The Blog of our trip to Western Australia in 2013 to see Wildflowers

Written by Pamela

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We left in midwinter in 2013 to drive toWestern Australia the most direct route possible across the long Nullaborplain.  We called at many places alongthe way, including Hay in NSW, the Barossa Valley in South Australia, andfinally Perth where we visited their aquarium and Rottnest Island. 

2013 # 1 Barossa Valley – Nuriootpa (TheMeeting Place) 17th July 2013

So far, we have stayed at Goulburn,Narrandera, Hay, Renmark, and Nuriootpa.  It rained for the first two dayson the road, but not heavily.  The Caravan park at Narrandera wassurrounded by high levee banks all around to keep out the floodingMurrumbidgee, but alas, they did not hold and the waters flowed straight overthe top – that was last year when Yenda, our old home town was surrounded byflood water and everybody had to vacate when the tiny Mirrool Creek, that youcould normally jump over, became 27 km wide. 

16th July 2003. When we caught up with our old friends, Betty and David Andrew atHay, we were taken immediately to the newspaper office for Graeme to beinterviewed.  In about 1985 Graeme installed the weather station for CSIROat Hay, so Betty organised the interview.  Do you expect that a newspaperoffice would be bustling with breaking stories and people tearing around theoffice tearing out their hair?  Not in Hay.  It was the most laid-backnewspaper office imaginable.

We took a trip out to the weather station,and it all seemed to be in perfect working order. Graeme’s picture andinformation on the weather station will most likely be in next week’s Haynewspaper.  I think we missed yesterday’s deadline.

It is good to report that the land isbeautifully green, the rivers and dams are all full, and hundreds of Koalas arehappily munching on the Eucalypts at Narrandera and Renmark.  From themighty Murrumbidgee to the huge Murray, the rivers are the life blood ofthe Irrigation areas of the region.  The Murray is the thirdlongest navigable river in the world after the Amazon and the Nile, with atotal length of 2,756 kilometres, 1,986 kms are continuously navigable. In the early days, wool could travel on the paddle steamers from WesternNSW all the way down to the Tailem Bend in SA.  What apedigree!  It travels through 3 states and is fed by rivers in Western NSWsuch as the Darling, the Lachlan, and the Murrumbidgee.  Prior to thePaddle Steamers, it was the cameleers who carted the wool.  The storiesabound!

Wildlife so far includes 5 emus together, agolden frog in the toilet at Hay and many Galahs.

After a wet night we headed off towardsWallaroo on Spencer Gulf where we expect to take the new vehicular ferry overto Lucky Bay. This will cut down some driving time and we will get tosee a new part of SA including Tumby Bay. We will most likely takethe coast road until we get to Ceduna, then it is “batten down the hatches” aswe head across the Nullarbor. Highlight today was a visit to Maggie Beer’skitchen for photos and fun. The strong winds made us pull up a lot sooner thanwe had anticipated, so we are snuggled down for the night in thebeautiful Barossa Valley.

On Thursday we were hindered by a verysavage wind, the narrow black velvet ribbon is called the SturtHighway.  The Prime Movers hurried along the ribbon headingfor Adelaide.   A long steep hill was so difficult that wepulled over in a rest place and the van nearly blew off the spot. It wasshaking and raging like an old toy in a dog’s mouth.  Graeme looked forthe nearest town, Nuriootpa, Barossa Valley. 

We had not realized we were so close tosuch a beautiful place.   We spent 3 nights there enjoying the ruraland wine growing region, stretched out for miles and miles through thevalley.  The rain was almost ceaseless.  We saw everything throughlow cloud, mist, light and heavy rainfalls.  Few photos.

19th July 2013. A return trip to Maggie Beer’s farm shop saw me chosen to be theco-chef for the visitors who had come to see the famous lady.  Though shewas not in attendance, it was an incredibly fun thing to do.  I cooked acolander full of brown mushrooms in about 3 lbs of unsalted butter, with alittle swish of this and that.  Graeme captured the moment in a movie. Therain and mist continued! We will try to go back in Spring to see all the treesspringing to life with blossom and the Spring flowers blooming.

We arrived at the exceptionally largechurch to worship, and found we added to the count of 4, making 6. The rest ofthe congregation had been to Cambodia on a missionary trip and werejust arriving back in Oz or recovering from jet lag. They treated us kindly andwe were able to contribute with a great story of faith, from a Taliban killerto a believer in the beautiful Jesus.

21st July 2013. Today, Sunday, we drove via the outback farming tracks, zigzaggingbetween the more used farming roads until we reached Wallaroo.  AtWallaroo is a brand-new passenger and vehicular ferry (very flash, $17 millionto build) which brought us across Spencer Gulf to the EyrePeninsula.  Graeme said, “don’t ask the price”. We landed on their doorstepas they were about to leave, so we just drove on. We palled up with a man (whohappened to be the ferry’s engineer) and said we would happily take him with usto the Sterling Ranges, so I told him to hop in the truck.  It turned outthat he gave us the trip of our lives, right upstairs in the very flashy bridge(control room) of the ferry with Skipper and all the staff.   What afun ride for two hours, we entertained them with stories, and they entertainedus with theirs!   Great ride.

