The south of WA

27th – 30th November, 2017

Monday 27th (Happy birthday John)
We’re heading for the coast now to see a bit more of WAs famed southern coastline. We were camped amidst wheat farms last night at Louis Lookout and today’s drive was through wheat and sheep country all looking very brown, either just harvested stubble or awaiting harvesting. Many laden trucks passed us headed for storage bins – big open-air ones, the wheat covered with tarps as each section is filled.

The grain on the conveyor belt is pouring in from a trucks that have just delivered it. Note the huge tarps covering the grain.

We stopped at Ravensthorpe for a look-around then headed to Hopetoun. Along the road there’s a couple of ‘Art in the Paddock’ sculptures, which are very good, but they probably need a few more to make it a ‘trail’.

This tea setting is wonderful – made from junk – corrugated iron for the teapot.

What a gem of a place Hopetoun is! It’s a tiny town, but has a couple of well-tended parks, one with very good children’s activities, another with BBQ, tables, etc beside the beach, a couple of cafes, a pub and a good walking path along the foredunes. The beach looks lovely, but too cold (still!) for a swim. For the RV traveller there’s the free campsite where we are next to the beach (no facilities), free hot showers in town, a designated ‘potable water’ spot to fill tanks, dump point and a car wash big enough to do motorhomes. There’s no industry here and it’s not on the way to anywhere, so just a holiday destination.

Tuesday 28th
Leaving Hopetoun we went back to Ravensthorpe then turned east, travelling predominantly through wheat and grazing country – all brown.
Tonight’s camp is at Quagi Beach, 10km along a reasonable dirt road off the highway. This council-run camp ($15/n) has about 17 campsites separated from each other by thick scrub, which is predominantly flowering banksias – beautiful!

Flowers around the campsites at Quagi Beach. The yellow one is known locally as the Christmas bush. But also note all the banksias flowering.

We’ve arranged to meet Ally and Rob here, fellow Jabiru owners who we first met by chance on the road at Exmouth many months ago as they headed north and we headed south. They’ve circumnavigated Australia since then! An enjoyable afternoon was spent chatting about places we’ve been to and checking out each other’s vehicles.

With Rob and Ally (and Charlotte) and their Trakka Jabiru at Quagi Beach.

Wednesday 29th

The four of us went for a walk along Quagi Beach this morning before heading our separate ways – Ally and Rob towards Perth, us to Esperance.

Quagi Beach.

There’s a Scenic Ocean Drive just before Esperance which took us off the highway, around the Pink Lake (which isn’t pink anymore) and alongside the ocean and into Esperance. There are dozens of really pretty beaches along this coastline – mostly small ones, some very well-protected, some with picnic facilities. They’d be heaven on a hot summer day.

You going for a swim Steve? Nope – too cold! At one of Esperance’s beaches.

Esperance was named  in 1792 by French explorers after one of the two French ships that sheltered from a storm behind the island in the photo above . Grazing was the industry that was initially established some 60 years later,  but the town really came alive when gold was discovered nearby in 1893. The town’s fortunes fluctuated until around 1960 when it became a major agricultural region – wheat, barley and canola being the main crops. It also seems to do pretty well out of tourism.

We walked from the Port, where a ship was being loaded with grain, to the old jetty, recently badly damaged in a storm. The foreshore is beautiful – well-tended gardens of native shrubs, cycling and walking paths, heaps of picnic areas all the way along and the walk culminating at a coffee van that sells really good coffee.

The beautiful foreshore of Esperance. An art installation paying tribute to the Southern Right Whales that pass by every winter.

Leaving the ocean, all too prematurely, there being some great National parks down here we haven’t had the time to explore, we headed half an hour north to Gibson Soak – a free camp at a pub. Quite a large camping area had maybe 10 other campers and most seemed to head to the pub for a drink and meal – as we did.

Thursday 30th

An uneventful drive north finds us this evening at Norseman. This is the last major town in WA before crossing the Nullarbor, and tending travellers of the Nullarbor helps sustain this old gold mining town. Gold was first discovered here in 1892, reputably by a prospector’s horse named Norseman who kicked a large nugget. A statue to Norseman is in the town centre. It does look like a struggling town these days though.

A statue of the horse after which Norseman was named – hoof raised indicating gold just there!

We did our shopping here, ready for our crossing of the Nullarbor, then settled in to the free camp they’ve provided. Only two other campers here though – very quiet.

For more photos from these last few days CLICK HERE.

