Munglinup to Pemberton – Sun 19th April to Sat 25th April

Munglinup – Sun 19th Apr

With great reluctance it was time to leave Lucky Bay, it’s the kind of place where you could spend a few weeks.  However the 110 was booked into Albany for its service on the 23rd so we were committed – scary to think we have done nearly 8,000km since Feb 12th.

With a brief stop to get the now well set mud off the trailer, so more high pressure hose time, it was good bye to Esperance and onward.  The road west is fairly ordinary, rolling along through farmland and the odd bit of woodland.

Notionally our destination was Hopetoun, a small town on the edge of the Fitzgerald River NP.  However a surf through Wiki Camps turned up Munglinup, off a dirt road running parallel to the highway near Lake Shaster.

It was an eclectic type of place, great grassy site with a camp kitchen centred around a fire pit welded from 2 large wheel rims and a huge brake drum.  After dinner the manager, Mick, got out his guitar; Robyn, his wife, led the singing and the girls had the run of a huge box of instruments to play with – a great evening.

Point Ann – Mon 20th to Tue 21st Apr

Stopping into Hopetoun confirmed we had made the right choice.  Nice town but the caravan park had seen better days, and also the most expensive gas fill so far – $22 for 3kg!

Point Ann is in Fitzgerald River NP.  The only problem was we had to cross the park, travel along the highway for about a 100km then cross back through the park to get to the campsite, and it is not a small park.  Heading across the first section was incredible, nothing but trees with some hills in the background, by the second crossing the wonder was fading.

15-04-20 Fitzgerald NP 1  15-04-20 Fitzgerald NP to Hopetoun

In the main the dirt roads in the park were reasonable, but the last 15km almost turned us back.  In places, over the worst of the corrugations, we were under 20kph and fearing for the windows; no doubt some of the roads to come will make this look like a stroll on the prom, but as the end to a long day it wasn’t ideal.

Point Ann itself, however, was wonderful.  Set behind the dunes we had a well sheltered spot with a picnic table.  There were others there but the sites were spread out so you couldn’t see your neighbours through the scrubby trees.

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With sun shining the next day it seemed a shame school had started again, but needs must so the morning was all about education.  There was, however, time for a quick fish before lunch, which yielded 2 fat herring.  Ocean to plate in 15 minutes, lovely.

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It turned out our nearest neighbours were from the UK, over from Dartmoor for a vacation including a ride out with the Denmark hunt; I must admit I never knew this, but apparently it is the only foxhunt in WA.  It seems Australia doesn’t have the “cutesy” issues the UK has in dealing with Mr. Fox.

Albany – Wed 22nd to Thu 23rd Apr

Sadly the grader hadn’t been by whilst we were camped, the road was as rough as before. ; however being at the start of the day it didn’t seem quite so bad.

Heading into Albany two things stood out (1) it became much greener, with farms rolling across hills plus the odd winery here and there and (2) there was a huge increase in the number of road trains going to and fro the local industry.

Albany itself was not well treated by the weather while we were there; freezing cold, blustery southerlies were becoming somewhat tedious, however on a warm summer’s day I am sure it would be wonderful, occupying a great location across various bays and headlands in King George Sound.

The good news for the 110 was it passed its service with flying colours, so all ready for the next few thousand km.

Crystal Springs – Fri 24th Apr

Just typical that the weather picked up as we left Albany.  However there was no option of staying, as all sites were full.  Albany was a major embarkation point for WW1, and with the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli on the 25th it was the focus of coming events.

Before departing the girls toured the ANZAC Centre, which tied in very nicely with the module they were working through for school.  It is an amazing complex, and well worth a visit.

Along the way we were lucky to see a submarine steaming in ahead of Saturday’s commemorations.

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Driving west the scenery takes a turn to the scenic from Denmark; the trees get taller, the grass greener and the national parks more frequent.  It’s a truly beautiful part of the world.  Along the way is Greens Pool; on a still sunny day the clearness of the water makes this a popular attraction, even on a bad day you could see how it would look in the sun.

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With no forecast let up in the southerly wind we had decided to head away from the coast, so down with Mandalay Beach and on to Crystal Springs.  This is a peaceful little place nestled under the peppermint trees, giving a sheltered and gently scented camp.

