Frankland River, September 2022

Dear Queen Elizabeth II,

I am sorry to hear that you passed away. I think that you had a long and privileged life, probably long because it was privileged, so it was your time to go. I dare say your family are sadder than me, and I always feel sorry for mourning families. Anyways, thanks for your service and for the 2 holidays we got this weekend, one to mourn your passing on Thursday and one to celebrate your birth (after your death) on Monday! With a day of long service leave added in on Friday we have a 5 day weekend! See ya …

With Mr P still on not-long service leave, he was able to ready us for departure on Wednesday so that after work we were on our way with every other person in Perth, down the highway. We are booked in at Frankland River caravan park on Thursday night, for 4 nights, but decided to make a head start by staying Wednesday night at Wandering. We got there after dark, but chose a nice spot on the oval and wandered down to the tavern for dinner. It was busier than I thought would be, but we got our couple of drinks and meals without any hassle. It was a very quiet night back on the oval and I hope we stay at Wandering again, because I would like to do the nature walk that surround the CP. Unfortunately Mr P woke with a headache, so we just packed and I drove us onwards. Our only stop on the way was in Kojonup, where we stocked up on locally made jam, got pies for lunch and found a railway side pot to eat them. Taking a back road, we made it Frankland River, on the lands of the Noongar people, in the afternoon. Our first impression was of a quiet town, with a friendly local checking us in to a lovely country caravan park. Thanks again for this holiday dear Queen.

After setting up for our 4 nights we decided to checkout the recommendation for orchids at the golf course – “there hasn’t been a game of golf there in years”. Having brought the e-scooters with us, we took the opportunity to scoot down there. As always, I was hopeful that there would actually be orchids, but ready to traipse through the bush to find them. Boy oh boy, was I ever stoked to see 100s, if not 1000s of orchid flowers, as far as I could see. I was certainly in heaven, loving the gorgeousness of the dainty looking, beauties. We spent ages looking along the corner and up to the golf club, finding a couple of new-to-us splendid specimens, the purple pansies and a common dragon. Goodness knows what the man walking his dog at an abandoned golf course thought when he came across two e-scooters at the tee for the first hole. I bet the two lunatics emerging from the bush wearing bike helmets added to his bemusement!

Back to the camper we scooted and enjoyed dinner in the awning tent. Thankfully we thought to bring it along so we would have an extra room for our things and to be out of the cold in the evening. Despite that the fact that it is still fire season, the little caravan park does not allow fires, which is very disappointing. So instead of watching the flames chase each other around, we watched a movie. I would highly recommend the very funny, Australian made movie, How to Please a Woman. Set in Freo and Leighton Beach, it had some familiar scenery. Eventually it was too late and quite cold, so we headed to bed. Rest In Peace QEII and thanks again for the bonus holiday.

Friday we were up and at ‘em quite early, possible because it’s a work day. The Australian media tagged it “Australia’s biggest sickie” and perhaps it was. But I didn’t have any classes, didn’t want to check emails, so I took a paid leave day, and here we are. After breakfast we packed a few things for lunch into the esky and headed off to see if we could spot a numbat or two. We intended to go to the place we were originally booked into, Perup: Natures Guesthouse, but instead turned off onto a road dissecting the National Park. We traversed the entire length of it, not crossing paths with another car, possibly because it’s a work day. Unfortunately we also didn’t see any numbats, despite stopping and looking at various likely places. We did find a very nice spot for lunch and enjoyed the surrounds from the tray of Maz. A very good idea of mine to bring the chairs.

With no numbats sighted (but we did see a few orchids), we headed to Manjimup for supplies and a late coffee. With stock on board we started the drive home, stopping at Muir Lake, Muir Bridge over Frankland River and Henry’s Stump. In fact, it looks like we found the original road and the bridge that subsequently went in along the line that Henry surveyed. Despite not being able to find numbats, we spotted a geocache without trying. Once again we arrived back as Tas as the sun was setting and enjoyed a lovely evening, with steak for dinner and watching Dog. A predictable but nonetheless good movie. It was not nearly as cold as last night, with clouds gathering and the forecast rain appearing likely. Overall a very good way to spend a long service day. I can’t wait until I get the chance to spend 10 weeks on long service leave next year.

Despite it being a weekend of mourning to you our Queen, the AFL grand final is to go ahead today, Saturday, hence the reason we celebrate your birthday on Monday (recovery day). Our plan today is to find a place to watch the footy, either on our TV or in a reputable establishment. The weather has deteriorated and the overnight rain has left everything wet. Fortunately not us though, as the camper did not leak! After breaky we headed off to explore the road from Frankland River to Cranbrook. The visitors guide includes a drive trail with some interesting stops on it. The first is barely out of town and is called 27 Mile Dam. The dam was created to water stock as they were walked to market. The original post and rail fence is still there, as is a neat funnel and pipe system to get water from the dam to a trough to water the stockmen’s horses. We also so some lovely orchids, including another common dragon.

