This weekend was a gift to me from The Newby as the kids were otherwise occupied and we had a chance to go it alone. The opportunity of 3 days and nights without kids was too good to refuse. He booked it all and arranged the details and off we went after work. We headed south from Perth, bound for Evedon Park in the Ferguson Valley. I’d never heard of the place before but it turns out it was a working cattle farm for a long time before being partially converted into an eco stay with numerous apartments and cottages all set on a large dam. The location is tucked away just 20 minutes from Bunbury and 2 hours from home. We arrived early in the evening to a small 2 bedroom apartment, fully self contained, straight out of 1980 but practical and comfortable.
Our evening entailed all the things adults do when there are no kids. We ate cheese and crackers, drank lots of wine, ate hot curries and watched M rated TV. You thought I was going to say something else … that would be inappropriate on a publicly available website. After a good nights sleep (no kids remember) we had day one in front of us. With a practical map of the valley in hand he drove and I navigated us into the great unknown. We did a day-long anticlockwise loop of the valley starting with a cache just down the road. This is turning into a great way to see things that otherwise would go unnoticed. We stopped in Dardanup at the visitors info centre, where there is a beautiful rose garden, before heading south to Boyanup then on to Donnybrook, collecting caches along the way. One of our stops was Gnomesville, a roundabout that sends drivers west or east, which is surrounded by gnomes. Thousands of them, all sizes and shapes. We stopped for a quick look but the sheer size of it means seeing it all would take ages (and probably overdose the average non-gnome’r) so we moved on.
Our destination was the King Jarrah tree but hunger forced a delightful afternoon stop at Wellington Forest Food and Wine where we were treated to great food, beautiful local wine and exceptional hospitality. Wendy, the cook (by her own admission) cooked us a great hamburger and delicious pie and chips followed by an apple pie (literally) and sticky date pudding. We also made a big dent in a bottle of Henty wine that we finished in the evening at home. But before heading home we doubled back and around a closed road to visit the King Jarrah tree. Having the road opened especially for us meant that we had the spot to ourselves and could peacefully enjoy the view. The tree is lovely but I’ve seen bigger and promised to show The Newby the big tree in Lane Poole on our way home to Perth. With most of the day behind us we drove on to Wellington Dam and enjoyed a short walk to stand in awe at such a huge structure made in a completely different technological time. It’s a shame the water is too saline for human consumption and goes largely unused. We heard they are adding some campsites in the future, hopefully to make use of the waterway.
Having followed the Collie River home, via Honeymoon Pool and the Commonwealth of Australia National Television Transmitter (as you do), we decided on a light dinner of cheese and crackers, washed down with wine, while we enjoyed a small fire in the fire pit just outside our door, on the banks of the dam. This great establishment provides visitors with firewood for inside and outside use that we took advantage of and used to relax into the evening. They also provide kayaks, paddles and PFDs for use on the dam. They also have a restaurant (that we simply didn’t have time to try) and a gallery of art on canvas.
Having completed a lovely lap of the valley on day one we decided to spend a day at the beach. I wanted to try to find some of the famed dolphins of Koombana Bay in Bunbury. I had a feeling about where they might be but I wasn’t sure how to get there. After a false start and a second attempt we found the spot I was looking for at the mouth of the the Leschenault Inlet. As soon as we were out of the car I spotted a school of dolphins and we spent the next hour or more dolphin watching. They were in numerous pods both inside the inlet around the mouth of the inlet and in Koombana Bay. We had a fabulous view and committed to bringing our kayaks back to paddle with them, as others were doing while we watched from the shore. The beating sun and a lack of sunscreen forced us to leave the breakwall and head for sustenance (but not before stashing a cache or two). In fact today we found what may be the most inventive cache of our experiences so far. For those of you interested its GC383J5. Caching ate into our day a fair bit but once again took us places and taught us things we didn’t know.
Hungry for something yum with a good view we headed for the beach and found the cafe ready and waiting to feed our eyes and bellies. We spent a lovely hour gazing out to sea and watching more dolphins before heading onto the beach for a paddle and walk. The Newby was keen to head for Hamelin Bay and some ray sights but with the evening approaching we decided on a winery instead (like there really was any comparison!). He had been keen to try the Bonking Frog (such a boy) so we headed there and were delighted with the place, the attention and the wine. Well done to the Bonking Frog on a great experience. In case you’re wondering, the name comes from the sound the frog makes, rather than any action it may (or may not) perform!
With a winery experience under our belts I wanted to try a brewery experience so we headed for the Moody Cow Brewery. Despite their website and the info from the visitors center saying that they were open until 6pm, we found them well and truly closed at just after 5pm. Clearly the cow was particularly moody that afternoon so we headed back to Evedon Park for dinner. I love nothing more than a baked potato so we popped a few in the fire outside and enjoyed a wine or two while they cooked. Served with lamb ribs our spuds were perfect and we ended our day happily full of good food, wine and company and got up to speed with the most recent episode of Luke Warm Sex (that’s a TV show!)
Day 3 dawned wet but not cold. Due to the scurrying of a critter inside the accommodation overnight we awoke a wee bit tired. Unfortunately we had to pack up and start making our way home to Perth. But we were in no hurry to burn up the k’s so we decided to head up the inland highway and stop along the way. Our first stop was the town of Harvey where we learned about the Harvey River was diversion, that employed 2,500 men to dig with shovels and remove sand in wheelbarrows (5 shovel loads only). The work was rostered two days a week for a “sustenance” wage with men left between then ($1) and fifteen shillings ($1.50) for the worker, after hiring tents and buying food. we visited the memorial to the thousands of men who worked on the Harvey River Diversion and Drainage Scheme in Stirling Park at Harvey, beside the Diversion. Of interest we also spied an asphalt area in the vicinity which a fellow Geocacher has subsequently informed me is a regular feature in country towns. Apparently “Almost every large country town in Australia has a strip of bitumen like this hidden somewhere around the town. It is used by firemen for training and competitions between fire units world wide.
They compete in events like hose running, tower climbing, and all the other things you see firies doing during the course of their duties !!” So now I know!
On route to our next stop we passed the town of Yarloop. Unfortunately this town was completely devastated by bushfire during the summer and remains closed to outsiders. The sight of burned, collapsed, destroyed homes and businesses was very sobering and a shocking reminder of the forces of nature. My sincere hopes and prayers for a recovery from this devastation are extended to the people of Yarloop. Having seem this devastation in pouring rain it is hard to imagine the scale of the fire that caused such damage and I am sure that recovery will take a lifetime for those affected.
Our next stop was Lane Poole Reserve to visit the King Jarrah Tree. we took the opportunity to do a reccy for future campsites and have some great options for another time. The King Jarrah tree was there, alone following the surrounding forest being harvested, but watching the cars and people go by. After saying good bye to it we headed into Dwellingup for lunch and then onward to Perth and home by the mid afternoon. We had a wonderful weekend and I can recommend this area of the world to you for a refreshing mini break and great getaway. If you make it down there be sure take a gnome with you and leave him or her there for posterity.