Y2K Off Centre Run Part 7
Sunday 10th September. Only 4 weeks before I'm back home but I'm not really counting. The day started overcast but quickly cleared to a beautiful day. Left around 9:30 for Pemberton, then Northcliffe & Walpole through some beautiful forests and National parks - great riding country. The treetop walk in the valley of the giants was as spectacular as it was an engineering marvel, with a huge suspension walkway balanced on poles about 100 feet high. It gets a sway up but seems quite safe and the view is spectacular.
Kenny from Perth had given me a contact near here, Colin Richardson who rides an R80GS. He has a property of about 230 acres with about 100 acres cleared with cattle and pasture but plenty of problems from the roos and emus coming in from the surrounding forests. He took great interest in my bike so I gave him my keys and I rode with him down to Bow River for a box of beer. We headed for a neighbours place (John with an R100R) where we systematically began demolishing the slab!
We discussed the option of riding down to Bremer Bay in a couple of days to see another R80GS rider, Lanny Bleakley, a ranger in the Fitzgerald River National Park. Back to Colin's place by the dirt back road for dinner and a few more. Colin's place is the ideal bachelor retreat - basically a huge workshop in the centre with the rooms and kitchen etc added onto either side with a view over the pasture and forest. All blokes places should be built like this - priority on the shed; everything else is ancillary!
Monday 11th September. A few domestic duties before packing the boat, motor and fishing gear into Colin's ute. We picked up another shed dweller (seems to be a popular pastime in these parts - very tempting lifestyle) called Steve and headed for the upper reaches of the Frankland river via the National Park. This is a beautiful wide river (although very dark in colour, apparently due to the tannins leaching from the local timber) which we followed past Nornalup and Walpole right to the Southern Ocean. It was a little windy so back a bit further into the Frankland for a sheltered spot. Steve caught 2 but Colin & I none, so after eventually landing the boat about 6pm it was back to Steve's for dinner. Talk about a loaves and fishes display of brilliance - with a heap of vegetables and we managed to spread the 2 fish between the three of us. Good therapy being on the water for a day.
Tuesday, 12th September. After a great country breakfast with real eggs (you know, big ones with deep yellow yolks) I went with Colin to do some farm work on a neighbouring property whose owners were away. We needed to feed the cattle with hay so I rode the TT350 opening the gates ahead of Colin driving the John Deere. We then needed to drive a herd from one paddock to another some distance apart, so we both did this trail bike mounted. Another skill I had never tried, we ended up having a ball. The weather was superb, sunny but cool with no wind and looked like a perfect day for a ride.
Today we were heading for the Fitzgerald River NP, meeting up with Lanny (CALM ranger at the park) at Albany on the way, but as soon a we were leaving Colin's place a strong westerly blasted in about 11am. We picked up John (Colin's neighbour on his R100R) and headed for Albany in heavy rain, managing to ride out of the storm a little after Denmark. Albany for lunch, where we met up with Lanny and Steve (from yesterday's fishing trip), and while having a feed, the storm we had outrun had caught up with us. We bought some beer and aimed it into Lanny's truck to save us lugging it, then once again headed off to the east.
After about 80km we had managed to outrun the front. We turned off Highway 1 towards Bremer Bay, where Colin & I swapped bikes again for a spirited ride coastward. A couple of beers at the Bremer Bay pub was all we could manage before the same storm front was seen fast approaching from the west. About 35km from here is Lanny's place, the ranger's residence in the park, along some great dirt roads. We made the right decision taking off when we did, as the front caught us just as we got to the front door. Got the fire going and a hot shower before getting into the beers.
The rangers quarters are in an idyllic spot - no neighbours for miles, sensational views in all directions and some great roads just made for the GS. A pleasant house with balconies on three sides, as well as a large workshop with all the tools a man could want.
A very entertaining night with some fine new friends.
Wednesday 13th September. Another great country breakfast (hard to get used to) and sat down to watch the Superbikes on tape for a couple of hours. Then out to Point Ann to check out the whales with calves in a beautiful bay, well sheltered, white sand and clear water. There is a viewing platform where you can see the beasts well, but although I waited for a good length of time, they would not breach when the camera was aimed - telepathy or are they shy?
Nearby is a camping area with simple amenities which is well recommended. This was Lanny's day off and he spent his time showing us around the park which was a real gem in the crown as far as national parks are concerned. It doesn't appear to be well advertised and as such keeps the visitors to a minimum, and is well worth the time exploring. Great coastline, secluded camping spots and simply great roads for the GS. Tonight the boys had a big feed and talked about bikes and travelling, washed down by a good quantity of WA's finest. Another tough day in paradise.
The next morning John and Colin took off for home, and Lanny asked me if I would like to stay for a few more days, perhaps to give him a hand with a few ranger tasks. I registered as a volunteer to cover me for any unforeseen incidents, then ended up staying until the next Tuesday morning. Managed to help Lanny with a few things, but mostly we seemed to do heaps of miles in the 4WD (it was strange to be back in a tin-top again).
