Before leaving Esperance, we had a look at the old tanker jetty which is starting to fall apart.
Then we drove up to the Rotary Lookout which gives views over to the islands and the west beach.
Highway One runs north to Norseman with the railway alongside it for most of the way. Interestingly Google Maps only shows the main roads and no detail of the rest of the town e.g. streets, businesses etc (Eucla as well, although it is even smaller). They have obviously not got out here despite the fact that we are not in the Amazon rainforest or the remote Himalayas. Fortunately, maps.me is a good satellite app for smaller places, roads and footpaths. The surrounding landscape here is agricultural with huge cereal fields, occasional livestock and several large mills. Esperance port ships grain and minerals which are the two large industries in the area. Feeling my caffeine levels dropping, I was looking for somewhere to top them up. Nothing was open at Grass Patch.
At Salmon Gums the roadhouse was open but the hotel was closed and up for sale. There are many small and large salt lakes but closer to Norseman woodland appears and we entered the Great Western Woodlands, the largest intact tract of temperate woodlands on the earth. Bromus Dam is a rare fresh water lake. It was created to service the early steam trains and around dawn and dusk there is a good chance of seeing wildlife. We heard some birds and got some fleeting shots. There is parking and picnic tables around the dam.
A little further on is a side road to Dundas Rocks. These are rock formations and large boulders lying on the ground and there is a campsite beyond them. I found a painted rock on some of them. This craze had been going locally for a while before we left home, but this is the first one I have seen here. I am not participating so left it where it was.
The rocks are south of the site of the abandoned town of Dundas. It was founded in 1893, a year after gold was discovered nearby. However, in 1894 gold was discovered near what is now Norseman and after a while, Dundas withered and died. As most of the buildings were timber there is now hardly anything to see of the buildings but there are a few street names, some interpretation boards, and you can drive the Dundas Coach Road heritage trail.
Legend has it that a horse called Norseman pawed the ground and a piece of gold-bearing quartz lodged in his hoof. There is a statue of him in the town centre and one of the roundabouts has corrugated iron camels on it which are a tribute to the camel trains. As in other places, the main street had to be widened to allow them to turn around.
I was chatting to one of the locals and told him that Moffat in Scotland has a sheep statue. He pointed out that Norseman is not twinned with anywhere so maybe that is something for them to explore. Gold is still mined north of the town and there is a huge waste heap on the hillside called Phoenix Tailings Storage Facility which is 40m high and holds 4 million tonnes of waste and was built between 1935 and 1977.
Some eucalyptus trees are beginning to grow on it but there is too much salt and they will not really get established until that has all been washed out. Before we checked in we drove up to the viewpoint at Beacon Hill and walked the short 865m loop which gives views over the land surrounding the town.
It was then time to check into our motel and get ready for the big drive tomorrow. Town is pretty quiet and there are quite a few vacant buildings. As we had our evening meal in the local bar (served by a woman from Lincolnshire) a few workers did come in for a drink and meal. Today’s 134 miles brought the trip total to 8,262.
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.
Getting out of Bunbury was not as easy as it should have been because Ocean Drive was closed for a local running event. The motel owner told us how to get off the street and through to the next, so we got back onto the highway after several diversions. Today, the first part of our drive was a diversion from Highway One to see the southwest corner of Western Australia. We left Bunbury on the Bussell Highway but just before we reached Busselton we took the alternative tourist route which passes through the Tuart forest and then along the coast. When we reached the town, a market was underway, and it began to rain. We had coffee in the old courthouse and lock up which is now a café. Busselton has the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere which was first built in 1853 and is now 1841 metres long. It dates from the town’s time as a timber port and was used for this purpose until 1972. It now has tourist attractions on it.
