Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Peak Charles National Park

 This is our last post on our journey east from Bunbury to Esperance where we are hoping to spend the summer. Like always though our plans and adventures are never quite set in stone! Sometimes I feel our attention span is too active. There is so much to see around Australia. We have now been travelling on and off for 3 ½ years, and I feel we have barely scratched the surface.

We have mentioned climbing and walking over granite outcrops. Many of these walks took less than an hour, some closer to 30 minutes. Before all of these, we went bushwalking all day at Wellington Dam which was great and kickstarted our journey with oomph but after all of these smaller walks, we were starting to feel like we were just ticking the boxes, doing the walks, taking the photos. We wanted to do a longer bushwalk or climb again, one that took us more than an hour to complete. At Norseman we saw a picture of a mountain named Peak Charles located in Peak Charles National Park. It looked like a smaller version of Japan's Mount Fuji, or purhaps Walsh's Pyramid in Far North Queensland upon which we climbed this time last year, October 2015. It is smaller than both of these landmarks, but very similar structure to both of them, and looks like a big triangle. Mount Fuji is 3776m, Walsh's Pyramid is 922m and Peak Charles is just a baby in comparison coming in at only 651m high but still 20m taller than the 2nd tallest building in the world, Shanghai Tower, which is 632m. We decided we wanted to climb Peak Charles as it would give us a sense of achievement after all of the other walks and climbs we had done recently.

From Norseman there are two ways to get to Peak Charles National Park, and Peak Charles. As you head south from Norseman the first road you will come across is heavy 4WD. Although we have Rocky we felt a little uncomfortable on this road, but thankful for 4WD. It was 50km to Peak Charles but it took us 2 hours! It had heavy corrugations, large ruts that were muddy, and it was very stony many of which looked sharp. The first 29kms were the worst as this section is 4WD and the other is supposedly 2WD (still quite large ruts though) as it links to the other entrance to the highway which is closer to Salmon Gums. Needless to say that the following day we took the smoother road back to the Coolgardie-Esperance Highway and it was much better. The reason we went on the rough track was to check the conditions for a friend who was curious about it. The 4WD road continues to King Lake which we were considering doing but 29kms was enough for us and our mates have a caravan so they won't do it either now that they know how bad the conditions are! If we end up visiting King Lake it will be via the sealed roads.
Once we arrived at Peak Charles we read the information signs. There are three sections of this walk/climb. It is rated as difficulty grade 4. The following information is taken from


Moderate incline, rough surfaces, very slippery when wet.
Height: 295 metres Total distance from here: 600 metres return (allow 45 minutes)
The start of the trail is well defined and has no markers. It takes you through open woodland across mildly undulating terrain with loose rocks to exposed rock at the base of Peak Charles.  From this point the trail is marked by white-tipped poles.  Some high stepping onto rocks is required.  This section of the trail ends at Mushroom Rock, one of many intriguing rock formations on the slopes of Peak Charles.


Steep incline, rough, unstable surfaces. Very slippery when wet. Strong winds.
Height: 460 metres Total distance from here 2.2km return (allow 2 hours)


Exceeds walktrail classification as this section requires frequent rock scrambling.
Very steep, exposed incline. Rough surfaces. Very slippery when wet. Strong winds.
Height: 651 metres
Total distance from here: 3.4km return (allow 3 hours)
This section of the trail is very steep and requires foot and hand placement in crevices to pull yourself up in places.  You must be able to lift your own weight several times.  There are no markers and you mst be able to find and assess appropriate hand and foot holds.  On the descent you have to crab crawl on your hands and feet with your back to the rock.  If you are short you may need to be pulled up in a few places on the ascent by another person and you will have to slide down some short sections of steep on the descent.  The summit is largely bare and marked by a tall rock cairn.

When we got to Peak Charles it was late in the afternoon. There is a campground right at the base of it which our plan was to stay here and set off early the next morning. The campgrounds have drop dunnies, fire pits and some picnic tables.

