Tag Archives: road trip 2016

19 – Going home

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Taken from a rest area off the road. Rest areas are fairly common in the outback, because of the distances. Councils provide rubbish bins and long-drop toilets for travellers. And often they’re in very pretty places.

Kununurra and Katherine are both large enough to arrive and look for a place to stay, but Tennant Creek is a bit different. It has a large indigenous population and a reputation for unrest. With that in mind, we tried to book online at a place we’d stayed at before, but the online booking services couldn’t finalise the transaction. So we rang the motel. It’s not the only place in town, but we liked the security aspect. When we arrived, the price for the room had gone from $150 a night online to $160. Usually when you book direct the room is cheaper because the motel doesn’t have to pay a booking fee (around $8). This happened several times in our travels. Pete pointed this out to the manager, an Englishman who hadn’t been there very long. But even when he discovered the motel was offering a room at $146 per night on one of the booking services (he didn’t believe us, so he checked), he was adamant. $160. He told us we didn’t HAVE to stay there. I don’t think he quite ‘got’ it. He’s managing a motel in the middle of Australia. The place certainly wasn’t full, and he wasn’t likely to get any more passing traffic. I also heard him turn away a last minute young couple wanting a ‘budget’ room. The thing is, an empty room doesn’t earn money. Also, the place has a bar and a restaurant, so it’s easier to eat in than brave the town. He could expect to get his ten bucks back.

We might have argued, but ten bucks wasn’t much in the scheme of things, so we shrugged and paid. Certainly the rooms had been extensively renovated since the last time we stayed there, but we won’t be in a hurry to go there again. We’d stopped for a very late lunch maybe a hundred clicks from Tennant Creek at Renner Springs – basically a tiny settlement with a pub, a bowser and a caravan park. That’ll be the go next time. It avoids the 25km detour, too.

As it happened, we had a dreadful night at Tennant Creek – not because of the motel, but because the cough I’d had since we left Perth flared up. Neither of us got much sleep. In the morning I suggested we should head for home, and visit the Atherton Tablelands another time. After all, it’s only about 1,500km from home.

So we changed our route plan, going home via Mt Isa, Longreach, Biloela.

But that’s not the end of the story. I almost managed to tick off a bucket list item – a photo of a wedge-tailed eagle.

Wedgies are the biggest eagles in Australia, and they’re quite common all over the mainland. I saw this one eating road kill and managed a few parting shots (as it were)

Undercarriage still down, taking off

Undercarriage still down, taking off

And he's off, getting out of the way

And he’s off, getting out of the way

img_7245That was nice – but on another piece of road, I noticed that unmistakable wedge-shaped tail in the sky – and the bird flew down towards us, then LANDED IN A TREE BESIDE THE ROAD which, of course, we zipped past.  My driver immediately slowed to a halt and turned around. I had my camera ready but (of course) the eagle had taken off, being harassed by a magpie. This shot was taken from the car, when he flew back a little closer, hotly pursued by his tormentor. Oh well. Maybe next year.

And I’ll finish off with a few more pictures of outback Oz.

There's a lot of Brahman or Brahman mix cattle up here - they're more resistant to ticks. They're originally American cattle, bred from four Indian breeds. Yes, that's the edge of the road at bottom left. There aren't too many fences out here.

There’s a lot of Brahman or Brahman mix cattle up here – they’re more resistant to ticks. They’re originally American cattle, bred from four Indian breeds. Yes, that’s the edge of the road at bottom left. There aren’t too many fences out here.

Typical Kimberley country - flat plains and flat hills

Typical Kimberley country – flat plains and flat hills

Termite hills. In places they're so common it feels like you're driving past a cemetery

Termite hills. In places they’re so common it feels like you’re driving past a cemetery

Straying cattle is a major problem up here.

Straying cattle is a major problem up here.

Cue "Jaws" music

Cue “Jaws” music

Spectacular sky on the way out of Longreach

Spectacular sky on the way out of Longreach

Well – that’s it. I hope you enjoyed the ride. When we finally rolled into our driveway, we’d done just shy of 14,000km in a calendar month. We left on 28th September and reached home on 28th October. We used 1,190 litres of diesel. Pete added up all our costs – fuel, accommodation, meals, and sundries. It cost us $232 per day for the two of us. Not bad, really.

