Sunday, 28 September 2008


25/09/08 Albany – Jerramungup – Ravensthorpe - Esperance 481(13386) kms

Well, the rain we expected today started last night and was pitter-splattering by 5:00am. Despite this, we were packed without getting wet - well, very wet - and on the way by 8:00am. The weather closed in as we drove and the first session was the least wet of the day. Our morning tea destination, was a cuppa in the only shop in town (the name of which escapes us) and what a shop it was. This was literally the shop that stocks everything - car parts, groceries, camping gear, candles for birthday cakes, sunglasses, camphor, checkbook tickets to run your raffle, ammo, artists brush set, bench grinders, snatchem’ straps, ockie straps, liquorice straps, hooks, lines and sinkers ... even the kitchen sink! I sat a catalogued what I could find for a future poem.

Back on the road and the rain was getting serious enough that I had to select the top speed on the wipers several times. Sue was sleeping and Billy Thorpe was working his way through his final recording when Sam rang. He was pleased to report that his Spring gardening was going well in Lismore and that he had surprised a yellow-bellied black snake in the yard and lopped its head off with a set of long handled garden shears when it reared at him. His bubble burst a little when I explained, after he gave me a description, that he had killed an Eastern Brown snake - considered by many, one of the three deadliest snakes in the world! Even at 40cm, they can kill a man. Gulp. He decided to leave the rest of the yard to its natural state.

We stopped at Ravensthrope for lunch and as it was raining heavily, we decided to eat in - easier said than done and it became a Goldilocks experience.  First place had crook toilets, the second had crook staff but the third was just right!

Back on the road for the final 200 km, we splashed our way to Esperance in fog and heavy rain and finally arrived about 4:00pm. Looking forward to the weather lifting and seeing what all the fuss is about. Of all the places people said we must not miss in WA, this was highest on the list of most. Tonight it is wet, cold and miserable ... and so are we, as we can’t pitch the tent because of the rain and the postage stamp site we are on so we are sleeping in the car (very dry) but have to get in and out through the back door under a tarp (very wet).

Rain has become a persistent companion since we hit the southwest.

Raining in Esperance

6:05 - raining ... has been all night. Are their any trainspotters in the room? You should be here. A railway track runs beside and above our campsite and just as each train reaches us, they sound their claxon to warn for danger. Danger of what, I'm not sure. Heart attack maybe? Soiling one's trousers in shock? On the first occurrence late yesterday afternoon, Sue confidently predicted it would be the last train for the day. She was right. Of course, the trains that ran in the evening didn't exactly make her wrong, nor did the ones which ran until 12:30am. It was just that, well, they were very loud and not exactly helpful in getting to sleep. After a while, I got good at predicting the horn blast based on the level of rumbling in the track above. I woke with the rumbling and waited. Big noisy machines moving in the dark above me have a habit of making me nervous.

It was an unusual night. There have been times on this tour when we've communicated with nature up to six times during the night hours but last night was different. To be at one with nature last night, umbrellas and raincoats had to be involved. Now Sue is very lazy sleeper and I reckon she made it through the night because she didn't want to play dress ups. As for me, each time I was away from our campsite, I was avoiding involvement in a potential derailment. You may laugh ... sounds unlikely but then, funnier things have happened to me.

8:15 - raining … we had some breakfast and left for town. Nothing much to do but we booked a cruise for Sunday and had a lovely coffee at a cafe by the bay. The view was spectacular apparently, although we could only just make out the car park and a few wet seagulls that looked in need of a hot chip. We were back home by lunch.

12:45 – raining … we spent the afternoon watching the rain and the nervous reaction of newcomers as trains went past.

15:30 – raining … Sue was reading and I was checking out stuff on the web.

17:25 – raining … I wrote a blog which I lost and smiled because the train behind me blasted just as I thought it would and I didn't jump but the lady across the way screamed. Sue read and read and read.

20:30 - it's raining again, actually still, but chances are it will be gone by morning. Lady next door called out to ask what times the trains stop running. We changed the subject.

21:49 - finished the second blog. Husband of the lady next door came knocking. Wondered if we had any valium. It’s still raining.