Our next stop was in Cranbrook for a coffee from Daisy in the cafe, with some sustenance in the form of fruit cake and Anzac biscuits, and a baggy of in-shell macadamias. We decided to enjoy the coffee at Sukey Hill, which is a great place to look east towards the Stirling Ranges. There were also some lovely orchids along the road leading up to the lookout, including more of the thousands of spider orchids that are in full display. After consuming too many calories a walk was in order so we decided to beat our feet around the Cranbrook wildflower walk. For some reason we were the only people there (probably because the grand final was underway). Our walk took us through some never-cleared bush land. The bush is home to millions of bees (of the orchid type) as well as spiders (also of the orchid type), lemon scented and the ever present cows and donkeys (of the orchid types). We didn’t see many animals or birds, although there was evidence that they are there at least some of the time.

We finished our walk around about half time in the footy, so we headed to the cemetery for lunch. No, we aren’t morbid people, the cemetery is another orchid hotspot. It is also the start of the wildflower drive. Our first delight was the Lechenultia Formosa. It looks so pretty, both in colour (vivid red) and form (lovely circles). Unfortunately our preferred team was losing badly so we opted to switch off the tv and explore for more orchids. This site had some of the best specimens of spiders we have seen so far, tucked under a tree. There were also the reliable donkeys and cowslips. Around the cemetery we found more of the same plus some lemon scenteds. Within the cemetery we gave a nod to the people I know who are buried here, before we jumped in the car and followed the wildflower drive. We were lucky to find so many flowers of all kinds, not just orchids, all within a step of the car. From an orchid perspective, as well as the ones we already saw at the cemetery and the walk, we found some redbeaks, although there was no evidence of a recent burn.

Having completely exhausted the orchid hotspots in Cranbrook we decided to head to Tenterden in a quest to find the Tenterden Spider. Although we followed the instructions to find the likely spots, we didn’t find this new-to-us bloom. We did find the “Orchid Nature Reserve” that was indeed a reserve full of orchids and nature, in the form of mozzies big enough to pick you up and carry you away! Nothing for it but to head back to the car and on to Nunijup Lake. What a great spot, with camping, a flushing loo, a full lake and the illusive Tenterden Spider orchid! A lucky find at our last stop of the day. We also were lucky to watch a couple of yellow rumpled thorn bills hopping around on the ground, happy to have their pictures taken. Heaven, new-to-us orchids and birdies, both in the same spot!

Having been out all day and loving it all, it was time to head home. We chose not to stop at Twonkup Reserve, having read the description on the Visitor Guide. I had also read that people were finding lovely orchids there, so I am glad there is some serenity in the final resting place of many people. Back at Tas I taught Mr P how to crack open macadamia nuts with the only hammer we have, a heavy mattock, before we settled in for an evening of rest, enjoying chicken burritos for dinner and the movie Elton. I would love to have watched it on a bigger screen, with surround sound, but watching it on our tiny tv, in our cosy tent, reclined in our comfy chairs, eating chocolate and drinking gin was also pretty awesome. Camping life is good.

And just like that we woke up to our last full day (Sunday) of this mini holiday. There is still so much to see and do down here so we started with a walk around the town of Frankland River, something we probably should have done earlier. Within a few 100m of the camper we were very lucky to see not only a bunch of orchids but also a stunning little blue wren. He was very happy to sit still and let me take many photos of him. Our next stop on the town walk was near the water tower where we found the start of the proposed conservation area and continued walking in a lovely loop back to Tas, spotting many more orchids.

After a cuppa we threw a few things in the esky for lunch and headed out to a couple more spots from the Visitors Guide. Lake Poorarecup is the town’s alternative to a local swimming pool. I was sceptical, preferring saltwater over fresh, but I can see why they like it. It was full and looked like it would be inviting on a hot day. Actually, despite it being reasonably cold, there were 3 silly buggers sitting in the shallow edge, where the bottom is sandy, giving the water a clear appearance. Too cold for me but I would be happy to give it a go in summer. The area is a campsite with flushing toilets and cold showers. Perfect for us. Maybe we will get the chance to stay there in the future.

