Murphy’s Haystacks

About 40km south of Streaky Bay, on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, lie the inselbergs known as Murphy’s Haystacks.

Local legend has it that coach driver Charlie Mudge named Murphy’s Haystacks following a remark by a Scottish agricultural advisor who saw the landmark in the distance while travelling on the mail coach. Shimmering like haystacks in the hot afternoon sun, he was very impressed with the sight before him and remarked, “That man must harrow, look at all the hay he has saved.” (https://southaustralia.com/products/eyre-peninsula/attraction/murphys-haystacks)

The pink Hiltaba Granite, which is 1500 million years old, has been weathered in such a way as to produce these landforms, which are believed to be 100 000 years old in their current form.

Initial erosion by water and wind would have formed upright stacks or inselbergs and plains. Over thousands of years, sand was deposited on, and around, the granite hills of the region, burying the prolific structures. Further erosion has revealed the forms on Murphy’s land.

The different formations indicate time periods and methods of erosion, and lichen now thrives on the exposed granite, adding more colour. It is a great place to photograph and only costs a small donation to walk around an area the size of a paddock.

Safe travels. Take water, hat and sunscreen.

SquareOdds#3 – haystacks

My third entry in Becky’s SquareOdds challenge, is Murphy’s haystacks. Located in the west of South Australia, it isn’t too hard to see that they are not, in fact, haystacks.

The crystaline rock has been weathered into these formations, but the story displayed at the site is this:

A Scottish agricultural expert who advocated that, to produce good hay, farmers should harrow their land for the best results, was travelling with the coach when he noticed the rock formations in the distance. He informed the coach driver and passengers that this farmer harrowed his land to produce so much hay and fodder.

Murphy was the owner of the property and I hope his stock received better fodder.

I will include more photos and detail about these ‘haystacks’ in a later post.

Wildflower Way, Western Australia

It is a widely known fact, in Australia, that Western Australia has the best display of Wildflowers in Spring and if you’re a fan, maps are available from which to choose a self-drive or managed tour. As we were in Geraldton, we took the Wildflower Way, visiting Mullewa, Morawa, Perenjori, Coorow and Moora. We could have made the circle larger, but you really CAN see enough wildflowers for one day.

The first suggested site, St James’s chapel, Kojarena, is not just for the wildflowers nearby, but to celebrate the extraordinary work of priest, architect, poet (and more) Monseigneur John C Hawes, whose designs are also in Geraldton, the UK and the Bahamas. This chapel was built in 1935 on land donated by a neighbouring family.

After that we stopped whenever we saw a good clump of flowers. I’m not going to attempt to name all the flowers we saw, but will create a collage to display many of them.

We had coffee at Mullewa in a place that sold art by the owner, which was very Australian and bright.

Lunch was at Morawa and this was a cute little town featuring, as others on the region, some form of tribute to the flowers, but one to the Lions Club, as well.

We camped by the Moore River, after NOT finding the famous Wreath Flower (far right, above) despite many stops. It was a demanding but beautiful day.

Moore River Campsite

Put a Wildflower drive on your bucket list, so that you get sick of sighing at the sight of so many forms and shades.

Kalbarri National Park

Still in the Coral Coast, we made our way to Kalbarri National Park, passing through the Northern Explorer Wildflower trail as we went, and camping at Galena Bridge en route. Not far from our intended stopping place, we decided to pull over, have a walk and photograph some of the flowers. This, at least, stopped our distraction with them and we could continue in a smooth line to the camp, which was alongside a healthy river.

The drive was so enjoyable with bursts of colourful wildflowers that were sometimes organized into type and at other times were just a mix and patchwork of all sorts. It was stunning to see a field of smokebush on one side and the other had hakea or some pink wattle. We got such joy from it and couldn’t believe our luck at being here during what was considered the best wildflower season ever.

When we last visited, 7 years previously, the road in was heavily corrugated and we’d heard they had done work on it. We were gobsmacked at the changes, but the new carparks are not big enough to accommodate caravans, which is why you leave them near the entrance. More flower-lined bitumen took us first to the skywalk which is unbelievable. As an engineering enterprise it is impressive and scary and beautiful. The floor can be seen through, so not only do you walk 25m out from the cliff edge, you are also suspended 100m (?) over the gorge as well. There are some spatial moments that are quite challenging. The view, of course, of the 420 million year old gorge is spectacular and not really captured on my phone.

Again, the local flora was on display and unmissable.

From here we drove a short way to Natures Window Loop walk, without a clear idea of how far we would go. After negotiating some upward demands, we ended up in a group of walkers, then out-stripped them as they stopped for information on specific areas. A couple returning from ahead, said they had reached a point where, after a steep descent and walking along the sandy river bed, they had to scuttle under a ledge. They thought that, as it would still be another 4 hours to return and they had an engagement, they would turn back at 3km. Following this, we decided to do 2km and then return. We were happy with this, and the group of much older walkers passed on happily and gave us encouraging remarks about what we had achieved. We would be prepared for a longer walk next time, with more water and an earlier start, although we had begun before 9.

It was a quick drive to Z Bend and a 600m walk to the lookout. Here we encountered some tourists who were taking selfies at the best spot, and of course only two at a time. The walk there is downhill and the path loaded with wildflowers, but the uphill return was a bit more demanding, as we did it at a good pace.

