Burton’s – Waves, beaches and tin horses – Part 2

Saturday, Feb 02, 2013 at 17:03

Red Dirt Australia


Fires are generally banned in the south of WA from November to April. With the extreme heat and the terrible fires in the East this is understandable but damn it, camping without a fire is like swimming without water! I’m first up around dawn and start to settle into what will become our routine for the next few weeks. Unfold the chairs from under the awning (prevents spiders, nasties and any unexpected rain from surprising the first bum of the day…). Next electric kettle on (carried for those unusual times when we have 240v), coffee cup dripper on top of cups, filled with freshly ground Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (ahh, that smell…), morning ablutions…we won’t go into that in detail…LOL. Finally sprawled in the very comfy Goanna chair, steaming coffee in hand semi reading the latest novel on the iPad, gazing across the lake, listening to the early morning birdsong and feeling the gentle breeze ruffling across the lake……until the first big V8 jet boat screams the morning serenity into oblivion!

Being a little rusty, pack up was surprisingly efficient and fast. We were leaving our Lake Towerinning overnight stop and on the road by 8 o’clock heading out towards Wagin and Katanning.

Suddenly the Toyota Optitron alarms started beeping and flashing, VSC, 4LO and Transmission…oh no…shades of Cape Leveque…not again. There didn’t seem to be any noted change in performance…maybe a little subjective suspension wallowing…Vehicle Stability Control maybe? Oh well, she was still going forward was our motto….let’s keep going. We needed a toilet and coffee stop, definitely in that order, so we had a look around Katanning only to find a very impressive new looking Toyota dealership…. The town has become a regional service centre for the Great Southern and has quite a large Muslim population and a mosque, many people working in the big abattoir. Visiting Great Southern Toyota we met the Service Manager Steve Sloan who couldn’t have been more helpful…what is happening Toyota? Are you finally letting people provide good customer service? Even though the workshop was flat out, he directed Hash a young recently qualified mechanic, now being groomed as service advisor and future management material to assist. Hash hooked up the computer to the OBD plug to discover Code PO430 - Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold (Bank 1) / P0430 Catalyst System Efficiency Below Threshold (Bank 2). This translated as possible an exhaust leak, failing oxygen sensor or failing catalytic converter. Mmmm could be quite an expensive exercise I’m beginning to sense….Hash reset the alarms which didn’t repeat and provided some guidance on inspection and rectification. Once again guys – thanks for help above and beyond the call of duty – great Southern definitely is added to the list of great service providers! I also vowed to reconnect the iPad to the OBD wireless plug that I picked up on eBay. Coupled with the REVS and DASHCOMMAND apps, the iPad can view the fault codes and reset them from the dash. This could come in handy if this problem continues. It is sometimes tricky though to connect the wireless network to get them to work.
After a snack and coffee we tip-toed out of Katanning (trying not to upset Mr VSC) and headed towards places that our visitor Julie had trouble pronouncing…Gnowangerup, Ongerup and Jerramungup. Places of water end in ‘up’ I explained, not explaining that I also had trouble saying them.

Turning south at Jerramungup onto the South Coast Highway heading to the one horse town of Gairdner before veering onto… dirt! Our ‘esteemed’ Premier Mr Barnett is of the opinion that he is doing West Aussies a service by bitumising everything in site…royalties for regions maaate. Half of Fitzgerald is now bitumen to allow the little fat softroaders and the Asian tourists in tiny Hyundai’s visit to this once remote and pristine place…soon it will be a golf course, 5 star hotel and no one will want to visit excepting well heeled foreign tourists that think golf links are the only reason to travel. I’ll have to send Colin one of our ‘Bitumen, another waste of taxpayer’s money’ stickers.

