Day 76 to Day 90
16 to 30 October. Francois Peron NP, Kalbarri, Geraldton, Pinnicles, Dongara, Lancelin, Toodjay, Perth and Lane Poole Reserve.
I have been a bit remiss in not doing a blog for the last 11 days but something always got in the road. Well I will just have to try and remember everything we have done. That is not easy as it becomes a bit of a blur after a while, but we will try anyway. Luckily I maintain a spreadsheet of our itinerary which I update so at least I can get the order of events fairly right. One of the reasons for writing the blog is so that we can remember everything we have done and when and in what order.
We left for Francois Peron national park early. The drive up there was fairly uneventful, except when you enter the park, because all roads are unmade and are a surface of soft sand, you have to let your tyres down to at least 20psi. That is about half the normal pressure of the tyres. National parks in WA have excellent infrastructure and at their entry there is a point where you can let down your tyres as well as a compressor so you can pump them up again when you leave. After deflating we proceeded to the nearest camp ground that is called Big Lagoon. The campground fronts one of the lagoons in the park, and if there was no wind it would be a truely magnificent place. Unfortunately we are here in the winding season, and on the second day it blew a gale. Rather than just sit around to be rocked by the wind we were up early next morning and did a drive to the top of the park, visiting all the sights on the way. It is serious sand driving, and the experience we got driving the Simpson Desert helped us to navigated deep soft sand without getting stuck. We got to the top where there are several vantage points where on a clear day you can watch the manta rays, sharks, dugongs etc in the sea below. We had met travellers that had been up there two days previously and had sat and watched the spectacle for hours. But you guessed it when we were there the winds made it almost impossible to see anything. We did see a couple of murky outlines that looked like sharks, but that is all. Another place to return to when the weather is better.
We left the park to head further south. We didn't go to monkey Mia, as it was an extra $15 each over and above the fee we had already paid for the park pass, and with the weather the way it was we didn't think it would be money well spent. Maybe next time.
We then headed south towards Kalbarri. However the trip was not without incident. I can't count how many times we were passed by others over double lines or on the crest of hills, with a couple of close shaves to boot. Some people seem to think that no one will be coming the other wary, let alone doing the speed they are doing.
We arrived at Kalbarri early afternoon and as we drove in we decided to visit two of the lookouts at the eastern end of the park. On proceeding to the Second lookout we came around the corner to be confronted with a head on crash involving a Avon motor home and a ford that had just happened. We quickly established that both drivers were ok but both vehicles were locked together and immovable on a blind corner. We had one bar on the phone and rang 000. Well I don't know where it was answered but one of the first questions is what stAte are you in followed by what town. When you answer Kalbarri National Park they can't handle it and keep asking for a town you are then asked for the nearest cross street and when you give the name of the highway that is beyond them as well. But with perseverance we prevailed and help was sent.
The accident was very unfortunate. The driver of the motor home being French came around the blind corner on the wrong side of the road and cleaned up an Italian driving the ford. I really felt sorry for the Italian as he had bought the car in Darwin and was on his way to Perth to sell it to fund the rest of his overseas trip. To save money he hadn't insured it and now it was wrecked. He also had buyers lined up for it, so not a good outcome for him.
After organising help we headed off and booked in for three nights at another farm stay. This one was very basic, and not as good as others we had been in, but did the job and was better than staying in town.
Kalbarri National Park is split into two parts, one coastal and one inland, so the first morning we were there we went and explored the coastal area. It is truely beautiful, but we couldn't really captured the magic with our cameras because it was overcast and the wind had thrown up a salt spray mist. The coastline is rugged and spectacular. We visited all the lookouts.
Next morning it was to be the inland part of the park to visit. It was very overcast and threatening rain, but we headed off anyway. When we got to the park, the clouds had dissipated and the sun was out in its full glory.
The 20 Klms drive to the first lookout and walk is through low Heath country. It has a beauty of its own that is quite different to any other we have seen. There were quite a few wild flowers out in bloom, including beautiful large yellow bottle brushes. We got to the first walk, which included Nature’s Window. This park is nothing short of spectacular. Better than anything we had seen to date. Because of the heat and crowds we didn't do the full Gorge walk, but did do the cliff top walk and took heaps of photos.
