Busselton for a long weekend (with a side trip to Dryandra for ANZAC Day)

Not even 2 weeks since our Easter trip to the Stirling Ranges and we are off again, this time to Katz Flats in Busselton located on Wadandi country. We’ve never stayed in Busso together, but been there many times, even as a lock down was being mandated! We are staying on a private property that allows camping, with access to a toilet. That’s all we need!

Busso is 2 and a half hours from home, and we set off after work, hitting the road bang on 5.30. Of course that means we shared the highway with all the peak hour traffic, but despite that, our trip took the aforesaid 2 and a half hours! As usual I was bored stupid within an hour and gibbered rubbish the rest of the way, and then we arrived at Katz Flats. After a little negotiation to find our spot, we were in position and removing Tas from Maz. Given our late arrival (8pm), dinner was served about 9 and then we completed our setup and got a little fire going, to see out the evening with a wee gin and tonic. Makes it all worth the effort. I am looking forward to seeing what it look like here in the daylight.

Saturday morning

So we are here for 4 nights, having taken a leave day on Monday before the public holiday on Tuesday for ANZAC Day. We’ve brought everything and the kitchen sink with us, bikes and scooters with helmets, and awning tent to store everything and our new-to-us ensuite tent. It’s an easy-up Joolca double! Not as easy up as the spring loaded jobs, but easy up “like an umbrella”. We’ll see …

After a good sleep in and a leisurely start with coffee by the lake watching the pied stilts, we headed out to grab some brunch. Talulah found us a cafe in Geographe where I found a house I would love to live in. Shame it’s not for sale.

After brunch Talulah took me to Bunnings, because no camping trip is complete without a quick wander through the aisles, and then I took Talulah to Cape Naturaliste lighthouse. Who chose better?

In Bunnings we picked up some wire to line the brazier so the coals don’t all fall through the too-wide gaps in the sides. Nothing exciting but definitely an important trip! As for the lighthouse it was $16 each very well spent. I have been before, but only to the cape. This time we splurged and took the tour. It starts at the 3 identical houses, one for each keeper and his family, with the only advantage being that one is 20m closer to the lighthouse, and therefore was allocated to the head man. In its time the lighthouse was “one of the most isolated” with food and other supplies brought to Bunker Bay and thrown ashore to the lighthouse keepers to retrieve and transport to their accommodation. There were 3 families, with each keeper rostered on for 8 hours. Everyone had a job, and the kids didn’t go to school. Sounds like something the Piper would have loved …

The lighthouse sits atop a cliff, but the walk isn’t strenuous and the lighthouse isn’t that tall. It has 59 stairs inside, so by most standards a short lighthouse. On the way up to the lighthouse our guide acknowledged the Wadandi people, the traditional owners of the land, who called the cape “Kwirreejeenungup”, meaning “the place with the beautiful view”. Very appropriate as it does have a great view, which we thoroughly enjoyed on an almost perfect day. There was no wind to speak of and it was lovely and warm, so apart from the smoke haze it was as good as it gets.

After admiring the view from the walkway, we were invited to head into the lighthouse with our guide. Inside the stories continued. Life as a lighthouse keeper here was tough. Electricity didn’t come to the lighthouse until the 1970s and it was fully automated until 1995! Early on it was powered by kero, which the keepers carried up the stairs. Once at the top the space was terribly hot, so adding kero to the tank was a dangerous mission. The housing of the light itself contains mercury, for frictionless rotation so of course they had to carry mercury up to the light as well. Mercury is 13 times heavier than water so the 12 litres they need to replace was a huge burden. As you would expect, eventually lighthouse keepers’ sanity was questionable, due to both mercury poisoning and the rigours of the job. One of the keepers hated his work so much, he took to the expensive lens with a hammer, dented them but not breaking them, with the dents still visible today!

Now as you know, I have a thing with heights, so I was more than a little sweaty palmed heading up the thin little spiral staircase, but I made it first to the mid way point, where keepers worked at stand up desks so they didn’t fall asleep, and then to the top! As the Wadandi people said, this is a place with a beautiful view and we definitely have to come back in September or October to see the up to 130 whales that congregate at the cape! I can barely wait.

Back at the bottom of the lighthouse we got the obligatory photos with the red door, before wandering back down the hill.

Not too far along the short walk we stopped to read the sign, informing those who bother to read it that there is an orchid that is found only on the cape! Imagine my delighted when I turned to the opposite side of the path and found the only orchid that we could see! It was like the orchid conveniently grew right at the sign to prove its existence. It is a tiny little flower, like the worlds smallest spider! So cute and standing looking at all the passers by who don’t notice it’s there (despite the sign).

Back at the bottom we left the site of the lovely lighthouse, with wonderful stories and explored Bunker Bay, Sugarloaf Rock and Meelup. All of them were picture perfect and full of school holiday makers enjoying the water. Before we knew it, most of the day was behind us so we headed back to the camper for a warm shower, followed by a lovely evening around the fire, with homemade pizzas for dinner. I have no idea where today went, but it was a very nice start to our extra long weekend.

Unbeknownst to us, and in no way factored in to our plans, one of the worlds most well known surf competitions the Margaret River Pro is on down here at the moment. Although we aren’t surfers, if something like this is happening on your doorstep then you would be silly to miss the spectacle of it. So, after breakfast we loaded the scooters and the camera, and headed down the “The Margs”. It’s only about 45minutes from this side of Busso so not a long journey at all. We parked the car in the paddock parking, unloaded the scooters and flew along the path to the beach.

