We awoke to black skies and wet roads. Unfortunately as we left the city, the rain returned. I had decided to take James to Healesville Sanctuary to see some of the wildlife we had only had brief glimpses of on our trip so far. We arrived just before opening time and tried to spot animals and birds who were trying to stay dry. It was quite a contrast to my visit 14 years ago on a sunny day when emus came to the fence and the dingoes were lying on the rocks soaking up the rays. The emus were hiding as were the dingoes and there was no sign of the platypus.
On the way back towards Highway One with the Yarra Range in the clouds, we passed an appropriately named sideroad: Rainy Hill Road. After being in the city it was a pleasure to be back in the hills surrounded by tall eucalyptus trees. We stopped for coffee at Pakenham where a thunderstorm cut the electricity off in the café briefly. There is a secondhand book exchange in the shopping centre and I found a couple of books by one of the Duracks which were recommended by our friend in New South Wales. Interestingly the hotel here has a big sign outside saying that there are definitely no pokies here. A little further along the highway we stopped for lunch at Trafalgar. The train stops here and the old station house now houses a pop-up arts and crafts shop. It has been part of a state programme to re-use redundant railway buildings. It needed a bit more TLC though as grass was growing in the gutter. The next part of our journey was almost like home: a traffic jam due to roadworks on the road on a holiday weekend Friday afternoon. It did not delay us too long and we settled into our motel at Lakes Entrance before the forecast gales arrived later in the evening. It was still windy in the morning and all the water birds were sitting on the edge of the water as it was too rough to feed in it. From the lookouts it did not too rough.
The next morning we got back on the highway and stopped for coffee in the Bushaware Café in the General Store near Cabbage Tree Creek. The cicadas were deafening and speaking to the owner, I learnt that they only come for two weeks every year. There are 200 hundred species in Australia and the noise can reach 120 dB, enough to damage the human ear.
The sign was being repaired. 100km or so further on, we crossed the last state border on this trip and were back in New South Wales. At Eden, the Whale Festival was on and it was very busy. This part of the coast is known as the Sapphire Coast: this is the colour of the sea, nothing to do with the gemstone.
We continued on Highway 9 to Merimbula, where we met up with a friend and walked along the boardwalk at the edge of the water.
There were a number of birds: a Barn Owl with an injured eye, Black Swans and a Yellow Thornbill. The café was shut – in Australia they often shut in the afternoon.
We then visited Bournda National Park which has a walk to a cove,
And lots of kangaroos hanging out.
On Sunday morning we left and continued on the coast road from Tathla to Moggreeka inlet and after a drive uphill, to Cuttagee Beach on Barragga Bay.
We stopped at Bermagui for coffee and then re-joined Highway One towards Narooma. The road winds upwards in the forest and then down to Camel Rock Beach.
with the mountains behind.
The Highway then passes between Dromedary Mountain 806m on the left and Little Dromedary Mountain which is too low to have its height measured on my app. There are a number of small interesting towns on this coast. Mago, a gold mining town dating from 1850 there are a number of craft shops and cafes on the street and it was very busy. At Milton, there was a long queue of people waiting to get into the theatre to see Calendar Girls. Narooma has a lovely situation on the inlet. I could spend longer in them all. Before we arrived in Wollongong, we diverted to Jervis Bay to look at Hyams Beach which claims to be the whitest beach in the world.
At Shellharbour we took the quieter and slower B62 to our hotel as the Highway was very busy with people returning to Sydney. Our mileage over the last few days was 658 and our total before our last driving day is 11,492.
It is 14 years since I was last in Victoria and James has never been here. During my Churchill Fellowship in Melbourne I had driven some of the Great Ocean Road one weekend but had not had time to go beyond Port Campbell so we decided it was worth diverting from the Highway and spending some time on the coast. As the road leaves Highway One it passes a huge cheese and butter plant and a Cheeseworld shop. The B100 zig zags through dairy farmland down to join the coast at the Bay of Islands.
Further along is the Bay of Martyrs
and London Bridge. One span collapsed in 1990 leaving two people stranded who had to be air-lifted by a helicopter.