 

18 – Across the top

img_6996From Fitzroy Crossing we were basically heading back to Queensland via Kununurra, Katherine and Tennant Creek. We spent the days driving, though I did get a chance to take some pictures.

Up here in the North, it's not just straight roads through endless plains

Up here in the North, it’s not just straight roads through endless plains

There's rain ahead

There’s rain ahead

Coming into town. It's raining.

Coming into town. It’s raining.

After the heat at Fitzroy Crossing, towards Kununurra we drove into a rain storm. It’s that time of the year, before the monsoon. Clouds gather and dump buckets of rain for a few minutes, then move on. In Kununurra that was a great thing because it cooled the air. We were told it was a stifling 39 with high humidity before the rain.

Kununurra exists because of the Ord River dam. In 2013 we took a trip down the Ord river from the dam. It was a terrific ride – well worth a diversion if you haven’t read it before. Go on, I’ll wait…

Great to see you back.

Right, on to Katherine. We did a great tour on Nitmiluk Gorge here last time. If you’d like to recap, once again, it’s worth your while. We have time…

There has been fire, and rain. Already the bush is regenerating.

There has been fire, and rain. Already the bush is regenerating.

Over the border into the Northern Territory. Have a look at the speed signs - end of 80, then a notice that says max speed in NT is 110 unless signed. And up on the bend - it's 130. (130 is generally the max in NT. There's a LOT of empty space and not much traffic)

Over the border into the Northern Territory. Have a look at the speed signs – end of 80, then a notice that says max speed in NT is 110 unless signed. And up on the bend – it’s 130. (130 is generally the max in NT. There’s a LOT of empty space and not much traffic). Until recently there was no speed limit – until a Japanese man crashed his Ferrari at 300kph +. He’s dead, of course)

The mighty boab tree, seen all over the North

The mighty boab tree, seen all over the North

Just - an awesome picture

Just – an awesome picture

Our accommodation at Katherine was… interesting. We stayed at a cabin in a resort. That was fine, we had our own bathroom – but it was outside the cabin. That is, not the sort of place you’d want to stay in if you’re into 2am widdles. It reminded me of my youth, where we had an outside toilet. Especially when it rained.

Next morning we were off to Tennant Creek. We would have preferred to avoid the town, but the drive to Mt Isa is just a bit too far.

 

 

 

17 – Fitzroy Crossing and Darngku

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Girrganyi – the black kite

After a two-night R&R in Broome we drove across to Fitzroy Crossing. We didn’t do much in Broome, treating it as a chance to do nothing for a day. After all, we’d had a busy few weeks so far.

We stayed in one of the safari tents at Fitzroy River Lodge. They are what it says on the packet – a canvas tent set over a concrete base. Each tent has its own small ablutions block. The idea is when the monsoon comes, the canvas, beds etc are packed away, the ablutions block is sealed, and the weather does its thing until the water recedes. They’re fine for a one night stay, but it was the end of the season. The shower leaked and the sink was blocked. Pete complained and it was fixed – but one expects better at $180 a night.

5v3a6737This was the first time it was really hot, reaching 39. That’s not very hot for this part of the world where the average maximum is 37.5, but we felt the heat, We sat on our little veranda facing the Fitzroy’s very empty course. Pete read a book and I watched the few birds out in the heat. Big black cockatoos munched on acacias, a handsome little northern kookaburra panted on a tree branch. A kangaroo hopped across the sand banks in the Fitzroy near one of the remaining pools.

We’d decided to go down to Geikie Gorge (Darngku is its aboriginal name), one of the Fitzroy’s permanent water holes, for a short boat trip. It was due to start at 4pm, when the temperature had dropped a little and the sun was sinking. A nice young aboriginal man did the EFTPOS thing with us at the park. (Visitors are not asked to pay to enter the park.) While we waited for the tour to start we read through the displays telling people about the gorge, and some of the aboriginal legends. That’s why I have a picture of a black kite as the header for this post. Here’s his story.

