A Travellerspoint blog

September 2017

Our first outing - Cervantes back to Burns Beach

Day 4 - the return trip

sunny 24 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

After a comfortable night's sleep, we decided to have a walk around Lake Thetis before heading for the Pinnacles and home. As with the last few days, the weather was fine and warm with little breeze, so the surface of the lake was quite still. The lake was not far from where we had stayed and had a variety of interesting wildflowers but the main focus is on the stromatolites which are found a short way along the walk. Stromatolites are 'living fossils', bulbous rocky lumps formed by the deposition of calcium by microbes which are a species of cyanobacteria. Fossils of stromatolites have been found in rocks dating back over 1 billion years, hence the 'living fossil' description. These strange objects are found in few places and in some locations are called thrombolites; the difference between the two is fine and technical and is not as significant as their mere existence (i.e., I do not really fully understand the difference, certainly not well enough to describe it!). The lake is shallow and the combination of this and the lack of wind made it possible to take some reasonable photos of the stromatolites. While approaching the stromatolites, we spotted a red-capped dotterel (or red-capped plover) which obliged us with some good poses. Both before and after seeing the stromatolites we saw a variety of wildflowers including several yellow tailflowers, new flowers for us.


Once we had completed our walk, we drove down the road about 15km to Nambung National Park, the primary attraction of which is the Pinnacles Desert. When we lived in WA, the general consensus was that the pinnacles had been formed by the accretion of limestone around ancient tree roots. However, on this visit we discovered that there are now different theories and I quote selectively from Wikipedia "..they formed as a result of a period of extensive solutional weathering...Focused solution initially formed small solutional depressions, mainly solution pipes, which were progressively enlarged over time resulting in the pinnacle topography."

Or another "..theory states that they were formed through the preservation of tree casts buried in coastal aeolianites [windblown sedimentation in English], where roots became groundwater conduits, resulting in the precipitation of..hard calcrete. Subsequent wind erosion of the aeolianite then revealed the calcrete pillars."

A third theory ".. suggests that plants played an active role in the creation of the Pinnacles, based on the mechanism that formed smaller “root casts” in other parts of the world. As transpiration drew water through the soil to the roots, nutrients and other dissolved minerals flowed toward the root—a process termed "mass-flow" that can result in the accumulation of nutrients at the surface of the root, if the nutrients arrive in quantities greater than that needed for plant growth. In coastal aeolian sands that consist of large amounts of calcium (derived from marine shells), the movement of water to the roots would drive the flow of calcium to the root surface. This calcium accumulates at high concentrations around the roots and over time is converted into a calcrete. When the roots die, the space occupied by the root is subsequently also filled with a carbonate material derived from the calcium in the former tissue of the roots, and possibly also from water leaching through the structures."

I think the second theory is the one with which we were familiar although perhaps in less scientific language. I still like this idea but have no scientific basis for my preference! The calcrete referred to is a form of limestone comprised of broken-down seashells "..from an earlier era that was rich in marine life.".

As we were coming to the end of the 4km drive around and through the Pinnacles Desert, we found a western grey kangaroo browsing on a parrotbush, unworried by passing cars.


As we drove from the Pinnacles towards Lancelin, we passed large areas which were thick with grass trees. The proper name for these is xanthorrhoea and one or more varieties grow in all Australian states and territories, other than the ACT. They used to be known as 'blackboys' as the plant and flowering stem were said to resemble an Aborigine standing with a spear. This is now politically incorrect so they are either called grass trees or balga (one of the Aboriginal names in WA) or, in South Australia, yakka, another Aboriginal name. The plants are slow growing but can live through fires, so many plants are hundreds of years old. As with many bush plants, the Aborigines have a number of uses for the flower shaft, nectar from the flowers and resin. Europeans also use the resin for a variety of purposes.


In Lancelin we stopped for drinks and a light snack before continuing homewards. Lancelin is a small town with the primary occupation being fishing and catching crayfish although it is becoming more popular with tourists, particularly as Perth continues to expand northwards. Lancelin was named after a French scientific writer when Captain Nicolas Baudin was exploring the area in 1801.

Posted by SteveJD 01:29 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Our first outing - Dongara to Cervantes

Day 3 - a long way round

sunny 27 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

We made an earlier start and drove to Mingenew where we called at the Visitor Centre to see what wildflower updates they had. They had nothing new but recommended Coalseam and said that wreath flowers were out at Pindar. A visitor said there were wreath flowers north of Morawa near a rock - not very precise but at least we had another 'target'.


These photos show the "Big Wheat", I presume, one of many 'Bigs' we shall see on our travels; a mural of stockmen adorning the wall of the local liquor store; quirky ornamentation outside the Visitor Centre and silhouette figures of a stockman with dogs and cattle opposite a rest stop on the edge of town.

