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.

Kalbarri

We only intended to stay 1 night but spent 3 in this hidden treasure of Western Australia.

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There is something for everyone, here, including fishing, as the man on Chinaman’s Point in the picture above shows. Huge waves crashed against his favourite spot and we had been warned about the currents at that opening, so it appeared Kalbarri had its share of adventure-seekers. But let me outline the more sedate experiences we undertook.

Arriving in the afternoon, we made our way to the caravan park then dashed out to see Natural Bridge, Red Bluff, Blue Holes and Shell House Grandstand, all accessible from the main road and then boardwalks. The coastline was dramatic and latticed. You could see why early Dutch explorers thought it uninhabitable.

The next day took us to Nature’s Window and Z-Bend in Kalbarri National Park. Now, there is a very long stretch of corrugated dirt road, so if you have a regular 2-wheel drive like us, you might have the same arguments about how best to get through it. For the record, the best way is to travel about 80km/hr, so you skim over the top of the bumps. If you have a motor home DO NOT ATTEMPT the road unless you have a system for bolting down your crockery. We met people whose crockery lay smashed on the ground, they didn’t know how far it was to go and had to turn back, knowing more destruction was likely.

The views are worth it, even when it is around 35C. You are warned to take 3L of water if you intend walking the loop, as it can get up to 50C in the gorge.

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The latticed rocks and layers of colourful sediment are impressive and while wondering why Z-Bend was called that, we spotted a white dot in the distance and zoomed in as far as we could to catch a goat, perched on the ridge.

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But wait! There’s more. While there, we spotted a goanna and directed a number of international tourists to the creature, that put on quite a display and was about a meter long. We also marvelled at the flowers produced by such barren soil.

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Later that day, we headed back to the coast for a look at Chinaman’s Beach, from the top and the shoreline, and Rainbow Jungle – an exotic bird sanctuary.  There are tales to be read of the Zuytdorp shipwreck, after which the cliffs are named and you’ll see gorgeous birds and flora.

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On our last day, we took in more of the coastal drives and walks, completing Mushroom Rock Loop and visiting Pot Alley and Eagle Gorge. The visitor centre has maps and information detailing the walks and some stops had signs up. The pipe rocks were pretty amazing – I haven’t seen them anywhere else.

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We finished the day with a sunset river cruise, where we learned a great deal about the demise of the cray fishermen and saw some riverbank scenery. It was inexpensive, but a little repetitive.

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A memorable place. There are diving activities, quad bike adventures, canoeing, absailing…something for everyone. Good access to a supermarket, playground, take-away and visitor centre. What are you waiting for?

Take a hat, water bottles and good walking shoes. Let me know if you have any questions about this area or somewhere else in Australia.

Safe travels.

Geraldton W.A.

Nestled on the Batavia Coast in Western Australia is the interesting town of Geraldton.

 

A large place, with a population around 40 000, it was cooler than the Coral Coast, 200km to the north and warmer than Perth, 400 km south. There are many attractions, which was fortunate for us, as we had developed some minor car trouble requiring a longer stay than we had planned.

 

Fear not, there is plenty to do and a great variety of scenery.

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Our first stop was the visitor centre, located in the Bill Sewell Complex. A beautiful Victorian structure, it began in the mid 1850’s as the local Victoria Hospital and grew in proportion to the development of the local and neighbouring areas. Now, in colonial times, neighboring areas meant anywhere on the mid-west coast so they serviced a huge area.

Across the capark is the Old Geraldton Gaol and Craft Centre. Originally built as the centre for hiring convict labour, it continued as a gaol until the 1990’s, making it the second oldest gaol in WA (outstripped by Fremantle Prison). Unremarkable from the outside, it is a lofty historical tour on the inside, oddly juxtaposed with local goods for sale in cells that are hired by the crafty.

The Batavia Coast is named after the wreck of the BATAVIA in the early 1600’s, off the featured coast. It is the second oldest wreck in Australian waters and fascinates me, given that we were not colonised until the 1800’s. Clearly the Dutch didn’t see any potential in our rugged shorelines. I believe part of the Batavia is reconstructed in the Geralton museum but we didn’t visit there.

For an unforgettable experience, you have to visit the HMAS Sydney II memorial. I have written about it in another blog, so perhaps go there for more information, but I promise you it will be worth the visit and the view isn’t bad, either.

A visit to Point Moore Lighthouse will also take you to the beach and a refreshing swim if it is hot. The tower itself was unremarkable, save for the stripes.

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Geraldton is a coastal town, so there are views to be had and water activities but if, like us, you are there when it is a bit cool, you can enjoy a coffee at one of the many DOME restaurants, that recreate a 1920’s feel. In fact, their not being present in SA, my husband and I asked if the original building was a train station, having been renovated so beautifully. The waiter was a bit confused at first and then informed us that all DOME cafes have the same look.

St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral is quite surprising. An impressive building on the outer, the paintwork has to be seen to be believed. Apparently the builder of the cathedral is responsible for several other unusual structures.

The Iris Sundial, across the park from the cathedral, was built by Bill Newbold and named after his wife. It is very interesting and I spent some time using the directions to check its accuracy – was that the teacher or the maths teacher in me? I couldn’t get over how complicated something like that would be to build. It is quite attractive, though, despite my poor photograph of it.

We walked extensively (yes, partly due to the car being repaired), the gentle hills of the town not overtaxing us and saw a great deal. The main street is neat and long, with everything you need.

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The above photo was of an old cinema, so 1920’s I couldn’t resist, but there are a great many styles and eras represented in the architecture.

Safe travels. Don’t forget the hat and water.