Western Australia Trip 2012 – Part 9 : Kalbarri to Canna

Friday, Dec 14, 2012 at 17:28

Member - John and Val

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Leaving Kalbarri we’d suffered a bad attack of Sudden-Onset-Battery-Dead syndrome. Experience sometimes teaches us useful things, and this situation was a case in point. After a dead alternator experience last year John had arranged things so that the house batteries could be used to charge the starting battery or start and run the engine should the need arise. (Troopy has a petrol engine, so electric ignition.) So starting was simple, though stopping and starting as we often do when sightseeing was not desirable. So our hastily revised plan would be to head back towards Geraldton where we would, if necessary, be able to get a new battery on Monday morning. A steady run would recharge all the batteries and confirm whether the cranking battery was indeed dead.

So we headed south along the coast road, crossed the highway at Northhampton and enjoyed a pleasant drive through the scenic Chapman Valley. There were good looking wheat and canola crops, and many flat topped hills – but no photos as we did not want to stop unless really necessary. We came across a well set up rest/camp area just inland from Geraldton. We contemplated stopping there but although good for caravans (it even had a dump point) it did not have much shelter, so we continued on to Ellendale Pool where we knew we could find a more sheltered campsite.

When we arrived at Ellendale Pool we found quite a few others camped there, but after a bit of scouting around we found a nicely sheltered spot quite close to the pool. More campers came in later in the afternoon, so it was a busy spot. The campground is maintained by the Geraldton City Council, which charges $5 per vehicle per night for a maximum of 5 nights stay. There are flushing toilets and the rubbish is regularly removed.

We took a walk around and chatted to some of the other campers – Troopy owners who had done a lot of remote travel, and a delightful couple, Ray and Lyn from Tasmania. While we were chatting a chap came by wielding a chainsaw and proceeded to cut some firewood out of a green tree that had grown horizontal close to the ground presumably following some accident in its youth. We were all momentarily struck dumb, then recovered our wits enough to point out that there were signs requesting campers not to destroy the local vegetation, and that what he had cut was a green living tree, no good for burning. The logic of his response amazed us – the branch had to be dead because it was lying on the ground. (Reminder to self – never lie on the ground!) He took his “firewood” back to his centrally located caravan and campfire where with the help of lots of accelerant it smoked and smouldered for the rest of the day, nicely complementing the generator that he started up soon after. A great example of the ugly side of camping.

After dinner Lyn and Ray came over and we continued our afternoon chat while sitting around our little campfire. Nearby was a large group and we commented how happily the children were all playing together. It got better – it was a Fathers and Daughters weekend and later in the evening some of the Dads came round carrying two big camp ovens. They had prepared a big roast meal with all the trimmings, but had over-catered, so were generously sharing the surplus with their neighbours. We were happy to oblige them and ended up with a feast for all four of us the following night. To round things out, when we learned that Lyn had never eaten damper John quickly prepared one, which was rapidly devoured to much acclaim. Such are the simple pleasures of life on the road.

To pass the time over the weekend we explored the big area around the pool, finding plenty of Cowslip orchids and admiring the scenery afforded by the cliffs and reflections in the water. It was cool so we weren’t tempted into the water, but there were quite a few others who were swimming and boating and just enjoying being outdoors.

Over the weekend we had been using the solar panels to push as much charge as possible into the cranking battery. So when we discovered on Monday morning that the battery was not holding charge we decided to go into Geraldton for a replacement. Before we left we learned that a strong front was coming through, threatening heavy rain, hail and strong winds, so we left the trailer behind to retain our reasonably sheltered site.

It was a very windy drive into town and even windier coming back. We felt sorry for caravans that were trying to huddle off the road into the shelter of spindly trees. Still we got a new battery and topped up on a few other items, arriving back in camp with just enough time to get the tent up and covered with tarps before the first rain hit. There was strong wind and heavy rain during the night, and the morning brought thunder and small hail. We decided that it was not a good day for travelling so settled in to spend another day at eventful Ellendale Pool. By evening the rain was gone and the wind was easing.

That pause gave us time to check that the new battery was holding charge and confirm that there were no other gremlins in the electrical system. So when we were ready to head off the next morning we were not impressed when Troopy again refused to start. This time the problem was easily fixed, as the rain and high humidity had wet the ignition circuitry. We dried it all and finally we were on our way. We were happy to be back on the road, but rarely have we experienced such a bunch of highs and lows when out camping. We have met wonderful folk, but sadly there are a few in the mix that we would hope not to cross paths with again.

So, normality restored, and the benefits of a flexible schedule once again noted we set out to drive down to Mingenew. We went via the Burma Road Nature Reserve where we stopped to see a good display of heathland flowers – Banksias, Tinsel lilies, Hibbertias among others. A pleasant surprise was in store when we came upon a clump of Eucalyptus macrocarpa in full flower, requiring a lengthy stop for photos. What astonishing gum trees they are, though they are more tumble-down shrubs than trees.

Road closures meant a detour into Mingenew where we sought out the wonderful bakery for pies and bread. The lady at the tourist centre was very friendly and helpful, and there was a phone signal so we were able to check our emails.

Leaving Mingenew we again took minor roads heading to Canna and these took us through some good patches of everlastings. Once at Canna we had a look around the “Old Camp” where there were only a couple of vans and plenty of space for us among big swathes of yellow everlastings. Then we drove across to the famous orchid trail around the old dam where we spent a couple of hours happily searching for orchids. Although the dry weather had reduced the number of flowers, we did find a good range of orchids – including spiders, pink fairies, mantis orchids and greenhoods.

Finally we went up to the tiny village where we found a wonderful new amenities block with flushing toilets and hot showers. We also noticed what looked like a mobile phone antenna on a nearby railway tower. Back at the Old Camp, we followed one of the numerous tracks into the surrounding bush until we found a spot that met our strict selection criteria – it had to be both sheltered and scenic with a good supply of firewood, open space where a fireplace could be set and no overhanging trees. Fortunately plenty of such spots were available and as an added bonus there was a strong phone signal. So there we set up camp and were able to have a chat with family back home. This is camping at its best, and we will probably enjoy a few days here.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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