Today was the first day we have had condensation on the car first thing in the morning. It warmed up nicely later and promises to be hotter tomorrow. Most of the interior of the Eyre Peninsula is farmland with some bush alongside the road and some nature reserves. Leaving Streaky Bay, the Flinders Highway crosses land before returning to the coast at Mount Camel Beach which sits on Anxious Bay. The Bay was named by Matthew Flinders, but I have not found the reason for this name. There are also views to Venus Bay further north and the rocky coast to the south. The beach was deserted when we arrived, but footprints told us that a couple of people and a dog had been there earlier.
There was a notice about the local seabird populations. Hooded plovers are declining and the number has dropped to around 500 in SA. Habitat loss, predation by foxes, cats and dogs and human impact such as vehicles and dogs on beaches plus disturbance of breeding areas is thought to be responsible. Pied Oystercatchers are also resident, and the Red-necked Stint migrate here from Siberia every year. Visitors are advised to stay below the high water mark, keep dogs under control, stay away from birds and chicks and watch where you walk as eggs and chicks can be hard to spot. I saw a few Oystercatchers and gulls from a distance. Further south Lake Newland conservation area lies between the road and the sand dunes. It is only accessible with 4WD. Elliston is a small town that sits on Waterloo Bay.
The café was closed and for sale, but the bakery also did coffee and we were not the only customers. While topping up my caffeine levels I read a leaflet in the bakery written by the Australian Wilderness Society about the proposals to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight. The ocean here is much rougher than the Gulf of Mexico and an investigation into the capabilities of the government and the states to deal with a major oil spill concluded that they would not be able to. The report had been updated in August 2018 and said that while BP had pulled out, other companies were still persisting in trying to get permission. If we had more time, the 13.6K coastal trail and the sculpture trail might have been an option.
Today was Lizard avoidance day as several were crossing the road. I managed to get a shot of this Shingle-Back/Pinecone Lizard before he disappeared into the bush.
We managed to avoid them all and a couple of kangaroos but saw a snake that did not make it. South of Sheringa we saw a side road signpost: ‘Nowhere Else Road’ which has to be the best yet. The road then runs between Lake Hamilton and the shore.
Towards the southern end of the peninsula there are a number of lakes, the grass is greener and there are a few more larger trees around. The highway descends towards Port Lincoln after the turnoff for Coffin Bay. This is the largest town we have stayed in since we left the west coast. It has a population of around 15,000. The main industry is tuna fishing: it has the largest fishing fleet in the southern hemisphere. Also known as the seafood capital of Australia, the town sits on Boston Bay which is three times the size of Sydney Harbour. In addition to the swimming and fishing jetty on the esplanade, there is also a large Viterra mineral processing plant and commercial pier.
The town was named by Flinders who was from Lincolnshire. I feel quite at home as there is an Edinburgh Street and a Liverpool Street and South Shields is a little further up the coast. There are lots of things you can do around here: cage diving with great white sharks, water sports etc but I am quite happy to relax, digest the weekend paper and plan tomorrows drive. We have even spotted a bookshop in town which will hopefully be open tomorrow. Todays mileage was 191 making the total so far: 9,275
Ceduna faces west despite being on the south coast so we watched the sun go down after dinner as it is later here after the time change.
After two longer driving days we had a shorter one today. Before leaving Ceduna we drove out to Pinky Point from where you can see ships belching out smoke at the port across the water. Millions of tonnes of gypsum, salt, grain and mineral sands are loaded onto ships each year and dozens of trawlers unload fish. There is an automated light somewhere but all there is at the point is this.
There is a walking/cycling trail to the point from the town. We were briefly back on Highway One until the turnoff for the Flinders Highway which runs down the west coast of the Eyre Peninsula. Had we stayed on Highway One we would have passed the midpoint between Perth and Sydney. The first stop was at Smoky Bay, a quiet town and former port. It was named by Matthew Flinders who saw smoke rising from the fires of the indigenous people as he sailed by.
