Lake Mountain, Victoria

It’s mid-October which is Spring in Australia, and while in shorts we enjoyed 22C at the base, there were remnants of snow on Lake Mountain, Victoria, providing me with my very first view, although it had frozen over to ice.

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The drive here showcased many landscapes and sweeping views of mountain ranges. Traveling from Healesville along the well-maintained and signed Black Spur Scenic Drive, we were awed by the forest trees, reminiscent of Denmark and the tall trees of Western Australia.  The biggest difference was the multitude of towering tree ferns.

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Mountains sweep away to either side of you and in Winter, the Alpine resort is very busy with snow-goers. Several lookouts are provided along the way to enjoy the view.

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I don’t know if you have spotted it, but we saw an odd change in the landscape.  While some hillsides are green and thick with vegetation, others had these strange pelts of white sticks.  We walked to the summit (1433 m) but not the ridge lookout. From here, the sticks were obviously trees. If you enlarge the next picture you can see the ‘bristles’ on the top of other mountains in the distance.

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You can see over the Victorian Alps and the small town of Marysville nestled in the centre of the rolling hills. There was often vegetation at the base of the trunks, or strips of green revegetation along hills, but the ghostly silhouettes led us to inquire.

Gum trees need very high temperature/heat to germinate. The fires, that are not uncommon in Australia in Summer, serve to spread the growth of gum trees. However, in 2009, ferocious fires of an historic magnitude swept the area and Black Saturday was born. Destruction, of humans, environment and buildings, was on a scale never seen before and not since. Marysville was almost completely destroyed. People lost their lives, their homes and their livelihoods.

New solar-operated signs now warn us of the danger of bushfire and we should heed them.

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I am aware that similar devastation has recently occurred in California and it is shocking for a country. People do band together and they rebuild and never forget. Things don’t return to how they were and we have to move with the difference.

The heat was so extreme on Black Saturday that the gum trees will probably never regenerate. Once the centre of Australia was rainforest and 500 000 years later it is desert. Lake Mountain will evolve and we can still enjoy its breathtaking scenery and charming villages.

Safe travels. Take note of bushfire signs.

Jurien Bay and Lesueur National Park

At the start of the Wheatbelt of Western Australia, along the Coral Coast, lies the tranquil town of Jurien Bay. Its lovely sandy shores, pontoon and modern jetty sit close to the Jurien Bay Tourist Park and is an easy drive to Lesueur National Park.

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With a population of around 1500 people, there is a shopping centre and basic resources, with parks and crayfishing (Western rock lobster) industry. Although it was known to the Dutch in the 1600s, it was first surveyed by Frenchman, Louis de Freycinet, in 1801 and settled by the English in 1850.  However, the town was not gazetted until the mid 1950s.

The original jetty was built in the mid 1800s around the growing farming community and a fishing interest developed from then. The new bridge was constructed in 2010/11, 8 years after the original was closed due to storm damage that made it unsafe.

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A short drive from Jurien Bay, along the Brand Highway, then Cockleshell Gully Road, is the Lesueur National Park. The Gully Road is dirt, but suitable for a 2-wheel drive, although be cautious after rain. Lesueur covers nearly 27 000 hectares, is known for its conservation efforts and is home to 10% of Western Australia’s known flora. With over 900 plants, it is also a popular location for wildflowers, for which Western Australia is renown.

We took the 18.5 km scenic drive, which is a ragged circle around the park, taking you along bitumen roads, in your car or on your bike, to the most scenic range in the park. We crossed creek beds, but they were dry, and stopped at lay-bys to take photos, being sure not to disturb any foliage or wildlife and not to leave the trails. Walks are also available and to ensure no contamination there are boot-cleaning stations. The photos are all of the wildflowers,  with a few grasstrees, but just a selection, as I featured many in my blog, Wild and Woolly Flowers. I don’t know the names of them all, so I won’t flaunt my ignorance by tagging some and not others.

 

If you have any questions about this region, let me know.

The area is within an hour of the Pinnacles, so you could fit it in with that visit!

Take a hat, water and your camera.

Safe Travels!

