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Bill Leithhead's WA Trip Diary
Segment 9 - Days 47 to 52 - Perth Day 7 to Mandurah tour then to Bunbury
© William G. Leithhead 2006

Day 46    Saturday, September 29th, 2001
Seventh day touring around Perth

After a night of gales and heavy rain the weather showed signs of abating, as forecast, but we no sooner took off in the late morning for a look at the elusive Araluen, in the nearby Darling Ranges, than the heavy, grey clouds rolled in with a vengeance as we navigated our way carefully through Perth and due southeast.

Our path lay through suburbs redolent of the Melbourne suburbs of Bayswater, Croydon, etc, that is, mainly residential, nicely gardened, but with large numbers of car sales-yards, bulk appliance and furnishing stores plus their various hangers-on. Glenyce did a sterling job of navigation via the Albany and Brookton Highways, and we found our way to Araluen Botanical Park by midday. Sadly, it was pouring rain, and we hesitated before driving into an extensive garden area with tulips (clapped-out), roses (coming) and many other exotics and natives, all beautifully landscaped.

Tentatively entering the Araluen Chalet, we found the food prices a little more than we originally planned; nevertheless, we had a roast dinner (Glenyce) and creamy chicken (Bill), plus a glass of wine, and then coffee. All this time it poured rain. By this time I had had enough, but Glenyce was keen to see more of the ranges, and so we did another nice tour of the ranges under her expert navigation. Didn't get lost once!

Up through Guildford we went but it was still raining cats and dogs. My back and leg had me at screaming point, so after the drive in the rain I was glad to buy the paper and sag onto the bed. Then a light tea and sleep. We booked in for another night as the weather is still poor.

We heard later that there had been a mini-tornado (called a Cockeyed Bob in these parts) in Armadale, one of the southeastern suburbs through which we drove yesterday and again today, and it damaged several dozen houses out there.

Day 48    Sunday, September 30th, 2001
Eighth day touring in Perth

Today is our last day in Perth before we go south, and the weather has settled down a bit to scudding clouds, some grey banks of them that come to light showers occasionally, and it is quite a bit warmer.

After a light lunch at home we tour the Swan River Valley, trying not to get lost. In this we were reasonably successful, and found the tour to be quite a pretty drive, with many wineries, and obviously an emphasis on restaurants, taverns and devonshire teas. We drove east to Caversham, north along Swan Road, up through West Swan, Healey Brook, crossing the Swan River to follow it down its eastern bank via the Great Northern Highway southwards through Herne Hill, Middle Swan to Midland, which is a large suburban-provincial commercial and community centre. We puddled around a bit with Glenyce map-reading and Bill getting uncharacteristically neurotic in the traffic through tricky roads with rather poor signage that we have come to love and hate!

Glenyce was interested in looking in the various antique shops scattered in Guildford (founded 1829), and Bill needed a walk to ease the back pain. We toured these establishments with mixed feelings - Glenyce becoming increasingly disgusted with the low quality of the goods in the tatty old shops, and Bill gloating a bit with a strong sense of schadenfreude at the unbelievable concatenations of smelly old kischy junk displayed obscenely throughout these dumps of shops, which only served to consolidate his skepticism of most places offering "antiques", "collectibles" and "bric-a-brac". This, of course, was rather unfair of him, as he has enjoyed some such visits in the past. But not this time!

After a good lie down and cheese, crackers and sherry followed by tea of grilled steak and vegetables, we settled in for a good sleep to the rumbling of thunder.

Day 49    Monday, October 1st, 2001
Perth to Mandurah

As the warm and humid day developed we at last pulled up stakes and left Perth, perhaps forever!? We're glad to be on our way, and the travelling was short - aiming for Mandurah but reaching beyond to Dawesville, actually.

As is our habit, south of Fremantle we were again bamboozled by road signage, but finally got to Kwinana, an industrial and port region beyond which lay Garden Island, a large naval base. The latter is connected to the mainland by a large concrete bridge so new that it's not on our maps. However, this goes to HMAS Stirling, the naval base, and is inaccessible to tourists, especially with the heightened security after the New York attack recently!

Safety Beach
Safety Beach, where Bill yachted once, as a child.
Rockingham is the nearby town, and this is a pretty little holiday area (not so little, really), which circles around to Safety Bay, out from which there is an inviting chain of rocky islets. Bill remembers holidaying here sometime in the late 1940s, and going for a yacht trip out to them across the calm, blue-green waters of Safety Bay.

After a short period of being lost again, we motored past Golden Bay, Singleton, Madora and San Remo towards Mandurah on the Peel Inlet, passing one after another of developing housing/holiday units. These are close enough to Perth to live in, since commuters would be less than an hour from Perth city.

