WA September-October 2009

Tuesday, Nov 10, 2009 at 12:34

Member - Min (NSW)

4 September – Hay
Left home near Canberra under ‘John Constable’ clouds and passed through Gundagai, Junee, Coolamon, Narrandera to reach Hay. The country was green and lush with lots of sheep and some cattle all the way to Narrandera. Once on the Hay Plain (I don’t know where it officially starts but my feeling is it starts at Darlington Point and ends just short of Balranald) it looked as it usually does – flat with irrigation channels here and there and occasional rice paddies, and treeless apart from those lining the Murrumbidgee to the north of us.
Hay was looking fairly prosperous and is a pleasant town with a couple of supermarkets and all services. We stayed in the Nicholas Royal Motel ($90 for seniors) right in the centre of town and were able to park the camper safely opposite our room. It was very quiet there.
We will stay in a motel tomorrow night too and hope to start camping in Port Augusta.

5 September – Renmark
Once more unto the Hay Plain via Maude which boasts no shops but does have the Post Office Hotel, the Murrumbidgee River and a weir. The drive is 14km longer to reach the Sturt Hwy but it is a change, the road is good with very little traffic.
I always look forward to the ‘hill’ (10 ft high) complete with cairn before Balranald. Balranald must be a front runner for the Tidy Town Prize.
Somewhere between Balranald and Euston we passed a cyclist heading east chatting to an old timer driving a horse and cart complete with bed, roof, and side flaps. Good on them both, a different way to see the world for those with the patience.
We were then into mallee country and the land of the endangered Mallee Fowl. I saw only one huge mound from the car.
Mildura is a very large and growing town which takes full advantage of the Murray River which is particularly lovely there with extensive parkland and a lock.
There is a quarantine station at Yamba SA where all fresh fruit and most vegetables must be handed over. Just down the road is the Big Bend where we were shocked at the sight of the river. It is much diminished and there is a great deal of erosion on the banks which are cliffs high above the water. As we were looking at it a local came by and said that there are plans for major revegetation and a lock. It can’t happen soon enough.
We are staying in Renmark (Citrus Valley Motel $94) which I have always enjoyed. It’s not too big and has beautiful parkland along the river to be enjoyed after a long drive.

6-7 September – Port Augusta
Morgan was the next stop after a drive where we only saw a few other vehicles. It is on the river (the caravan park has river frontage) and there is a car ferry to cross over. It is an historical town with some lovely old buildings and parkland on the river front. As we travelled along looking at the saltbush with sheep happily grazing we reminisced about delicious meals of saltbush lamb our family has shared when our daughter was living in Adelaide.
We always enjoy going to Burra, an old tin mining town tucked away in a lovely valley. It also has many historical buildings including miners’ cottages which are available as accommodation.
After Burra we kept to the back roads and passed through Mt Bryan, Hallett, Jamestown, and Booleroo Centre to Melrose. There are large wind farms from Mt Bryan to near Jamestown. The countryside was spectacularly green with the occasional vibrant contrast of fields of yellow canola. There were increasingly more trees as we approached Melrose which backs onto the Remarkable National Park with its wonderful walking tracks including Alligator Gorge, accessed close to Wilmington. I would choose Melrose over Wilmington as a base for the Remarkables as it has more facilities and quite a nice atmosphere with a couple of gift shops and galleries and a park. Soon after Wilmington is steep Horrock’s Pass which leads down to the plains and views of the Flinders Ranges before reaching Port Augusta.
We have started camping and are in the Big 4 only about a kilometre from the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden, which is our main reason for staying here for two days.
We arrived at the Botanic Gardens in time for the 10 a.m. guided walk (approx. $6) which was conducted by a very knowledgeable volunteer. It went for 2 hours and we saw many of my favourite Eremophilas as well as Acacias, Eucalypts, Solanums, salt bushes, blue bushes, and heaps of other plants from the arid lands. There was also a new area demonstrating beautifully landscaped water wise gardens for various environments of Australia. No one could claim that Australian plants are dull and boring after viewing these gardens which ranged from very informal to very formal and were alive with colour, texture and variety. They were not large areas and would be quite achievable on a suburban block without huge cost. Quite inspirational.

