Rain. The great equaliser. It rains and the rich get wet, the poor get wet, the employed get wet and the unemployed road tripping vagabonds... hang about in the camp kitchen.
In spite of the bout or two of inclement weather, we have managed to pack a lot into the eleven days we have been on the road. Just eleven days! We expect to disappear from digital contact for a few days (more on that later), so this might be the last you hear for a little bit if you are following us on the socials.
After a relaxing afternoon of camp-kitchen-hiding with a good book and half a crocheted winter slipper-boot thingo, we made some friends - Fabian & Sandra, a Swiss couple on an adventure shorter than ours. We shared our vegan ramen and spent the evening discussing the socio-political structures of modern Europe and Australia. They were astounded that Queen Elizabeth II is still our Head of State. We talked about urban planning, young graduates struggling to find employment and the things that are the same and different about our countries and cultures.
The next morning Mother Nature allowed us a window of respite to investigate a walking trail along the Margaret River, where we found Geocache number two! The wildflowers are still about. Reds, pinks, blues and every shade in-between still abound. After consuming our full allocation of campground rain-hiding, it was time to make use of the funds provided by Aunty Pam and Uncle Harvey and indulge in a regional food and wine tour. Wine was drunk and purchased, and drunk some more. There were a few other gastronomical and libationary detours and the day ended well. Bernard our guide (a former wine maker) was equal parts knowledgable, humorous, accomodating and relaxed.
The next day it was time to leave the sodden Margaret River behind and turn east. We will be driving east a lot for the next couple of weeks. A brief detour to Yahava Koffeeworks (still cringe every time I see that letter K) for a coffee tasting with their Koffee champ Jayde. With a bean resupply complete, two slightly over caffeinated adventurers were Pemberton (or at least Pemberton-adjacent) bound. We were struck on the journey by the lack of school holiday and silly season occupancy around the places. A brief stop for roadside avocados ($5 for a bag of 11. Each one has been perfect inside, just a little too small for the image obsessed supermarkets) We visited The Cascades near Pemberton for lunch and had the place to ourselves. The blessing of solitude wasn't to last forever however.
Ruth drove Gary for the first time along some winding forested roads between Pemberton and Northcliffe and nothing went wrong. Casual as you like.
Just north of Walpole we got to have our very first free camp of the adventure. A place called Centre Road Crossing has a great little hut, beautiful surroundings and the calming music of the babbling Deep River (although crossable with a four wheel drive here) providing a gentle backdrop. This time we were truly alone. No other vehicles or campers or strangers. Just the two of us and the nature around. It felt more like a honeymoon than it had to that point.
There is a lot to see and do, so we could't stay for longer than a night. The very highly recommended Walpole WOW Wilderness Ecocruise was next on our agenda (Thanks Grandma Davies) and most certainly did not disappoint! Equal parts science, history, comedy and geography, our guide Gary has us fascinated, captivated and in stitches. It really seems to be that Walpole is the centre of the universe. If you go to Walpole you must get on the boat at 10 am.
The recent stormy weather had completely reconfigured the sandbar in the inlet mouth and some judicious repositioning of passengers was necessary to minimise the draft of the boat. We made it to the cape however and a short hike lead to a gorgeous southern ocean beach.
Oh, and here is the map. Nearly forgot:
From Walpole it was time to head to the Stirling Ranges. A couple of cheeky stops along the way to pick up roadside Boysenberries and some vegan chocolate truffles in Denmark and we were ready (after a restful night and early morning) to attempt to cross an item off Adam's bucket list that has been kicking around for a few year - climb to the top of Bluff Knoll.
And climb to the summit we did! And back down again. Safely. The view was most definitely worth it (although the legs are still hurting a few days later). Also at the top was geocache number three, which was placed in 2001. Didn't realise that geocaching had been a thing we had never heard of for so many years! Adam took some drone footage from the top, but hasn't had time to check/edit it so that might show up on here at some stage. The cafe at the base of Bluff Knoll also does a really great vegan burger for the hungry (and mostly exhausted) hiker.
After Bluff Knoll was conquered it was time to head - you guessed it - east. A fuel stop in Jerramungup where Adam excitedly saw another Land Rover driver (in a Discovery 1 with NT plates) who had an AULRO (Australian Land Rover Owners) wheel cover too lead to Adam totally freaking out a French tourist with not much English who didn't know how awesome the wheel cover he had was. Apparently when a stranger taps on your window at a petrol station in a country town, visions of Wolf Creek abound. Or something.
Ever eastwards, our next stop was the Hamersley River Inlet in the Fitzgerald River National Park. A beautiful spot with a landscape we couldn't believe existed in Western Australia. A short hike to the beach where the estuary meets the ocean lead to some sad beach-combing - the amount of plastic (mostly blue) that had washed up on the shores of this protected environment was sad and disappointing. A gorgeous place regardless with Hakea Woodlands giving way to coastal scrub with abundant Pig Face (and the odd Salty Strawberry worth foraging for). Departing the National Park we were treated to the stunning vistas over East Mount Barren. We saw a flock of pelicans soaring on the updraft created by the onshore wind gusting up the slope of the mountain. Beautiful, elegant, twisting twirling and spiralling birds. This rugged coastline with the jagged slanted slabs of weathered granite is unlike any other we have seen before. A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful place. We will come back here to spend some more time exploring someday.