Days 57-60: 31st October-4th November
On leaving Wilmington, we really felt like we were on the way home.
For me, this was true in another sense. We were due to pass through a very familiar place - my birthplace, Laura, in the mid-north of SA.
The streetscapes of the places along the road to Laura - Wilmington, Melrose, Wirrabarra, Stone Hut - are just like my home town. Very wide main streets lined by the ubiquitous icon, the Stobie Pole. I had a strong sense of belonging as we drove through them. I’m not sure why, as we moved to Adelaide when I was only 8 years old.
Some of these towns - Wilmington and Wirrabarra - are very quiet. I could safely stand in the middle of the main street of both to take photographs. Many of the buildings are boarded up but at least they are still standing. The Mid-North missed out on the wave of affluence in the sixties and seventies that demanded their removal in many other parts of Australia.
Melrose is quite a busy place, with a bicycle shop even! Stone Hut used to be exactly that - a stone hut. That single original building which was the town (at least in my 60 year old memory!) has now been converted into a thriving bakery, which sells “the best pies in the universe”. Hard to argue with that.
Laura has changed quite a bit over the years. It now hosts an annual Folk Fair. And the old printing office houses a chocolatier for goodness sake!
But many of Laura’s old buildings remain, including the fire station, which was next door to our house. I can still recall the sound of the siren, perched at the top of that tower!
Here is a gallery of old Laura.
After leaving Laura, we drove through the Clare Valley on the way to visit my brother Steve and his wife Janet. They live in Nildottie, a small place on a bend in the Murray River, upstream of Mannum. They have a great view of the river from their house - sunsets are quite spectacular.
This is Steve, my brother. Did you guess?
1st-2nd November - 11,376km
We decided to spend our last two nights in South Australia in a special place - the Coorong. If you’re into shorebirds or waders - or even if you’re not - it’s a must-see destination.
This 130km long lagoon is recognised by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area because of its habitat - a mixture of freshwater, estuarine and hypersaline waterbodies. We sighted a bunch of waterbirds - including Red-necked Stints, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Black-tailed Native Hens and a huge flock of Grey Teal, plus more Emu - on the waters in front of our campsite. Too little time to do the place justice. We’ll return soon for sure.
Some photos of flora and fauna on the Coorong peninsula.
Kerri doing the washing up at our campsite on the Coorong. It was a balmy evening after a hot day, followed by an impressive thunderstorm - lightning flashed throughout the night.
The strong winds which developed the next morning forced us to abandon any plans of birding on the South-East of SA. So we headed straight for a caravan park in Portland, western Victoria and holed up there for the next day.
The Great Ocean Road
We’ve spent today travelling along the Great Ocean Road to our overnight stay in Apollo Bay. I’d forgotten how spectacular this stretch of the coastline is. A fitting finale for our journey as we often encountered eroding cliffs on a shoreline.
Oh, and not to forget another lifer! Kerri heard the familiar call of a bristlebird as we pulled up in the carpark near Peterborough on the Great Ocean Road. And we got a brief, but unmistakable sighting of a Rufous Bristlebird dashing across the walking track.
Tomorrow it’s on to Melbourne to spend a couple of days with our friends Heather and Colin. Then a day’s drive home to Wonboyn.
So now seems like the right time to reflect on our big WA trip. I know that Kerri has done this in her blog. I’ve promised not to look at what she has written and vice-versa.
So what are my strongest impressions? - the vastness and relative emptiness of WA and the western half of SA.
This has really come home after crossing into Victoria - people everywhere! I guess we did (unknowingly) pick the weekend before the Melbourne Cup for our entry into Victoria and the Great Ocean Road for our route.
I’m writing this while sitting in a noisy pub in Apollo Bay. A very familiar vibe which reminds me strongly and fondly of our time in Fitzroy. We could be in any number of locales in Brunswick Street.
So different to Cape Arid, Fitzgerald River, Stirling Range and Gawler Ranges. Southwest WA - particularly its eastern section - and western SA are so sparsely populated. I think the absence of people there helped me immerse myself in nature more deeply. We spent good chunks of time - usually 3 to 4 days - in each of the places we visited and I think that also played a role.
And the other outstanding impression, which will stay long in my memory, was the beauty, diversity and novelty of the vegetation in southwest WA. A magic place!
Back Home in Wonboyn
7th November - 12,735km
13 Lyrebirds and 2 Wonga Pigeons seen crossing the Wonboyn Road or at its edge on the drive back home!
LIFER on the Great Ocean Road: first ever sighting of this bird species
Total number of Lifers on the trip = 32