We carried on out to River Bend in Coalseam Conservation Park and enjoyed marmalade sandwiches for (lateish) breakfast! We had a very pleasant amble along another part of the Irwin river and found carpets of yellow everlastings and signs of pinks and yellows coming through. Judith tried the toilets in the rest area and gave them a 5 star rating - better than many town toilets! The park has a great variety of plants and consequently holds significant value for several local aboriginal groups, with plants providing food and medicines. As at Miners, the cliffs show layers of rocks of varying ages - laterite from 40 million years ago; Victoria Plateau sandstone from 50 million years ago; Irwin River coal measures from 265 million years ago; High Cliff sandstone from 269 million years ago and Holmwood shale from 280 million years ago - if only rocks could talk, what a tale they could tell!.

The following photos are: Judith bending to the task of low level photography; flowers of the flannel bush (a variety of solanum); a white everlasting flower; an Australia Painted Lady butterfly; an oxalis flower; Steve trying to get a decent shot of some lovely bark on a eucalypt; a view along the river showing the stratification in the cliffs and, finally, a carpet of yellow everlastings.


Judith chose to do all of the driving today (ending up nearly 600km) and continued out to Pindar where we found the wreath flowers well signposted, about 10km out of town. They are most unusual and fascinating plants, a variety of leschenaultia. At their peak they form a wreath edged with red but most of the flowers we saw were in their earlier stages with less red. The plants are about 5cm high and up to 50cm in diameter. The flowers covered the roadside for about 200 metres either side of the road but nowhere else anywhere near. They do occur in other localities but the ones at Pindar seem to have been the first this year. The following pics give some idea of how the grow and what they look like:


Calling Pindar a 'town' is slightly misleading as it appeared to consist of a couple of houses and some grain silos. However, one of the houses was in much better condition and turned out to be the Pindar Guest House. After a fairly hot time finding and photographing the wreath leschenaultia, we needed refreshment and we were served some of the best scones with cream and jam and a delicious fruit juice - at prices below many Perth cafes. The building dates back to the beginning of the 20th century when a town was established, principally based around the former railway station. At that time, it was an hotel and the current owners apparently used to run a B & B but this became uneconomic so they just open in the wildflower season to serve Devonshire teas and the like. Certainly we were very pleased to find them open while we were there, even if Pindar is no longer a town, according to them as decides such things. The photos show the Guest House and the, rather weathered, coat of arms:


We took a circuitous route to reach Cervantes, passing through Mullewa and stopping north of Morawa to detour in search of other wreath flowers which had been reported to be in the area. One detour was to Canna, an interesting, if a little eccentric, settlement but with no sign of wreath flowers.


The other was to the War Rock which was of interest but had little in the way of wildflowers. War Rock gains its name from a legend from many years ago that a war occurred here between two aboriginal tribes with a shared boundary. The value of the rock was the gnamma (water) holes which occur on the rock dome. The photos show what I believe may be a surviving gnamma and some of the silhouette figures at the entrance showing aboriginal warriors and early European settlers.


We continued to Perenjori where, many years ago, I had driven out with Judith for a job interview. The community welcomed us with open arms but I was unable to accept the job offer which eventuated. The house which went with the job appeared unaltered and rather run-down and the town itself seemed to lack the spark that other country towns had shown, so it is probably as well that I could not accept the job offer. I walked along to the tourist office but this was closed "..due to lack of wildflowers."! As time was by now beginning to run away from us we then headed to Carnamah, Eneabba and, finally, Cervantes - two long gins and tonic helped settle us in. A long, tiring but most enjoyable day.

Posted by SteveJD 23:55 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Our first outing - still based at Dongara

Day 2

sunny 25 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

Before leaving Perth we had been told, and had read, that Coalseam Conservation Park was a likely spot for wildflowers as well as being of scenic interest so, after a good night's rest at the Old Mill Motel, we set off, driving through attractive open farming country. We stopped at a bridge over the Lockyer River which was mainly dry but surrounded by yellow wildflowers and several pieces of old farm machinery.


We continued along Coalseam Road and came across a flock of sheep being herded in our direction.


Once through this obstacle we continued to where the open country became much more craggy.


We then entered the park and headed for Fossil parking area. As we had arranged to meet our 'old' friend Davina in Geraldton, we had less time than the park deserves. The, almost dry, Irwin River flows through the park which was the site of the first mined coal in Western Australia and still seams of coal can be seen along with sandstones and other formations in the cliffs.


At this time, at Fossil, there were no 'carpets' of wildflowers but there were many patches of yellow everlastings among the trees and just a few white and pink everlastings beginning to show, as well as scatterings of other wildflowers some of which we have yet to identify.