Mandurah is a very pretty place with its beautiful estuary, bridge, marinas, and a highly-developed holiday resort character with very many resort buildings and so on. Unfortunately the only caravan park on the water's edge turned out to be defunct, in redevelopment, so we decided to push on to an unknown (to us), region of Dawseville some 20km south, on the coast, where there is a man-made channel (the Dawseville Cut) incised westwards from the estuary across to the Indian Ocean. Throughout this region there is extensive housing development going on, and after the usual slightly lost episode we found the Yalgorup Eco Park, which is on the water's edge (well - 100m), and is being developed from a run-down state, and is very nice. The area is called Melros, but we didn't see a township.

Beach at Yalgorup Eco Park
Indian Ocean viewed from the lookout near the caravan park at Yalgorup Eco Park.
After lunch and a rest we went for a walk to the sand dunes and beach via an interesting timber lookout, then down to the ocean edge, which is surf and sand with a few scattered rock ledges. Owing to the wet, windy weather lately, there is a lot of washed-up seaweed, cuttlefish shells, and so on, plus the typical sea-weedy smell of that debris.

Back up through the dunes we slogged, arriving home slightly exhausted after the walk, which did us a lot of good, really. The ocean breeze certainly blows away the cobwebs of the mind! Glenyce is feeling better, and Bill is hopeful that he can get on top of his back pain and so on. We figure out that we're probably healthier touring at a moderate pace, with new horizons, than being in a city like Perth for too long, especially with bad weather.

Tomorrow we figure we'll look at Mandurah and stay in this region for perhaps 2 or 3 days, then go to Bunbury or somewhere and see what we can see. So tonight we write our diaries and look forward to a good early night's sleep.

Day 50    Tuesday, October 2nd, 2001
First day touring around Mandurah

Mandurah bridge
Bridge over the Peel Inlet at Mandurah. Bill spent happy nights fishing from here as a boy. Good for tailor, cobblers and kingies.
Today has been a perfect sunny day about 24°C, and after some maintenance chores - namely, draining and refilling the water tank to remove some unknown bad taste from Perth, we pushed back up the road to Mandurah. to Bill, it tasted a bit like weedkiller - which was a bit of a worry, and we don't know how it got there! The town was abuzz with people, as this is the first day of the school holidays.

After collecting pamphlets from the information centre, we at short notice jumped onto a small bus disguised as a tram, for a 45min "tram" tour, complete with clanging bell. This showed us around the newer and older parts of Mandurah. The development occurring is astonishing, hundreds of millions of dollars being involved in houses, canals, resort buildings, a huge marina and so on. This area might eventually rival the Gold Coast in design, luxury and appeal to all pockets.

Mandurah children's pool
Attractive, protected ocean swimming area for children near the entrance to the Peel Inlet, Mandurah. It was a bit cool this day!
It's a far cry from the Mandurah I remember from my childhood Christmas holidays with my family, where I learned to fish with handlines in a hired rowing boat on this very estuary, and I hope they can can do it without mistakes (unlike Surfers), as the natural beauty of the area is unique. The Peel Estuary is exceedingly beautiful, and extensive - very much like the Swan River regions. Let's hope it's not ruined by high-rise, sewage and eutrophication!

After a café lunch we drove further back up to Rockingham and Safety Bay to take photos that we could have taken yesterday, but didn't! We enjoyed our drive, and bought some excellent fruit and vegetables from a roadside stall. After buying fresh fish and very welcome icecreams at Mandurah, we went home, rested, drained and refilled the water tanks again, had grilled snapper and salad plus strawberries.

We had a nice walk to the beach together in the dark, and both feel much better than we have been, so we'll book in for one more day at least.

Day 51    Wednesday, October 3rd, 2001
Second day touring around Mandurah

Bridge across the massive Dawseville Cut
Road bridge across the impressive Dawseville Cut linking the inner reaches of the Peel Inlet with the Indian Ocean.
Again an absolutely superb day, sunny and warm with a slight breeze. An earlier start saw us immediately get lost finding the nearby town of Dawseville, which is nice if you like estuary fishing, water skiing, yachting, and other water activities.

Reaching Mandurah, we toured about, taking photos of the estuary area, then Bill was neurotic enough to need an early lunch, which we had in the park on the Mandurah waterfront. There were hordes of people everywhere having a great time.

After icecreams, we drove inland towards the Darling Ranges, which string down this far from Perth. We went to North Dandelup, a hamlet 25km inland, and up a gravel path to a "Goldmine Hill". The soil is red and gravelly, and bauxite (for aluminium) is mined nearby and refined at Kwinana, (I think).

