State of Western Australia Things to Do Tips by iandsmith Top 5 Page for this destination
State of Western Australia Things to Do: 332 reviews and 714 photos
Looking back down the inlet on the path to Circus
We slowly moved west on the water and I glanced over beyond the gap where the sea breached the inlet and queried its value as a surfing spot.
“It’s one of Tom Curren’s top 10 all time breaks. He paid my old man $50 per tow to surf there, it’s that good. They call it U-turns.” I was impressed.
It was bizarre but rivetting entertainment. The only pause came when we docked at the ocean end of Nornalup Inlet. Here we had time to walk over the sand dunes to the glorious Circus Beach, lit rich by the sun and caressed by a zephyr of an offshore wind. Its colours stunning and its waters so clear; it was one of those days you wished could go on forever while the sand gave way as talcum powder beneath your feet.
Gary took off his shirt and stood knee deep in the water doing some sort of spiritual thing. His manic state subsided for a while, hard for a man who, for his “leisure” time, had chosen the Bibbulmun Track as an activity.
The legendary track, in case you don’t know, is over a 963 kilometre route from Kalamunda to Albany. Gary didn’t walk it. No, he ran it, and set a new record for the trip. Buggered up his knees but, apparently, he got some satisfaction. But that’s Gary.
What's Gary doing....don't ask
By law Gary has to demonstrate how to put a life jacket on and inflate it. As he stood on a chair and alternatively flapped his wings and held his nose, I doubt anyone, except Gary, would have survived if we sank. We would still be laughing at his demonstration.
He then explained how the whole world was linked to Walpole. He enunciated on subjects as varied as how the Egyptians discovered the world was round, to Russian nobility, to the America’s Cup, to how his grandfather was shot nearby and how the sailors from the wreck of the Mandalay survived.
It was a 941 ton Norwegian barque that was hit by a not uncommon strong southwest wind in 1911. Fearing for his ship the captain ordered it to be run aground on the beach.
Next day several men were sent to find assistance and, two days later, they returned exhausted and battered by their confrontation with the unfamiliar Australian bush.
They had meat though and, amazingly, it was from a bull that had been wearing a bell. On the third day the residents of Tinglewood found them, no doubt searching for said bull!
The Mandalay never left and some remains today lay covered by the sand.
All that, of course, was before and after he explained how Chekhov, Rudyard Kipling (named after Rudyard Lake where his parents honeymooned) and several other writers of note all had links to Walpole.
Famous names were bandied around like cards at a poker game and our bald headed, barefooted host at times put stuffed woollen animals on his head and under his arms to illustrate certain points.
He showed many pictures, including one of a 10kg feral cat they’d caught nearby and then produced the impressive shark photos and claimed they’d got them 20ft long in the inlet in the old days.
Of course, that was before he got onto the snakes and said their total is up to 40 bites in the area in the last 6 ½ years and then told us about the boy who’d interrupted a pair of mating tiger snakes and was bitten by both of them, one on either leg.
The WOW cruise
WOW, WHAT A CIRCUS
I was in the middle of the Nullarbor crossing and the man was clearly in shock, his agitated expression revealed a deep emotion. His voice was non stop as he explained what had happened.
“You have to go on this cruise, it was amazing”, he said.
“What did you see?” I queried.
“See? I don’t remember”, he replied, “it’s that man, he’s incredible. The stories he tells are so fantastic. He knows all the history.”
All the history of a village the size of Walpole isn’t something I normally speed off to hear. Located in the famous southern forests of W.A., Walpole isn’t exactly the sort of place you’d expect a great deal of; but it was the man’s emotion that sold me as he was obviously not someone who normally got excited.
So it was that three days later I booked in for the WOW cruise, Walpole’s piece de resistance on the tourist trail.
I was told to be there early, like everyone else was. The man however turned up ten minutes late, charging down in his 4WD carrying all the provisions for the cruise because, for our $40, we were to get a cup of tea and cake included.
We boarded the fully enclosed flat bottomed boat, started out, and our host, Gary Muir, began. For the next 2 ½ hours he never stopped. I knew know what Nullarbor man had been talking about.
Fitzroy Crossing's premier attraction is Geikie Gorge National Park. It's only 18 km north east of the town and was named after Sir Archibald Geikie (British geologist) by Edward Hardman who travelled through the Kimberley region in 1883.
Geikie Gorge dates back to Devonian times (350 million years ago) and was part of a massive reef that was estimated to be 20 kilometres wide and over 1,000 kms long. The waters of the Lennard and Fitzroy Rivers have sliced through these ancient reefs exposing them and forming beautiful gorges.
Geikie Gorge abounds in wildlife but the Johnson River crocodile (pic 5) is the one the punters like to see.
Amazingly there are also Leichhardt's sawfish and Coach-whip stingrays whose saltwater ancestors swam up the Fitzroy River millions of years ago.
I opted for one of the cruises which was informative though I have to say I preferred Windjana Gorge though others feel the reverse. At least it's a sealed road all the way in here and a stress free way to see it all.
The gorge has good camping facilities. Swimming, bushwalking and guided tours are catered for.
It's over 50 kilometres along a dirt road to get there but it has one of the great surf spots of W.A. and the fishing can be excellent as well.
Located on Quobba Station north of Carnarvon it's a place where you can escape from it all. A walk around the edge of the ocean will have you believing that. Yet, amazingly, a few people live here and one family runs the (very) small store where you can buy essentials.
My mate Bob and I spent 4 days here and will never forget the experience.