8 September – Coober Pedy
Our journey today from Port Augusta to Coober Pedy was long and almost boring. I’ve never felt that way travelling anywhere before but this is the first time we have done that section going north and I think that is the difference. Travelling south the views are better, I especially remember the Flinders Ranges in the late afternoon light.
However, after yesterday at the Botanic Gardens I was more aware of the variety in the flora as we sped by. The ‘pearl blue bush’ that the Israelis developed into a multi-million dollar cut flower business was there as far as the eye can see but unless you get out of the car and look closely at a single bush you don’t realise how beautiful it is. When we stopped to change drivers I noticed at least six different kinds of plant in a square metre. The flora was mostly blue bush, salt bush, Senna (previously known as Cassia), Casuarina, and Acacia.
We are in the Big 4 in Coober Pedy. It’s okay. I’m so pleased that last time we were here we did a half-day tour around town, through the mine area to the Breakaways, and out along the dog fence. If we had not done it we would have been left only with the impression of the town and the hopelessness of the Aboriginal people. It is so sad to see them is such condition. A few individuals walk around with their head up and a purposeful demeanour, such a contrast to most who shuffle along seeming to go nowhere in particular. These people are not drunk, just lost.

9 September – Erldunda
The drive to Erldunda today was more interesting than yesterday with occasional changes in the country and some abrupt changes in the flora from desert, to low scrub, to medium sized trees. When we reached Erldunda the beautiful desert oaks were quite evident, with some lovely mature specimens close by.

10 September – Yalara
Today was lovely with the undulating countryside and the sight of Mt Connor visible from quite a distance away. It looks like a huge bute from the Arizona desert with it’s flat top, straight sides for about a quarter of its height and then sloping outwards to the ground. I’m sure some people, coming along the road for the first time, think for a moment that they are seeing Uluru but soon realise that the shape is quite wrong.
We pulled into Yalara at 11.30, set up, did the washing, went to town to pick up a couple of things and then came back for lunch and lazed around for the rest of the day getting ready for the real beginning of our holiday tomorrow as we set off on the Great Central Road to see the wildflowers of Western Australia.

11 September – Warakurna
As usual there was quite a wait at the park gates. We did not have to pay when we explained that we were going through to Laverton and that we had our permits. Uluru and Kata Tjuta beautiful and imposing in the bright morning light as we passed by. We turned onto the Docker River road with some anticipation and excitement as I have wanted to do this drive ever since passing the turnoff 11 years ago the first time we went to Uluru for John’s 60th birthday.
The road was not quite as bad as we had expected on today’s drive – some crook corrugations in places but not too bad and there were some stony patches but also some good stretches.
There were lots of wildflowers especially Silver Tails (Ptilotus obovatus) which covered large areas with a soft bluey-silver haze. Honey Grevillea (Grevillea eriostachya) also popped up from time to time making a golden statement with its long racemes. The flora changed frequently with the change in landform. At times we seemed to be looking out over parkland dotted with shrubs but those creamy grass heads blowing in the breeze so innocently were spiteful spinifex.
It was interesting to see Lasseter’s cave where he rested after his camels had bolted before setting out to walk 150km for help, with the assistance for a time of an Aboriginal family. He had very little water and perished before reaching his goal.
We stayed at Warakurna Roadhouse which has a good camp kitchen, clean toilets and showers and powered sites. The young couple with two little children who were beside us had been there for four days waiting for a local mechanic to bring back two new tyres from Alice having had three flat tyres out of Warburton. He admitted that his tyres weren’t very good. A hard lesson.

