Letho's Blog

Archive for April, 2011

Australia’s South-West: From Cape Leeuwin to Perth

by on Apr.28, 2011, under South-West

Wednesday, 27th April – Thursday, 28th April 2011

After having admired the beautiful Indian Ocean we headed back towards Augusta, debating where we should sleep. Apart from the fact that hostels in general are not our thing we would have to pay less when we just camped at one of the spots in the National Park. Being dark already and Australia-like with few signs the way wasn’t easy to find and we ended up driving for half an hour through the park. We finally found a camping spot and even though it was not the one we had intended to find it was at least a place to put up our tent.
The next morning we woke up early and made our way back to the Cave road an important decision ahead of us: at which of the 150 caves that lie underneath the area should we have a look at? We decided to have a look at one of the three most famous caves, Mammoth, Jewel or Lake Cave and since we had seen fossils in caves already (remember our article about the Naracoorte caves? ; )) we booked places for the Lake cave tour. Since we had gotten up early we could take the first tour – a good thing as it turned out since all the popular midday tours were quickly fully booked. The entrance of the cave lies in a huge hole which must have been a cave itself at some point until the roof collapsed and if you look closely at the edges you can see that certain areas are mighty thin and might also collapse somewhen in the future. The lighting in the cave contributed very much to the beauty of the lake and despite having seen lots of stalactites and stalagmites (just remember stalacTites for Top = those are the ones that are at the ceiling) it was impressive. Especially since several stalactite structures were not attached to the ground and weighted all together as much as 4 four wheel drives (4wd). This is Australia, things can be measured in 4wd’s… ; ) But have a look at yourself at the beauty of the cave:

The only downside of the Lake Cave was first of all that it being a tour and being on a schedule it was a little rushed. Enough time to enjoy and admire the cave but if you wanted to take pictures without people in it you had to wait and were then rushed a bit by the guide. The second thing we only learned by chance and that was that the lake in the cave (Lake Cave) has been artificially kept at a certain level as it had been dried out several years ago. Understandable that the company that runs the caves doesn’t want to disappoint visitors who have come to see the lake but it still feels like they cheat on you. Nevertheless, the cave was quite beautiful.

We discovered that there was a self-guided cave in the area and with us enjoying climbing in caves tremendiously it was just what we wanted to do. The cave itself was huge though not extraordinary but it was great fun to walk around in absolute darkness and find our way through the cave.

Another look at our sightseeing to do list, check after Caves. It would have been interesting to have a look at the wine cellars since Margaret River is a renown wine region in Western Australia, but then again only one can try the wines, they are usually only open until five that means drinking alkohol during the day – to cut it short, we didn’t feel like it and continued to drive up north. At Cape Naturaliste we took several walks along the coast and some seals that sunbathed on some rocks in the ocean.

A bit further north we passed Busselton, the longest wooden jetty in the southern hemisphere. But wait a second, didn’t we write that in our article about Port Germain? Well, this seems to be a title that goes for several jetties : )
In contrast do the other longest jetty this one had a 2,50 Aus $ entrance fee (!) and somehow the planks had been partly cemented… I leave both points without a comment!

Finally, the last sight on our way to Perth was Australia’s smallest church, so small that we drove past it the first time : )

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Australia’s South-West: From Manjimup to Cape Leuwin

