Day 14 – out to the wave

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Day 14 took us down to the Perth coast. There was a sculpture thing on at Cottesloe beach all of March but we didn’t see more than what on the foreshore. The coffee in Cottesloe was horrible, as expected, and I’m now convinced the best coffee in Australian is in Melbourne (and probably Fabric in Southbank).
We travelled up the coast as far as Scarborough which was still pretty much as I remember it with only a few alterations to the carpark layout.

We decided we’d seen enough coast for a while and jumped onto the Reid Highway to head out of town. The Reid Highway is much like the Monash Freeway was in Melbourne when it was the South Eastern Arterial, originally built without overpasses. Now it must be getting the traffic volumes as they are now being built causing a few slow patches of traffic.
I am convinced that it is impossible to get a green light on that road as we stopped at every set of traffic lights on the highway.

The trip east took us out to Northam where the train station looked like Spencer Street in the 80’s and then onto York.

Mount Brown
Mount Brown lookout above York.

On the way into a town called Corrigin we came across a dog cemetery. The seem to love their dogs and set a world record for the most number of dogs in a ute in 2002 with 1527.

Scooby Doo? We now know where you are.

We got into Hyden reasonably early so checked in before heading down to wave rock. It’s just an incredible natural sculpture and the rock itself is absolutely huge.


I wasn’t aware beforehand that they built a small wall around the top of the rock to collect water and funnel it into a dam for drinking water. (now used for cattle only)

Wall visible above the wave.
(the photo of me taking this photo is here)

On the way back to the carpark I came across a tree that reminded me of the one Horton the Elephant sat in.

Horton the Elephant's tree

Day 12 – 13 – Perth

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Day 12 and 13 were spent getting to Perth and around Perth.

The trip up saw us zigzagin inland and back to the coast. We went into Donnybrook, the apple capital of WA where they have streetlights in the shape of apples. There was supposed to be a big apple in the town but we failed to find it following the vague ‘6km north’ instructions we could find.

We headed back to the coast, going through Bunbury and Australind before heading back inland once again.

Bunbury 2
Bunbury from the lookout tower.

Inland, we went by road and forest track (love it) to find Lake Brockman, North Dandalup Dam and Serpentine Dam and, not surprisingly, found them not particularly full.
Just like in Victoria, they had picnic areas and  and public facilities, and like Victoria, they looked like they had seen better times. I’m sure these places when they were first built, were summer lunch spots by a public that were interested in getting out and about, marvelling at the great engineering feats enabling them to have a city life.
The Serpentine Dam even had even has a cafe / restaurant, but not many people must still visit as the business is for sale.

We probably could have spent the entire day exploring the hills and trails but wanted to get into Fremantle at the reasonable time for dinner at Little Creatures.

Day 13 was the laziest day yet. I caught up with a friend (that now lives in Perth) for lunch and then met Stephen back at the Motel.

Now, then motel. I think I managed to pick the dodgiest motel in town. Red Castle Motel. Avoid it.
There were the ruins of a revolving restaurant out the back along with a heap of rubbish and phone books. There were chalk room number written outside the doors and handrail bannisters with broken welds wired into place.
Best of all, the was a pimp and his prostitute working out of a ground floor room.h

Oh well, I did well with my other accommodation picks.

Day 11 – up and down the Margaret River region

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We started the morning with a jaunt down to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse to climb its 186 steps to the top.
This is the most south-westerly point of mainland Australia and is where the Southern Ocean meets meets the Indian Ocean.


A few interesting notes about this lighthouse:
– It’s Australia’s tallest lighthouse (about sea level)
– It wasn’t electrified until 1982 and wasn’t automated until 1992
– It’s light can be seen up to 25 Nautical Miles away
– The stone walls are 2m thick at its base and 1m thick at the top

Back on the road, Stephen had a morning nap in the car as we headed along Caves Road to the Mammoth Cave where we did a self-guided tour of the cave (mp3 playing units). Mammoth Cave is one of many caves in the region that are open to visitors to wander down and see the spectacular formations.


It was good to go through another cave to refresh my memory as the next show I’m doing, Floyd Collins, is about the American caver Floyd Collins.

Moving on, we dropped past the Leeuwin Estate & Flying Fish Cove wineries and squeezed in lunch overlooking the sea.

Next planned stop was the Cap Naturaliste lighthouse but we were disappointed to find it was closed and we couldn’t get anywhere near the lighthouse. It seemed to be a very small lighthouse as the bluff / cliff is very high above the ocean already.

Sugarloaf rock
Sugarloaf rock near Cap Naturaliste lighthouse (look for the three people on top)

Final destination for the day was Busselton, to catch the sunset at the jetty and stay the night.