We also stopped at the Arch where there is some limestone graffiti.
and the Port campbell outlook.
It was definitely coffee time by then and there are several cafes in the town. I spotted the motel I had stayed in 14 years ago which has had a revamp since. Beyond Port Campbell is Loch Ard Gorge.
The busiest spot on the coast is at the 12 apostles. This group of rocks only acquired this name in the 1960s when it was thought it would attract more visitors. The last time I was here there was not visitors’ centre, subway to lookouts and a large car park, just a few pull-offs at the roadside. We saw a fox hanging around as we turned into the car park. James spotted a chauffeur-driven car with an Australian flag on the bonnet and a police car. We wondered who was visiting. Having managed to avoid being in the same city as Donald Trump and Harry and Meghan, we now found ourselves at the same attraction as Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime MInister. There was only one policeman and some guys in suits we assumed were security as well as the press. We were amazed at the little security: tourists were wandering all around and some one could easily have taken a shot from the back.
We occupied ourselves looking at the views and avoiding selfie sticks. Fortunately drones are banned. There was a snake crossing the path to the lookouts but he was sliding into the undergrowth by the time we got there.
By the time we were ready to go, Mr Morrison had departed. Our next stop was at Castle Cove outlook.
There is also a Great Ocean Walk which is 100km, shorter than the West Highland Way. As it runs through a national park you have to book your campsites in advance. It runs from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles.
At Princetown the road goes over inland through the Great Otway National Park. I enjoyed being among trees again. We drove to the Cape Otway Lighthouse but you have to pay to go around the whole station or go on a guided tour. I just wanted a peek at Australia’s oldest mainland light, built in 1848. I had to be content with a peek from the walking trail. On the way back to the Ocean Road I saw one koala snoozing in the top of a tree and another kangaroo hopped across the road in front of us. Soon we had reached Apollo Bay and relaxation time. 120 miles today and the total is now 10,277.
We left Adelaide southbound down the Fleurieu Peninsula. The Mount Lofty Range runs down the centre with vineyards along the roadside. We passed McLaren Vale and then took a detour to Sellick Beach where we grabbed a coffee from the store that sold everything.
The beach was quite busy with people walking, driving and cycling as the tide was out. A little further down the coast is the Nan Hai Pu Tuo Buddhist Temple with a large statue. There was a major building project underway, I don’t know whether they are extending the temple or building retreat accommodation.
Before we reached Cape Jervis to catch the ferry, we stopped at the Hobart Memorial Lookout.
Part of the 1200km Heysen Trail runs from Cape Jervis to Victor Harbor (70km). To do this section you need to be self-reliant and only camp at approved sites. I noticed from the map that there is a Balquhidder River and campsite so someone from Perthshire has been round here. The ferry journey across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island only takes 45 minutes, so we were soon on our way to our accommodation in Emu Bay.
We passed a sign to Brownlow, so I could have been almost home. Our cabin had distant views of Emu Bay so the first thing we did the next morning was to go for a walk on the 5km of white sand. Some of the area above the high tide mark was fenced off to protect the nesting plovers.
The next part of our exploration of Kangaroo Island, the third largest island in Australia, was to take the South Coast Road. There was a cycling event on and most were travelling in the opposite direction to us. We stopped for a coffee at the junction for Seal Bay and two cyclists were in the café. They told us that they were all members of ‘Cycling South Australia’ and were on the last of seven days on the island. Just as we were leaving I noticed Kylie the local koala who lives in the trees around the café. I saw another in the trees by the road going down to the bay.
Down at Seal Bay Conservation Area is a Australian Sea Lion colony of around 100 animals. About 40 were on the beach when we visited.
We also spotted an Echidna on the slopes above the bay, but it was in the bush and I did not get a good shot. I saw one on the road near Port Campbell 14 years ago but do not have that picture with me. On our way to Flinders Chase National Park we passed Little Sahara where you can go sand boarding on the dunes. At the National Park we first drove down to Cape du Couedic, where there is a lighthouse
and a coastal walk to Admirals Arch which has stalactites hanging from the roof and where there is a fur seal colony.
