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Bill Leithhead's WA Trip Diary
Segment 13 - Days 69 to 75 - Hyden to Esperance Day 5
© William G. Leithhead 2006

Day 69    Sunday, October 21st, 2001
Wave Rock, Hyden to Hopetoun

Last night it poured rain from about 3am this morning. Nevertheless, we left Wave Rock, heading east then south, and apart from a series of showers during the day, and dramatic clouds, it wasn't bad; periods of sunshine came and went, and our jumpers went on and off!

Grevillea excelsior
Grevillea excelsior trees lined the roads as we drove.
Featherflower Verticordia species shrubs grow widely in WA.
As we travelled down the road through Varley to Lake King, we encountered exciting patches of wildflowers, and these continued through Ravensthorpe to Hopetoun. Prominent were the extensive stands of Flame Grevilleas (Grevillea eriostachys) lining parts of the road, plus a profusion of different whites, pinks, orange, red, brilliant yellows, and the everpresent Dampieras, plus yellow, pink and white featherflowers (Verticordia species).

Royal Hakea
Mt Barren dominates the landscape, with colourful Royal Hakea shrubs (foreground) unique to the area.
At Lake King we bought petrol through a slot machine via Visacard, as the store was closed and deserted. This was new for us. The town seemed to barely exist, it was so spread out and hidden. There were also extensive chains of salt lakes along the road, some of them with quite a lot of water in them. The country became less dry, with more pasture and wheat and so on.

Ravensthorpe is an old gold and copper mining town - no mines working now - and it looks a bit of a dump, although I'm sure the residents don't think so. The road down to Hopetoun, on the coast, was pretty with banksia, heath and many other wildflowers.

Hamersley Inlet
In the shadow of a gathering storm, Glenyce tests the tannin-coloured waters at Hamersley Inlet, Fitzgerald National Park.
Settling into the van park, we then toured Hamersley Road through the Fitzgerald National Park, a long, gravel, corrugated road through pretty country a bit like the Stirling Ranges. We photographed Royal Hakea (Hakea victoria), and a variety of new flowers as dramatic clouds lowered over dramatic craggy peaks. One brilliant find was a vivid red Regelia velutina with exquisitely-sculpted fine grey-green leaves.

Hamersley Inlet was beautiful, and we enjoyed this day immensely. The Inlet was of interest to us indirectly in that Glenyce's maiden name is Hammersley (with 2 m's). However, the clouds cut off the light, foreshadowing rain, so we ate, wrote and slept, yet again.

Day 70    Monday, October 22nd, 2001
Hopetoun to Esperance

Last night it started blowing a gale, and early this morning it started raining very heavily with buffeting winds. So this morning we looked at the furious, wind-lashed sea, from the large groyne near the township, then we hooked on and went.

Ravensthorpe-Esperance rain on road
As we drive from Ravensthorpe to Esperance the heavy weather sets in. It was to last for 36 hours!
All day we drove east through extremely fierce wind-gusts and rain that at times was driving, sweeping and pelting strongly across the highway. We passed through what would have in better circumstances been attractive country, of flower-studded heathland and banksia woodland, combined with a lot of green-looking grazing land.

The car and van were being knocked around, and steering required extra effort and concentration. We had one of the most delicious pies we've had for a long time, bought at "Ravy's Country Kitchen", Ravensthorpe. They were plump, fresh, tasty, well-filled and delicious. (Sounds more like a woman than a pie!!)

We ate lunch, late, on the roadside just short of Esperance, marooned by the elements in our caravan, which was swaying and bouncing as the weather cuffed us about our ears as we struggled to get in and out of the car and caravan doors.

At Esperance, which is potentially beautifully (in good weather), and quite a large town, we settled in, slept and rested, shopped, and looked about in the wind and the rain. Then Bill slept some more while Glenyce prepared tea. We phoned home, and Bill did some photo-titling, and we settled in to beddie-byes with the caravan still swaying and the rain periodically lashing our cosy little aluminium cocoon. Please, sun, shine tomorrow!!

Day 71    Tuesday, October 23rd, 2001
First day touring around Esperance

Today was grey and rainy again, and Bill's back hurt him again a lot. This is getting bloody boring and a damn nuisance. What is he to do? Is there no end in sight?

City of Esperance from the town lookout, viewed on a good day.
We got five films developed, and spent the day just hanging around the van sleeping, reading, and the usual time-wasting activities. We believe Esperance to be a pretty place, but haven't seen much evidence of that, yet, because of the dismal weather.