Porongurups and Stirling Ranges

23rd – 26th November, 2017

Thursday 23rd

Repacking and restocking Priscilla yesterday afternoon, while a big job, was a great pleasure – it meant our next adventure would begin soon.

We left Bob and Cathy’s this morning having spent a relaxing couple of days with them and headed south to Dardanup to have lunch with and farewell Fran and Ric. As we left Fran and Ric’s our route took us via Gnomesville.

Must be an important parade about to start – the gnomes of Gnomesville near Dardanup.

Leaving them we headed to Mt Barker via Boyup Brook and Frankland River. The wildflowers seem to be inexhaustible with banksias, Geraldton wax and a shrub that’s covered in dark yellow flowers lining the roads we travelled.
From Dardanup we drove through vineyards and dairy country, then into sheep and wheat country before vineyards and olive orchards took over again at Frankland River.
Tonight we’re in the free RV campsite provided by Mt Barker – nice central spot, right beside the rail line!

Friday 24th
Only one train last night about 10pm – can’t complain.
After refuelling and dropping into the Information Centre for some brochures on Porongurup Ranges we headed off.
The range’s distinctive granite domes are the remains of the ancient Porongurup pluton, a massive bubble of molten rock that rose from deep in the Earth’s core and pushed upwards into the overlying base rock of the continent.
Over millions of years the softer rock lying above the pluton weathered away to expose the giant granite mass. Changes in temperature and in the weight of the overlying rock caused the granite to fracture. Interesting, hey! I’ve never seen a granite bubble before.
We headed first to Castle Rock and the Granite Skywalk, though just before it is Balancing Rock. I’ll leave what it looks like to your imagination (and maybe a photo).

Balancing Rock. Porongurups

It’s a 5km return walk, which doesn’t sound far, but from the moment you leave the car park you’re climbing, getting steeper the closer you get to the destination. At Castle Rock there’s a short walk out to the lower lookout, but the upper lookout and Granite Skywalk is pretty impressive.

Amazing views from the Granite Skywalk.

It starts with steel handholds in the rock up which you have to climb, then a steel ladder up to the top where a walkway goes around the rock, suspended off the side of it. The views were incredible and the rock climb well worth the big effort and slight fear it induced. The return walk down the track was tough on the knees.

The people below are first climbing through the crevice using steel handholds, then it’s up the ladder to reach the Granite Skywalk. Castle Rock, Porongurups.

From there we drove to the other end of Porongurup NP to Tree-in-the-Rock picnic area where there are more walks. First we had brunch then set out on the Devils Slide walk to Mt Marmabup – another 5km return walk, with yet another very, very steep climb at the end to the summit, Mt Marmabup being the highest point of the Range. The trail started with a gentle incline covered in beautiful jarrah and karri trees, before the final steep, rocky climb up a gully. Surprisingly it was well vegetated and still has lots of wildflowers. The summit is a large expanse of bare sloping granite.

A strange rock lizard on Mt Marmabup.

From the top we could see hundreds of dead trees towering above the canopy, destroyed in a severe bushfire in 2007.

Good views from Mt Marmabup

Leaving the Park via a scenic drive we enjoyed more views of these unusual domes of granite before heading north to the Stirling Ranges where we entered it via the 42km scenic drive which wound its way past the spectacular mountains. We finished the drive, and our day, at Moingup Springs camping area, a National Park’s campsite.

Enjoying our Scenic Drive through the Stirling Ranges NP

Saturday 25th
Today’s challenge is Bluff Knoll. At 1095 metres this is the highest peak in the southern half of WA and the only place in WA that occasionally sees snow.

Keep walking Denise – you’re nowhere near the top yet! Note the flora.

It’s very steep and consists of hundreds of irregularly spaced ‘stairs’. An exhausting climb!

Oh those steps!!! This flight was at least reasonably evenly spaced.

Bluff Knoll, known to the traditional Aboriginal people of this area as Bular Mial has great spiritual significance being the home of a powerful ancestral being that moves in the mists and clouds that sometimes cover the summit. Climbers are warned not to wander from the path and to turn back if clouds begin to come in!

Rewarding views and we’re not even half way up the Bluff Knoll track yet!

The views all the way up were spectacular, not only in the distance but also the many different wildflowers that lined the track. At the summit the reward is 360 degree views – and a well-earned sense of accomplishment.

Having a break on the summit of Bluff Knoll

It’s a busy walk, but the majority of walkers are young, 20 – 30 somethings .. very few grey nomads like us.

Slowly does it – one careful step after another. On the Bluff Knoll track.