12 September – Tjukaylia
The Giles met station is just up the road and there is a guided tour at 8.30 every day to see the balloon go up and have an explanation of the history of the place and see how the numerous measurements are taken. In the small museum there are two wonderful murals painted by Len Beadell in 1958. He had surveyed the weather station shortly before then.
Our guide also explained a little about the local community. It is well organised, dry, and the people are friendly. It was to this community that all but a couple of the last desert people came in the 60s. Originally they went to Docker River but there was not enough water there so they were transferred to Warakurna. (I really would like to confirm this.) It is a beautiful place at the foot of the Rawlinson Range. There is permanent water in rockholes in those hills although some of them and surrounding vegetation has been destroyed by camels. We saw camels a little later in the morning.
The road improved and we were able to sit on our self-imposed limit of 90 for long stretches. But it doesn’t do to get complacent because some corrugations or dips can sneak up on the unwary. Again today where were more wildflowers quite new to us and there was a Desert Kurrajong (Brachychiton gregorii) featured with an interpretive sign by the roadside. These trees were valuable to Aboriginal people who used the light, easily worked wood for making domestic items, the seeds were roasted and eaten, and the roots were an emergency source of water.
Tjukaylia is very suitable with excellent amenities and power. There is also motel-style accommodation and a resident emu!

13 September – Leonora
We set off today on a very good road. Judging by the work being carried out it will be even better. We saw lots of wildflowers again and I’ve given up trying to identify them for now, it will have to wait until we stay put for a few day or even after we get home. It’s just lovely to see them.
Along the road there are ‘Outback Way’ signs pointing to places of interest and today we stopped at a white cross erected by Aboriginal Christians high on a rocky outcrop. There were caves below and paintings on the walls but I suspect most of them were graffiti apart from one or two in red and white ochre. The sign also gave a good explanation of mulga – a description and how it survives with so little water, and how it has been used over time.
Another sign pointed us to an ancient ‘gnamma’ or rockhole and explained how Aboriginal people find their way over hundreds of miles via significant sites such as this without maps but by songlines handed down through generations. While we were there we were treated to the sight of a Major Mitchell cockatoo circle around and warily approach the rockhole then walk down the ramp and have a drink.
We drove through Laverton thinking Leonora would be larger. It is, slightly. We are here for the night and will travel to Sandstone, having read a good report of it, however we may not stay there if we feel happy to continue as I know we are going to run out of time.

14 September – Mt Magnet
There was evidence of mining all along the road today. Many road trains of four trailers but very little other traffic. It was easy driving and wildflowers all along the roadside.
Sandstone is a tiny town, very attractive, with potted plants in full bloom. The post office is also a small supermarket and deli and we were able to get a sandwich there, even a table and chairs outside. The visitor info centre was quite well set up with a small museum attached and a helpful lady.
We continued on to Mt Magnet where the cv park was simple, clean and comfortable. We parked on a concrete slab and the trailer was on lovely green lawn – what a treat. The only problem there was that the trucks rumbled through all night.