by on Apr.27, 2011, under South-West

Tuesday, 26th April – Wednesday, 27th April 2011

The next day we went off sightseeing in the area:
In the past Fire Lookout Trees were obviously used to spot dangerous bushfires and had to be massive and tall trees. It is possible for the public to climb the three Karri trees that are in the area, Diamond Tree, Gloucester Tree and Bicentennial, with prices ranging from for free to National Park entry fee and up to 11 $. Since it started raining when we arrived at the Diamond Tree we continued and finally climbed the Bicentennial Tree which is supposed to have its first platform at 25m and its second platform at somewhere around 60 m.
A piece of cake you will think when you stand under the tree, easy to climb up, too. But don’t underestimate the feeling that arises once you left the ground climbing up still being able to see throught. After the first turn your mind starts releasing thoughts like „it is quite high already“, „how easy it seems to slip through the metal spikes“ „I’ve never liked heights“ until you reach platform one and think „thank God some solid planks“. It becomes even more exciting when people come down from the top while you are climbing up. The spikes are long enough to fit two but are they strong enough? Another thought that will frequently pass your mind. Do it as I did it you hold on close to the spikes at the base of the tree, close your eyes and just don’t move until the other person has passed (only kidding about closing my eyes). You will think now that 25 m are not that high, you might have climbed higher buildings and so have I but not on metal bars being able to slip through. As you have probably guessed it as much as I have wanted to go up further I just thought it wouldn’t be safe enough. The only problem was now to get down again, an odyssey believe me. Frank climbed up further and so did somebody with a broken arm and no shoes on – crazy dude. From what you could see when everybody arrived safe and sound at the ground again was that at least they all were a bit scared. But Frank’s courage gives you now the opportunity to enjoy a nice panorama over the tree tops:

Afterwards we took a much safer but also less exciting scenic drive through the Kerri Forest:

And down to the coast to the D’entrecastreaux National Park where we had a look at The Window, Salmon Beach and a quick drive to Windy Harbour.

On the way back to Manjimup we stopped at the Cascades

and quickly climbed up Mt. Chudalup – a piece of cake for us : )

We spent another night at Lindy’s house and continued our travels later the next day when we drove to Augusta and had a look at the most southern point of Western Australia, Cape Leeuwin, and saw the quite stormy Indian Ocean. Have a look yourself and enjoy the great atmosphere of light and clouds:

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Australia’s South West – from Albany to Manjimup

by on Apr.25, 2011, under South-West

Sunday, 24th April – Monday, 25th April 2011

After a nice breakfast at Middleton Beach we took the Tourist Drive around town.

We then went into the amazing Torndirrup National Park which being the Easter weekend 2011 many people used for a stroll around and thus it was far too crowded for our taste, too many people in the pictures. Nevertheless, enjoy the Gap with water splashing up sometimes up to 20 m, the amazing Natural Bridge (what dimensions!),and finally one of the most fascinating blowholes where the air pressed by the moving water below came out with enormous pressure.

Afterwards a quick visit to the brig Amity, a replica of the ship that had sailed from Sydney to Albany in 1826.

And along the scenic drive to our campspot, Cosy Corner! Not so cosy I can tell you… I started with the decision Cosy Corner East or West? In this case, the East was the place where camping was allowed and totally crowded, not a single spot free and so we made our way to the West with lots of spots and only several other campers there. Understandable since camping wasn’t allowed there. Here the sign:

Another uncosy surprise was the neverending drizzle that started at night and wouldn’t stop for hours.

While we waited (in vain) in the car for the rain to stop at 9 in the morning, a car pulled over and the ranger started towards our tent. After his second attempt to talk to us in the tent Frank mercifully called out that we were in the car. The ranger informed us that we had to leave this area since camping wasn’t allowed. A joke later he was already gone, not having given us a fine. Lucky us. Poor him that he had to work Easter Monday. ; )
In case you don’t know but putting your tent together in the rain is no fun.
Sightseeing in the rain not so much fun, either. But that didn’t stop us from having a look at the Ocean Beach close to Denmark.

Some driving later we drove through a Kerri Forest and had a look at the Great Tingle Tree, unfortunately a little too dark already for the camera.

We had sent out a very last minute couchsurfing request to avoid camping in the rain again and later in the evening we got a call from Lindy who invited us to stay with her. I have never been happier about a phone call : )
So we spend an envening with Lindy and her daughter and enjoyed a wine, sandwiches and self baked Anzac cookies, heaven! Lindy even offered us her home for several days although she would go camping the next day – what kind of trust is that, amazing!!

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Into Western Australia’s Outback and back

by on Apr.24, 2011, under Traveling Australia

Tuesday, 19th April – Sunday, 24th April 2011

After a good night’s sleep and ready to travel further but Dundas Rocks, Bromus Dam Norseman’s Beacan Hill Lookout weren’t very interesting…

and so we quickly headed off to Kalgoorlie where we stayed with Melissa’s parents and had our own comfy „home“.
Our days were filled with the typical things, repairing the car (radiator), laundry, blog and communication as well as nice dinners and conversations with our host(s).