There are numerous shells on the beach and some children were collecting them as we walked along it. Oysters are farmed here as well as at Ceduna and fishing is a popular hobby. Some people were fishing from the jetty and there were several seabirds hanging around.
Further down the coast is Haslam, a community which is smaller and has no shop. Here tyres are used as a breakwater and others are just left on the beach and in the sea. They will continue to shed fibres into the ocean.
Information boards outlined the history of the town and the push to build a jetty. Food supplies had to be ordered and delivered by boat from Adelaide and a jetty made unloading much easier. Perlube Beach is further south and has white sand and dunes and a caravan park. Our destination for the night was Streaky Bay which also got its name from Matthew Flinders who saw the streaks of colour left from seaweeds in the water. We stopped for lunch just past the town on the shore of Cape Bauer. It was still windy but there were lots of purple flowers just behind the beach.
There were several notices regarding restrictions on razor fishing: the number that can be taken and the need to dispose of shells below the tide line. As we left to find our hotel, two cars with fishermen arrived. We only drove 85 miles today so the total is now 9,084.
The first thing we did after leaving Walpole was to drive the few miles east to the Valley of Giants Treetop Walk in Nornalup National Park. The huge Red Tingle Trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii) grow up to 75m tall and 20m in girth. The karri trees seen elsewhere in WA (Eucalyptus diversicolor) can grow up to 90m. These tall trees have been used as lookout posts for forest fires.
The walkway gets up to 40m off the ground and gives great views of the canopy. We saw several birds (including this Australian Ringneck)
but no quokkas which also live on the trees and use the sword grass on the ground to give them cover from predators. When people walk fast on the walkway, it tends to sway a little making photography a bit of a challenge. I was thankful for the image stabilisers on my lenses. There is also a brief glimpse to the landscape outside the park.
We also walked along the ground level Ancient Empire boardwalk. This is free, but you have to pay to go on the Treetop walk. A section of the Bibbelmum Track passes through the valley. It is 1000km and runs from near Perth to Albany. We saw one hiker near the Visitors’ Centre. All too soon it was time to carry on as our destination for the night was Esperance, 374 miles from Walpole. Vineyards are called wineries here but near Denmark, the next town on the South Coast Highway; I saw signs to a meadery and a cidery. Albany was settled before Perth and is the oldest (dating from 1826) and the largest town on this section of the coast. Initially, the British settlers were welcomed by the indigenous people there because they stopped the rape and murder being carried out by whalers and sealers. Unfortunately the Brits then stopped indigenous people coming into their shops and began to remove their children from them. Coming into town, we passed the world’s largest sandalwood oil factory. It has some 19th century buildings in the town centre and I had no problem finding a café to top up my caffeine levels. Down by the shore is a replica ship of the Amity Brig that brought the first settlers here from Sydney.
We had by now left the big trees behind us and the landscape switched between farmland and bush. There were a few more forests but they were for commercial timber. We did not have a kangaroo cross the road in front of us today, but we did have to swerve around one lizard and had the first emu crossing of the trip. As we drove east the landscape got drier and the rivers had less water in them. Near Ravensthorpe we were in big cereal growing area with fields bigger than those in East Anglia. The town has artworks on the silos and a very large roundabout for a small community. It was established in 1900 and reminded me of something a university friend said to some Americans who were studying in the UK: ‘I suppose you have to come here as you don’t have any history over there’. He obviously has not been to Australia where European history is even more recent and indigenous history often not easily accessible by others. Our road began to traverse some hills and we were now back in mining and road train country. As we descended into Esperance there was more water around with lakes, ponds and nature reserves. All we had time for before dark was a short walk along the esplanade where the old pier was in the background near our motel was the sculpture by Cindy Poole and Jason Woolridge: Whale Tail. Our mileage was 381 making the trip total 8,128.