176 steps to see two oceans divided

Cape Leeuwin is where the Southern Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, in Western Australia. You do not see any discernible line, or join, at the most south westerly point of mainland Australia. But you will see the lighthouse, and if you take the tour you can have some amazing views of the surrounding area, sometimes through the windows on the upward climb. It was one of these that prompted my entry in this week’s  Photo Challenge: Windows.

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With 176 steep steps spiraling upward, each time I got to a window I thought about the lighthouse keepers who had taken this flight, every night and every morning. Between 1895 and 1982 there were three keepers housed nearby.  With electrification, only one was present from then until 1990, when total automation began and no more keepers were needed. It is an impressive tower, 40m tall, with 2m thick walls at the base and 1m thick walls at the top; it stands out on the horizon as you approach. It is the tallest lighthouse in Western Australia.

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Leeuwin, Dutch for ‘lioness’, is the name of the ship from which sailors charted the coastline as early as 1622. After Australia had been claimed for Great Britain and Matthew Flinders was charting the island, he named the cape Leeuwin, acknowledging the early map makers whose work assisted him. I often ponder those early Dutch explorers and the opportunity lost to them, of colonising Australia.

Well-maintained boardwalks and trails enable you to look around the area and explore.

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Many have taken photos of the ‘divide’ of the two oceans, trying to see some line or separation. Certainly, the Southern Ocean, also known as the Antarctic Ocean, is very cold and has northward currents. The Indian Ocean is warmer and has different currents, so you’d expect something to be visible at, or near, their joining and I have seen photos where the taker captures some turbulence. The following photo does not suggest anything out of the ordinary. In fact, rocks are sometimes blamed for any odd movement in the water.

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Margaret River forms the background region and there are other lighthouses – Hamelin and Cape Naturaliste being quite famous.  At least 12 ships were wrecked near Hamelin Bay. There are many walks, including a cape-to-cape walk that takes 6-7 days, walking 20-25km per day, which I am told has some stunning scenery and only a short spell of steep track. The region is renown for its wine and surf and is a great place to spend some time. We spent the remainder of the afternoon on nearby beaches, in forests and walking the coastline at Hamelin Bay.

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Mark it as an area to visit – an outermost point on the Globe. Take your hat, but tie it down firmly as it is very windy, particularly from the balcony at the top of the lighthouse.

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And if you venture up the spiral stairway, pause to look out the windows; you can choose between a couple of oceans or tranquil cemetery.

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Safe travels.

Millions of reasons not to ignore this Warning

 

As Australia drifted northward, 20-30 million years ago, it passed over one of the Earth’s hot spots, causing volcanic activity. Molten material formed the Mount Warning shield volcano and high rainfall created a myriad of streams and rivers which eroded the volcano into its present shape – one of the oldest calderas in the world. Fertile volcanic soil, high humidity and rainfall provided all the elements for the subtropical rainforest to thrive ( some of this reproduced, with permission, from the information board at Mt Warning). It is one of the Gondwana Rainforests and you are surrounded by ancient trees, dripping with moss. I think it is a good candidate for this week’s photo challenge: layered –  from the lava-rich soil, littered with decaying leaves making your ‘twisted’ way up to the tree tops, trickling over shades of green and brown.

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Tweed Heads has long conjured images of surf, sun and excitement. It’s nearness to the Queensland border and Coolangatta make it a popular holiday destination. But I had not known that the Tweed Valley, shared by both New South Wales and Queensland, was the site of an ancient volcano and that Numinbah Nature Reserve is at the base of this layered caldera?

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The Wollumbin National Park, formally Mt Warning National Park, was renamed in recent years to reflect the importance of the lava plug, that is Mt Warning, to the local Aboriginal People, including the Nganduwal, Galibal, Gidhabul, Bundjalung and Widjabal. Many of their Dreaming stories involve the monolith.

There are many walks to choose from and an information booth at the entrance to the park, giving detail, advice and options. We parked at the entrance to the park and walked to the Lyrebird track, which was quite short, but beautiful. The path was firm and bitumised in parts, and we crossed Breakfast Creek and made it to the lookout. If I visited again, I would do a longer walk, but the traditional owners prefer that people do not climb Warning.

