Friday, December 2, 2011

Whirlwind tour of the South West

We left Perth, having been unable to secure any work, and having spent almost $3000 on some much needed vehicle repairs, in desperate need of a job and associated income. A phone call from Esperance decided our destination, but we had four days to get there, so why not take a quick tour of the South West along the way. What we have discovered is that 4 days, isn’t nearly enough! There is so much to see and explore in this region, we could spend months here!

We stopped for a quick lunch in Busselton and met some friendly people from a facebook group called “Families on the Road – Travelling Australia”, whilst there. Then we continued along ‘Caves Road’ to check out the coastline from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin. We stopped briefly for a walk around picturesque Canal Rocks, where the children climbed all over the large and unusual rock formations. Weathered by the sea and wind, the rocks are quite spectacular. We continued south and camped at the nearly deserted Conto Campground; finally we were back in the bush again.

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Conto CampgroundThe next morning we checked out the coastline nearby and found Cape Freycinet, before heading off to Cape Leeuwin and the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia, which is also on its most south-westerly point. This is where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean, and the result is often turbulent. The two oceans seem to beat to different drums, and their junction is often a wash of waves and seaspray. Walking around the lawns gives a sense of the isolation of this place, and even though today it is quite accessible, you can see how hard the pioneers in this area had to work to survive. The lighthouse still uses the original lens from the 1860’s, when it was built, but the light source has been upgraded a few times as technology improved.

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Off to the east the coastline was smouldering, with evidence of large fires burning off in the distance. We checked with the local DEC team, before heading east along the more northerly route (to stay away from the inferno), and headed for Warren National Park.


The south west of WA is known for its forests of Jarrah, Karri, Tingle and Marri trees. The Karri trees are second only in height to the Californian Redwood trees and grow to an astonishing 90 metres high. Not surprisingly, the local fire brigade built tree top towers in 1937-1952 at the top of some of the larger trees, so they could observe and track forest fires. In 1988, to celebrate Australias Bicentennial, another tree top tower was constructed and named after Dave Evans, a local teacher, and councillor. The ladder is constructed from steel pillars nailed horizontally into the tree in a circular fashion, climbing 75m to the top platform. At the 25m mark, there is a platform that serves as a rest stop and this is as far as Daniel and Josie climbed when they decided to head back down. Their nerves were a little stretched and sweaty palms made the prospect of climbing further frightening.

We camped overnight at Drafty’s Camp on the Heartbreak Trail and wandered along the peaceful Warren River as the sun set.

The next morning, we packed up camp and continued further east towards Albany. The highway took us through more of the Karri and Jarrah forests and the drive was spectacular in itself. The Giant Tingle Tree near Walpole was a worthwhile visit, and only a 1.2km walk through the Tingle forests. This was good news for Daniel, as his thighs were painfully reminding him of the ladder climb he completed yesterday.


Just down the road is the Valley of the Giants Treetop walk. Karen braved her fear of heights and conquered the walk, albeit a bit teary and scared along the way. Daniel and the kids managed a second lap, this time stopping for photographs along the way. Lunch was a hastened affair at Conspicuous Cliffs before being chased away by enormous quantities of flies, including very painful march flies!


We quickly restocked our food supplies in Albany and headed for the evenings campsite, at Cape Riche. We picked this spot because it was halfway between where we were and where we wanted to be, but it surprised us all.

Cape Riche is a fishing destination! Camping just off the beach in a protected inlet where boats could easily be launched, it is a hidden gem. The spectacular coastline can be enjoyed from the best “bar-b-que with a view” we have yet encountered. In the morning, the caretaker feeds about 25 local kangaroos, which were quite happy to get up close and personal with us.


The final part of our journey was uneventful and anti-climactic. We completed the 500+km to Esperance and arrived in time for a late lunch by the ocean. Some things don’t make any sense though – its early December, summer, and its freezing here! Well the breeze blowing in from the ocean makes us wonder if it didn’t just leave Antarctica before running headlong into Esperance.

The job we came here for has fallen through, and so now we have to make further plans, and more tracks. Perhaps we should have taken the extra time to explore some of the best country we have seen…………

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