Cervantes was named after an American whaling ship ran aground in 1844 (several other ships have sunk or run aground here). Many of the streets are named after Spanish cities. Before we left we drove out to Thirsty Point. It is said to have acquired its name after fishermen sailing between Fremantle and Geraldton ran out of water at this point. There was a coastal surveillance look-out point here in the Second World War. Other than one fisherman, the beach was deserted. The islands offshore have sea lion populations, but we did not see any. Fishing is important along this coast evidenced by the large fish on the way in
and the fact that the only information board about local species at the point was on fish.
Further south is Namburg National Park which contains the Pinnacles Desert. You can drive around or there is a walking trail. We chose to walk and as well as the views from the lookout, also saw a flock of Galahs.
In the interpretive centre I learnt a little more about the quandong fruit photographed the previous day. It is related to sandalwood and takes nutrients from the roots of other plants as well as the soil. Emus love the fruit and the leaves were used by indigenous people to cure disease. The nut contains an oil that can be used as a moisturiser and early settlers used the skin to make jams and jellies. Nearer to Lancelin, we passed a sign warning drivers that ‘windblown sand may reduce visibility’ and shortly afterwards saw why: a mobile sand dune.
At Nambung National Park we had been told that our pass allowed access to other parks on the same day. As we passed Yanchep National Park, we decided to take a look and saw animals and birds. Many were having a snooze as it was the middle of the day.
Afterwards we continued to Perth where we were staying with friends and visiting relatives for a couple of days. We had some time in the city centre to explore Kings Park which has views over the city and the botanic garden. I discovered the names of some of the plants I had seen in Western Australia over the last few days and enjoyed some of the others. There is also a small indigenous art gallery which is also worth a visit.
We then walked back into town to visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia which has collections from the 19th century to the present day from Australian artists, artists from other countries who have worked in Australia, indigenous art and others. I particularly enjoyed an exhibition called Spaced 3: North by Southeast, which was the result of a three-year collaboration between Nordic and Australian visual artists. The only Nordic country not represented was Norway.
There is a secondhand bookshop in the city, Elizabeth’s. It has a blind date with books project underway at the moment. We found one book to buy.
After visiting relatives in Mandurah, we re-joined Highway One which is the Old Coast Road for a while before joining with Highway 2 to become the Forrest Highway to Bunbury. We had done 283 miles since leaving Cervantes and our trip total now 7,520. The forecast rain had begun as we arrived so evening walks along the beach did not happen.
A couple of nights in Geraldton provided a break from long drives and time to re-supply. James was waiting outside the barber with three other guys before he opened at 8.30am. There only seem to be two in the city that we could find. He had a chat with the barber while his hair was being cut and mentioned the observation that he thought beards were more common in Australia than the UK. The barber agreed and noted that the hipster vogue for beards was keeping him in business as many guys wanted them professionally trimmed. The next stop was the Western Australian Museum which is well worth a visit. It covers the areas archaeology, natural history, settlement, the experience of the indigenous people, later migration and shipwrecks that have occurred along the coast. Admission is by donation. Nearby was a café overlooking the marina which was an ideal coffee top-up and a little further on past the main shopping street, a pop-up secondhand bookshop in which I found a book about the River Road in Louisiana: the southern part of the Great River Road we would like to drive at some point. Continuing along Marine Terrace eventually takes you past the port where the grain is loaded onto ships to Point Moore Lighthouse and beach. The lighthouse is Australia’s oldest and has been operational since 1878.
We had a walk along the beach and near the vehicle access was an osprey nest with three youngsters in it.
The road carries on around the point and back into town where we looked in the impressive Cathedral of St Francis Xavier. It was built in stages from the first part in 1918. A shortage of funds and artistic conflict delayed work until 1926 and was eventually completed in 1936.