On Friday 15th September, we left at 7am so Lanny could be in a meeting at his office in Albany by 9am, some 180kms away. This was the second day I had been in Albany, and although I had been told how beautiful the place is, it once again was windy, wet and not conducive to sightseeing. I spent the day seeing what I could without a vehicle, then went to the pub in the late afternoon to check out the Olympic opening ceremony. Lanny had planned to meet with an old friend to see Jez Lowe at the Albany town hall, an English folk singer/songwriter, and although it was not my normal selection in music I went along for the ride. I was stunned by his brilliance and that of the support acts as well - I think I should be a little more open minded to different musical styles - or maybe I'm just getting old (or both!). The trip back home got us there at 1:30am, a pretty long day.
Saturday saw us head for Twertup to meet up with Steve and his wife Ester, the new ranger based near Hopetoun. Twertup in within the National Park and at one stage was the site of a quarry to cut blocks of spongealite, of sandstone like appearance but extremely light, hence the name. While I was scavenging through the rocks I found a fossil of a shell, giving evidence that this area was indeed once at sea level. Lanny was keen to show Steve as much of the park as he could, so we traveled from here to the Fitzgerald River inlet, where we drove the length of the beach to check on some fishermen there, concerned they may have had dogs with them which are a no-no in this fragile environment. On our return trip we spent some time clearing the tracks of fallen trees using the chainsaw, which becomes the source of firewood at Lanny's house. We then went to Quaalup station (private property in the middle of the NP) to meet up with Gil & Dale the owners there. They run a camping area on their property with access to the Fitzgerald River for canoeing etc.
(You may have noticed by now the number of towns with "UP" as a suffix to their name. This apparently means water in terms of the local aboriginals).
Sunday saw us leave at 9am for Ravensthorpe and onto Steve's place (northern ranger) near Hopetoun. We needed to get here via the park, as the bridge to Hopetoun (nearest pub and source of goods for Steve) had been washed out at the end of last year. The local council were about to start work on replacing the bridge, but with it having been washed away on two previous occasions they were still going to use the same design - some people never learn. Home via Jerramungup.
Monday 18th, back to Point Ann to do some maintenance on the toilets, check out the whales again (and still not breaching for the camera), then back home to cut and weld some steel for new toilet locks. Lanny had plans for a meeting in Bremer Bay, and as I was planning to leave tomorrow, I went with him to buy him dinner at the pub for his kind hospitality.
Tuesday 19th September. Lanny had to leave by 7am, so I saw him off, being in no hurry myself, electing to take off a little after 8am bound for Jerramungup. At the newsagent here I confirmed directions as to how to get to Hairy Harry's place - the sidecar mounted pilot I had met at the Off-Centre rally - along with his wife Jane. Harry heard my boxer coming from a distance and stopped work to have a cuppa and a chat. I took particular interest in his outfit - basically a K100 with a HRD one and a half chair but with several mods. Harry is a shearer and his wife is a wool classer and the chair has been used for long-term long-distance travelling with the aim being self sufficiency. Where the rear seat would be on the bike is an Engel fridge running from a battery in the chair. Between the chair and the bike is a winch, and mounted on the nosecone of the chair were two solar panels which are used to power the fridge when stationary. The unit looks like it's ready for combat and certainly seems to meet up with expectations. See it at the next Off-Centre!
Off to Ravensthorpe for fuel and lunch, then east towards Esperance. I had been prepared for many beautiful spots on this trip, but Esperance was one of the greatest secrets on the planet! Why didn't I know about it? Maybe those that do know just don't want it spoilt by hordes of terry-tourists! Whatever the reason, I was totally sucked in by the beauty of the place, especially the coastline. I had arrived fairly late so I did a brief recon of the coastline before looking for somewhere to stay. With beauty like this I was bound to stay for at least a couple of days. The local caravan park wanted $14 for a campsite, whereas the Esperance backpackers was $16 with a free beer ticket at the local pub - no choice here. Pizza for dinner then a few travelers to watch the Olympics on the TV back at the backpackers. Uri, the manager here suggested I travel through Cape Le Grande NP, and he showed me his photo album with shots from there which convinced me of tomorrow's destination.
Wednesday 20th September. Left at 9:30 for breakfast in town. Took off at 10am for Cape Le Grande NP about 80km east from Esperance. The NP was similar vegetation wise to Fitzgerald River NP, but the beaches were more frequent with that brilliant white sand and turquoise water with almost no-one about. Le Grande beach, Hellfire Bay, Lucky bay and Rossiter Bay were equally beautiful. While cruising around Lucky bay (the subject of my postcard-like photograph, and probably the nicest place I have ever seen), I again managed to run into Geoff and Maryanne from Windang (Wollongong) whom I had met in Port Samson and Cape Range NP near Exmouth. They had left their van in Esperance and were day tripping, but asked me to come for dinner and stay the next night. Although this was a beautiful beach, the campsite was basic and expensive at $12.50 per night.
I spoke to a bloke there who recommended staying at the Duke of Orleans bay CP south of Condingup, a little further east from here. The park here was beautifully grassed with full amenities, and at $6.75 was great value. (I believe this price is much dearer in the summer season, and the park is packed, but not so in the off-season). A 20 metre walk through the bush gave you access to the unspoiled beach, and the bush acted as a wind-break. The weather was starting to warm up and the wind had dropped to a breeze. This would have to be one of the best pieces of coastline I have seen - well worth the time to visit and stay a while.