18/11/2005You are here: Home > Travelogues > Nerd's Eye View > 18/11/2005
More Heights and Depths
Hi everyone. Well, here we are again at the end of another week. We're still in WA, but we'll be leaving it tomorrow (or thereabouts).
It's been another week of tall trees, deep shipwrecks and various adventures. We started off after last week by touring through from Pemberton to Walpole via some more nice national parks, stopping along the way a couple of times, until we got to the Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, which, if you haven't heard of it, is pretty much what you'd expect given the name.
The walk itself is pretty damn high in places and sways a bit with your weight and the wind (there wasn't much of either on the day), and of course the view is spectacular, although somewhat disorienting, as one is not normally used to 60 odd metres of complex three dimensional space below one's feet.
From there we drove on to Denmark and met up with some of Jana's rellies; her aunt Alison and cousin Josie specifically. Josie and family very kindly put us up for a couple of nights, despite their son Jasper having just had the chicken pox, the poor little bugger.
The day after we arrived, I went off to Albany to do some diving while Jana spent a day relaxing.
The diving involved the usual early start (made even earlier by having to drive 50kms from Denmark to Albany first thing), but it was well worth it. The original plan was for a couple of dives on the HMAS Perth, but we ended up doing one Perth dive, and one on the Cheynes III, another deliberately scuttled wreck in the area.
The Perth was a great dive. We went down to about 30m at the deepest point, and did a few swimthroughs of the 100m+ long former missile cruiser. The main gun is still attached, as is a fair bit of equipment inside; there are computer consoles and various cables to check out.
The only downside is that they've sunk the Perth in a fairly silty spot, so the visibility tends to be a bit on the low side. Because of this, and for variety, we decided to do the other dive on a different wreck.
The Cheynes III is an ex whaler, is smaller (but not by much), and is in shallower water. She broke up in a big storm shortly after being sunk (possibly due to some sort of ocean karma), so it's quite an interesting wreck to visit. The visibility was much better too, with nice clear (if icy) Southern Ocean blue water to play around in.
The next day, after leaving Denmark, we both ended up back in Albany, and we took the opportunity to check out the nearby coastline, including some of the striking granite cliffs and structures in the area, like the (fairly large) natural bridge.
After Albany, we detoured north, in the general direction of Hyden, and Wave Rock, more about which later. On the way we stopped off and visited Porongurup and Stirling Range National Parks. These two are fairly close to one another, with the latter being much larger. Both are basically big lumps of granite that rise up several hundred metres out of the surrounding landscape, but that description really doesn't do them justice.
Porongurup is the smaller of the two, and the one we visited first. We did a bushwalk to the 680m peak there, which starts off through some more tall Karri bushland, and then thins out on the fairly bald granite top. It was a lovely day, and the walk wasn't overly strenuous.
Then we moved on to the Stirling Range, which is much larger in area, and higher (at it's highest nearly 1100m). It has a different geology too, with ancient shale being exposed all over the place. You can see petrified ripples in it in several places, which is kinda cool.
We did a drive through the park at dusk. It's quite different to Porongurup, vegetation-wise; there are no towering trees here, it's all much scrubbier, although the park itself has quite a climate range (it even snows up on the peaks sometimes), and therefore an accompanying high range of biodiversity.
The following day we went for a slightly longer trek, up Bluff Knoll, the highest peak in the range (and the southwest). It's a leisurely two hours up and one hour down again, and it's well worth it for the views.
As far as mountain climbs go, Bluff Knoll isn't terribly hard, although it's hardly the National Park brochure's "easy to moderate walk for people of all ages". Still, compared to climbing Mt Kinabalu in Malaysia (another long walk as opposed to a climb as such), it's a pretty easy walk, and well recommended if you're ever in the area. We spent quite a while up on the summit taking in the views, various flora and fauna (in the form of a fair few insects who were feasting on the many flowering plants).
From the Stirling Range we headed north again to Hyden, a tiny town next to the famous Wave Rock. I'd shamefully forgotten about this particular WA attraction, until Jana mentioned it a while back, after which I was pretty keen - much to her slight regret I think as it was quite out of our way.
In the end though, it was well worth the fairly dull trip through the wheat belt, and not just because we spotted some new birds along the way. The rock itself (a wind and rain sculpted granite outcropping) is actually pretty impressive, and the nearby "hippo's yawn" (another weathered rock) is quite cute.
Hyden itself is a little bizarre. It seems to think that it has a lot more going for it than one or two cool rocks. They've built a resort of sorts (which looked completely dead when we cycled past it) amongst the nearby denuded countryside of hyper-saline lakes (formed by bad agricultural practices). The largest such lake is lemon-yellow. It looks sulphurous and the entire landscape is a bit hellish - quite an odd place to build a resort!
Anyway, it was interesting to see the rock, and also see first hand the extent of the land degradation in the region - the salinity problems that you may have heard about are pretty severe.
We then headed back south, to Esperance on the coast, where we stayed last night, and pottered around a bit this morning, doing a tourist drive. The local pink lake wasn't pink at all, but that's fine as we've seen 'em before (there was one up near Port Gregory if you recall), but the ocean drive and beaches were quite spectacular. The Southern Ocean's waters are a vivid blue colour and are quite beautiful when you mix in granite islands and white sandy beaches. It was a fitting farewell to the southwest.
Now we're in Norseman, on the edge of the Nullarbor plain, which we'll tackle over the next couple of days, as we push on into a new state, a new time zone, and the Great Australian Bight.
I'm looking forward to being back in a similar time zone to you east coast lot, as it'll make calling me easier (hint hint!). Emailing me, of course, remains as easy as ever. :) In the meantime, I hope everyone is well. Till next week... here are the pics!
Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk
Albany coastline granite formations
Bird's eye views from the top of Bluff Knoll
The Southern Ocean, from Esperance
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