The Anglican Cathedral is a little further up the avenue but is an unattractive 1960s-style concrete building. In front of the Queens Park Theatre is what from the road I thought was a sculpture but is in fact a sundial. The Iris Sundial was a gift to the city by the artist Bill Newbold who named it after his wife. A plate in front explains how it works. We tested it and found it to be accurate with date and time. Newbold took to designing sundials after he retired from the fishing industry and there are others around the city.
The following morning, we were back on Highway One referred to as the Brand Highway in these parts. We reached the twin seaside towns of Dongara and Port Denison at coffee time and found the Seaspray café down by the beach. It was well-signposted from the highway. There was a comfortable sofa, good coffee and various, home-made jams, art works and succulent arrangements for sale. The tide was in so there was not much beach to walk on and the only information board on local species was for fish. Fishing is a very popular hobby around here. On the way out, we passed the turn-off for Port Denison where this red fellow symbolises how important crayfishing is for the local industry.
Highway 60, known as the Indian Ocean Drive diverts from Highway One and continues through several coastal communities. We had not gone far when I spotted the turn-off for the Grigson Lookout. It is named after a pioneer whose family have farmed here for several generations. There are 360 degree views over the salt lakes, the gypsum and sand mines and towards the coast. Having thought some of the landscapes we travelled through a while back resembled parts of Utah near the Great Salt Lake, I was intrigued to see Salt Lakes here. This is the Australian equivalent of a trig point at 30m altitude.
This part of the west coast is knwown as the Turquoise Coast and Jurien Bay is the largest town. We found parking near the pier and beach and ate our lunch spot observed by some noisy gulls. There were only four watching us but as we passed the picnic tables later and another couple were eating. Word had got out and there were around twenty gulls. It reminded me of this notice spotted in Fremantle seven years ago:
Robinson Island is known to have rare Australian sea lions and at this time of year migrating cetaceans can sometimes be seen offshore. So far, we have not seen any despite scanning the ocean whenever we have the opportunity. We reached Cervantes and settled into our motel. The next few days will be devoted to visiting the Desert of Pinnacles and then visiting relatives and friends in Perth for a few days.
On the way back to Highway One from Denham there were a lot of wildflowers, but it was far too windy for flower photography. The overnight wind had brought a lot of cloud in. We did spot this raptor with a roadkill wallaby who was not too bothered by us passing by.
After coffee at the Overlander Roadhouse we saw the turn-off for the Butchers’ Track which was the track the camels used to bring the wool into Hamelin. We were soon back in farmland but with cereal crops rather than cattle. Our lunch stop was at a rest area by the Murchison River near the Galena Bridge. The older, lower bridge is still used by the local road to the rest area and campsite and the highway passes over the newer one. The old bridge was submerged in the flood of 2007. On the river were ducks, coots and a darter with a lot of flies in the air.
At the Kalbarri junction the scenic drive to Northampton begins. At first the road is on the plateau at around 200m altitude and after a few miles, enters the Kalbarri National Park. It then descends to the shore at Kalbarri where we spent the night in a quiet motel.
Kalbarri sits about halfway on the Coral Coast where the Murchison River Gorge reaches the sea. Our day began with a walk along the beach and then the pelican feeding which takes place from 8.45 to 9.15am every day. It has been going on since 1974 and is now undertaken by volunteers. They ask for a donation to cover the cost of the fish and the surplus is given to local good causes. Before the volunteer arrived, pelicans had started to gather in anticipation. They are Australia’s largest water bird.
Gulls were also hanging around hoping to catch something, but they were going to be out of luck.
Nine pelicans in all were there as the breeding season is now over.
Afterwards, we drove up to the National Park. There are several trails and lookouts over the gorge. We chose to do the short walk to Window Rock, one of the most popular.
There is a skywalk under construction at another outlook with a café and wheelchair access. This should be complete in early 2019. On the way back to town the wind had settled so flower and plant photography was in order.