Sunday 26th

We leave the Stirling Ranges today, but not before doing another climb – Mt Trio. I chose this one as it looked the easiest, only 3.5km return and, after a steep section to begin, the plateau joining the three peaks is easy. Hmmm not so! The track is in very poor condition. Quite a few of the steps are either missing or just about fallen over and the surface is loose shale. It was quite dangerous walking, particularly coming down.

That horrible, horrible path up Mt Trio

Lovely views from the top once again. And the wildflowers – just so many and so beautiful.

From the summit of Mt Trio.

Once safely (miraculously!) back down we headed out of the park to stay in a free camp called Louis Lookout, which has views of the ranges in the distance. A band of rain moved through overnight, giving us some nice rain and quite a lightning show – in the distance, thankfully.

The gum nuts are so pretty. Mt Trio

For more photos from our few days at the Porongurups and Stirling Ranges CLICK HERE.

Perth for repairs

6th – 22nd November, 2017

Monday 6th
Well the weather has suddenly changed from winter chill, winds and rain to summer heat. At last!
We farewelled Trish and Bryan this morning at the Emu Park Caravan Park at Albany, not for long though as we’ll be seeing them in Perth in a couple of days. After we’d packed up we went to the cafe for a celebratory breakfast (the celebrations could last a while!) before heading towards Perth where Priscilla is booked in on Wednesday for 2 to 3 weeks (!!) to do the repairs following the accident.
We’re following the highway straight up from Albany to Perth but have detoured slightly to camp tonight beside Lake Queerearrup, a little north-east of Kojonup. This is a beautiful lake, quite large, slightly salty with excellent facilities – a boat ramp, loos, several picnic tables, a large shelter shed with gas BBQ and more tables, and free camping. And we’re the only ones here – quite a change from the last two weeks in caravan parks.

Tuesday 7th – Wednesday 22nd

With two to three weeks to fill in while the vehicle is at City Truck Repairs and insurance covering our accommodation and a hire car, we booked back into the Scarborough Beach AirBnB we’d stayed in in July. We unpacked all our goodies into the apartment and took Priscilla in to the repairers on Wednesday morning before picking up our hire car.

Our favourite cafe at Scarborough. By the time we left they knew our usual coffee orders without asking.

For the next two weeks we relaxed at the beach, went for swims, went to the coffee shop, went for walks, went to the shopping centre, visited friends, read books and generally relaxed. Bryan and Trish spent a few days with us and we visited Fremantle, caught up with Steve’s sister Maree and had a drink or three at Little Creatures brewery.

Our last sundowners at our Scarborough Beach unit.

We can pick Priscilla up on Wednesday 22nd (only two weeks – good surprise), so we checked out of our apartment and spent the last two days with Bob and Cathy in Mt Pleasant – and very pleasant it was.

While we’ve been in Western Australia these last few months as well as the great camping we’ve experienced, we’ve  had a wonderful time catching up with friends. First there was Laura and Ric and Gill, from Queensland, then (in no particular order) Don and Jan from Burnie, Dave and Louise, Terry and Christine, Fran and Ric, Anne and Greg, Bob and Cathy, Geoff and Karin and girls, Maree, Doug and Leura from Qld, John and Nina, Annie and Mark, Ally and Rob. Being ‘on the road’ certainly isn’t lonely.

We’re now looking forward to our journey homewards, which will start tomorrow but could take a few more months yet.

 

 

 

Bibbulmun Track: Denmark to Albany

31st October – 5th November 2017

Tuesday 31st (Day 8)
We’ve been psyching ourselves up for today’s long walk, but fortunately mostly flat, according to the Trail profile. While the Denmark trailhead is just beside our caravan park, the start of the walk is directly across Wilson Inlet, the large protected bay on which Denmark is situated. There are various ways to get across there – boat charter, walk to the mouth and cross over the shallow sandbar (no sandbar at the moment), walk a long way around it to begin about 8 km short of the proper starting point, or be driven around by your support team. No prizes for guessing our option.

At the starting point for the leg from Denmark to Albany. Wilson Inlet with Denmark on the far side.

Because of the long drive (40mins) to our starting point we got away from camp at 7.15am. The first 4 kilometres of the walk was alongside Wilson Inlet. The fluffy white clouds reflecting in the glassy still water, with pelicans and black swans nearly making ripples as they glided past us. There are several classy looking homes here with lawns down to the foreshore, with private jetty and boat launching ramp.

Wilson Inlet, alongside our walk.