Whether it was fishing (pic 2), surfing (pic 3), checking out animals (pic 4) or the amazing geology (pic 5) of the Coral Coast, we were never bored and with scenery like you see in the opening picture you can understand why.
It costs around $10 a night to park your vehicle there and there are no facilities except bush toilets.
For sheer photographic opportunites, nothing beat Knox Gorge on our trip through Western Australia. The light was just right and the vistas spectacular.
Where you enter the gorge is down a steep path. At the bottom 99% of hikers turned left. Naturally enough, we went right. Hey, it's just what I do!
Truth is, I was after a particular tree that I'd spotted from above the night before and I was determined to get at least one snap of it. In the end, Bob and I must have taken over 100 shots of the tree, so picturesque was it.
The walk took us around 5 hours and, at times, we had to scale some difficult terrain but luckily without incident. We didn't return down the gorge but instead took another route out after about 4 hours and walked up through the lawn of the apocolypse (spinifex) to reach the top which is where I took one of my all time favourite shots (pic 5) though it's fairly typical of the terrain there.
Directions: North of Tom Price in Karijini National Park
Top of the drop
Joffre and Knox Gorge are near each other and eventually intersect when you are doing the walk along the canyons.
Up the top where I took these photos (and again, you need to see them all to get some perspective) you gaze down into a weird and wonderful world of layered iron oxide dating back to a time when life as we know it never existed. This is some of the oldest rock in the world.
The falls are dramatic as far as a drop is concerned and, next time I go I may venture to the bottom but even spending over an hour at the top is so rewarding.
The amount of water going over can clearly be seen in pics 4 & 5 but this is in the dry season; conditions vary dramatically in the wet.
They're situated about 20 kilometres drive from Oxer Lookout or about 35 from Tom Price.
Directions: North of Tom Price in Karijini National Park
There's wildlife aplenty in the gorge. Water tends to attract such things and the unforgettable thing is the abundance of crocodiles, fortunately the freshwater Johnson River crocodile that is considered harmless to man unless you go and bother one.
In fact you can get quite close to them (pic 5) depending on how brave or stupid you feel.
What surprised me was the amount of them; there were two dozen in one group. Further up the gorge they seem to be absent and that's where I had a swim in fact.
Coming into the gorge there's a plaque directing your attention to a fossilized nautiloid (pic 4) that dates from the Devonian period when all life was water borne.
Initially you'll also hear the squawking of the corella flock as they move from tree to tree (pic 3). Their racous cries dominate all sound during the first section until you move away and then the flying foxes can be heard.
If you keep your eyes peeled you'll undoubtedly spot a rainbow bee catcher (pic 2) or two flitting across the water in search of prey.
I also got a shot of a red dragonfly perched on a croc but didn't include it here because you can't see it in this format.
A real standout
One thing it's hard not to miss is the Swan Bells.
This prominent tower incorporates the "Bells of St. Martins on the Fields" that rang the English victory over the Spanish Armada a few years ago. They were gifted to Perth by the English government and their setting today is certainly spectacular.
St. Martins on the Fields is right near the National Gallery in London.
Address: Barrack Square, Perth
Directions: Right on the Swan River in the city
Other Contact: Open 10am-4pm daily. $6 entry
Lots of things standing up
What can I tell you about the Pinnacles that you don’t already know. Probably not much but the basic facts are that the vegetation is in absentia around these pillars and that’s why these 2-4 metre bits of ancient limestone have come to the attention of tourists.
Another thing you may not know is that Billy Connolly danced naked around them. That would also attract a certain type of tourist.
There’s a few hectares of them and it’s well signposted how to get there so you shouldn’t get lost. Located just 17 kilometres in Nambung National Park they are very popular. Personally I thought they were good but didn't get as excited as some other VTers about them.
It did make a nice break in our journey north however.
Sunset is one of the preferred times to be there and many stay just to try and get “that” shot.
The raw material for the limestone of the pinnacles came from sea shells in an earlier epoch rich in marine life. Broken down into lime-rich sands they were brought ashore by waves and then carried inland by the wind to form high, mobile dunes. Three old systems of sand dunes run parallel to the WA coast, marking ancient shorelines.
The oldest of these, known as the Spearwood dune system, is characterised by yellow or brownish sands. In winter, rain, which is slightly acidic, dissolves small amounts of calcium carbonate as it percolates down through the sand. As the dune dries out during summer, this is precipitated as a cement around grains of sand in the lower levels of the dunes, binding them together and eventually producing a hard limestone rock, known as Tamala Limestone. This is also visible at Kalbarri.
At the same time, vegetation that became established on the surface aided this process. Plant roots stabilised the surface, and encouraged a more acidic layer of soil and humus (containing decayed plant and animal matter) to develop over the remaining quartz sand.
The acidic soil accelerated the leaching process, and a hard layer of calcrete formed over the softer limestone below. Cracks which formed in the calcrete layer were exploited by plant roots. When water seeped down along these channels, the softer limestone beneath was slowly leached away and the channels gradually filled with quartz sand. This subsurface erosion continued until only the most resilient columns remained. The Pinnacles, then, are the eroded remnants of the formerly thick bed of limestone.
As bush fires denuded the higher areas, south-westerly winds carried away the loose quartz sands and left these limestone pillars standing up to three and a half metres high.
Although the formation of the Pinnacles would have taken many thousands of years, they were probably only exposed in quite recent times. Aboriginal artefacts at least 6,000 years old have been found in the Pinnacles Desert despite no recent evidence of Aboriginal occupation. This tends to suggest that the Pinnacles were exposed about 6,000 years ago and then covered up by shifting sands, before being exposed again in the last few hundred years.
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