Wongan Hills and Konnongorring, September 2022

This one was a sneaky, quickly planned trip to make the most of a weekend with no plans and reports of wildflowers in abundance. With Mr P still on a fixed term unemployment contract he did the hard work that meant we could leave after I finished work on Friday. Of course, the traffic isn’t great at that time, and it doesn’t help when the wrong destination is fed into the navigation app, but eventually we were out of town and on the oh so familiar road to Toodyay. However, our destination was Konnongorring, a place on the road from Goomalling to Wongan Hills. I say a place because there is almost nothing there, just a hall, a church and a fire shed all sharing the same patch of ground, a CBH receival centre, an abandoned tennis court and one home on the site of the other (now privately owned) church. So, hardly a town and much more a place. But a good place, that offers camping on the site of the hall / church / fire shed. We arrived just on sunset and chose a great spot behind the fire shed, next to the picnic table and stone fire ring. We had Tas set up in no time and a fire crackling away just in time to catch the last half of the footy final and most of the sunset.

Saturday morning we woke to a lovely day and enjoyed breakfast outside in the sunshine. After putting Tas back onto Maz we explored the place of Konnongorring. There are other spots to stay in the area at both Gabby Quoi Quoi Lookout and the old tennis courts. Neither has amenities so they don’t suit us but has a look anyway. The Gabby Quoi Quoi lookout is really interesting and tells a great story of locals rectifying some issues with long term land overuse. The tennis courts look like they were impressive and a welcome facility in the town in their time, but now derelict. The adjacent footy oval has not seen any use recently, based on the trees growing all over it. The goal posts are still upright at the far end of the field full of yellow cape weed, so maybe it will live to see another game …

Having sussed out Konnongorring, we headed along the road to Wongan Hills. We have never stayed in the area before but we have had a look around. In fact our first stop in our first trip with Tas and Maz1 was at Wongan Hills for lunch. At that time we had to make our own as nothing was open in town. This trip though was different. The café / piano bar, Café of Note, in town was doing a roaring trade, with a piano man and a soloist entertaining folk on the sidewalk. The IGA was open, but the butcher shop was permanently closed. We were lucky to get into the Information Centre before it closed at midday, and stock up on our much-loved relish.
Loaded up with the essentials, we headed out to look for orchids. Last time we were in the area we visited Reynoldson Reserve, so this time we headed to Gathercole Reserve. It’s not far from the town but the last couple of kms is gravel road. The car park is smallish, but room for us and a couple of cars towing caravans. After finishing our coffee, we headed off on the walk, quickly rewarded with a bunch of stunning cowslips and some lovely, reliable donkeys. The walk is a loop that goes around some granite outcrops, over some flowing streams and through some wandoo forest. Along the way we encountered, a bee swarm, some birds, lizards and many orchids. Of most interest to me were finding some tiny leek orchids growing in the moss. There weren’t many other people on the walk despite it being a beautiful day and we would certainly recommend this walk to people of most walking abilities.

Post-walk we of course needed some lunch, with an appropriately outstanding place to eat it. We initially headed to the arboretum, then the Christmas Rock walk, but neither fit the bill, so we decided to revisit an old haunt and headed to the top of Mount O’Brien. We drove as far along the road as it is possible to go and found a spot with a fabulous view south. Our locally sourced relish was wonderful as part of our Charcuterie and the nearby floral display enhanced our fine dining experience no end. After consuming too much food, too late in the afternoon we needed another walk to aid digestion, so we headed back to the Christmas Tree walk. It was too long to complete all of it, but we did walk in far enough to spot some gorgeous bunches of spider orchids and have a chat to one of the locals. We will need to come back to Wongan Hills another time to complete the walk.

Adjoining the walk is the caravan park which was very full of people crammed into small spaces and close to each other. In preference to adding to the tight squeeze, we decided to go back down the highway and stay at Konnongorring again. Our spot was still available (there was no one else there), so we set Tas up for the night, got the fire going and enjoyed dinner cooked over the open flame, celebrating our 200th night spent under Tas’ roof. It is amazing to reflect on how far we have come as a camping couple, and as slide on owners. Mr P has gone from never having showered in the great outdoors to baring it all with little but a screen between him and the public. I have gone from doing most of the set up to needing gloves to protect my precious nails from potential damage during the setup. We have lost The Piper who is off doing his on camping with his GF, but gained camping friends who we enjoy spending time with. We have adapted Tas to meet our every need, including making a king size bed (literally every night). We have been across Australia and throughout the south west of WA, comfortable with each other and our kit. From Solo Avocado to a Pair of Sliders, every day and night in Tas, even those that test our mettle, have been amazing. Night 200 under the stars at Konnongorrig was no different.

Sunday morning we were up and off again to make the most of the lovely weather. Ever since hearing about it, I have wanted to climb Mount Matilda which is directly opposite Mount O’Brien where we had lunch yesterday. So, the plan was hatched to head there and do the walk. We arrived just on 11.30 and realised that we were probably going to be cutting it fine to do the longer 7.3km walk and get home at a reasonable hour, so we settled on the shorter 4.8kms. Given how often we stop to check out something, dawdle off the track or sit and gaze at the view, it was just as well we took the short walk. It was very enjoyable and we didn’t encounter any other walker the entire time we were there. We stopped to assess the amazing size of the now abandoned Mallee Fowls nest, soaked in the views at the various lookouts and tried to find some orchids, only spotting a few glossy enamels. Eventually we descended back down off the mountain, always harder for me than going up, and found a lonely Maz in the carpark all by herself. Of course that meant that we could enjoy or lovely lunch in complete isolation, alongside a brilliantly yellow field of canola.

For a weekend that was quickly thrown together, with few plans this one turned into a cracker. Like most Western Australians, we had no idea that Konnongorring existed but managed to stay there 2 nights in a row. We walked many kilometres as well driving many more. We found some new orchids and have a few ideas on where to find some more next time. I think this trip epitomises everything is great about the lifestyle we choose to live and so it was a fitting way to spend our 200th day and night in Tas. Here’s to the next 200, and the 200 after that, and the 200 after that …

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