Saturday, April 6, 2013

We're Off Again - Really, Truly This Time

Too many false starts and too many little things that have come up, but we are honestly leaving for an extended trip this coming Monday, 8th April, come hell or high water!!!

We made a valiant attempt to get away in January and made it as far as Forrestania Plots, just east of Hyden, but the weather was dreadfully hot (46 degC one day and a week over 40) and on top of that Anne's dermatitis on her hands flared up and she had forgotten to bring the cortisone cream so we headed back home to rest and recover. We did have a good time but it was just to much all at one time.
 Anne had a good scramble through Mulka's Cave

and the campsite was nice in the shade of the Rottnest Island Pines. Note the little mesh shelter - easy to set up and great to get away from the flies and mozzies, but - - we had a willy-willy come through the second day we had it up which destroyed it completely. So much for that idea.

Back home for a couple of weeks to rest and re-fit and we headed off again. Down to the south coast this time, we figured the weather might be a bit better near the ocean. We planned the trip using the Camps 6 book, another camp-site book we have and some well-meant advice from friends, but nothing prepares you for the actual experience of pulling up at a prospective campsite.

Out first (planned) stop was Willow Springs near Bridgetown and although it might be very nice for hikers, it was not much for the Grey Nomads of the world. Virtually no direct sunlight, so nothing for the solar panels or to heat the camp shower bag, no sight-line for the satellite dish and the March Flies were there in their hundreds. As soon as we stepped out of the car, they literally swarmed!

We proceeded on to Karri Glen, extremely small area and even more March Flies if that was possible. We kept going through Bridgetown and tried another couple of likely spots, but still hordes of March Flies. We eventually ended up in Nannup and booked into the local caravan park for a couple of nights. We needed to catch up with Daryl and Lyn in Bridgetown, so we had to stay somewhere in the area.

Nannup is a beaut little town, very "arty", so I'm told, lots of artists, wood-carvers etc have made it their base and some of the public art is very interesting.

The Blackwood River was very low as could be expected for this time of the year,

but as the flood-level labels on the "flood tree" indicate, it can get very high during the winter floods.

There is an Arboretum, right next to the caravan park, where early in the 20th century, several different species of trees were planted to determine whether they would be suitable for growing in the area. Very Impressive!

Friends had told us about Sue's Bridge, so we headed there from Nannup. Very nice, but I still have reservations about the cost of staying in National Parks and DEC areas. I may be a miser but I think that $8 per person, per night is a bit of a rip-off when there are no facilities except for a (very smelly) long-drop toilet. Not even rubbish bins (although that doesn't seem to stop some people dumping their garbage). Thank goodness Anne and I both have concession cards now, although $10 a night for no facilities doesn't compare all that well with the cheaper caravan parks. I stayed in a very nice council caravan park in Windorah with power, hot showers, laundry etc, for $5 per couple per night. Bah Humbug, whinge, whinge, whinge.

Anyway, Sue's Bridge was quite nice, plenty of places to walk and right on the Blackwood River, so we stayed for a week.

The birds were friendly after a couple of days of getting used to us, and the fairy wrens came right up to the campsite.

The walks along the river and through the State Forest were fantastic, very few other campers and school holidays are over, so we had the place pretty much to ourselves, which suits us just fine.

Monday, 11th February 2013

We decided it was time to move on, so we packed up and left Sue's Bridge and headed for Alexandra Bridge. A really nice spot but absolutely chocka-block. Not a site to be had for love or money and some of the people there look like they have been there for months. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them were permanent residents!

We stopped for a look at Shannon, but as soon as we got out of the car we could hear the March Flies lining up. Pity, it looked like a good spot even though it was $16 per night for the two of us, even with concession.

Through to Pemberton where Anne got her daily exercise by walking up the main street. That's a BIG hill. We had a cuppa and went out to look at Big Brook Dam, which was really lovely, huge Karri trees and a picnic area with a man-made beach for splashing.

We stopped for the night at the Big Brook Arboretum. What a shit-hole (literally) - got to be the dirtiest, smelliest public toilet I've ever seen in my life. It was disgusting. The site was very small, extremely un-even and, probably as a result of burning-off, our feet and legs were black within a few minutes from the dust. Definitely not a place we'd recommend.

The next planned spot was to be Cosy Corner. We had heard so many good things about this spot and were really looking forward to it, only to be disappointed. The site was lovely, but not only full, but over-flowing. People were camped in the sand dunes 'cos there was no room in the main area.

We kept heading east, through Walpole and Denmark and by-passed Albany heading for Mt Manypeaks and Two People's Bay. Anne had memories of Betty's Beach from years ago, but it is closed to campers at this time of the year because of the Salmon fishing, so we picked Norman's beach, just around the bay from Betty's and virtually under the shadow of Manypeaks. Very small, but only a couple of people there and we managed to get a nice spot near the (clean) toilets.

