Accommodation: $511.00 Lattes: $378.60
Our last night in Geraldton we went to Tropcanos Restaurant (fish) - great place next to the lighthouse. The owner (originally from Manly) suggested we stay in the car park across the road rather than drive toward Kalbarri late at night. We were going to but it seemed every 10 minutes a new mob of hoons would drive their cars in, hang for a while then drive out. Didn't feel the safest place (and it was illegal so we didn't feel right about it anyway) but most importantly we found that the fridge was defrosting as we hadn't driven much the last couple of days and it had been very hot. This made the decision for us and we drove on even though we were tired. This got the better of us and we pulled over in a rest area to (illegally) camp for the night. (although technically we were resting and only there for 6 hours in total)
Friday 11th March - Fun Truck Curveball Day
Next morning we discovered that government waste is not a new thing as we toured Lynton Station Convict Depot. It ran from 1853 so local land holders could use convict labour on their farms and to build roads for the mining company. Trouble was it wasn't located in the best place with no natural water or building materials and was poorly managed. The convicts were sleeping in tents for so long the walls wore out and when there was an inspection they were made to put rocks up for walls. The canvas roof was considered OK for a few more years. Work was started on a large building to house them and this was completed in early 1856 and could have housed four times the number of prisoners that were actually stationed there. The number of prisoners never met the quota they were supposed to have but there wasn't much demand for them anyway and the whole complex closed in 1856, just 3 years after opening and 6 months after the large building was completed. We did see a fox come out of the ruins of the old lock up and found out that the heroine of "The King and I" (the real life governess to the children of the King of Siam not Julie Anthony or whoever played her - forgive me patient reader as I have no internet to check facts - was the wife of one of the overseers and lived at the Convict Depot for some time.
We decided not to bother with the historic Lynton Station homestead but saw it from the road as we drove on. That is one very impressive building so if you get the chance drop in for a look.
Closer to Kalbarri and we arrived at a coastal area with very dramatic red sandstone cliffs that contrast with the turquoise water. We visited Grandstand, Shellhouse, Rock Island (yep, it's a rock and an island) and Natural Bridge. We headed into the town to book into a caravan park as we were worried about not finding somewhere due to it being a weekend. Needn't have worried there were lots of vacant sites but since the shire doesn't allow camping outside the caravan parks we didn't want to take the chance. That afternoon we visited Eagle Gorge, Pot Alley and Mushroom Rock where Glen decided to do the whole loop track. Lucky for him Julie drove to the next headland over as he missed a turn and ended up there. The iced coffee milk went down a treat because it was very hot (a cold latte Glen thinks but Julie won't allow iced coffee milk to be included in the latte total - she's such a purist :)
Next stop Chinaman's Beach where Glen got nipped by a crab when he stood up when swimming so it was feet off the bottom the rest of the swim. After a walk along the water's edge we went back for our first shower in a few days and celebrated the event with a beer and sunset at the pub (and watched couple of quarters of footy on TV) before heading "home" for dinner.
Although it was a Friday there was no Fun Truck Curveball this week :)
Saturday 12th March Fine Feathered Friends and Gorges
One of the "must do" activities is to watch the pelican feeding. At 8:45 a full contingent of we tourists gathered expectantly and the volunteer began his spiel as his partner wandered up and down the shore with a bucket full of fish. Somebody forgot to tell the pelicans it was time for a feed as they were a no show. Wild kids and animals are something you should avoid working with if you want predictable. Glen was ready to call it early but Julie was too polite to be the first to leave. We seem to have issues with wildlife being a no show after the Orcas, although… Julie has a knack of finding snakes lol.
We had intended to go to the gorges in the National Park next but as it was already hot we changed our plans and went first to Rainbow Jungle Parrot Breeding Facility. Basically it's a few parrots in cages that also happen to breed but it was enjoyable, particularly the walk in aviary where there are lots of beautiful birds all around at a good height to see and photograph as they perch in the bushes.
After a coffee and a muffin we drove into the Kalbarri National Park to see the gorges carved out by the mighty Murchison River. The river we saw was a series of billabongs as although the catchment area is larger than Tasmania there hadn't been a great deal of rain along it's 700km length. The gorges were spectacular, the flies thick and the temperature oppressive. Luckily Glen had decided he wasn't up for a 6 or 8km walk as the heat had us guzzling water at a great rate of knots. Signs warn that people have died and that it can be up to 10 degrees hotter in the gorges. We did 4 lookouts and finished with Natures Window 1.4km return and Julie was really feeling the heat so we decided to leave the rest of the gorges until the next day and go back to town for a swim.