I’m partial to walks through a rainforest  – it’s good for everyone, and everything, if we are careful where we tread and what we leave.

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There are excellent facilities – toilets and picnic areas. Take a hat, camera and water. Good walking shoes are not necessary on the Lyrebird trail but would be needed on others. Sunscreen and insecticide are useful, but remember the environment if you decide to dip in a limb.

 

 

The Grotto

We found this by accident, returning to Kununurra from Wyndham, at the edge of the Kimberley in Western Australia. Seeing the small sign and hoping for a minor miracle or transportation to another time, we arrived at an unremarkable park in the middle of the arid lansdcape. A gorge led off to the left and a series of narrow, steep steps descended to the right. We stood at the top of the stairway, seeing no railings, and considered our options under a very hot Australian sun.

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Suddenly, voices preceded the arrival of two adults and two small children. They encouraged us to go down, pointing out that it was isolated and had a wonderful waterhole, so we could skinny dip if we wanted. Well, I wasn’t so sure about the latter, but if two small children could manage the stairs, I could. I’m so glad I did.

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It was like something out of an Indiana Jones movie and wasn’t the first slimy pool we’d been tempted to slip into, given high temperatures and an idyllic location.  A couple of ‘Tarzan ropes’ (suspended ropes for swinging and dropping) are placed for ease of entry if you are faint-hearted. While we air-dried, we spied tiny honey eater birds, flowers and the signs of a hidden water source.

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Now, an event took place, here, that serves as a reminder when travelling. As we reached the top of the ravine once more, we were met by a man, standing at the top. He asked if we had had a good time. Harmless question. But there was something about his demeanor…

We answered that it was worth the descent and hurried to our car, taking off as quickly and naturally as we could. Had either of us been alone, or the man not have had innocent intentions…It can happen and any traveller would be wise to pause before heading into an isolated area, no matter how hot you are, or how glorious the view.

If you venture here, I have since learned that the height is 120 m and that after the wet season, a waterfall will drop behind the ropes in the pictures, above, gushing majestically over the rocks. It is a well-known swimming hole and picnic spot in the area.

Tell me if there’s something you want to know about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels! Hat, water and a sensible sense of adventure.

Kununurra and surrounds

It just rolls off the tongue – kun-un-nur-ra. And we rolled into town in the very early hours of the morning, having awoken with the Western Australian sun at 5 am in Lake Argyle. It was a very quick and pretty drive to Kununnurra, at the edge of the Kimberley.

We had only planned to stay here one night and do a tour to the Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park), but we were too late in the season and with temperatures over 38C the park was closed for another 4 weeks. Around the domes of the Bungle Bungle Ranges, the temperatures increase and it is extremely dangerous. Other travellers advised us to visit Mirima National Park, also known as the Little Bungles or Hidden Valley National Park, and Wyndham, with it’s  meeting of 5 rivers.

Pre-sunrise took us to Mirima and it has made me determined to see the larger version one day, as it was beautiful.  The area is of great cultural significance to the Miriuwung people, the original inhabitants. Apparently there are many examples of rock art in the park, but we didn’t see any on our trail.  There is a variety of paths and we took the medium difficulty, with stunning views and fascinating  sandstone formations.

 

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Wyndham and the 5 river lookout is much talked about, so we looked at the map and saw it wasn’t going to be directly on our future trail, but wasn’t far from Kununurra, either. It is a town that may have seen more prosperous times, as the huge port suggested an importance not borne out by the town. The lookout is quite good but I’m not sure it’s worth the trip. Stopping off at The Grotto on the way back was definitely worth it, but I’ll save that for another blog.

The Hoochery Distillery was very interesting and we sampled the rum and the food in a room with heavy wooden furniture, locally made. The licorice rum ran out last year so we sent off an order for more (and a bottle of the coffee/chocolate rum). Just down the road was the sandalwood factory and we learnt the history of the Ord River scheme, for which Kununnurra was established, and of the growth of the sandalwood business. Back to the caravan park where we caught clouds of green butterflies sipping from the sprinkler puddles.