15-16 September – Mullewa
Wildflowers lined our route all the way to Mullewa and we couldn’t resist stopping many times to take photos and hope to identify them in the evening.
We stopped in Yalgoo to see a tiny church built by Fr Hawes, an architect priest in the first half of last century in the Geraldton diocese. It had a wooden belltower and a dome over the alter.
The caravan park here in Mullewa is run by the council and is well designed, clean and well cared for. Some of the big names could learn a lot from this place, especially as we are only paying $17.50 pn. We have a spacious site with the camper parked on bitumen with the car beside it and good grass for the annex.
The lady at the info centre is very helpful and directed us to a lovely stretch of road at Pindar where the Lechenaultia macrantha (wreath flower) is growing on the roadside for about a kilometre. They are young plants so are not big but still beautiful. There are also many other plants along the stretch including the small, brilliant orange bush pomegranate.
We also looked at Fr Hawes’ church and priest’s house in the town. They are lovely, large buildings made of the local stone. He did much of the work himself and worried that his hands were so rough that he would spoil his silk vestments. The church has a bell tower and a central dome and two smaller domes, one on each side (one is the baptistery). He was an amazing man who later in life returned to the Bahamas to become a hermit. He built his hermitage, of course. There are many examples of his work – churches, priests’ houses, nuns’ houses, and schools – in the surrounding region.
There was a big storm and strong winds late this afternoon and when we got back poor John had to get the annex up in this weather as it was getting dark. We never use it if we don’t have to when we’re only staying a night or two. I like cooking in the open.
We awoke to a fine day with cloud around but the info centre said there would be no rain. We did some email, came back for lunch and to get the washing in (I don’t trust the clouds after yesterday) and then set off on the road to Canna where the orchids grow. Again, the way was a picture of white, yellow, and patches of pink. There were also some lovely shrubs of Isopogon and Hakea.
When we reached Canna there were mud maps on the veranda of the general store directing the way to the orchids. It was spectacular walking around the dam area which was covered in mostly yellow and white but with other flowers such as fringed lilies which were growing as a creeper and twined all through some shrubs. We didn’t have much luck with the orchids at first but someone showed me some then we found some on our own. After finishing there we went to the Lutheran church and walked a short distance from there and found heaps of orchids, Hibbertia, Dampiera, etc.
What a wonderful couple of days.
The photos were very disappointing. I think after three years or so it’s time to find out how the camera works!

17-19 September – Kalbarri
It was hard to resist stopping along the road into Kalbarri, colours and shapes were bombarding us from both sides of the road. We resolved to get set up first then examine the road at leisure over the next couple of days.
In the afternoon we looked at the more distant gorges above the Murchison River both of which were quite high and rugged. We stopped frequently the look at flowers all the way back and took lots of photos. There were yellow and pink Verticordias, fringed lilies, lots of Calytrix… on and on. The books were out in the evening to try to identify the plants with moderate success. We met some very knowledgeable people who consoled us with the comment that even the books are quite often wrong! An exciting, happy, wondrous day.
According to the weather report at the NP centre yesterday we were to have heavy rain all day but although we awoke to a light shower there were a few more drops then it fined up. So it was off to Red Bluff and Mushroom Rock which give great views up the coast and of course there were lots more flowers along the walks.
We called in to the seahorse farm which was quite interesting. The seahorses are flown out daily for sale in pet shops which should prevent seahorses from being harvested from the sea for the pet trade.
I was determined to have a devonshire coffee today so that was lunch – very unhealthy but yummy. We had it at the wildflower place just out of town. There is a wildflower walk there but there we didn’t do it because we’d prefer to find the flowers and have the challenge of identifying them ourselves.
We headed out to the Big Loop, Nature’s Window and Z Bend which is supposedly on a corrugated and rough road. It was almost as smooth as a baby’s bottom. More flowers and incredible views and lots of happy people. On the way to Z Bend there was a profusion of Melaleucas, purple, fading through pink to white. There were huge bushes of it all over the surrounding hills. The scenery was dramatic with the red, almost purple rock surrounding us. We could even see fish swimming in the river from high above the Z bend.
It was good to go to bed feeling tired after such enjoyable exercise.