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Even better, there were split logs provided with each fire ring – the girls were only too pleased to break out the marshmallows.

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Drafty’s Camp – Sat 25th Apr

Backtracking slightly via Walpole there is the Valley of the Giants tree top walk.  Set amongst the wonderfully named tingle trees (nope, I’m not making that up), a walkway has been strung which leads through the canopy at 40m above ground.  The trees themselves can reach 70 metres, and some of them are over 400 years old.

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With a shallow root system they often end up split at the base through fire, rot or some other cause.

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The trees are located at the south end of Mount Frankland NP, through which there are some great dirt roads leading through the trees, far more scenic than following the tarmac alongside the park, albeit slightly slower.

Our final destination was in Warren, another NP to the south of Pemberton.  Nice enough but very shaded and rather busy given the long weekend.  It seems people have been feeding the Kookaburras, no sooner had we stopped than two sat on the roof and looked at us in a “so, what have you got for me” kind of way.  In this case they were out of luck, only flying just out of reach in a sulk after a poke with a stick.

With a decent camp kitchen it was an opportunity to get some more schoolwork done before dinner.

Nullarbor to Esperance – 12th April to 18th April

Nullarbor – Sun 12th Apr

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A few facts about the Nullarbor; (a) it’s the largest limestone bedrock exposure in the world, (b) it only gets 200mm of rain a year and (c) its name comes from nullus arbor, or “no trees”.  Oh and the first crossing by bike was made in 1896….

To be honest we had expectations of this big, dusty void; with nothing living as far as the eye can see.  Wrong.  The place is a continually changing botanist’s dream, assuming said botanist has a liking for grass and shrubs.  The vegetation is constantly changing and the bloke who coined its name must have been used to pretty tall shrubs, kind of like small trees in places.

Aside from the plants there’s not a great deal else to see.  The exception is the cliffs, for which there are a number of lookout points where the road runs close to the coast.  The most developed is at the Head of the Bight, which in whale season is a prime viewing sport; however as the whales were off on their holidays we passed on spending $10 a head to look at the sea.

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One other sight was not listed on the map.  Poggy at Coorabie farm had told us about a large sinkhole in the bush near Koonalda.  Fascinating to see how the limestone had eroded leading to collapse of the clay above; the resulting hole was about 75m across and he reckoned 150m deep.

15-04-12 Nullarbor, Koonalda sinkhole

Camp for the night was about 10km from the border.  According to Wikicamps there was one at the back of the beach, however with a large escarpment in the way it looked like a one way trip so after a 10km bush bash we ended up back with the nomads in the main area.

Now, remember the 200mm rain a year.  Not much really, and would imply it does not rain a lot.  So just our luck to get some….made for a decent sunset though.

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Twilight Cove – Mon 13th Apr

Crossing the border brought to mind the old England / France ferry crossings, before open borders in Europe – all line up and get ready for a vehicle search.  A few dangerous cloves of garlic later and we were free to go; unlike the poor chap who had had to unpick his carefully taped up tarpaulin and was stood morosely on the roadside, gaffa tape in hand.

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Stopping at Eucla the kangaroos suddenly got a great deal bigger.

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Also at Eucla we ran into Geoff and Damon of Seriously Series.  Eschewing all modern comforts they were driving Geoff’s Series 2 from Tasmania to Bunbury, what a great adventure.  They also had the same thoughts as us for the next stop, Twilight Cove.  We however had seen comments, albeit from last year, mentioning deep impassable sand and were in two minds  A quick chat later and we were on our way as a team of 2, albeit a rather sedate one as 1960’s petrol engines aren’t that fast.

Although off the Nullarbor proper the landscape along this stretch is no less fascinating.  Running alongside an escarpment, through a grassy / shrubby plain dotted with umbrella shaped trees it could be mistaken for a scene from the African savannah.

The track sets out from Cocklebiddy roadhouse, with the chap there looking at us askance when we mentioned a trailer.  2 hours later and we could see why; it was alternately soft sand and very rocky and then, in increasing darkness, a couple of steep drop offs.  Steep enough to give some serious thought to a trailside stop, but nothing ventured etc. and we found a great spot for the night at the bottom.

