Day 20: 13th Sept 2014

Today’s explorations started with a drive up through the Walpole-Nornalup National Park, stopping at a lookout that provided a view across the inlet to the ocean.

A little drive further on, and a short walk into the forest, brings you a stand of Giant Tingle trees. In years past, families would travel up here for the day and it was the done thing to have your photo taken alongside the family Holden, standing within the huge cavity that forms in within the trunks of these centuries old trees. Unfortunately, the root system of the tingles is shallow, and the weight of the people traffic and their cars compacted the soil. Sadly the largest of these giants died before this practice was stopped.

Next stop was the Circular Pool on the Frankland River. A short, easy climb down to the river revealed a spectacular set of rapids that were flowing quite hard. The name, “Circular Pools” describes the movement of the foam that forms on the surface as a result of the saponins (a chemical compound found in the surrounding vegetation). The “cappuccino” like foam rotates in lazy circles in the quiet pools at the top and bottom of the rapids.

Back in the cars and over to the Tree Top Walk in the Valley of the Giants. This is a series of cantilevered walkways suspended 40 metres above the ground amongst the giant tingle forest.

A late lunch was had in the local café back at Walpole where a more vividly coloured Superb Fairy Wren made an appearance.
Later that afternoon Wendy and Laura tried their luck at fishing from the jetty again whilst Dave and I launched the kayaks. After a bit of moving around and changing spots to find where the fish were biting, I eventually anchored up at a location that provided plenty of action. Unfortunately, all the catches were undersized yet again, but we had a really enjoyable time anyway. We probably stayed out on the water a little too long and by the time we paddled back to shore, the sun was really low with the light fading and both of us feeling a bit chilly. This is an excellent location for this sort of activity with so many waterways and estuaries to explore.

Day 19: 12th Sept 2014

One of the many stands of tall timbers between Pemberton and Walpole 
This morning we left Pemberton with the aim of stopping for breakfast along the way at the Lavender & Berry Farm to sample their famous “Pemby Pancakes”. 
This was the "small" serve.
Whilst we were each hoeing into one huge pancake, topped with berries and ice-cream, we were entertained by Superb Fairy Wrens that flitted about looking for any crumbs that might be had. After sitting for a while, a shy little bandicoot gingerly made its way from one corner of the outdoor dining area across to the other, then out into the garden surrounds.

With breakfast done, we were back out on the highway, arriving in Walpole mid-afternoon.

Once the camps were set up, Dave, Laura and I wandered down to the little jetty to do a spot of fishing.

This time we were a little luckier than at Augusta and Laura caught a nice little black bream that was exactly the minimum legal size. A few others were caught during this session, but none we could keep. We were contemplating putting the kayaks in the water but the wind was a little strong, causing a small chop on the water, so it wouldn’t have been that pleasant and decided to keep our backsides dry.

Day 18: 11th Sept 2014

We’d come across the native Ring Necked Parrots back in Perth, and again at Yallingup, but the locals here were very cheeky and friendly, mobbing anyone offering them food, much like the Rainbow Lorikeets at Currumbin Qld. Laura had some apple that she’d cut up hoping to coax one onto her arm to feed, but it didn’t take long before four of them were perched on her head, arms and shoulders.

Later in the morning we drove out to the Yeagarup Sand Dunes. There’s an easy 4wd track that has to be negotiated before hitting the dunes, which we’re told are the largest land-locked dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. After letting the tyre pressures down to the recommended 15p.s.i. , Laura didn’t hesitate when I asked if she wanted to drive to the dunes. She giggled like a school girl as we accelerated up and onto the sand, squirming and drifting all the way until we hit the firmer sand up on top.

There are white posts marking the areas to stick to and the path across the dunes is about 3kms long at this point, exiting the southern side onto another track that meandered through the bush. Eventually, the track ended at the base of a large sand hill, at which point I exited the Prado so that I could climb to the top and see what was on the other side before we committed to barrelling up and over.