The story of the black kite. And you do see this bird wherever there's a fire

The story of the black kite. And you do see this bird wherever there’s a fire

About a dozen of us hopped onto a shallow draught boat for the hour-long trip. It was a fabulous little tour, best told in pictures.

The gorge from the start of the tour

The gorge from the start of the tour. It’s an amazing place. Some ancient species like sawfish still exist in these waters (remember, it’s fresh water).

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The colours are amazing. That white line is the high flood mark

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See how the rocks have been undercut? You can see the ripples reflected on the stone. And those lumps of mud are bird houses, little local mud larks.

If you look inside the circle you'll see two little faces

If you look inside the circle you’ll see two little faces. The nests will be swept away in the next Wet – but they’ll build again.

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Arty-farty gorgeousness

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The ‘dark’ side of the gorge. There are caves all through there, home to many things. The ranger told us a story about two people who went exploring. Their torch died, and they sat down in the dark to take a breather. Until their ‘seat’ moved. It was a 4.5m olive python.

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One of the local wallabies came down to watch us glide past

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The line of debris towards top left is a fresh water crocodile. They’re harmless (to people). It disappeared in a swirl of water as soon as it realised it had been spotted

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Right place, right time. I noticed this kite hunting and managed to get a rather grainy shot of it with its prey in its beak

Last light on the rocks as we disembark

Last light on the rocks as we disembark

16 – Glimpses of the past

Deep Gorge. The piles of rocks are not something left over from mining. They're volcanic rock which cracked when it reached the much cooler surface.

Deep Gorge. The piles of rocks are not something left over from mining. They’re volcanic rock which cracked when it reached the much cooler surface.

The Burrup Peninsula where Karratha is built had a history before the white man, of course. Vicky and I were up at the crack of dawn to have a look at some of the evidence. The temperatures rise quickly here, especially when you’re in a canyon with the sunlight bouncing off the rocks, so we made this visit early.

Water reflects the gold of the sun

Water reflects the gold of the sun. Note the rock pigeons

We were off to Deep Gorge, one of the few places in the area which had relatively permanent water. As such, it attracted the aboriginal people, as well as the wildlife, and the aboriginal people had left their mark on the landscape. Please understand, these are not spectacular rock paintings, and this is not a sacred site. The pictures are of local animals, sometimes of people. I could imagine the family gathered in the gorge, and some of the bored youngsters climbing the rocks to carve their drawings. Maybe some of these are aboriginal equivalents of “John was here 2016”.

As we walked along the gorge, stepping carefully from rock to rock, Vicky explained some of the pictures are quite hard to see, because they are essentially scratchings on the surface. Their visibility depends on the angle of the light, and the keenness of the eye. This is just a small sample of what can be found. Even with these photo, the longer you look, the more you’ll see.

Examples of rock art

Examples of rock art, sometimes in quite inaccessible locations

Later in the day we visited the town of Cossack, site of the earliest white settlement in the area. The site had been abandoned for many years, but now work is in progress to restore the wonderful old buildings and build a tourist area. Situated on the mouth of the Harding River, it’s a pretty spot. We had a wander around, took a look in the fully restored court house and read some of the history.

From the lookout. Cossack is behind us

From the lookout. Cossack is behind us

This big red hopped around the headland on the right of the picture above. I did my best to get a good one.

This big red hopped around the headland on the right of the picture above. I did my best to get a good one.

Restored buildings. LOVE the stone work.

Restored buildings. LOVE the stone work.

 

Butterfly among the discarded cocoons. It probably just emerged from the one underneath it.

Butterfly among the discarded cocoons. It probably just emerged from the one underneath it.

On the way out to the car I noticed a bush covered with butterflies. I have a standing joke with Peter’s brother about my photos of birds and butterflies – he pretends absolute boredom, so I take a chance to get a picture of a butterfly for him when I can. I didn’t realise until I got home and took a closer look that the bush wasn’t covered with shrivelled leaves – there were dozens of cocoons, with newly emerged butterflies trying their wings.