This comp takes place off the aptly named “Surfers Point” and we arrived just as a men’s heat, starring the world number one men’s surfer, John John Florence was finishing. We did get to hear that he won the heat and we spotted his back as he walked up the path carrying his board. The headland was very crowded, with people enjoying the beautiful day, lazing on the grass, staring out to see at two little dots, bobbing in the water. We found ourselves a great vantage point, directly above the beach, right in front of the break.

The first heat of the women’s quarter final started almost straight away and we spent the first half watching the girls fight it out, while we worked out what was happening. Turns out we were watching the local girl, Brontë Macauley beat the world number 1 Molly Picklum. I guess that’s what happens when you have a hometown advantage.

Next up Carissa Moore and Lakey Peterson went hard for 30 minutes. In the last couple of minutes with Lakey leading, Carissa rode “the wave of the day” ploughing through a tiny tube and out the other side! It was awesome to watch!

I say these women’s names as if I know who they are, which for the most part I don’t. However, I do know the next two, Steph Gilmore and Tyler Wright. How lucky are we to have fluked the opportunity to go the Margaret River Pro and to see Australia’s best women’s surfers?! The surf for this half hour was flat and the women did their best to entertain us, but for the most part they sat astride their boards, hoping for the big set with the big wave. No such luck, and eventually Tyler Wright was declared the winner of the heat.

With that the organisers also announced that despite the glorious weather, the surfing would finish for the day after the last heat of the quarter finals. In the interests of avoiding the crush, we decided to scoot off and grab some food. Despite the lack of surf, it was definitely a great thing to do and something I would recommend to anyone who like fresh air and sunshine at the beach!

After an unremarkable lunch and coffee in town we headed back up the highway to gather some firewood for an evening under the stars. With our wood secured we decide to take a scoot along the road to the bird hide and possum walk at the local Tuart forest. We were lucky enough to spot a pair of eagles but not much else was out on the water. We also took the opportunity to quickly visit the historic school and teacher’s home, across the road from Wonnerup House. We’ll have to come back to have a look at that, but it sounds as though there may be a few stories worth hearing and making the trip worthwhile. Back home we settled in for a lovely evening under the stars, waiting for the forecast rain to come, but it took until almost midnight for it to finally arrive, finally driving us off to bed after a great day.

Oh, my lord, what a night! After going to bed so late, we had hoped for a good sleep, but it was not to be. The wind kicked up almost straight away, flapping our tarp, awning and tent. We did our best to silence what we could, swapped around to sleep where our feet normally go, plugged my ears and tried to doze off. I think I got a little bit of sleep before we finally had to deal with our beaten home. At 3am the wind and rain threatened to blow us all the way to Oz. Our awning tent was collapsed with all our gear inside, our awning arms were swinging in the breeze and our tarp was ripping at it seams. Talulah managed to get the awning down, we managed to fold our news to-us shower tent and throw everything into or under the car or camper. Now to try and get some sleep.

As you can imagine, between the weather and our crazy overnight capers, getting restful sleep was not easy. I think we may have got 3 hours before the sun helped us to wake up and survey the damage. Luckily for us, our gear was all safe and relatively dry, so we set about seeing if it was all still functional. The weather varied between blowing a drying wind and short but soaking rain storms. We managed to get most of our gear dry enough to pack away, so we could head out to make the most of the day. Just as we were about to go out Talulah rechecked the forecast and unanimously we agreed that we really didn’t want to ride out another night of storms. Within an hour we were in our way, initially thinking we would go home, until I suggested we spend the night and tomorrow at Dryandra!

With a new plan, we headed off to Bunbury where we had a lovely pizza and chips with a ginger, apple and pear cider (GAP). No dolphins in the estuary today, but it was still lovely to sit and look out the window as we warmed up with tasty comfort food. Feeling much better we headed in to procure Talulah’s dairy free icecream before we beat the long path through Collie to Williams and up to the gorgeous Dryandra. It was wonderful to arrive there to the calmest of evening, not a breath of wind or a drop of rain anywhere! In minutes I had a fire burning, we had the camper ready and we settled in to enjoy the rest of the annual leave day we had both taken. Good save!

Tuesday ANZAC day
As you can no doubt appreciate we needed a good night sleep and we got it! Not one thing flapped or collapsed or got wet. We did wake up to overcast skies but we managed to get the fire restarted and enjoy some breakfast. Last time we stayed here, (not last time we were here a couple of weeks ago) we started the loop walk but didn’t finish it thanks to the distraction of a numbat. So we took the opportunity and the risk of doing the full lap around the campsite. We didn’t spot anything moving in or around the woodlands but it was still a great walk, which we managed to finish just as the heavens opened up and the rain drizzled down for the rest of the afternoon. Instead of heading off straight away though, we busted out the Yahtzee and played a few games, with the door open and a superb view of the little yellow breasted robin who popped by to say hi. Eventually we packed up in the rain and left the wonderful woodland National Park.

Our extended long weekend didn’t go quite as we planned, but it was still better than any day at work. I loved almost all of it and with our side trip we “kicked the arse out of it”. Next trip, Jarrahdale in a couple of weeks, followed by Karda for the long weekend. And just in case you were wondering, it’s only 97 days until I start long service leave. Bring it on!

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