The next lookout is Z Bend and that is the most spectacular of all. It is hard to capture its grandness on camera but I have tried but won't get a chance to fully process the shots until I get home. The photo above was taken on the iPhone and gives you some idea of the spectacle.
We went back to our camp well exercised and ready for a early night. They are building a sky walk at Kalbarri which should be finished later in the year, so another reason to come back.
One thing we have noticed in WA is the standard of facilities at National Parks. They are excellent, well thought out and executed. Kalbarri is no exception as it has just been upgraded, but standing at the men's urinal having a pee, the view through the open window down the valley was amazing.
Next morning we were back on the road and headed off to Geraldton. When we arrived we were overwhelmed. It has 35,000 residents, after two months in outback places we found it too crowded so ducked into Woolies to restock and then back on the road heading south.
South of Geraldton there are two must sees. First are the leaning gum trees, created by all the wind, and the Second are the Pinnacles. Both are worth seeing and I have uploaded some iPhone photos into the gallery.we did a walk at the pinnacles, (most people drove) which was really worthwhile as you got a better appreciation of the spectacle of these numerous monoliths.
We left the Pinnacles and headed south stopping at a small town called Dongarra. The only reason for choosing it was the name. We booked into the caravan park for two nights. This was the best caravan park we have stayed in too date. Trees or partitions between each space and excellent facilities. We also got the washing up to date, and I was able to wash the vehicles and remove one month of accumulated red dirt. Bliss.
The wind was still blowing so after 2 days we decided to move on towards Perth. Were to stay next. We found a caravan park at a place called Lancelin and got a space right next to the beach as when we arrived there was no wind. But that quickly changed as a sudden gale warning was issued for the area for that night and next day. So we moved on of course..
We didn't want to stay in a caravan park in Perth, but had two nights to kill before we met up with friends in North Perth, where we were going to stay Saturday night. A quick look at the map provided a couple of options, and the one we chose was a small historic town of the name Toodyay (pronounced Twojay of course). It's about 80 Klms from Perth in the Avon Valley area. It was indeed a great choice. We stayed two nights in a loverly caravan park set on the river bank. It was about a kilometre walk along the river into town, which we did the first morning we were there, and explored the town. It was founded in 1826 and still has many original buildings. There is also a miniature railway, built by people on work for the dole scheme in 1998. The train runs on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month and I expect it is a great tourist attraction.
One feature of the town is its roses, and they are truely to be marvelled at and photographed, which we did. A stop at the local bakery was also a treat as well. We bought two cups of tee, two hug cakes and a huge baguette for the sum total of $14. And it was good bread as well. Toodjay reminded us of Berry 30 years ago.
Next day we did a tour of the country side and visited Meckering, the name of which rang a bell in the back of my mind. When we got there I remembered, it was the centre of the strongest earthquake ever measured in Australia, 6.7 on the Richter scale in the 1960’s. It destroyed or Bradley damaged every building in the town. A fault line ran across the countryside where the ground had been thrown up over a metre and a half. They have an earthquake park where there are items such as bent railway lines showing the force of the event.
Saturday we packed up and headed to Perth to catch up with an old work colleague who moved to Perth some four years ago. It was great catching up with Dixie and reminiscing our time working together.
Sunday morning we jumped into the Patrol (after having a break from packing up) and headed south. We are now camped in the Lane Poole Reserve, which from what I can work out is akin to a state forest in NSW. It is managed by National Parks and has excellent camping facilities. The best part there is not a breath of wind… non at all so we are here for four days. There is plenty to do, not least bird watching and scenic walks along the river that runs through the park. At the end of this stay we are heading off to the Dryandra Woodlands where we are booked into a nocturnal tour where hopefully we will see elusive Bilbies, boodies, woylies etc. so till then.
PS. Because of internet issues I have not been able to upload any images in the gallery, but will do so when able.