Our goal was to drive down the EyrePeninsula to Tumby Bay.  We are now here for another break - on the waterof course, not far from Port Lincoln, and still looking out over SpencerGulf.  The sky entertained us with moody blackness, glowing bright cloud,water spouts and even commercial vehicles in the sky racing along on wheels,made by the clouds - a most entertaining journey with rain pouring down on bothsides of us, but not coming on us. All this was accompanied by a magnificentcolourful and large rainbow which shone in its full glory the moment we pulledinto the van park!

The Eyre Peninsula houses 2.2% of thestate’s population, however, it produces over 60% of the state’s seafood, andlocal grain growers produce 30% of the state’s grain harvest. It is the shapeof India to my mind’s eye. When we reach the top of the far side we will beheading across the Nullarbor.

We are having a rest in Port Lincoln on thesouthern part of the Eyre Peninsula. Population 14,000, very laid backbecause their nearest city is Adelaide, which is 700 km by road (less ifyou take the ferry) or 300 km by air.  So, it is quiteisolated.   Loaves and fishes are the currency here – the biggestwheat silo and export port and the biggest fishing fleet in the Southernhemisphere.

The drive last night around the marinashowed off the fishing fleet, very impressive.  The old song came to mind– “Summertime and the living is easy”, sung by a beautiful young negress as shewaited in vain for the fishing fleet to return…….  Who can remember thatopening scene and that movie?

No rain or wind today – just to give us abreak – the sun even briefly shone this afternoon.  What a change! Today (Thursday) we followed the Whalers Way, South East of Port Lincoln andreaching out into Spencer Gulf.  The Whaling station was about1830’s, but was not successful and eventually closed, fortunately.  We didnot see one whale today, though we did keep scanning the ocean.  The onlytyre tracks there were our own from coming in to exiting.  No maddeningcrowds here!  We did see some interesting land falls and coastline, ablowhole and several crevasses and some old rocks, though nobody can explainwhere they came from.  We saw four Emus today. All the driving was onsandy roads or tracks, often with lakes of water from recent rains.

Port Lincoln Tourist Park isa wonderful caravan park. It is like a beautiful gentle beginner’s skislope.  Everyone has their own space, and each has concrete platforms forvan and annexe.  We have pipe fences for privacy and the vans arestaggered, so everyone has wonderful views of the ocean, islands and the boatscoming and going, with two piers where you can fish for tea and come home witha good feed and only $32 per night.  It is quite a modern town with goodfacilities and shops. One downside here is the Razor Fish which will cut yourfeet to pieces if you step on them, cut your toes off even! They are shellfish,shaped like a raindrop. They bury the pointy end in the sand and leave therounded top just above the sand.  They are not everywhere fortunately, butyou have to watch out for them.

There is a marvellous heated pool here, butwe have not made it in for a swim as yet, but sure we will before our time isup. There are plenty of luxury houses and no shortage of money here, it seems.The folk are friendly and do not seem to hanker after anything that they maynot have.

Last night I watched Graeme spend more thanthree hours trying to figure how to upgrade the firmware to allow emergencycalls to 000 or 112 on his Satellite phone before we cross the Nullarbor. It needed upgraded USB drivers for Win7 64-bit before it would work. 

There is plenty to do here. You can swimwith the sharks in a shark cage or you can swim with the Tuna in a big circularpond and these are being farmed.  Apparently, they are large fish – aslarge as a person. You can also swim with the Sea Lions and the Great Whites.There are also plenty of sea sports, yachting, fishing charters and surfing.

We are still in Port Lincoln on thesouthern part of the Eyre Peninsula.  The weather stayed wet and darkas we struck out for the Whaler’s Way which is on the very southern tip ofthe Peninsula.  Due to the weather our photos were notfantastic.  The following day we went to Coffin Bay, andthe Coffin Bay National Park. The kangaroos with joeys, andemus, were abounding and friendly.

The first person to greet us when we pulledinto Coffin Bay was a fisherman. He was fishing with his adultson.  He said to me, “I bet your husband’s name is Graeme”.  I said,“Okay, how did you know that”.  He replied, “We were on the vehicular ferrywith you.  You called out to your husband, “Graeme” and every man in thecafé looked up at you.  You responded by saying, “what a lot of Graeme’son board”.    ….. Sounds just like me, I seem to getnoticed!!!!  And between the two of us everybody notices us!!!  With his wonderful, favourite hat, I have been known to introduce Graeme asSteptoe and Sons offsider!!!!  We all have a good laugh.

26th July 2013. Joy of joys. Today dawned sunny and even warm.  Fortunately,Graeme had booked us a boat trip to learn how Tuna are farmed.  There werethree couples on the boat.  We bobbed, ducked, flew, bounced around theocean as we were shown the sights of town.  Oh – the rich houses – tochallenge anything on the gold coast.  The biggest belongs to the CroatianKing of Tuna with an unbelievable house on the most favoured corner, facing outtowards the Tuna and the sea. The financial statistics are unbelievable, so Iwon’t try to quote them!

