Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 34 Last day in Esperance – Start of the journey home


Today was a bit of a lazy day. We decided on breakfast at Dome with everyone as Laura fly’s out tomorrow and we head off on the journey home. So the morning was pretty relaxed and casual. After lunch it was off to the beach for all, except Di and Wendy who decided that lazing around the van was there preference. I must say I was a bit tentative as the even though the sun was out and it was quite warm. the waters of the southern ocean are still pretty cold. 

Sunset on Tanker peir

Sunset over Esperance

Any way I figured I had brought the snorkeling gear all this way I was going to get it wet. So in we plunged, brass monkey time, it did however improve as we numbed and was quite pleasant exploring the edges of the rock shelves. Didn’t spend a lot of time in the water but in the end it was well worth it. A couple of hours well spent. We had intended to do a spot more fishing but decided instead to watch the sunset at the wharf. Nice end to the day.

Day 33 Cape Le Grande and Lucky Bay – Reality meets expectation

Today was a reasonably early start (8.30 ish) for the 60 odd km drive east to Cape Le Grande and Lucky Bay. To say that this particular place has held high expectations and anticipation for us is probably an understatement. From the outset of the planning for this trip we have mulled over this location, read travel info and magazine articles, which only fuelled our determination to go there. We had, initially, intended to free camp there but with school holidays, a long weekend and ordinary weather interfering we ended up basing ourselves in Esperance. The trip out was interesting with the farmland giving way to some interesting landscapes once inside the national park area. On the way in we passed a replica of Stonehenge, which we had been thinking of going to see, glad we didn’t now as the view from the road was uninspired. I guess there will be people out there that think it’s great but not us. 

Landscape on way into Cape Le Grande

Rock formations

Whispering rock near Hellfire Bay

Wild flower
Once in the national park there are heaps of natural formations to keep you busy and some very interesting monoliths dominating the landscape as we wound our way into the Cape. We stopped at the Hellfire Bay lookout and saw some spectacular coast line and decided we would call in to Hellfire Beach on our way back. First major stop was Lucky Bay which was and would be a nice spot except for the seaweed, in fact the whole coastline in the South West is suffering at the moment with huge amounts of seaweed deposited on the beaches from the recent storms. I estimated it to be over a metre deep in some places. We took a short drive along the beach and then headed for Rossitter Bay which is about 6km further on by dirt road. Same issue here with the whole spectacle dulled by the weed. 

Hellfire bay

Lucky Bay

Hellfire Bay looking west

Hellfire Bay

Don’t get me wrong the sites and the pristine nature of the place is not to be underestimated but the smell of rotting seaweed is not for everyone. We returned to Lucky Bay for a spot of lunch and we were entertained by a family of kangaroos and the humans annoying them. Lunch over we headed back to Hellfire Bay and as it turned out the highlight of the day. This is an incredible little bay and was one of the few not impacted by seaweed. We spent a little time here getting our feet wet and enjoying the place. Next stop was Cape Le Grande and whilst not disappointed I think our expectations may have got a bit skewed. Again don’t get me wrong, it is still a wonderful place but the pick for me was Hellfire Bay followed by Lucky Bay. It sometimes difficult when writing these blogs because you have so many ahhhhh moments it all becomes a bit blasĂ©. There is no doubt for me we are the lucky country and are blessed with a magnificent country and its trips like these that just reinforce that reality for me. The sites and beauty of this area are no doubt some of the best I can imagine and we have only scratched the surface. So it was after a pretty full day of white sand, a bit of sun, sea and surf it was time to head for home. We tried our luck again off the tanker pier late in the afternoon, yesterday I had caught a king George whiting just on 30cm and Gaz got a nice size Calamari and apparently there have been some good size catches off the pier. It was reasonable successful with another calamari and a whiting. Bit of bad luck for Gaz as he hooked a Calamari which let go of the squid jig just as he pulled it out of the water. There was I fair bit of tension on the line and when I looked around it was imbedded horizontally in Gaz’s forehead. A bit of an “Oh shit” moment, Laura managed to extract the jig without much pain but a lesson for all I think. Tomorrow is our last day in Esperance and officially the start to our return to reality – homeward bound