Towards Balladonia – Tue 14th Apr

A recce of the climb out was thought wise, without the trailer in tow.  So with Geoff fiddling with his radiator Damon jumped in with me.  The 110 skipped up without a problem, a good tonic for the nerves.

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Having arrived in the dark, a recce of the beach was a must before we left.  It soon became clear that although I had the power advantage the Series definitely won on weight, skipping up slopes the 110 was having to work at.

The drive was well worth it, the dunes were incredible and so white; the beach faded off into the distance, from the cliff behind us, just a windswept expanse of sand.

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So to the moment of truth, how would we go towing up the climb.  Happy to report no problem at all.  Some interesting side slopes in the run up, testing the 110’s wheel articulation; then up the main climb in low 2nd without a murmur.

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Returning to the tarmac was almost an anti-climax.  Certainly it didn’t require much navigation as we hit the longest straight road in Australia; oh for cruise control.

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Target for the night was Afghan Rock, so named for the Afghan camel driver found by thirsty travellers sitting in the last fresh water pool, and therefore promptly shot.  However darkness overtook us, and camp for the night was a non-descript roadside spot along with a number of other travellers.

Lucky Bay – Wed 15th to Sat 18th Apr

Rather than go via Norseman there is a shortcut, departing the highway at Balladonia and heading towards Cape Arid.  Being dirt it is normally sensible to seek advice at the roadhouse as to conditions; at least it is when the staff aren’t European backpackers.  They must have a different view of what rocky means, as despite her assurances we were soon picking our way.  The addition of rain didn’t help, turning the patches which weren’t rocky into slippery mud sprays.

Halfway down the track, just onto the Parmango Road, was the only real point of interest.  Deralinya is an old homestead partially restored and open for travellers to use, even with beds to sleep in.  With reports there was a large carpet python in the rafters the girls weren’t keen to explore, despite me being sent in first as sacrifice.  So lunch was outside.

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Back to that mud.  Coating the 110 and trailer it set like cement, $17 in a car was just to get the 110 clean.

15-04-15 Parmango Rd

Lucky Bay is part of Cape Le Grand National Park, about 50km east of Esperance, and is reported to have the whitest sand in Australia.  Being school holidays, and arriving late in the day, we were concerned it would be full; but finally the rain did us a favour – it seems many had left the day before.

This is truly a beautiful place, and with hot showers to boot (so long as the sun shines, they are solar heated).  The beach is a long curve of sand between two rocky outcrops looking out to a bay dotted with small islands.

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It is also home to some very friendly Wallabies, so much so they seem to quite enjoy a pat; although the girl’s enthusiasm seemed to wane when the odd tick was spotted

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Nearby is a curious rocky outcrop named Frenchmans Peak by the French in 1792.  The Aboriginal name for it is Mandooboornup and in the dreamtime story it is an eagle, constantly looking out to 2 rocky islands.  These islands are 2 children who raided her nest and took away her future (her eggs).  She picked them up and dropped them in the sea never to return, with the springs running off the base of the peak being the tears of the children’s parents.

There is a marked trail to the top of the peak, very steep in places but with great views from the top.  A bonus for the girls was if you climb it you get a certificate from the camp hosts at Lucky Bay.

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Aside from a couple of trips into Esperance for supplies, laundry etc. this was a great place to chill out and enjoy the end of the school holidays, before term 2 started for the girls the next week.

Eyre Peninsular West Coast – 5th April to 11th April

Memory Cove – Sun 5th to Tue 7th April

If I was to be shipwrecked and could choose where, this would be close to top of the list.  In Lincoln National Park, it is the other side of the peninsular from Coffin Bay and is a designated wilderness area.  Parks SA only allow 5 vehicles to camp at a time, and no more than 15 vehicles per day to access the area, so as far from the shouty crowd as you can get, and you need to book in advance.  Access requires a key, picked up from the tourist office, with a $50 deposit; they really want that key back.

