In the aftermath of the kangaroo incident, Julie and I got a very late start as we were determined not to have another one of these incidents due to driving too early in the day. So we checked out from the Comfort Hotel Perth City and left at 7:40am.
It was Sunday so the streets didn't have much traffic. However, the speed limits were slow and there were plenty of suburbs and city streets to get through before we finally made it out of the sprawling developed areas at 9am.
So far so good. However, both of our hearts jumped when we noticed yet another dead kangaroo on the side of the road - once again reminding us that they're still there.
And with that in mind, I made sure I was able to follow someone so I wouldn't be the first to react if another 'roo jumped in front of the car.
But our fear of kangaroos subsided as the day wore on and the skies got brighter. We'd finally make to the northern section of the Margaret River Wine Region at 10:45am. We began touring the area by making a stop at the Ngilgi Cave, which Julie really wanted us to do.
The cave itself was kind of interesting. There were large chambers and tight ones. There were even interactive lighting displays where a press of a button would spotlight specific cave features which were keyed to the interpretive signs before them. But having been to several caves before this one, I started having the been-there-done-that feel. Photography in the cave was also tricky since tripods were prohibited and lighting was sparse.
We left the cave after 12pm. At that point, we headed towards the trailhead for Quinninup Falls. We opted to take the more roundabout route (using Moses Rock Rd) towards the trailhead since we had read the direct route required a high clearance vehicle, which we didn't hire.
At 12:30pm, we arrived at the trailhead for the falls. Technically, it was one of several access points for the Cape-to-Cape Trail, but all we cared about was getting to the falls. Still, I wondered how well the falls would perform considering it was winter yet we hadn't seen any rainfall throughout our trip. But the skies looked menacing as storm clouds were stationed just off the coast.
So Julie and I started walking the pretty coastal trail. We could only imagine what how much more relaxing this trail would be if it was a fine day. We also wondered how surfers would want to surf these beaches given the big waves that were crashing towards the coast below us.
By 1pm, we descended a steep and sandy hill towards what appeared to be a drainage. The problem was that there didn't seem to be much running water, but I noticed trails heading upstream. Could this be the waterfall?
I investigated the trail while Julie watched me. But as I got closer to the end of the trail, it was apparent that this probably was it. The sand in the watercourse started becoming muddy before finally there was a tiny trickling stream. And at the head wall, there was a lightly flowing waterfall.
When Julie arrived, she smirked, "There's your waterfall."
"I guess they've been having a dry winter. The thing is hardly flowing," I said.
And with that, I tried to salvage what I could from the trip by taking photos and hoping I have something when I get home.
We didn't spend much more time here as we left by 1:30pm.
On the way back, the sandy hill we had just descended was brutal on the way up. We huffed and puffed and gasped for air as we trudged up the slope fighting the tendency to slide down the sand. A pair of women who were going down the slope saw us struggling and said to us, "Good exercise, huh?"
Once we got up above the slope, things were smooth sailing. And at 1:45pm, we were back in the car but now we were hungry.
We had read that the Margaret River had good wine, and we figured they must also have good food since generally they go together. So with something to look forward to, we left the car park and headed further south.
At 2pm, we arrived in the Margaret River township. After we filled up some much-needed petrol, we walked around town looking for a decent place to eat. Unfortunately, all the places we had read about in Lonely Planet were either closed or nonexistent. And since beggars can't be choosers, we settled for this placed called Dome, which seemed like the only place open this time.
With our stomachs filled, we left Margaret River at 3:15pm. And after some long driving between some giant karri trees and a mix of wet and dry roads from the intermittent rain, we finally arrived in the township of Pemberton at 5:15pm.
After we filled up petrol, we went looking around for the Comfort Inn Karri Forest. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it as it wasn't on the main street. Finally, we realized that there was a road that wasn't on the main road but branched off of it and headed east towards a junction with another residential street. Going up the hill on the residential street ultimately yielded the motel we sought.
By 5:30pm, we checked in and got cleaned up. We thought we could go into town and look for something to eat. We opted not to try the restaurant in the Comfort Inn this night. And eventually Julie and I settled for the restaurant that sat in the Best Western Hotel on the main street near the petrol station.