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 32 Esperance -The tourist route

Whilst we have been in the west we have come across these maps at nearly every town and I don’t mean the tear off ones from the info centres. These are proper maps of the town and the surrounding area with points of interest etc and they are free. They are fantastic for planning your days when in a location. So with one of these in hand we intended to set off on the tourist route which was about a 30 km loop along the western side of Esperance tanking in  a number of beaches and sites. Before we headed of we went to the Info centre for some more info and basically walked through a whole range of buildings which have been restored and turned into shops. Buildings such as the 1920’s Police Sgts house and 1930’s Matron’s quarters. In all there were about 10 buildings from various periods around Esperance. It was a nice stroll and we enjoyed coffee at CafĂ© on the Rocks,  which original was the School Masters home from around the 1940’s and has been turned into a coffee shop. 

Plaque a Esperance Museum

A town sculpyure

Old church in historic precinct

Sculpture in front of old police station

Once fortified we headed off on the tourist route and lost count of the number of times we stopped at lookouts etc. By the time we had completed the loop it was well after 1.30 so we headed back for lunch. After lunch it was take up where we left off. There were two main attraction for the afternoon the first was the mermaid shop and the second was the glass art experience. The mermaid shop was an interesting place and they tan all types of fish skins to make leather for handbags etc pretty much anything that can be made by traditional leather can be done with fish skins. They buy, what is essentially a waster produce (for around 50c a kilo), and turn it into high grade leather. We looked at many of the fish leather items and they were crafted beautifully and well out of our price range. We asked about carp and yes they do process them as well. Another interesting fact is that we (Australia) export shit loads of Carp (technical term for lots) to the Asia pacific region for human consumption. From the mermaid shop it was a quick jaunt to the Glass Gallery of Cindy Pool. She had many pieces of art and it was enjoyable looking through the gallery with Cindy and her staff responding to all our questions, Again it was one of those places were you either have a place to put the pieces or you don’t, we don’t which is unfortunate because there are some wonderful pieces in her collection. Cindy and another artist were also responsible for the whale tail sculpture on the water front. This sculpture is a representation of the elements that make up Esperance. I don’t pretend to understand, I’m sure Tracey would, but it is a great piece and sets the water front up. The sculpture is a mix of wood, steel and fused glass I the shape of a whale tail. The weather is starting to moderate so, hopefully we  will have a good day tomorrow to head for Cape Le Grande.

Day 31 Ravensthorpe to Esperance – Wild weather and strange people.

Well talk about contrasts yesterday 31 deg and blowing a gale, today 14 deg and still blowing a gale. The weather has turned on us again, we only have about 180 kms to travel but with the wind and rain it was always going to be interesting. 

From the outset I will say that both Gary and myself are a bit anal about our equipment and have the best we can afford on our vehicles and attached bits and pieces so for us even the most adverse conditions usually present no problems and we suffer very little in the way of failures. The same cannot be said about many of our fellow travellers as I’m sure Gaz will recount in his blog and if it wasn’t for the potential of a serious aftermath it would be a good comedy sketch. The bit that worries me is some other poor bugger is usually on the receiving end when it all goes pear shaped. Anyway we said goodbye to “the princess who needs a personality transplant” running the Ravensthorpe caravan park and pointed our noses east to Esperance and that was about it for the day. Too wet, too windy and too cold for anything else. Found a caravan park hunkered down and only ventured out for coffee.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day 29 and 30 Ravensthorpe Quilts, Wild flowers and granite surfing

We headed off at a reasonable hour today for Ravensthorpe. Our primary purpose for stopping at Ravensthorpe was to go to wave rock. Ravensthorpe is the closest town along our southernmost route back to wave rock and will be a 400km round trip tomorrow. We arrived at Ravensthorpe around 1pm and went to the caravan park to book in. This is whole other story for another time but would be best described as interesting. The owner needs a personality transplant and required a lot of effort on my part to remain calm. Lots of hommmmms. We went for a tour of the town during the afternoon which proved interesting. There were a group of veteran and vintage cars on display, a wild flower exhibition and a quilter’s fair all of which consumed our afternoon. 

