Fitzgerald River National Park

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October 2nd 2015
Published: October 2nd 2015
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Naively I headed back into Esperance last Monday after leaving Cape le Grande national park, with the expectation that I would stock up with fresh food, water and fuel and then head off for the “Fitz” as it seems to be affectionately called by everyone here. I should have left my east coast expectations and beliefs behind me because it was the Queens Birthday Holiday weekend in WA. I knew that. I did not know that it would mean that every shop in Esperance was closed up tighter than a drum. I managed to find a fuel station that was open, and asked them if there was any supermarket that would be open that day. I was directed to a small surburban IGA Express that must have won the lottery, or been granted a licence to print money on that one day. The car park was jam packed full, not only with tourists I might add. And the prices were atrocious. Oh well, if I planned to spend the next week in national parks, which I did, then I had no alternative but to suck it up and pay. I did.

I then found a car wash which thankfully was fully self-service and gave Sally a much needed clean up and removed all the red dirt, salt and insects. And off I headed. Hopetoun is a little coastal village, smaller even than Bermagui. It had an IGA too but I didn’t dare go in. The cost of fuel was starting to go up too, but that I couldn’t do without. Hopetoun is the gateway to the Fitz which lay some 35 kms to the west of the village.

What a delight. For a start the road was sealed the whole way to the campground at Hamersley Inlet. Not surprising really as it was a mountainous drive. The mountain ranges that make up the park are dramatic. I had been watching them as I drove across country earlier that day (on a very good gravel road for about 100 kms) through salt plains and swamp country right on the edge of some stunning farming land. They loomed up out of this plain with a look of, and in a manner that reminded me very much of the Grand Tetons in the mid-west of the US. And the road started climbing these ridges/mountains as soon as you got inside the park gate – the first ascent I noted was a 17% slope (that’s what the sign said). At that peak you stop and take in some spectacular coastal and inland vistas as well as do a short 100 meter walk from the car park to take in some spectacular wild flowers.

The road down into Hamersley Inlet was a 25% incline. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I camped that night in a very lovely well protected national park campground and was awake at 5am watching the moon begin to set over Hamersley Inlet. As I was awake, I thought I might as well be out and about as peering through my window, so I packed up and off I set for a delightful morning watching the moon set, the sun rise and touch the peaks, gullies, trees, birds and flowers. I was back in Hopetoun for breakfast by the jetty at 8.30 am and headed off back inland for a trip of approximately 250 kms to get around to the other side, the western side of the Fitz.

From the look of my map I was expecting a 50 km dirt road drive into Pt Ann on the western side of the park. Imagine my delight when I turned off the highway onto a beautiful, narrow yes, but superb sealed road. Oh wow I thought, they really do want people to visit the Fitz!!!! The sealed road lasted approximately 25 kms, and the remainder of the 51 kms was not only red dirt, but full of the absolutely worst humongus corrugations. I think it took me about and hour and a half to cover the last 25 kms. And I seriously feared for Sally’s wellbeing.

But I persevered. I had heard that there were whales in the bay at Pt Ann. And sure enough, when I arrived, I could see them splashing and breaching probably a kilometer away from the viewing platform. I sat and watched as they swam closer and closer – southern rights, a mother and calf. Mum was very subdued and simply shepherding her young one along, but the calf was all over the place, diving, breaching, smashing its tail, having an absolute ball, or so it appeared. It even swam over the top of its mother at one stage. I was using my big lens to photograph them, and the final shots were taken when the whales were less than 200 metres away from me – and down of course.

After watching them for an hour or so, I came on here to the campground at St Mary’s River inlet. It is set behind a pristine snow white beach that stretches as far as the eye can see. Standing on the dunes at the top of the beach I was still watching the whales approximately 200 metres off shore until it was time to go to bed last night.

Mother bountiful took care of me again. The campground is small, and was full when I arrived. I had driven through twice and was thinking I would have to tackle the road out again immediately, when a woman approached me and said I could have their campsite as they were packed up and ready to leave.

Mother bountiful came to my aid again tonight when a fellow camper asked me if I would like to top up my water tank as he was leaving tomorrow and had 2 x 20 litre containers of drinking water left. As I have now been using my water supplies without top up for 5-6 days, this was very welcome.

It was 37 degrees here today and a hot and strong north westerly wind has been blowing all day. I could not keep any of my awnings or other shade shelters up. I had two absolutely fabulous swims in the surf. Ah heaven. But it was impossible to stay on the beach out of the water because of the heat of the sun and the wind whipping up sand. After my first dip this morning I was urgently requiring my fly veil and couldn’t find it anywhere in my beach bag, though I had had my glasses wrapped up in them just a short time previously. I gave up and decided it must be there somewhere and I would just make do for now. I headed back into the water for another cool off before going back to the van, and to my surprise found my fly veil floating around on the edge of the surf. Lucky. Thanks again mother bountiful. It must have been whipped away by the wind without my noticing.

For better or worse, the poetry is continuing to flow from my pen as I make this journey. The following poem was written early this morning after I caught sight of my first male Splendid Wren (I saw a female the afternoon before, and her photosare here as well) and is reproduced here to accompany the photo I took of this little chap, through the fly screen window of my van which does somewhat affect the quality. But he is beautiful.

A flash of colour caught my eyes.
I stopped, I looked to behold
a tiny vision wrapped in stunning blue.
My breath faded to still.

There outside my window stood,
Bathed in gold fresh morning light
The smallest blessing I have ever beheld.
A gift from the spirit of the night.

Stress and anxiety had plagued my soul through the dark
Though I realised the trap and the game
And valiantly tried to defend myself
And move back to the light again.

I succeeded in part
But was sad at heart that I was so easily waylaid.
And then you arrived.
A bearer of song, beauty and magic.
Its alright.

All wrapped in a body so fragile, so small
You survive in this world without care.
Not trapped in a mind that weaves imaginary fright.
You are happy and carefree and light.
Little Splendid Wren.
The most beauty I've ever seen in a package so tiny and bright.
Thank you for my blessing, and for freeing me from my night.

Tomorrow I move on. Down to Bremer Bay, and gradually over to Albany . There are many more national parks awaiting me in this region. My first challenge will be to get Sally back out onto the highway in one piece. I plan to do that early tomorrow morning before the day gets too hot, because there is absolutely no shelter or shade of any kind between here and the highway. Nothing over 1 meter tall anyway.

I hope you enjoy my photos and especially the flowers.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Country High TeaCountry High Tea
Country High Tea

Some farmers have gone to extraordinary lengths with their mail boxes. This is one that made me stop and take a photo. Good use for old water tanks.
Just waitin for the mailJust waitin for the mail
Just waitin for the mail

Another letter box that made me stop. I like the jaunty stance on this chap.

5th October 2015

Fitzgerald River National Park
Another great blog, Di! Really enjoyed your poem too! Sounds like you are being blessed with helpful people as well as wildlife on your journey! We are preparing to set off on our trip North on Thursday, have the trailer partly packed! Tried out getting both kayaks onto the roof racks the other day and have sussed that out! Look forward to hearing more of your adventures. Safe travels. Annette

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