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Bill Leithhead's WA Trip Diary
Segment 10 - Days 53 to 57 - Bunbury tour then to Margaret River then Walpole/Nornalup
© William G. Leithhead 2006

Day 83    Friday, October 5th, 2001
Touring day in Bunbury

Bunbury beach and lighthouse
The distinctive chequered lighthouse at Bunbury.
This morning dawned fine but very windy in Bunbury. We dropped in a prescription and another film for processing, and phoned the office of the local paper, the South Western Times, and arranged to meet the editor, Jenni Storey. We found the street and showed her the photos of the burning car, and told her what we knew. She asked for a price, so I said "thirty dollars", and so she offered some ASA400 Kodak films, at which she gave us a free dozen 12-exposure Kodak Max worth about $72 retail. So that was nice! She'll post back the originals plus a copy of the newspaper. Not a bad day's work! "Bill Leithhead, intrepid journalist."

Basalt columns at Bunbury beach
These basaltic columns on the beach at Bunbury are very unusual for this part of Australia.
Off we drove to Collie, a coal-mining town about 50km inland. Arriving there after a drive through engagingly beautiful pastures and forests (including pine plantations - the first we've seen in WA) we found that modest town and struck off south towards Mumballup, via the Glen Mervyn dam, a modest waterway much used for water-skiing. Soon after this, around about the town of Mumballup, we stopped to photograph wildflowers, finding such a profusion that we shot almost another whole film.

Toilets at Donnybrook
Whimsical names on the toilets at a fruit shop in the apple-growing region of Donnybrook.
After travelling now westwards towards the apple town of Donnybrook, we stopped for lunch off the side of the road, and found another slightly different range of flora, including a series of orchids we have so far seen only rarely, or not at all. These were all very photogenic, so click went the camera yet again. Happily, we went home, submitted the film, rested, found these photos to be very good, had steak and veg for tea, and off to bye-byes.

Tomorrow we head off further south to Busselton and the Margaret River region.

Day 54    Saturday, October 6th, 2001
Bunbury to the Margaret River region

Road through Tuart forest
Road south of Bunbury through the Tuart forests in the Ludlow region.
A fierce breeze buffeted our caravan all night and this morning, although it wasn't cold. We drove south down the Bussel Highway towards Busselton via a very scenic road through the Ludlow Tuart Forest. These are enormous trees, and the only ones surviving agriculture are mainly in the national parks.

Cape Naturaliste lighthouse
Cape Naturaliste lighthouse, west of Busselton.
Busselton is another pleasant town, but we simply shopped at a bakery for our favourite bread rolls, and moved on west to Dunsborough, a lovely holiday region on the coast of Geographe Bay. Pushing on, we had lunch in the van at Cape Naturaliste, the most westerly point in this region, after which toured the lighthouse and went for a walk and photo shoot in the wind-sculpted coastal scrub. We felt wind-sculpted, too!

Arum Lilies in paddocks
Paddocks riddled with toxic Arum Lilies in the Dunsborough region. These are a major weed in some areas of WA.
Further down the road we noticed many paddocks with thousands of arum lilies growing wild in them; apparently these are quite a problem in parts of WA, and they are poisonous to livestock.

Next, we drove down the west coast via Caves Road, which passes through Yallingup, where we skipped the famous caves but photographed the beach there, south towards Canal Rocks. It's a beautiful and popular surfing area, busy with cars and people.

Bill at Yallingup
Bill settles onto a rock to enjoy the view of the famous Yallingup surfing beaches.
Further along, we traversed lightly-wooded country, grazing pastures and a multitude of wineries, which we intend to tour tomorrow. We settled in at the delightful Gracetown Caravan Park near Cowaramup, just north of the actual town of Margaret River.

Resting at this delightful, grassy van park, we went for a bush walk within the grounds of the van park after Glenyce did a load of washing. We found hundreds of bright yellow Cowslip Orchids, pink and purple Pink Enamel Orchids in their dozens, plus quite a few other kinds of flowers. We were thrilled to see our first Pink Enamel Orchids yesterday near Collie, but this place just knocked our socks off.

After one of Glenyce's specialty chicken and pasta dishes followed by bread and jam, we read, wrote and slept, ready to see what the morrow will bring.

