Western Australia Trip 2012 – Part 13 : Albany to Hopetoun.

Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012 at 15:42


A few overnight showers, a new HT cable, fuel tanks and fridges full – it was time to head east. Our first destination was Normans Beach on the western boundary of the Waychinicup NP. The drive out was uneventful, on bitumen until the last few kilometres, then on a good, formed gravel road. The free camping area there is right beside an inlet and would be a great place to launch a canoe. The camping area is quite small, and there was a newish drop toilet. One caravan was set up there when we arrived, and a motorhome pulled in later.

We set up and put our tarps over the tent as the forecast was for more showers, although they held off until later in the afternoon. After lunch we set out to the beach a couple of hundred metres away via a gravel path that cuts through low heath and affords lovely views over the inlet. The path ends at the top of a long flight of steps down to the beach which is said to be a good fishing spot. The sand on the beach was very soft and made for hard walking, so we only went far enough to get a feel for the place. There was a booming surf, which, with the big granite boulders, and looming granite peaks under cloudy skies gave the place a sombre, majestic appearance. It was almost a monochrome landscape of white and muted greys, with greens, enlivened by the breakers and a few terns defying the brisk wind. The inlet would have been connected to the sea at high tide, and we were sorry that we did not have our boat so that we could have explored around it.

Next morning was cool and showery and we spent most of it sitting under the awning of our neighbours, Bob and Wendy, sharing travel stories. They had done a lot of outback tracks in their trusty Nissan ute, so we had plenty in common to keep the chat flowing. Later in the afternoon after more showers had cleared we took another walk to the beach. This time it was calm and there were wonderful reflections in the water of the inlet. Later still we walked back along the access road, following occasional tracks into the heath where a few flowers made splashes of colour. The whole camp area is surrounded by WA Christmas trees, though there were no flowers at this time of the year. They are fascinating plants though, with their strange fleshy leaves and trunks.

After another showery night and despite a forecast for strong winds we decided to move on the next morning. We hoped to find a more sheltered spot to sit out the passage of an approaching front.

As we drove out on the gravel road we came across a beautiful 2m long carpet python slowly making its way across a sunny spot on the road. It was a timely reminder that although it was still early spring (September), snakes were starting to move about.

Making our way east, on and off the bitumen we had some stops to photograph wildflowers. We were seeing more brilliant red Leuchenaultias, which although small are real favourites of ours. At one spot a recent fire had triggered an explosion of brilliant orange pea flowers. We stumbled around among the burnt shrubs taking photos while trying to keep our clothes from getting totally covered in soot.

We eventually found our way to the Cape Riche campground at Cheyne Inlet. This is a big council-run camping area that probably gets very busy over summer. This day though there was only one other camper there. We had a chat to the caretaker and marvelled at the huge whale vertebra that adorns the entrance, then went off to find what we hoped would be a sheltered spot.

Once set up we drove out exploring some of the local tracks. One took us down past an inlet from where we walked out towards the cape. There were good views out to Cheyne Island and east across the expanse of Cheyne Bay. The Cape had an abundance of lovely pink rice flowers (Pimelea) and we were surprised to find a few orchids, including one that we had not seen before. On our way home Val almost walked on a couple of small but very lively snakes, though a couple of goannas had better judgement and scuttled out of our paths.

Towards evening the wind dropped but there were a few light showers. There was no surf in the bay, just little waves shushing gently on the sand and piles of drifted seagrass. Despite a calm sea there were no whales to be seen, although sightings are not uncommon.

Next morning the wind strengthened, and the forecast was for gales reaching 100kph or more. Unfortunately the wind direction also changed and our supposed sheltered spot was now open to the full force of the northerly wind. At least Troopy was facing into the wind so our tent was secure. The worst thing was the blowing stinging sand and ash coming off the bare campground. The only thing to do was to sit out the weather, so we spent much of the day reading. A couple of short walks down to the beach revealed a sea covered with whitecaps and drifts of seafoam on the beach. Towards dusk the front came through with wild wind and a few thundery showers. Cooking was out of the question so we had a scratch meal and turned in early.