Devil’s Creek Road was gorgeous in its’ red orange dusty hue and soon the Cruiser and faithful Oddy started to look like true bush travellers again. We turned off to make our way to Quaalup Homestead Wilderness Retreat. We’d stayed here a couple of years ago – it is centrally placed in the middle of Fitzgerald, takes bookings and provides some limited power and toilets. We found it convenient because the other sites in Fitzgerald are minimal and on a first come first served basis. Last time we visited they were all chokkers meaning a long trip only to find nowhere to set up house… Karin and Carsten are a couple of Germans that own Quaalup and do a great job. We were welcomed with much friendliness. We learned that Edna the resident emu had now found a boyfriend who kept her busy restricting her visiting times to Quaalup.

We set up in a deserted cosy camping area surrounded by bush. It wasn’t that warm and even a beanie or two appeared towards evening….where is that campfire when you need one? The site was surrounded by a cacophony of bird song, kangaroos hopping by and Edna even dropped in once or twice. The showers rated 3 for pressure and 5 for hotness on the Jack scale and there was only one shower and one toilet for each gender for the whole site. This wasn’t an issue now but would be if people turned up. The Engel was topped up with beer, wine and other necessities, although because of the extra visitor only two bottles of wine could be stored. This necessitated a training session instructing that each empty bottle must be replaced immediately from the stash in the Cruiser. God forbid that a user would find no cold wine in the fridge – this is a capital offence! We’d learned from previous remote trips to store two weeks worth of fantastic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bottles in MSA neoprene holders (to protect them from vibration breakage). Our English visitor advocated cask wine – it makes sense in terms of practicality but NOT in terms of taste…yuk! We’d tried it once and never again. Besides we’d never broken a bottle, they usually get drunk too quickly…LOL. We’d also discovered some creative hiding spots for those times we’d had to enter permit area that discourage alcohol….don’t worry, we have no intention of giving any away!

Poor Julie proved to be a mossie magnet. It was strange as no one else had even seen one, so we can only presume that Julie operated like a reverse mossie coil and attracted every inspect away from the rest of us. Maybe our antibodies actually worked and poor Julie’s pommy blood is devoid of them……still her legs were a mess so Amanda provided some antiseptic and antihistamine for the incessant itching….good on Julie, she didn’t complain even once…and looking at the mess her legs were in I sure would have!

The Fitzgerald park includes the Barren Mountains and Eyre Range and the Fitzgerald River as well as incorporating the Fitzgerald Biosphere. There are 62 plant species which are unique to the 329,882 hectares (815,160 acres) park and a further 48 are rarely found elsewhere.

We spent the next day visiting the Point Ann campsites and beach – you wouldn’t read about it….it was virtually empty with plenty of room for us! On reflection though, Quaalup was probably a better spot geographically with more options and things to do. We visited the whale watching platforms, examined the wildflowers before heading to the 4WD only track towards Trigelow Beach. Towards the end and prior to the beach entry long strips of conveyor had been laid to assist Nissans and other less capable vehicles descend. Sadly the ocean had washed away the bottom causing the track to be closed. Using shank’s power only we visited the pristine beaches – the whitest sand in the world, resembling talcum powder that actually squeaks when you walk on it!

After snacks out of the back of the Cruiser we headed in the opposite direction toward the Gairdner River marked on the map as “Very soft sand!” “Tip – park just before the shack then walk…” Is this a challenge or what? I know last time we were here we rescued a ute with no recovery gear. We were quite miffed that we dirtied out previously pristine ARB pack - why can you never seem to get it all to fit back into the bag once it's been opened?. This time after a walking recce we braved the soft sand and made it without even engaging low range. We followed the river around to the coast admiring the rugged, vital views before walking the beaches. Amanda spotted a large Perenti (racehorse goanna) which seemed to want to pose for a number of photos. Julie the English visitor was quite amazed at this primitive reptile.

Suitably energised by some roughish four wheel driving, many new scrapes on the deteriorating paint work we slouched contently in our King Goannas sipping New Zealand wine and wondering what the poor people were doing…..

Tomorrow we head for Stokes National Park, another unknown and will we find a place to set up the Oddy…?
Mike & Amanda
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