20 September – Shark Bay
A dash to Denham for three days, stopping at Hamelin Pool to see the stromatolites, not spectacular in any way but fascinating and a must see. One-and-a-half kilometre long Shell Beach was the other stop, not much to see there either but to understand that the shells are several metres deep and the compacted shells provide an effective building material in the local area. They are also the source of lime for cement making and are considered a renewable resource as they are continuing to build up and can be harvested sustainably.
Went to the fancy new visitors centre to look at the exhibition about the significance of this World Heritage area. It was very good with modern, innovative displays. Just thought we’d ask about trips by boat and 4x4 to Steep Point (after having been told at the cv park that ‘he hardly ever goes’ – very vague) and booked a trip for tomorrow. That meant that we would have to go to Francois Peron NP today, so off we went.
What a great day! Visited the Peron homestead first then set off on the 40km of soft sand and birrida drive. The road varied between red sand and hard, potholed track on the edges of the claypans (birridas). The deep red cliffs are amazing, especially when set against white sandy beaches and blue sky. There are large numbers of cormorants around the point and the seagrass beds are just off shore so we watched dugongs feeding and generally doing what dugongs do, all in pairs. Then the dolphins arrived and, working as a team, come right to the beach herding sea mullet, snapped them up, then frantically back paddled to get into swimmable water again. Who needs Monkey Mia?
Speaking of which – we thought we’d go around there after leaving Peron to have coffee and pump up the tyres. We did not realise that there is nothing there except the resort/cv park and CALM wanting $11. We turned around and headed back to Denham.
The boat trip to Steep Point left from the jetty at 8.30. There was a family of four also on the trip. We climbed aboard and our guide showed us where we were going on the wall map then we were off – no introductions, no seats except the big ice boxes for fish, no life jackets as far as we could see. We weren’t sure if it was okay to go into the ‘shed’ where the ‘bridge’ and kitchen was which had a wooden bench along two sides but as I couldn’t stand up for an hour-and-a-half in the rocky sea I went in. He and the deckie we quite nice fellows but exceedingly casual.
As we travelled out we could clearly see the salt piles from the mines at Useless Loop and before long we were passing close to Dirk Hartog Island looking at the goats there and the huge sea eagles’ nest which stood out from the guano covered rocks (from cormorants). The sea was the most beautiful turquoise colour as we neared Steep Point.
We transferred to the beach in two trips in a tiny dinghy then waited for our guide to run about a kilometre up the road to get the troopy (thank heavens it had good forward-facing seats). We then embarked on a great tour of the Steep Point area and saw the ferocious seas pounding the rock cliffs as we cautiously looked over the edge. We all had photos taken at the most westerly point of mainland Australia and then found a nice spot for lunch. I finally said to our guide, “I don’t know your name” and then it was introductions all round – he was Heath and the deckie was Adam. It turned out that the family of four had travelled to the extremities of the mainland for the last four years, usually by camper-trailer but this was so far from their home at McKay, Qld, and they didn’t want their elder son to miss any school, that they had flown to Perth, then Geraldton, hired a car and driven to Shark Bay. They had done the north, east and south and so they generously shared a bottle of champagne to celebrate the ‘west’. They are now going to start on lighthouses, probably the idea came from staying at the lighthouse at Wilsons Promontory when they did the ‘south’.
After some great hamburgers we were taken for walks along several beaches and cliffs and saw the great lengths people go to to catch miserable (Heath’s description) Spanish mackerel. They take bottles of helium for the balloons they attach to their lines as they fish from the cliffs. There were also many slabs of beer stacked up in the camps and no sign of a female.
It was a smooth and enjoyable trip back. Heath could make a good business with Steep Point tours if he wanted to but he is a fifth generation fisherman and that is really all he wants to do. He would certainly need to learn more about the history and flora of the area to make a well rounded tour. After such a great day out it would be nice to think others could have a trip like we did.

23-24 September – Eneabba (Western Flora)
Made a quick getaway from Shark Bay with just coffee in the drink containers and we stopped at the first roadhouse and got ready made toasted sandwiches to eat along the way. We had a look around Geraldton, including the Fr Hawes’ cathedral (a disappointment because of the unsympathetic additions that have been done and the bold painted striped walls on the inside) then continued on to Eneabba to Western Flora park.
After setting up we went on the afternoon walk around some of the park with Alan Tinker who owns it and has a great way of imparting knowledge and engendering interest in the plants and their pollinators. As he walked around he took some flowers and at the end we went into the theatre where he showed the flowers under a microscope projected onto a screen. It was a wonderful afternoon. We then went to dinner, cooked and served by his wife, Lorraine. We sat with two other couples and had a great evening laughing and talking as if we’d known each other for ages.
The next morning we went on a 4x4 tag-along with Alan driving for 50km on bush tracks in the region. We had many stops and covered a range of soil types and plant environments. It was worth every cent of the $27.50 each. So many photos!