Back on the road there is a turnoff to Remarkable Rocks: granite rocks that have been shaped by the weather and sit 75m above the ocean. The orange colour comes from lichens growing on them.
The National Park has several trails, campgrounds, more remote lighthouses and some other accommodation. It covers most of the western end of the island and the roads are unsealed. We would have liked to explore more but completed our circuit of the island so that we could get organised for our departure the next day. We covered 174 miles today. Our trip total is now 9,871.
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.
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 were in Cardwell on a Friday and our hosts said that they always got fish and chips for the evening meal if we wanted to join in. We agreed and had a very pleasant meal with them (both New Zealanders) and another guy from New Zealand who was working in Australia. The next morning, we were back on the road through banana plantations. The bunches of fruit were all covered with plastic bags which we presumed were either to protect from pests or prevent them from ripening too early.
We passed Mount Bartle Frere which at 1622m is Queensland’s highest peak. In 1942 a USAAF plane returning to base at Charters Towers encountered a tropical storm and crashed on the mountain killing the seven crew. In Babinda, we could not resist following the sign for Babinda Boulders and there is a memorial for the crash there. Swimming is allowed at the first pool next to the carpark and there is a walk to a couple of viewpoints where swimming is forbidden.
We were continuing on Highway 1 (The Bruce Highway) to stay with friends near Yarrabah, a 20km detour off the highway. Their house is right on the beach and we had a great walk and clamber over the boulders with them and their dogs before dinner. This was the first beach on the east coast that I have found sea glass on.
The next morning, we all had breakfast on Cairns esplanade. On the way there we passed numerous classic cars heading in the opposite direction for an event. There was a charity walk taking place on the esplanade, but we managed to find a quieter café eventually.Before leaving town, we stopped at Rusty’s market. Many of the stallholders are Hmong people from Laos. There is an amazing selection of fruit and vegetables and also jewellery and some crafts. I topped up my coffee supplies at this stall.
We then left Highway 1 to divert to the Daintree rainforest via the Captain Cook Highway to Mossman which for much of the way follows the coast. Just before Mossman we diverted to Port Douglas for lunch by the beach. Continuing north from Mossman there is eventually a turn for the Cape Tribulation Road and the Daintree Ferry. On the winding road to our destination there was a lookout (Walu Wugirrica) over the rainforest to the Alexandra Range.
We spent Monday exploring a little of what the Daintree National Park has to discover. The Discovery Centre was our first port of call. Elevated boardwalks run through different levels of the rainforest from the floor to the canopy. A 32m high tower gives the topmost views. and is also used to measure carbon flux by researchers at James Cook University.
The species of fig tree here (Ficus virgate) has very small fruit compared with my commercial variety Brown Turkey at home.
As we had a few longer driving days ahead we walked the nearby Jindalba (Kuku Yalanji for ‘foot of the mountain’) Long Loop trail which is 2.7km. There is a shorter boardwalk. The trail is way-marked and there are a lot of tree roots and rocks, plus a few fallen tree trunks to step over and some creeks to cross. There are a few short steep ascents and descents so sensible footwear is advised. Don’t go in your flip-flops. We were very pleased to get see an adult Cassowary and a youngster before they disappeared back into the foliage. Unlike most birds, once the Cassowary eggs have hatched, the male takes responsibility for caring for the young until they are 16 months old. I did not get a good shot of the adult but here is the youngster:
As we are almost at the end of the dry season there were a lot of fallen seeds and fruit on the ground and fungi on tree stumps. After finishing the trail, we drove to Cow Bay Beach for our picnic lunch. It was another almost deserted beach and this lizard was sitting on one of the trees. Saltwater crocodiles mean that going into the water is not allowed. I did some beachcombing while James rested, finding a couple of pieces of coral and looking at all the Bubble Crab holes on the sand. On other beaches I have seen them emerge in the evening.
There is so much more to see here but we had the press on with our journey the next day.