Who on earth would pick Brunswick Junction to stay for a few days………….us of course. It’s a long story, but here we are, and it’s kind of cute….except for the train track on one side and the highway on the other!!!! Actually not that bad on the banks of the river. We had a fantastic day exploring Bunbury and surrounds. It is ANZAC Day, and riverfront roads were closed as were most of the shops, so we had free reign to explore. The fantastic 360 view from the Lions lookout put it all in perspective, so we explored all the coasts, as Bunbury has water on 3 sides – river, bay, and surf. This is a place we could live in. Will probably stay another 2 nights to finally get rid of the school hols, Easter, and ANZAC weekend. Going up the coast tomorrow, then out to Collie and surrounds on Sunday. We set off north with no real plan, but turned off the hwy to find this cute little place called Harvey. They had a small Mitre 10, and we needed butane gas cylinders so called in. Yep, last day on special at $8.95 for 4………….could be a good day after all. Then spotted a sign to some Dam and amphitheatre………….WOW………..the dam was huge, and the amphitheatre was this massive complex of pathways, bbq areas, tables and seats for picnickers, a sensational soundshell and amphitheatre, beautiful stream from the limited dam discharge…………would only expect in a large rural city, not a small town like Harvey. So what else. We called in at the “I”, where there was a re-creation of John Stirling’s original homestead, now the tearooms.
Then the story of May Gibb, the “gumnut author” who lived in the district for 2 years and got her inspiration for all those gumnut books from here.
But wait, there is more. In 1939/40, when WW2 erupted, all male Italian non-citizens in WA were arrested as non-combatant aliens and interned in Camp 11 at…Harvey! In addition, the rescued sailors from the German raider Kormoran – yes the one involved in the HMAS Sydney conflict (off Geraldton) were also kept here. There were around 1000 internees and 200 soldiers guarding them in 68 barracks. They were treated well, but boredom was the big enemy, so the Italians sculptured this “Christian monument” which remained in the field long after the camp was abandoned, and all the buildings removed…………
But in around 2002, locals built a building to surround and protect the monument. It is fantastic, with the whole story and all the names of the internees inside……WOW
We only planned on passing through, but you never know what a day on the hustings will bring. Then up to Waroona through more dairy country before heading west to Preston Beach. Another surprise at this beachside hamlet, with a calm Indian Ocean lapping up on to a gorgeous sandy beach with lots of fishermen angling for salmon in the short season. There were also lots of European backpackers in the “no camping” car park, obviously camping with the toilet block having showers…………..utterly gut wrenching, with litter everywhere. We had lunch there observing (spying) and hoping in vain some responsible person would appear to challenge them. Down to Myalup Beach which was like Preston, but no Wicked vans thank goodness………but no showers in the public conveniences either; just gorgeous little beach hideaways. Harvey is approx 20km due east of Myalup and we felt we had unfinished business, so back we went to see the local footy team at work, picked up the last multigrain loaf at the bakery, and went to Harvey Cheese……….actually called HA VE Cheese. Couldn’t resist the “OMG Brie”, the “Chilli & Garlic” and the “Twister” – Swiss style. Do we need some more mountains or what???? We are staying here for another day; to finally get rid of school hols, Easter, ANZAC Day, so will go out Collie way tomorrow.
It did rain steadily last night, and we lost power around 8pm, power finally returned around 11pm. There has been no rain in the SW at all this year, and all farmers are doing it tough. Today has been scattered showers, but it didn’t stop us doing a trip up to Collie and back through Donnybrook, where heaps of pome fruit and stone fruit are grown. But we did sneak off the track to Gnomes Ville, where people from Australia and all over the world leave displays of Gnomes on the side of the road in a treed setting beside a tiny stream. It goes for 200+m by 10m wide approx, then people have started taking them out into the adjacent bush, up trees…wherever it suits them.
Hard to explain, but quite eye-boggling if there is such a word. It started out as part of a logging protest……but the fun took over. Off to a free camp 2km SE of Pinjarra tomorrow for 2 days to see Rockingham and Mandurah, and stock up for our wheat belt zig zag, roughly Wagin, Kulin, Kokerbin Rock, Hyden, Kalgoorlie (shopping only), then Menzies and beyond. It is closing in on 5pm, so a quick shower, bbq snags in bread for tea and some OMG cheese and bics. Incidentally the Ha Ve cheese co. actually call their best cheeses……”variety OMG” to differentiate them from other lesser varieties……….which are superb anyway. And what do you think they call all their ice-creams…..they are all “G-Spot” vanilla, or whatever. Well their produce is hmmmmm…..orga….. or at least very good.
Rockingham was OK, just another beachside city – with a naval base, Stirling, on Garden Island, linked to the mainland by a long bridge. It was blowing a gale the day we went, so wasn’t at its best probably.
Mandurah was as expected; a modern quite large city (maybe Geelong size) with emphasis on waterway living and pleasure boating. Lots of low-rise, waterway apartments close to town, with more luxurious boats at private jetty’s and massive marinas than you could possibly count. Mandurah seems like a bit of a playground for the wealthier and has all the cafes and restaurants and boutique shops to suit.
We then headed inland through the last of the great Jarrah forests to the wide open, undulating wheat country of the SW. We had a night at the showgrounds in Wagin, visiting a couple of local attractions.
Then 2 nights in Kulin. The highlight around Kulin was a 30km stretch of highway (15E – 15W) dubbed the Tin Horse Highway, where opposing groups of farmers are having fun creating “tin horse statues” to see which side of town can come up with the biggest and the best. We didn’t count, but there were probably 50 or so – Kulin’s claim to fame, apart from being a big wheat producer of course.
On the way we visited an old Inland Missionary Hospital, opened in 1904 and closed in 1956. Then we moved on through – you guessed it – so much more wheat country……..I reckon this part of WA should be able to feed the whole world wheat!!!!!!! to a fantastic free camp in the middle of nowhere (actually Kwolwin – one Church!!!) with flushing toilets, and we had a big campfire cook up. The nearby Kokerbin Rock is the third largest granite monolith after Mt.Augustus and Ayres Rock, so we visited and climbed of course.
Apart from grain growing, the other thing that really stands out on our zig-zag through the SW Wheatbelt is the recreation facilities in all the small towns we passed through or stayed at. The Rec Reserve typically had an MCG sized footy oval, green and manicured like carpet, min 4 synthetic tennis courts, 4 basketball/ netball courts, 2 lawn bowling greens, a swimming pool……..all floodlight, and an indoor centre/ hall with catering facilities. At Kulin, town population maybe 700, they have the largest water slide in rural WA, obtained from one of the Gold Coast theme parks, dismantled, transported and erected by volunteer labour (mostly farmers). I don’t know if mining royalties have anything to do with all this, but whatever, civic pride is alive and well in these districts.
Today we arrived at Hyden where wave rock is the attraction……..it is still grain growing country, but climate here is marginal as we head further east. Wave Rock itself is unique, and impressive. We did all the walks and climbs on offer and will move on towards Kalgoorlie tomorrow, and then north to the goldfield country.
Cheers from the travelling Jacko’s