The view from the top was spectacular and I took the opportunity to fire up the video camera to capture some footage of the vehicles cresting the dune and driving down the long, steep slope on the seaward side.  
As none of us were aware of the tide times, it was decided not to continue further to drive onto the beach. I took over driving and turned us back the way we’d come. It was quite a thrill gunning the Prado to get the momentum to climb up the slope and break out over the top whilst Dave and Laura snapped the action from the other side.

We made our way back to the start of the dune track where we stopped for some lunch at the sheltered picnic area and took the opportunity to inflate our tyre pressures back up normal.
After airing up again we moved on to the 12-kilometre Heartbreak Trail that winds down into the Warren River Valley. There are some great bush camping sites along the river, nestled in amongst the big karri trees, but unfortunately due to some steep declines, caravans are banned. Oh well, maybe another time when we’ve got the tent.

Day 17: 10th Sept 2014

Today we left Augusta, heading away from the coast for Pemberton.

Along the way we stopped in at Beedelup Falls, a fairly small cascade in height, but with a good volume of water flowing down after the heavy rains we’d been suffering.

On arrival at the caravan park, we were welcomed by a family of ducks who waddled around the campsites as if they owned them.

Later that afternoon we drove a couple of kilometres out of town to the Gloucester Tree, a 72 metre tall Giant Karri tree that was once used as a fire spotting platform. 153 steel spikes have been driven into the trunk as rungs and, much to my amazement, the general public (for a small fee) may climb to the top, completely unsupervised.

The view looking back down from the top
Now if this was in Victoria, there’d be barriers keeping everyone a safe distance from the tree so that no-one was at risk of getting hurt by a falling leaf, perish the thought of  what might happen if you allowed anyone to actually climb the tree! Western Australia is certainly no “Nanny State”.
Laura and I were the only two of the group who were both game enough and able bodied enough to give it a go, so I strapped the GoPro to my forehead and headed on up. I must say it was quite a workout and I was huffing and puffing by the time I got to the top, but the view and the sense of accomplishment (I read that only 20% of visitors make the climb) were worth it. Laura made it too. The knees were a bit shaky by the time we got back down to the ground and I can’t say for certain whether that was completely from the effort.

Dave pretending to be one of the 20%

Day 16: 9th Sept 2014

This morning we drove the short distance from the caravan park to the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse for a tour of the surrounding buildings, and a climb up the tallest lighthouse on the mainland. The views from the catwalk around the outside of the light were impressive, as were the winds that threatened to blow us off our feet.

 Being the most south western point of mainland Australia, it's also the corner where the Indian and Southern Oceans intersect.


Later that afternoon we tried a spot of fishing from the beach, only managing to land some very small, juvenile Bream. Sharon and Wendy, in the meantime, did a bit of beachcombing.

Today was our first day of mostly fine weather for what feels like forever.
Our sheltered and private site at Augusta
Augusta, at this time of the year at least, is a quiet, sleepy little place that would be an ideal location to sit back and recharge the batteries.

Day 15: 8th Sept 2014

This morning we left Yallingup, hoping for a bit of relief from the incessant wind and heavy rains.

We’d been told by a local that we really should go and sample Gabriel’s Chocolate, the first bean to bar chocolate makers, who import and roast their own cacao beans sourced from various countries around the world. It’s surprising the different characters and flavours that come from beans grown in different countries, I guess just like wine in a way. One particular variety of their dark chocolate is probably the nicest I’ve ever had, without a hint of bitterness, so this was another place we weren't going to leave without any purchases.

Along the road we passed more wineries, some with extremely elaborate gardens, water features and restaurants. 

Our route took us down Caves Road, a picturesque drive through some stands of very tall, majestic timbers. Caves Road isn’t called Caves Road for nothing, we passed the turnoffs pointing to several caves, but we were aiming to do a tour of Lake Cave. Unfortunately, this cave has the most number of steps (over 300) down into it, so Dave and his dicky knee opted to sit this one out.