We had fish ‘n chips for lunch at Port Samson, and that evening ate our farewell meal at the famous Mermaid Hotel at Dampier. Next morning we were off to Broome. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay with Vicky and Bruce. So nice to see some of the more attractive aspects of a mining town feeling the effects of a mining construction boom that’s over. We hope to see them again, either in the West, or over on our side of the continent.

 

15 – New friends and a stairway to heaven

img_5866The country starts to change north of Carnarvon. It’s more like desert with long lines of red dunes marching across the landscape. The road is excellent – until we reach the road works. It has to happen, though, so we wait in a queue with good humour. I took the chance to take what I think’s a stunning photo.

img_5874aFurther on, low ranges of hills appear. They’re old and scarred, crumbling into the plain, but not in our lifetime. The hills help to hold the water. There are rivers here – obvious, really. Just look for the river red gums.

The trees advertise a river - and if you missed that, there's a bridge

The trees advertise a river – and if you missed that, there’s a bridge

I love the colours in the Pilbara

I love the colours in the Pilbara

Karratha wasn’t our favourite stop in 2013 – but this time we were staying with friends we’d met on a river cruise in Europe. It makes a HUGE difference when you have friends who know the area. Our first evening was a backyard barbecue and lots of talk.

As it happened, our visit to Karratha coincided with a full moon in a cloudless sky, coinciding with low tide. Karratha has an east-facing bay, which means the moon rises – if not quite out of the sea, very nearly. So the reflection of the moon in the water as it rises gives the impression of a path or staircase to the moon.  The Karrathians celebrate this event in the usual way – 4WDs backed up to the beach with the trays down to hold the tinnies and bottles, and the finger food. We all turned up not long before sunset for a convivial drink and a walk in the shallows of Hearson Bay.

Apart from our hosts, Vicky and Bruce, another couple who had also been on that European cruise was also there. It was lovely to see Alison and Phil again – especially since Ali had brought along a bottle of rose she’d bought at one of our stops in Germany. I was happy to help her drink it.

And now for the staircase to the moon.

The sun has disappeared

The sun has disappeared – just. The last light brightens the rocks

And now we wait - enjoying the evening

And now we wait – enjoying the evening

Here it comes - rather later than we though - but hey - good company, nice drinks

Here it comes – rather later than we thought – but hey – good company, nice drinks

And here she is in all her glory

And here she is in all her glory

14 – A gnome memorial and a wrong turn

 

Lorna's gnome memorial

Lorna’s gnome memorial

North of Kalbarri the land is basically well-disguised desert, with no permanent water anywhere before Carnarvon. At this time of year, it’s quite pretty, though, because of the wildflowers carpeting the ground between the scrub. But that’s all you can say. I went through there once, to the place on the Zuytdorp Cliffs where the Zuytdorp went down. It’s not a long way, but it seemed endless, the four-wheel drive churning up one sandy slope, down again, then up again, then over a limestone ridge, then more sand. It’s hard to imagine a group of Dutchmen stuck in this desolate land. Even the aboriginal people didn’t frequent this area.

Back in 2016, after some time, the road wound its way between some low hills and we spotted a lookout, so we went up to take a look. We found a strange little memorial, a collection of gnomes of various types. It seemed they were originally dedicated to Lorna, who died a few years ago. But we thought the collection had been added to since then. Lorna, it seemed, would have looked from here over what is probably marshy ground at high tide, to Hamelin Pool on the horizon. It’s an interesting place, one of the few places in the world where stromatolites, one of the earliest known forms of life, still grow. I went there before they were protected. I can honestly say I’ve swum with stromatolites.

The highway from the hilltop

The highway from the hilltop

Hamelin Pool in the distance

Hamelin Pool in the distance

The world's most expensive coleslaw

The world’s most expensive coleslaw

Finding accommodation in Carnarvon wasn’t easy, but we eventually booked into a very nice cabin which was part of a caravan park, within walking distance of town. The proprietor had marked a couple of hotels where meals were served, so we went looking. One was too far to bother, and looked closed anyway, and the other offered spag bol at $23.50. Nothing much else was open. A takeaway looked like the go, so we stopped at Chicken Treat on the way back to our accommodation. There wasn’t much choice, so we ordered a quarter chicken and chips each, and a small coleslaw to add some veg. It was pretty ordinary. The chips were soggy, the stuffing wasn’t there, and the tiny coleslaw cost $4.19 – worth its weight in gold. Knowledgeable friends told us later that Carnarvon’s another one of those town where wandering around at night isn’t wise. So maybe that was the silver lining.