This morning we decided to shift the van to a different orientation on a different spot, so that we can put up the annexe and have the door facing away from the weather.

Accordingly, we hooked on, and in doing so, Bill scraped the rear right mudguard against a steel post, and damaged the bodywork slightly. Incensed, he then started cursing, and promptly connected the van to shift it, and then took off with the power cord still attached, which parted the socket from its wires. After more cursing and pathetic attempts obliquely to blame Glenyce (completely unjustified!), he rewired the socket, erected the awning, and in high dudgeon and considerable pain, took to his bed! Talk about Keystone cops!

Later on, after a windy walk on the beach and a sherry and avocado with cheese, we had tea and settled down to a night of photo-titling and reading.

Then followed a somewhat fitful night's sleep to the spattering and drumming of the everpresent rain-showers and greyness of Esperance and Bill's mood. We even used the electric blankets!

Day 72    Wednesday, October 24th, 2001
Second day touring around Esperance

Again, the day dawned greyly with a cool breeze and overcast skies. We picked up films from the photo shop, and that gave us plenty to do tonight. Apart from that, Bill was again in pain and and depression, and partly slept, again, a lot of the day. Glenyce had a haircut yesterday and Bill had one today.

Esperance tanker jetty
The Esperance tanker jetty curves gracefully out into the bay. Bill learned to fish from here for mackerel and leatherjackets on Christmas holidays. It's amazing how he survived, as it's potentially quite hazardous for small boys!
After lunch we went to visit a local museum which inhabits a huge building which was previously a railway goods shed. In fact, the rails still run into it, and accomodate a large locomotive and carriages which are full of old stuff from the time of our youth and the years before.

In fact, we haven't laid eyes on a more comprehensive collection of old stuff as this Esperance museum, which is run by locals, some of whom we met.

You name it, it's here. There are bits and pieces from the whole of Esperances's history, including things from the pioneer days, goldmining, farming, both world wars, marine history, fishing, radio and so on. There are medals, clothing, fashion, kitchen and laundry implements, tools, books, engines and machinery and appliances of all sorts, medical displays, dental, pickled snakes and lizards and other exhibits, pictures of wildflowers, shipwrecks, schooldays, celebrations, aviation, even old computers, and the pièce de résistance is surely the tattered, fried bits of Skylab satellite which fierily descended hereabouts a few years ago.

So, after steak and mushies we settled down to a good sleep.

Day 73    Thursday, October 25th, 2001
Third day touring around Esperance

Esperance Town Beach
Esperance Town Beach, viewed towards the south from the Tanker Jetty.
Blue Haven Beach
Blue Haven Beach, one of the series of beautiful beaches south of the town. The beaches, sand and rocks really are this colour at Esperance!
Today yet again loomed grey, but gradually the clouds dissipated, and we managed to see the seaside. Bill's back was again, in a word, ratshit, but, dosed up, and with Glenyce's support, forbearance and patience, we did a tour.

But before that we walked along a long, long pier from which Bill fished 50 years ago, but now in the teeth of a biting, cold wind. But after a pleasant lunch of salad roll and bienenstick (our favourite German "bee-sting" pastry), we forged ahead to the tourist route. Before that, indefatigable Glenyce did another load of washing to match yesterday's.

Twilight Beach
The secluded Twilight Beach seemed to us to be the most idyllic beach of all!
Fourth Beach
TFourth Beach is yet another gem along the coast just south of Esperance towniship, just near the windfarm. Some of the offshore islands can be seen.
Travelling west from Esperance along the coast, we encountered a drive containing what must be the most beautiful beaches, bays and islands that we've ever seen. There were also serried ranks of wind turbines lining the coast just near the town. Fortunately, the sunshine drew out the gorgeous green-blue colours characteristic of the southern coastline, with the sparkling, white-fringed surf licked dangerously at the beautiful sloping coloured rocks which slide gracefully down into the sea around here. Beautiful indeed, but, yet again, multiple notices warned us of the constant danger from waves on rocks, and rips and currents on the invitingly pristine beaches.

We viewed the Pink Lake, which was actually blue, and trod on the salt, which unfortunately stank from the dead microorganisms in it. Then we had snapper for tea (aren't we spoiled!), did diaries and photos, and look forward to a blue day tomorrow so we can tour further.

Day 74    Friday, October 26th, 2001
Fourth day touring around Esperance

The day was a mixture of humid blue skies and then increasing overcast and winds with the humidity. Glenyce had a big cleanup and making of beds - Bill's mattress has developed a depressed spot, and the wood underneath is cracked, so a bit of rearrangement went on. Bill wrote some more photo titles, and we bought yet another album for all these bloody photos we keep on taking!

