Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Forests of South West WA and onto the Nullabor Plain

The weather has been really crap the whole time since we have been in South WA, which is a shame as it is a stunning area - rugged coastline, huge trees in ancient Karri forests, quaint towns - but when it's raining me and Em are not that good at staying put somewhere, setting up or packing up camp or getting out of the car even!

This being the case, we've made it to the Nullabor Plain (in fact its the Southern edge of the great Nullabor Plain in Central South West Australia ) aka the Eyre Highway.  This is the road that runs West to East across the bottom of Australia between Perth and Adelaide.  It's 2700kms in length (we are joining it 100kms East of Norseman at Balladonia though) which is the equivalent of London to Moscow according to our Lonely Planet book.  It's been a good day of driving and we've just watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade on the laptop.  It's pretty cold outside so we have thermals and hats on.  And we are on our way to South Australia and looking forward to that part of our trip (conquering the Oodnadatta Track - which is where I killed my Subaru) and then onwards back to Melbourne through North Victoria - hopefully through Ned Kelly country as I am just about to finish the book "Ned Kelly - A Short Life" by Ian Jones (borrowed from Daz - thanks mate, it was a great read, but he was still a criminal!) so it would be good to put it all in place in towns like Glenrowan, Benalla, Wangaratta and Beechworth (some of which we'd been to before, but just didn't know that much about Ned).

And back in time slightly to the drive after we left Leeuwin Naturaliste NP; we have seen plenty of Karri tree forests and in particular one 60 metre giant which used to be used as a spotting tower for bush fires.  Named the Gloucester Tree (not sure why) we didn't climb it, our excuse was it was pissing down with rain and so 1) there was no risk of fires and 2) it was downright slippery and dangerous.  Apparently only 1 in 4 visitor climbs it (but 3 in 4 backpackers do it, they are young and cool though).  The forests were great, but very wet and dank, so we didn't spend much time camping there.  Just a few lookouts and quick stops, Beedlup Falls, a nice homemade pie and custard & apple slice in Pemberton, etc. etc.

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One of the best NP camp areas we have been recommended so far - due to two facts that I will tell you about in a minute - was by the friendly ranger at Conto Campground in Leeuwin Naturaliste NP.  He told us to head to Banksia Camp in D'Entrecasteaux (or Walpole as they seemed to overlap) National Park on the coast.  It was 4wd access only as it was a bit sandy, and we got there about 4pm to find we were the only people there, which was a bonus - especially when you know the access track is rough, so you have to be determined to get there, and no caravans or Wicked vans can get in even if they wanted to.  Our first pleasant surprise was that the campground has a hut.  Not just an old crappy, wet, dark, graffitied hut, but a brand spanking new large (sleeps 12) hut with a sink, bunks, hessian sack curtains for doors (for airflow!?) with no graffiti, even some old photos around the place.  We did a quick insect and anything gross check and setup camp in the hut all to ourselves.  This was a special treat sleeping in 3 walls as it was so windy and pissed down all night!  So breakfast would not have been fun in the tent, instead we had a huge kitchen area to prepare it in out of the rain and the tent stayed in its bag.  We both slept surprisingly well.

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And the second pleasant surprise was the evening before, when we arrived we decided to take a walk down to the beach, when I spotted what I thought was a lone surfer - quite a way out in some pretty rough surf and near rocks.  When I did a double take and Em arrived down the hill he had gone.  So we both looked and saw the shapes of surfboards coming out of the water at strange angles, and slowly realised we were watching two whales quite close in to the shore!  This is the first time we have ever seen a whale and what a treat it was.  We watched them on a deserted beach for about an hour until sunset.  There was a large one and a medium sized one, they stayed close in (just behind the breaking waves) just slowly moving around.  We think they were Southern Right whales sheltering in the bay on their way North from the Antarctic (or so we read about this is what they are doing at this time of year!).  So yeah, dead chuffed! 

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And today we woke up at a beach camp area called Munglinup (Em had a cold shower last night out of desperation, very brave of her I must say) about 100kms West of Esperance (a lot of names on this coast are from the French explorers, including D'Entrecasteaux, Esperance, Cap Aride, etc.), popped into Esperance for some road advice as we wanted to drive through Cape Arid National Park to get to the Nullabor, and also some bread & milk and diesel.  Then in the driving rain, again, set off East of Esperance and drove North up the dirt road from Condligup(?) to Balladonia on the Nullabor.  This was a much more interesting way to go than the normal sealed route via Norseman...only because I get bored driving on 2000kms of tarmac so to drive through the occasional puddle or see a ruined homestead is a lot more fun than waving at truckers all day!  And here we are camped up on our way to the outback and the heat and the dust and the flies...again!  Can't wait (seriously!).

1 comment:

Sylvie said...

Hello you two,
Great blog, great congratulation.
I'm from France and, reading testimonials in the OzSailing website
I wonder if it's you who wrote a comment on it. I plan to make the Kiana trip with them but I'm only snorkelling and wanted to know if spots are good for that. Sometimes when there is diving and snorkelling great barrier reef are too deep to see it well with snorkel equipement.
It will be great if you can answer me.
I give you you my email adress
sylvie-godard@orange.fr
Have a good continuation in your trip.
Cheers