img_5806Next day we drove in drizzly weather down to the coast to see the blowholes. The road was bitumen, but our GPS didn’t know much about it. After about 80km we reached a crossroads at the coast and this big sign. It seemed the Sydney memorial was off to the right, and they were past the blowholes so we went right along a chalky unmade road, the sea on one side, what used to be the sand dunes on the other. Once we reached the Sydney memorial we knew we’d made a mistake. We had also reached Quobba homestead, which has a caravan park. Pete drove in and asked someone where the blowholes were. Seems we should have turned left at that sign. They’re four hundred metres up the road. Sigh. That was 40km we’d driven for nothing.

Maybe we should himg_58061ave read the sign more closely, or the leaflet that said the road was bitumen all the way to the blowholes. That little sign on the right has two red arrows right at the bottom. The one on the left says ‘BLOWHOLES 400M’.

 

The sea sucks back from the cliff

The sea sucks back from the cliff

Then slams back in

Then slams back in

The sound is incredible, like someone sucking in a breath then exhaling

The water surges under the reef and blasts up through the blow hole. The sound is incredible, like someone sucking in a breath then exhaling

This will give you some idea of the height of the blow

This will give you some idea of the height of the blow

 

 

 

13 – Ancient landscape and early history

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Fred and his fish

Fred and his fish

Kalbarri is a small fishing/holiday town at the mouth of the Murchison River just a bit north of Geraldton. The first time I went there was with my father and brother, when I was nearly fifteen years old. We went off in the (I think) FE Holden for a two-week holiday through the wildflower meadows of the wheat belt, up to Carnarvon and Shark Bay. Fred and Dad had set up the back seat of the car so it could be dropped down to make a bed, while I slept on the front bench seat. I was younger and suppler then. It was a magical trip. The wildflowers were wonderful, with paper daisies (everlastings) forming a carpet of pink and white and yellow. I remember the strong contrast with the deep red of the earth.

We came across a sign post to Kalbarri by accident not long before sunset. Dad thought we’d take a look, and off we went, down a dirt road. As the sun sank, Dad drove more and more slowly, squinting into the light. Just as well. With the sun straight in our eyes we came across a sharp right turn, down a hill and over a dry creek bed. We managed the rest of the journey and camped for the night.

The road is bitumen now. The right hand turn is still there, but not so sharp, and the creek bed crossings have been smoothed out. The town’s bigger, too, but the river mouth hasn’t changed. There’s a tricky crossing over the bar into the ocean from the river anchorage, and the fishing’s good. Fred caught a big fish on a hand line that morning – much to the chagrin of the Real Fishermen with their expensive rods and reels.

Back to the present. We booked into a motel and went out to look at the sea cliffs. They’re not too awe-inspiring here, but not much further north from Kalbarri they become the towering Zuytdorp Cliffs, named after the ill-fated Dutch merchantman the Zuytdorp, which sank at their base. A large group of people managed to survive the ship wreck – then vanished. You can read a bit about the ship and its intriguing story here.

Kalbarri has a connection with the Batavia, too. It was claimed that two of the ‘lesser’ villains who took part in the murders on the nearby Abrolhos Islands were marooned here – Australia’s first white inhabitants. But there’s some debate, with many believing the location was more likely to have been a little further south at Hutt River.

Next morning, we set off to visit the rivimg_5711er gorges. The Loop and the Z bend are about 25km from the main road. The road is bitumen for a little over half way, then reverts to dirt before the bitumen resumes around the parking area. Maybe instead of employing somebody to collect entry fees they could use the money they saved to finish surfacing the road. Needless to say, it used to be free – and unmade, a wide, sandy, boggy track through the scrub. I did the trip once on a dirt bike, riding through the mist. Ghostly kangaroos popped up to watch me ride past.

