Western Australia Trip 2012 – Part 15 : Cape Arid to Canberra

Thursday, Dec 20, 2012 at 16:37

Member - John and Val

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Our first afternoon in the Cape Arid NP was spent exploring the area around the camping areas. We had a look at the older “Council” campground, that is closer to the beach, more sheltered and possibly allows fires – but it does not have the views over the bay.

We drove around to Dolphin Cove and Tagon Bay and walked some of the tracks there. There were wonderful views to be had out over the blinding white beaches and brilliant blue sea. Abundant wildflowers had us stopping for closer looks as old friends and some new species showed their colourful faces. Our mental image of this area – of a dry and desolate place - was being rapidly reshaped.

Closer to the campground we walked the Len Otte Nature Trail, a circular walk that goes through a number of different habitats and took about an hour to do. Unfortunately there is no interpretive signage along the way, but there was interest to be had in the big bare granite outcrops, some wonderful stands of Macrozamia "palms", big grasstrees and patches of thick scrub.

We were back at our camp in time to enjoy the sunset views. There was, miraculously almost no wind, but it was quite cool and stayed that way all night. We awoke to the sight of a couple of whales just behind the breakers but some distance down the beach.

Our plan for the day was to drive over to Poison Creek and explore that area. Despite being advised not to go via Merivale Road, we did go that way, and then understood the wisdom of that advice. The first section was good but the second half was very corrugated with big holes of muddy water stretching right across the road. Once we turned onto Poison Creek Road we stopped as advised (learning that local advice was good advice) and had a look around the heath. We were rewarded with a wonderful variety of flowers – red kangaroo paws, enamel, spider and blue sun orchids, and white paper daisies that were new to us. While there, Jo, the NP Ranger pulled up and we had a great chat about the park and the challenges she faces in her work there.

A good gravel road took us through to the Thomas fishery turn-off. Huge sand dunes are piled up behind the beaches along this stretch of coast. We had lunch at Jorndee Creek, a small camping area tucked in behind the dunes. No-one else was there allowing us to feel that we really had the beach all to ourselves. The sand on the beach was crunchy under our boots and blinding white between two rocky headlands. We walked to one headland where we found a creek with deep holes that would make a great summer swimming spot.

Seal Creek campground was busy with campers, mainly fishermen. Jo was there checking camping permits. She is the sole ranger for this vast park, and has only been there for a few months. Her previous posting was at Karajini, so, on her own admission she has a lot to learn about the very different plants and animals in this southern coastal park. We could only admire her enthusiasm and dedication to her job.

We drove to the end of the track at Seal Creek and, after the track ended in water, walked the final section onto the beach. There were people camped right on the beach despite the cool and very windy conditions there. Our return track was uneventful, going via Fisheries Road. This is an area that we will need to return to on some future visit, to explore further out to Israelite Bay and camp in some of the beach camping areas – but hopefully when the weather is a bit warmer.

We finished the day chatting with fellow campers Beth and Graham who kindly showed us inside their Ecotourer caravan. We ended up chatting for a couple of hours, as so often happens when we meet up with other travellers with similar outlook and interests. We had also been invited by Mary, our camp host, to sample some fresh caught smoked salmon at the camp kitchen. That led to a couple more convivial hours of happy travel chat by candle and torch-light.

We were somewhat reluctant next morning to be leaving this wonderful place, but this was the point where we really turned for home, and the pull to get home was also strong. And the weather had again turned windy. So after further chatting, and a final look for whales we got back on the road. Our initial destination was Condingup where we would refuel and turn off onto the track to Balladonia on the Eyre highway.

First though we needed to get rid of some of the mud that we had collected over the past few days. It was weighing us down, probably carrying unwanted organisms into fresh areas, and Troopy and trailer didn’t look at all pretty! Fortunately there were numerous big pools of clear water lying beside the road. We chose one where we could pull safely off the road then spent a half hour with bucket and brush, after which both Troopy and the trailer looked much better.

Parmango Road was sealed for some distance and then it was good gravel. In the southern section it took us through cropping country where the wheat was just starting to ripen and turn from green to gold. Despite a strong hot northerly headwind we made good progress until the Mt. Ragged turnoff. After that we were travelling through woodland and the road became very rough, by turns stony or corrugated, with big holes that fortunately were not full of water. Regular signs warned us that it was 4WD only. We stopped off near Mt Coobaninya to have a look at the ruined Deralinya homestead and outbuildings. These have been partially restored and offer a fascinating glimpse into the past living conditions in this remote corner of the country.

We found a bush camp where we spent the night and completed our journey into Balladonia via a track that took us past some dry rockholes and in the soft morning light, through some lovely parts of the Great Western Woodland.

At Balladonia we refuelled, pumped up the tyres to bitumen pressure then spent a while browsing through the very informative displays in the roadhouse museum. As well as information about the Skylab debris that showered the area in 1979, there are panels about local history, flora and fauna, the development of the Eyre Highway and the 1950s Redex Trials. There was even a copy of a cheque from NASA, payment of a littering fine issued (tongue in cheek) when bits of Skylab were scattered over the area. Do you have to be Australian to appreciate such humour!

Then we were heading east on the long road home. We hadn’t gone far when we were flagged down by a young couple who needed help. They had pulled off the road but left their lights on – result one flat battery and no opportunity to push the car to start it. So we towed them back onto the road, gave them a jump start and saw them on their way, very relieved and grateful.

After that we just drove … and drove. A hot northerly wind made driving conditions difficult, and made us grateful for the airconditioning. That wind continued until we reached Port Augusta. We had intended to go into the Head of the Bight for a final spot of whale watching but were put off by the incessant wind.

It took us 5 days of driving from Balladonia to reach home, nearly three thousand kms later. The hot wind had turned to showers and thunderstorms as we moved east, so it was wonderful to finally stop. What a great welcome home our housesitters, Karen and Robert gave us – and the huge warm,waggy welcome from Lucy our much loved border collie.

Its great to go travelling – and its great to get home too.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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