Bald Hill

Our first trip to Avon Valley National Park
The ANZAC weekend 2015, which was huge before these two days, with the dawn service at KP and the city march with The Drummer’s first outing with the band. Saturday afternoon saw a blow out between teen and mum, with mum left shattered and not at all enthusiastic about the rest of the weekend.

A fair night sleep didn’t help that much but I knew if I just got going, I would be pleased I made the effort. Lying in bed, I checked the iPad once more for a site at Lane Poole with no success. Not really wanting to drive down there only to be left without options, I looked up Avon National Park. Only because it was on the screen. Not because I’ve ever heard of it or read anything about it. The webpage described a bush camp with non-drinking water, long drop toilets, fires and at least two different camping areas, Bald Hill and Homestead. The google map was not working but no hassle, I have GPS. Done! The plan was to hook up, head out, stock up on supplies and be there for lunch.

Doing a quick weekend is easy. The camper is otherwise stocked so it just a matter of clothes and food supplies. Given there is no water on top of a hill, I decided The Pipers bike was a prerequisite, to keep him occupied. So, with the bike in the back seat, clothes and some food in there too, and the camper hooked up, we headed off with the gps set to “Avon National Park”. Making Bullsbrook in great time we stocked up then headed onward for LPG at Muchea. A slight detour and they didn’t have LPG but half a tank of unleaded will keep us safe. U-turn and out along Muchea East Rd to join Chittering Road then Julimar Rd. A right onto Plunkett Rd (dirt) and there’s the Avon Nat Pk sign. Quite insignificant, no other information and a lack of anything like a camping site. Onwards. And onwards. And onwards until the gps said we were there. Absolutely nowhere. Nowhere. Being nowhere was a bit tricky to get out of. A couple of saplings got mowed down, the trailer almost jack knifed and the back number plate is bent out of all shape (oops) but we made it. Fortunately we still had a signal on the iPad so it was a good time to download the PDF from DEC and have a look at the small map. Perhaps I should have done that in bed this morning too!

Now I see the problem … Wrong side of the valley. The Avon Valley. Many km’s from our destination. Go back, to go round? Go back to the main drag and go forward, to go round? Never go back! So round we go via Toodyay. Never been there so why not? By the time we hit Toodyay we’ve been on the road a while. And we’ve done a few km’s. Both under statements. But we’re only 75km from Perth! Lucky we can laugh! We’ve got music on the new car stereo, a plan and maybe it’s meant to be for some reason? Finally we make a big sign that says Avon Valley Nat Pk and then a formal entrance with signage and information (we did scoot slightly past it and have to make a u-turn that bent my brand new radio aerial). Yahoo. We pay the $21.20 it costs for the car and a nights camping, and on we go. All dirt which is fine but the corrugations are amazing. As rough as anything I’ve ever been on before. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Past Homestead, headed for Bald Hills.

And there we are. Arrived. A few other campers in the place but there’s a spot for us. Getting into it proved tricky, straight between a couple of tress with just enough room and many onlookers. I decline help, saying I wanted to do it myself but accepted guidance to manoeuvre, in reverse, into my chosen spot. Did it! Both gents were helpful, with one saying it’s like manoeuvring a wheel barrow, and the other saying I did a good job. Great spot for my trailer. Flat and no need to unhook from my truck. We have arrived. And I suspect that people were in the spot before us, so probably just as well we didn’t get there any earlier. Now to set up and explore. Set up is easy. Done in great time and still under the watchful eye of the neighbours. You can almost hear them talking about the fact I’m alone with my son. I want to tell them to stop gawking!

