Oz and the Big Lap travel blog

25 February


Happy 60th Diane!

A very leisurely morning, a beautiful day and promises to be hot. Ruth wanted her hair dyed blue, she'd bought the product so straight after her shower I applied the dye and, hey presto, she had blue hair! We wandered into town and into the Info centre. Its situated in a sort of historic park with about a dozen old buildings brought here from various parts of the state and now occupied by shops. They recommended we do the Esperance Great Ocean Drive, it looked good so we will go after lunch. Ruth had booked a pedicure at lunchtime, so I picked her up afterwards and off we went.

It was 30degrees and blue, blue skies as we drove along the coast road, Twilight Beach Road, and what beautiful sights we saw, the beaches were fabulous and the ocean so blue, a real cliche but absolutely true. First stop was the lookout provided by the Rotary Club overlooking Esperance and the beaches t9 the west. Fabulous. On along the road to West Beach, almost 3km long, beautiful views from above. On to Blue Haven then Salmon Beach,, then to Fourth Beach (very imaginative!), another huge beach. Finally, to Twilight Beach, another beautiful beach, voted 'best beach in Australia' in 2006, it's shallower waters were protected from the ocean swells by granite outcrops/islands and the colour of the ocean changed from deep blue to turquoise as it got shallower. Very gently shelving white soft sandy beach. We decided to return when the sun was a bit lower.

So, on along the coast road to Observatory Point, a commemorative stone marking the first landing of the French ships Le Recherche and L'Esperance in 1792, blown here by a storm all the way from Tasmania. Great views of the coast. On to see Nine Mile Beach stretching away into the distance and disappearing in the spray from the surf. We followed the coastline for a few km with occasional glimpses of the beach before swinging inland to Pink Lake, which really does have a pink hue at certain times of the year depending on algal growth.

So, a wonderful drive and we hurried theoigh the last part to get back to Twilight Beach. Far fewer cars now, so we changed into our swimmers and walked on to the beach. It was absolutely beautiful. It was just after 5 o'clock, the sun was still hot, but the water of the Southern Ocean was a shock, fresh would be putting it mildly but we went in and had a bit of of a swim and then dried off in the late afternoon sun. It was just so wonderful, as we walked hand in hand along the beach, words just can't describe it. A wonderful moment.

Ok, back in the car and to return to our campsite for a glass or two of blancs de noir (bought from Grant Burge in the Barossa) to celebrate our crossing of the Nullarbor and the beautiful day today. Caught up with family and friends on Skype as the wifi was so good. It was a lovey warm evening, not as cold as recently, so we were able to barbecue and enjoy eating outside. Wonderful day; this is what we came to Australia for!

26 February

Woke at the crack of dawn by the birds, this was 5.30, the sun gets up early this far south, but maybe just as well as we needed to be at our next site early; it was first come, first served, and it was very popular. All packed up and sorted by 8.30 we drove out along the esplanade at Esperance to see the whale tail on the sea front. A huge piece of sculpture, impressive.

On the road to Cape Le Grand National Park, forestry plantations, open scrub and farmland. Saw a few emu along the way and plenty of sheep. Swerved to avoid a goanna walking across the road. Bought a National Park (WA) Annual Pass at the entrance gate and proceeded to Lucky Bay where we found a lovely site overlooking the Bay. The campground was full soon after our arrival, but the sites are spaced out so it didn't feel crowded. (More sites are being built as it is so popular, a good money spinner for the NP authorities.)

Having set up camp, including the solar panel to keep the fridge going, we walked down the beach, passed a couple of kangaroos lying in the shade, and went for a swim. The water was so clear and a beautiful shade of turquoise, but quite cold, took some getting used to. Ok, cold enough, grabbed a coffee from an enterprising family who had set up a trailer for the purpose, good coffee too. Then just relaxed. The kangaroos we saw on the way to the beach now approached our camp. Looked around then bold as brass, hopped up to our table and peered over the edge, apparently looking for food. We had been pre warned of this behaviour by the camp warden, but to actually see it happen....anyway, they then just lay down back to back in the shade of our awning. After a while they must have decided there was nothing here for them so they hopped off to another camp.

The forecast yesterday was for 36degrees today and it certainly feels like it could be. Gentle breeze off the ocean did help.