The restaurant itself was pretty busy. But when we started eating the food, we wondered why. It was probably the worst restaurant next to the one in the Tom Price Motel and the buffet in Uluru that we had been to on this trip. Based on this experience, we were determined to eat at the restaurant in our motel tomorrow night.
And with that, Julie and I slept comfortably. Yet we were still thinking about that kangaroo and how much money it was going to cost me once we get back home.
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We got to Northcliffe by 8:45am. The visitor center was still closed, but it didn't matter. We roughly had an idea of how to get to the Lane-Poole Falls.
The unsealed road to get to the waterfall's trailhead was pretty straight forward and smooth. We got to the car park at around 9:30am. Sitting smack in the middle of the car park was this giant tree called the Boolara Tree. We didn't really expect to see this, but it was certainly a big bonus.
After taking a few early photos of the tree, we were out on the trail.
The trail was mostly flat and easy to follow. The nice thing about the hike was that it was lined with karri trees and interpretive signs about various aspects of the ecosystem. Julie and I relaxed as we took our time walking the trail and remarking about various things we had experienced on the trip so far.
At 10am, we got to a part where the trail became narrower and more primitive. It then got steeper as it descended towards the falls along a wet handrail. The skies looked like they were darkening with threatening storm clouds, so that kind of hastened Julie and I to get to the falls.
By 10:15am, we had reached the end of the trail which terminated at a hexagonal platform right in front of the falls. The falls, however, looked nothing like the photo I saw during my research when it had heavy flow and spanned the length of the watercourse. The state it was in currently had a far narrower flow. The falls itself seemed like it couldn't have been more than 10m tall though the width of the bare underlying wall suggested the falls had the potential to be more impressive in full flow despite its height.
At 10:25am, Julie and I left the falls as we started to feel droplets of water coming down from the sky. Still, it didn't rain though the droplets hinted at what was to come. By 11:15am, we returned to the car park.
We took a few more photos of that Boolara Tree before we got back in the car and headed back towards Pemberton and ultimately the Gloucester Ridge Winery since we had read it was a highly recommended spot and it seemed to be the only decent place in town.
And with that, we drove off and arrived at the Gloucester Ridge at 12:15pm amidst heavy rain. Too little, too late for witnessing the rain giving Lane-Poole Falls more vigor, I thought.
Anyways, Julie and I beat a hasty retreat from the car into the restaurant. The drops were thick and frequent. Despite our best efforts to avoid the rain, we got wet anyways.
Inside the refuge of the Gloucester Ridge, the room was warm and the lady at the counter invited us to try out some of the wines. After tasting some of their wines, the lady showed us to our table.
The room had a calming and elegant decor. It certainly relaxed us considering we were still recovering from the kangaroo incident two days ago. Julie shopped around their boutique for souvenirs. Eventually, she would join me and we just soaked in the atmosphere while looking at their menu for something good.
The rain was pouring hard as Julie and I watched from the comfort of the Gloucester Ridge Restaurant. We knew we would be back out there after our lunch. But this was the first significant rain we had seen the entire trip and perhaps it might give some life to the otherwise lifeless waterfalls we had seen in the southern part of Western Australia.
We ended up eating a very satisfying meal of a couple of their local fish along with other side dishes. We figured we couldn't go wrong with their seafood. But this restaurant certainly proved our theory that good wine tends to accompany good food, and we were glad we finally got at least one good taste of the Wine Country's boutique of wineries - even if Pemberton was some two hours east of Margaret River itself.
We also talked briefly with the lady who was working the place and she told us that we could walk to the nearby Gloucester Tree so we wouldn't have to pay an admission fee, which was for vehicular traffic.
So when we were done with the lunch, Julie and I got our rain ponchos out of the car and proceeded to walk to the tree. It only took a few minutes and the lady was right.
Julie and I quickly got to the Gloucester Tree and took some photos. We didn't bother entertaining any notion of climbing the tree especially given the wet weather. There were also a few sporadic booms heard on the forest floor as some of the branches fell from the towering trees in the pouring rain. This was obviously a normal process, but it was unnerving knowing that things could get serious if one of these things were to land on us.
At 2pm, Julie and I walked back to the car and headed over to Beedelup Falls. After about 20 minutes of driving west of Pemberton, we followed the short unsealed road to the large car park. No one except maybe another car or two was there.