The Piper is riding and exploring and nagging me to go with him … and my water pump doesn’t work. I have a new 80L tank after it’s recent repair following our Albany trip but now my pump doesn’t work! Seriously. We have about 1.5 litres of water so it has to be fixed or I have to find a way to drain some water from the tank. It’s not panic stations, far from it. We have water, a campsite and part of the purpose of the trip was to work out what needs doing before our long road trip. So, I’m going to work it out. The pump has never been great. It leaks on the outflow side. So I fixed that first. Mirroring the inflow side, I fitted the pipe to the pump and closed the clamp. Fingers crossed. Now why doesn’t the pump work? All wires appear attached. All clamps and clips seem joined. Back through the wiring harness towards the battery, I check the fuse. Intact but I’ll change it anyway. Oh, no 30 amp fuses. Well, it’s intact. But wait. The fridge is working and it’s after the pump. So it’s not the fuse. Where’s the wire from the pump to the tap? Follow that … It’s attached to nothing! Winner! Now to find the wires from the tap … There they are … Strip them … Attach them to the joiner thingy and we are done! Flick the switch … We have water!! I did it. I fixed the 12v water pump and it works like a new one. And there’s no leak at the outflow pipe either! Double celebration time! Now I want to go and tell the neighbours to come and look!

Off to explore. What a great place. The rocks are amazing and the view over the valley is fantastic. I can almost see where we were. Funny! We played with the rocks and I took some great photos. There’s a rock cairn. With the sun setting and the brightness of the day, I can’t wait to look at the pics. I love my new camera. We arranged the rocks on the ground into J.B and then TYLER and took pics. We changed them from JAXS! so I’m sure other will come along behind us and change them … Such is life. I have no idea where those rocks, small and massive actually came from but no doubt they’ve been there a very long time and will be there for a very long time. For a very short time, the said TYLER.

Now, it’s dinner time. There are no fire pits left for the late comers so it’s cooking inside. Bacon and egg rolls washed down with G&T and a small glass of wine. Yummo. There is a fire pit just outside our door but the neighbours camp is set up almost on top of it. Including their car. The aren’t  using it though. Some people are so inconsiderate. And they got worse. Seriously, I think they turned out to be the most obnoxious campers I’ve ever been unfortunate enough to camp near. They were noisy for a long time into the night. That’s not too bad, The Piper sleeps through all that and ear plugs help, but the language was appalling and the volume of the conversation was audible and far from appropriate. They weren’t young people either. Two families and an older couple. Six adults and almost as many kids. Sounding like 200 people. I’m sure there were sore heads this morning, they were certainly much quieter and gone by 11. Thankfully.

Despite the noise, I slept well. I always do under canvas. It’s a great thing to do. Before bed we went for a walk to look at the stars. They were bright. Not as bright as they could be with the moon half way to full, but we saw a satellite. The southern cross was radiating down on us and the Milky Way was sprawled from east to west in all it’s glory. The boy wonder is scared of the dark so we didn’t stay long but what we saw was just grand. On our way back we passed our other neighbours, the good ones, dad with three sons, and asked to borrow their fire to burn some marshmallows while they were away. Just perfect. Now, teeth brushed first, we can sleep. Ear plugs.

This morning was cool and a little windy but not for long. I was happy to make a sluggish start, while The Piper started in 5th gear and stayed there all day. We watched the place gradually become deserted and finally had it to ourselves. We also had a short walk and climbed some rock formation to take more pics. The plants, especially the ferns, are so greens, the rocks are so grey. The sky is so blue. Great pics for sure …

Back at camp, we had the pick of the fire pits. Turned out the neighbours from hell had surrounded 3 pits and used 1. But we chose the one our good neighbours had been using, scored some wood from around the others and built a nice fire to wash, cook lunch and wash up. As always, The Piper split the wood and built the fire. He reignited it from hot coals, with eucalyptus leaves, proving the extent to which they ignite. Dry, yet full of oil. He had a blazing fire in moments. More marshmallows, toasty wraps, hot water for coffee and washing, and just plain fire gazing. Just what the boy wonder needed. He’s had it all now. So I agreed to allow him to take a photo with the new camera. With the strap around his wrist and all care taken, he turned it on and proceeded to tell me there was a message on the screen “no memory card”. Really? Seriously? All those beautiful pictures I’ve taken, on my first outing with my new camera? All gone? Well, not gone, ‘cause they never existed in the first place. Unbelievable. Annoying but very very funny. Especially as all the wrens have come out and are parading their red breasts and blue tail feathers. Lesson learnt. Carry a spare card and read the screen. I know I’m having trouble seeing but that’s just hard to believe. Fortunately I have a few pics taken on the ‘phone. I hope I don’t accidentally delete those when I reset it to give it back to it’s owner!