Port Lincoln has the largestfishing fleet in Southern Hemisphere, so it is mind-blowing to seeit.   All types of fish are farmed or fished here.  It’s allvery hi-tech.  The Tuna are treated like Kings and Queens, literallyin every way.  What a shame they cannot be left to live out their lives injoy instead of having to swim round and round in a pen.  The water ispristine and clear as crystal. The fish were about a metre long in the pen wevisited. 

On the islands all around the area, we sawplenty of Sea Lions, seals, every kind of sea bird, shags, Cape Barren Geeseeach pair with about five chicks.  At first, I thought they were Emus, solarge. Apparently, the ocean was full of Great Whites as well, and all thebeautiful fish that they can catch here.  The seals and sea lions put onsuch a show for us, diving into the water and swimming close by.  TheSkipper of the boat treated us to a feast of A grade Sashimi (raw Tuna) servedwith various Japanese condiments.  It was like a ceremony.  He was areal entertainer, but he spoke so fast, with so many words, that it was hard tofollow everything he told us.  A truly knowledgeable man.

When we docked, we were right opposite the‘state of the art’ swimming pool, so, of course we had to have a swim to testit out.  It has a giant water slide right in the middle, for the children.What a heavenly day!     The foul weather returned Fridaynight with winds all night.

We left Port Lincoln on Tuesday morningheading toward Kalgoorlie in WA.  This is a long drive withnearly 1600 km being mostly on the Nullabor Desert.  It alllooks pretty much alike, even right here to Kalgoorlie where wearrived on Friday.  I seem to have lost most of the week as it was a caseof putting the foot down and just going as fast as we could.

Our first stop was Ceduna, a lovely spot onthe Great Australian Bight. Along the way we called into Streaky Bay.  We stopped at Eucla, which was just inside theWA border and handed over most of our fresh food.  It was 400 to Ceduna,500 to Eucla and 600 to Fraser Range Station.   Norseman iswhere you hit your first taste of civilization.  They had the mostbeautiful freshly cooked food.  Along the way we collected frig magnets,diesel fuel, and some photographs.

We enjoyed the eagles which are breedingwell due to all the heavy rains they have had. Everything was as green as canbe, that is until we reached Kalgoorlie, then it kind of got rather dryagain! Crossing the Nullarbor, the Eagles were sitting on their nests about ametre above the ground (no trees much of the time so they nest on the ground)and they are catching the rabbits which are also breeding up while conditionsare so good.  Many of the eagles are having a feast on the roadkill, usuallykangaroos, sometimes a dingo or a wombat. Just when we wanted to stop and get aphoto, a huge prime mover with two or three trailers would come by and theeagles would fly away.  We also saw the Port Lincoln ring necked greenparrot, about 20 of these.

At the Head of the Bight we had a perfectday and saw about 35 large whales, most with infants. They were twice the sizeof the whales we see at home and they all just hung about on the surface of thewater, having a good rest and occasionally blowing through their blowhole.  They were dark in colour, looking a bit like a submarine.

We did enjoy our nightat Fraser Range (sheep) Station.  Everyone was reallyenjoying being in such a beautiful place, there are 62 bird species there andit was just a special place for us caravan tourists.  We woke to thick fogwhich stayed with us most of the morning. The sheep station runs for 200 km inlength. Last night a helicopter with a huge orange ring hanging down below cameand hovered over one of the nearby hills.  Yes, it was from a Geotechcompany surveying the property for minerals.  Apparently, they have foundnickel and other things, but the farmer has no share in this, the mining rightsare already with the Geotech company the farm staff told me!!  It was a cosyand friendly place indeed.

We arrived Kalgoorlie, Friday. Time to shop at last, skimping for three days since handing in our freshfood.  The church was large, friendly, and very multicultural. We foundbeautiful green parrots in a tree near our van, so Graeme enjoyed taking theirphotos.  Mum, dad and juvenile. They had a comfy home in a nearby Gum treeand it had two entrances.

Sunday, we photographed old buildings, manyfrom 1800’s, even early 1800’s. We also photographed the Super Pit – an amazingsight to see. This is one of the World’s largest open cut gold mines being 3.5km long and 1.5 kms wide and 360 metres deep.  Apparently, the blasting isreally something to see.  You can drive right to the top of it and watchall the action.

The weather in Perth was cool,wet and cloudy.  We chose a wet day to visit the beautiful and stunningAquarium of WA which covers the WA Coast from top to bottom and tells the storyof all the different types of sea creatures found here. It also includes the Ship-Wreck Coast –understandable - considering the reefs that protect the coast.  The Dutchvisited Australia possibly even before the 1600’s.  They tradedaround the world.  The shipwrecks are often used as dive sitestoday.  Underneath the coast are big and deep caves –there are six foundon the Nullarbor.  Cocklebiddy springs to mind. Divers leave Oxygen everyso many metres, so they have a ready supply of air when needed.  Thosecaves are exceedingly deep. (see Dare devil cave divers exploring depths acrossNullarbor Plain or    The meals at theAquarium are excellent and it is a new multi-million-dollar fabulous complex –not to be missed if in Perth.

Our visit to church was enjoyable a moderncomplex of over 400 attending. They run a modern and a traditional service atthe same time – both well supported, preference being for the modern one. Wemet up with people from Erina, Brian from Broome who lent us a car for 5 weekslast year, a lady who had one of Graeme’s music CD’s and plays it everyweekend, and the preacher, Willie, who had grown up in Griffith whenwe were there.

