11 September 2012

7th September 2012 – Perth.

The past three weeks have been focused upon three things: catching up with friends, wildflowers and, bloody rain.
After 5 months without seeing rain, I suppose it was inevitable that sooner or later nature would take revenge – it did.  We had a small sprinkle when at Geraldton, but we laughed it off, as you do. However, our arrival into Perth was accompanied by days with absolute downpours of horrendous volumes. Our plans of beach trips, or sipping coffee at outdoors cafes, carefree strolls through Kings Park, and generally enjoying ourselves soon evaporated – or more correctly, were washed away.
We made the most of it, because there is little else you can do, and spent time checking out the Swan Valley wine tasting circuit – well, our caravan park was in the middle of the wine area. A happy coincidence was the presence of the Chocolate company right smack dab in the middle of the wine region: so we checked it out as well!
Before we got to Perth, we spent some time at a few other places. Geraldton is quite a large city built right on the water – the main commercial area is less than 100 metres from the shore. Standing above the town is Mount Scott which has a memorial to the HMAS Sydney which would be one of the best memorials that we can imagine. The ship was based out of Geraldton for the last few months of its time before being sunk (Nov 1941) with the largest loss of life (all 645 crew) in Australian naval history.  The location of both the ship and its foe, the German Raider Kormoran remained unknown until 2008. In 2001 the memorial was dedicated and in 2009 became an official national memorial. Some things can be really weird type spooky – as a part of the memorial there is a statue of a woman looking out to sea. When the ship was found, some 7 years after the statue was made, it was on the exact compass heading that the woman was looking!!!!
 Looking for the return of her loved one
Impressive and moving
As I mentioned in a previous post, we were told that the wildflowers would get better, and this proved to be very true. Where those that we had seen further north were called ‘everlastings’ and covered the ground like some huge carpet, those that we have found from Geraldton onwards are either shrubs and bushes, or small exquisite orchids, Kangaroo Paws or similar.
To get up close and personal with these tiny wonders, we did a day trip of some 120km out to the east of Geraldton. But, it rained! And when it rains the flowers close up or droop thus the display is somewhat weakened. The wildflower buffs real prize in this area is the Wreath Flower that grows on roadside verges after the graders do their job (the plant needs to have the soil broken up so that the seeds can burst forth).
Wreath Flower - we didn't find one, so this photo is from the 'net

It is always nice to look around small country towns. Each town deals with life in their own particular way with many displaying some outstanding community spirit. Mingenew was one place that showed it is very much alive and kicking with local input and energy on display wherever you look, be it well kept buildings or community art. Another was Mullewa where the cemetery had every grave covered in fresh wildflowers (plus some non natives).
 Mingenew Tennis club and its local art painted by local kids

Mullewa Cemetary.

With the aim of finding out more about these flowers, we next stayed at the Western Flora Caravan Park 22 km north of Eneabba. Here we were to discover that the owner is firstly, intensely focused upon wildflowers and secondly, is profoundly knowledgeable about them: Sir David Attenborough visits him!
The park is unlike any others we have found in that the sites are spread out among the bush, with each bracketed by shrubs and grasses. Water pressure was almost nonexistent so we had to use our on-board tanks and pump (we weren’t in danger of running out of water as we could fill our tanks from the site taps – it only needed patience).
At 4:30pm each day, Allan (the owner) gathers all those who wish to follow him out into the surrounding bush to look at the flowers. Allan’s great knowledge and quite interesting style leaves your mind boggled with all you learn. His basic thesis is that all the plants colours, textures, and leaf shapes are designed with only propagation in mind. To this end the colour attracts some friendly or useful insects and birds whilst repelling those less friendly ones. Thus as you walk through the bush, you in fact are walking though a flora pornographic zone!
 Geraldton Wax
The Flowers of the Wax bush - 6 or 7 grubs in each!

