and finally, after 11.2 km, back to our camp. It rained once on our walk (while we were under cover in a picnic shelter having our lunch!) and was overcast and cool most of the day.

The maidenhair ferns and the mosses tell you how moist this area is, under the canopy of the big trees. Warren Loop Walk.

We took heaps of photos of huge old Karri trees in the forest – I’ve long known that pristine forest trees feed my soul. Well, my soul must be fit to burst! There were old fallen trees, huge trunks covered in mosses and fungi, slowly decaying, as well as recent falls of whole trees and big branches – the life cycle of the forest. Bird life, and song, is prolific, though wildflowers took a backseat to the beauty of the trees. Definitely a top walk.

Steve, the tree hugger.

National Parks is to be commended for building shelters and picnic areas at 7 points of interest along the trail. Along the river they’ve created several sturdy timber and stainless steel decks at bank level with steps leading down to water level and another deck. Here at our campsite there’s also a large 3-side-open camp kitchen with 3 gas BBQs, sinks and picnic tables all under cover. Thank you DPaW.

After our BBQ tea we sat on the river deck for awhile enjoying the reflections in this wide, gently flowing river. So beautiful.

Tall trees on our Warren River Loop Walk.

 

A moment of contemplation. On the Warren River Loop walk.

Thursday 19th

This morning we completed the Karri Forest Explorer, a drive I’d highly recommend. It was sad to farewell the big Karri trees, but we were mollified a little stopping to see the Cascades, the last ‘point of interest’ on the drive.

The Cascades

Heading south we stopped for brunch in the park at Northcliffe before doing the Understory Art Sculpture Walk, a walk of 1.2 km through a section of Karri Forest and heathland. The sculptures, by local, National and international artists, were installed throughout the walk in trees or hidden down on the ground. Such talented people!

Our destination for tonight is Shannon National Park campsite. Another tourist drive took us through the forest on unsealed roads, in some areas just two tyre tracks through the bush with lovely tall trees touching overhead – my kind of road! There was some old-growth forest, but mainly regenerating forests and even some melaleuca.

The campsite is being redeveloped and will be huge when completed. For now though the camp host met us and directed us up among the trees where you can’t see your neighbours. Hot showers at this camp – not that we used them, got our own.

Friday 20th (Happy birthday to my soul mate, Steve)

We leave these beautiful forests today. We’ve had many highlights on this trip, but this last week or so amongst the big trees is up there with the best of them. We’re heading towards the southern coast now. We took a few unsealed back roads on the way to Swarbrick, just north of Walpole. In so doing we managed to see more beautiful forests and more lush green pasture lands.

When it’s not National Parks big forests this is what the countryside looks like.

Swarbrick is an art walk a little different to Understory in that the same artists created it all and their theme is how the forests have been impacted by human habitation from the time humans first arrived until today and how humans were affected by the forests. It starts with a 50 metre x 4m high mirror wall, the Wall of Perceptions, reflecting the forest and you in it as you approach.

This is actually our reflection in the huge entrance wall.

The history of the forest is written in the panels, chronicling aboriginal, settler, logger and conservationist interactions with the forest. It’s a short 500m walk through the forest with half a dozen symbolic art installations. Interesting.

We continued on to Walpole for brunch and internet time, and to speak with all the family. Then on to Peaceful Bay Caravan Park where we met up with Annie and Mark in their Trakkadu, and Trish and Bryan who’ve arrived from Queensland with their camper trailer to share the next stage of our adventure with us.

A  fun afternoon, fish and chips (very good) at the caravan park and a platter of fresh fruits and cheeses provided by Annie and Mark to celebrate Steve’s birthday. A great evening. Thanks all.

Steve, cutting his ‘birthday camembert’.

Saturday 21st

We farewelled Annie and Mark, then moved not far down to the road to Coalmine Beach Caravan Park where we’ve booked in for the next 4 nights. A bit of shopping and preparations for our next big adventure begins.

For more photos from this time in our trip CLICK HERE

To Wave Rock and back

19th – 26th September, 2017

Tuesday 19th

After seeing the crash repairer this morning we figured that, as there’s nothing we can do here now, we would continue with our plans to explore east of Perth. Mid afternoon we found ourselves at Australia’s only monastic town, New Norcia, where in 1847 the Benedictine Monks established a monastery, school and farm. We spent a little time in the museum this afternoon before going to the beautiful old Hotel for a meal. Camping is on the cricket oval, $10 no facilities.