The walk was challenging but great fun. It took us the recommended time of 3 hours. We took our time, and we enjoyed ourselves. We took about 3.5L of water with us and some snacks. Being granite there were many times we had to scramble to get around, up or down the rocks. This was fine until we came down as we had a brief shower. The shower did not last long and was not heavy, but it was enough to make the granite very slippery, so upon coming down there was a lot more crab walking on our hands and feet.

The final section says 'exceeds walktrail classification'. We got to the final section and continued on. It was more difficult than the 2nd section but achievable up until the final 200m. The final 200m is tricky and requires rock climbing skills. You have to boulder (climb without ropes). For me going up was not a problem but coming back down was difficult even for me who has rock climbing experience. Even if you do take ropes and equipment there is not many places to attach safely to. IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANY ROCK CLIMBING EXPERIENCE DON'T ATTEMPT THE FINAL 200M. While I went to the top Cameron waited for me at a nice cave and lookout. I'm glad he trusted his instincts and knew his limits, but was happy for me to finish it for the both of us. I think I worried him though, as you can't see the very top and I was gone for about 15-20 minutes as I navigated and climbed my way to the top.

Peak Charles can be seen for up to 50km away as the land is quite flat bar some sand hills so the view as we climbed was fantastic. We could also see Peak Eleanora but to get there was also heavy 4WD so we decided against it. There were many clouds around and it was beautiful to see the shadows sweeping the land, changing the colours rappidly.
We returned to the highway that afternoon and the road came out north of Salmon Gums. We decided to camp at Salmon Gums where there is a community run caravan park that only costs $15 per night. It is even powered! Salmon Gums is a tiny country town, but all of the locals are friendly. It was a freezing cold night (the temps went negative) so we decided to warm ourselves at the local pub which had a wood fire. The owners were good for a yarn. Despite being tiny and freezing, we enjoyed our time in Salmon Gums. This was our final night of our journey from Bunbury to Esperance. The next few posts will be about Esperance and the surrounding areas.

Happy travels

- Jeni

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hyden to Norseman

Today's blog post is about our 2 day journey from Hyden to Norseman, via the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail. It is a 300 km dirt road but it is highly maintained so that 2WD cars can go on it. Even after all of the rain that we had in Western Australia over this winter it was a wonderful road to drive, smoother than some sealed roads, and caravaners could easily cross, we even saw a sports car driven by a wildflower enthusiast, although we recommend talking to people with information at either Wave Rock or Norseman first because sometimes it is closed. We took two days to cross as we stopped at all 16 designated stopping places and camped along the way as well. We also recommend getting the flyer/ brochure which is probably one of the best informative flyers we have picked up as it gives the exact distances between stops, how far it is to Hyden and Norsman from each stop, it has two segmented maps of the Granite and Woodlands Discovery Trail, tells you where camping is permitted, where picnic tables are, and also details of the walking trails at McDermid Rock and Disappointment Rock.
We've talked about large granite outcrops in some of our recent posts. This section of WA as well as being in the wheat-belt, is also in an area with many granite outcrops, is rich with mining ores such as gold and nickel, and is home to some unique types of forests and woodlands. In this 300km stretch, the country and scenery changes dramatically sometimes as quickly as every half hour.

We left Wave Rock at about midday continuing east on our journey and went 136km, almost half way across the Discovery Trail, to where we camped at The Breakaways. Between Wave Rock and The Breakaways are 5 other areas to stop and take a look around, and each has interpretive signs to read: State Barrier Fence, (also known as the Rabbit Proof Fence), Holland Track, (a heavy 4WD track), Forrestania Plots, (plots originally cleared for farm land but left desolate due to the depression), Shire Boundary (where the the Shires of Kondinin and Dundas meet), Grevillea Hill (you can look out over the valley and see flame grevillea far as the eye can see), and finally The Breakaways, (where the landscape starts to change from sandy heathland to mallee and eucalypt forests).

