Tuesday, February 28, 2012

9 - A BIT FURTHER SOUTH

We turned inland again and found Coalseam National Park, so named because of the visible coal seam in the cliff face along the river gorge, and site of old coal mining operations.  The park was almost deserted, the camp hosts had departed and there was no camping fee collection facilities so it was a free camp.  Two other vehicles made camp there overnight, but it was very quiet.  A rather nice place, but the weather was getting too hot and the wildflowers, which are a big feature of the area, were almost finished.

However we saw plenty of flowers at Western Flora Park.  This is a caravan park operated by a botanist who specialises in WA native wildflowers, on a 60 acre property which is mainly virgin bush.  For no extra fee the owner conducts a tour of the flowers explaining a lot of interesting facts about the flowers, the reason for the diversity of plant life, interesting aspects of the many different insects and birds required for pollination and all sorts of other interesting details.  After about an hour and a half of exploring the grounds, we were then taken into a room where he showed us specimens he had picked up on the walk, under a microscope (projected onto a screen via CCD camera).  Flowers that were so tiny the details are impossible to see with the naked eye looked totally different when magnified x 40.  We also saw them under ultra-violet light, which is how the birds and insects see them and the learned of the differences in colour due to this.  He also explained that although the "Wildflower Season" was considered to be over there were flowers to be seen all year round and we were seeing things that people who come earlier do not see.  After that we saw the plants and the country in general through different eyes and noticed much more as we were walking through the bush.

Next stop was another relaxing beach-side camp at Sandy Cape.  This was a very popular place.  We arrived about lunch time on a Friday and lucky we did as it was filling up fast.  Well before dark all the spaces around us were full, and well after dark vehicles with camper trailers were driving in, doing a lap and leaving again.  I don't know if they found places further around in the deep sandy areas, or had to move on further to other camp sites.  We spent two nights here, meeting up again with some friends from earlier camps, and spending the days exploring the nearby parks.

Another "must see" was the monastery town of New Norcia.  It is certainly unique with it's lovely old buildings and history.  Camping is also very reasonable - a donation  of about $7 allows you to camp on the sports ground on grass, under big shady trees and just across the road from the main part of the town.

After the pleasant little villages and wildflowers, we again headed back inland doing a big loop north and east to the old gold fields and sandstone country stopping at Mt Magnet (caravan park), Leinster, and Niagra Dam.  Leinster was interesting in terms of camping - a proper caravan park owned by the mining company so not expensive and meals available at the mess for a very reasonable price - "all you can eat" buffet style.

We also visited Lake Ballard, with the 'Inside Australia' art sculptures.  We were extremely under impressed and unless you are a devotee of modern art I would consider it a completely worthless trip.  The sculptures are ugly lumps of iron, supposed to represent the residents of a nearby town.  All I can say is that if they look like that they must be terribly inbred or from another planet!  It is spread out across a huge area of a salt lake and would take hours to walk around all of them.  We walked past the first two and decided we wouldn't waste our time and energy looking at any more of them.

Next stop was Kalgoorlie.  We spent two nights camped at Lake Douglas, a free camp not far from town and travelled back in each day to explore the town, and generally see the tourist attractions.  On the Sunday we went to Boulder markets and did a bus tour of the "golden mile" mine.  We spent one night in a caravan park to "clean up", then the last night at a free site in town with a 24 hour limit.

Leaving Kalgoorlie we continued on to Coolgardie and down to Wave Rock (and various other interesting rocks along the way) camping at Koralee Rock (very interesting stone walls on the huge rock area for water pipe line) and Wickepin before reaching the "Big Trees" country.

We spent a couple of nights at Shannon National Park, then Big Brook Dam doing walks and drives through the forest areas.  We had planned to go from here to the Margaret River area, however several bush fires broke out in the area and we woke one morning to find everything covered in fine ash, and ate our breakfast with it raining down on us.  This meant some of the roads we were planning to take were closed and we had to find detours, consequently not getting into the Margaret River wine growing area as this was the worst affected.  About 38 houses were destroyed, but fortunately no loss of life.

After trying to find a camping space in a National Park with tiny spaces and bollards everywhere we gave up and stumbled across Heron Point which was a much better place all round.  It overlooked an inlet and had nice walks and views.  It was another Friday afternoon, and again the place was full before dark.

This brought us into Perth where we spent eight nights, doing a boat trip down the river to Fremantle, visiting the markets, two maritime museums and old gaol.  We spent a very nice day in Kings Park, then visited friends from our Canning Stock Route trip three years ago, and met up with relatives from the UK who were passing through.

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1 Comments:

At March 1, 2012 at 10:15 AM , Blogger Merilyn said...

What an interesting post Marie! Takes me back to when I spent a week in Laverton once a few years ago (other half worked in the mining industry) and drove down through Leinster, Boulder and Kalgoorlie, interesting country and history in those areas, I was surprised that Kalgoorlie was such a big place, bigger and more attractive that Broken Hill!

 

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