It was along here that we saw the first of the 4 snakes we’d see today. The trail then turned seaward for us to cross Nullaki Peninsula. A brunch stop at Nullaki camping shelter was a nice reward after 8 kilometres of walking. We’d been walking at a cracking pace too knowing it was going to be a long day and not wanting to finish too late.

Brunch at Nullaki camping shelter, and a quick check of the map.

The path starts climbing now just as the wildflowers became more prolific. It was a long slow climb over about 6km. A mother kangaroo with joey in pouch jumped ahead of us along our path for a little way. The less commonly seen red-tailed black cockatoos were happily feeding in a flowering tree while large flocks of the white-tailed black cockatoos raucously flew around before disappearing over the hill. There were lots of smaller birds too, but I’ve no idea what they were.

Many beautiful banksias.

The banksias are flowering now – one gully was just full of banksias as far as you could see – so beautiful.
As we got higher we saw the ocean several times. It’s a very different Southern Ocean to the one we’ve been used to, with only light winds and no rain the ocean, while not a millpond, at least didn’t have any white-caps.

A very different Southern Ocean now – gone are the white caps and frenzied crashing of waves we’ve seen over the last week. Looks nearly good enough to go sailing.

The last section of the walk took us downwards again, still amongst the flowering bushes, banksias and wildflowers towards South Tennessee Road (Lowlands Beach) where we’d organised to meet the boys.

Wildflowers alongside the path kept us oohing and ahhhing at the beauty of the trail.

However we’d been making such good time that we were there about half an hour before they arrived. So, in true Bibbulmun-walker spirit we walked along the road to meet them. A 24km day today.
We shared the roast Steve cooked in the DreamPot and followed it up with dairy-free mango mousse – delicious. Big brownie points to Steve.

Wednesday 1st November 
REST DAY! Yippee! And what a lovely day it was too. A nice sleep-in, followed by a delicious lunch at Lakeside Winery and Restaurant, then an 80-minute massage. The Support Team excelled themselves! Could life get better than this!

Thursday 2nd (Day 9)
After such a wonderful day yesterday it was hard to get back into it today, but we did! Today’s walk took us steadily upwards from the double bay of Lowlands Beach into West Cape Howe National Park where we walked along the ridge just inland from the ocean admiring the rugged sea cliffs. A pause at West Cape Howe camping shelter was appreciated.

A picnic table at West Cape Howe camping shelter – what a wonderful place to watch the sunset. A bit too early for us though and no plans to be out at sunset.

Once more the views lovely, the wildflowers colourful and abundant and the track very good – no muddy patches, no confusing signage.

Our path over this rocky hill gives views to ocean and West Cape Howe NP.

Wildlife wasn’t so prolific today with only a couple of black cockatoos, a couple of hawks and a few smaller birds to keep us company. It was a one-snake day – Trish stood on it! Luckily for her it was only tiny and keener to get away from her then to seek retaliation. We did see a very large snake skin though – would be happy not to see it’s previous owner.

Walking down those awkward steps – but very pretty.

We covered 17.5km over about 5 hours, plus an hour or so for breaks.

Friday 3rd (Day 10)
There was plenty of variety in today’s walk. Headland tracks with wonderful ocean views, melaleuca trees in low-lying swampy areas with yet another muddy flooded path to be negotiated, heathlands to about 2 metres high covered in wildflowers, steps, lots of steps leading down to the beach to finish with our favourite (not!) about 6km of beach walking.

The walk goes through a tunnel – kind of.

 

Oh dear – back to muddy paths!

Just before the hut about 5km into the walk, we were overtaken by other Bibbulmun walkers – two 20-something lads carrying the most enormous backpacks. At the hut we chatted with them for a little while before a man in his 60s walked in, an ‘end-to-ender’. It was pretty exciting to meet so many other Bibbulmun walkers considering the scarcity of them to this point.

And so begins another beach walk. Heading towards the Torbay Inlet.

Our main concern was crossing the Torbay Inlet, which is periodically closed due to the volume and rate of flow of water out of the inlet, necessitating a 19km detour!!! Enquiries indicated it was open, maybe shin-deep, but watch the tide. As it turns out we’d be there spot on high tide. High tides also make beach walking difficult, walking high on the beach through soft sand. The winds have dropped to about 20-30km an hour, however they’re right on the nose now. With all this in front of us we intrepidly pushed forward, negotiating a rocky outcrop midway along the beach where the tide was too high for us to walk around it.

A rocky headland on the beach had to be negotiated.

With stress mounting we arrived at Torbay Inlet to find a sandbar, high and dry, right across the mouth. An anticlimax in the end. We left the beach a couple of kilometres after this, climbing up the cliff face to Muttonbird Lookout to be met by our wonderful, worried support team, concerned we’d been swept away at the inlet.
12.5km today, but note that half of that was on soft sand!

