Blog based on Facebook posts made by Alex Reid during a trip via Hyden (Wave Rock) to Esperance and Albany on the South Coast, along with the Brooks, in February 2024.

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Wednesday, 31-Jan-24:

On our way to Esperance, via Hyden, and we diverted to check out the Kulin Tin Horse Highway. Very creative and humorous! Here is a selection.

Also of interest en route to Hyden were the wonderful wheatbelt gum trees near Yealering (salmon gums? - no, probably Wandoo).

Thursday, 1-Feb-24:

Now in Hyden!

Here are some sights from Thursday, 1-Feb, around Hyden. Of course, Wave Rock, and adjoining it, Hippo's Yawn. Then Mulka's Cave about 18km distant, adjoining "The Humps" (another rock formation, also used for collecting rainwater). The forecast was for 40 degrees, so we went out really early (by 7am), even so, it was hot (over 30 by 8am). Later in the day, as we travelled to Esperance, the temp was over 40 most of the way, and got to 44 at one point (so thankful for an airconditioned car!).

On our way from Hyden to Esperance on Thursday, we passed through Ravensthorpe, which boasts a great example of Wheat Silo art - here are views of each side of the silos. Also (out of sequence, I know, but relevant) the art on the Albany silos (seen Saturday).

Friday, 2-Feb-24:

Friday morning, 2-Feb-24, saw us heading out fairly early (to beat the heat) to visit the beaches to the West of Esperance, along the Great Coast Drive. First West Beach (seen here Thursday evening, as well as Friday morning), then Blue Haven, then Twilight Bay, then Twilight Beach, and the tragic memorial to Laeticia Brouwer, killed by a shark there in 2017, aged 17 (such a stark contrast to the serene beauty of these beaches!). PS we visited Dempster Head first for the view, and by the time we reached West Beach (the first to visit) the sea breeze had come in and the temp was only ~30.

Later on Friday, we drove out to Cape Le Grand National Park to visit some of the beaches to the East of Esperance, obviously including Lucky Bay (denoted the best beach in the World by Banana Boat researchers in 2023), but also Hellfire Bay (my favourite) and Thistle Cove with its whistling rock, as well as a brief peep at Stonehenge, and some kangaroos in a nearby field (but sadly, none on Lucky Bay beach). And passed close by Frenchman's Peak, which I climbed (most of) 3 years ago.

Saturday, 3-Feb-24:

So, Saturday we drove from Esperance to Albany. We took the route that took us through the Stirlings and the Porongerups, but sadly both were covered in clouds (in the case of the Stirlings, like a blanket rolling down them). But we then visited The Gap and the Natural Bridge, which didn't disappoint, followed by the nearby Blowholes (no spray, just the sound). Reassuring to see how well anchored was the cantilevered viewing deck above the Gap! A lot of damage from bushfires (a year ago, maybe, but a lot of regeneration already).


Fire damage and regeneration

Sunday, 4-Feb-24:

Today, Sunday, 4-Feb-24, we visited the National Anzac Centre on Mt Clarence here in Albany (lovely view over Middleton Beach). Had a fascinating free guided tour of the grounds, with lots of historical detail (including all about the original 6" guns placed there in 1860). Also had a chance to inspect the Ikara ship-launched rocket-torpedo, to which I made a brief contribution as a programmer at WRE in 1962 (my analysis resulted in a redesign of the railings adjacent to the launch site on board). This Australian designed and made rocket was deployed on the guided missile destroyer HMAS Perth from 1960 to 1995, and sold to several other nations. The Anzac Centre itself is well worth a visit.

Finally today (Sunday) we launched an expedition to find Misery Beach, denoted by Tourism Australia in 2022 as the country's best beach! A rival for Lucky Bay Beach! We found it, and it is indeed impressive (I had a paddle), but there have been so many marvellous beaches - we are spoiled for choice around here!!! BTW, the best explanation of the name is that, being adjacent to a whaling station until that was closed down in 1978, it regularly got flooded with whale blood and offal...

Monday, 5-Feb-24:

We had originally planned to drive home today, straight up Albany Highway. However, we decided to extend our stay down South by an extra day, driving home via Walpole, Pemberton and Bridgetown, staying overnight in Bridgetown.
Our first stop was in the Valley of the Giants - the giants are large yellow and red Tingle trees, with these as well as Karris lining the road. There is a good tree-top walk here, but we didn't take that, instead visiting the solitary Giant Tingle nearby, with a short walk through the bush. There's also a great view at Hill View over Nornalup Inlet near Walpole. At one time, you could drive a car through the burned-out base of one of these giant tingles.

We spotted an emu in a field next to the road...

Our next stop was in Pemberton, where we went to visit the Gloucester Tree, and hopefully climb it (or pretend to!). However, the tree was closed to climbers, as the iron pegs were being replaced. It's rather a hair-raising climb, but actually quite safe (there's wire netting outside the spiraling set of pegs to stop you falling off). The tree was once a fire lookout; the platform at the top is 60m above the ground. I have climbed it a couple of times before, and even got a certificate to prove it (this practice has since been discontinued). They have created an adventure course using nearby trees. And I love the forest hereabouts!

Nevermind the Gloucester Tree being out of reach, we'll try for the similar Diamond Tree, near Manjimup. But it turns out it had exactly the same issue, and was also closed. Michael breathes a great sigh of relief that he won't be required to climb either tree!! There is a third former fire lookout tree you can climb, the Dave Evans Bicentennial tree, but it's on the other side of Pemberton, and we were well past it by then... (it turns out, checking the Web, that that tree is also closed to climbers at present).

Our next stop, just outside Balingup, was to check out the Golden Valley Tree Park. This is an arboretum of many different kinds of tree (one section is all native, another for "world" trees), and is quite lovely...

Then we made a stop at Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. Starting out as a solitary gnome in a hollow in a gum tree in the early 1990's, it has become a sensation, with people from all over the world contributing. It claims to be one of the top 100 tourist destinations in Australia!

Not far from Gnomesville, there is a very large jarrah tree known as King Jarrah. Well worth a brief stop...

Our final stop on the way home was at Wellington Dam, mainly to see the huge mural pianted on the dam wall. It actually took us a while to find our way there, as the road we chose was closed, and the diversion was not well signed. Finally we got there, and treated ourselves to a bite of lunch. As we ate, we were entertained by a robin then by a family of fairy wrens...

So, finally we arrived home, at about 4:30pm, after 7 days and 6 nights away, traveling a total of 2,300km.

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Alex Reid