The Lord graciously provided a fine day togo to Rottnest Island. We took a large fast ferry for the 20-minuteride. Fortunately, we had booked a bus tour and we saw a great deal that mostof the walkers and push-bike riders did not see. The island has a narrow neckof land extending towards a smaller island. Here we found a large rolling oceanswell causing a blowhole to erupt into spectacular powerful surges whichcrashed back, creating a hundred waterfalls.  So spectacular we couldbarely tear ourselves away. The coach driver wanted to move on.  Though weonly had two stops to get good pictures, it was an excellent experience. I got to play the bells in an ancient RC Church with beautiful clear lead-lightpictures. 

Only staff live on the island and holidaymakers in season.  A wind turbine helps to provide energy and power,together with several generators when needed.  The waters are warm – 19degrees and many corals are close to the coast.  Several hundred kinds offish live there.  The island is usually 2 degrees warmer than themainland. 

Quokkas have lived there a long time. About the size of a cat, they hop on back legs like kangaroos and each seemedto have a juvenile in its pouch.  They tend to move on all fours,however.  There are 10,000 there at present.  They are unafraid ofhumans, who are not to touch or feed them.  Twenty percent of the islandis salt lakes, 4 or 5 times saltier than the sea.

The history of the island was a penalcolony where you could put Aborigines on the flimsiest of excuses so you couldgrab their land.  They were often brutally treated.  We do not have agood record in this department.

We moved on to Serpentine/Jarrahdale tophotograph a waterfall and the land is sumptuous – green and lush and verywet.   We drove the loop road that took us to the Serpentine Dam, apenal institution, and a Buddhist Monastery.  We were fortunate to capturea lovely shot of a cow leading a small flock of colourful sheep out to pastureas we approached the town.  The sheep were black and white and brown andwhite, as well as jet black.  Of course, when we stopped, they all stoppedand stared at us, so we lost the effect of the cow leader and the flock. Apparently, it is quite common around these beautiful parts.  We are inthe pretty hills and cannot wait for a nice drive around without the van.

2013 # 7 Serpentine and Mandurah 13th-15thAugust 2013

We moved from Perth on to Serpentineto photograph a waterfall – Serpentine Falls.  The land issumptuous – green and lush and very wet.   We drove the loop roadthat took us to the Serpentine Dam, a penal institution, and a BuddhistMonastery.

As we were approaching Serpentine, we werefortunate to capture a lovely shot of a cow leading a small flock of colourfulsheep out to pasture. The sheep were black and white; brown and white; jetblack and white as well.  Of course, when we stopped, they all stopped andstared at us, so we lost the effect of the cow as leader of the flock. There was obvious affection between the sheep and the cow – she was “mother”,and they were her “kids”.  She looked out for them and they did whatevershe suggested.   Apparently, it is quite common around thesebeautiful parts.

We enjoyed the healthy and tame kangaroos,mostly carrying a joey; a cow feeding her calf, some fabulous race horses (wewere checked on by men in army fatigues when we stopped there, who said theywere from Neighbourhood Watch!)  The value between a racehorse’s life anda human being could be quite dramatic in monetary terms. Perth seemsto have a good rail system and there are trains running to Perth andback from many centres.

We travelled from Serpentine to Mandurah, athriving metropolis of 75,000 people. Mandurah is the playground for the richand famous from all over the world it seems.  There are many luxuriouscanal fronted homes. The land is between one and two million dollars and thehouses – the sky is the limit. Outside each home is their luxurious yacht orlaunch.  Most are holiday homes. The extensive waterways have been dividedinto canals, some looking very much like Venice with foot bridgesfrom one side to the other. The wealth shown there is beyond imagination. Itseems you can swim in just about any of those waterways and beaches. There is crabbing, fishing and every delight for those who love to be near thesea.  Mandurah is said to be the fastest growing regional cityin Australia.

We are now in Bunbury to stock up before wehead South West to the Sterling Ranges where we hope tophotograph the Queen of Sheba orchid.  She is a little elusive, openingonly on a sunny day and closing shop as soon as a bee comes along andfertilizes her.  Snow is forecast for Sterling Ranges tonight,so you can imagine how cold it is, and getting colder and wetter as well. We noticed the first Paper Daisies were out today and a few other flowersopening.

It is now the 14th August,one month since we left home, but it seems a lot longer.  The 90 kph windsare commencing right now, so it may be an interesting night! It is like beingin a cradle rocked by a giant hand! 

From Bunbury we travelled throughDonnybrook (where Granny Smith Apples are said to come from)and Bridgetown.  The valley we travelled through was beautiful,green, full of fruit, wineries, apples, and cherry trees.  We also drovethrough Manjimup.  Last year the church there had an interesting plan theywere about to commence – opening of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centreout in the country.  So far, we have not found out how they have beengoing.  Donnybrook has huge, colourful apples that hang from posts downthe main street.  Bridgetown has a name for beauty. We drovethrough without stopping very much but noticed the beauty.