Yep, that’s the beach we’ve just walked along. Pleased it’s now behind us.

Saturday 4th (Day 11)
Starting where we left off yesterday at Muttonbird Lookout our walk took us predominantly along the coastal headland high above the now tamed Southern Ocean. The wind has dropped and the dark foreboding clouds have disappeared leaving us with blue skies and fluffy white clouds. A unique experience for us!

Muttonbird Island. Just loved all the different shades of blue.

There were several places where we were provided with seats to sit awhile to admire the view. At one such spot the blues of the ocean changed from pale yellowish-blue covering shallow water to go deeper and deeper blue until it was almost indigo on the horizon.

Approaching the windmills. Today’s walk will end after we’ve passed them all.

The last several kilometres of today’s walk was alongside the Albany Wind Farm. The closer you get to wind turbines the more elegant they appear – the ultimate in streamlined design. The soft whoosh, whoosh from each as we walked by pleasant on the ear. The eighteen 65-metre towers here are positioned along the coastal cliff some 80 metres above the ocean each with three 35-metre blades. Apparently their positioning is perfect along this perpetually windy coastline, providing 80% of Albany’s electricity needs.

Looking back on the windmills and coastline.

This completed our walk for the day at Sandpatch – 14 km.
On the way back to camp we passed Australia’s first (and supposedly best) whiskey distillery which we couldn’t, of course, just drive by. A wee dram eased a few aching muscles.

Sunday 5th (Day 12)
Our last day – only 15.75 km to complete the 205 km walk into Albany. We started on the headland; once more we got spectacular views of the coast and ocean, as well as wildflowers in the heathlands.

Another delightfully positioned spot to rest. It may not look comfortable, but it is better than the ground, and by not having a back on it you don’t have to take your backpack off.

The banksias here are a little different to the ones further up the coast, but equally as beautiful. Flowering peppermint trees have lined our walk for the last several days. These trees are covered in little white flowers and having narrow drooping leaves which, with a little imagination, smell like peppermint when crushed.

Still seeing wildflowers we’d not seen before.

The path took us across a peninsula from the Southern Ocean through Torndirrup National Park to Princess Royal Harbour; Albany being positioned between this harbour and King George Sound.

We’ve left the ocean behind and now heading through Torndirrup National Park.

As we got closer to Albany we started to meet day walkers. The path took us past some lovely homes overlooking Princess Royal Harbour along the shores of which we walked. This is a well protected and very large natural harbour that is relatively shallow – about 2 metres deep. On this very windy day the windsurfers were fairly flying along.

Walking along the track towards Albany, which you can see across Princess Royal Harbour.

In the early 1900s it was dredged and huge jetties built to accommodate big ships. Of note in 1914 the ships carrying the Aussies who were to become the ANZACs left from here. Today the departing ships carry woodchips, silica sand and grain.
The walk through the outer suburbs and up and over a rocky hillock lost its enjoyment as all I could envisage was finally arriving at the Information Centre, the end of the trail.

We made it!!! 205km later we’re at the Albany Trailhead. What a wonderful feeling!

At last the end was in sight and our wonderful support crew had set up a finishing line with tape for us to run through. It was a great feeling. I signed off in the Log Book in the Info Centre then we all sat in the Rose Garden outside and drank champagne.

That’s us, signed off in the last logbook!

 

Oooo that feels good! And not a single blister between us!!

 

We really enjoyed that champers in the rose garden.

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

Some reflections of the walk….

For me it was quite an achievement, the longest distance I’d ever walked day after day.
The variety of the walking is what made it so enjoyable – inland, coastal, beach, headlands, alongside rivers, forests and the wildflowers … they were most certainly a highlight.
Other than where the path was flooded, it was nearly always a good surface to walk on … oh yes, exclude the soft sand beach walking from that description too!
Walking with Trish was enjoyable. We both had strengths and weaknesses and complemented each other well.
Being picked up every afternoon to have a meal cooked and a comfortable bed was a treat. Occasionally I’d read in the logs how much other walkers enjoyed watching the sun set (or rise!) over the camping shelter and I thought how nice it would be .. but not as nice as my proper meal and bed.
On our travels through WA we’ve walked on several short sections of the Bibbulmun, but I think we did choose the most beautiful sections to walk.
Would I come back to do more sections … hmm, not on my radar at this time. Maybe I’ll change my mind later.

Well earned, and well loved t-shirts.