Busselton JettyBusselton Jetty

Day 10 – Tree climbing and Denmark

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Today was a reasonably leisurely day.
We left Albany via the scenic road, stopping by the coast a few times before arriving at the Denmark Chocolate Company.

A man on a horse heading to the beach near Torbay Inlet.

Next stop was the Elephant Rocks Brewery and Toffee factory and onto the Valley of the Giants Treetop walk.
This walk goes through the the forest and at it’s highest point 40m above the forest floor. It’s always fun going to such heights but I’ve been on other walks in Victoria and Queensland which I found a little more interesting.

treetop walk

Next stop was Pemberton to visit the Gloucester Tree. This is a 61m tall fire-lookout tree and one of three in the area that still exist. You climb the tree on a series of steel pegs sticking out from the tree trunk. (I’m sure this can’t be OHS compliant)
It’s a little worrying at first, but you get used to it and soon you’re at the top.

Look carefully for the tower at the top and the steel pegged ‘ladder’ circling the tree.

Looking down the ‘ladder’.

In the carpark, we did a little bit of bird spotting with numerous playful birds.


On the way back through town we stumbled upon the Pemberton Tramway Co. The track seems to run all the way to Northcliffe but was largely overgrown when we saw it earlier in the drive. I guess it’s another scenic railway that operates as a not-for-profit and needs generous financial support to get the line fully reopened.

Finally in Augusta for the night. The Thai food didn’t totally agree with me.

Day 8 / 9 – Stirling’s Bluff

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Todays primary mission was to climb Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Ranges National Park.
After paying the entry fee, we drove up to the base of the climb only to see the top of Bluff Knoll in cloud. We decided to move on to Albany and return the following day for the climb and the scenic Stirling Range drive.

As per normal, instead of going direct to destination, we went to destination via everywhere else but we did make it for lunch at a hotel on the main street of Albany.

Nanarup Beach
Nanarup Beach.

Having got to Albany earlier than expected, we shuffled the trip to Whale World onto the days schedule.

I was very impressed with the old whaling station, not what happened there whilst it was operating, but with it as a historical place. The guide who showed us around and told us about the place for about 30 minutes seemed very knowledgeable, not just reciting a script. Various pieces of machinery had been restored and, although not powered by steam or fuel, were electrically powered to show how they worked. There were also some very good audio / visual displays and, during the tour, a well designed audio track (cleverly hidden systems).

Too often you go to a museum / historic attraction / tourist attraction and it’s all very static / boring / poorly maintained and it doesn’t allow you to immerse yourself in experience.

Whale World is great and I’d love to come back in whale season when there are actually whales in the sound right near the station and to see new things they do with it.

The Cheynes IV whale chaser.

On the way back to town, we explored the rest of the Flinders Peninsula including the gap and the natural bridge rock formations on the coast.


We saw signs to a wind farm on the way to Whale World and so also stopped to look at this. We’ve seen so many of these wind farms around regional WA and SA, from as small as 3 turbines to as large as 12 here in Albany.
I think it’s really fantastic to see towns embracing this modern clean technology.

What we found was a dedicated viewing area and walking paths around the turbines. This is about the closet you’ll ever get to a wind farm to see these incredible pieces of engineering technology and see how big they are. Normally you can’t get anywhere near them. I was amazed to find you could barely hear them operating (I don’t even know why I thought they would be noisy).


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Day 9 started with a lazy breakfast and then the drive back to Stirling Ranges.
The climb up Bluff Knoll took about an hour and forty five minutes and the climb down about an hour and fifteen. It’s a decent climb and we probably should have started it earlier so it was slightly cooler, but nevertheless it was a beautiful day to climb it.

Bluff Knoll - Stirling Ranges
Panorama from the top.

Where you start.

After the climb, we did the scenic drive through the park and then headed back to town through Mount Baker.
We grabbed Chicken Treat for dinner (poor mans Red Rooster? but now one and the same company?) and headed up Mount Melville to eat it.

Albany - Mt Melville
The view of Albany from the lookout tower.

After dinner we drove around the docks area and then up to Mount Clarence. The view from the top is pretty non existent but there is a a memorial to soldiers from the first world war.


Albany seems like a nice town. Maybe I’m a little biased as I’ve seen three theatres in the town.

Day 7 – I have Subaru and I’m not afraid to use it…

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After booking accommodation for the Stirling Range Retreat and at Albany, we set off for a brief drive around Esperance city centre, via breakfast, supermarket and a camera shop (polarizer for one Stephen’s lens).


This exploring first lead us up Wireless Hill to the Rotary lookout viewing platform shaped like the Rotary symbol (a cog?). The view was not too bad but the port area and some of the town was partly obscured by a neighbouring hill.

IMG_0148Looking out over Twilight Beach

We took the scenic Great Ocean Drive (Twilight Beach Road) around the costal area, taking in the beautiful white sand beaches and multiple shades of blue waters. Stunning.


