Pemberton to the Nullarbor

From Pemberton, we make our way to the Nullarbor and points east.

While in Pemberton, we take the Karri Forest Explorer drive.

If you go out in the woods today…

The woods are full of clematis in bloom.


It’s all very environmentally friendly.

Tree hugger

The southwest of Western Australia gets a lot of rainfall. It’s very green. Parts of it even look like England.

Why does England call?

We continue down to Albany.

Albany outskirts

Albany is pleasant city. It was the first capital of Western Australia, briefly.

Due to its location, it was the departure point for the fleets of ANZACs sailing off to the First World War. So their last sight of home for years.

ANZAC centre

This is detailed in the National ANZAC Centre, an exceptionally brilliant interactive museum. Tells the stories of those who left and came back, or came back greatly changed, or never came back at all.

Among the exhibits is this touching sculpture of an ANZAC sharing a hatful of water with his horse.

Some water for me mate

Like many places of interest that we’ve been to relating to 20th-century wars, it’s full of old people. Apparently, younger people are not interested in past conflicts and assume our present era of peace and plenty lasts forever. Hope they’re right.

There are other things to see on the hill.

Gun emplacement with great view of King George Sound

For example, the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial. This was originally in Egypt.

Safer at home

The Lonely Planet guide euphemistically says:

‘The memorial was originally erected in Port Said, Egypt. However, it
was irreparably damaged during the Suez crisis in 1956, and this copy was made from masonry salvaged from the original. ‘

When I read this, I immediately imagine by ‘irreparably damaged’, they mean ‘mindlessly torn to pieces in an orgy of destruction by a rabid mob of felaheen whipped into an anti-Western frenzy by Nasser’.

Of course, a bit of digging and it turns to be the case, as stated here.

Albany is also the home of Australia’s last whaling factory. The site is now the Historic Whaling Station.

Skeleton of a Pygmy (!) Blue Whale

Silos on the harbourfront sport a cool seadragon mural.

Seadragon rampant
There is also a local branch of the WA Museum, with a replica of brig Amity,

the first ship sent from Sydney to establish Albany.

The Amity

From Albany we drive to Esperance. When I was here in 1980, the local museum featured chunks of Skylab. They’re still here.

At the time, I stayed in the local hostel. It’s still here too.

None the worse for wear. The hostel’s in good shape, too.

We begin our drive across the Nullarbor.

Camels and wombats and ‘roos, Oh My!

We have three stopovers along the way; Balladonia, Eucla, and Ceduna.


It’s famed for being very desolate, but we’ve been through a lot of desolate places on this trip.

Far – a long, long way to run
What does this red light flashing on the fuel gauge mean?

We come to the Great Australian Bight.

The Great Australian Bight, looking east
The Great Australian Bight, looking west
We’re on the road to nowhere

Sight or Insight of the Day – Pemberton to the Nullarbor

Matilda needs a new battery as we approach Albany. At the battery shop, the owner’s vintage wheels are outside. I try to convince Maria that our next car should be something similar.

They say it’s the Rolls Royce of automobiles

Perth to Pemberton – via Margaret River

Before moving on to Margaret River – our next destination – we enjoy an extended stay in Perth. We do big-city things; renew prescriptions, I get a haircut and new lenses for my glasses, pick up mail, buy new shoes.

We revisit Fremantle to see the Shipwrecks Museum.

Below is the surviving timbers from the Batavia, shipwrecked in 1629 off the coast of Western Australia. This is only a small portion of the original hull.

In the background is a stone portico that was carried as ballast and meant for the walls of the Dutch city Batavia (now Jakarta) in present-day Indonesia.

Margaret River
Photo courtesy of the WA Maritime Museum

If you like shipwrecks – and who doesn’t? – you can spend hours here.

We eventually set off for Margaret River. In case you don’t know, MR is a well-known wine-producing area.

Margaret River
Let the tastings begin

We visit, hmmm, let’s see, Robert Oatley, Credaro, Pierro, Vasse Felix, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin Estate, and Voyager Estate.

Margaret River
A glass of wine, a few scallops – and thou

There are over 200 wineries in the region.

Margaret River
Barbarian at the gates

Vasse Felix is the oldest estate in Margaret River.

Margaret River
Vines at Vasse Felix
As usual in wine regions, there is lots of good food, beautiful gardens, and impressive architecture. Voyager Estate bears a startling resemblance to a South African Cape Dutch winery, of which we have seen many.
Margaret River
Under the wisteria

Another winery has an interesting chandelier made from wine glasses.

