Not far north of Perth, we left a very windy Jurien Bay and headed down to Fremantle a few kms south of Perth city. We had to call through Perth to have our van serviced (wheel bearings re-packed) and a few other niggling minor repairs done which meant a stay in ‘Freeo’ (as the locals call it) for a few days whilst the work was carried out.
Where we were staying was far from flash, however it was lovely for a change to spend some quality time in a good ol’ book store again, skim the racks of a few hip clothes stores (geez I must be getting old), sip on freshly ground espresso’s on almost every corner, visit more museums …and of course in this part of WA, frequent a few old charming pubs for a locally brewed ale or two and some decent pub dosh.
With this welcome change of pace, came with it an unexpected late change in the weather. It had been hot and dry mostly (& have I mentioned windy too :)) when we arrived in Freeo, however a low pressure system swooped in the lower part of the state on the 2nd day of our Freeo stay (the day after we had the D4 washed – the 2nd clean in 4 months and 13,000kms) and with it brought the summers first thunder storms something we have not seen since leaving Sydney.
The temps dropped to the high teens and the forecast was the same for a couple of days and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to alter the next leg of our journey.
So we decided to take advantage of the low temps and head out to Hyden, 400kms east of Perth to look at Wave Rock where the temps recently have been in their mid-high 30’s. By doing the leg now will save us coming back and across to Wave Rock from Esperance in late Jan/early Feb where the likely temps would be much higher – so off we set the following day.
After re-uniting with the van around midday, we hitched and pulled out of Canning for Hyden. Soon after, heavy rains at times hit us, and at other times, dark threatening skies with scattered sunny periods which seemed to track with us to Hyden all afternoon. The inclement weather also gave us the opportunity for good photographic light on the occasion – especially with the dark grey skies above against the mid-west yellow wheat fields providing interesting colour contrasts in between the rain periods and with the sun at your back or side.
There was not much in the way of free camping out this way so we stayed at a nice little farm stay/caravan park just a few kms outside Hyden which is also run as a wheat and sheep farm as their primary income. The place even had a small, but cool farm machinery museum with rare old tractors, headers, combine harvesters, hay balers and the like. It was also nice to be away from the west coasts wind for a change and not have to worry about damaging our van’s awning any further which, if I’m totally frank, was not designed for WA’s windy coast in mind.
(sorry Kimberley, your T3 awning concept is great, but needs work, and the engineering on some parts of it quite simply “falls short.” When wind gusts from a certain direction rise above 30-35kms p/h, which is almost every day on the WA coastline and surrounds, it doest not hold up well, flexes far too much and parts of the cross-arms start to fail) May not seen like a “big deal” however being out in the WA summer heat when temps are above 30Deg, you absolutely need the awning out. The problem is most days in summer the winds are well above 30kms p/h for most of the day. Anyway, I digress…
The following day we set off for the ‘rock’ and just when we thought the rain was gone, it returned and hung around most of the day and at times found ourselves scrambling for make-shift shelter from the rain being some distance from the D4.
At least the weather had reduced the bus crowds at Wave Rock and we had some time to take a few photos. The boys loved challenging their ability to see how far they could scale the wave before gravity taking hold and skidding back down controlled again (hopefully not on their heads). There is nothing much else to see at Hyden except for many wheat farms and the next day we headed south west and set a course for Collie.
On the morning we were leaving, we met a local farmer who suggested of a more indirect route zig zagging through various farm towns which included the fascinating “tin-horse highway” for our journey across to Collie.
It was a welcome change in terms of scenery, the rain had all but gone and was lovely to look at farms and livestock with plenty of wheat harvesting taking place along the way.
We stopped in Kulin around mid-morning to check on a few things on the van, stretch the legs, and each of us to sample some of the local made produce which we tend to do some stops wherever we can and it’s amazing what you can find – a locally made sausage roll this time which was delicious, all from a cafe inside the local hardware store.
There must be a bit of money in this town with a population of less than 500, as we drove past a water-slide park that looked more at home on the gold coast than in a tiny rural town, and even the tractors out this way are larger than life.
Onwards from Kulin …this time along the “Tin-Horse highway” where many locals obviously have a little too much time on their hands than most farmers and have come up with an unusual theme of world and local events with hand made creations of metal horse-like objects and some of them are very funny – here are just a couple of examples of dozens we drove past over a 10-12km stretch of the highway.
No explanation necessary really, other than to say …only in the bush I guess!
We arrived at Collie mid-afternoon and found a nice camping spot just outside of town in a little out of the way caravan park. Filled up the fresh water tanks on the van again with quality water (first time in a long while) and the next morning headed down to the coast to Busselton/Quindalup.
Our Quindalup stay in Busselton was for 10 days. We had to book weeks in advance (site unseen) as staying anywhere this time of year in this part of WA is not straightforward (so we were advised) and most places are fully booked due to xmas holidays. We decided this park would make a good base for us to venture out most days to see the surrounding region in this upper part of the Margaret River region. The park was okay but was full of holiday makers and not the typical relaxing and enjoyable travellers we have become so used to on our travels. All of a sudden, people don’t smile at you, nor do they say hello, even if salutations are extended in some cases. Ah well, back to the real-world for a bit.
Nonetheless, the Busselton / Dunsborough / Yallingup region is most beautiful – particularly Dunborough which is more like WA’s version of Noosa in QLD.
We visited Busselton Jetty – one of the worlds longest timber Jetty’s at 1.8kms in length and all walked out to an underwater observatory – did the guided tour – and walked back again. The Jetty has not been commercially in use since 1994 however the local government have spent $60M recently to furnish upgrades and repairs to prepare for an onset of cruise line business that will dock on the wharf from Jan 2016 onwards. (There’s no stopping the cruise ship business lately – seemingly going from strength to strength).
The jetty is also very photogenic – so I thought, at least, and took a few long exposure sunset images with the cover image of this specific blog one of them with the rest of the Hunters giving it the thumbs up to be used.
There is a string of natural landscape beauty in this area as is almost across all of WA. In particular, we visited Cape Naturaliste (which has a lighthouse), Bunker Bay, Meelup, Cape Clairault, Nanup Forrest, and Canal Rocks …the list could go on really.
It’s a beautiful region and easy to see why thousands of Perth people make the effort to spend a lot of time (and money it would seem) in the area.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be slowly moving further south to Margaret River proper where we will be subject to the harsh realities of good wine, locally made cheeses, many olive groves, plenty of fresh fish and market gardens …and hopefully, more photographic opportunities worthy of sharing with everyone. As always, any questions or comments, please do let us know as we do enjoy the comments from everyone – even the corrections at times!
Geoff & CLO