The river was low enough for walking along the sand bed to explore the area. We didn't go as far as other visitors due to the lack of time and also my (Steve's) limited walking capability over uneven ground - good exercise though! Near the car park we spotted a couple of mulga parrots, new birds for us. We drove back and took a side road to the Lookout on the top of the cliffs for great panoramic views over the park.


We left Coalseam and, in case our third character is forgotten, Jetset accompanies us everywhere we go, on this occasion as we are leaving Coalseam Conservation Park.


We headed towards Geraldton stopping at Depot Hill Reserve for a quick light picnic lunch. This turned out to be another place deserving of more time. Judith spotted a lizard which obligingly posed for a series of photographs. Lunch was then interrupted by the arrival of a red-capped robin quickly followed by a small group of blue wrens. There were paths around the reserve and there were probably many wildflowers to be found but Geraldton called.


We found Skeetas and found Davina waiting for us. We enjoyed several hours chatting over coffees and cakes, with very patient staff.


After leaving Davina to pick up her niece, we made our way to the stunning memorial to the HMAS Sydney which was sunk with all hands in a battle with the German raider, Kormoran, which was also sunk in the same engagement. The dome on the Sanctuary has one gull for every person lost on the Sydney - 645 in all. Other than the Sanctuary, other components of the memorial are the statue of the Waiting Woman grieving for her lost son/s or husband; the Stele a stainless steel representation of the prow of the HMAS Sydney, linking with the steel birds on the dome; the Sanctuary itself, the domed structure; the Podium, the circular floor of the Sanctuary "..constructed of W.A. Granite and incorporates representative graphic images, based upon on the Ship's prow and the Silver Gull motif. Central to this is the ship's propeller, serving as a ceremonial wreath-laying altar. Above, hangs an Eternal Flame, manifestation of the soul and eternal life, lit from the War Memorial in King's Park, Perth." and the Wall of Remembrance, a semi-circular granite wall, engraved with the names of all 645 men lost.


We decided that it was worth staying another day in order to revisit Coalseam and to get out to Pindar to see the unusual and rare wreath flowers. The Old Mill Motel was booked out so we opted for a long day 3, heading out to Coalseam and Pindar and then heading down to Cervantes for an overnight stay.

Posted by SteveJD 03:47 Archived in Australia Comments (2)

Our first outing - based in Dongara

Day 1

sunny 24 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Back to Oz on SteveJD's travel map.

We drove about 118km out to New Norcia, a place we visited several times while living in Perth. Steve actually got to drive "The Beast", albeit only for about 9 or 10km. Shifting foot from accelerator to brake was not yet quite as smooth as we would like as his thigh still stiffens up but still progress. On the way we noticed vast expanses of canola (oil seed rape in the UK) which seems to have taken over from wheat to some extent.

- sadly we found many areas where canola had self-seeded and taken over from wildflowers beside the road.

Norcia is the birthplace of St Benedictine in Italy, hence New Norcia. New Norcia is not a town but rather a monastic community. It was founded by Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra, Spanish Benedictine monks, in 1846 as a mission to the Aborigines and the foundation stone of the mission building was laid a year later. Construction of the Abbey Church began in the 1850s but the original Georgian design was altered in the early 20th century by the addition of a Latin-style facade and bell tower - very photogenic. Around the same time as this alteration, the building was extended at the rear to house a massive organ which had been brought from Germany in the 1920s.

- the Abbey Church

The mission building was expanded later in the 19th century and a properly appointed monastery was established. Other buildings include St Gertrude's and St Benedict's (formerly St Ildephonsus's), both formerly colleges, and St Mary's and St Joseph's, former aboriginal orphanages. The colleges are now used for accommodation and various social functions and St Joseph's houses the Museum and Art Gallery.

- the two former colleges.

As well as the main buildings listed above there is an old mill, a wine press, a hotel. The monastery is renowned for the fine food it produces, particularly olive oil, nutcake and biscotti (the nutcake has our own personal guarantee of excellence!).

We continued into "Wildflower Country" through the farming towns of Moora and Carnamah. Sadly the wild flowers are a bit late this year but we did find some small flowers by the roadside at one spot.


- a tiny Cowslip Orchid, an unidentified blue flower, a Dancing Spider Orchid and a White Mulla Mulla flower

We detoured towards Perenjori then took a side road back towards Three Springs and came across a great viewpoint at a talc mine. This talc mine is the largest in the southern hemisphere and the second largest in the world. The talc is mined by open-cut method and is exported for use in the paper, paint in ceramic industries. In Western Australia it is also used for cosmetics, agriculture and carving blocks.


It was then on through Mingenew to our motel at Dongara. We walked into the town and had a tasty Chinese meal at a rather unusual Thai/Chinese restaurant.

And so to bed on Day 1.

Posted by SteveJD 00:34 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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