After checking the lake and campsite we parked Maz and headed off on a 1.5km (round trip) walk to a couple of pioneer graves on the edge of the public area. The walk was very easy, and there were a few orchids out, including the ever reliable cowslips and a wonderful spider orchid with an extra long “tongue”. It looks stunning and I have no idea what it is. We noted the graves, wondering about where these folks lived and what they did, before turning around and walking back. At the very, very beginning of the track, all the way back near Maz we found some lovely rabbit orchids. They are among my faves, tiny and pretty. We also found some white pink fairies! A new one for us!

Time for lunch in another excellent lunch spot. Gee I am good at choosing spots that aid digestion. This spot had lake views, bird life complete with on demand birdsong, a fresh breeze and an elevated aspect. How delightful. It was very nice to sit and watch the world go by, before we packed up and headed off. However we didn’t make it far before a colony of orchids caught my eye at the exit to the camping area. On closer inspection these were new-to-us Leaping Spider orchids, stunning in their appearance. It’s very exciting to keep on finding new orchids to add to our list, although when it comes to the spiders, it’s hard to tell them apart and therefore to tell if we have seen them before or not. What I do know is that this spider orchid we found not far from the leapers, was the tallest we have ever found, at least 700mm above ground! Most of the time we are bending down to the ground, but not in this case. What a considerate and stunning plant, even more so through the lens of the magnifying glass. A little nerdy but who cares?

Our final stop today was Kenny’s tank, recommended by both the visitors guide and fellow orchid buffs. While there were many orchids at the site and along the walk, we didn’t see any new ones and nor did we see Kenny’s tank! I guess it must be a reasonable size, hence hard to miss, but we can vouch for the fact that it is not located along the existing track. With the light fading we figured tonight was probably not a good time to get lost looking for a “tank”. Instead we headed back to Tas, ready for a lamb roast, cooked in the Weber. Yummo. Tonight’s movie was supposed to be Gold, but the first 30 minutes creeped me out so we ditched that idea and went with Spicks and Specks, followed by an ep of QI. Much better.

Dear Queenie. Happy 1st heavenly birthday. Thanks again for your service (and this holiday Monday). It’s a lovely day for it, and for us to drive home. This trip we brought a fair bit of stuff with us, including the tent and the scooters, so it takes slightly longer to pack up. There is also a minor equipment issue (of course) so extra work and storage space required. Despite this, we were off site by just after 10am. A word about the site. As we wanted a base and showers and toilets for the extended stay, we opted for a caravan park. As they go, this one was good. Some have described it as a car park and I guess that’s accurate. There are 10 sites, in 2 rows or 5, and they are close together. There is also a grassy strip for tents and swags. The hard stands have power and water. We were in site 6, an end site. Our rear door meant that we were entering and leaving the camper with our neighbours on site 5 looking into our camper. Definitely a disadvantage of parks where sites are in rows. All the sites have access to bathrooms, 6 in total, each with a shower and toilet. There is also a laundry and a well equipped campers kitchen. So, overall, a great spot to stay if a spot to come home to is what you are looking for. Perhaps not the best place to stay if the site is intended to be the attraction.

On the road we decided to head home via Boyup Brook and Collie. We tried to find an orchid hotspot from the book, without any luck, although the detour was pleasant. We also tried to get a coffee in Boyup Brook. Despite being your birthday Queenie, there didn’t appear to be any coffee to be had, so we drove on to Glenn Melvyn dam and made our own, along with a fabulous bacon and egg wrap, and a short walk. The area wasn’t overly busy, a couple of caravans and one boat doing laps. I suspect it would have been a different story yesterday. The dam is very full, with the indicator suggesting that the water level is over 250m from the deepest point! The dam wall was not overflowing but there is less than a metre to go. I am sure I have read before that the dam has been very low, so it might be a fun summer here.

After lunch we headed off to our secret orchid spot just outside Collie. There were the expected and reliable favourites, but nothing new or particularly exciting, unlike last year when we were directed to the beautiful forest mantis. The tape was still there, along with other tape in various spots, but no green beauty. The orchid professionals form the area are finding lovely specimens around the area, so we decided to try one last spot around Wellie Dam (no luck) before deciding we needed icecream. With Bunbury in our sights, we headed for the fave spot to get Mr P his dairy free treat, with a litre for later, and enjoyed them on the jetty. No trip to Bunbury is complete without a drive around to Turkey Point. We weren’t lucky enough to see any dolphins this time, but it is still a lovely last stop on any trip down south.

So QEII, there you have it. I am sure you will agree that we made the best of the holidays grant to us in your honour. We barely scratched the surface of that part of the world and there are so many more orchids to be found around there. Next time we are down that way we intend to climb Bluff Knoll. At this stage, the tentative plan is for Easter 2023. I better get on to that … right after we head off in fortnight to Karda.

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