The wild flowers in this part of the world are stunning, growing in an area where the sandy southern coastal plain and the red earth of the north combine. It was like driving through a park, with colour everywhere. The weather was pleasant, too. Not too hot, although a bit windy.

Fringed lilies: delicate, beautiful and tough

Fringed lilies: delicate, beautiful and tough

img_5631 img_5714 The gorges in themselves are fascinating. They’re there because the land is (still) slowly rising. The river doesn’t care, it just keeps on flowing, cutting through the rock as it does so. These rocks, known as Tumblagooda sandstone, are very, very old. That’s Australia – an ancient, eroded landscape.

We didn’t make it to Z bend, but we did visit the Loop, Nature’s window and Hawk’s head.

Like all the rivers in this part of the world, the Murchison only flow when there has been rain inland. When it floods the spinifex down there would be covered.

Like all the rivers in this part of the world, the Murchison only flow when there has been rain inland. When it floods the spinifex down there would be covered.

From up here you can see clearly how the river has carved its way down through the rock layers

From up here you can see clearly how the river has carved its way down through the rock layers

The pools are vital for the desert dwellers. There is no water from here to Carnarvon. We saw goats, kangaroos and a few pairs of black swans down there.

The pools are vital for the desert dwellers. There is no water from here to Carnarvon. We saw goats, kangaroos and a few pairs of black swans down there.

Nature's window, carved by wind and weather

Nature’s window, carved by wind and weather

One of the larger stretches of water next to a cliff

One of the larger stretches of water next to a cliff

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12 – King’s Park

The city and Perth Water from King's Park

The city and Perth Water from King’s Park

Our short visit to Perth was all about old friends and family. We did some wine tasting in the Swan Valley, spent time at the Margaret River Chocolate Company, bought some wine at Houghtons, and had lunch at the Mandoon winery (we all had spicy waygu burgers – absolutely delicious). We had a family dinner at John and Beth’s, walked the dogs, shared a Greek meal. We also had a long lunch with my family – my brother-in-law, nieces, great niece and great nephew – and met my latest great great nephew, Marcus. Pete did his best understanding who was related to who. We drank copious cups of tea and ate homemade sandwiches, quiches, sausage rolls and other High Tea goodies. And we talked, sharing stories and experiences, some many decades old.

All that’s boring to your average reader of this blog. So I’ll share pictures of King’s Park.

We did visit on a Sunday morning before we had lunch with the family – but half of Perth arrived before we did. King’s Park was King’s car park. All the parking areas were full, and every road into the park was lined with cars parked between the trees. Many people walking around seemed to be ignoring all the beauty, glued to their phones. We found out later quite a few of the visitors were on a Pokemon Go hunt.

We went back to King’s Park the next day when visitor numbers were much reduced. Perth’s botanic garden is up there, and every year they present the wildflowers for the people to enjoy. Let’s do that.

The war memorial

The war memorial

One of the many family areas in the Park. You can glimpse the Swan River between the trees

One of the many family areas in the Park. You can glimpse the Swan River between the trees

WA's iconic kangaroo paw

WA’s iconic kangaroo paw

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11 – Perth – the city by the Swan

Wildflowers by the roadside

Wildflowers by the roadside

img_5417Western Australia is world famous for its wonderful springtime wildflowers. As we headed north west out of Esperance the colour show started along the road verges. Swathes of yellow, flashes of red, a dollop of orange, a patch of dazzling blue – and clumps of purple. We were headed for Hyden, a small town on the edge of WA’s wheat belt, for two reasons. For a start it’s on the way to Perth, and second it’s home to Wave Rock. It’s a granite monolith (they’re quite common hereabouts) carved by time and weather into the shape of a breaking wave. After that, nature’s paintbrush got to work with dissolved minerals to paint the wave in streaks of ochre and yellow and white and dark grey. I’d been there on numerous occasions over the years, and I thought it was worth a photo stop.

Here it is.