Glenyce at Goldmine Hill
Glenyce enjoying the flowered-filled surrounding bush at Goldmine Hill, North Dandelup.
Up this gravel road we ventured to some private property areas, and took a walk through the unique forest full of banksia, dryandra, some eucalypts (Tuart?), grasstrees, macrozamia palms, and innumerable shrubs, creepers and the like, in which assorted wildflowers grew prolifically but not thickly - no massed displays here, but a wide assortment of little jewels and gems of flowers ranging from the white and pink trigger plants (Stylidiums) in the gravel, to orchids of several kinds, to yellow buttercup-like hibbertias, various forms of melaleucas, blue dampiera, grevillea, and the outstandingly beautiful Leschenaultia biloba in their sky-blue magnificence, all surrounded by millions of sundews (Drosera) with their glistening green to red insectivorous leaves. Some of these latter are showing their pretty white flowers which we've seen hitherto only in books.

We stopped for picnic tea and wandered up a trail to a steep hill (Goldmine Hill) on which is a caged old mine shaft some 7 m deep. I wonder how much gold they found?

View from Goldmine Hill
Late afternoon view westwards towards the Indian Ocean from Goldmine Hill.
Thoroughly enjoying the delightful silvan view to the west, where the Indian Ocean glinted on the horizon as a silver ribbon, we went south towards Pinjarra but gradually realized that we were lost again and on apparently on the road to Dwellingup, a timber town. Along the way we called in to the South Dandelup Dam, which is quite large, like the Upper Yarra dam in Victoria, but is starkly less than half full, with the red-orange banks of bauxite-laden soil exposed like raw wounds. Dwellingup is a pretty little town, after which we went westward to Pinjarra, another old timber town. The paddocks are extremely lush, but few cattle are visible. What do they do with all that grass?

Then via Ravenswood we made our way to Mandurah and encoutered what seemed to be peak-hour traffic. As we had some shopping to do, we went a little south of Mandurah to a place called Miami, buying bread, supermarket supplies, and some grilled flake (called shark here, which of course it is) and chips which we swiftly conveyed home to Yalgorup to be devoured with salad and strawberries. Delicious!

Since we are to leave tomorrow, it was a long-overdue occasion for taking stock of all our maps and literature so that all from territory thus travelled are packed away and only those for the southwest and our trip home east (in due course) are out to be used. We had a good time here and we were fortunate to find the flowers that we did today. But we do make that effort and try hard to look for things. Today we took another two whole films.

Day 52    Thursday, October 4th, 2001
Mandurah to Bunbury

Today was again a beautiful day, so we packed up for the drive down to Bunbury, about 100km due south. So we were driving along the pretty Bunbury Highway, with eucalypt and banksia forest bordering our route.

Car fire 1
TCar on fire on roadside near Myalup.
Suddenly, more than half way there, I saw smoke and flames just off the road ahead, and we passed a car on fire! Stopping well clear, I grabbed the camera and started snapping. The occupants, a man and a woman with three small children, one in a pusher, had apparently been driving along when their car caught fire in or under the boot. They all jumped out OK and were standing by helplessly as the car burned furiously. They saved their mobile phone and a pusher - that's all!

Australind paddocks
Melaleuca trees grow well in the these soggy flower-filled paddocks near Australind.
They told us that they lost everything in it - clothes, toys, the whole lot, and it wasn't insured. They were strangely casual about it all and refused any help, waiting for a lift to Perth from a friend who was coming up for them from Bunbury. The fire brigade didn't arrive for at least 45min, and even then just played a weak hose on it, ineffectually, until a bigger fire truck came along with some foam, then finally the police. Meanwhile, during all this time, cars and buses just kept driving past the burning wreck, notwithstanding the copious clouds of choking black smoke and fumes!

Bunbury lookout tower
Lookout tower above the city of Bunbury.
I got some great photos, which we had developed today, and I will see the local paper to see if they are interested in them. It was quite exciting, but very sobering, and Glenyce at times had been very worried about my safety, quite rightly screaming at me to come back in case it exploded. I knew I was OK because the plastic petrol tank had melted slowly, dribbling the petrol all over the road, where it burned in a controlled way.

Bunbury city
The colourful buildings of Bunbury, viewed from the Lookout Tower.
After this we plodded on down through a scenic drive through the quaint town of Australind via Leschenaultia Inlet - all very green and pleasant country, and we entered Bunbury over the surprisingly large Collie River. Bunbury is the second-largest town in WA and is very impressive, pleasant and agreeable. We parked the van on a site in Koombana Bay Resort, toured the town beaches, took photos from a high lookout, admired the design of the many new building being built there, and shopped.

After a chicken and veg tea at home we picked up the films, and toured Victoria St. in the centre of town, which the locals call the "Cappuccino strip", and was chock-a-block with cars that seemed to be just cruising slowly through the teaming crowds. At home, we sorted stuff out in the van, and went to bed. It's a bit colder tonight.

© William G. Leithhead 2006