We have spent the last fortnight or so cruising around the Great Southern region. This has taken us through the spectacular southern forests of giant Karri and Tingle trees, via Albany, the Stirling Ranges and Wave Rock, to Esperance where we are currently sitting out some rainy weather before embarking on the trek across the Nullarbor.
Throughout the southern forests we managed to camp in a variety of the national parks in the area, which was a refreshing change from the caravan parks of Perth and Margaret River. The forests themselves are quite spectacular, with really really tall trees. I think they seemed especially tall for us, since we really hadn’t seen anything much over head height since we left the tropical savannah woodlands in the Kimberly. The Valley of the Giants was a great way to really appreciate how tall these trees are – they have built a 600 m long boardwalk that climbs to heights of about 40 m, where you walk amongst the canopy of the trees. I freaked out a bit the first go around, since the boardwalk is completely see-through and designed to sway in the wind (and we were there on a pretty windy day). We also ventured into one of the windswept coastal parks in the area, but didn’t linger due to another large bushfire that was raging away.
From the forests we had a four-day stop in Albany. We based ourselves at the local caravan park and ventured out for day trips to check out the local scenery and do some twitching. Albany itself is quite an okay town, with a couple of good pubs and bookstores. Troopy really didn’t want to leave and developed a radiator hose leak on the day we were due to depart! From Albany we went to Cheynes Beach to experience some of the coastal areas. Unfortunately, the days that we were there blew 20 knots and rained, which was not at all conducive to hunting out the three species of rare bird (nicknamed “the skulkers”) that we were hoping to see. We managed to get the Noisy Scrub-bird (well sort of). It’s supposedly Australia’s rarest bird and we reckon also the noisiest. We found it as we were driving out of town with the windows up and radio on! Despite being no more than a couple of meters from it for a good 15 minutes, we didn’t even get a glimpse of the noisy little f**cker.
From Albany we headed to Esperance with a northern detour to visit the Stirling Ranges and Wave Rock. The Stirling Ranges were really great, although due to more rainy weather we didn’t stay there as long as we otherwise might have. We did do the excellent walk up to Bluff Knoll (rated as one of Oz’s 25 top walks, and we would agree). The walk is ~6 km return with an altitudinal climb of about 800 m, do it’s tough on the legs but with really beautiful bush and montane heath, you are distracted from the worst of the huffing and puffing. Unfortunately for us, the view from the top was totally whited out by the low cloud, but being up in the mist was an experience in itself. We went to Wave Rock via the Mallee Fowl centre in Ongerup, which gave us some really good birding karma because we then saw a Mallee Fowl sauntering across the highway the next day! Wave Rock was just like the photos – a really big bit of granite that looks exactly like a wave that is about to break. It’s 15 m high, which we calculated was less than half the height of the biggest wave ever surfed – check out the photo of me next to the rock to put that into some insane perspective!!
We are now in Esperance, the last town of any size before the SA. Troopy is raring to go across the Nullarbor, but we’re going to try for a few days in the coastal national parks before hitting the highway (weather dependent). We’re booked into the Streaky Bay caravan park for Christmas, so need to cover some kms to get there in time. Unfortunately, we won’t have any cricket on the radio to keep us entertained, which actually might be a good thing, since Luke has completely renounced the Aussies and wants pappadums for Christmas lunch!!