We are now in the Great Southern. The past few days have been spent on the road moving from Kalbarri in the Midwest to Albany in the Great South.
We enjoyed our time in Kalbarri. Even though it is a school holiday, it was not extremely busy. There were lots of opportunities to take guided or adventure tours but we decided to drive it ourselves.
First was a stop at the Wildflower Center, of course. We took the walk but found very little left in bloom. And it was getting very hot! It was around 30 in the region. Next we drove the dirt road into Kalbarri National Par to see the gorges cut by the Murchison River. There were several overviews which gave us views into the deep red colored gorges cut by the river. There were a couple of trails down to the river but it was too hot for me. And the flies were really annoying. I think they are attracted to any type of moisture so they try to crawl into your mouth, nose and eyes. And the more you sweat, the more they come. I was certain I was going to swallow one but fortunately never did.
It was time to leave and we decided to stay the night back at Jurien Bay. We enjoyed our stay at The Heights B&B and they had such a comfy bed. We decided it would be a good place to stop for the next leg.
Once we got near the town of Eneabba, we took several side dirt roachs to search for flowers. We found one or two new ones but not much. The flowers had been better closer to the coast. But we did find a blue tongued lizard also called a 'stubby' because it has a fat stubby tail. It is not a small lizard like geckos but a large fat reptile on short little legs. It also has a dark blue tongue that it sticks out when you get close. Of course, George wanted to get close. We found him munching on a Kangaroo carcass. We also saw and dodged several later on trying to cross the dirt road. And we finally saw some live kangaroos. Coming back from dinner to The Heights, a couple jumped across the road just as everyone had warned us. Up until then, all we had seen was roadkill.
Tuesday was our large drive day to Narrogin. We left early so we could stop a bit if we saw any flowers. We didn't even make it back to the Brand Hwy before pulling over. We pulled into the Smoke Tree Nature Reserve and spent a bit walking through the bush. It was close enough to Leseur to have a good amount in bloom.
The terrain changed as we got farther inland from the coast. We were now into the wheatbelt. This area has large rolling hills dotted with eucalytus trees. There were green hills planted with wheat, yellow hills planted with canola and purple hills planted with blue weedy echiums. The purple hills were very pretty. They had a hazy quality to them that made them seem to float on the horizon. The roadsides or 'verges' did not have the boarder of bush like the Brand Hwy.
We did have one stop planned Wongan Hills. The news reports on the wildflowers that we picked up in Perth had said it was anothe hotspot and it was. We drove up to the top of Mt. O'Brien and the drive was lined with bush in bloom. But the weather had changed and it was really really windy at the top. The rain also started so we quickly moved on. The remainder of our drive took us through the Avon Valley east of Perth. Several of the small towns had charming houses. We rolled into Narrogin just in time to pop into the local info center to find out what was locally in bloom. They were very helpful but unfortunately we had missed the bloom. The heat had dried out all the flowers.
Weds we were back on the road this time to Albany. First we checked out the local Nature reserve - Foxes Lair - which just happened to be right across the street from our motel. Everything was dry so we headed off again. We had plans to investigate the wineries and Banksia farm near Mt. Barker. The farm had tours and there was a chance to make the noon tour but as we rolled into the town of Cranbrook we saw signs for a wildflower show. We decided to check it out. It was great. The local women have permits and they go out and collect specimens in bloom. They bring them back and display them in vases. We got to see several Darwinia - Stirling Bells - a gorgeous large red bell shaped flower on heather like follage. It was a plant George had specifically wanted to see. There was also a white one with a red lip that was native to only Cranbrook.
The woman at the flower show directed us to the community nature reserve. What a lucky tip! We spotted orchides right off and ended up finding 6 different species. I love the airy spider orchids with their long spidery petals.
Next we headed on to the Banksia Far. The owners bought the property in 1985. At that time it was a large field. They have since built several buildings and planted the area with banksias. They are fanatical about banksias and in the past 20 years they have gone all around Australia collecting every species that grows in Australia. Kevin, the owner, gave us a talk on how the aborigial people used banksias. They used the large seed pods to carry fire from camp to camp. The pods burn slowly due to a natural fire-resistant center. They would light the pod and then wrap it with a tree bark that didn't burn. This would keep it smoldering. They would then stuff it in a pouch made of roo skin. It would keep burning slowly as they moved to the next camp. We also learned how the plant was pollinated and how the seeds are dispersed. We then took a walk around the property to see the diverse types - from large trees up to 30 feet in size to small ones that grew underground to survive in windy conditions.
We finally rolled into Albany about 5pm and ehecked into our apartment for the next few days - the Balneaire. It is a great apartment - spacious two bedroom townhouse near the beach. It is fully equipped so the first thing we did was laundry. It is also a little cool but the apartment has a woodstove. Firewall, kindling and started are all provided. We had a great meal last night at Tanglehead Brewery. It is a new brewery in town. George had salmon on a nicoise salad and I had prawn risotto. Both were yummy. The beer was also great. I had a white wheat beer brewed in German Weiss style and George had an IPA. We're going back on Friday.
Today we are heading to the Stirling Range and a hike up Bluff Knoll. It happens to be the highest peak in WA. But not very high compared to what we have hiked in the US. It is about 3500ft and the hike is about 1500ft.