Although the cave doesn’t go in very far, the formations, the pools that are the main feature, and the interesting and informative narration by our guide Steve, made the trek down into the cave well worth the effort.

Later that afternoon we arrived in Augusta, set up camp in the most protected sites we could find, and settled in for a couple of nights.

Day 14: 7th Sept 2014

Today’s aim is to investigate Busselton and the surrounding area. We drove straight to the beachfront and found a local farmer’s market in full swing. So it was a bit of a diversion and a chance to grab some fresh fruit and vegies.
The jetty at Busselton is the longest in the southern hemisphere, is about 1.7kms long, and dominates the beachfront.
Next destination was The Old Cheddar Cheese Company where we sampled a wide array of, as the name suggests, cheddar cheeses. Our stop here coincided with lunchtime so it was decided we’d prop here and try out their menu. They offer a range of toasted sandwiches and share platters, all incorporating their cheeses of course. Once again we left with lighter wallets and full shopping bags, but I must say, their prices were very reasonable, and the service was friendly and warm. We really enjoyed our visit and would highly recommend stopping in if you’re in the area and have the opportunity.

On to Eagle Bay Olives where they offer, of course, olives and olive products, but also an assortment of pesto, dukkah, and other tasty offerings. I particularly liked their dried olives so grabbed a jar, whilst Laura went for two varieties of pesto she says  “… are the bomb!”.

Geoff back at work told me about Simmo’s Icecreamery at Dunsborough, which his family describe as a must. So we popped in and just about took more time deciding on what to have from their more than 50 flavours than it did to eat it.
After all our gastronomic exercises, it was time for a bit of physical exercise and took a bush walk out to Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse. We could see some nasty weather approaching us as we walked along the track above the rocky coastline, but there was nowhere to hide and as the squall passed over us, we huddled under whatever vegetation we could. The view from the viewing platform at the end of the trail was worth the minor discomfort, but we were a little disappointed there were no whales to spot.
Photos taken at the end of the day from atop the beach at Yallingup provided yet another mood.

Overnight we copped the worst wind and rain we’ve experienced so far. Once again, Laura slept in the car as the gale force gusts whipped her Oztent and kept her awake the previous night.


Day 13: 6th Sept 2014

By now we're in the heart of the Margaret River Region, so today it's all about visiting some of the establishments the area is famous for.
First stop was at "The Margaret River Chocolate Company". Stepping through the door was the first big surprise, this place was huge! The second surprise were the three big bowls containing White, Milk and Dark chocolate pastelles that you could help yourselves to (I went back three times for more White ones). They also let you sample any of their chocolate coated delights range and the staff are only too happy to keep them coming. After making our selections and walking away with a truckload of chocolate products, we moved on to Bettenay's Nougat and Winery Company. Here, if you time it right, you can watch them making a batch of their creamy and chewy French nougat. Of course we didn't leave there empty-handed either.
Next stop was the township of Margaret River. Strangely, this place has the look and feel of a little beachside town, with surf shops, a bead shop, souvenir shops, but is kilometres from the coast. The skies opened up on us several times whilst we wandered up and down the main street, but managed to stay dry and press on.
Main street of the township of Margaret River
 After lunch it was on to The Berry Farm to sample some berry and fruit jams, sauces, syrups, preserves and more. They also have a Cottage Café where we decided to prop for our afternoon tea. The excellent coffee was also accompanied by a substantial sized scone with jam and cream. In the gardens surrounding the Café, we spotted our first, but very skittish, beautifully coloured, splendid Fairy Wren.
True to it's reputation, the region is full of wineries and judging by the size and grandeur of some of the establishments, there's plenty of money to be made. None of us are wine buffs and so weren't really tempted to stop in at any of the cellar doors.

By now the weather had turned pretty bad, with strong winds and rain showers. Still, Dave and I braved the elements to see what tonight's sunset would bring.