The drive in is surprisingly rough given the limited traffic, its less than 30km from the gate and it takes a good hour.  Unlike Coffin Bay there’s no sand, it is all rocks.  We saw 2 cars coming out; aside from that it was us, the wilderness and the southerly sweeping in from Antarctica.

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Memory Cove was named by Mathew Flinders.  Navigating the coast he sent a cutter ashore for water, however it was lost with all hands.  He named the cove in memory of the men, and also various islands after them.

Historical links aside this is a great place to chill out.  A gently shelving white sand beach between headlands.  Just a shame about that southerly, even with the beach facing north the wind chill was enough in the evening to have us wearing more than we would skiing. It didn’t stop the girls building sandcastles though – actually the beach itself was warmer than the site, being protected by a small dune.

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It seems every campsite has to have a resident kangaroo family, and this was no exception; although with the overnight rain this one sums up the weather on the first morning.

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Actually it wasn’t all rain, the wind persisted but it was mainly dry.  Certainly enough for a drive around the sights.  The coastline here is a touch rugged, so the sights were mainly cliffs and bays, with a recurring theme of crashing waves.  One of them was noted as a popular fishing spot, so far as I was game to investigate you hurl your bait over the cliff edge.

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On a safer fishing note Memory Cove itself is a pretty good spot.  At one end of the beach a chap was pulling out herring, the other end gave us a reasonable salmon for lunch.

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Elliston – Wed 8th & Thur 9th April

Despite the weather it was a shame to leave, and given the opportunity we would go back.

However there was the minor matter of collecting the girl’s work for term 2, which we had arranged the school would post to Elliston.

Unfortunately when we got there only Bonnie’s had arrived, requiring a second night’s stay as the next mail delivery was Friday.

Very welcome to all was the hot shower and flush toilets, less so was the $54 a night fee.  A pleasant enough place though, with a bouncy pillow for the girls and trikes for hire.

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An interesting coastline around this area, with combinations of sandstone and limestone it makes for some dramatic cliffs.  Elliston itself sits in a bay with a reef across the mouth, apparently there is a gap but not one I’d be keen to run in a boat.  Great pier though, almost half a km long.

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Also eat your heart out Bondi, you may have Sculptures by the Sea but Elliston has Statues on the Cliffs.

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Tractor Beach – Fri 10th April

Hurray, packages for Pippa & Charlotte arrived, time to move on.  Not much to say about the journey aside from the roads are very straight.

The coastline remained interesting though, with lunch along the way at Talia Caves, the first being “The Tub”, the second “The Woolshed”

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A vexing question was where to stay.  Comments on Wikicamps were reporting a mice plague north of Streaky Bay all the way to Fowlers Bay; it seems the field mouse population had been rendered starving by the harvest and was descending on campers devouring all before them (kind of).

Not game to face the mice Streaky Bay was our destination, which gave a choice of the caravan park or a bush camp with absolutely no facilities.  Hmm, over $50 to cram in amongst the crowd opposite the fish cleaning bins, or $5 but dig your own loo; break out the shovel, time to go bush!

What a great decision.  Tractor Bay only has 5 sites, and with SA school holidays starting we thought it may be full.  Nope, just us and one other, just behind the dune with direct access to a deserted beach.  Even better a north facing beach completely protected from the southerly (yes, it was still blowing).

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Coorabie Farm Stay – Sat 11th April

A shame to leave, again a place we would be happy to stay longer. However, time to head west and gear up ahead of the Nullarbor.

Ceduna had been recommended as the last cheap place to pick up fuel, so it was time to fill up the jerry cans.  First time we’ve spent $170 at the pumps, but hopefully worth it to minimise roadhouse pitstops.

Fowlers Bay had been our destination, but it was booked out for the annual Chasing the Sun golf event.  The Nullarbor is the home to the longest course in the world, not in actual yards but in that there is a hole in each town on the way across.

The silver lining in this was we ended up at the farmstay rather than the caravan park.  Complete with a couple of miniature ponies for Charlotte to get all excited about.

An interesting sight on the way, despite it being the fire ban period it seems farms are able to stubble burn, with this one kicking up its own twister

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Turning off the tarmac towards the farm a couple of cars came flying past way too fast, complete with clouds of dust.  Most amusing when they shortly took a wrong turn and ended up behind us for the next 5km to the farm – amazing how much dust a Defender and trailer kicks up…..

