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November 5 - November 11, 2001

(Week 7 Continued)

Esperance, or The Bay of Islands, (I looked all over for the MacLachlans, but to no avail!), is about 750 km south-east of Perth, and has become a popular resort area in recent years, due to its temperate climate (even though the next stop south of here is Antarctica!), the magnificent coastal scenery, which I gave you a taste of in the previous page, and the clear blue waters of the Southern Ocean, as well as the incredibly white sand beaches, and during most months -- great fishing!   That's why we're coming back here, Patty, --- this doesn't happen to be one of the best fishing periods!   But, you'll love the town, trees, and beaches --

It was during the 1890s when there was a gold rush in this area that Esperance was really established as a port.   Today, thanks to the addition of some trace elements to the soil around this area, fertility has been restored, and today Esperance has become an agricultural center, as well as a place to relax.  From the time I arrived, I've been told that the area just east of here, Cape Le Grand National Park, at Cape Le Grand is really worth the drive, and they'll add, "don't miss Lucky Bay"!   OK  --  I'm easy! 

On the way out, I note that the birds and cattle seem to get along!

Cape Le Grand National Park 

It's a long, but pretty, drive in to the park ---

--- and here's Frenchman's Peak (more about that, later!)

Then a sign directs me to Lucky Bay, and after about 15 kilometers, I'm struck by this view ---

Then I follow the road to a little better vantage point --

--- and I see, firsthand, why people are so enthusiastic about Lucky Bay!

One of the benefits of having Tony, and his 4WD --

There are only 4 other people on the entire beach, and my newfound friend Dave (fishing consultant) tells me that it's always like this!   (I was sort of tempted to tell him the Yogi Berra line about "No one goes to that restaurant anymore, it's too crowded!", but decided I might lose him.   This same mate told me about a recent wedding that was held up in the cave at the peak of Frenchman's Peak, and over 100 people climbed it to get there for the service, including the 70 year old mother of the groom.

I was tempted, but decided not to try it alone, since for the first time this entire trip, I had left my satellite phone back in my room in Esperance!    Stupido !

However, as I was leaving the park and looked back, it was clear why it's called Bay of Islands --- and it is a beautiful area.   Sure glad I saw it!

It's Friday morning, and I show you the following because it's the kind of thing that happens only in Australia.   Remember yesterday I commented on my fishing consultant and new mate, Dave?   I didn't mention that Dave is a retired guy who is the part-time handyman around the motel, and a fulltime fishing enthusiast!   This morning as I was having breakfast, he came in to the dining room, and gave me the note below --

Kind of nice!   I think we'll fish together one day!

As I head out of Esperance on the way to Albany (make that Al, as in Al Schutts, --bany!), I spot a man and his dog exercising on the beach, and while it's a gray and rainy day, it still makes for a great shot!

The drive takes me away from the coast a bit, but from time to time the Southern Ocean appears on the southern horizon as I move west.   Once again, though, I'm struck by the diversity of the land.   Just outside of Esperance the sandy soil supports some large gum (eucalyptus) tree plantations, and within the next 300 kilometers the soil turns to one that supports lush fields of wheat, then rich grazing lands for as far as the eye can see that serve cattle and sheep, and then quite suddenly we're right back into rugged and rocky scrublands that reflect a totally different land.   The abrupt changes are typical of what I've experienced in so many parts of Australia, and once again, I'm fascinated by the wildflowers, of all types, that seem to be there, no matter what the soil condition !

There are also some large stations in this area --

--- and while you can see the home and out buildings for this station from the main road, moments after I took this picture of the "mail barrels", one of the owners arrived, and picked up a package of machinery parts that had been left for him.   While a portion of his property could be seen from the road, his home and out buildings were about 20 km (12+ miles!) off the main road.  You don't walk to your "mailbox"!

--- and ol' yeller is right across the road!

(I realize that some of you are up to your ears with these wildflowers, but this is springtime down under, and they are everywhere!)

I obviously have arrived in Albany at low tide ---

--- and too late to catch a service at The Wesley Church, which is almost across the road from the oyster dredger above, and which was built in 1890 out of locally cut granite.   It is really a beautiful old church, and I felt as though I owed Jim a shot, lest he think I've changed religions to one more aligned with horticulturists, or joined a wildflower cult!

My real target here is to get out to Frenchman's Bay.   It's still a bit overcast, but the view is still impressive.

The entire area out here is part of Torndirrup National Park, and I'm advised that there are some trails that are worthwhile taking to get some good views of the coastline.   This is still the Southern Ocean.

The first area is called Salmon Holes, and this one I can drive to --

Not bad -- but it gets better, with a little hiking!   This is called Rocky Point, and I will tell you that this is no Botanical Garden, this is really the kind of vegetation you climb through on your way out to Rocky Point.   Frankly, the target proved to be a little anti-climactic, since the scenery on the way out was more impressive than the view at "the rocks".

See what I mean?   I'm off for my last hike of the day, and it's a beauty, although it almost does me in!   I'm heading for "The Blowhole".

This will qualify for my nomination of the biggest expenditure of energy for the least gain -- except possibly for exercise.   It was an 800 meter climb down the face of the cliff (not too bad!), only to realize that because the seas were so calm, the "blowhole effect" really was non-existent.   What goes down must go up.   It's now a bit cooler, but you'd never know it by looking at me after I climbed the 8000 meters back up!   (That's no typo -- that's what I felt like we climbed to get back to Tony!)

Tomorrow is another day, and it happens to be the day that my man Brett has recommended that I MUST climb to the top of the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin, the most southwestern point of mainland Australia.   I will have to consult with my knees in the AM.   (J. George -- please stay tuned!)

I'm up and at 'em early, because in addition to Cape Leeuwin, I want to get to The Valley of the Giants, and The Tree Top Walk, which is between Walpole and Denmark, on the way to Cape Leeuwin.   The Tree Top Walk sounds particularly interesting because you actually walk across a narrow steel walkway 40 metres (130 feet!) above the ground thru the giant Karri and Eucalyptus trees -- the most famous and unique being the giant eucalypts, or gums, that the Aborigines called Red Tingles which occur only in this relatively small area of Australia.

This is really an impressive project that was done by the Department of Conservation and Land Management in an effort to share these magnificent trees with the public without subjecting them to the problems traffic would pose.    As you'll see, the distinctive feature of the red tingle is its large hollowed out base.   The hollows have been caused over a long period of time by fire, and fungal, as well as insect attacks.   Unlike other eucalypts, tingles do not have a taproot.   Instead, they have a very shallow root system that spreads as they grow older, causing the tree to buttress.   This gives them more stability, and also allows them to absorb more moisture and nutrients.   However, this same shallow root system, and reliance on surface humus for nutrients makes the tingle vulnerable to compaction by people walking close to the base -- the real reason for the ground level walkways, and the elevated tour through the canopy level.

Granny Tingle!

Patty would NOT care for this much -- it sways a bit!

Nice breeze up here!

Leaving Tree Top, I meet a young bloke, Chris, who left Melbourne 18 weeks ago, to see Australia, and when he tires of this, will head for Asia.   A really nice young guy (get by the dreadlocks!) who is a very bright and articulate guy.   He allowed as how the cars are more of a threat "jumping out at him" than the kangaroos!   I believe that!   (Also, a really well organized and outfitted bike - "all I own is right here!")

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