Day 55    Sunday, October 7th, 2001
First day touring around Margaret River, Augusta and Cape Leeuwin

Augusta estuary
The charming estuary at Australia's most south-westerly town, the holiday resort of Augusta, where the Blackwood River flows lazily into the Southern Ocean.
Today was a perfect day - about 25°C, slight breeze, little cloud. We travelled south towards the town of Augusta, and beyond it to the most south-westerly point of Australia, Cape Leeuwin, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. Strangely, they're the same colour! Built here is a proud, upstanding lighthouse of white limestone, which we toured.

Cape Leeuwin lighthouse
Cape Leeuwin lighthouse at Australia's most south-western point, where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean. Named after a very early Dutch explorer, this area is littered with shipwrecks.
Cape Leeuwin is a dangerous cape, peppered with many rocks, and many wrecks have occurred there. The tour was informative and enjoyable, with yet another 360° panorama to be photographed. It is high, but Glenyce and I were the first behind the guide climbing up, as we also were for the Jewel Cave tour we did later on. Not bad for a couple of non-spring-chickens!

View north from Cape Leeuwin
TView north towards the mainland from Cape Leeuwin, which is on a promontory, with the Indian Ocean at left, Southern ocean at right.
So we stood at the juncture of two oceans, and phoned our friends in the "eastern states", had a picnic lunch, did some sight-seeing, admired the beautiful blue-green waters and the characteristically-sloping granite rocks of the southern WA coast, and generally enjoyed our role as tourists.

Travelling back north up the Caves Road in a more leisurely fashion, we looked in at the recommended best cave, the Jewel Cave. There were only a dozen of us, but the guide led us deeply underground to a cave that has only been discovered since 1957, initially reached by a vertical hole from the ground above, then 12m down through that hole to the roof, in a huge cavern which drops further down some 42m below the surface.

Hole in roof of Jewel Cave
View upwards through the hole 12m below the forest floor through which the Jewel Cave was discovered in 1957. The hole comes from where a gum tree grew down and then rotted.
The limestone here is particularly white, and low in mineral stains (usually due to iron salts), and we enjoyed the tour through a series of chambers with lighting installed to show us the calcite formations.

Straw stalactites in Jewel Cave
Jewel Cave posses some of the world's longest examples of "straw" formations which are hollow tubes of calcite formed as limestone-laden water drips from the roof in undisturbed conditions.
Clambering down 400 stairs, we observed and photographed many excellent examples of the characteristic limestone cave formations, such as stalactites, stalagmites, shawls, organ pipes, huge columns, bridal-veil-like formations, and the more unusual structures such as straws (hollow stalactites) and the helictites, the twisted, contorted stalactites that appear to defy gravity by growing sideways and upwards.

Boyanup Karri forest
Karri forest near Boyanup forms a natural cathedral, inducing a hushed and reverent feeling.
Jewel Cave phallus
Yet again Mother Nature has her little joke with another phallic shape deep underground.
The guide switched off all the lights so we could feel the almost palpable, inky, eery blackness in the heart of the earth and it was a relief whan they came on again!

On our way home we called in at the Boyanup State Forest to see our first examples of karri trees, which are truly enormous, very high, handsome, pale and almost shining forest giants of a dimension which is staggering to behold. To see such huge, living objects as these is a very sobering experience, and I feel grateful that they have been preserved for posterity, although they're still being logged further southeast from here, which we'll see in due course.

Further along we dropped in to the Margaret River Venison Farm and bought some meat so we can have what I jokingly called "Bambiburgers" for tea, which we found very tasty. So, here we are again, ready for bed after yet another happy, successful day.

Day 56    Monday, October 8th, 2001
Second day touring around Margaret River region

Awakening to grey skies and drizzle, we breakfasted, Glenyce did some washing, and we headed off. Bill's back was very sore, so it's strong pain killer time.

Through the light rain we drove south to the Lake Cave. We needed yesterday's ticket for the Jewel Cave to gain entry here, but forgot them. But we talked our way in anyway, just to view an exhibition, which was very good. We could also see down the huge collapsed cave entrance (a "dolline"), but we chose not to go down into the cave, as there were too many steps for Bill's back, especially considering the hundreds of steps involved in yesterday's lighthouse and cave explorations.