Eventually (19thAugust 2013) we arrived at the Stirling Range NationalPark.  This has been our goal, so we are staying a week.  We plan tocome back in a month’s time to see what other orchid species have come intobloom.  We are spending a fair amount of time on photography in all kindsof funny positions.  Most of the orchids are rather tiny.   OnTuesday we took the tour from our Retreat and spotted around 25 Queen of Shebaorchids.   Everyone was different from each other.  We alsofound a beautiful King Spider Orchid, and a White Spider Orchid and lots ofothers. There are plenty of mozzies! The area is full of flowering Canola cropsand wheat.  Everything is a grand picture withthe Stirling Ranges in the background.  They are such adramatic sight.  Somehow the interesting outline reminds me of the rhythmof music and orchestras playing.   They are like poetry in motion.

Onthe tour on Tuesday, our host and tour guide said she needed a storywriter towrite a children’s book about Numbats.  Now, I like writing and during theafternoon I told her I would write the story, though I did not know anythingabout Numbats or what they look like.  She was delighted, wondering whatshe would receive back from me.  I hopped into bed at 7 pm and had itfinished by 8.30 pm, including a second version with more scientificinformation in it. It was on her computer by 8.30 am the next day.  Well,she said I am a gifted children’s story writer, so now we are working out whatelse she would like me to write about for her.  Carpet Pythons, Ants, allthe interesting critters who live in this National Park.  She is askingher friends and relatives to find an illustrator for the book.

Wedrove 30 km up the road to get Diesel and a bit of fresh food.  Whatever Iasked the shopkeeper for, was free.   I asked if they charge foranything at her shop.  Well we just had to pay for the fresh fruit andveg, but we were given 24 new post office biros and some green tea to tryout.  How generous.  It is a tiny town, just the pub and the littleshop, but during wheat and Canola harvest it must be like Pitt Street Sydney,as it is a very large receiving depot and the truck drivers must give them goodcustom when they bring in their truck-loads of grain. The town was calledBarden.  The Diesel came from a closer town called Amelup, WA 6338. Amelupis a small town in the Great Southern region of Western Australia located onChester Pass Road) The dear old granny shop assistant had to come out and readthe bowser to know how much to charge us.  Nothing too technical aroundhere, it seems.

Forthose of you who like orchids and technical names we have attached severalorchid photos.

2013 #9 Geraldton 31st August2013

We have moved a little further.  Nowwe are in the “Northern” part of the state rather than the GreatSouthern, so a few things are different.

We are only 200 kms north of Perth, sowe are not in the tropics by any means.  The weather remains cool and wet. Fortunately, we get a sunny day once in a while, especially when weneed it to take photos, so it is working out okay for us.  We are notseeing anything like the warm days such as most of you are experiencing.

We were blessed by having a lovely day tophotograph the Wreath flowers.   These are so special and these arethe first ones we have seen.  We had to drive a long way to see them, butthey were out in all their glory.  They covered a space of about 150metres long by about 3 metres wide.  They grow in the gravel that has beenmoved around by a grader.  The road is a new one, newly tarred, at least,so plenty of fresh gravel.  We hope you enjoy our pictures.  We werethrilled to see them, and it seems there are not many around this year.

The Pink Everlastings Daisies, so famous inthe West, did not get rain in June, so there are very few of themaround.   However, on a drive from Northampton toGeraldton we spotted two or three lots of them.   How blessed wewere, as they are not mentioned on the Tourist advisory sheets, put outweekly.  We were able to advise the Tourist office in Geraldton where thePink Everlastings were.  Now everybody else may go and enjoy them too.

At Mullewa we droveto Coal Seam National Park and it was delightful.  Onone side of the river is a long reddish gorge wall, towering above theplain.    There is a wide, shallow (at the moment)river, which can get quite deep, but on the other side is a beautiful meadow offlowers.  I was in flower heaven.     The meadow wascovered mostly with common yellow weeds with black centres and the Yellowand gold Everlastings were interspersed with the weeds, but they all blendedinto one very pretty meadow.  It was a large meadow, flowers as far as wecould see.   Walking by the river was beautiful.  Bright greenflowered meadows also lay on the other side of the river in front of the gorgewall.  Driving the truck, I wanted to cross the Causeway and take a lookon the other side, but Graeme was not keen to do this.  Recent rains haveupset the roads and some were closed. Some people were finding fossils in therocks.

We went to the Mullewa flower show. It was quite good and nicely put together for a small, but highly activecommunity.  Mullewa consists of muddied red brick ancient buildings – adry and normally dusty town.  There are some private homes as well andmany Aboriginal folk there. I remember preaching in Mullewa to theAboriginal folk when I was 20. 

At Mullewa we bumped into the Grey Nomadswho are streaming in from the North, perhaps trying to escape the coming heat.They have not seen the lush crops that we have seen for the past fewweeks.  They cannot even believe they could exist.  They have notseen anything like we have seen coming up from the South.  We drove upfrom the South through hundreds of kilometres of lush crops - green and goldCanola and Wheat. The beauty was breathtaking. We feel the wet, cool, and windyconditions we experienced were well worth the beauty the weather brought withit.

