Monthly Archives: September 2014

Margaret River

We arrived in Margaret River a couple of days ago and it was cold and rainy and we were a bit underwhelmed, although we cheered up after lunch and a glass of red in a nice, warm tavern. I expected it to be more picturesque and it is just a town, and less attractive than many we have seen. However, the surrounding countryside, the wineries and the beaches are all beautiful and we had a lovely day yesterday exploring and looking for wildflowers. The unfortunate payoff to this was the tick which Geoff noticed on my back this morning. First Geoff applied metho and then eucalyptus oil but the little blighter just thought he’d landed in a health spa and continued to hang on. Tweezers were needed to see him off. Then I found another tick on my leg which Geoff lassoed with a piece of dental floss – a prescribed method of removal, believe it or not. Victorian suburbanites don’t generally have to worry about ticks so it was all a bit of a shock. Now I view the forest with a jaundiced eye – not as a treasure house of wildflowers but a jungle bristling with nasty, little bloodsuckers. I thought I only had to worry about snakes which you can at least see.

Today we visited the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse on the extreme south West Point of Australia. Cape Leeuwin was named by Matthew Flinders in December 1801 at the commencement of the circumnavigation of Terra Australis, taking the name of the adjoining area which had been

called Leeuwin’s Land by the Dutch navigators when Leeuwin (The Lioness) rounded the Cape in 1622. The lighthouse was opened in 1896 and is still one of the essential navigation aids maintained around the Australian coast. It was automated in 1992. It was cold, wet and windy at Cape Leeuwin today – mild in comparison to the weather that can occur here, at the meeting of the Southern and Indian Oceans. It would have been a tough life for the lighthouse keepers and their families, especially since they had an outside loo which would have been quite challenging to get to during a gale.

Pemberton 4WD Trip

Karri forest

Karri forest

Yeagarup Dunes

Yeagarup Dunes

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The Southern Ocean beyond the dunes

The Southern Ocean beyond the dunes

D'Entrecasteaux Point

D’Entrecasteaux Point

The tannin-stained waters of the Warren River feeding into the ocean

The tannin-stained waters of the Warren River feeding into the ocean

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Lake Yeagarup at the close of day

Lake Yeagarup at the close of day

imageIn Pemberton we joined a ‘Beach and Forest Eco Adventure’ and bounced through ancient Karri forest and the landlocked Yeagarup sand dunes, to the Southern Ocean. Finding yourself in the middle of an inland dune system is quite surreal. Forest gives way to coastal scrub and, suddenly, you could be in the Sahara Desert. The Yeagarup dune system measures about 10km x 3km and starts about 6km in from the beach. The dunes are advancing inland at a rate of 4m per year and will eventually swallow the Yeagarup Lake where we stopped for afternoon tea. We continued through the dunes to Yeagarup Bay and the outlet of the Warren River into the mighty Southern Ocean. The beach is about 30km long, stretching west from D’Entrecasteaux Point, and is stunning. Huge breakers were crashing in and swirling around the river mouth, mixing the treacle-coloured (tannin) of the river water with the sea.

Walpole – WOW!

Circular Pool

Circular Pool

Frankland River

Frankland River

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Yesterday we took the WOW Wilderness EcoCruise into the Walpole Wilderness and Walpole and Nornalop Inlets. It is impossible to really describe Gary, the guy who conducts the tour, except to say that he is a human dynamo, a Duracell Bunny! Standup comic, raconteur, scientist, ecologist and environmental activist – he is all of these things a

White Cotton Head ??

White Cotton Head ??

Scarlet Flame Pea ??

Scarlet Flame Pea ??

nd more. He is also very personable and entertaining and we had a great time. It was a beautiful morning and we stopped off at Rocky Head to climb over the headland to the beach. We also had morning tea there and watched the pelicans watching us eat home-baked lemon cake.

In the afternoon we went to see the Giant Tingle Tree, a unique specimen thought to be over 450 years old. It is 24m in circumference at its base, the largest living girthed eucalypt known in the world. We did a lovely forest walk to reach the tree and another short walk at the Frankland River to Circular Pool. The constantly-moving patterns on the surface are due to the currents, and the froth which results from all the tannin in the river.

We are now in Pemberton for a couple of nights. Saw a beautiful Red-winged Blue Wren this evening and lucky Geoff saw a Superb Blue Wren when he was out riding this morning.