The hotel at New Norcia. It was built as a residence for parents whose children were at the school and needed somewhere to stay while they visited them.

Wednesday 20th

We did the 2 hour tour of New Norcia this morning. There are many heritage-listed buildings here, many of them quite beautiful. There are boys’ and girls’ orphanages and boys’ and girls’ boarding schools. It seems the orphanages were filled with aboriginal children. I felt quite sad viewing these buildings as they were “stolen generation” children. The Catholic Church has a very poor reputation for the way it treated children both in boarding schools and certainly the orphans in its care. In the museum is a ‘kind of’ apology to the children whose childhoods were less than ideal while in their care. According to the 2017 Royal Commission these colleges had the highest incidence of child sexual abuse of any Catholic institution in Australia. What a reputation!  The schools and orphanages are all closed now.

St Gertrude’s – the girls’ boarding school. New Norcia

Today there are 10 monks who live here.

This afternoon we arrived at Cunderdin. I was keen to see Cunderdin as my father was an instructor of pilots here during the war.

In memory of the many pilots trained at Cunderdin during World War II. Perhaps this was one that my dad flew in.

Tonight we’re at the Cunderdin CP – quite basic $25/n powered.

Thursday 21st

First stop today was at Kellerberrin where we eventually found the poorly signposted road to the lookout over this pleasant little rural town. Beyond the town limits it’s wheat as far as the eye can see. Nice lookout though – pity they haven’t put in a picnic table.

Overlooking Kellerberrin.

On through Merredin where the wheat silo has been painted. This has become a popular tourist attraction in South Australian wheat-growing towns with people doing silo tours. The one here at Merredin was only completed a few days ago. The Council needs to create a pull-over area so tourists can view and photograph it in safety. Hopefully on their agenda.

Silo art, Merredin.

Bruce Rock free camp is our destination tonight. We camped beside the sports complex. WA has had a program called “Royalties for Regions” where money gleaned from mining royalties is being invested into communities. Many (most) small towns are now the proud owners of beautiful football and cricket playing fields with night lights, 3 – 6 tennis courts, basketball/netball courts, swimming pool, etc. They really are impressive! Sadly though, even on weekends, we’ve yet to see anyone playing sport on them. Our campsite is on the edge of the cricket field tonight. I forgot to mention that they also have a new bar/function room/club house associated with them. We wandered up and had a pleasant drink at the bar this afternoon.

Friday 22nd

Bad weather has been forecast for today for the south-west corner reaching inland to where we are. It was windy and rained a bit last night. Regardless we set off today heading towards Wave Rock. At the Roadhouse at Narembeen is the Wheat Discovery Centre. Excellent display that explained the history of grain production in the district and how farming practices have changed with technology. It was very informative, one of the best displays I’ve seen.

The displays were very effective. It’s easy to imagine someone living in this, though awfully pleased it isn’t me!

However with my knowledge of how bad high carbohydrate intake is for us and the description of how much herbicide and other chemicals are poured onto the crops, then fungicides over the stored grain it’s not encouraged me to eat it. The herbicides are very effective – even in the fields that have been left fallow since the last crop was harvested there’s not a blade of green to be seen.
Fortunately while we were in the Grain Discovery Centre the first of the cold fronts hit, with very strong winds and heavy rain. We continued on to Hidden Hollow, a granite rock where in years gone by the farmers channelled the rain coming off the rock into a small hollow, and here they washed their empty fertiliser bags, reusing them for their harvested grain. There’s a walk around the rock, but the inclement weather dissuaded us from doing it.

Hidden Hollow – using initiative to solve a problem.

With this cold, windy, rainy weather we decided not to go to Wave Rock today, finishing the day at Tressies CP ($27/n powered). We were lucky to get a spot – there’s a music festival on this long weekend at Wave Rock and the vans kept pouring in until late.

Saturday 23rd

The cold fronts moved through overnight leaving us with an overcast, chilly day, but no rain. Wave Rock is very impressive. From the early 1920s the locals had created a dam to one side, channeling the water from a portion of the rock, expanding it in the 1950s. Other than that, little attention was paid to the rock.

This dam created on Wave Rock provided a water supply for the local area.

In 1964 a photographer entered a photo of it into an international competition and won, and so began the tourism industry here. It’s well done and a credit to the local tourism group.

Wave Rock. Note the wall around the top – channelling water into the dam.

We did the walks around and over the rock – about 5km.