Kalgoorlie is a typical mining town with interesting mining sites, for example Melissa’s workplace

or the superpit. The dimensions of this huge hole are hard to grasp but the sound needed about 2 seconds until it reached us 500 m higher.

On our last day Melissa introduced us to shooting, not easy to keep a steady hand but interesting enough quite fun. If you don’t shoot innocent skippies that is!!

After a great coffee and breakfast we said Goodbye and drove 390 km South the Wave Rock:

Wave Rock:

Close by the Hippo Yawn – can you see it?

As well as the Mulka cave:

324 km further South we arrived in Jerramungup, had a crappy night due to annoying French backpackers,

got up early and drove 180 km back to the coast to Albany.

(Just a map of half the way since Google maps can’t find the gravel road we took when we went to Hyden…)

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Israelite Bay, Cape Arid and Cape Le Grand NP

by on Apr.16, 2011, under Traveling Australia

April 16, 2011

We reunited with Sebastian and his team at the Balladonia Roadhouse. From there we decided to take a detour to Israelite Bay, a remote spot only accessible via 4WD tracks. We were warned several times about other vehicles that were bogged down just days before and had to be recovered. Which costs a fortune, at least 400$. But fearless and brave as usual we drove right into our own demise. 😉

A lot of 4WD track

A lot of 4WD track

Just to get to Israelite Bay we had to complete 130 km of rough track straight south of Balladonia: corrugated dirt roads, rocky sections, big holes and wheel ruttings. Once arrived, we would have to go another 180 km west to get to Esperance, the first and most Eastern civilized outpost in South-Western Australia.

On the way we passed Mount Peak which provided for a nice view while our cars and bones where shaken and crushed to little pieces.

Mount Peak on the way to Israelite Bay

Mount Peak on the way to Israelite Bay

Here’s a nice clip showing our ride when we finally reached softer sand which made it much more comfortable:

After some more shaking we finally got very close to Israelite Bay, reaching dry beaches near the coastline. Look what driving here feels like:

This clip was taken only minutes before disaster struck. We entered another section that looked not as dry as before when we suddenly realized that we were already driving on deep and wet mud. With a roaring engine we made our way through with our LandCruiser and reached the harder ground. Luckily we had precautiously engaged our 4-wheel-drive.

However .. our companion was not that lucky. For whatever reason (he said something about fuel efficiency) he had turned off his 4WD as soon as we had reached the beach section. As his car was fully loaded with altogether 6 (in words: six) passengers and with only 2WD, what happened now was inevitable…

The Nissan Patrol was bogged down. Badly. Not too bad at first. But our attempts to push it out only made it worse, resulting in the car being so deep in the mud that the floorline was touching the ground. Now that’s generally a really bad thing – the car couldn’t get anywhere by itself, it was extremely hard to pull it out and you have to do a lot of digging to get the car to a higher level. We were anxious not to get the LandCruiser into the mud as well – with no car left it would have been impossible to get help or even get out of this place at all!

The rest of the day was spent with digging (guess who had a shovel on board? :)), building a useless tow rope out of lashing straps that snapped immediately and ruining our metal winch (guess who had that on board? :)). The Patrol was just too badly stuck, even our metal winch with a solid steel rope simply snapped at the first attempt.

Therefore we had no other choice than to spend the night at this place and resume work the next morning.

April 17, 2011

The next day someone must have heard our prayers. It was not too long until another car arrived, stopped and was glad to help us out. A LandCruiser, of course. What did you expect? 😉

And it got even better, another car came by, stopped and had even more equipment on board that we had failed to bring with us, e.g. good snatches. The plan was to create a convoi with 2 cars pulling together. See how it went:

Now that’s funny, eh? The helping car got bogged down itself. It was successfully recovered by the fourth car that had come into play. Afterwards, we gave it a few more tries:

So far no luck. The 2 cars left and went on to Israelite Bay, but left their equipment for us behind. Aside from that we learned that the bay was just 3-4 km’s away. We had been almost there …

After a couple of hours of more digging, deflating our tyres to what felt like no air left in them and building a suitable ramp another car came by, this time from Israelite Bay heading out. They stopped as well, but ignored our warning gestures not to drive onto the muddy beach section.