Nice sandwich lunch then we drove off to see Rossiter Bay, some 7km away along a dirt road. The road passed through scrubby terrain, granite hills and old sand dunes. Rossiter Bay is lovely but the beach was covered in dead seagrass, a metre deep in parts, so Ruth was put off going in the water because of the smell of the rotting vegetation on the beach. Pity, because there was no one else there, would have been fun. Anyway, I found a beautiful abalone shell, the interior all mother-of-pearl. There was yet another stone cairn to commemorate John Eyre's (after whom the Eyre Peninsula and the Eyre Highway, and very likely a lot of other places too, are named) famous walk from Ceduna SA to Albany WA.

We returned to Lucky Bay and went for another swim, the sun was getting low in the sky by now but still very warm. The ocean was not, it was still chilly, despite that we had a bit of a swim which was very refreshing and great after the hot day. We like it here. The beach is said to have the whitest sand in Australia.

Cooked a seafood risotto which we ate washed down with a lovely pinot gris as the sun was disappearing, and I might say spectacularly; fiery streaks across the clouds. As darkness fell the mossies started biting, so time to retire to the tent, it was only 7, but daylight will be around 5.30, so an early night would be good, but the clouds were building and the wind got up, so no chance of sleep yet. But the Ranger had assured us the wind would die down by nine. Rain, that wasn't in the forecast.

27 February

It rained on and off overnight with a few squally gusts of wind, but settled down later. No sunrise this morning, just heavy grey clouds and quite a bit cooler. Kangaroo hopped into our camp, looked around then hopped off. Funny little creature, they are quite small, certainly compared to those we saw in Queensland. We thought they might be wallabies but were told they are definitely kangaroos.

The clouds remained with us all day, once or twice the sun tried to poke through and it warmed up a bit, but otherwise it was a cool day. Such a contrast to yesterday. After lunch we walked the trail to Thistle Bay, said to take about an hour but it took us half an hour longer. It was a lovely walk and we saw a lot of flowers we hadn't seen before and a few kangaroos. We passed through an area of huge granite boulders and batholiths, a very ancient landscape. The path was a bit of a scramble in places so Ruth was glad to return to the campsite along the road!

A damp, cool evening, a few spots of rain, all very disappointing, but nothing we could do about it. Went to the camp kitchen to cook dinner on their barbecue and met two young ladies from the UK, who had just finished and two older German ladies who had drunk a bottle of wine between them and just wanted to share their life story with us. Eventually, as darkness fell they went off to bed. So did we.

28 February

More rain showers and wind during the night; we had gone to bed at 8, so being woken in the middle of the night didn't really matter but it took longer to get back to sleep. Up at 6 to another grey morning, but there were breaks in the cloud and it wasn't raining which helped when we came to packing up. Ruth's hair still blue, though fading a little.

We visited the next bay, Hellfire Bay, on our way out of the Park, a very pretty little bay, the same white sand and granite outcrops reaching around the bay. Passed Frenchman's Peak, a granite batholith with a very weathered top, you could see right through from a certain angle. On then to the final beach at Cape Le Grand. This was much more open, wide and flat, same white sand.

Ok, back to Esperance to check our emails, food shopping and fuel top up. On the road west to Ravensthorpe, we had been given warnings of road closures and diversions at the Info Centre a few days earlier, but all being worked on so we weren't sure how it would affect us. A short diversion onto a dirt road, road trains too, as we approached Ravensthorpe. The town was a bit spread out, we only saw a couple of historic buildings, both dating from 1907 or 8, so we pushed on. Stopped for lunch at one of the picnic spots along the road, now about 28 degrees, a welcome change from yesterday and this morning on the coast.

We were driving through the great wheat belt which made it pretty boring, just vast brown fields, occasional groups sheep and cattle and some large areas of natural vegetation, low trees and scrub. We could see all the damage done by the rains a couple of weeks ago, large areas of land still under water, sections of blacktop and road shoulders washed away, Some bridges washed out too, but there were diversions round these. We came to a 100 metre section of road completely underwater, probably 40 to 50cm deep. Luckily we were following one of the road trains through, at a distance so we could judge the depth. Boy, did the water smell. Finally, Hyden arrived, our destination for the night and home to the famous 'Wave Rock'. Checked in at the campsite and given complimentary entry tickets to the Rock, right next to the campsite. Still hot, and pestered by flies, Ruth sat in the tent while I walked off to look at the Rock, it is very impressive, and as there were few people around I got some good photos.

Sunset at 6.40, so we cooked our dinner on the camp barbecue and sat down to eat in the communal area as the sun went down. Very poor wifi, so we retired to bed.

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