Not unusually we got side tracked on the way back and went past Murchison Home Station towards the river. First turn off required 4wd but we got to the river and found that here it was flowing and full of fish. Julie contemplated wetting a line but we settled for airing down and exploring further along the river. We eventually ended up in town following the river.
Sunday 13th March Moving on
We packed up in the morning and left Kalbarri with the intention of checking out the last of the gorges. We arrived at Ross Graham Lookout where there is a walk to the river. From the lookout the water looked wonderful so we headed off down the track even though it was quite warm and we were only wearing thongs (on out feet). Ross Graham was the local school headmaster with a passion for the park. He died at just 32 years old and the lookout honours his memory. At the bottom there was no water, just a rock crossing. Downstream was the large inviting pool we saw from above so Glen went upstream to find water, he did and lots of small fish too. Julie stayed taking photos and met two doctors from Bankstown Hospital. They were on their way home to England via WA and South America. The warm day was taking it's toll on Julie by the time she reached the top. It was going to be another day for guzzling water.
Back on the road and once again it was so hot that the air conditioning had to be turned off again to lessen the chance of us boiling over. We are listening to the talking book The Mailman of the Birdsville Track as we drive. The air conditioned Billabong Roadhouse was a welcome stop for lunch and to add to the latte total. Not far north of that we turned off for the Shark Bay World Heritage Drive. We decided to skip the stromatolites at Hamlin Bay and do them on the way out. We did stop at Shell Beach, where billions of small cockle shells are the beach. The shells are up to 10m deep in places, extend over 12 kilometres and in the course of time have pushed the coastline out 200m.
The water is very salty, which allows the cockles and stromatolites to survive because not much else can.
We camped at Goulet Bluff, no facilities but a wonderful view of the ocean. It's the other (Western) side of the peninsula to Shell Beach so less salty but still far more salty than we are used to "over East". In the morning (after coffee and a chat with the Ranger, Matthew, 41 from Wales been in Denham 12 years, married, past jobs included…. Lets just say in a brief time we learn quite a lot about Matthew :)… anyway, in the morning we went down to the water and saw lots of shovelnose sharks (yes we know they are actually a ray) a couple of stingrays (spotted rays I think) and a 1m shark. Matthew was terrific with suggestions of where to camp and what to see and do and gave us a National Park map. He was also quite OK that we didn't have a camping permit before we camped. We headed into Denham and paid the $15 camping fee at the information centre.
There are emus in the main street. Just walking around like they own the place. Exactly as the Americans envisage I imagine. :) We ducked into IGA to get phone credit, no Vodafone here, and came out with iced coffee milk, orange juice and 5 little bubble gum packets with nail tattoos. We went back in got a hand line, frozen bait and plastic lures. We went back in a third time and got the credit we actually went in there for!
Next stop was Ocean Park Aquarium who have a good collection of what is in the waters around Shark Bay. Nice to know what we may find before we see it in our face mask. They have an interesting way of doing the tours. Each tour lasts roughly an hour. You join whenever you get there and stay with the tour until you get back to the tank you started at. Guides just take over from each other after an hour and continue on. Really good from a tourist point of view. We started at the elegant sea snakes. Julie stood well back as Glen watched them swim around the tank and pop their head out of the water. We found that just before we arrived they found one on the ground and put it back in the tank. Apparently they don't know how it's getting out yet but since it can't move on land and breathes air it just waits to be put back. Despite being the most venomous snakes on the planet they are not aggressive and are very inquisitive and will actually swim towards divers and wrap themselves around you. We also saw stone fish, puffer fish that have been known to bite off toes with nail polish, trevally, cod, turtles and sharks up to 2.7m. Suffice to say Julie has vowed not to go in the water and is removing her toe nail polish.
We followed Matt's directions to a campsite by a fishing shack on the Eastern side of the peninsula and camped within 50m of the water of L'haridon Bight roughly half way between Monkey Mia and Shell Beach.
Accommodation: $418 Lattes: $365
We packed up and headed out of Margaret River. Based on the advice received from a couple of kids at Canebreak Pool we stopped in at Gabriel's Chocolate for tastings and dark hot chocolates and a brownie. Yes, we indulged ourselves… again..
Next stop was Smith's Beach, Yallingup, one of the beaches in our Top 101 Beaches book. It's a famous surf beach but to us Yallingup Beach held far more attraction. The southern end of the beach was protected by a reef and looked like there was a good sized footy (Aussie Rules) field of shallow reef to snorkel right next to a beach with small waves and with the foreshore park (complete with sculptures and grass, even the bins had historical surf photos on them) and shops (café and surf shop) it had everything. No wonder so many people appeared to just come there to sit and watch the ocean and the kite surfers.
