Western Australia Trip 2012 – Part 11 : Caron to Jilakin Rock

Sunday, Dec 16, 2012 at 15:07

Member - John and Val

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“Round and round the rugged rocks” might have been a theme for the next few days. Sampling some half ripe quandongs made for an interesting start to the day and left our palates in “ragged rascal” state. Those quandongs were very dry, though well liked by ants.

Our first sightseeing stop was at Buntine Rock where we had stayed a few days on an earlier trip. This time quite a number of caravans were set up there and the rock itself was busy. We spent a while exploring over and around the rock, finding a few orchids and pink trigger plants. Although the rock is not particularly high, from the top there is a good view to be had looking west over rolling paddocks of wheat and canola, while to the east is the low scrub of the adjoining nature reserve.

Continuing south we soon joined the Great Northern Highway at Wubin where we stopped for a cuppa and watched the endless northerly parade of big trucks carrying mining equipment. Loads of tyres for heavy machinery went by, 8 to a trailer, then just three huge tyres making up a load. We had heard how busy this road was, but seeing this traffic really brought it home to us. Who said the mining boom was over! We were pleased that we hadn’t planned to be on the highway for more than about 40kms.

We were on the lookout for a laundry so pulled in to the caravan park at Dalwallinu. The kind lady there generously agreed to my request to use their laundry, and she also told me about the prolific display of wreath flowers out near the Mt. Gibson mine. We were tempted to drive out for a look but it would involve quite a bit of backtracking, and anyway we had already seen a few wreath flowers. While the washing machines churned away John refuelled and I chatted to a young Taiwanese man who was working his way around the country, mainly doing farm-work. As we chatted he received an email setting up a job interview. He was very excited about that, and good luck to him. We know a few young Aussie men who could benefit by being so enterprising.

Then we were back on the road, turning east at Pithara and heading for Petrudor Rocks. There was one other vehicle there when we arrived and that soon left, so that apart from one passing vehicle we had the place to ourselves for the duration of our stay. There was an extensive open area with short green grass, though very little firewood in the vicinity. Petrudor Rocks was obviously a popular picnic and camping area with lots of fireplaces scattered about. Sadly, many included broken and melted glass and cans. We did a bit of a clean up to get rid of the worst of the broken glass – it really doesn’t take long and makes for a much more pleasant stay. We set up near the base of the rock where there were some trees, strung out a clothesline and left the brisk wind to dry our washing.

Then it was time to go exploring up on the rock where we found some gnarled Kunzea pulchella bushes covered with bud and one early cluster of brilliant scarlet flowers. There was a sizeable pool of clear water on top of the rock feeding a bigger but murky pool at the base of the rock near our camp. This pool was guarded by bees that seemed to have a hive in a cleft in the rocks just above the pool.

With water available and even a strong phone signal, this would be a good spot to spend a few days. Our plans though were to continue working our way south towards the coast, skirting around the eastern edge of the wheatbelt.

We made an early start the next morning, but our progress was short lived, and for the best of reasons. We came upon a great display of flowering shrubs, so we spent the next hour admiring and photographing them – grevilleas, drumsticks, hakeas, myrtles, casuarinas and some lovely mallee with smooth white bark.

Then back on the road again passing through endless miles of wheat, though many of the crops were stunted and would not yield much grain. We were astonished by the scale and extent of wheat growing in WA, especially seeing huge crops growing in what looks like just sand. Surprisingly, apart from a few sheep grazing on failed wheat crops, we saw very few farm animals. All very different from the wheat growing that we are more familiar with on the well-watered fertile soils of the western slopes of NSW.

Our knowledge of WA wheat growing was expanded when we stopped for morning tea at yet another big rock near Mollerin Lake and met a mother-and-daughter duo having a few days respite from farming. They were local wheat growers and obligingly answered our many questions about growing wheat in such a dry area. The average property size in this area is about 3000 acres (about 1350ha). Average rainfall is only 11 inches (275mm), although this year it is down to 100mm. Growing a successful crop depends a lot on the timing of rainfall and planting.

A walk up Mollerin Rock gave us more views, a few pockets of flowers including boronia and melaleuca, and little pools of water. At the top were some fence posts somehow driven into solid rock. Back on the road we worked our way via very good back roads and endless wheat paddocks to Bencubbinn where we had lunch, and Muckinbudin where we did a bit of food shopping. We were struck by the increasing size of agricultural machinery on display in these towns; huge 12 wheeled tractors emphasised the scale of the wheat growing enterprise.

Lake Campion seemed a possible spot for an overnighter, but we were disappointed to find just a series of desolate dry salt pans. With the wind and heavy cloud building up we did a bit of exploring, following some of the many tracks in the area. Mostly they led into ti-tree scrub, although one took us into an abandoned mining site. Eventually we found a spot in open gimlet forest, where, although there was not much shelter from the wind, at least we were off the road and among some attractive trees. A bit of a walk around suggested that the area had a long history of use, as there were many old rusty tins and spirit bottles with rusted on caps testifying to cold and lonely nights in the bush.

The threatened rain did not eventuate, so getting back on the road the following morning was straightforward – or would have been if Troopy hadn’t developed an annoying habit of being reluctant to start when cold. This had been recurring over the last few days so we pulled out the manuals and checked as best we could that everything seemed to be OK. We decided to see if we could find someone in Merredin who might be able to check out the carbie. We found the Toyota dealer, and after the young girl on the front desk had a quick lesson in what a carburettor was for, we were advised that the only person in town who could help was away on leave. Albany might be a better place to find help.

So we continued south, stopping at Totadgin Conservation park for a cuppa. There were two other rigs there and all of us had trouble parking in the tiny parking bays ringed by green log barriers. Sedans only seemed to be welcome there. That area was very dry and much of the wheat was struggling. Further south we came to Bruce Rock a small town with very wide streets and a tourist centre/display of the local history. We stopped to see if we could buy a decent paper map covering the area but had to be content with tourist brochures.

South of Bruce Rock the country started to look better, as presumably there had been more rain. As well as wheat there were tall crops of canola in full flower, and the roads were lined with bronze-barked gimlet and another gum with shiny leaves and lovely creamy white bark. We had lunch under one such tree. The day was warm and we had to keep a sharp lookout for the many shingleback (or stumpytail) lizards that were out sunbaking on the roads. They can be hard to spot and are hard to dodge if you come upon them suddenly. As they mate for life we didn’t want to run over them if we could help it.

We did a dog-leg west to Corrigin, then east again on the road to Kondinin where Gorge Rock looked possible for our next stop. But when we arrived there it seemed the place had been so well used that it had been “upgraded”. Now there was a ring of green posts surrounding a gravelled parking area that might be OK for caravans but did not appeal to us.

So we headed towards Kulin, a small town notable for its bush racing carnival in spring. On the outskirts of town there is also a wildflower drive that took us through a big patch of Eucalyptus macrocarpa. Unfortunately there were no flowers on these lanky specimens.

Kulin is also the start of the Tin Horse Way that continues out to Hyden and Wave Rock. Local property owners have marked their frontages with tin horses made from scrap metal and other materials in a humorous neighbourhood competition. So we thoroughly enjoyed the drive east, stopping several times to take photos of some of the clever and funny creations.

Jillakin Rock is out near the bush racecourse, and although there are no facilities in the bush camping area we were able to find a sheltered spot beside the huge rock. With a bit of manoeuvring we were able to get set up and level. We will stay here for at least a couple of nights.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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