By next morning the wind had eased off and swung around to the SW so we were semi-sheltered again, and the rain had damped down the dust. It was still a bit showery so we decided to stay another day in the hope that the weather would clear. The caretaker there sells a wheelbarrow load of mallee roots for firewood, so we decided that a good fire would be cheerful. For $5 we were astonished at the big heap of wood that we got. Soon we had a good fire going, safe in an old half 44gal drum. Throughout the day we drank lots of tea, had soup, made a damper and made a campoven stew that would stretch for 2 nights. The change had brought cooler weather in its wake, but we were warm beside the fire. Down on the beach huge fresh mounds of seagrass were piled up, but the sea was calm again.

The next morning was still drizzly but we decided it was time to get back on the road. The damp sand made packing up something of a trial, but soon we were on our way. We had an uneventful drive to Bremer Bay, where we bought a few groceries and spent some time online catching up with emails. That done we set off again making for Point Ann in the Fitzgerald river NP.

The road in to Pt. Ann was being upgraded and sealed, so was better than we had previously experienced. Although there were fewer flowers than we had hoped for, there were plenty of scarlet banksias, and the Royal Hakeas were magnificent, glowing in the sunlight. The swamp daisies were abundant too, so we were well satisfied.

The coast was till the same brilliant turquoise and the camping area, though busy had a couple of suitable vacant spots, and after a chat with the young ranger we settled in. By now the weather had cleared but it was quite cold, and no campfires are allowed in the NP. The upside of this policy is that the ground in the campsites is clean and white, compared to the grey loose sand/ash mixture at Cape Riche.

We had two nights at Pt. Ann and the weather remained cold and windy, although it was good weather for walking on the beach. There were a number of whales about, lazing with their calves just beyond the small breakers, a magnificent sight. When the sun was out the sea was a brilliant turquoise blue over the blinding white sand. A better view of the whales can be had from the two big whale watching platforms, although it was very windy and cold on those exposed structures. Along the paths over the headland a few flowers nestled in sheltered spots. We spotted an early sun orchid making a vivid splash of colour.

We drove around to Trigelow Beach and down the 4WD track (protected by sheets of rubber matting) that goes to the beach. The bottom section of the track had been washed out, so there was no beach access. At the top of that track we sat for a while and watched a procession of whales as they swam slowly west from the point, at times joined by a pod of curious dolphins.

As we packed up next morning we had a visitor in the form of a small snake that went under Troopy before heading off into the bush. Another even smaller one was sunning itself on the road. Our tally of snake sightings was now 6 in a few days.

We left Pt Ann going via Quiss Road, a route that took us through the park. There were plenty of gum trees in flower but not many other flowers. Back on the highway we stopped for a cuppa at a big free campsite close to where the road crosses the Fitzgerald River, and as is our habit we walked around looking for good campsites. Like many such areas the best sites are well back from the highway down rough side tracks.

We soon turned off the highway, heading back into the national park. The road towards East Mt. Barren has some great views across the park but it was quite corrugated. The new road under construction now extends west beyond that rugged peak. Despite the strong wind and showery conditions we had a couple of photo stops, especially to look more closely at the very unusual Eucalyptus sepulchralis. There is a small stand of these unusual willowy gums near East Mt. Barren, where they grow among equally unusual Banksia lemanniana with their upside-down flower spikes.

It was too windy to stop at East Mt. Barren. The sea and sky were a threatening leaden grey colour. In an attempt to find a sheltered spot for lunch we drove down below the lookout where we found that the old campground had been completely rebuilt following the fire a few years back. Despite a budget that must have been exceedingly generous, we were disappointed with the result.

The new campground is very small, with only a dozen or so very small sites. Caravans are apparently not welcome as they would have trouble fitting onto the sites. Nearby was a vast parking area with about 50 sealed car and bus parking bays. There were new environmentally correct toilets, with lavish landscaping, sculptures, seats and signage. All very impressive but we did wonder whether the park planners had their spending priorities a bit askew. We also hoped that the proposed “development” at Pt. Ann did not suffer a similar fate.

From there we drove into Hopetoun, which looked more cheerful than we had seen it on previous visits. There we restocked and considered where we might spend the next night.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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