Guess what happened:

More help .. no, wait .. now they're bogged down as well!

More help .. no, wait .. now they're bogged down as well!

Isn’t that too funny? Guess who pulled them out? Right, we did it with our LandCruiser. 🙂

As soon as they had returned to safe ground without overturning (that almost happened, or at least everyone who had watched thought so) we made new plans. The two  friendly Aussie retirees had a metal winch on board, so why not winch it out?

Ah well. Obviously the winch hasn’t been in use very often. Otherwise the broken bolt could have been detected earlier… once again we tied everything together somehow in a crazy manner, even the robust 10 meter snatches that already got ripped by us before, the 20 meter steel rope from the winch, another 10 meter snatch, and put our LandCruiser in front with another snatch. And tried again:

We did it! After 20 hours, a lot of digging, lots of equipment and a couple hundred horsepowers we pulled the goddamn Nissan out of the dirt! Imagine how happy we were … after all we thanked our rescuers and continued to Israelite Bay.

We found our former road angels, returned the equipment, inflated our tyres again and then .. no comment. Looking while driving backwards would have helped. 😉

The only sign in a 50km radius - and what does he do just after being recovered? :)

The only sign in a 50km radius - and what does he do just after being recovered? 🙂

We took a swim at Israelite Bay to wash away the crusts of dry mud and even saw a ray swimming along. After that we had no intention to stay any longer, but instead made our way out of this place – still a looooong way to go to Esperance.

We separated from the Nissan team near Cape Arid and searched our spot for the night which was Thomas Fishery Bay. After searching for some time we came to a steep rocky slope that did not look easy in the dark, but we made it down there very carefully and found the campsite.

April 18, 2011

After waking up we realized how close the Pacific actually was to our campsite – probably 20 meters?

We hurried out since the sky was cloudy. If the rocky slope from the night before would become wet, we would not make it out anymore.

We arrived when it was still perfectly dry, and it was not a big issue, actually. Things look worse at night. 😉

That’s how the ride went:

After that we drove to Esperance, met the Nissan team again and decided to go into the Cape Le Grand National Park the next day. Therefore we made our way into Lucky Bay, a camping site in the park and stayed there for the night.

April 19, 2011

The weather had cleared to a blue sky and a warm sun greeted us. Let me just quickly anticipate that this day would be a remarkable one, in an unbelievably awesome place. We had heard attributes like „breathtaking“ every now and then for a lot of attractions in this country. This time it really was.

We started our day at Rossiter Bay:

The white sand, the turquoise to blue ocean and the blue sky made up for an incredible combination.

On our way back we had a good overview over Lucky Bay where had just stayed for the night:

Panorama view of Lucky Bay

Panorama view of Lucky Bay

This alone should make it clear how special this place is, don’t you think? Next was Thistle Cove. I’ll save my breath and just let the pictures speak for themselves:

This clip gives you a good overall impression as well:

The combination of granite, blue sea and the rough Pacific are really – this time – breathtaking.

Also breathtaking was the climb up Frenchmans Peak that we were about to absolve. The view from down below is already oh so promising:

The view from the top of this peak was just .. stunning. Look at it yourself:

Oh, and there’s a magnificent panorama, if you still don’t believe me. 🙂

Panoramic view from Frenchmans Peak

Panoramic view from Frenchmans Peak

Exhausted, but happy we made lunch at Hellfire Bay. There we also jumped into the water. A pristine beach made of powdery fine silicate sand, so fine that it makes squeaking sounds if you pull your foot over it. Incoming waves that sometimes just smack you right in the guts. What more can a place for a swim offer?

What a day. Back in Esperance both our teams drove together on the Great Ocean Drive, a nice scenic drive along the coast which is full of amazing rock formations and beaches. What a splendid landscape!

We finally separated as we intended to go up to Norseman and Kalgoorlie. After a few hours driving we found a good spot for the night and concluded an eventful and awesome day with some awesome burgers at the Dundas Rocks.

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