Hippos Yawn rock formation – aptly named! The result of a unique type of weathering. Near Wave Rock

The walk took us past Hippos Yawn then through the ‘lake’ area near the rock.

This beautiful emu fence made the walk around the lake at Wave Rock all the more interesting.

Before all the trees were cleared for the growing of wheat the lakes were freshwater with an abundance of bird life. Now the rising water table has caused them to become saline, killing the vegetation and no wildlife.

Here we see in the background just a small portion of the damage caused by the growing salinity problem.

This problem with salinity is seen all though the wheat belt as a result of widescale clearing of trees. Currently about 12% of once arable land is now useless and it’s expected to rise to 30% in the future. Some farmers are trying to reduce the damage by planting rows of trees, dividing their wheat fields into smaller paddocks, but not nearly as many as should be. Very short-sighted.

Before leaving Wave Rock we joined the music festival for a while – good fun.

Hyden is the town closest to Wave Rock. We stopped briefly and enjoyed their unique heritage sculptures highlighting various people and their occupations. Well done Hyden.

I like the chap on the end, singing as he pedals. Hyden.

10 or so kilometres before Kulin is the Tin Horse H’way. The townsfolk have had a lot of fun sculpting these horses from tin cans.

Imaginative horses on the Tin Horse Highway, approaching Kulin.

Tonight we’re in the amazingly good free camp in the centre of Kulin; an area flanked by beautiful flowering bushes. Thank you Kulin.

Sunday 24th

Didn’t go far today. First stopover at Yeerkine Rock. There seems to be lots of these huge granite slabs of rock that randomly appear surrounded by acres of low, flat farmland, the most famous of course being Wave Rock. Yeerkine, while being much smaller, isn’t without appeal. The walk from the car park through the bush was delightful  – lots of wildflowers, many we hadn’t seen before. As happened at Wave Rock, the locals in the early 20th century built low walls around the top of the rock to channel the water toward a rock-lined channel they’d dug to a dam.

This rock-lined drain channelled water from the rock to a dam, about a kilometre away. Hark yakka went into this construction.

A steel sculpture has recently been installed on the top of the rock to commemorate the many men from the Kondinin area who joined the Light Horse brigade in WW1.

Dawn over the Light Horse Statue on Yeerkine Rock.

We brunched in Kondinin, just a tiny town, stopped at a Dam outside town where there are sculptures of farmers made from star pickets, before settling down for the rest of the day and night at Gorge Rock Pool near Corrigin.

These statues are made from star pickets.

A short walk leads up onto this rock where the locals dammed the rain flow exit off the rock to create a recreational swimming pool. It would have been a great swimming pool back then – even had a diving board at the deep end.

Another rock, another dam (though this one is a swimming pool), and lots more wheat fields.

Monday 25th 

It rained a fair bit over night and is quite chilly – 9.5° at 10am!

As we head coastward the flat plains are being replaced with rolling hills, verdant with lush-looking wheat, or bright yellow with flowering canola. There are more trees here too, many planted to treat the salinity problem, the naturally occurring ones being so much taller than they were further inland. The roadside also has lots of flowering shrubs and low-growing wildflowers. Altogether a pleasant drive.

A different type of grass tree (for me, anyway).

Our first stop was Corrigin for a cuppa. Corrigin, apart from being a prosperous wheat-growing town, is ‘famous’ for utes and dogs, particularly the number of utes with a dog they could line up altogether  – around 1300 or so, the current record holder in the Guiness Book of Records! Continuing the dog theme there’s also a dog cemetery just out of town – looking like every other cemetery in the country, though not dividing the Protestants from the Catholics!

The Dog Cemetery, Corrigin.

Brookton was next. We brunched here in their Railway Siding gardens which are beautifully landscaped with lots of flowering shrubs and trees. Passenger trains no longer travel this route, however the railway station building and platform has been preserved and are a credit to the community.

The beautiful wildflower gardens at the Brookton railway station rest area.

The roadside wildflowers continued to delight us.

Yellow wildflowers by the roadside, leaving Wandering.

Pingelly was next, but not particularly inspiring, then on to Pumphrey’s Bridge, our campsite for the night. It was lovely to set up here beside the Hotham river. We spent a very quiet night here on our own.

Pumphreys Bridge. Maybe just as well it’s no longer in use.

Tomorrow we head back to Perth. Another very enjoyable short trip completed.

To see more photos from our trip out to Wave Rock CLICK HERE.