Yep, I didn’t take a picture. I’m a great believer in preserving our country in national parks. I’m NOT a great believer in making people pay to see them. Sure, ask people to pay to use a camp site. But far too often we’re charged $10 or $12 for the privilege of driving on the roads for a few hours. I reckon that’s one of the uses the Government makes of the taxes I paid all my working life. Years ago, there was a rudimentary parking area at Wave Rock, and you could go and climb over it, and the other carved monolith’s scattered around, for free. Now, there’s a visitor centre selling souvenirs, a café and a camping site. And yet we were asked to pay $10 for five minutes to take a picture? Sorry, not going there. I had the same reaction when we found it would cost us $12 to drive our car around Coffin Bay national park for a couple of hours. The Rock is one of the few reasons why anyone would drive out to Hyden. Why not make it free and encourage tourists to spend their money on food, drinks and souvenirs? And if you’re going to charge a fee, make it obvious up front. Esperance has several large (free) national parks, Kings Park is free… pant pant pant…

/rant

So… on to Perth. Neither of us was particularly impressed with the car’s GPS. Obviously designed for more densely populated countries, it showed the location of stations on the Nullarbor – but not road houses. One feature we noticed was its apparent propensity to calculate when we’d arrive somewhere, based on our current speed. (eg, doing 60kph now, but using roads for 110kph). It corrected itself over time, but to start with, it might be an hour or more out in expected arrival. Not good. However, it proved its worth when we approached Perth around 5pm. We had to get over to the north side of the city, which meant crossing the river in peak time. I had visions of going down Greenmount and over the Causeway bridges, through the city centre… Even if you don’t know Perth, you’ll get the idea. ANY city centre at peak hour is a bad move. But our GPS is smart. It knows about traffic conditions. It took us north, off the Darling Range down Redhill Road and over the river further up. It had us using a freeway, but at one point informed us it had recalculated due to traffic congestion, and selected another route. Ain’t technology grand?

We arrived at our friend’s home in plenty of time. I introduced Peter to John and we all sat and talked about stuff, solving the problems of the world, as you do. Beth and I are old friends – we went through uni together – and a few other things. I find it interesting that Beth and John have four daughters and a son, while my Esperance friends have four sons and a daughter. I like to think I’ve donated my slots to one or both of them. I never wanted children.

On Saturday John launched his boat at Maylands upstream from the Causeway bridges, and took us out on the river. The Swan is Perth’s signature, meandering down from its start in the hills, under the Causeway to spread over a wide, shallow, lake-like area known as Perth Water, before narrowing down to flow past King’s Park and under the Narrows Bridge, where it widens again as its tributary, the Canning, adds its flow. After that it flows at a gentle pace to Fremantle, Perth’s port. I wrote a bit about Freo on our last road trip. And I found a fascinating article about Perth Water and its surrounds, which includes an 1838 map. That’s nine years after the colony was founded.

Here’s a map to give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about.swan-mapThe weather wasn’t brilliant, as you’ll see from the pictures, but at least it didn’t rain on us – although we could see the clouds adding to water volumes out over the Indian Ocean.

We went past where I lived for my last year in Perth, past the new sports stadium going up next to the casino, skirted the two race tracks (Ascot and Belmont) and made a brief detour into the new development at East Perth. Although there’s lots of river frontage, developers are always keen to add more, rather like the canals at Mandurah or the Gold Coast. Like most places, anywhere in Perth with water views commands high real estate prices. If the property is on a hill with views, add a zero. Many of you will have heard of Dalkeith, Perth’s billionaires’ row, sort of the equivalent of Melbourne’s Toorak, with it’s crowded mansions stepping up the slope from the river’s edge.

This is an area of East Perth that used to be seriously down market. Developers dug a hole next to the river, then let the water in. These apartments are only a short distance from the city centre. There are, of course, lots of restaurants.

This is an area of East Perth that used to be seriously down market. Developers dug a hole next to the river, then let the water in. These apartments are only a short distance from the city centre. There are, of course, lots of restaurants.

A mother and calf - wonderful to see

A mother and calf – wonderful to see

Oh the memories. King’s park on the North bank (we’ll go there tomorrow). Canning Bridge in the distance, The university looming up on the right. (There was only one university when I went there, so “the university” means UWA.) Down the river past the Posh Houses at Dalkeith and Mosman, under the Freo traffic bridge and into the now very quiet inner harbour where my father and brother used to work. Over there the Oyster Beds restaurant is now part of the Dome chain. But there are still dolphins in the river. We saw two pods, both too busy feeding to stop and wave. And I’m told the little river prawns which had been fished out are being re-introduced. So many memories.