So we took the easy 15-minute walk and eventually made it to a swing bridge that provided a direct view of the falls. Despite the rain we had been receiving, the falls looked like it got replenished from this rain, but its flow had seen much better days than this. Nonetheless, we took our photos, enjoyed the calm scenery, and then continued the loop walk back to the car park.
By 3:15pm, we returned to Pemberton. Even though there was lots of daylight left in the day, we opted to shut down our sightseeing activities for the day and use their internet service in the town library.
There was some kind of academic test going on in the library so we had to be quiet during our time there. And so we got caught up on our emails and we even got confirmation from our travel agent at Pacific Destination Center that we would get refunded for our cancelled Lord's Kakadu Safari tour (which resulted from the closure of the Jim Jim Falls Road).
Afterwards, we walked around Pemberton and even indulged in a little grocery shopping. The weather had taken a break from the rain, which made things a bit easier on us to walk around. When dinner finally came around, we dined at the Comfort Inn Karri Forest restaurant as anticipated, which was infinitely better than last night's experience.
We even engaged in a long conversation with another motel guest who educated us on what life was like as well as the state of affairs in Western Australia. We even told him about our kangaroo incident and he told us that he never ran into one though he did see a dead one between Pemberton and Northcliffe. Sometimes I wonder if we just have bad luck as this was the second local who told us they never really encountered such an accident.
When we were about to finish our desserts, we mentioned to him that we were headed to Albany tomorrow. He went on to tell us to watch out for high winds - not realizing that he was spot on with his comments.
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As we headed south on Hwy 1, we took an unsealed turnoff towards Fernhook Falls. I hoped that the rains we were getting since yesterday might have helped out the flow of this waterfall.
But when we got to the falls, it still had disappointing flow as only a small section of stream was left of the wide watercourse that would normally span the width of the long bridge just above it. I guess the rains came too little too late for our waterfall hunting. Still, I couldn't help but wonder how this waterfall would've been like had there been more decent flow and the winter wasn't so dry.
So we continued driving further south along Hwy 1. At 10:15am, we eventually passed Walpole and not much further on, we ended up at the Tree Top Walk.
This walk consisted of a suspended walkway that essentially allowed paying visitors to walk amongst the tree tops of tall tingle trees. It was very iteresting to say the least, but I could see how it could be a bit hairy for those people who have a bad case of acrophobia (i.e. fear of heights).
After the walk, Julie and I continued on a boardwalk path that passed through the forest floor beneath more of these tingle trees. It was reminiscent of some of the walks amongst the giant redwood trees in Sequoia National Park in California. We even got to walk through some of the tingle trees.
We also ran into an elder Australian guy who asked us how we could have voted for Bush. Of course I had to set the record straight and say we didn't vote for him. Still, it was yet another indication of what the world thinks of us even though we totally disagree with our government and those who support it with excuses or an unwillingness to see the connection between our actions and the world around us.
We left the Tree Top Walk at 10:45am. Then, we stopped by a pair of coastal attractions at the Greens Pool and the Elephant Rocks an hour later as we got closer to the town of Denmark (nope, not the country). It was our first glimpse of the south coast of the WA and it was wild and beautiful. However, the winds were blowing hard as dark rain clouds threatened to come in.
Given the weather, we donned our rain ponchos, but we had to ensure they wouldn't behave like a kite and blow us away. The tides were also a bit turbulent and high so we couldn't walk amongst the Elephant Rocks.
After a brief lunch stop in Denmark, we eventually made it to Albany at 2:30pm. And after checking in our motel at the Comfort Inn Albany and dropping off our baggage, we spent the remainder of the day checking out Torndirrup National Park.
By 3pm, we arrived at the car park for The Gap and The Natural Bridge. To our surprise, sea spray was coming up above the sea cliffs and blowing onto the car park. The howling winds were obviously the culprits.
So given the conditions, Julie and I opted to check out the scene without our ponchos on.
First up was the Gap. The short walk way led to a small railing area that looked down into a chasm that would fill with the giant crashing waves. The forceful winds made walking to this overlook a bit scary as we could easily see how easy it was to get pushed into the Gap by the wind. So we didn't linger here for long after taking a couple of photos.