Voyager Estate
Voyager Estate winery, Margaret River region.
Hungry, we drove towards the town of Margaret River, passing wineries, one of which we chose to visit, namely, "Voyager Estate".

We enjoyed the samples of wine, of course, and decided to eat there in the restaurant in this very beautiful Cape Dutch architecture originating in South Africa. Prices were up a bit, but anyway we went the whole hog - main dishes at $27-50, which is expensive for us! And two glasses of beautiful cabernet sauvignon merlot red at $8-50 per glass. And a dinky little hot bread loaf to dip into a saucer of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And a serve of steamed vegetables with a bright orange chilli-laden creamy sauce. And coffee: total $88!! Ooer!

Voyager Estate meal
This is a caption to go underneath an image
But the quality of the food was very high, and worth it on such an occasion. Glenyce had pink lamb with garlicked mushroom and potatoes. Bill had saddle of beef - medium rare -with mushrooms. These and their gravies were utterly delectable and quite an experience.

Waddling out through the gardens of the estate, a very colourful formal style incorporating striking yellow roses called "Golden Celebration" and a deep red tea-tree with deep red-coloured foliage, we passed a huge flagpole with an Australian flag whose dimensions could start to rival the flagpole above Parliament House in Canberra, after which we esconced ourselves into our car and drove to Margaret River.

Here we banked our car loan repayment in the Westpac bank and looked into the Hemp Shop. After a lot of humming and hahing, Bill persuaded Glenyce to buy the hemp jeans that she'd been admiring. She deserves it!

Then we moved up to the Margaret River Cheese Factory, but were a bit disappointed - just camembert, brie and cheddar of modest quality. Further up the road we found Fonti's Farm Cheese factory - same outfit, apparently. Here we bought a bit of older cheddar/havati, and will try it at home.

Further on, we visited the Margaret River Chocolate Factory, sampled what we could, but were put off by the high prices.

Coming full circle around to our little home, we unpacked, and lay on our beds after a few chores, and slept on and off until about 7pm - we were that tired! Might have been all those steps yesterday and the food and wine today. Oh well!

Oh! - I forgot to add that we bought some wine from Voyager Estate; 2 bottles Cab. Sav. Merlot at $38 each; 1 bottle Chardonnay at $28; 3 bottles of Chenin Blanc at $18-50 per bottle. We are working to a budget, so didn't go overboard on the wines.

Tea and off to bed!

Day 57    Tuesday, October 9th, 2001
Margaret River to Walpole

Gloucester Tree
The famous 60m tall Gloucester Tree near the timber town of Pemberton, with a special ladder of steel spikes for the public to climb to a little hut on top. We wonder what their insurance premium is?
A fine overcast day greeted us as we rose early and left the west coast, pushing south-east at last. We picked up films at Margaret River, and shopped in this nice little town, then south to Karridale through verdant farmland and vineyards, and thence east to Nannup, where the garage owner suggested we skip the Bridgetown-Manjimup leg - too hilly, so we pushed down the Vasse Highway towards Pemberton through increasingly forested country, with some stands of karri trees.

At one spot we stopped and photographed wildflowers industriously, then again a bit, and very little later on through the bigger forest country as it was raining on and off. At Pemberton we were surprised that the only van park was full, and looked in at a Karri Display Centre, which was interesting but rather decrepit.

View from Gloucester Tree
Bill's view from the Gloucester Tree after he timidly climbed up as far as he dared. Glenyce (in blue) watches anxiously from below.
We did view the Gloucester Tree, a large tree with a ladder consisting of 153 large spikes driven in as a spiral around its huge 60m trunk, with a little hut away up at the top. Bill nervously climbed a very little way up for a photo. We wondered how much was their public liability insurance!

Deciding to drive on down to Walpole/Nornalup, on the south coast, 90km away, we explored a long, forested drive with many winding sections along it. In the tall forest there was a continuous understory of wattle in bloom, and white-flowered ti-tree or myrtle-like (leptospermum-like) trees bordered the way among the larger trees which are probably peppermint or jarrah, with some karri.

We settled nicely into the Coalmine Beach caravan park, Walpole, and will tour the area tomorrow and possibly longer. There is the lovely big Nornalup Inlet, and forest drives to travel.

© William G. Leithhead 2006