We drove through some of WesternAustralia’s oldest country towns, built with stones, held together withcement.  There were many Heritage buildings at York and Northam. Therewere other similar towns.   Due to the rain we couldn’t stop verylong, but we did get a few photos.   Love to go back and check thoseplaces over, especially around the Avon Valley.

We drove from Mullewa into Geraldton. Joy - being in civilization again! We renewed our supplies; the days becamewarmer but interspersed with rain.   We now have a lot of photos toshare.  We had a wonderful time at church with the folk in Geraldton.

2013 #10 Geraldton and Eneabba 1st– 9th September 2013

We enjoyed a week in windy Geraldton. Though the temps are about 21 or 22, it is still cold due to the ceaselesswind. We decided to put the awning up so we could get some sleep.  We tookoff in a tiny little mosquito-like aircraft with just us and the pilot andheaded out to the Abrolhos Islands, 70 km from Geraldton.  It isthe home of the cray-fishing industry and is held in high regard by many. There are 120 odd coral atolls in the group.  We stood on the highestpoint – 50’ above sea level.  So, if foul weather hits the islands, theresults are not always good.  The most beautiful thing we saw was thevarying, gorgeous colours of the sea all around each atoll.  We got someinteresting photos, but not easy from the plane.  The huge ocean wavesrolled in, in all their glory, thwarted only by the coral cays which lie on topof, or just under the water.  We were given the history of the shipwrecks(which we had already studied up on), and the places where historical eventshad happened.  Well, they make great stories, but looked at in anotherway, the results of the Batavia wreck were that most of the peoplewho escaped the ship and sea were murdered and dealt with treacherously. In fact, it is the greatest mass murder case in Australian history. That was1629 AD.

We had two landings on the coral cayairstrips.  We settled on East Wallaby island and walked 1 km with all ourheavy camera gear.  We had to be ready for just about anything out there.The highlight was to photograph two Osprey (Raptors) on their nest. Theirwingspan can be as large as 2 metres.  I whistled and sang to them. Hopefully, this kept them calm enough to let us reasonably close, but not closeenough for them to attack us.  In the perfectly clear waters, I spotted asquid.  He swam so gracefully with all his legs together behind him. Hewas about 16” in length. Out on the Abrolhos they have several pearl farms.They have a school from time to time when there are enough children.  Theisland we were on is just for day trippers, like ourselves. There was one otherairline company out there with about six guests, so we all got chattedtogether.   We could have snorkelled on the reef, but the coldweather deterred us.  Lots of fish out there and big blue Groper. Had wesnorkelled we would have a far more exciting tale to tell!

I did have one funny experience. We droveto a town nearby, called Greenough.  It was built in the early tomid-1800’s. The Museum I went into had been someone’s home - a woman with 13children lived there. Her husband was usually away on business, so she ran abusiness and raised, and had, the children. It was a spooky place.  Thelower floor was bad enough to spook me, then I climbed a very creaky and unevenspiral staircase with very narrow steps.  I reluctantly crept into a“bedroom” wondering what I would find.  As I pushed the door open, a greatflurry of fur came flying towards me.  I screamed at the top of myvoice.  The cat got a bigger fright than I did.  So he came out almostflying in mid-air at me.  It was a funny situation.  The caretakersaid, “thanks for finding the cat”???  Graeme was downstairs with the catsitting obediently at his feet by the time I escaped. I did not even dare to gointo the underground bedroom.

Greenough is the place where the trees growparallel to the ground, due to prevailing winds.  Age of trees 800 yearsold.  They started growing about 1230 AD. So, the story goes….  Wealso drove out to Ellendale where a beautiful river winds its way past a lovelygorge on one side. Many folks were enjoying the lovely spot for camping, butthe ominous notice was there for all to read.  “Once this river reaches acertain temperature, it is full of Amoebic Meningitis. So don’t put your headinto this water”.  I also met a young woman at church who is doingresearch on the river, but unable to speak about the results at this stage.

Passing through many of the Wildflowertowns we arrived at Eneabba. We did a “tag along” 4WD expedition to thewildflowers.  A stay at this place will enrich you in so many waysregarding our environment and flora.  There is only 5%of Australia which still has remnant natural bush and wildflowers,and this is one of those places.  Soon it will all be gone forever. Farming has taken precedence over all else.  The BrandHighway is outside The Western Flora Caravan Park where we arestaying.   Nearby on the main Highway are kilometres of tall,beautiful red and green Kangaroo Paw plants.  When you drive fast, youmiss it all, even though it is there for all to see.

Notes on photos:  Observe the tinyflower in Allan Tinker’s fingers. When magnified 40 times you can see thetransition of all the colours in the flower.

Also note the heart of a Geraldton Waxflower magnified, all the tiny grubs and critters who are living in there.These two photographs were snapped off Allan’s projector screen.

2013 #11 Perth and Surrounds 15thSeptember 2013

We travelled down the Western coastal roadto Perth.  Yes, now you can go just about all the way.  Thecountry was a picture and there were many sand dunes of pure white.  Theflowering trees were out everywhere, wattles, tryptamine, and others.  TheGrass trees stand like eternal Aboriginal sentinels guarding theland.   They grow for miles and miles in a picture of grasses andflowers.   At one stage, while photographing a colourful flower, Imomentarily got a fright when I stood up to see what I thought was anAboriginal standing right behind me, arms held high with a weapon.   However, it was just a Grass Tree.    