The Giant Tingle Tree

The Giant Tingle Tree

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Walpole – The Valley of the Giants

We paid a quick visit to Ocean Beach before we left Denmark and watched the Yellow-Billed Spoonbills snuffling through the mud (heck of a way to find lunch), before a final coffee at ‘Ravens’ and the drive to Walpole.

We drove out to The Valley of the Giants after lunch and did the Tree Top Walk, which reaches a max height of 40m, and the Ancient Empire Walk, which is ground-level and, therefore, more to my liking. The ‘giants’ are Red Tingle Trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii), which can grow to 75m and live for hundreds of years. They are extraordinary trees, not least because they remain standing even when the base of the trunk has been eaten out by fire, insects or disease and only a shell remains. It is hard to convey the grandeur of this forest but walking amongst these giants, just enjoying their presence, and breathing in the eucalyptus-scented air, is a calming and wonderful experience.

We have bought a book to help us identify the wildflowers which we are photographing, so I am trying to name the pics. Any botanical errors are all mine.

Albany & Denmark/Stirling Range

Yesterday we visited the old whaling station in Albany. It is located at Cheynes Beach on Frenchman Bay and the weather was bright and sunny, and the surface of the water sparkling silver and blue. It was hard to reconcile the beauty of the bay with the photos and narratives describing the processing plant when it was fully operational.  The whales were harpooned out on the edge of the continental shelf, inflated with air to ensure that they remained afloat, and tethered to buoys to await collection at the end of the day’s hunt.  They were towed back to the station and moored to a pontoon nr. the beach.  They were then hauled up on to the flensing deck and dismembered and cooked down for oil.  It would have been a scene straight from Dante’s Inferno – unimaginably ghastly.  The stench was appalling and clung to everyone who worked there.  The last whale to be killed in Albany was in 1978 – not so long ago.  Such a horrible end for these gentle giants of the sea, some species of which were hunted almost to extinction.  When one species started to become scarce, another was targeted.  The finest grade of oil was used for, among other things the preparation of cosmetics.

Today has been a lovely day.  We are spending 3 nights in the delightful, small town of Denmark and we started out at Black Hole (much more beautiful than it sounds) where we just stood and watched the waves roll in – a wonderful way to start the day.  The next best way to start the day is with a good coffee and there is a terrific cafe here called ‘Ravens’ – yes, really -and I am so excited to find a decent cafe that I walk in with a huge grin on my face.  They probably think I am mad!  You will gather that food, other than home-cooked, has not been a highlight of the trip so far, but I think that will change when we reach Margaret River.  We are looking forward to it.

After delicious coffee and cake, we bought lunch to take with us and headed to Mt. Barker and the Stirling Range National Park.  It is a diverse and spectacular area and we drove through the range over 42 km of unsealed roads, kicking up red dust, and enjoying every moment.  The vegetation constantly changes from low scrub to tall trees and the palette from soft greys and greens and browns to stronger greens and the acid yellow of the canola fields and the vibrant reds of the banksias and bottlebrush. A gift to the senses, even the smell of woodsmoke from the controlled burns which are being carried out prior to summer.

Back to the caravan early evening, before there were too many kangaroos on the road. There are lots of them here at the caravan park and Geoff stepped out one night to find that they had us surrounded.  There is also a Tawny Frogmouth Owl in a nearby tree and he keeps up his mournful cry for most of the night.  I like the sound and can imagine him sitting on his branch, droning away, presumably very bored.  Geoff, however, thinks the bird may not have long to live!

Driving to Walpole tomorrow.

Bremer Bay and Point Ann

Walking the coastal paths in this part of the world is a delight.  Tiny specks of colour reveal themselves to be exquisite flowers which you are often seeing for the first time ever.  The variety is amazing.  On the other hand, not all of the flowers are so retiring.  Some, like the Royal Hakea and the big banksias, are the brass bands of the world of wildflowers – bold and loud. I gather that we will be seeing great swathes of flowers when we travel further north but, at the moment, we are enjoying them in isolation, as single plants or in small patches.

We are currently staying in a lovely caravan park in Bremer Bay and, today, we drove for about an hour over unmade roads to Point Ann.  The whales were quite active and we watched them for a long time.  We have seen whales in a few places now but still find it hard to tear ourselves away.  They are endlessly fascinating.

Fitzgerald National Park