Margaret River
Let’s raise a glass

Back in our caravan park, there are many ringneck parrots strutting around .

Margaret River
Margaret River

There’s something uplifting and heartwarming about seeing parrots everywhere. It’s like being in a sort of primeval Eden. This effect is helped by the lush bottle-brush trees surrounding our campsite.

Margaret River
Bottle-brush trees. I think.

We drive south into forests of enormous karri trees and arrive in Pemberton.

Margaret River
Keep Calm and Karri On

We pass a bucolic scene of sheep feeding placidly among some olive trees.

Sheep May Safely Graze

Sight or Insight of the Day – Margaret River

One of the wineries has a cool fountain with lifelike statues of cockatoos.

Margaret River
Cockatoo Hunter

It is actually a memorial to Steve Irwin. He was killed by the same kind of creature that stung Maria in Flores.

Down the West Coast to Perth

From Carnarvon, we continue to travel down the west coast to Perth.

On the road to Kalbarri, we come across an echidna – the first we’ve seen in the wild.

West coast to Pert
Echidna crossing

He waddles into his burrow to escape Maria’s photographic harassment.

West coast to Perth
Echidna’s arf of you – probably the only piece of music with the word ‘echidna’ in its title since the dawn of time

Kalbarri looks wonderful, but there is no place to be had in any caravan park. It turns out to be a school holiday of some kind. We carry on to the next town, Port Gregory, with its strikingly pink lake.

West coast to Perth
Tickled pink

As we get further south, we see broad fields of wheat. This is a welcome surprise, after seeing little but rocks, dry scrubby bush, and spinifex grasses for a few thousand kilometers.

West coast to Perth
Amber waves of grain

We wonder how they keep the kangaroos out.

Geraldton is a pleasant small city. It has a port from which a lot of the surrounding grain gets exported.

West coast to Perth
Port of Geraldton

Geraldton has a moving monument to the men of the HMAS Sydney II, a warship lost with all hands in 1941.

West coast to Perth
Each seagull in the dome represents a sailor

Geraldton is also the home of the Museum of Geraldton. Like most of the museums we visit here, it is nearly new and excellent. Among the exhibits is a 3D film about the discovery of the Sydney II on the ocean floor in 2008, as well as the German ship HSK Kormoran; both ships sank in the engagement. The wrecks lie in 2,500 metres of water, 20km apart, about 200km west of Shark Bay.

The soundtrack is Arvo Pärt’s Für Alina, which is so achingly apt for the film it almost hurts.

We stay on Sunset Beach.

West coast to Perth
Sunset Beach

It’s nice.

West coast to Perth
I get soaked while posing for a photo

We walk around town, but the streets are nearly deserted. The National Rugby League Grand Finals are on, and a large part of the Australian population is glued to a TV screen. This phenomenon always puts me in mind of Lynn Miles’s ‘Hockey Night in Canada‘. If you don’t share the mania for the national sport, prepare to feel a little alienated.

We head down the scenic ocean route to Perth.

West coast to Perth
Approaching Lancelin

Near the town of Lancelin are enormous white sand dunes that look like snow.

West coast to Perth
White dunes

Or sugar.

West coast to Perth
♫ Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain…♪

We arrive in the bright lights of Perth. Similar to our trip to Sydney, it takes some adjusting to be back in urban Australia again.

West coast to Perth
Drinking kangaroo sculpture on St, George’s Terrace
West coast to Perth
I check the water for myself

We make a day trip to nearby Rottnest Island.

West coast to Perth
Thompson Bay, Rottnest Island

Rottnest is the home of thousands of quokkas, which are as cute as all get-out.

West coast to Perth
Momma quokka and young

It’s also the home of large King’s skinks.

West coast to Perth
Egernia kingii

Here, a skink and a quokka meet face to face.

West coast to Perth
‘I am the Lizard King, I can do anything.’

Quokkas are endearingly unafraid of people. They browse contentedly on the grass and tend to ignore humans.

West coast to Perth
Marsupial meets mammal

We rent bicycles and tour the island.

West coast to Perth
Wadjemup lighthouse
West coast to Perth
Henrietta Rocks, Rottnest Island
West coast to Perth
Bay, Rottnest Island
West coast to Perth
Tidal pools, Rottnest Island

There are signs that say ‘Don’t touch or feed the wildlife’. However, I can’t resist a quick illicit petting.

I can cross ‘pet a quokka’ off my bucket list
West coast to Perth
Cape Vlamingh, Rottnest Island
West coast to Perth
Cape Vlamingh, Rottnest Island
West coast to Perth
Beach, Rottnest Island
West coast to Perth
Wadjemup lighthouse, closer up

Another day, we visit nearby Fremantle.