Quilter's Fair

Early Dodge

We could have attended the gala that evening but we forgot to pack our evening wear. At the quilters fair we also had to sample the Devonshire teas (scones with jam and fresh cream).  The quilters had some really nice displays on sale and from a male point of view seemed reasonably priced. Entry into the wildflowers was $4and your entry ticket was a crocheted or knitted flower, novel and different. By all accounts the girls enjoyed it. We missed most of the cars as they had started to pack up when we arrived.

Wave rockin'

View from top of wave rock

Where's Dougal?

Hippo's yawn

The sun rose next day with the promise of hot weather and it ended up reaching 32 deg. We have had a bit of ordinary weather on this trip and today proved no exception for with the temp came winds and not just those little huff and puff ones I mean gale force. The wind was that strong it was pushing the car all over the road. On the return trip we dodged debris, fallen limbs and trees, dust storms and stumpy tailed lizards. Both Hyden (wave rock) and Ravensthorpe lost power with limbs over power lines. We were hoping all this trouble was worth it. We had intended to visit wave rock on our leg from Kalgoorlie to Freo but the weather got in the way then. As it turned out it was well worth the effort and even the wind, which was ferocious on top of the rock, didn’t dampen our spirits. It is an incredible formation and even more incredible it only became a tourist attraction in 1964! Add to that the wild flowers, including orchids, and well it was very successful. Thanks to Gaz an Shaz for chauffeuring us.

Day 27 and 28 Lazy Days Bremer Bay

We left Albany for the short trip to Bremer Bay. Bremer Bay is a couple of days of nothing much just “belaxing” as Ruby would say. Little bit of fishing, little bit of 4x4 and chase a few wild flowers. So this post will be pretty short and a few photo’s. We had a small trip up to the lookout then back along the coast to the beach access point. The bar at Bremer bay is like a 6 lane highway of hard packed sand and hasn’t been open to the sea for some time. We had a small sojourn up along the beach before heading back to the bar and taking a track to the north. This brought us on to the eastern side of the river. We had been given the location of some wild orchids and this track gave us a circle route back to Bremer Bay.
Looking back to the bar

Wild flower

Views along the Bremer River

View along the Bremer river


more wildflowers

Beach cruisin'

We have been on some rough tracks but this takes the cake for corrugations. There were 2 patches of about 10 kms and the best we could manage was about 10kph and that rattled the bones. Dougal did a complete 360 on the dash. However it was a good trip didn’t find the orchids but found plenty of wild life and wild flowers. By the time we got back it was mid-afternoon so it was a late lunch and kick back time. Tomorrow it’s off to Ravensthorpe. 

Day 26 – The sites of Albany

Today we sort of went our own way a bit with Di, Wendy and I heading into Albany to have a look around. There are some magnificent old buildings and heritage precinct as well as a full size replica of the ”Amity” which brought the first settlers into Albany.

Anzac commemoration on harbour

Amity Replica

Is this the earliest digital clock?
 There is also a rich ANZAC history here with Albany the point of departure for many of our ANZAC’s. It is also claimed that the first dawn service was held here from which the tradition of the dawn service has flourished. A lot of work (and money) has been put into the Avenue of Honour and memorial park overlooking Albany and is quite a tribute to the spirit of the ANZAC. Next stop was the Patrick Taylor Cottage Museum. This cottage was one the first in Albany and is the last surviving wattle and daub building in WA. The cottage is filled with artefacts and memorabilia and was well worth the visit. The cottage was saved in the 60’s by a couple of local women who partitioned to have it saved. One very interesting piece was the first digital clock – from America (see photo).  Another must see was dog rock and with a little imagination it looks like a dogs head. 

Dog rock where's Dougal??