To conclude this walk Allan takes you into a room where he has set up a microscope with TV screen attached – WOW, if I’d known that was in those flowers, I’d never have sniffed ‘em. Example, the tiny Geraldton Wax flower that he had randomly picked from the bush was revealed to have 7, yep that’s right 7, teeny wheeny caterpillar like grubs and each was very actively crawling and squirming around the centre heart. I went back to the bush later and armed with my trusty little magnifying glass could see absolutely nothing, so I want a descent microscope, you hear that kids?
The next morning at the ungodly time of 8:30am a number of us again gathered at reception, but this time we were in our 4x4s to again journey forth under Allan’s guidance. Our little convoy was away for 4 hours, and maybe 50km as Allan took us out into the sandy scrub country to the east of his property where we were astounded at the vast array of different flowers that he found. Banksias, Boronias, Hakeas, Feather flowers, Pea Flowers, Kangaroo Paws, Blue Dampiera, and an awesome variety of bush Orchids including donkey, cowslip, and Pink Fairies. And always around us were numerous Smokebushes with their feather like foliage that waves with the slightest breeze.

 Tagalong - through the sand we go
This is the type of country we were looking at.
I did get the name of these, but I forgot.
 These ones are 'pretty blue ones'
 And Yellow ones
and Pink ones
 These ones are special 'cause they are yellow, plus blue and white.
 Note the car in the background - the flowers are prolific, but really small
 My favourite - they entice, then eat insects they are everywhere and about size of 20c piece

The flower of my life among some smokebush (look for Shirl hiding)

Not far from Eneabba is the area of Greenough where the wind is strong and constant – witness the trees to understand just how strong.
 A row of trees stand a small chance against the wind
A single tree has no chance - note that it is still alive and thriving.

Reluctantly we moved onwards to the coast where we set up at Cervantes. From the name of the town you could be forgiven for thinking that there is some sort of Spanish connection, and if you weren’t then the street names will soon confirm it (they’re all Spanish towns and cities). Why? A Spanish ship went down on an off shore reef.
These days Cervantes is a very small town that plays a very big role in Australia’s Lobster catch. Approx 20% of our lobsters are caught off Cervantes, and then 92% of these are exported!  Given the importance of this industry to the town, it’s not surprising that when you book into the caravan park they give you a discount voucher for a lobster meal at the local club. Thus for $65 we had a really nice lobster platter for two, with prawns, calamari, snapper fillets, and oysters as accompaniments.
 Lobster Factory - a male and a female
 Cervantes Roadsign -
 Yep, the hills are alive with flowers
Torquoise bay with a storm approaching

Our purpose in staying at Cervantes was to visit the ‘Pinnacles’ which is 15km down the road. What an amazing ....?? thing? Maybe the photos will explain just what this place is.

Well, did you enjoy your little photo tour of the pinnacles?

While in Perth we spent 2 days visiting friends, and it was quite interesting to note the exuberant joy that we felt in just being with them. After 5 months away from friends and family you forget how good it feels to just sit and chat to those that you know.
Upon arrival at Perth, we noticed just how blasé the inhabitants are as the seasonal wildflower display – all the roadsides, all the road median strips, and many of the gardens are ablaze with native shrubs and bushes and all in glorious bloom. Superb.
The town of York is West Oz’s oldest inland town and retains most of its early buildings such that the town is heritage listed. We did a 200+km day trip into the hills to have a look and were suitably impressed. Unfortunately, a few years ago the Government changed the method that it allocates funds to rural areas from where it, the State Government, directly funded each local council, to now where it supplies the funds to “Regional Centres”, and as a result York is showing signs that maintenance and development funds are lacking. Meanwhile as we returned to Perth via the regional centre of Northam, we noticed that it showed no signs of such funds limitation.  Perhaps the best interests of the region are best served by using the meagre funds in such areas as best improve the re-election prospects of the local regional council?!
 The inside looks as good as the outside - all in excellent nick.
 Humour exists everywhere
Want a pub - all four are for sale, and each is over 100 years old

Whilst at York, I took the opportunity to spend a bit of time in the Peter Briggs “York Motor Museum” (Shirl waited in the car).

 I want one
 Its a Cadillac of 1957 vintage
Speedway bikes
We left for Albany on Friday 7th. ...... note that it is pronounced Albany with the A as in Apple, not Awlbany as per Albury NSW.
Even the road from Perth to Albany offers a flower strewn vista.

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