Bill also went to a doctor and got more analgesics - the doctor also offered some Valium, so we took it all. Glenyce is also finding some Celebrex helpful for her leg.

Prostrate Banksia
We saw this unusual Prostrate Banksia, which flowers close to the ground, at rustic Speddingup Wildflower Sanctuary. The displays were past their prime for this season, but we enjoyed the wander around.
After all that we pushed off for a tour, north, in the direction of Norseman, to the Gibson Soak Hotel, supposed to be a tourist attraction. It actually looks a bit of a dive, but when we tried to book for dinner, it was booked out! We also visited another "attraction", the Speddingup Flower Farm, which we thought is another take! A rickety old building with no-one in attendance welcomed us to acres of scrub which has obviously been past its prime this season, and we found no-one home and nothing new to photograph. So we took a good walk around and then skedaddled before someone appeared and tried to charge us for the privilege! We also visited Helm's Aboretum, which was similarly deserted and uninviting to us. Anyway, we had a nice drive in new territory, which looks just like the old territory!

After a nice tea, Bill wandered up to the Pier Hotel and played their piano for a couple of hours; my mother probably played there when I was a boy. The people eating probably enjoyed the music, but he couldn't tell. The manager liked it, and promised a free beer, but Bill left before he came across with that, so back to the van and beddie-byes!

Day 75    Saturday, October 27th, 2001
Fifth day touring around Esperance

Frenchman Peak
Frenchman Peak, so-named because of the cap-like rocks at the summit, with a hollow rock at the top large enough for functions such as weddings. We hope the guests are fit!
Lucky Bay
Lucky Bay is popular with campers, because water, toilets and hot showers are available.
We resolved to visit the Cape Le Grand National Park today, and in the face of threatening rain clouds, some of which rained, we went east for a round trip of 180km. from Esperance.

Initially traversing pleasant grazing lands, we reached the turnoff and shortly entered the area of interest ($3 per car for seniors), in rain, which settled down to a sky of blue with light clouds. 'Twasn't long 'ere we found wildflowers and a peculiar, conical mountain with a cap and a hole in the top: Frenchman Peak! Apparently they sometimes hold weddings up there, we were told.

Thistle Cove Glenyce
Glenyce taking in the colourful scenery at Thistle Cove.
Thistle Cove rocks
Like much of this region, the colours of the rocks at Thistle Cove are striking, but the dangerously sloping rock shelves around Esperance take their toll of the unwary every year.
Then we lunched at super lovely Lucky Bay, with stunning turquoise bays and sugar-white sand. The next stop was isolated Rossiter Bay, beautiful flowers, water, sand, rocks - the usual! All this is mainly gravel roads. We found some exciting patches of Leschenaulia formosa (bright orange-red) in the red gravel roadside, and deep red Kangaroo Paws in the low sandy heathy scrub. These are native here, but now widely used in gardens all over the country.

Next we clambered over huge rocks at rugged Thistle Cove, gazing at awe-inspiring waves washing dangerously up gently-sloping, slippery, granite rocks, sliding mercilessly in to the unforgiving sea. Beautiful!

Phallic rocks
At Thistle Cove, nature plays games with phallic rock forms.
Hellfire Bay
TThe strangely-named Hellfire Bay beach is beautiful and inviting.
A short hop took us to the strangely named Hellfire Beach, another serene paradise with cerulean blue waters and sand like snow. Finally we visited Cape Le Grand Beach with pure white beaches which look a mile wide, stretching westwards back to Esperance as far the eye can see. We had an exhilarating day and were slightly bemused at finding ourselves putting 3 more films in for development!

Dinner we had at the Pink Thai Restaurant. We had bought a bottle of Hellfire wine (memento of this arvo), didn't decide we didn't like it until we'd drunk it all, so bought a second, better chardonnay (Five Legs, Margaret River). The seafood Thai was superb, and Glenyce developed unrelenting hiccups from all the food and wine, so we went for for a long, slow, therapeutic drive around the attractively-lit docks area, the lookout, assorted suburbs, Bill giggling and Glenyce hiccuping, until we staggered back to the van and took to our beds poste haste, sleeping soundly with all that food, wine and medicine.

Bill's back was very sore, and Glenyce was in pain from Thistle Cove, where she fell over heavily from some hidden roots and rocks whilst we were scrambling up the steep hills through rugged rocks in the face of the constantly-clutching, prickly, low banksia bushes.

© William G. Leithhead 2006