Our next long circuitous route saw us heading east from Geraldton and ultimately arriving one week later in the historic Avon Valley town of York, happily free camping along the way.
Our trip started in the heart of Western Australia’s wildflower country. Chasing WA’s famed wildflowers was one of our key objectives of this trip, and our rough schedules supposedly coincided with wildflower blooming times in several regions.
And now it was time for the main wildflower region – the pinnacle, so to speak.
Our first stop was the town of Mullewa which, according to our travel doco, “comes alive in late Winter and Spring each year”. Great, our timing is spot on!
So, imagine our surprise when we rocked up to Mullewa’s Tourist Information Centre to see a poster of a very forlorn Eeyore asking “Are we too early for the wildflowers?”! Oh, oh!
In short, the rain needed for germination was late this year. By now they’d usually have expected whole fields carpeted with colourful everlastings and other wildflowers, but this year … well, “perhaps you might like to come back in another three to five weeks?”.
In truth, there were patches of colour around, and the information centre staff were very helpful in suggesting places where we could see them, but most wildflowers were only starting to bud.
And the really unusual wreath flowers that we were particularly keen to see? Yep, they’re really late this year … but they should be great in another month or so. 😢
But all was not lost, as there were patches of splendour along the drives through spectacular scenery of green rolling hills and farms.
Below is a selection of some of the wildflowers we found along the way …
We found a great free camp, literally amongst pink and white everlastings, at a long-forgotten place called Canna.
With rain forecast for some days, we decided to move to a town where we could actually camp on bitumen or gravel. Sadly, with the amount of rain predicted, the red dirt beneath our feet was likely to turn to deep red mud!
So that’s how we found the delightful town of Moora. The free RV camp is literally in the middle of town, and provides access to fresh water and dump point. And the bitumen base was fabulous for riding out the rain – which hit 11mm on the first morning alone! (Chances are, we might still be stuck in the mud out at Canna if we hadn’t moved!)
Moora’s lovely murals were scattered throughout the town and depicted aspects of the town’s history.
Above: Moora’s beautiful Rotary Clock has stained glass panels on each side, and is best viewed in the early evening when the panels are illuminated.
We took the opportunity of a break in the weather to drive out to the coast to see the Pinnacles Desert. Although we’d both lived in Perth many years ago, we’d never actually ventured north to see the Pinnacles.
Along the way, we stopped in Cervantes to check out the beach.
The Pinnacles cover an area of almost 18,000 hectares and comprise thousands of limestone pillars up to four or five metres tall, some resembling tall pointy columns while others are reminiscent of gravestones in a cemetery. They were formed approximately 25,000 to 30,000 years ago, after the sea receded and left deposits of sea shells, but over time winds have shifted the surrounding sands to expose the pillars.
We stopped in to visit New Norcia, Australia’s only monastic town, established by the Benedictine monks in 1847. With a chilly wind blowing, we braved the elements to take in the two-hour town walk, visiting key sites and hearing about New Norcia’s history and life in the Benedictine community.
Above: New Norcia’s Abbey Church and interior, with the Moser pipe organ crafted in Germany and imported to Australia in 1921. We were privileged to hear a short recital on this rare organ by monk Fr Robert Nixon, who is also an accomplished pianist and composer.
Above: New Norcia’s St Ildephonsus College, a former boarding school for boys, and chapel
Above: New Norcia’s St Gertrude’s College, a former boarding school for girls, and chapel
After a delicious lunch in New Norcia’s pub, we headed off for our next stop … another delightful pub at the village of Grass Valley, just east of Northam. The tavern was very welcome on a chilly night, with a cosy fire, scrumptious meals and great vibe. Of course, like most pub stays, this “free camp” wasn’t so free by the time we paid for a few beers and dinner – but hey, it was a great night.
So we headed to Meckering the next day and pulled into the free camp provided by the town. Located at the entry to the town in the rose gardens, it was a pleasant location, with access to bathrooms and even a small book exchange in an old fridge. Meckering is on the Great Eastern Hwy, and also on the main rail line between Perth to the west and Kalgoorlie to the east.
The Meckering township was effectively destroyed in 1968 by a violent 6.5 magnitude earthquake, the strongest ever recorded in Australia at the time. The fault line was only four kms west of the township. Examples of the damage caused by the earthquake are on display in the town, including a section of buckled railway line and a two metre section of the 76cm diameter steel water pipeline to the goldfields that was telescoped by the 2.5m horizontal displacement at the fault line.
Of course, the real reason for coming out this way was to visit the town of Cunderdin, where John used to fly gliders in his youth. And wasn’t that a trip down Amnesia Lane?
Our next stop was in Northam, by the banks of the Avon River. Northam is the largest town in the Avon region and, interestingly, it is also WA’s largest inland town not founded on mining.
Our next stop, Toodyay, is a beautifully maintained historic town. Unfortunately for us, we lobbed into town when most businesses and cafes were closed, thanks to a major electrical power upgrade happening that day that plunged the whole main street into a scheduled blackout.
But who needs coffee or shopping? We saved our pennies and instead walked the historic streets and took in the beautiful sights.
Our final stop in the Avon Valley was York, Western Australia’s first inland town. Here was yet another centrally located well-equipped free camp – this one even had some powered sites, adjacent to the Avon River.
Like Toodyay, York is another exquisitely beautiful historic town.
York has several very large pieces of wheat straw art on display, including a bilby about three metres high and a beautifully thatched western swamp tortoise (see below).
One of the jewels in York’s crown is the York Motor Museum, which started life 40 years ago from the private collection of Peter Briggs, and is now owned by the Avon Valley Motor Museum Association.
We continue to enjoy supporting small towns that provide free camps for travellers, spending money in local shops, bakeries, pubs and supermarkets. This has also meant that we have had some wonderful experiences in small towns that we may otherwise have bypassed.
Phew! That was a long blog with lots of pics!
We’re off early in the morning with our sights set on Perth, where we plan on catching up with old friends and visiting some of our old haunts from when we lived here over three decades ago.