27/09/08 Cape Le Grande NP - Ocean Drive

Sunshine!!! Even better, the rain stopped at 1:45am, just as I had predicted (between 1 and 2am was my call).

We spent a few hours in Esperance poking around the birthday celebrations of the town - 113 years - it was mostly boring stuff until we discovered an aboriginal art shop. The art was a class above the rest of the morning and we didn't have to be convinced to purchase a couple of lovely pieces. I must admit, such a purchase was on the cards for this trip but until now, we hadn't found anything worthy of our hard-earned. These pieces will be sent to us in Tamworth and will make wonderful additions to our wall space.

The afternoon was special, very special. With the sun shining and the wind reduced, we went east to Cape Le Grande National Park. Starting with Cape Le Grande Beach and moving throughout the afternoon to a variety of wonderful locations along the coast, this was like dropping in on locations in the West Indies (without the rum and heat). The water has those lovely hues of the beaches we saw in the north and rolls in over white sand. White sand hills backdrop the beaches and large granite domes hover in metres three figures high ... some edging the beautiful bays themselves - one after another if ever increasing beauty, much to our amazement. There is a great camping spot behind the beach.

Finally, by mid afternoon, we pulled up in the carpark of Lucky Bay, found by Matthew Flinders in his circumnavigation of Australia and used by same as a safe anchorage. Little wonder. It is shielded from the prevailing southerly winds by large granite domes on the south western side. The bay itself has several of the islands in its opening that are part of the archipelago of 160 plus islands that are in the vicinity of Esperance. The waters, here are therefore peaceful.  We sat for more than an hour and just stared at this perfect place. We reflected on the locations our 14000 km had included and both expressed the opinion that this was at least the equal of the best ... maybe even the champion. As the Victorians in the bush camping area beside the beach cheered the final stages of a famous Hawthorn victory, we just stared and smiled and held each other and felt the great joy that these powerful moments in nature deliver.

Lucky Bay

Back into town for some housekeeping and then we went on what is called the Ocean Drive. It started by a viewing of the Pink Lake, which today, looked decidedly blue. Maybe the lake had undergone a gender change. Pity, because heaps of landmarks are named for it - motels, golf courses, shopping centres etc. The lake it seems is in the blue! From there, we found the coast to the west of Esperance and the staggering beauty promised of this place was finally becoming clearly apparent. Cliffs, white sand, close in reefs, rolling waves and beaches for all types. One sign on a narrow track to a beach read “fishermen” with left hand arrow and “nudists” with a right hand arrow. All of this wrapped in a parcel of golden light as the sun fell in its last hour to the watery horizon. Our last daylight was spent below huge wind turbines - so close we could hear them whooshing through the air - on a cliff above a beach being crashed with waves. In the west, the sun gave us as good a display as we have seen and I snapped happily away.
Ocean Drive

Fish and chips for tea and thoughts of our final cruise of the tour tomorrow. We are off on an eco tour to Woody Island and the rain has gone.

28/09/08 Woody Island Cruise

Washing day so your Sadie correspondent was up at six to get our clothes supplies back in order. I was back in camp by 6:40 with all my work on display on the Hills Hoist and only one abusive comment from a fellow washer ... or is it washee? Some of these old ducks just can't cope when they see a hippie fussing over his washing at that hour of the morning and especially when the long haired lout knows as much as they do on the subject of washing clothes. I therefore have come to accept the abuse as a form of indirect praise but then that's the sort of sick puppy I am.

Early start was caused by an early departure from camp so that we would be on the dock for our cruise to Woody Island - one of 160 islands in the Rechurche Archipelago. Our vessel was one of those three tiered cats that you see operating in Sydney Harbour so we chose the open top deck, as my experience when the rock and roll starts, is that its better to be where you can watch the horizon. We started with a 15 minute tour of the port, which included an Australian frigate which I am prevented by the official secrets act and memory from naming. There were also bulk carriers taking away Australian wheat.

After leaving the port, we got a taste of what lay ahead as we made our way west along the coast to see various landmarks and hear some local history lessons - obviously made a big impact on me - and also intended to get us used to the swell. One point worth noting ... Esperance is powered by a gas turbine power plant which supplies 77% of the town's electricity. The other 23% comes from the wind turbines on the cliffs to the west, the first of which was built as an experiment in 1978. WA is now liberally doted with them.