We called into Cervantes and the Pinnaclesonce again and purchased a book and some gifts. We contacted the author of thebook on orchids and he phoned us to have a chat, which was nice of him, soinformation and ideas were swapped.  

Even when we arrived in Perth itseems to all be sand dunes.  They are tearing down the native bushland andreplacing it with huge concrete housing and malls, everywhere.  Poornature is being knocked off, block by block.  As habitats disappear, so doour native creatures that depend on the flora and fauna of the land.

We had an excellent time at church atLivingstone – an exciting church to be part of – very forward thinking,bursting at the seams with a good spread of all ages. Some people remembered usfrom our last visit, four weeks ago.

We visited Perth Zoo yesterday.  Wespend an hour or so with the single female Numbat which was on display. It is WA’s faunal emblem, but after they announced this, they could not findmany. They were almost extinct.  There is a large program of breedingbeing undertaken by the Zoo.  I met the Numbat breeders and scientists andhad a good talk about Numbats.  The Zoo also had a great DVD on theNumbat.   This new information will be added to the book I recentlywrote for the proprietors of the Stirling Range Retreat who are greatconservationists.

We quickly dashed overto Kings Park, while the weather held out for us and strolled aroundthe floral displays of native plants.  We ran into the “AdorableFlorables”.  They dress as flowers and run shows on the nativeflowers.  I managed to have my photo taken with them.   They arefrom a Perth Theatre company.

A farmer who moved in behind us thisafternoon said that a few weeks ago they had no water in their dams or tanksand now they are all overflowing.  He said this is the first time theyhave been like that for many years.  So, God has been good sending therain to bless all the farmers and the countryside, clothing it with majesty andbeauty.

We are heading further south tomorrow toBusselton.  So, the weather will probably get even more severe than it isat present. 

2013 #12 Sterling Ranges Again 21stSeptember to 2nd October 2013

The weather has remained windy, wet andcold.   Here at the Stirling Range Retreat, it is their wettestSeptember in 108 years.  The creek is flowing for the first time in yearsand they are pleased and amazed.  They are amazed how the frogs cansomehow lie hidden in the dry creek bed for so many years and when the rainsget the creek running, the frogs all come back again.  Where do they hidein the meantime?  The rains also mean that we have a great crop of orchidsand flowers, though things change as the months move on.  The beauty ofthe crops and landscape of the colours has changed now from green and gold tobrown as they are heading up.  We certainly saw it at its best.

We moved from Perth further southto Bunbury and on to Busselton.  Then we went inland to escape theferocious 100 km per hour winds.  The floods were rising in Busselton,which is at sea level and sometimes below sea level.  There was a lot ofwater logging on the land and the rivers rising to the top.  The windsfinally made us leave and head inland.   The same thing happened tojust about everybody else who was on the road.  We all headed inland, butthere was no getting away from the fallen trees and the wind.  We sawabout 50 trees which had blown down, cutting off roads, uprooted, all over theplace. The trees fell at their own leisure, giving no warning they werecoming.  Travelling on the road you had no idea if one would fall on thecar.   We watched a huge semi-trailer travelling at top speedsuddenly find a large tree down on the road.  Without time to stop, hejust sounded his horn and took to the other side of the road where he thoughthe would slip through.  Fortunately, no other traffic coming, and it wasokay.

We stopped at Collie and saw the huge opencut colliery which supplies one third of WA’s power.  We stayed inland atKojonup where there was a wonderful Information Office.  They not only hada flower show on but also a huge permanent display of history, Aboriginalhistory and art.  We did several of the drives, looking for orchids andfound quite a lot.  At one stage we found ourselves way out in thenever-never on a sheep property which has a second business.  Fifty percent of their income comes from selling Tulips of all things.  They haveturned it into a successful business, and they were lovely people. They had abeautiful show of Tulips and market them all around the place bycatalogue.  As we left the farm and headed back to town, we were only onsmall dirt roads and tracks.  Now that was quite fun until we came acrossa road completely covered with swiftly flowing flood water and had to driveback the way we had come.  All part of our great adventure!  

We headed to Albany to buysupplies for our trip back to the Stirling Range Retreat.  Whileat Albany we went to visit some of their natural attractions wherethe ocean roars up between cliffs and shoots sea water way up in the air. Asecond one is a natural arch and the water also swishes up under the bridgewith a deafening roar.  The day was wet and blustery.  We did notdare stay out there too long as the car was getting covered with sea water fromthe spray and it was teaming with rain.  Some days they had the car parkchained off as it was so dangerous.  But it was fun.

In both Bunbury and Albany, wecaught up with Cheri Peters.  She was visiting from USA andteaching how to help people with all kinds of addictions.  We learntslightly different things at both training sessions becauseat Albany we had quite a few addicted people in attendance and theywere desperate for help.  At the second conference we learnt more aboutthe Recovery side of addiction.  She was not just addressing the harddrugs and alcohol, but also things like shop lifting, sexual addictions, andshopaholics.  She certainly has a great way with people and has learntsuch a lot through her own experiences.