The Breakaways was a lovely area with sandstone cliffs that were a couple of metres tall. It was about 3 in the afternoon and the sun was bouncing lots of beautiful colours off the cliff walls. It was a nice area and after we spent about half an hour just exploring, (no designated path), we decided to camp for the night as there were a few drop dunnies, and many camp fire pits around. Honestly the camp fire pits is what actually made us decide to stay! During the night we decided to grab the torches and walk around to see if there was any wildlife about, but it was probably too cold as we only saw a few spiders.

The next day we drove the remaining 165 kms to Norseman. Between The Breakaways and Norseman are 9 sites to stop at, and one final walk at Norseman: Emily Ann (so memorable I forgot what it was and had to look up on the internet that told me it was an old mine site, nothing here except a sign), McDermid Rock (granite outcrop), Lake Johnston (a salt lake), Lake viewpoint, Disappointment Rock (another granite outcrop), Woodlands, Gemfields, Lake Cowan Lookout (the lake just out of Norseman), and the Woodlands Walk at Norseman. There is walks at McDermid Rock and Disappointment Rock. Still not really sure why it is called disappointment rock, the view was just as nice as the other view points, but perhaps because it is another granite outcrop that looks similar to all the others. We did find a gnome who had made his home up there though, seeking shelter under a rock, waving at passers by like us. Just be aware if you are in a 2WD going to Disappointment Rock because even though it is only about 100 meters from the road, it is very rough going, be careful not to pop your tyres. There are also designated free camp spots at McDermid Rock and Lake Johnston.
Norseman is a gold mining town, although very small compared to Kalgoorlie. It is in between Esperance and Kalgoorlie, and the first proper town you will come across if you have travelled the Nullabor like we did back in March. It also has one of the holes for the Nullabor Links golf course.

By the time we had reached Norseman it was a week since we had left Bunbury in early September and as the week progressed we spotted more and more of the colourful wildflowers that Western Australia is famous for in spring time. Well at least the flowers thought it was spring even though the weather had been bitterly cold and some mornings there was negative temperatures! The lookout at Grevillea Hill was coloured orange. At The Breakaways there was a few sections that had a carpet of purple. On all of our walks up on the granite were many varieties of colours.

Happy Travels
- Jeni

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Wave Rock


It is a well known fact around the world that Aussies are a lazy bunch when it comes to certain things. The best example is that when we speak everything gets shortened. Certain consonants such as 'd', 't', 'r' automatically get omitted in our speach. This laziness flows into other areas as well. The way animals and places are named is another example. The Eastern Grey Kangaroo is found on the eastern side of the continent and is a grey colour. The Port Lincoln Ring Neck Parrot was discovered in Port Lincoln and has a distinctive yellow coloured ring around its neck. The Great Ocean Road is a road that follows the coastline between Melbourne and Adelaide and you can see the ocean from most of it. Likewise, Wave Rock is a 14m tall rock face that is shaped like a wave at the beach. So you see identification is an easy process in the land of Aus.

Today's post is about Wave Rock and the surrounding area. The actual name is Hyden Rock and Wave Rock is just the section that is shaped like a wave. Hyden Rock is located 3km east out from the small town of Hyden, and roughly 340km east-souteast from Perth. It is usually visited if people are going to Esperance from Perth, exploring Western Australia's wildflowers, or perhaps have just crossed the Nullabor and are heading west to Perth. Our last few posts have been about our journey from Bunbury, crossing the Wheatbelt, and eventually down to Esperance where we plan to spend the summer (but that will be a post in a few weeks time). 

Western Australia often doesn't get as much attention from travellers as NSW and QLD so if small towns want to experience the benefits of tourism, the largest growing industry in Australia, they have to make an effort to get noticed just like the 'Tin Horse Highway' on our previous post. Wave Rock however first hit the world-wide tourism scene way back in the 1960's. A photograph of Wave Rock was entered into a Kodak International Colour Picture Competition in New York and in 1964 amateur photographer Jay Hodges was announced the winner. Shortly afterwards the picture was on the cover of 'Walkabout Magazine' then later also featured in 'National Geographic'. This photo paved the way for tourism to Wave Rock and the surrounding areas. Not only is the shape of the wave realistic, but the vertical colour contrasts add to it as well so it now appears as a wave that has now turned into stone.