With lunch and the washing up done, I set to packing up and The Piper built a bike ramp over the water left by the neighbours. The camper took no time to take down (I found a pack of five 30 amp fuses) and I was ready to clip her closed, as we were approached by two gentlemen from a Britz van. They were Germans, arrived today, picked up their van, and found themselves on Bald Hill in Avon Valley Nat Pk. I wonder why? As did they! They wanted to know what I was doing there. As in “what do you do here?” My reply was really simple and not what they wanted to hear. “Nothing. I work too hard. I come here to do nothing”. They were looking for “wildlife”. And snorkelling! I sent them on their way, suggesting Lancelin and the Pinnacles but they need to be back in Perth on Wednesday for a trip to Rotto. I suggested they pass on that and snorkel at Lancelin but they seemed keen to make Rotto. Sometimes the strangest things happen in the bush.

Now it’s time to head home. The Piper finished closing the van while I talked to the visitors, he did it all perfectly and we were good to go. He jumped on his bike and I drove very very slowly behind him for just a couple of km’s. But his little legs, the up hills and the rutted road combined to tire him quickly. We loaded the bike and headed out. A quick stop at Homestead confirmed that it would be an equally good campsite for the future if Bald Hills is full. In fact it would be better because it’s flat, unlike the campground on the side of Bald Hill. We were lucky to get one of the only flat sites, despite getting there late on Sunday afternoon. Karma was looking after us (or our long way round had an advantage).

The trip home was filled with music, paddle pops, reminiscing and before we knew it the van was in the garage – reversed it straight in without any manoeuvring at all, between all the other stuff in there and less than 30cm from the wall. With the big truck in the driveway, everything unpacked, the washing done and on the line, the dinner cooked, and us showered, I went outside to straighten my new aerial. I had pushed it down into itself to save it from further damage. It had taken the guy an hour to fit, just last Thursday. The old one had been stuck and he had no end of trouble fitting the new one. Needless to say, in touching it tonight, I snapped it clean off, inside the wheel guard of the car. Looks like it’ll be USB music on my new stereo for the big trip!

Our second trip to Avon Valley National Park (May 2015)
Unlike other trips, this account is written from home. I could have written while we were away but I was busy doing nothing. That sounds like I had time to write. I probably did but in truth, I really was busy doing nothing and I had banned devices. So, I had to stick to my own ban. We had a great weekend. This time we took a newby. A camping virgin. In fact, a peeing outside virgin, a corrugated road virgin, a spuds in the fire virgin and a sleeping under canvas virgin. Given all the virginity, The Newby did a great job of camping. Not just that, The Newby was useful around the site, is a capable cook and bottle washer, seems to like canvas and was heard to giggle gleefully in the pop up shower when doused with water from the bucket. Well done Newby!

We didn’t get away until 6.30 or later on Friday night. The mechanic was still working on my car at 5.15! When we arrived at the campsite (Bald Hill again) we set up and cooked up a steak and potatoes on a lovely fire. Cooking was somewhat harder than normal, given the corrugations had shaken the handle clean off the frying pan! Some deft handling was required and eventually steaks and potatoes were cooked to coincide perfectly. It was a beautiful night and we stayed up right through until it was done. Given that dinner time was after 10, bedtime was always going to be late. Cinderella would have turned from a princess to a housemaid before we went to bed.

Saturday morning we woke to lots of room but quickly realised we were facing our neighbours and there were more to come. Unfortunately our weekend wasn’t terribly private but it turned out grand for The Piper. He made friends, as he always does, with the 11yo boy and 12yo girl whose family shared our campfire. Turns out their dad works where I do, and does a similar job the The Newby. It’s a small world. Saturday we explored, for The Newbys sake, and found the railway line, the river and the rocks. We clambered and climbed and, in the case of The Piper, fell. As always he was parkouring from rock to rock, stump to stump, and ground to anything stationery. The obligatory warning had been issued and within moments he was face down, feet and butt up, over a huge boulder positioned on the edge of a considerable fall. Neither The Newby or I saw it, but we both saw the final parkour fail position. Being a parkour mum from way back I remained calm and reassuring (code for “there he goes again, how bad can it be?”). The Newby however shot off like a rocket to save The Piper from falling to a certain severe injury! There was skin off, some redness and swelling, as well as a hugely bruised ego. All resolved with complete return to normal function, and parkouring, within an hour.