Further along the road is the town of Cowaramup which derived its name from a now disused railway junction. The town has 42 life-size fibreglass Friesian cows in various sites around town. It reminded me of the cows that appeared in northwest England a few years ago but which were far from life-like unlike these. In the green countryside around both dairy and beef cattle are raised and some sheep. There are also lots of wineries. As it was Sunday, very few were open for tasting and the Margaret River Regional Wine Centre where you can taste wine from several wineries was shut. The one in Pemberton only opens Monday to Friday. The rain continued, and we were in countryside with rivers, pools, lakes and the water channels at the side of the road actually had water in them for the first time on this trip. There were black swans, ibis and egrets in the pools. In our six weeks in Australia we have had more rain than we saw in the three months of summer before we left. At Karridale, the Bussell Highway becomes the Brockman Highway, but after a few miles we took at shortcut along the Stewart Road to pick up the Vasse Highway which runs through forests of old, tall eucalyptus trees (karri trees) to Pemberton. One kangaroo bounded across the road in front of us. It continued to rain, heavily at times. Had it been dry, we might have visited the Big Brook Arboretum north of Pemberton, but it involves several miles on unsealed roads and we preferred to stay dry. Back on Highway One, now called the South Western Highway, it still ran among trees and after being in much drier landscapes I was more than happy to be in the forest.
We crossed the Rooney Bridge and through part of Shannon National Park, so I assume some Irish people settled this part of the country. Later we passed by D’Entrecasteaux National Park which was named after a French Naval Officer. The road started to descend towards Walpole and the coast. At the John Rate lookout, we got our first glimpse of the Southern Ocean on this trip. He was the first forester in the district and in the 1950s discovered a third species of tingle tree. Ironically, he was killed by a falling branch of a karri tree.
We were soon in Walpole which has a population of 439 and found our motel for the night. Walpole has an old piece of machinery near the information office which was used for hauling logs: indicating how important timber was for this community at one point.
You could spend quite a lot of time in this part of the world: there are lots of walks in the National Parks and a whole coast to explore. Sadly, on this trip, we don’t have enough time. 227 miles today and the trip total is now 7.747 miles.
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.
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.
It was getting very windy late afternoon on our last day in Broome making waves on the pool outside our room. When we woke the next morning, the sky was much cloudier and the sea much less blue. The Broome Highway took us back to Highway One which then passes through the Roebuck Plains. Some of the shrubs we saw bare in Northern Territory have leaves on here and overall, the bush is greener unless there has been a recent bush fire. The road runs between the Great Sandy Desert on one side and the ocean on the other. At a rest area we watched a pair of crested pigeons in a nearby tree and I finally got a photo of a shrub/small tree I have been seeing for a while. It has red seed pods, and small rounded leaves. It is not in my Australian Tree Book, so I suspect it is a shrub.
The road runs through Anna Plains where the earth is sandier and then into a desert-like coloured landscape. I would have liked to take some photographs as there were even odd bits of fence and other items which would have been good in the foreground. It reminded me a little of the desert in Utah near the Great Salt Lake. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to pull off the road here and a little more traffic than we had seen for a while, so I had to give up on the idea. At the Sandfire Roadhouse, only instant coffee was on offer but as the temperature had climbed up to 40 degrees today, I had a cold drink. Like the Inn at Daly Waters where people leave stickers and other memorabilia, here there is a vogue for leaving your cap behind.
There were also number plates from around the world, road signs
and a selection of old machinery rusting outside.
Continuing along the road we passed a guy riding an electric bike with four panniers stuffed with things. I did not envy him in this heat. Just before Pardoo Roadhouse was a ‘Welcome to Pilbarra’ sign. This roadhouse sells freshly ground coffee, but it was too late in the day for me to have some as I have become a slow acetylator of caffeine and if I intend to sleep at night I can’t have any after 2pm. Our destination for the night was Pardoo Station Stay: a cattle ranch with rooms, cabins and a caravan park. It is near the coast, at the bottom end of 80-mile Beach but we were told you cannot walk there (it is only a few kilometres) and you need a 4WD to get right down to the beach. We did see a lovely sunset and had a chat with a couple of campers sitting around the campfire. It is lit at 5pm every day. They couple told us that they come up here every winter to escape the cold further south and that in peak season the caravan park is full, with people queuing up outside to get in.
Our waitress at dinner was from Ireland. We have met several people from the Emerald Isle on our journey so far. At times I still feel I have not left home: we saw an Everton shirt a few days ago, a child in a Liverpool Mo Salah strip yesterday and the receptionist at the motel in Timber Creek which is not really on the tourist trail, was from Kirkdale in Liverpool. In our room at Pardoo, the mugs were made in Stoke on Trent.