Back in town we had coffee and a browse in the Book Nook, the bookshop near the shopping arcade. They stock secondhand books, accept donations and will give you some credit to spend in the shop if your donation will sell. They also have internet access. We donated two books and bought one. The coastal road continues south past several outlooks. Eagle Gorge also has a 1km walk to a secluded beach and the start of an 8km coastal trail. Further on we come back into farmland and then towards Port Gregory, the road runs alongside Hutt Lagoon. This was named Pink Lake by explorer George Grey in 1839. The pink colour is due to carotenoid-producing algae and is best seen in the middle of the day when the sun is high. It was even reflected on the clouds when we sawit. There is a large commercial plant on the lagoon shore and a mine nearby so there is only one parking place unless you take the side road to Port Gregory.
Past the lake we saw our first sheep since starting out.
The coastal road ended in Northampton, a town established in 1864 which is proud of its heritage. We then continued on to Geraldton. Yesterday we covered 230 miles and today 237 so out trip total is now 7,079.
We had only been driving for 45 minutes this morning when we came to a standstill behind a queue of traffic at a level crossing. The cause was a stationary train with over 200 empty trucks. Various people had got out of their cars and James was talking to the truck driver behind us. He said that he had never seen this before and that the trains were automated so there must be a problem. Eventually a horn was blown, and the train began to move slowly.
As we drove further away from Port Hedland and Dampier we left the quarries and gas plants behind but not the mines. The road crosses the Fortescue Bridge which has 22 spans and was built in 1973. There was a little water in the river. As we entered Ashburtonshire, termite mounds made a brief reappearance having not been seen on the plains since Port Hedland. At the Mesa Mine, the highway goes over the mine road on a large bridge. Before the Nanutarra Road House, some purple mountains appeared on the right, a brief respite from red rocks and hills. I was loving the colours of the landscape and wished I could have travelled more slowly and explore some landscape photography but our three-month visa limits that and an exploration of the nearby coast. Back in the bush where there are several rivers, the land was greener but soon reverted to red earth. There were many wildflowers in bloom. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn at 12.32h between the Mia Mia rod junction and the rest area at Lyndon River. This was where we stopped for lunch. There was a dilapidated caravan and 4WD at the side of the area with a guy in his seventies fiddling about underneath it. Two council workers were emptying the bins and cleaning the toilets. After photographing some birds, I was chatting to the female worker while her colleague was assisting the man. He was an itinerant and one of the caravan tyres had blown. His jack would not fit to lift the van up. The council worker found theirs and went over to help. James said that the spare tyre was not in great condition. I complimented the woman for the help they were giving, and her response was ‘we see them all the time’.
We carried on and about 90km outside Carnarvon, our destination, spotted two emus but could not stop for photographs. The town provides 80% of the fruit and vegetable needs of Western Australia and sits on the Indian Ocean coast. We were back in banana plantations and with palm trees not really seen since we were in Queensland. The town has a wide main street from the days when camel trains brought wool to the coast for distribution and it needed to be wide enough for them to turn around. One of the old tramways is now a walkway to one of the old jetties.
We stretched our legs around the inlet and had our evening meal watching the sun go down, now a little later than further north and a little cooler.
Yesterday we drove 221 miles and today 419 making our total 6,490. Tomorrow will be a slower, shorter journey. Hopefully we will have resolved one of our tech problems. I sorted out James’s phone yesterday but the eternal problems with 2009 classic iPods and car audio systems continue. You need your iPod if you want to drive with music out here. Radio signals are limited to towns along the road. Two years ago my iPod and carefully constructed playlist would not work with the rental car we had in the USA. At that time, the suggestion was to reset the car system. I might have tried that with my own car but not a rental car and I needed the satnav to get me through Manhattan to the Lincoln Tunnel the next day. This year the iPods have been crashing after variable lengths of time when playing through a car. Researching this, some folks have suggested getting rid of album cover art (some of it I have been looking at since 1974) so that has been done and it no longer crashes but skips a lot of tracks. These are not corrupt and play on iTunes and when we are listening with headphones. We may get to the solution eventually.