Eyre Peninsular – 29th March to 4th April

Lipson Cove – Sun 29th & Mon 30th March

What a little gem this place was, 7km of dirt from the main road leading to fantastic waterfront views.  It’s a council site on the coast north of Tumby Bay, $10 a night by honesty box.  Arriving at the end of the weekend we thought it would be empty; how wrong could we be, we were lucky to get one of the two remaining spots – popular with the grey nomads it seems.

With a gently shelving beach into a sheltered bay this was a great spot for the girls to mess around in the water, with passing dolphins as a bonus.  The only drawback if one was to be picky, was the onshore breeze wafting the smell of thousands of sea birds from the little island offshore,

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As a side note, Cowell is a little town on the way from Whyalla, and served up the best steak pie so far on this trip.  Worth a stop.

Coffin Bay – Tue 31st March

Heading down the Eyre Peninsular the countryside becomes much more arable compared to the north, whether wheat or some form of animal feed we couldn’t tell as nothing was left but stalks.  Accompanying silos dotted the way, central collection points for the harvest.

At the end of the peninsular Port Lincoln is the main town, nestled in a north facing bay and providing all the usual facilities for restocking supplies.

The peninsular is blessed with two national parks, Lincoln to the West and Coffin Bay to the East.  Coffin Bay was our destination.  According to the park guide the track in is subject to flooding with the tide, and with low tide at 7.30am a night in the Coffin Bay Caravan Park just outside the park gave a chance to top up with water and grab a shower.

Coffin Bay NP – Wed 1st to Fri 3rd Apr

An early start to catch low tide.  Being just before the clocks go back it was also dark, just to add to the fun and ensure everyone else around was fast asleep as we tiptoed around.  Hats off to the girls who headed straight for the car and their ipods (electronic sedation, sometimes the only way….).

Heading into the park the first 8km is easy, bitumen, and leads to the Yangie campsite.  At this point we lowered tyres to c.17psi in anticipation of the sand ahead.  The sand was OK, the only challenge was a couple of places where people had spun holes; helpfully in one case at the base of a climb, not ideal when carrying momentum, shook things up a bit!  However the track is not only sand, there are also very rough rocky sections, enough to warrant stopping and airing up given recent events in Arkaroola.

Black Springs is a site half way into the park.  Set above a sheltered beach it only has c.8 pitches.  To be honest we were worried it would be full with Easter approaching but were fortunate, there was a great spot free at the end of the site.  Also fortunate to have great neighbours, who welcomed us with a cup of tea, pancakes for the girls.

Given a three night stay it was an opportunity to put up the fly sheet and one of the side walls, in the end a wise choice as some overnight rain and a southerly wind made the shelter very welcome

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One of the great things about the site was that fires were allowed between high and low water.  A great chance for some marshmallows, dinner over the flames and a good chat with fellow campers.  Bizarrely one of the neighbours had also worked for RBS, but now runs a landscaping business, quite a career shift.

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Another bonus was the stingray floating past up and down the crystal clear water’s edge and further out a pod of dolphins

Heading north from Black Springs the track passes along Seven Mile Beach to Morgans Landing, then Port Sir Isaac at the tip of the park.  Taking a day trip, along the beach were some fantastic dunes, offering spectacular views.  With the tides relatively small there was no issue with the beach, but its clear on a king tide it could be difficult.

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Much to the girls delight the site also had some resident kangaroos, whilst not tame they were happy with human company and the bowl of water we provided.

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Coffin Bay – Sat 4th Apr

Having seen the number of vehicles which had driven into Black Spring since Wednesday we were a little nervous as to what state the track would be in.  Not helped by the nature of some of the visitors; dirt bikes have a place, just not in this park.

In reality nothing to really worry about.  Sure the track was a little chewed up, but as with the way in the only tricky part was across where someone had spun out some deep holes – but even then a short reverse and change of gear saw us clear.

Back at the caravan park what a difference Easter made, the park was packed.  Not a problem, to be expected over a public holiday, but reinforced our preference for more out of the way, quieter places.  Nice showers though.