25 September-3 October – Perth
Arrived at our friends’ home at Ocean Reef and we were all pleased to see each other after 18 months. Went to Kings Park for the festival and did a guided walk which took two hours – too long. The guide was good and clearly spoken but you could see people glazing over after an hour-and-a-half. Did some driving around the Perth area looking at flowers including a visit to the Gravity Discovery Centre which John (a retired physicist) thought was as good a Questacon and the grounds had walking tracks with lovely flora (with name plates). They publish a good book with fascinating facts about flora found in the grounds (Extraordinary Plants $15).

4 October – Narrogin
Started our trip South and stopped at Narrogin, a very attractive town, so we could visit the Dryandra Woodlands. The cv pk was Council run and awful ($25) but there was no choice.
We went to the Woodlands, visited some patches of more lovely and fascinating plants.
Had dinner (steak or fish with salad and chips, $10 – very good) at the Duke of York pub where it was very crowded and we sat with an interesting couple from Ipswich (Qld) who went to visit their son in Port Headland and intended to be away for a couple of months. They are just heading home now after three years. How anyone could stay in that place for longer than necessary is beyond me. They loved it. It just shows that time in a place can completely change your perception.
It is cold and windy.

5-8.October – Stirling Range Retreat
We headed to Mount Barker thinking it would be a good base for three or four days but could not get suitable accommodation due to a wine competition and the second week of the holidays so took a punt and phoned the Stirling Range Retreat. We tried for cabins (it is so cold and rain is forecast) but no vacancies so had to settle for camping and it has worked out well. It is a great place and would by idyllic if the weather was fine and mild but it started raining on and off on 6th after a ‘Hidden Treasures Orchid Bus Tour’ where we saw about 20 orchids and other plants. Very good. There is a maze of walking tracks within the Retreat and we went for a walk in the ‘drip’ in the afternoon. Took lots of photos and were able to identify nearly all. A real highlight was seeing a about a metre square patch of white lace lichen.
There is a large variety of birds, and frogs serenade through the night – very pleasant, not too close.
One of the ‘must dos’ for me was a visit to the Banksia Farm in Mount Barker. After about 11 years we saw a huge difference. There is now a self-guided walk and one can visit every Banksia in existence as well as most Dryandras (now included in the Banksia genus, much to the amazement of some including me) and many other Australian plants and a lovely cottage garden. Kevin Collins, the owner and author of ‘Banksias’ (with Kathy Collins and Alex George) found us in the garden and showed us some interesting plants after he heard that some people had come in with his book tucked under the arm and had been here some time ago. He is just as I remember him. We had soup and homemade bread in the coffee shop/gallery where there are some full-sized prints of Celia Rosser’s magnificent Banksia paintings.
Mount Barker is a sizeable town with all services including a large IGA, large Mitre 10 Hardware and a couple of bakeries.
Driving around the NP and stopping many times for photos was absorbing yet relaxing. The owners of the Stirling Range Retreat, Ayleen and Tony Sands are welcoming and friendly.

9-10 October – Bridgetown
Bridgetown is a thriving place in the Blackwood Valley and we stayed in the only caravan park which proved to be a good choice. It is well run and has lovely gardens and much lush grass although most of the sites are on bitumen. The present owners took over from the council two years ago and have worked very hard to turn it around from a place where no one would stay. It is on the Blackwood River which is excellent for canoeing/kayaking (available for hire). The town has all services and several gift, clothes and bric-a-brac shops. We had a long, lazy lunch at The Cidery and sampled their four ciders and three of their six real beers – what better way to spend a rainy afternoon.