The following morning, we were back on the highway continuing westbound towards Port Hedland. At one point we had to avoid a large lizard who was crossing the road. Fortunately there was were no other vehicles there and we could swerve around him. The soil here is very red and hills began to appear on the horizon. We saw quite a few willy-willies: columns of dust like mini tornadoes.
Port Hedland is a big industrial area with the railway bringing iron ore in from the mines, a nearby limestone quarry and a huge pile of salt that puts British Salt’s heap in Middlewich to shame. Some of the termite mounds here have got white workers’ hats on them. There were long lines of trucks waiting to be filled and a large metal recycling plant. Between Whim Creek and Roebourne, the Sherlock River was the only watercourse we crossed that had any water in it. We passed through Roebourne to take the road off to Point Samson. There are some old stone buildings as you enter the town. These were the regional prison and can be visited. The current prison is on the road to Point Samson. A lookout at Point Samson revealed merchant ships queuing to get to the harbour to pick up consignments of iron ore.
I did some beachcombing and was admiring a new mural that some children were helping to paint on the walls of the toilet block. One of the people there was a wildlife warden, who spotting my camera (I had been trying to photograph birds on the shore), told me that there were ospreys nesting at the harbour and they were very easy to spot down there.
Before leaving Halls Creek this morning, I got a photograph of the cows on top of the local supermarket. I had noticed them the day before, but it was too busy to get a parking spot. The cows are testament to how important the beef industry is to the local area. The town holds a rodeo every July. Wikipedia said that in 2016 a mining company was exploring setting up in the area to mine iron ore. A population explosion was expected, and several stores and fast food businesses were planning to come to Halls Creek. There is no obvious evidence in town two years later, that this has happened. We did pass a small mine west of town on the highway but too quickly to see who or what it was. Halls Creek is on the edge of the desert and much of the land alongside the road is flat grassland with a few bushes or trees. Later on, some rocks did appear near the road and other escarpments were visible on the horizon.
Our destination was Fitzroy Crossing. The Fitzroy River (known as raparapa to the indigenous community who have inhabited the area for 40,000 years) has one of Australia’s largest catchment areas: 90,000 square kilometres. It has 20 tributaries and the water can rise up to 26 metres over the old crossing in the wet season. The area has flooded numerous times in the past and the town of Fitzroy Crossing was founded to enable an adequate crossing to be constructed. The first bridge was built in 1935 and the modern one in 1970. Today there was only a little water in the river but as it was hot, some of the locals were swimming.
Before checking into our hotel, we drove up to Geikie Gorge which is accessible with 2WD although one stretch has some pretty bad pot holes. One company and the parks service run river cruises in the gorge but today these were limited to 8am and 4pm which did not really fit in with our schedule. At other times they are hourly. There are some walking trails but as the temperature was the highest it has been so far on the trip at 39 degrees, we limited ourselves to a couple of the shorter ones and a peep over the water at a boat ramp.
I did solve one mystery here. The Kapok Bush (Cochlospermum fraseri) grows in the gorge. I had seen the yellow flowers on bushes and wondered what they were but had not seen any close up. Here, there was also an explanatory notice. The flowers turn into a pod which later splits to reveal the kapok. The indigenous Bunuba people (who call the plant Wanggu), weave the kapok with human hair to make thick belts called wanala. They also eat the tubers.
At the hotel I solved another mystery. On the east coast we had seen bushes or small trees in gardens and parks completely devoid of leaves, but the top of the branches had been pruned. Further north leaves and flowers have opened and they turned out to be rhododendrons. As a result of the flooding the town Fitzroy Crossing moved a little further away from the river. Our hotel had photographs of the most recent devastating flood in 2011 in the restaurant. Fitzroy Crossing has the oldest pub in the Kimberley Region dating from 1897: The Crossing Inn. It is still right down on the river bank as is the Pioneer Cemetery. The Inn has some indigenous art on display.
In the last couple of days, we have driven 220 and 215 miles bringing the total to 5541 miles.