Monday, June 22, 2009

The Pinnacles - 20th June 2009

Early accounts of the Western Australia coastline by Dutch explorers make no mention of the Pinnacles, despite the limestone outcrops being present on a stretch of coast mapped by the Dutch following their frequent shipwrecks along it. Perhaps the Dutch simply missed the formations, or perhaps at that point in time they were buried under the shifting sand dunes. And maybe the sand will start shifting again, and once more the Pinnacles will be invisible to the human eye, their alien forms hidden beneath the sand.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Norcia - 19th June 2009

I had heard of New Norcia before our trip, but had not seriously considered visiting the town, thinking that it was too far out of the way on the way to the Pinnacles. But sometimes, it's good to change plans...

What makes New Norcia unique and worth visiting is that it is the only Benedictine monastic town in Australia. As in, the town is completely owned and run by the monks. It's also a very old town, having been established in 1846 as an Aboriginal mission. The monks were originally mainly from Spain, with most of the buildings built in a beautiful Spanish style and twenty-seven of them heritage listed.

Swan Valley - 18th June 2009

The south west of Western Australia is also renowned for its wine. On our way from Albany to Perth we tasted wine (and cheese, fudge, mead, cider, beer...) from the Great Southern, Pemberton, Margaret River and Geographe wine regions. We left Perth via the Swan Valley, but skipped on doing any wine tasting, being all wined out by this stage (and with emptier wallets than we would have preferred). However, after having missed making it to the Margaret River Chocolate Company whilst at Margaret River, there was no way I was missing visiting their second outlet.

Pemberton - 13th June 2009

The south west of Western Australia is renowned for its forests. I didn't realise how much was forested (including many famous wine regions) until this trip. Back before the forests were mainly protected in national parks, much of the area was logged. In order to provide lookouts in case of a forest fire, due to the lack of good hills, lookouts were instead constructed up the tops of some trees. Most of these lookouts are no longer used, but instead tourists can climb them. Not liking heights, there was no way I was climbing up the 50m plus Gloucester Tree near Pemberton. However, David made me watch and wait for him...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fitzgerald River National Park - 9th June 2009

Some of the scenery in the national parks along the south coast of WA is spectacular, not to mention unexpected. Two days in a row we managed to do a morning hike. The first day we climbed Frenchmans Peak in the Cape Le Grand National Park, to the east of Esperance. The Cape Le Grand National Park is best known for its white sandy beaches, but given the time of year, we appreciated this climb up a granite outcrop more. The second day we were driving through the Fitzgerald River National Park, in between Esperance and Albany. A fairly large national park but one that we had barely heard of, we impromptu-ly decided to climb East Mount Barren. It took far less than the 2-3 hours stated on the sign post and rewarded us with excellent vistas on a clear, sunny day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Nullarbor - 4th June 2009

Despite all the warning signs, we didn't see much life crossing the Nullarbor. We mainly just saw crows and more crows, plus some impressive Wedge Tailed Eagles. The wombats were only back in Ceduna. All the kangaroos were dead (mainly on the WA side of the border, do they have roadkill cleaners in SA?) However, whilst the single camel we saw was also dead, it was the funniest sight we saw during the entire 1200km (from Ceduna to Norseman). It was huge (it must have done some damage to a roadtrain!) and had its legs sticking up in the air. Unfortunately, we didn't turn around for a photo.

Nullarbor - 4th June 2009

The opinions offered to us on the crossing of the Nullarbor seemed to be divided between it being a tedious necessity versus a far from boring trip (at least your first time). Whilst the second day of our crossing started to be a bit boring, our first day was quite interesting. After stopping to watch the whales at Head of Bight (we saw about four whales, including a mother and newborn calf), we headed onto the Nullarbor Plains proper, to the west of the Nullarbor Roadhouse. The feeling of largeness, due to the expanse of plains in every direction and the amount of sky that stretches above you, is a great experience. Not that this was to last long for us - clouds began to appear in the west and showers to be sighted off in the distant. The empty plains made it awesome to watch the showers moving across them and approaching us, sometimes up to three different showers visible at a time. However, by the second day, we were getting a bit tired of the on and off rain and wanted a return to the big sky country we had been expecting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ceduna - 4th June 2009

Ceduna is not a place I'd want to visit again (unless driving across the Nullarbor, in which case it's a necessity). Except for the wombats! We visited the Wombat Fauna Rescue Homestead and Val showed us all the wombats they were looking after, both Southern Hairy Nosed and Common Wombats, both young and some older infirm ones, plus some kangaroos and thorny devils. The wombats were absolutely adorable, and I even got to hold some of them!

Coffin Bay - 1st June 2009

Sometimes the most memorable places you visit, are some of the places you have no idea about or don't even plan to visit. I had heard a recommendation for Coffin Bay off a friend of my mother's, and we decided to check it out while travelling around the Eyre Peninsula. The township was nice, but quiet due to the time of year. However, it was the national park that really grabbed our attention. With beautiful cliffs, beaches and bays, complemented by sunny weather, we ended up driving part way up the 4WD track and camping for two nights, at "Port Douglas", appropriately enough. The first night was divine, with us cooking some local mussels on our gas stove on the beach, complemented by SA riesling.

Barossa Valley - 28th May 2009

What kind of visit to South Australia would it be without a visit to a winery (or two, or three, or...)? After visiting the Coonawarra and Adelaide Hills regions (and prior to visiting the Clare Valley), we spent a day in the Barossa Valley. We concentrated on visiting the older wineries - including the beautiful Chateau Tanunda, Seppeltsfield and, pictured here, Yaldara, part of McGuigans. The highlight was the extremely informative fortifieds tasting at Seppeltsfield.