Kununurra is one of two remote places where we met people who lived within  1 km of our home, in South Australia. Relatives say that is due to my area being one that people can’t get far enough from, but I just think it was luck. It is a big town, well-planned and serviced. I wouldn’t be sorry to live there for a bit.

Safe travels! Definitely take a hat and water and any detour that looks interesting.

Quick Picks in Perth

If you find yourself having a brief stop in Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, and there’s time between engagements, here are five suggestions that will revive, restore and elevate you.

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Subiaco is an inner suburb, that has a similar feel to Launceston, so is probably around the same age – early 1800s. The Primary School hosts a farmers’ market each Saturday morning. Locally grown and produced goods are sold and taste tests are plentiful. There are cheeses, fresh fruit and veg., baked goods, dairy, smallgoods, teas, pickles and preserves, soaps and handicraft sold from undercover stalls. In a nearby grassed area I spied a children’s animal farm, a junior soccer demonstration and a small yoga session. There is something for everyone, toilet facilities, and I would call it medium scale.

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outside and undercover stalls

From Subiaco (Sooby-acko) or Subi to King’s Park and Botanic Gardenis a ten-minute drive. We always seem to arrive here when there is an event and this weekend was a festival. Lovely artwork was dotted around the explosion of wildflowers and brightly coloured umbrellas festooned the grassy lawn in front of the gazebo. It is a very well-planned Botanic Garden with many displays and sections, but it is also well-known for the War Memorial and the viewing platforms from which you can see Perth CBD and the Swan River.

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Wildflower display – best in Spring
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sculptures in the trees
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living art?
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a bouquet of brollies
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artistic gumnuts
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Art installation – flower, pollen ans seeding.

Cottesloe Beach had eluded us on other visits to Perth, so we had some inside help to get there in the afternoon. About 10 years ago, Cottesloe was voted as the second most popular beach for families in the world. The gorgeous old building, Indiana Restaurant, is really worth a visit, with period architecture and delightful views. The coffee was possibly the best I have ever had. They catered for the one-year old with us and had a high chair and a friendly attitude.

Plenty of surfers kept us entertained and the crazy people who took to the water in the 16C day. There was a low-flying drone and I was fascinated by the pylon, resembling a non-functional lighthouse. In 1932 a man built a shark-free swimming enclosure at Cottesloe that was very popular. Three years later, a huge storm wiped out the structure – all but the striped pylon. Its barnacled base allows people to climb it, but it isn’t pleasant and high tide is easier.

An early morning walk at and around Lake Herdsman will provide water bird enthusiasts with ample specimens and there were many picturesque spots. Apparently, there is a Lake Canning which is bigger and less reedy, but the paths were good and well-used.

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paperbark trees abound

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swamphens
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Western Australian bird emblem – the black swan. Note the foot tucked under the wing and slung over the back.

Fremantle (Freo) is such an old favourite. We strolled the busy streets, enjoying craft shops, books, furniture, clothing, food, pubs, cafes, sights, sounds and smells. Moore and Moore provided a delicious lunch – pulled beef burger, pancakes with banana, salted caramel sauce and pecans, with blueberries an optional extra. Drink orders included filthy chai latte with soy milk (delicious) and cappuccinos. The ambiance is casual and the decor is heritage. A couple in our party had had their wedding reception there and said it was ideal, with the venue being extremely helpful and practical.

A visit to Freo isn’t complete without going to the park and watching the Ferris Wheel, strolling the beach or the wharf and then heading for the Round House. The oldest building in WA still standing, it affords good views of the town and the coast and its crumbling limestone wall reminds you of its history and fallibility. A tunnel runs under this, constructed in 1837 and once used by whalers to connect the beach to High Street. It is 45 m long, but was originally 57 m, only the cliffs have been cut back.

By now it would be time to head for the airport or your last night. There are many hotels and backpacker hostels and a couple of inner caravan parks. We have previously stayed at BIG4 Woodman Point Caravan Park near Fremantle, and it was very good, with large powered sites and close to good swimming beaches.

The main attraction for us was our relatives and their knowledge, generosity and one year-old were priceless. We can’t share them, I’m afraid.

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Safe, fast travels. Take a warmer hat in Winter and water for after wine or bevvies.