West coast to Perth
Known affectionately as ‘Freo’ to the locals

Our main destination is the wonderful Western Australia Maritime Museum.

West coast to Perth
Fremantle harbour

A star attraction of the museum is its submarine tour.

West coast to Perth
HMAS Ovens

Our guide, Keith, is a retired submariner. He served on this very boat (a sub is always a ‘boat’, and not a ‘ship’ apparently), HMAS Ovens, for 11 months, during his career.

West coast to Perth
Permission to come aboard

There’s a world of difference between listening to a barely-motivated guide and one that has actually served in submarines for 20 years. Especially one with an Australian sense of humour and typical Aussie casualness to authority.

West coast to Perth
Plenty of horsepower. Or is that seahorsepower?

We learn that everyone on board is familiar with all the sub’s systems. To the point where many tasks can be done in complete darkness.

West coast to Perth
What happens when you pull this handle?

We also visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia. In another manifestation of serendipity, there is an exhibit of Sydney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series.

West coast to Perth
Folk hero? Or terrorist?

I recently finish Peter Carey’s ‘True History of the Kelly Gang‘, so coming across this is timely.

I react to one painting in particular much as I did to the Elioth Gruner work in Sydney.

It’s ‘The Butterfly’, by Freda Robertshaw.

The Butterfly

There’s just something about this one that grabs me.

Sight or  Insight of the Day  – West coast to Perth

A few days ago was October 3. It’s our one-year anniversary of leaving Ottawa.

October 3, 2017 – Our friends Hector and Delfina drop us off at Ottawa Airport

In one of those odd coincidences, the day we realized it was the third of October, I was wearing exactly the same clothes as in this photo.

Who knows what adventures lie ahead?

Exmouth to Carnarvon

We continue our northwestern journey from Exmouth to Carnarvon.

We like Exmouth and the surrounding area a lot. From atop Vlamingh Head, we watch whales spouting offshore.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Vlamingh Head lighthouse

Exmouth’s most famous feature is its array of antennae,  originally built to communicate with submarines and ships in the Indian Ocean.

Exmouth to Carnarvon

Apparently this is done by satellites now, but this array is still in use by the Australian navy.

At the entrance to the Harold E. Holt base is the prow of a submarine with the hump on the front where the sonar equipment resides.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Reading the sub text

Virtually nothing existed here before the sixties. The United States built the town from scratch to support the base.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Roos among the array

Exmouth is also famous for its whale sharks.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

In the season – March to August – you can swim with them, if you’re so inclined. It’s gonna cost you, though.

Instead of defense folks, Exmouth is now a popular place for retired Aussies to move to.

In front of the impressive Ningaloo Visitors Centre are these interesting planters. In its military heyday, armour-piercing rounds are fired at centimeters-thick steel plate in nearby training grounds. These are now recycled into civic furniture.

Swords into ploughshares, sort of

Nearby are the stunning Ningaloo Coast and Cape Range National Park.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Strolling to Turquoise Bay

This is the kind of snorkeling we like: step off the beach into the bay and you are immediately surrounded by coral and thousands of insanely colourful fish.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Turquoise Bay

There are shipwrecks galore along this coast.

Wreck of the cattle ship Mildura

You don’t have to go far to get away from it all.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Exmouth to Carnarvon

We go to the end of Cape Range National Park and hike the Yardie Creek gorge.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
View from Yardie Creek gorge
Exmouth to Carnarvon
Yardie Creek gorge
We go further down the coast to Coral Bay.
Exmouth to Carnarvon
Coral Bay

It’s OK, but too crowded for us.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Coral Bay caravan park

Driving down to Carnarvon, we come across a mamma emu and her young one crossing the highway.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Why did the emu cross the road?

We stop for lunch at the Overlander roadhouse.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Four-trailer road train

Maria likes these flowers against the dusty red dirt.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Exmouth to Carnarvon

Our first stop in Carnarvon is the Space and Technology Museum.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Carnarvon satellite dish

Carnarvon is a long-time space tracking station.

Sight ot Insight of the Day – Exmouth to Carnarvon

At the Yardie Creek gorge parking lot, we see this cool world-traveling van from Switzerland.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Camper envy

If we didn’t have Matilda, it would be the perfect size vehicle for us.

As they often are, an itinerary is displayed. These people take a very interesting route to get here.

Exmouth to Carnarvon
Route envy

There are a lot of places with heart-attack-inducing driving conditions on this map. Our hats go off to the travelers.