 The weather was very nice at this point and we had some great walks along the beach.

And the neighbours were very sociable.

We needed to get to Bremer Bay to visit Rick and Pam, friends of Anne's from her younger days, so after a week at Norman's we headed straight through. I had never been to Bremer before, but Anne had lived there so she did the tourist-guide thing and we had a couple of great days although the weather could be a bit better.

Saturday, 23rd February 2013

After a couple of days, Anne had caught up on all the gossip, so we continued on. We still wanted to do the Hyden-Norseman Road, which we had started in January, so we headed east towards Esperance. Very few spots along this part of the main road, although there are a few places on the coast itself.

Anne had childhood memories of Point Ann, so we did a bit of a side-trip to have a look. Fantastic spot, but the road in was verrrry corrugated. Good facilities and the water looked very inviting.

We stopped in Ravensthorpe to have lunch and buy a couple of water containers to replace those which had cracked. I can't seem to get more than about 12 months out of a container before it starts to split. Obviously no UV inhibitor in the plastic. Bought two 20L containers at the brand new IGA in town and filled them from the local town water supply. More about that later.

By-passed Esperance by taking the back road to Gibson and then up through Salmon Gums to Dundas Rocks, just south of Norseman. I had stopped there a few years ago, but it was all new to Anne and she quite liked the location among the Salmon Gum and Gimlet trees.

We managed to find a nice level spot up near the old dam and set up for a few days. One great thing about this spot is there are plenty of places to go bush walking. There is a track which goes up to Norseman which was the old coach road and the local council have marked a lot of the historic locations, including a cricket pitch which the miners built in 1896

There are several rock out-croppings to explore and some intriguing rock formations.

Within walking distance (about a kilometre each way) of the camping area is the shore of Lake Dundas and we walked down there one day and managed to find the "Lone Grave" which was marked on the map in the Camps book, but with no location marked. Also no indication at the picnic area as to where it was. So sad, a little boy, only 7 years old who died there in 1897.

Anne was very impressed by the colours of the pigface growing wild, so we thought we'd share

You remember the water we topped up with at Ravensthorpe?  YUUKKKKK. I don't know how the locals cope, they must live on bottled water.

I am absolutely convinced that Anne is a Weather Witch! Everywhere we went she managed to attract RAIN. We had been at Dundas Rocks for only a day and down it came. On the plus side, it filled the old dam and the salt lakes which made for some interesting insights into how the early settlers coped, and within 24 hours, there were thousands of frogs in the pools.

Tuesday, 5th March 2013

We needed to vote in the WA state elections, so we packed up and headed into Norseman. Did our civic duty, topped up with some water from the information centre, vegetables from the IGA, wine from the pub and diesel from the roadhouse and we're hot to trot.

First stop is McDermid Rock, just west of Lake Johnstone. Fairly small area, but we managed to find a nice campsite with some shade, close to the walk trail.

We went for a walk over the rock the next day, the weather was beautiful and Anne made it to the summit with only a couple of "puff-stops".

There are some very interesting sights here including a "wave" formation, very similar to Wave Rock near Hyden.

and some fantastic Salmon Gums.
Sorry about the exposure of some of these photos. I didn't notice that I had somehow changed the setting from Auto to Manual and they over-exposed a bit.

We went for a wander through the bush and came out on the main road about 1 km from camp and just our luck, it was time for about 5 or 6 road trains to come through. We got covered in dust from head to foot.

Anne's weather witchery cut in again, and some big thunderstorms came through. Once again, the rain filled the old dams on the rock and if nothing else, gave us some water for showering.

Gave us an opportunity to catch up on our reading!!!

Some fantastic rock formations.

Wednesday, 13th March 2013

The next spot we chose to camp was the one we've been wanting to see since we started out in early January. The Breakaways on the Hyden-Norseman Road would have to be one of the most attractive areas we've ever seen. We found a nice spot well away from the day-tripper's area with some nice shade and with a great view.

The rock formations here are nothing short of spectacular. The colours of the rock are visually amazing and there are areas where the combination of the red and white makes the rock look like melting strawberry ice-cream.

As usual, Anne brought the rain in after a couple of days and we were treated to a terrific sight of the area with water features. Just above the breakaway the road is banked for a curve and there is a culvert under the road to drain the rain channels. This directs the water straight to the breakaway and as a result we were treated to a waterfall display cascading down the breakaway.

Made to trip to the toilet interesting!

So that was our shake-down. We used the experience to sort things out, for Anne to get used to where things are in the van, and mostly to ensure that she would be happy with this sort of travelling which is what I love. The great news is that she loved the experience and can't wait to get going again.

We made it back home, restocked and on Monday we are off to the Goldfields and up through Meekatharra heading for the Kimberleys to spend the next winter.

See you soon
Mike and Anne