Eventually we walked down to Drummonds campsite. We should have gone in there on Friday night but it’s a great option for next time. It’s far more private and seems less popular, though I don’t know why. Bald Hill has been quite busy both times we have been there. The ranger told us that they are going to require bookings in the future, which is good for protecting the park, not so good for just deciding to go at the last minute. After our exploration we set up the shower tent, bucket, hot water and 12v shower. Sounds complicated? Not really. Pop up shower pops up! Bucket stands in the shower filled from the solar shower bags. Additional hot water is added from the kettle. The 12v shower is dropped into the water and turned on (plugged into the car cigarette lighter) and away you go. The bathroom has a view (through the ceiling vents) of the great Australian bush, a handy vanity mirror (the car reversing mirror), shelving (the car running board) and towel rack (the car reversing mirror). The Piper and I both had a great warm shower but The Newby broke the 12v pump (!) so had to have a dousing rinse with the kettle! I’ll be taking that back to the camping shop this week (the shower, not The Newby).

Saturday night The Newby cooked us some fabulous hamburgers (on the newly repaired frying pan) and we consumed a large amount of lovely wine. It was yet another late night around a gorgeous fire chatting and making the most of all that a weekend doing nothing has to offer. We were very lucky as the days were all fine, even warm and the nights weren’t too bad at all. Cold away from the fire but there’s no need to venture far, other than to go to bed. Both my car and the van were great, with heaps of water from the repaired tank and no problems with the pump (once the hose clamp was reattached. Those corrugations are deadly). Apart from nearly killing himself, The Piper was really good. He had his bike and with his cute little friends, he was completely occupied all weekend. As much as I can enjoy my own company, it was fantastic to have another adult with us. Someone to hang with, share the cooking with, share a wine with and laugh with made my weekend lots of fun.

Sunday we took a lovely walk to the other site at Homestead, which is also good. I can see us spending a lot of time in Avon National Park next year, just because it is so close and accessible. We also found a good water source for the non-drinking stuff, at the group site (Cec Barrows) so there’s backup supply for showers and washing up in the future. It was a nice, long, leisurely walk of about 5.2k round trip, just far enough. And we found a toilet. Not a long drop in the true sense because it was porcelain and, with a bucket of water, it flushed! The pressure in the tap was high so there must have been a good supply in the tank. It’s good to know there’s a “flushing” toilet. A once a day visit may be required. Otherwise, the bush serves just fine as always. I pee’d this weekend with some spectacular views. Some times we just get lucky in life. I think The Newby got the hang of it …

This time I have photos (none of The Newby pee’ing). I remembered to take SD cards for the camera so I caught the gorgeous sunset on Saturday night, the river rock fall, the trees and moon, the rocks and of course, us. I am totally in love with my camera and I was also given a super espresso machine, by The Newby, that works by being pumped up manually to create the pressure. It looks like a bike pump, you pressurise it and add a bag, release the pressure and it serves you a cup of fabulous coffee! The perfect gift for a traveller that loves coffee. So, between wine and gin in the evenings and coffee in the mornings, I was one very happy girly.