Then, we headed over to the Natural Bridge. At least this overlook was a bit less exposed, but it was still unnerving to be standing amongst the howling winds looking down at the intriguing arch as the crashing waves sent spray that would blow through it and spray our faces. There was also a sign discussing a dramatic rescue that took place after a boy fell into the turbulent oceans here.
By 3:30pm, Julie and I left the chaotic scene here. We stopped at another viewing spot with a lighthouse and nice views of the coastline before reaching the car park for a blowhole.
The walk to the blowhole was probably some 30-minutes each way but the winds were still blowing hard. By 4pm, we arrived at the blowhole, which behaved more like the seething nostrils of a dragon than a spouting geyser. It was difficult to photograph and we dared not venture any closer to the holes given the winds and the steepness of the terrain once you leave the trail.
And so we left Torndirrup National Park and ended up back in Albany at a little after 5pm. From there, we went looking for restaurants as we walked around town under a full arcing rainbow. The Lonely Planet book we had was pretty much outdated as just about all of the recommended spots were closed or out of business. We finally settled in on this place called the CBD Central Cafe, which sat in some hotel on York St. And the food and dining experience was quite pleasing.
We returned to the Comfort Inn Albany Motel at around 9pm and showered to wash off the salt from all the sea spray blown upwards by the howling winds in Torndirrup. Then, we slept without trouble after watching some interesting news special about automobiles in China - no doubt one of the big contributors (outside our own way of life in the States) to the energy crisis and global warming.
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Today, the plan was to get to Hyden near Wave Rock, which sat 4 hours to the north and slightly to the east of Albany. It was also 4 hours east of Perth. So obviously we knew there wasn't going to be much going on over there.
Pacific Destination Center, who booked our accommodations, recommended that we not drive all the way to Perth on this day. So they booked us for a night's stay at the Wave Rock Motel in Hyden.
But after a long and uneventful drive from the Stirling Ranges and then through much agricultural lands, we were already at Wave Rock at 12pm. And our hunches were correct. There really wasn't nothing out here and we wanted a whole day to spend in Perth tomorrow rather than worrying another day about kangaroos hopping in front of the car.
Anyways, we spent some time having fun posing in front of the strange yet interesting rock formation that looks just like a breaking wave. However, what was strange was the presence of what appeared to be retaining walls above the Wave Rock. I bet they put them there to ensure the rock doesn't get further eroded, but still it made the attraction seem artificial.
On our way out of Wave Rock, we found a pay phone right in front of the Wave Rock Visitor Center. Julie decided to act upon our intent to spend the night in Perth so she made the call to see if the Comfort Hotel Perth City (which we stayed at that same day we hit the kangaroo) had vacancies.
And sure enough, they did.
So with that, Julie made the booking even though we had already been booked for the Wave Rock Motel in Hyden. We did something similar in New Zealand where we wasted money booking two nights in an Ohakune Motel and replaced it with a stay at the Chateau Tongariro. So we figure we mind as well take advantage of the moment regardless of the monetary inefficiencies.
Still, we checked in anyways and took a look at the motel room. Julie took the complementary cookies and milk and left the keys in the room. And with that, we headed for Perth at 1pm.
During the long drive, I was hoping we might be able to catch the last two waterfalls on the trip, which both happened to be in the John Forrest National Park in the suburbs of Perth.
It wasn't until 4:40pm when we finally got there, but daylight was fading fast as it was the day after the winter solstice (for the Southern Hemisphere). So we acted quickly to walk to Hovea Falls. But when we finally persisted past the tressel bridge and walked a little further towards the falls, we were disappointed by its flow. Even despite the rain of the past few days, apparently it was still too little too late for our visit to see the falls flowing well. All it was doing in front of us was just trickle and wet the bedrock.
When we got back to the car park junction at 5:20pm, Julie went back to the car and let me hunt down National Park Falls. After about 10 minutes of trail running and walking fast, I got to the falls. But this one was even more disappointing than Hovea Falls because it was completely dry!
Anyways, I took a few long exposure photos to combat the twilight and trail ran back to the car. By that time, it was 5:45pm and night had fallen upon us. But at least we were now on our way back to the downtown area of East Perth so we could spend the very last full day of our trip in the charming city...
Have a waterfall travel story you'd like to share?
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