Our next port of call was Meelup Beach, tick off from the book and a very pretty, protected bay. We went snorkelling and swam the entire length of the beach (twice as we chose the wrong end and had to swim to the other to find where the fish were)
Julie's phone needed replacing and we were told that could be done at Busselton so we headed there next and discovered our first traffic light since Port Lincoln SA! Busselton Vodafone was in Retravision, but wasn't trading until the following week so they referred us to Bunbury! Julie got on the phone, found they couldn't help us anyway, and lined up new phones for both of us at Mandurah the next day.
We stopped to watch the sunset at Buffalo Beach and set up camp in a rest area for the night. Getting in after dark we didn’t notice until the next morning that the area was covered in banksia and grass trees.
Julie was pretty crook the next day but we headed into Mandurah to get the phones. With a new phone and a coffee and something to eat Julie was feeling much better. Glen's phone was going to need to be posted out. In the afternoon we headed out to Dryandra Woodland. It was the wrong day for the nocturnal tour so we headed out at night to try to spot some of the rare and endangered animals this place is famous for on our own, but unless an owl and a couple of kangaroos counts we missed them. We didn't spot any numbats during the day either. We plan to go back there again to do the tour. The battery was very low and Glen found it was low on water. Topping it up seemed to make no difference so we came to the conclusion it was the alternator. Once started we don't need a battery so as long as we didn't turn it off we were OK. Over the last couple of days the Hema GPS had begun to play up and that seemed to be battery related too. We decided to head straight to Perth. It seems that every Friday we get thrown a curveball in the form of some sort of breakdown. Many have been electrical issues in some way or another. We got to Trudy's and turned off the car to see if she was home. We couldn't start it again so called the RAC. The RAC came, started the car and Glen followed him to the auto electrician. He could replace it the next day (for a premium).
We had arranged with April to meet her and her partner Damon at the Fremantle Markets on Saturday so, without a car we headed there by public transport. For $4.50 each we could travel anywhere on the Transperth network for 2 hours. It baffles us how smaller cities can have cheaper public transport than Sydney. You'd think with a smaller population it would have to cost more but Sydney is the most expensive public transport we've found. The trip to Freo (heave ho) was very pleasant and the markets were lovely. We ended up buying some native fruits to make water more interesting then left with April and Damon for a short, but very warm, stroll to check out the seafood festival. After a few tastings, Julie found her way to the Broome Brewery tasting and Glen ended up at Ironwood Wines tasting. We each relented and did both tastings and bought both wine and beer! Another short stroll brought us to Little Creatures Next Door (next door is the actual brewery, right on the dock). On the way we saw a ton of fish in the harbour around the dock. We ordered the special of the day (Rogers Amber Ale) and sat out on the deck with a lovely view and brilliant company. The next round was to be at The Left Bank Hotel for lunch with Trudy and the kids. Everyone had a great time and Julie got her lobster Glen promised over a year earlier. On the way home with Trudy we stopped at the beach for swim.
The day was so good the next day we decided to do Freo (heave ho) again. With the kids we substituted breweries and alcohol tastings for watching the street performers and lunched on Pizza, but another good day.
On Monday we went to the movies (Dead Pool) Tuesday we went over to April's to kick the footy with her, and have dinner so we stayed the night… we went through a bit of wine… Wednesday we got our shots for Thailand, Thursday we changed the oil and Friday we once again hit the road to adventure. Thanks Trudy for everything while we stayed with you. We enjoyed the late evenings over a wine or two. :)
I know it doesn't sound like we did much in Perth but every day was busy, too busy having fun to write the blog so now we are catching up.
Our first night back on the road, a Friday, we should have known would not be plain sailing. We drove to Lancelin and the Nambung National Park (The Pinnacles) and had dinner in the carpark there. That was where the Friday Curveball hit. We noticed that a bracket had broken a weld It was reinforced by a good old ratchet strap - what you use when duct tape and fencing wire just won't cut it - and, since we still had no idea where we were camping even though it was after 8pm, we decided to head towards Cervantes in hope that the larger town would have a welder available on the Saturday of the long weekend. We pulled up in a free camp (rare in this part of the world apparently) and hit the yellow pages on-line. According to the yellow pages the nearest welder was at Jurien Bay - about 30km north. We rang the next morning but the phone had been disconnected. Undeterred we set off to the address and behold in the same street was a welder, rang the number above the door but he'd given up welding in favour of mowing lawns. He gave us the number of the welder in town, we arranged to meet at his workshop and problem solved.