11 October – Perth
The morning came with rain – again, on and off – but the one time we really wanted it to be dry it wasn’t.
The drive from Bridgetown was slower than expected but we stopped at Harvey for oranges, mandarins and passionfruit and had a talk to the fruit man who knew WA very well and had been a tour operator in the Kimberley. He was full of enthusiasm for the place unlike many people who live here who don’t appreciate what a wonderful State they live in and can only talk about the long distances of ‘nothing’ in between one place and another.
We had booked into a cv pk cabin for the night at Karrinyup Resort not far from Hillarys where we were to have dinner with John’s cousins. It proved to be a good move and we were very comfortable. Camping in those big, city parks is no fun.

12-13 October – Wave Rock
Getting out of Perth was slow, as it is in any big city but we were at York well before lunch. The car museum is in the centre of town so John went in there while I wandered around and did some grocery shopping. I was surprised that there were no clothing shops (I wanted some tracky pants). In fact, it seemed to be full of cafes and large pubs and not much else. John thought the car museum looked a bit run down, with some of the signs hard to read. There are some lovely buildings that are well maintained.
Wave Rock was something of a surprise as there is much more to this place than just the wave. We were able to climb to the top and see the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside and also learn about the geology and history of the rock. There are several walking tracks and good interpretive signs everywhere.
Today has been fine but cool and windy.
Decided to stay another day and after a lazy start went to Mulka’s Cave and the Humps where we had a good look around, climbing up through the cave and walking around on the top admiring the views before doing the Gnamma Walk which had good interpretive signs with commentary by local elders about their life in the area and how they used the resources. The wildflowers were a bonus.
We were able to buy some meat and veges for dinner in Hyden. There are two supermarkets there but although they stock all the necessities, including good fresh fruit and veges I would not rely on them for a major stock up. There is also a butcher and bakery, fuel, and a pub with meals and a motel.
I visited the Lace Place opposite the cv pk. It had a comprehensive and magnificent display of laces with some examples dating back the mid 18th Century. There were exhaustive notes, many neatly hand-written. There were models with wedding gowns from last century, many with accompanying photos of the wedding party and mostly from the Hyden region. Worth seeing even if you are not greatly interested in lace. I couldn’t help but marvel at the patience and skill of those who made such beautiful pieces.
I’m beginning to be hopeful about the weather as it was warm and fine all day and we were even able to eat outside tonight – only about the third time we have done so on the whole trip.

14-15 October – Esperance
There were a few stops for photos on the way to Esperance. One of my favourite Banksias was lining the road in places. We found an apartment for two nights, not on the beach but very convenient. Show days are on on Friday and Saturday so the place is filling up fast with people coming in from some distance away.
The drive westward along the coast is spectacular and we couldn’t resist doing it even though it’s better done in the morning for photos. There is a large wind farm there now and we were able to drive very close to one of the older turbines and it was not very noisy at all, and the modern ones would be even quieter so why do people complain about them?
Cape Le Grand was calling the next morning and it was even more beautiful than I remember it with pure white sandy beaches, turquoise sea and wonderful granite dome shaped rocks between the beaches, wonderful for wandering around on … and of course the flowers were great.