This drive also lead us past the towns wind turbines and past Pink Lake which was not particularly pink. (I believe it only appears that way when it has water in it)

We drove along the South Coast Highway for about 100km before detouring south towards the coast and national parks again. (and once again stopping to drop the tyre pressure)

After popping in and out of a few coastal roads and tracks, we finally found the Munglinup Beach Road down to Munglinup beach. Not that much to see there so we moved on. On the way back to the main road, I decided to take a side track which looped back around to the main road and it’s here where we came a little unstuck.

The track became sandy which is not a big problem for the Outback as it has a low range gearbox. Where it does become a problem is when the sand tracks get deep. The car starts to bottom out and eventually just won’t move.
We got about 200 meters into the track and saw the tracks and felt the car becoming sluggish. I stopped and started reversing back up the track to a section with a harder surface I knew I could turn around in but just didn’t make it. I first thought I’d just lost traction so I dug the wheels clear but the car still would budge. I then realised the car had bottomed out and well enough that the front left suspension was drooping like it wasn’t taking much weight. A look under the car confirmed it firmly sitting on the sand.

Still digging away the sand

After about 30 minutes of digging, Stephen set off (with his UHF radio in hand) back to the Munglinup Beach camping ground where we knew a few people with 4WDs to be. I continued digging.
I jacked the front of the vehicle up and got some timber under the front left wheel and started digging sand front under the vehicle. I’m sure I could have cleared it out in a few hours.

Stephen and the friendly camper arrived shortly thereafter and we used a snatch strap to pull the car free. I’ve previously though of buying a hand winch and I think this now justifies the need. Although there were no trees to winch off, I believe you can use a winch pegged in the the ground or with a dead weight such as a buried spare wheel. Long handled shovel would also be better that the short one I currently have along with a set of sand tracks.

Finally free, I consumed almost a litre of water and we headed on to Hopetoun for lunch. Our plans to head west through Fitzgerald National Park and back to the main road were dashed by the closure of that road for works.

After what seemed like endless straight roads, we’re now at the Stirling Range Holiday Retreat park for the night.

Day 6–The Bra and Knickers run

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Day 6 was originally from Eucla to Balladonia, which is approximately 465kms. Still adjusting to a new timezone, we left Eucla at around 8am local time. As there was basically nothing to see from Eucla to Balladonia we decided we’d push on to Esperance and be a day ahead of schedule. This would make it almost a 900km day but I was confident this would still be a comfortable drive.

Day 6 is called the Bra and Knickers run in honour of all those people that travel commando across the Nullarbor. We saw at least two or three trees covered in underwear, one setup with an old TV & TV antenna and (my favourite) a tree covered in CDs creating an awesome multi-coloured mirror ball effect as you drove past.

We stopped at the Cocklebiddy roadhouse for fuel just as an oversized load of CAT Mining trucks also pulled in to refuel. We’ve now seen and pulled over for at least 6 oversized loads on our journey, from CAT trucks to excavators and huge farm machinery.


Having made excellent time to Balladonia, we grabbed a bite to eat and refuelled again, before heading off down the Balladonia Road. This road is marked with large signs saying its a 4×4 road and unsuitable for caravans. We’d done our research and already knew we’d be fine. (I was looking for anything more exciting than the exceptionally boring 146.6km straight we’d just been across)

The road had about 5 or 6 difference surface types, starting off extremely rough (probably mud in the wet season) to ending some 177km later with a graded and then sealed surface. I dropped the tyre pressure by 10 psi to give a more comfortable ride on the exceptionally corrugated sections. There was one particular section that was relatively smooth but like going over small waves. I’m certain the esky may have got airborne a few times.

Along the way we stopped at a Telstra Fibre repeater station to checkout the big solar panel arrays, another abandoned homestead and also did some rock and track driving to circumnavigated a big rock (Breeborinia Rock)


Of course there were a few more gates covered in underwear too.

From the end of this annoyingly straight road, we headed down to Cape Le Grand National Park to look at the beautiful beaches and catch the sunset.

Lucky Bay


Accommodation booked in town on the way into town (Esperance)

Day 5 – Boring roads but good detours

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Day 5 kicked off from with a drive into Fowlers Bay which seemed a quaint little place.

Back on the main road, we stopped at the Nundroo roadhouse to fill up before our journey across the Nullarbor.

It was at this point I noticed something strange with my drivers door handle and lock. It seems one of the locals in Penong got board and had a crack at breaking into the car, most likely whilst we were in the pub having a meal. (I’m looking at you younger guy in the red hoody and your friend.) All they seemed to have done is pulled the handle fitting out a bit breaking part of the locking mechanism at the same time as I now can’t lock the car with the key (but can unlock the car). I’ll be calling Subaru in Esperance or Albany to see what I can do about it.