Hyden Rock is one of many granite outcrops in the Wheatbelt. There are quite a few walks around that you can do. We stayed at the Wave Rock Caravan Park for two nights as a friend had told us that entrance to Hyden Rock and Mulka Cave is included in the price. We got to the park in the afternoon, got set up, looked at the maps, then explored. From the park it is about 100m to Wave Rock. We were there just in time to see some brilliant colours on the rock from the setting sun, but not early enough to catch the sunset when we walked on top of Hyden Rock, we didn't rush it as we were there two nights and allowed for plenty of time the next evening.

The following morning after breakfast we followed the rock and path around to the left until we got to Hippo's Yawn and like Wave Rock, the name fits the description. It was cool to see. From here you can just go back to the car park, or continue on the boardwalk loop that takes about an hour. After we had lunch, we drove out to 'Mulka Cave' and 'The Humps' which is another granite outcrop nearby. There are many informative signs along the walks, but the one I remember the most was about how the local Aboriginals used traps to catch goannas. It worked like a trap-door. A big slate piece of rock was rested on some smaller rocks. The goanna would go under the slate, the hunters would knock out the smaller rocks and the goanna would be trapped underneath. Even today goanna is a favourite food for many Aboriginal groups across Australia.

Hyden has had to be resilient from the start due to lack of infustructure and drought, but it has lead to an incredibly strong community spirit that is still vibrant today. In recent years the town used the help of an artist to help create some scrap metal sculptures, that look comical, but each sculpture tells the story of the town and there are plaques with each one. The first hotel opened in the 60's. Money from the hotel has helped to fund and establish many of the other facilities around the area too such as the Caravan Park, local shops, the Wildflower Shoppe Cafe, the Wildlife Park, the Lace Place Museum, the Miniature Soldier Museum, the Pioneer Museum and many other local facilities.

If you are road tripping in Western Australia, Wave Rock is worth a visit. For more of our posts from this area check out our 'Destinations' page where Cameron has made it easier to search our posts via location.

Happy travels.

- Jeni

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Jilakin Lake and Buckley's Breakaway

Venturing through the Western Australian Weatbelt you will find yourself coming across all sorts of salt lakes and granite outcrops. Not far east of Kulin, after cruising along the Tin Horse Highway, you can find yourself at the beautiful Jilakin Rock and Lake.
Traveling through in spring you will find yourself surrounded by blooming flowers all around the base and atop Jilakin Rock. From atop you will also get a spectacular view of the salt lake below. While romping around the rock in spring you may notice some small dragons scrambling about, birds flying around and butterflies and bees spreading pollen. It really is a lively rock!

Now camping is not permitted here most the time, although once a year, close to Easter, there is a festival called Blazing Swan. This festival is full of artists that were inspired by the USA's Burning Man festival. Yep, they make a big wooden swan, then watch it burn! Camping is also available if you attend the festival, which makes a lot of sense, once you inhale all that art you can't be expected to drive off to find another camp! If you are craving some free camping though, there's no need to worry, Kulin has a great place to camp for the night, free of charge. An interesting thing they have in the free camp is a bucket where they ask campers to pop the receipts of their town spendings in. This is a great little way to tally up exaclt how much free campers spend in small towns, and is paving the way for more small towns to follow suit.

Further east there's another interesting place to check out, Buckley's Breakaway. This place has been hit with some artistic erosion, cutting away at the land revealing some amazing white and orange cliffs. Inside and out of this unusual valley is filled with plantlife, beautiful flowers, and some interesting fungus.
A lovely spot to stretch the legs, run around and get some silly photos!