Jurien Bay is a lovely town so we hit the Tourist information Centre and got the good oil and by the way it’s a long weekend in WA so the only accommodation is the overflow camping at the footy oval for $25 per night. We started out on the town's snorkelling trail, lunched by the beach, headed out to Sandy Cape, a lovely beach/bay and camp area (full) then back into town for dinner on the foreshore again. We weren't unhappy with our free camp 20km out of town so headed back there to one of the best nights of stars we have had… all the cameras were not ready for star trails since they had low batteries!!!
Next morning we headed to Lake Thetis, near Cervantes to the stromatolites. Next! Glen wanted to spend the day four wheel driving so we headed out to Mount Lesueur National Park - interesting fact, 1080 poison is derived from a native plant. All the native animals are resistant but not the ferals. After that we headed to Stockyard Gully Cave - about 450m of cave carved by the creek through limestone. Sandy floor (creek not running at all) and pitch black for a fair way through the middle. After the cave, instead of heading back the way we came we went inland along Pearson's Track and ended up free camping at Lake Indoon. The track was supposed to be challenging but although slow going was very easy but hot, especially for Julie who was sitting on the sunny side the whole time. Lake Indoon was free because of the high risk of meningitis from the cyanobacteria in the water. It was alive with water birds, many black swans, black and white ducks, wading birds and even some pelicans. It had toilets and free warm showers. Bonus, especially after a few days in the heat!
At night beautiful sunsets brought the onset of thousands of tiny night insects and Glen tried star trail photos - unsuccessfully.
The next day, Monday morning (HAPPY BIRTHDAY KYRA BETH MORRIS), most people went home which upped the flies for us. It was also very hot and since this was going to be a lay day we found a shady spot, put on our fly veils, necessity not a fashion statement by any means, and had a couple of fully clothed cold showers to try beat the heat.
That afternoon Glen decided to walk the lap of the lake (about 3.5km) while Julie read and we both finished the day with one of the beers we bought at Fremantle. They certainly went down well.
More unsuccessful star trail attempts that night (all night the swans softly honked, it was beautiful) and an early start to beat the heat so we could head back to the coast.
We arrived in Leeman, Julie fished from the wharf but apart from that and "the cheapest fuel on the Baird Highway" the place had little going for it so we moved on to Port Denison where Julie almost stood on a 30cm baby brown snake! She is so lucky with snakes :) Glen was sent back to take photos.
We spent the afternoon on South Beach, us the car and camper as the beach is firm and everyone, 2wd included drives on the their little piece of heaven by the water. Kite surfing is huge along this whole coast as the coast is protected by an off shore reef and the waves are mostly small.
Since we were finally in a coastal shire that allows free camping (and funds are tight the day before pay day, no lattes today :( we are currently camped at a beach, Flat Rock near Greenough and as I write this in the shade of the camper a gentle breeze is keeping us cool and we are looking out over the ocean with the sound of waves and the sun sinking into the ocean.
OK it's taken a few days to upload so there is now more to say.
We headed toward Greenough and saw the horizontal trees. The wind blows so hard and so consistently that the trees actually grow horizontally. It's a very historic town but we just passed on by to Geraldton.
Geraldton is a nice town built around the harbour. They have upgraded all of the Western Foreshore and just behind the Tourist Information building is the Youth Precinct. The areas for children/youth here are amazing. Geraldton's youth precinct has free wifi, a rage cage (hockey, basketball, indoor soccer all inside a big cage), electronic games that you stand up to play (move to touch buttons) and table soccer and table tennis tables as well as interesting climbing apparatus and swings and merry go rounds. All towns should provide facilities like this.
Today we visited the HMAS Sydney II Memorial. We took the free tour with the volunteer guide and it put a whole new dimension on the place. The whole ships company was lost after an encounter with a German warship and sunk. No trace was found except a dead sailor on a piece of flotsam that washed up on Christmas Island. The memorial was completed in 2001 and in 2008 the ship was found 120 nautical miles off Steep Point (the most Westerly point of mainland Australia). This led to the expansion of the Memorial to recognise the final resting place. Well worth the visit if you get to Geraldton. We spent last night at Coronation Beach and were awake until after midnight chasing a mouse that we had picked up at Flat Rock the night before. Mouse eventually dispatched :)
Still having wonderful time.