Unfortunately, The Newby left us on Sunday afternoon but not before demonstrating some parkouring ability (flipping over a tiny wee stone on the ground). The Piper and I had a shower and then I decided to see if I could fix the aerial that snapped off last time we visited Bald Hill. Of course nothing is simple and I didn’t think through the possibilities. Obviously loosening a nut will result in an action. I loosened the nut (flush in the vehicle) and the consequence was losing whatever was attached into the front quarter panel of the vehicle! The Piper came to mums rescue with small hands and found the channel that the aerial retracts into inside the wheel well. He then took great delight in re-fitting it. Unfortunately we had it upside down and had to re re-fit it. This required above and below car access resulting in The Piper becoming delightfully grubby. The actual aerial wasn’t able to be reinstalled the right way up but we figured we’d put it in upside down (from outside the vehicle rather than from the inside). Seems to work just fine.  Following the car repairs we settled in for a nice evening. A quick dinner of toasty sandwiches meant there wasn’t much washing up. The kids had a ball playing hide and seek in the dark. We had a nice early night, somewhere around 9ish and just as well. Some of our neighbours started a motorised saw to cut wood at 7.15am! Thank you very much! The height of camping rudeness. Monday was quiet and involved a slow pack up to head home to see The Drummer.

The highlight of the pack up was the successful fold of the pop up tent. Now there’s a challenge, even for a non-virgin camper. The Newby and I had a couple of goes at it on Saturday night, severely under the influence of alcohol, and one go with the instructions on Sunday morning. No luck. I also had a discrete turn at it on Sunday evening. Bugger the device ban, where’s YouTube? Sure enough, there are any number of videos demonstrating the process. How hard can it be. As Monday dawned, I ducked behind the car and proved the folding is simple, when you know how. Having mastered it, I flipped it open again and appeared on centre stage to fold and pack with an audience. They appropriately cheered as required. However, when the young couple beside us couldn’t get theirs folded I was no help. Although the young lady did get it closed thanks to my “like your fishing” instruction, and that’s the first time they’ve put it away since they got it (normally travel with it flat packed).

The trip home was uneventful, the camper was packed away in moments and the unpacking done with ease (although half a bottle of beer was sacrificed to the fridge gods thanks again to the road corrugations). I even got a chance to take the truck down for a wash. As old and crumbly as she is, she gets as there and back each time. Makes it worth the $3700 I spent on her last week … She better get us round the country without too many hassles!  So, that was our weekend. I think The Newby liked it. I guess we’ll know in due course … But I hope so. We certainly enjoyed having The Newby with us and hope to do it again sometime … There’s so much opporchancity out there to enjoy it.

Our third trip to Avon Valley NP (April 2017)
I feel like we’ve been here lots more than just three times, possibly because at the moment, every road leads to Toodyay, right past the turnoff to the park. This trip was a quick one, decided on by The Newby, to go to the Space Place observatory. After the recent star gazing we did in The Pipers swag over summer, we are more interested in the sky. Turns out this weekend is a dark night so we packed the car this afternoon (Saturday) and cruised out here to choose a spot, set up the swag and then drive around for the star gazing.
As always, Bald Hill was busy but not crammed so we managed to get a spot by a fire pit and peg out the swag. With that sorted we drove out to the Space Place and enjoyed an interesting, cool evening under the stars. I say interesting because the hostess is very interesting (to say the least) and the astronomers are interesting (very knowledgeable, if a little disorganised) and the sky is interesting (actually its just plain amazing), all in different ways. But we enjoyed learning about things like the dog constellation that accompanies Orion, and the stars of the astrology signs, including the discovery of new ones and the eventual disappearance of existing ones. The highlight for us though was looking at Saturn and spotting its rings, but we also got to see Jupiter and 4 of its moons, other galaxies and of course, the moon (just before it set for the night). If you are looking for an evening of enlightenment this may suit you, although we’re not that sure that it was a value for money experience.
Back at Bald Hill we had a very late beverage and headed to bed for another sound nights sleep in the great Aussie bush. In the morning we enjoyed a lovely fire and a slow breakfast as our fellow campers packed up around us and left us to share the campsite with one other family. We had a short stroll around, spotted some eagles riding the currents to cross the valley, and then packed up and headed back through Toodyay to take the Bindoon Dewars Pool Road around to the Bindoon Bakehaus for a lovely late lunch and a coffee and puffy toot. Eventually we toddled home after picking up a load of caches along the way. Our simple but comfy camper means we can do a trip of 24hrs and feel like we’ve been away for ages. Right now, it suits us down to the ground. Happy travels. SA

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