Back in the Stirling Ranges Ihave had the opportunity to update the book on Numbats with all the newinformation we have learnt. Must make some decisions on how to present it.While it can be used at the retreat now, we might work on it some more, with artworkor photography when we arrive home.

The first day or so here, the place wasmuddy and children were running around in bare feet because shoes and socks hadbecome so sodden, as they climbed mountains and tried to entertain themselvesin the rain, however, it soon dried up.

Today, Wednesday dawned practicallywindless and sunny.     It is so quiet and calm that wefeel as if we have been sitting in a hurricane for three months. We are so usedto the roar of the wind, rain and ocean – we can’t believe the peace and calmof a pleasant day.  Tomorrow will even be quitewarm.     We are going to hit the road though, and headEast to Hopetoun then to Esperance before crossing the country to SA.  Weheard you are having some boisterous weather in some parts at present and wewill probably run into it again within a day, ourselves.

2013 #13 Esperance and Barossa Valley 6thto 13th October 2013

We had a couple of days in Esperance. We do love that place and consider it to be the most beautiful place weknow in Australia.  So, hope you can all come and see it. On Saturday early evening, we were returning from a trip to Cape Le Grand andGraeme was dozing as I drove.   There was a big dark cloud up above,which was dropping rain on Esperance, up ahead of us.  Suddenly there wasan almighty bang.  A kangaroo had jumped out of the bush into the side ofthe truck.   Graeme looked up to see a Kanga just about in hislap!   “What was that”, he said.  “A kangaroo” I said. “Oh, we are finished” he replied.  (laugh here).  And by the grace ofGod we had to search to find a small dent in the side of the truck.

We moved on to Fraser Range Station for thefollowing night and saw many lovely wildflowers as we drove on the outbackroads.  There had been plenty of rain and floods out there. We pushedon towards the Nullarbor, staying at Mundrabilla Roadhouse. We drove flat out(with a strong cross wind) to get to the other side of the Nullarbor.  Wekept losing time as we drove.  Nullarbor means “no-trees”.  TheNullarbor was part of an ancient seabed which was pushed up, and so the soil isvery thin, and trees will not grow there.   There were plenty ofsmall green bushes though.  How different to when we went over, sorecently, when everything was green.    As we drove, we noticedwe were up to 150 metres above sea level.  Of course, the ocean ofthe Great Australian Bight was right below us and to our right, butmost of the time you cannot see it.  You cannot even feel the sea breezewhich would have been nice for the temperature was 40 degrees ormore. There are a few places where you can drive in and view theocean.  Sometimes it is the great cliffs and sometimes the coast is just abeautiful beach, and far below the road you will find the playground ofthe whales.

Crossing the Nullarbor, I would quicklyduck into the roadhouse and get a fast shower to keep me cool as we travelled.Despite the strong crosswinds of the trip, we were glad to find a place wherewe could stop for the night (Penong). This was the first place we came to thathad water!  We cooked up vegies and fruit to save having to handeverything in at “Check Point Charlie” as we cross into South Australia. Weonly spotted one Eagle on the Nullarbor, standing over his kangarooroadkill.    He did not move as we hurried past.  Last timewe saw a lot of Eagles. Graeme is still recovering from trying to do somany kilometres in the fierce heat.

Thankfully, we arrived safely in thebeautiful Barossa Valley.   What a joy to see such a lovelyplace - a virtual Garden of Eden.  In fact, we found a place herecalled Eden and it was the place where the ancient Lutheran farmerssettled in the early 1800’s. We also met some Muslim businessmen from theMiddle East who were sourcing some lambs or sheep for the MiddleEast.  We met them inside an ancient tree where a family once lived withtwo children.  Later the family had 14 more children, when they got aproper home.  The tree was 34 paces around the base, so it was big.

2013 #14 Heading across the Nullaborplain towards home 15th to 22nd October 2013

We left behind the West, Nullarbor, TheBarossa Valley and headed out cross country toward Victoria.  Wetravelled via Mildura and headed down some dry and dusty roadsin Victoria.  I think we have seen many places in the Victorianoutback that most Victorians will never, ever see.  There was a lot ofwheat and canola, all heading up, once we got to the cropping areas.  Thedusty wind blew hard, but it was in our favour, at our back. Graeme was pleasedwith his fuel consumption (saving 15% fuel with a strong northerly tailwind).  We stayed in Ouyen and places most of us have never heard of.

In Ouyen I learnt that Mallee trees canhave some large root systems – usually below the ground where most of us neversee them.  However, for the pioneers who tried to clear them off the land,they were hard to move, indeed - especially with the tools they had at theirdisposal.   One root on view was 24 paces around the base.  Nowthis is hidden under the ground and you don’t see it.  However, when afire comes through, or drought, the Mallee root continually sends up new smallertrees, so that is why Mallee is so persistent.  Usually they nourish aboutfour new trees, about 9 feet high, but sometimes they will carry eight or tennew trees.

We rushed through the wind and dust, and itwas much too windy to get any once-in-a-lifetime photos – the photographer’slot – like the big fish that got away!  

We covered a lot of territory.  Thisis the last post for 2013.

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