Albany to Fitzgerald River NP

Monday, Oct 12, 2009 at 16:40


Back to previous chapter - Northam to Albany

From Walpole our plan was to head towards the Stirling Ranges NP, but first we explored the Flinders Peninsular south of Albany. This is a wonderfully scenic area and we spent a rewarding day visiting many of the special places there. But first we had a couple of lengthy photo stops for the first red banksiaswe had seen, and a riot of wildflower colour on the way out to the natural arch.There was still a heavy ocean swell making spectacular waves that broke around the rocky granite headlands. King George Sound and Princess Royal Harbour were millponds by comparison when we finally set up camp at the aptly named Panorama Caravan Park. There we were entertained by pelicans and the lights of Albany reflected in the water.

Our next destination was the much-anticipated Stirling Ranges National Park. Once again the weather was deteriorating but this did not prevent several photo stops on the way. Unfortunately, low cloud prevented a good view of the mountains as they loomed up. But there were lots more “new” flowers and we were excited to see the bluish mallee called Tallerack, reminding us of home. Another camp kitchen eased us through the wind and showers.

Next morning the showers eased and the cloud lifted from towering Bluff Knoll us we drove up the steep road to the Eastern Lookout. What a magnificent sight, enhanced by the misty clouds and brooding light. We did a short walk, having no aspirations to reach the summit. Then it was time to explore some more of the park which is resplendent in flowers of many hues – yellow flowering gums and wattles, red banksias, purple drumsticks, and orange peas.

Back at the campground that night we met Jim the volunteer ranger and discovered that he and John share a convict ancestor – what a small world it can be.

Before leaving the park we saw a number of the orchids that grow there, often in unlikely places like right on the edge of the road. Since we first found ground orchids at Kalbarri we have become entranced by these complex, delicate little gems. Being small and at ground level they are tricky to photograph; of course we must have photos of each one that we see. To the Cowslips, Spiders, Donkeys, Ants and Greenhoods that we have already seen, we can now add King Spider, Jug and the extravagantly brilliant Queen of Sheba orchids.

The western part of the park was perhaps even more rewarding than the eastern half. There were flowers in profusion and the views from the western lookout were magnificent. So it was with some reluctance that we left this beautiful place and headed north for Wave Rock.

To get there we drove through yet more wind and rain, through rolling green cropping and grazing country that looks very wet in places. The rain eased as we went north but when we did explore Wave Rock it was still very windy. Despite that, the rock (Hyden Rock as it really is) impressed us with its scale and history, despite its postcard familiarity. The Wave is big and the ingenious water harvesting system using constructed contour walls over 30ha of the rock surface intrigued us.

Near Hyden we managed to meet up with Liz and Mike whom we’d met on our travels last year. We spent a delightful day exchanging travel tales and Liz and Val made the most of the local flowers, including several orchids. It was a delight to enjoy good company around a campfire and share some camp cooking.

Then south again via some of the big nature reserves in the area. We went into Ongerup and visited their informative wildflower show, a marvellous effort for a small community. It’s day 100 of this trip, and the weather is the worst yet; wet, very windy and cold, so to celebrate we checked into a cabin with a heater and electric blanket! Later we heard that this same front had caused havoc in the east kicking up dust storms, fires, hail, floods and heavy rain. Maybe it wasn’t so bad here after all!

Continuing south towards Bremer Bay we were continually delighted by wildflowers along the road. Several photo stops revealed more plants that we hadn’t previously seen, and even more orchids. At one such memorable stop we found three more new orchids close together including the spectacular Purple Enamel orchid.

After having a look around Bremer Bay, which seems to be developing its own version of urban sprawl, we headed out into the Fitzgerald River National Park. Soon we were among expanses of the amazing Royal Hakeas resplendent in their stiff red and yellow mottled leaves. The red Banksias were putting on a show too, as were the numerous mauve flowered shrubs that made a solid carpet of colour in places.

We knew that whales could be seen at Point Ann, but it was still breathtaking to see whales and their calves basking in the brilliant turquoise water just a few hundred metres off the beach. One whale really put on a show, breaching 7 or 8 times in quick succession. The sand here is a brilliant white and very fine, so a long walk on the beach on a rare warm sunny afternoon was a real treat. There are well-sheltered campsites here so we shall make this our base for a few days before we set out on the long trek home.

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J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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