On the way past Yalata we stopped to have a look at one of the old Telstra microwave communications towers which have now been replaced with optical fibre. These towers stretch all the way across the Nullarbor. Fibre repeater stations can be seen all along the underground fibre run with large sonar panel banks providing any power they need.

The next stop was the Head of Bite which is the start of the Great Australian Bite. It’s not whale season but we still headed down the boardwalk to take in the spectacular views of the coast.

Head of Bite

Road to Bite
The road to the bite, with some fantastic clouds.

For the next 100km we stopped at various cliff top lookouts and even explored a few cliff top tracks and closed lookouts. It was interesting to see the trouble some people had gone to, to get into some of the closes lookouts, going so far as to uproot large signs and bend them out of the way. The map were were using was from 2008, but some of these places look like they’ve been closed for longer than that.

We’d done some research before this trip and one of the places that had been of interest was the abandoned Koonalda Homestead which is about 15km north of the highway (just over the old Eyre Highway).


This old homestead and fuel stop was leased for 50 years from 1938 to 1988 and was only made feasible by pumping water from the nearby Koonalda Caves for cattle. In 1988 it was abandoned and became part of the national park along with the many cars the were abandoned over the years.


For those considering a visit, 4WD or AWD will be needed.

The rest of the days driving was extremely boring and boarding on tiresome.

Speaking of boarders, we made it to the SA – WA boarder and even found our next big object, the big Kangaroo.

And the big wombat I forgot to mention earlier.

Eucla was the camping spot for the night and we grabbed a powered tent site, setup tent and then headed down to look at the old Eucla Telegraph Station, now buried in the dunes.


The ruins of the Eucla jetty at sunset.

The Travellers Cross, Eucla

Day 3 & 4

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Day three from Cowell to Port Lincoln was a much more interesting drive than the previous day.

After checking out the town we back tracked around to look at Lucky Bay. Seeing a sign mentioning a lookout and tourist drive, we decided to check it out. It did also say 4WD recommended. The Subaru Outback is pretty comfortable off the road as it has a second low range gearbox. Where I get a little nervous is on tracks with deep ruts as it doesn’t have the height clearance that a big 4WD does. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on some pretty rough tracks including sand but that is with a bunch of other vehicles to help you if you get stuck.

We got so far on this sandy track and then decided to turn around.
You can hear the sand brushing the underside of the car. When you see the car almost stop in the sand track, that’s when I slowed to engage the low range gearbox.

After that excitement, we headed back through Cowell and down the coastal road overlooking Franklin Harbour and past Port Gibbon checking out the beautiful coast.


We headed back to the main road and made the dash down to Port Lincoln, stopping via Arno Bay, Tumby Bay and Point Boston.

The Tim Burton like fisherman in Arno Bay.

After a casual lunch on the Port Lincoln foreshore, we found our motel, the Hilton, and checked in.

As we were doing very well for time, we headed down to Port Lincoln National Park. We travelled down to the far end of the park and found a rather modern precast concrete lighthouse and on the way back snuck off on a few little tracks.
I’m surprised to see that the SA parks rely on an honour system for payment of park entry fees.

Fishermans Point Port Lincoln National Park
Fishermans Point – Port Lincoln National Park

Heading north from the park, we reached the far end of the road at Whalers Way. This is supposed to be a very scenic drive but we didn’t realise you need to pay ($20) and fetch a key from the Port Lincoln visitors centre in advanced. Next time.

Winter Hill Port Lincoln
Winter Hill, looking down across Port Lincoln.

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Day 4 commenced with a stop for supplies then onwards out out of town up to Coffin Bay and Coffin Bay  National Park.
This National Park park was nice but it was a really overcast morning which didn’t make for particularly good photos. The road in the park was probably my favourite so far, being fairly wavy and curvy. I may have got a little excited and Stephen may have started getting a little car sick.

Back on the Flinders Highway, we headed up towards Elliston stopping at the Leo Cummings Monument lookout and Locks Well along the way.

IMG_9731 From the lookout.

Lake Hamilton
Facing the other way, a view across  Lake Hamilton.

Locks Well. Would have made a spectacular lunch spot if it were a little sunnier.


In Elliston, it was Steak and Pepper pies for lunch and then back on the road up to Streaky Bay, via a few coastal caves.
At Streaky Bay, we detoured out to the Cape Bauer scenic circuit. This is definitely worth take the drive on with some fantastic coastline and side trails for those happy to go off the road. I could have kept exploring the trails for another hour but we needed to press on to Ceduna before dark.

The road up to Ceduna was starting to get to me. Way too straight, just begging me to put the foot down and get it over with. We went straight through Ceduna and took the easy option of a cabin at Penong rather that tenting it.

Dinner at the local hotel (huge slab of beef schnitzel).