On the way back to Maylands we landed at Perth’s new Elizabeth Quay for lunch. It’s a very recent development, designed to make the river more accessible to people in the city. It also means folk catching the ferry that plies across to South Perth have a very much shorter walk into the business district. I understand there was a lot of criticism at its construction. But I think a lot of people have forgotten that much of the land taken away for the development was actually reclaimed from the Swan for the approaches to the Narrows Bridge. I think it’s a great idea, and I was pleased to see the area so well patronised. We had a lovely lunch. We weren’t really dressed for fine dining, but they let us in, anyway.

Beth and John had a prior engagement that evening, so Pete and I went down the street to buy a take away pizza. We couldn’t work out how to get the news on the telly. There was already a DVD on, so we munched pizza and watched Pirates of the Caribbean III with sub-titles.

Perth city from the river. We've passed under the Causeway bridges and are on Perth Water.

Perth city from the river. We’ve passed under the Causeway bridges and are on Perth Water. That’s Elizabeth Quay in the middle ground.

King's Park and the war memorial. That's the Narrows Bridge in front of us. I remember when that was built for the 1962 Commonwealth Games. I also remember the war memorial at night. It was lit up when nothing else was. It seemed to float in mid air.

King’s Park and the war memorial. That’s the Narrows Bridge in front of us. I remember when the bridge was built for the 1962 Commonwealth Games. I also remember the war memorial at night. It was lit up when nothing else was. It seemed to float in mid air.

These houses south of the river seem to be spotlit by a gap in the clouds

These houses south of the river seem to be spotlit by a gap in the clouds

9 – The longest golf course in the world

It's a long haul

It’s a long haul

Apart from the photo stops along the Great Australian Bight the Nullarbor doesn’t have a huge amount to offer the casual tourist. But there is the longest golf course in the world.  The course starts at Kalgoorlie and finishes at Ceduna, with putting greens established at roadhouses along the way. I got up before dawn to get you a picture of the green at Border Village in South Australia.

Border Kangaroo green

Border Kangaroo green

We left Border Village after breakfast, went through the checkpoint into Western Australia again and hit the road. The Nullarbor isn’t completely flat. The ancient shore line is evident here and there, and Eucla itself sits at the top of a rise. From up there the Southern Ocean is visible, just a few kilometres away.

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Please note Dave’s and Andy’s – important to know

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img_5148-2Unlike the railway, running some distance away inland, the highway doesn’t actually pass through much of the real Nullarbor. Which doesn’t mean to say it’s an exciting drive, just that you do see the occasional tree. We saw a few kites (the bird sort) and a couple of emus, but no camels or kangaroos or wombats. But the road signs are fun. Every now and then there’d be a sign warning about ‘roos, camels and wombats “for the next 198km”. We joked about whether the authorities had told the ‘roos, camels and wombats about the distance limit. If they did, the animals ignored them.

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Apparently there are longer straight roads, in Saudi Arabia and USA

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We stopped for coffee at a small roadhouse in the Madura Pass where the road manoeuvres its way over the remains of the cliffs from eons ago. Then on again, listening to Mozart because none of the radio stations had strong enough signals out here.

We reached Norseman at a reasonable hour, then turned left for the run down to Esperance on the south coast. The low-growing scrub was behind us. We drove through typical forest of the region, smallish mallee trees with open canopies and colourful trunks.  Spring with its famous wildflowers was in full swing in the West. The state has received good rainfall at the right time, so there’s a bumper season. Some of the usually dry lakes held water and puddles reflected the trees on both sides of the road. The pastures were lush and green and I’ll bet the sheep were enjoying the unusual bounty.

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Typical semi-desert forest. It has its own beauty.

We booked into a motel for the night, but it didn’t have a restaurant. The proprietor suggested a couple of places in town, but in the end we picked up some take away meals from a noodle house and took them back to our room to eat. Sometimes it’s the best way to go.