We turned our bow across the wind and with the swell on our forward starboard quarter, we made our first reach into open water. I never knew a boat could move in so many directions at once! We sat on a bench looking across the direction of travel which soon proved to be a bad idea. Old Iron Guts Gibbens remained unaffected but in these matters, I have my father's stomach. Luckily we stopped in the lee of an island where the skipper's mate fed a breeding pair of white breasted sea eagles for some spectacular photographic opportunities. I got some good shots as the eagles flew/glided overhead but looking through the lens finder on a rocking and rolling boat was my most serious mistake. For the next forty five minutes it was all hands on deck in an effort to keep the yogurt where I sent it during breakfast. I shouldered my way to the front of our deck and faced the wind and never once took my eye off the horizon - to hell with the sea lions on my right - and rode every wave, every swell, every trough and every enquiry from staff all the way to Woody Island. It may have caused mirth when I dropped to the good earth when we left the dock and kissed it with genuine tenderness but the fact it was mistaken for an act of clowning doesn't diminish how glad I was to be there. A packet of crisps later and a sweet cup of tea - my wife is a genius to know these things - and I was the young me again. Apart from sitting with a grey nomad who breathed only long enough to carry her through the next twenty minutes of talking, morning tea was pleasant.

Skinny Dip Bay
Whilst the assembled multitude left for a hour-long guided bush walk, She Who Must Be Admired and I took off in our own direction for the rather directly named Skinny Dip Bay. We saw the requisite numbers and varieties of birdies and bushes along the way and climbed over the hill and far away until we descended past some Germans who may have be tourists or may have been lost but appeared to be looking for the railway station. Regardless, they didn't look pleased to see us – perhaps they had plans for swimming in Skinny dip Bay. Must be my age but as a weight conscious person, it was very clear to me what was available at Skinny Dip Bay. I just hoped I had some biscuits.

Skoobee and I continued down to the Bay, with she asking me if I needed my flannelette shirt if perhaps she needed to use it as a towel. Funny then that when we arrived at Skinny Dip Bay, there was a bay, lots of water, no sand and only varying degrees of rocks and slippery-dip algae between us and the water and all this on a steep slope. Should the name be followed and swimming attempted sans clothes, it would be soon renamed Skin Ripped Open Bay! We took some photos and left crest fallen as the Germans arrived uttering German expletives and fingering their railway tickets.

On the way back over the hill to the boat, we stopped several times to take in the sweeping views of the ocean and Cap Le Grande to the Northeast. Frenchman’s Peak stood almost as high as Le Grande itself but glisten with water running over its bare rock surface.

The return trip was almost with the wind and was exhilarating. It included a dolphin escort off our bow and a really bumpy ride. Sue and I stood at the front of the deck in front of the radio mast and sonar array. I pretended to Leo in Titanic, just as he had pretended to be me in the Aviator. Sue decided she would celebrate and so I risked involuntary actions by my stomach to go below deck and fetch her champagne. This was compensated by watching her first try to pour it - some in the glass, some on the guy beside her (funny, except I was he guy beside her), a lot on the deck and then watching her try and drink it. When the deck is rolling and sometimes jumping in multiple directions, just standing is a challenge but pouring and drinking champagne into and then from a narrow glass when both hands are required to stay anchored to your temporary roller coaster ... this becomes impossible. When you get uncontrollable giggles and a sudden urge to go to the toilet, the impossible steps up several degrees of difficulty. In this situation, phoning a friend is no help.

We both fell about (literally) and laughed until another dolphin was sighted and then Sue somehow managed all of those glasses and bottles and handholds and things AND a video camera. I married a woman of such great talent. It had been a sparkling morning!

The afternoon was spent doing boring preparation stuff and the night is now cool, no cold, so I'll finish at that. Tomorrow, the adventure I've been waiting for all trip ... the Nullarbor. 555 km tomorrow will take us to Caiguna, on the verge of the crossing. Four three days after that, we'll be crossing and most likely no blogs in that time. When I can, I'll tell you about it!

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