16-18 October – Cocklebiddy, Nullarbor, Wudinna
The drive from Esperance to Norseman was easy although there were some roadworks which slowed things briefly. We have only driven the Nullarbor once before and found it fascinating and did so again on this trip. Despite what others may say the scenery is ever changing with the changing terrain and flora – sometimes it’s flat, sometimes undulating, sometimes the flora is mainly low Eucalypt mallee woodland, sometimes grass and saltbush. The Bunda Cliffs which start near Border Village and continue to The Head of the Bight are an amazing sight and it’s hard to pass even one of the many lookouts without stopping. There is only a relatively short section of the drive where it is truly ‘null arbor’ (without trees) and I think it is the most beautiful, especially at sunset.
We couldn’t resist going to see the whales again and were rewarded with three mothers and calves relaxing in the waters close to the excellent boardwalk. They seem to like that particular place in the whole of the Great Australian Bight to give birth, mate, and nurse their babies before leaving at the end of October for feeding in the south Southern Ocean.
We had carefully paced ourselves eating the delicious fruit we had bought at Harvey a week ago and finished it and all our veges at lunchtime so there was nothing to hand over at the quarantine check at Ceduna. It was Sunday but the supermarket was open and we could replenish our supplies. We finally camped at Wudinna and now feel we really are heading home. But there’s one little treat ahead – The Barossa.

19-21 October – Barossa Valley (Nuriootpa)
It seemed a long drive from Wudinna to Nuriootpa probably because the roads within the Barossa/Clare Valleys are narrow, windy and have poor surfaces. One highlight along the way was finding Harry’s store at Nelshaby on Hwy 1 near Port Pirie. I wanted to buy some quandong jam and there it was on the sign. What a find, a friendly young man was on the counter and the place was full of interesting jams, preserves and fresh fruit and veges.
I think The Barossa Valley Tourist Park would have to be the best park I’ve ever stayed in. The staff are pleasant, the sites have good grass and shade and the facilities are excellent and it’s a lovely walk to town and there’s a track to the adjacent Barossa Bushgardens. Within the park are two well kept ovals and tennis courts. If not bush camping or in NPs my preference is for small town cv pks with clean amenities but the Barossa and Clare Valleys are such wonderful places for anyone who enjoys good food and wine, relaxed shopping, friendly people and beautiful countryside that it would be a shame to miss it if in the region.
Shopping is not my favourite pastime but away from big towns can be very enjoyable so Nuri and Tanunda fitted the bill and I had an enjoyable couple of hours – a slice of that time was spent talking to the proprietor of a dress shop about the Kimberley, Lichfield and Lawn Hill.
We were very controlled with wine tasting, just spending an interesting hour or so in the members’ tasting room at Rockford and then to Turkey Flat to taste the Grenache. It was as good as I remember it. I’m so pleased that it is not popular, maybe people don’t even bother to taste it because it had such a poor reputation years ago. Whatever the reason, it keeps the price down.

22 October – Mildura
Our route continued through Swan Reach (where there is a 24 hour free ferry to cross the Murray River) and Loxton to Mildura again. The early part of the drive in particular was through beautiful country, vineyards then rolling hills and farming country before passing into mallee interspersed with irrigated farming and fruit growing. Mildura is a great place for food so we took advantage of that and had an excellent dinner.

23 October – Home (near Canberra)
The plan was to stay at Temora as we’d been trying to avoid the big push for home and arrive exhausted and irritated however when we got there the whole place was booked out and so was Junee and Cootamundra. Temora has the popular Temora Aviation Museum which I thought had an air show once a year but it is held six times a year and we happened to strike one of those weekends so all accommodation including caravan parks were booked out in Temora, Junee and Cootamundra so home we went stopping at Murrumbateman pub for dinner along the way.
When we reached home we surprised the family who were there having a working bee to remove the colossal burden of weeds that had sprung up during our absence thanks to the most rain we have received in seven weeks since we moved here over five years ago. This was their second attempt but you would think no one had been near the place.

One of the big disappointments of this trip is that we have not bush or NP camped. Neither of us can stand the cold so opted for powered sites.
Another was the amount of rubbish along the road and particularly at rest areas even where there are plenty of bins. Finding toilet paper (used!) festooning shrubs when there were clean enviro toilets within metres was disgusting. This happened more than once, one such place was Peron near the point.
A sad note to finish on after such a wonderful, exciting trip full of lovely surprises and reasons to return. We felt so very privileged to be able to spend so much time amongst the WA flowers especially after excellent winter rains.
John 'n' Min
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