We collected the van and went to Kalbarri for some groceries and to have lunch on the foreshore. It was quite lovely, but we could feel a chill in the air.

Kalbarri is about 570km from Perth and we drove all the way to a free camp outside Geraldton, 155km away, with beautiful views and a coal train snaking through the hills.

Plan your trip, as best you can in these times, because you may set yourself a target that demands you come back. We met two women who, travelling separately, discovered that they were both headed to Natures Window to do the walk that one had begun with a husband (now deceased) and the other had missed for some reason, 20 years before. It’s a far away place to have to return to, but now we’re in the same boat, as we want to say we’ve done it!

Travel safe. Take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen.

Carnarvon

At Minilya Roadhouse, not far from Carnarvon, we discovered that no fruit and vegetables can be brought in to Carnarvon, so we put all such items in a bowl and walked from family, to couple, to single, offering our healthy produce to supplement most people’s take-away. Many took it gladly and only a couple thought my jagged chin reminded them of a fairy tale where the moral was NOT to take the shiny apple. Once in Carnarvon, we discovered that it is the food bowl of WA, providing 70% of Perth’s winter fruit and vegetables, and coming from a State with very strict border food restrictions, we understood how one bad apple can wipe out a whole area.

Quiet Carnarvon is often a stopping point, or base, for those heading north to Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef. On the mouth of the Gascoyne River and Indian Ocean, we thought it would give us a rest from the mad dashing we had been up to, but this pretty town holds a great deal to do. The esplanade overlooking Whitlock Island, provides picturesque sunsets and even a heritage tramway walk that we only followed as far as the bridge to Babbage Island.

The Carnarvon Space and Technology Centre is a must for tourists, informing us of the role the Casshorn antenna played in Australia’s first television broadcast to the BBC in 1966 and its live telecast, relaying Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon to Perth’s audiences in 1969. Later that year a wider, steerable antenna was built to improve communication between the NASA Tracking Station and the USA. The entrance fee is modest as volunteers run the centre (keen caravaners can hook up, here, while volunteering for a few months) and I thought we might spend an hour there, tops, but we were there about 3 hours. There are interactive experiences, replicas, historical footage, and information boards.

I think I can safely say that our favourite experience was the simulation of the full sized Apollo space capsule as it takes off. You can look outside the windows and see Earth. The equipment on display reminds me how far we have come with technology, and how fast. Great, cumbersome pieces of metal with thousands of switches, line up along walls and sit back-to-back in darkened rooms. Games to test your skills and have you think about other possibilities are dotted here and there and to keep the numbers small and allow social distancing, you are encouraged to visit all the spaces (pardon the pun) while you wait for your name to be called to the simulator (no line-ups). There is free coffee or tea and soft drinks can be bought. A great trip back in time.

Point Quobba Blowholes are about 20km north of Carnarvon along bitumen roads, unless you have the map with the dirt road. The coastline is stunning and the blowholes not hard to find, as water jets up frequently from many spots. As you leave the carpark and head towards these spouts, the ground is quite sharp and rocky. If that doesn’t deter you, the many signs warning of the numbers of people who have been swept from the rocks, even this far back, to their death below the ragged cliff, is enough to have you work with zoom.

The blowholes are silent, no hiss or swoosh, and you might catch a rainbow. Some vantages give you views of the coastline and its layers and ledges.

Further back, the vegetation is dense and definitely warrants closer inspection, to appreciate the colours and forms.

We walked along the coast toward a shelter and discovered a beautiful protected bay that we think was Point Quobba, but as there was a campground in both directions, we were not sure. The variety of shells and fossils was extraordinary and it seemed as if someone had made a small collection for us. We collected some as we went, bleached over years and indicating some pretty big seafood for the original owners.

On our way back we stopped at Miaboolya Beach, where a natural sandbar reduces the waves and creates a lagoon with no waves, for safe swimming. We strolled around here, looking at odd sea sponges, but the soft sand had us park in the carpark which was a good km or more from the beach and the terrain demanding.

The information sheet we got from the Carnarvon Visitor Centre mentioned a bird watching site at Chinaman’s Pool, not far from town, so we headed there at sunset and found the river. The only birds we sighted were the two rainbow bee eaters, on a fence as we hit the dirt road, but it was a pretty spot.

There is an indigenous cultural centre in town and that interested us, but we couldn’t determine whether it was open to the general public. A short walk provides a look at some heritage architecture and you will find most things you need can be bought during office hours. Just out of town you can get fresh vegetables, fruit and fish from the source. In fact, mangoes were going to be booming in a couple of months, with overladen trees drooping under their loads.

Once the town was known for its One Mile Jetty with a history over 100 years and the extension of the tramwalk from town. But Cyclone Seroja destroyed the jetty in April 2021, with restoration on part of the jetty not begun.

Our caravan park had a few distinguishing features, one of which was that it backed on to the first caravan/truck washing station we had come across, with high-powered hoses to get the job done, and local persons brought food in two nights a week, which was eaten around small campfires near the pool, where travellers could gather and swap stories. I’m always amazed at the people I meet and their tales.

Travel safe. Head West.