After a change in my Easter holiday plans, I found myself with leave booked but nowhere to go. So, a couple of calls later and I had a travelling mate, the intrepid Bushy (aka Dean).
We decided to take a 3, or 4, night jaunt out through the Wheatbelt region, looking for photo opportunities.
Day 1 saw us leave Perth early on Wednesday morning, heading southeast to Dryandra Woodlands, now a gazetted National Park. Dropping the van off in the camping spot at Congelin Campground, we then spent a couple of hours doing “Numbat spotting speeds”, i.e., about 15km/hr, around the park looking for wildlife. We were lucky to spot a Numbat almost straight away, sitting on the side of Marri Rd. I got a good view of it, but by the time I’d pulled over and pointed it out to Bushy, he only got a glimpse of its arse and wirey tail as it bounded off into the scrub. But, at least Bushy can now say he’s seen his 1st wild Numbat. We spent a few minutes trying to find him again but he was goneski.
Back in the car and we drive around some more, stopping a couple of times for a walk around the bush but alas no more Numbies, though we did spot a Kangaroo lazing in the morning sun and some birds, including a Wedge Tail Eagle who was very hard to photograph.
With the weather forecast ‘clearing’, we decided to leave Dryandra and instead spend our first night out at Yenyenning Lakes, about 100km northeast. En route to Yenyenning we spotted a fox just chilling in a paddock, and a couple of raptors, both of which caught mice as we were watching.
Taking the roads lesser travelled we arrived at Yenyenning at about 3pm, giving us plenty of time to set up and take a wander to plan our evening shots. The plan was to try some astro (star) photography at Yenyenning Lakes, using the dead trees in the salt lake as foreground props. However, what we failed to factor into our plans was the spectacular waxing gibbous moon, which was “bright as bro”, as it approached its fullness in a couple of days’ time – on Easter Sunday. This meant any shots of the Milky Way would be comprised by the light pollution from the moon. Anyways, we managed to get some nice shots of the old, now crumbling farmhouse and some sunset shots over the lake, before parking our arses near the campfire with a couple of Old Fashioned cocktails I whipped up. Ah the serenity, it doesn’t get much better than this…
Unfortunately, my serenity was foiled at about 1:30 am that morning as my guts advised me of an impending and rather urgent need to crap – sorry, there’s just no nice way of writing this bit. So, it was out with the camp dunny, the fantastic EzyGoAnywhere unit, where I did my business under the beautifully clear, star-filled night with not a soul around, other than Bushy who was snoring away in his swag, oblivious to the peaceful and relieving experience I was having.
After some tricky caravan reversing the next morning, we pulled out of Yenyenning and headed south, 1st stop Tutanning Nature Reserve. Unfortunately, despite being a nice area, we saw diddly squat in Tutanning, not even birds. It’s a large reserve, and we only drove (slowly) through the top end of it, but we failed to see anything photo-worthy, though I expect this place holds many secrets and cool things to shoot given time and the right conditions.
From Tutanning, we again followed the back roads, down through to Wickepin where we soon learnt was the homeplace of Albert Facey, famous and fabulous author of “A Fortunate Life” – look it up and read it if you haven’t. We also ran into a couple who’d lovingly restored and were now driving their vintage Ford from Perth to Esperance.
From Wickepin we drove out through Dumbleyung, then down to Pingrup where we visited the fantastic silo art – well worth a look.
Then off to our stop for the night, the Silver Wattle Nature Reserve, about 50kms northeast of Pingrup. Another tight track into the campsite, but I managed to get the van safely into the clearing where, once again, we were the only people for miles. This made it easy to have a quick outside shower, using the hot water and external shower on the Goldy – no shower tents required.
Unfortunately, being a nature reserve that was heavily wooded, there were signs everywhere stating ‘no fires – you will be prosecuted’, so we had to find something else to keep us busy that night and the UV torch was it! Wandering the tracks with the UV torch revealed over 30 scorpions, some tiny at about 5mm up to the largest which was about 40mm long. It’s amazing to see these guys totally light up fluro green under the purple UV light. Day 2 is done.
A heavily overcast morning greeted us on day 3, but we were soon doing a Willie Nelson (on the road again) and headed up the back roads to Newdegate, stopping to take pics along the way.
Another side effect of our trip falling over the Easter weekend is that I’d forgotten that pubs were closed on Easter Friday (today) and I’d planned on checking out and camping at Munty Pub, in Muntadgin. So with no overnight camp selected, we decided to head up to Hyden, do a quick pic of Wave Rock and then decide our next move and campsite whilst we had Internet in town. Pulling into the Wave Rock car park, I noticed a strange, oily smell as I got out of the car and after some quick inspection we spotted a slow oil drip underneath the engine on the passenger’s side… Bugger. We did the quick Wave Rock trail and then headed the short distance into Hyden where it was less busy to take a proper look at this oil leak.
Pulling over in the Information Bay in town, we were unable to detect the source of the leak, but we suspect it was maybe the brake/clutch system and fluid. A couple of calls and an hour later and we had the local mechanic, the town’s RAC representative, attend who then advised “You’ve done the front diff mate”. Fuck, bugger, shit. He did however point out that he thought it had only ‘just happened’ as the oil was clear, with no dust in it. We’d just driven over 100kms of dirt roads, with just the last 15 or so kms on the bitumen, so I’m hoping he’s right and we’ve caught it early before any real damage has occurred.
A bunch more phone calls and I was beginning to get worried as my Fleetplus roadside assistance wasn’t going to cover the full tow of the car and caravan home, 340kms distant, and I was being quoted around $2200 to get home. It was sorted eventually, however, as I managed to get RAC to pay for my car tow home under my personal Roadside Assistance policy and their ‘recover a vehicle’ clause. This just left me and Bushy, carless, camped up in the Hyden Information Bay for the night. But, I knew I had friends for a reason and another phone call and I’d arranged for Rod and BJ to travel out the 340kms on Saturday to pick us and the caravan up. Thanks boys, bloody legends.
All in all a great and enjoyable trip. Hopefully, the car will be repaired under warranty as it’s only a couple of years old and has done less than 35,000kms. We’ll find out on Tuesday when the repairers open up again after the Easter Break.