After lunch we headed back to the caravan park for a quiet afternoon. We meet up with Gaz and Shaz for afternoon tea to celebrate Sharon’s birthday. Gaz, Wendy, Laura and I went to try our luck fishing once again. We had a few small ones and a slight drama when Laura and her phone parted company and it slid between a crack in the rocks. Gaz managed to retrieve it after some time and the loss on some skin and subsequent bruises will remind him of his efforts for a while, but it was a good save. We had a few onlookers wondering what we were doing so I told them we had found a rock lobster and we were trying to catch it. One of the onlookers then proceeded to tell us he thought we might have lost mobile phone, then proceed to tell us that had caught a few rock lobsters in the previous few days just down from where we were. Then Gaz promptly told them it was actually a mobile phone should have seen the look on their faces.
New ANZAC memorial above Albany

Day 25 Albany - Paddling in the sea

Today we headed in the opposite direction to yesterday and headed to Two Peoples Bay and Little Beach. Pretty much all we wanted was a quiet day and we succeeded in that. The bays were spectacular with the sand brilliant white and the water clear and blue.
Two peoples bay

Little Beach

Wildflower Little Beach
We scooted around a few of the lookouts and finally made Little beach around 11 ish. We paddled and walked along this beautiful beach until lunch time and then sat on the beach and had lunch. All very nice and relaxing, Di even managed to get her feet wet. A fitting end to the day or so we thought. Gaz, Laura and I decided on a spot of fishing at the break water. Laura bagged a reasonable bream and Gaz a calamari. Me, well I almost had a fair sized cuttlefish, operative word almost. Ah well at least I don’t have to clean anything.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Day 24 Albany – The Arch, Blowholes and Di’s nemesis (the snake)

Today we have woken to a nice day and our tour today was down the western side of the King George Sound to West Cape Howe National park. There are a number of natural features here which are interesting and spectacular. First was a walking trail down to Dunsky’s Beach which is a bit of rugged coastline on the way out to “The Gap”. 
Dunsky's Beach
Snake 1 Crowned snake

 A short walk from the car park takes you down onto the rocks and had some great views back along the coast. On our return we had the first of three encounters with Di’s nemesis the snake. On the last set of steps at the top landing there was a Crowned Snake these little fellows grow to about 30 to 35 cm long and are “mildly venomous”. Di managed to step over it and didn’t see it and was “not happy Jan” when I pointed it out. 
The Arch

The Gap

Looking back from the Gap
Not to worry probably won’t see any more (oh how I was to eat these words). Next stop was a few km’s further on and was called the bridge and is a similar formation to the London bridge at the 12 apostles. There was a bit of swell running and the water wasn’t quite as spectacular as it could have been. None the less it was well worth the effort. A little further on the same walking track is the gap and even with the relatively small swell running this was spectacular. The waves entering this small, narrow cleft in the rocks produced some explosive wave action. Back in the car and a few more kms were the blow holes. This was by far the longest and hardest walk of the day with a steep decline to negotiate and steps and the blow holes were not performing today as the swell wasn’t quite large enough. That said the noise coming from the blow holes was like the earth breathing. Gaz and I ventured down to the outlet in the rock face and nearly got blown of our feet with the air movements. The actual holes in the crevice would be no more than a meter square and the air comes out in a rush. I can only imaging the effect if the swells were larger and the holes were spouting water. 

Snake  3 Same as snake 2
snake 2 Barbick Snake
Our return journey up the walk way was not without excitement. We came across not 1 but 2 snakes about 500 mtrs apart. They are known as Barbick snakes over here and like our other friend only grow to about 30 to 35cm long and are also “mildly venomous”.  Those of you who know Di know how she loves snakes and, well this sort of didn’t help her be at one with nature any time soon. I found them quite interesting and felt a little important as I became the “sacrificial lamb” to shepherd Di around the little fellows. 

It seemed lunch was now in order so we took ourselves and our picnic lunch off to the Discovery Bay Centre and had a late lunch on the beach.  Munchies completed we headed back towards Albany and the wind power observation area. Albany has a wind generation set up and this is about as close as I’ve ever seen anyone get to these things. At the closest point we were literally almost directly under the spinning blades. There are 12 in the farm and they generate a significant portion of Albany’s power requirements. Next stop was Limeburners Distillery and the thought of a single malt whiskey, alas it was not to be at more than $300  a 750 ml bottle there are more pressing things to buy, the coffee there however was more than acceptable. A fitting end to the day.